surfing history

Surfing history – important facts dates happenings

There are many interesting facts related to surfing history. The most important things are related to its beginnings and development. People were surfing since the old age, but in the first phase of surfing, their creativity came to the extent. People were so smart when you talk about the use of their body.

Surfing history offers so many dates and inventions. It is a pretty new sport. But this is a skill which is known for a very long period of time.


Surfing history – origins and first phase

Surfing has been a known art since humans learned swimming. Since the beginnings, people were looking for a way to control their body in the waves. Especially if the shore had big waves.  Despite surfing might be one of the very dangerous activities where injuries might occur, people simply enjoy it today. But let’s start with the beginnings!

This video shows you how surfing developed throughout the history until today.

In the first phases, surfing was simple riding of the waves. Bodysurfing is the oldest type of surfing. This is wave riding without any assistance of the device. No surfboards or bodyboards were used. The only equipment that is used today is a pair of swim fins. However, competitions still exist. This is the oldest way of moving throughout the water in surfing history.

There are many beliefs about surfing origins. Some known facts from surfing history will be presented here.

The first known term is seen in Polynesia, and its name is he’e ‘ana (it means to surf in the Hawaiian language).  It was discovered for the first time by James Cook. Joseph Banks was a member of HMS Endeavour who spotted it. It was first seen while Cook’s ship was staying in Tahiti. In Polynesian culture, the best surfer was believed to be the chief. He usually had the best surfboard, made of best wood. The ruling class had the rights to use the best beaches and areas, while common citizens had to use different ones.

The European tourists saw an opportunity to photograph Samoans and turn this into a sport. This is one of the most important moments in surfing history. Samoans were surfing on their planks mostly. They were also using canoe hulls. In Samoan terminology, surfing is also known as se’egalu.

Surfing was also done in Tonga. Their foremost surfer of ancient time was the king Taufa’ahau Tupou IV.


According to another theory, it is taught surfing has pre-Incan origins. There was a skill of riding a vessel with a wave. It existed 2000 years ago. It is continued throughout the Chimu culture. The vessels that were used by Mochica people had a name “Caballitos de Totora”, which means straw seahorses. It is believed these people were surfing for fun. According to the archaeological facts of surfing history, Chicama is located in Puerto Malabrigo, Trujillo, Peru. Caballitos de Totora is still used by local fishermen. However, tourists can use it for fun today. There is a big question whether this is the first form of surfing. It is not known whether paddle or stick was used for better maintenance in the ocean. This skill is more related to stand-up paddleboarding than surfing. However, surfing history considers this theory.


Surfing history – ancient Hawaii, North America, and Australia

Ancient Hawaii played an amazing role in surfing history. As it is known, Hawaii islands are one of the best places in the world if you seek big waves. The terms of this activity are outstanding, especially in Maui and Oahu.

People in ancient Hawaii didn’t look surfing as an extreme sport or hobby. It was a part of their culture. They believed surfing is an art, an activity that makes you an artist. This art was called he’e nalu, which means literal translation “wave sliding”. The Hawaiians were praying to Gods to give them protection from the mystic ocean every time they went in the waves. A priest was saying a prayer and asking Gods to give them a great surf. The construction of the surfboard was also a spiritual ceremony, where the priest had a very important role.

People from ancient Hawaii were choosing carefully between three types of trees – koa, ‘ulu, and wiliwili. When the choice is made, the surfer had to dig the tree out and place a fish in the hole, which was offered to Gods. There were men in the community, who were specially brought to design surfboards. There were three primary shapes – the ‘olo ( thick in the middle and thinner towards the edges), kiko’o (length 3.7-5.5 meters, requires higher maneuvring skills), and alaia (2.7 meters long, requires extremely good skills to control). People from upper class were improving their reputation by surfing and mastering the waves. The competitions of this type still exist today, especially in Holualoa Bay.


When it comes to North America, the surfing history begins in 1885, when three students escaped their boarding school. They came to Santa Cruz in California. Two of them surfed San Lorenzo River, demonstrating surfing on custom-shaped redwood boards. Almost overnight, many people were interested in this unusual skill. The second important thing happened in 1907. George Freeth was brought from Hawaii to demonstrate surfboard riding. It was important because the railroad was opening and it was an outstanding way to attract people. He was showing his surf and lifeguard skills at Huntington Beach.

The year 1909 is also important for surfing history. This is the year when it appeared on the East Coast of the USA. In Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, a colony of surfers made an introduction of this wonderful activity. As a sign of gratitude, the sign “Pioneer East Coast Surfing” was placed on the highway. North Carolina helped surfing develop in the whole eastern part of the USA later. Many surfers escaped from Hawaii to North Carolina and Florida. The new activity, surfing, starting to develop more intensively.


In Australia, it was first written in 1910. Tomy Walker came to Manly Beach, Sydney. He had 10-foot surfboard, bought in Hawaii. Becoming an expert rider in 1912, he had many exhibitions in Sydney. Hawaiian Duke Kahanamoku provided national exposure to the surfing as an activity in 1914. He broke an amazing record in the competition. In an extensive series of swimming carnivals, Kahanamoku smashed the previous world record for 100 yards by a full second. He demonstrated his skills at New Year’s Day. He is now a legend in Australia. His board is still displayed in Saving Club, Sydney, Australia.


Surfing history – modern surfing and competitions

In the modern era, surfing became a sport which is known in almost every country in the world.

At the start of 20th century, a process of surfing revival has started. This is a very important part of surfing history. Duke Kahanamoku had a very important role in reviving process. Jack London wrote about the sport after visiting Hawaii islands. There were many innovations in board design. Public exposure was increased too.

The primary places where the surfing was developed were Hawaii, Australia, and California. The first footage is seen in 1929 in the United Kingdom. The first movie that had surfing thematics was Gidget, released in 1959. Beach Boys are the first group that was singing about surfing. Surfing music started to promote this activity more and more.

The true surfing culture started to develop in the 1960s. The most important moment in surfing history is the creation of the shortboard in the late 60s and early 70s. During the 80s and 90s, the famous terms were “performance hotdogging” and “the epic professional surfing”. Professional competitions started in 1975. Margo Oberg is the first female professional surfer in surfing history.

There are many surfing documentaries. Their main purpose is to grow the development of the sport and to talk about the famous surfers. Some movies even track the evolution of the sport and motivate the future champions.

Today, there are competitions for both males and females. Some of the competitions even offer huge rewards.


Surfing history – how should a modern surfer look like

While in the early age a surfer was a person who was an artist, a modern surfer needs to be fully dedicated to the sport. He should get up on time, eat, train and remain fully dedicated.

However, there are one secret of successful surfers – strength and conditioning exercises. Good strength and conditioning program is what makes the difference between a regular surfer and a champion. High performance is what every skateboarder has to offer in the competition. Good strength of core muscles also plays a vital role. Today, surfer is a modern athlete who constantly tries to improve himself, invent new tricks and remain in the world of success forever.






Vladimir Vladisavljevic

Vladimir is an educated coach, a master of sports and physical education. He trained some famous world-class soccer players, like David Babunski, Dorian Babunski, Stefan Mitrovic... The portfolio is available here - http://worldsportcamps.com/vladimir-vladisavljevic/

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