Surfing and Beach Lifestyle

Surfing History 101

Surfing has a bit of a mystical pull and obsessive attraction on the regular wave riders, and maybe it’s just like a calling to them, but did you ever wonder who came up with the bright idea of putting a body on a board and crashing through the waves?

The first known written history of surfing comes from the journal of Captain King, from Cook’s Voyages, in 1779, three months after Captain Cook died. Captain King wrote his observations of the natives as they surfed the waves after storms. While this is the first written language documentation, surfing is known to go back as far as 1500AD and widely accepted to predate any historical reference in the Polynesian Islands.

An integral part of the culture and class system of Hawaii, Kapu, the size and material of a surfboard could easily distinguish one class from another. The royalty, believed to be above all others in the Kapu system, had the longest heaviest boards and private beaches to practice surfing while the commoners has lighter, shorter boards and public beaches. The amount of work and time put into making a surfboard and taking care of it made it very valuable and revered in Hawaiian culture.

Surfing continued until the 1820’s, when missionaries from New England arrived and thought it to be ridiculous and hedonistic. Preaching adamantly against a sport they observed was also a precursor to couples getting busy – by 1890, it was nearly non-existent kept alive only by the dedication of a few, and curiosity of some like Mark Twain, who wrote about it in 1872

As the influence of the missionaries began to wane, and in 1905, a young Hawaiian Duke Kahanamoku and his friends took to the waves once again, igniting a resurgence in interest in surfing. In 1907 Hawaiian George Freeth, one of Duke’s group, demonstrated the sport at Venice Beach, California at the request of a wealthy land developer and from the there the crowd went wild.

California became the starting point for the culture and innovations of the surfing world, cutting board size, experimenting with fins and materials, the beaches became packed with those wanting to enjoy the sport.

Still though it remained a rebellious past time with an underground sub-culture and besides in Hawaii or California, it was not commonly known. In 1957, the world became aware of the sport of surfing with the release of the Gidget series, and popular beach music, surfer bands propagated the growth of the culture into the mainstream.

Competitive surfing has always been around but until 1976 was not well organized. In the 80’s and 90’s surfing competitions became wildly popular viewing and people continued to be fascinated with the surfing subculture. Easier travel, media coverage and better information sharing than ever in current times has led to the growth of surfing, both competitively and for novice thrill seekers.

So get on out there in those waves. They are calling you I know, the pull is almost mystical, and people have been doing it for a very long time.