Saturday, 9 May 2009

History of Surfing

History of Surfing

The Early Days
Surfing 18th century Hawaiian style

It is now widely accepted that the origins of surfing lie in the Pacific Basin, possibly in the group of islands collectively known as Polynesia. Surfing probably started by accident, by fishermen, as a means to bring their boats the last few hundred metres to shore. Today this is still the case in many parts of the World.

Regardless of exactly where the first waves were ridden it was in Hawaii that surfing flourished, helped by the combination of warm climate and consistent, good surf.

Certainly surfing was reported to be widespread by the English seaman and explorer Captain James Cook when he landed in Hawaii in 1777.

Surfing continued to flourish for many years until the arrival of Christian missionaries in the islands almost spelt disaster for the sport.

The missionaries dissuaded people from surfing which they regarded as a Pagan ritual. As a result of this and the loss of many of the native population from "Western" diseases, by the middle of the 19th century there were few surfers left in Hawaii. This was soon to change as in the early 1900's surfing once again grew in popularity and was "exported" to other countries. From Hawaii the sport was “exported” first to California and then in 1915 an Hawaiian Olympic swimming champion, Duke Kahanamoku, introduced surfing to Australia. The sport gradually grew in these and other countries and in the 1940's and 50's spread to Europe, S America and elsewhere, often by American and Australian servicemen stationed overseas during World War Two.

Original surfboards were made from solid wood and were extremely heavy, difficult to carry and hard to handle in the surf. The development of lighter, hollow surfboards made the sport more accessible to more people and greatly improved the performance of the boards. The next quantum leap in design was the addition of a fin or skeg which allowed the rider to turn and control their board and this ushered in a new era of performance surfing.

The Modern Era

The Worldwide popularisation of the sport came about in the 1960's with the introduction of lighter, cheaper and more readily available surfboards and wetsuits. Several Hollywood movies featured the sport although most of the surfing in them was faked, the actors standing in front of images of the ocean whilst pretending to ride a surfboard. Most importantly at this time bands such as the Beach Boys, Jan & Dean and others spread the word about surfing worldwide through their music.