Photo by Toby Ogden

A Brief History of Surfing

The sport of surfing is an ancient one. Known as he’enalu in the Hawaiian, the first known written account of surfing is from the sixteenth century and describes the Polynesian practice. In this culture, the chief of the community was the most skilled wave rider with the best board crafted from the best tree. To the ancient Hawaiians, surfing wan’t just a sport, it was their culture. They often prayed to the gods for protection, guidance, and the power to face the loud, thundering, mysterious ocean.

One of the earliest appearances of the sport in North America is a fascinating story. According to surf historians Kim Stoner and Geoff Dunn, on a summer day in July of 1885, three teenage Hawaiian princes left their boarding school in San Mateo to take a surfing vacation. They went to Santa Cruz, California, where they rode waves on surfboards made of redwood.

Surfing’s development as both a culture and a professional sport happened mainly in Hawaii, Australia, and California. The Beach Boys’ “Surfin USA” catalogues the major boom in surf culture that happened in the United States of America in the fifties and sixties. Nowadays, surfers like Kelly Slater, Taj Burrow and Laird Hamilton are known as the best in the game, and are always amazing people with their wave riding talent.

Photo by Toby Ogden

A History of Del Mar

Del Mar, which is Spanish for “of the sea” or “by the sea,” has a fascinating history. Back in 1885, a man named Colonel Jacob Taylor purchased 338 acres with a plan of building a seaside resort. By 1910, Del Mar had become a beloved seaside retreat for stars of Old Hollywood. Later on, during World War II, the US Navy operated a Naval Auxiliary Air Facility in the area. Del Mar is also one of the only places in the world where the Torrey Pine tree grows—the Torrey is the rarest pine in the country with only two species left in the world.

Del Mar beach, where our summer camps are hosted, has a rich history itself. It is referenced in the Beach Boys, 1963 song “Surfin USA,” in the lyric, “You’d catch ’em surfin’ at Del Mar.” Time Magazine ranked the stretch of Del Mar beach near 15th street  number four of “100 Greatest Beaches in the World.”

In the summer, our camps set up base on the grass beside the Del Mar Powerhouse. In 1928, this Powerhouse was built to be the Stratford Inn’s new means of supplying hot water for the pool, the hotel and its cottages, and the hotel’s laundry. The hotel was eventually sold, and in 1983, the Powerhouse and the surrounding park areas were purchased by the city in an effort to restore it’s former glory and preserve its history. After many years of effort and planning, the Powerhouse Community Center was founded. The 2000 Orchid Award winning design for Historic Preservation has said about the effort: “Hats off to the Restoration Committee for taking the plunge and providing the power to this restoration effort. This structure evokes the quirky and nostalgic past of this coastal community. This is a functional community space with restrooms, an outdoor theatre and beach showers where everyone can rinse off the Del Mar sand, wiggle their toes in glee, and soak in its historic glow.” We couldn’t agree more—and we love the chance to host our summer camps in this very special spot.