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.

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