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The history of surfing is peppered in mystique and legend which has made it one of the most cherished and longest lasting sports known today.
Where surfing started
The first written records of surfing come from Joseph Banks, who was accompanying Captain James Cook on his 3rd voyage in 1769. Banks describes a Polynesian culture centered on surfing, with the chief being the most skilled surf rider in the community.
The origin of the surfboard
In the beginning, surfing was not the hobby or sport that it is today. Ancient Hawaiians viewed surfing more as an art form and a way of life. They rode boards made from local trees which, once selected, were cut, shaped, and stained by the most skilled craftsman on the island. These boards were usually quite long, many reaching about 18 feet in length.
The revival of a culture
Around the start of the 20th century, surfing as a sport began to experience a massive explosion in popularity. Hawaiians living near the rapidly expanding tourist destination of Waikiki are credited with bringing on this new revival. Tourists visiting the island were met with a fascinating new activity that they then brought home with them. Australia is also well known for having helped reestablish surfing as we know it today. Australians quickly established a surf culture of their own, and then went on to spread the sport to Europe.
Surfing progression in the 60’s and 70’s
As is the case with most popular activities, advancements in technology have brought a lot of incredible changes to surfing as a sport and a way of life. Surfboards are now made with much lighter materials that glide seamlessly through the water. Surfboards have become much more maneuverable as well. While there are surfing purists who prefer to ride long boards, remaining loyal to the smooth style of the ancient Hawaiians, the 60’s and 70’s saw the development of the modern short board. These boards are designed for the speed and maneuverability required for the more aggressive riding style that is popular with many of today’s surfers. Modern surf competitions held all over the world are helping to push the limits of the sport. Surfers are constantly pushing themselves and each other to pull of maneuvers previously thought to be impossible.
Becoming one with surf culture
For most surfers, surfing isn’t simply a sport. It becomes who they are and the way they live their lives. The board they ride and the way they ride it are seen as a direct extension of who they are. Much like the ancient Polynesians, surfers are very deliberate when selecting their board. While some may choose a longboard with a simple paint job, others prefer wildly custom painted short boards. The massive popularity of surf culture has brought on endless clothing and board options so that surfers are able to express themselves along with their love for surfing in every aspect of life.
History of surfing: To be continued
Surfing has certainly come a long way since its beginning. Perhaps the most incredible part of this transformation is that it’s far from over. Surfing as a sport, an art form and a culture is still rapidly expanding and isn’t likely to slow down any time soon. This history of surfing is only the beginning with new history being written every time a surfer catches a wave and comes off with a smile on their face.