History of Surfing

Surfing is one of the most ancient sports. The art of riding on a wave is a unique combination of sports, perception of beauty, health, and the power of nature. Surfing – is one of the few sports that have created their own unique culture.

It must be said that the history of surfing originated in Western Polynesia, about 3-4 thousand years ago. Surfing is first mentioned in the notes of the legendary James Cook in the late 1700s. Fishermen, who created an effective method to get to shore with their catch – by riding a wave can be deservedly regarded the first surfers. Over time, Polynesians started catching waves not only for work, but just for fun. They started this fun but dangerous kind of riding waves of the Pacific Ocean on wooden boards somewhere between 1500 BC and 400 BC.

Around the same time surfing began to develop in the Hawaiian Islands. It was a royal occupation, ordinary mortals, who attempted to encroach on it, were punished by death. The first Hawaiian King Kamehameha was very fond of surfing. Royalty organized riding the waves on a grand scale. In order to convince the ocean to give truly good waves Hawaiians used the Kahunas – priests, who worshiped and performed ritual dances to please the ocean. Surfboards were made of solid wood, and there were only few dedicated people who mastered the art. However, riding the waves was not just demonstration of good physical shape at big competitions for the higher caste of the ancient Hawaiians, but pride and wealth were also at stake.

In 1895-1899 Princess of Hawaii Kaiulani was considered to be one of the most experienced surfers, she could ride unique long boards, made of the wood of Willy Willy trees. Kaiulani was the last representative of the legendary Waikiki school.

With the arrival of missionaries and settlers from Europe, Hawaiian culture gradually began to slay, and surfing was banned for its own freedom. This nearly caused the death of the kind of sport, which has lost its own dignity, importance and prestige after introduction of European religion.

Continuing its development, surfing was revived in 1903-1908. A famous traveler Alexander Yunford, who was seeking to attract tourists to revive surfing in Waikiki, made a significant contribution to this. It was at this time that a lot of surfing enthusiasts began to support the sport, one of which was Duke Kahanamoku. Duke was a two-time Olympic champion in swimming and a fan of Waikiki surfing. He eventually became a true ambassador of the Hawaiian people, bringing their culture to the continent on his surfboard. Kahanamoku was the first person to introduce the art of riding a board to the Australians. Duke took an active part in various competitions and shows, thanks to his efforts surfing has become an international sport. George Freeth, who was born in 1883, was another young surfer enthusiast of that time. At the age of sixteen, he learned to surf in a standing position. It would not seem surprising now, but in those days athletes surfed only in a lying position. They say a Hawaiian prince, that happened to be Frith’s uncle, gave him the board as a present. Nowadays, this board is stored in the Bishop Museum in Honolulu. Frith was also innovative in experimenting with shorter boards by shortening previously used 16-foot (4.9 m) boards twice.

At that time there were other enthusiasts – both the Europeans and the native-born Hawaiians, who were true fans of surfing and created surfing clubs. Surfing was becoming more popular as the ancient art of production of boards was being revived – new shapes were created, different types of wood used. Frith and Kahanamoku, who once rescued people from a sunken boat with the help of boards, became the first surf-masters. They got started developing shapes of boards and then searching for new materials.

Tom Blake was one of the first surf-masters, too, who was greatly impressed by boards, presented at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu. He reduced the weight of the board from 68 to 27 kilos and started to make a new type of boards, which were hollow inside and had the shape that of a cigar.

But even despite the fact that Blake won various competitions in front of many people using his own new boards, which substantially increased the surfer’s reputation, this did not help to overcome existing prejudice against hollow boards. Unfortunately, whole boards continued to enjoy more popularity. Unique “Blake’s Cigars” won many records, but the conservatives still continued to insist that the competitions had to be held with the use of whole boards only. Finally, restrictions on the type of boards that were allowed to participate in competitions were eliminated at a bodyboarding competition.

Shapers still continued experimenting with new materials, shapes and sizes. They used their imagination to its maximum, and in 1930, Blake received the first patent for a Hawaiian hollow board of his own production. Once again Blake became the author of quite an extraordinary innovation, having equipped the board with a small fin, which was attached below at its end. This decision gave the boards more stability when cornering. Standard Hawaiian boards were originally without fins, so in order to make any turn, which took a great effort, it was necessary to drop the leg into the water in front of the board.

World War II, which all of a sudden broke out, halted the progressive development of surfing both at Hawaii and in California as anti-air defense facilities located on the coast, were surrounded by barbed-wired fences. Unfortunately, only a few surfers continued to work to improve the boards. Despite severe limitations for opportunities for surfing, the war still made a significant contribution to the development of the sport. The main reason for this was quite an active development of innovative chemical technologies that led to the appearance of resins, fiberglass and foamed plastic. After the end of the war Brandt Goldsworthy, the owner of plastic manufacturing company, provided Pete Paterson with the necessary materials for the production of the first fiberglass surfboard.

Surfing was gradually developing and flourishing in California. The organization of manufacture of commercial boards and the improvement of the welfare of the population, which occurred at the end of the war, made it possible for many young people to buy surfboards. Needless to say, that Hobie Alter and Jack O’Neill, who were the first to create a modern diving suit, opened the first surf shop. The fifties of the last century can be called a fantastic beginning of the modern history of surfing. George Downing is considered to be the founder of the sport of riding huge waves. It was he who invented the board, designed for giant waves. Woody Brown and Wally Froiseth who lived right on the beach and often taught the unique art of surfing to young Californians, were among the earliest conquerors of giant waves. In late 50s – early 60s California was the epicenter of surfing boom. Greg Noll and Dickie Cross, who spent up to ten hours a day out in the ocean, were the best-known Californian surfers in those years. The total number of surfers then equaled 100 000.
Gradually, as enthusiasm about surfing was increasing, a new lifestyle appeared, and the whole industry has grown around it. Certainly, the industry had a huge impact on its epoch and its culture. Even nowadays you can feel its impact on lifestyle. Nowadays surf industry annually produces goods worth of one and a half billion dollars. More than seventy magazines about surfing are officially published all over the world. Fashion and music have also found inspiration in surfing many times.

The first computers and materials of active space exploration era – all of these relates directly to the boards used nowadays. A huge number of surf-masters continue to work on improving the shape and reducing the weight of the boards. Having determined your riding style, you can now easily find the surf, which will allow you to develop and refine your skills and abilities.

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