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Surfing History

What is the history of Surfing? What are its origins? Where did Surfing come from? Who invented it? Here is the history of Surfing.

Surfing History

Table of Contents


1. What are the basic rules of Surfing?

Surfing is a water sport that involves using a long or short board to ride waves. The sport can be done for leisure or competition so there are written and unwritten rules when paddling out.

First let's go over the unwritten rules. These rules are here for your and others safety, and gives you the basics of surfing etiquette.

2. The Right of Way

When you are out surfing you should pay attention to whether or not there are others around you. If you are about to catch a wave and there is another surfer to your left, then you have to give them the right of way because they are closer to the peak of the wave. If you move around a person and get in front of them this is called snaking, and should be avoided at all times.

3. Do not Drop In

Dropping in relates to the first rule in that you drop in on a wave in front of the person who already has the right of way. This is extremely dangerous because it can cause you and the other surfer to crash into each other.

4. Paddle Correctly

Paddling is also an essential part of keeping yourself safe. You always want to paddle behind the lineup of people who are surfing. This is just a common sense rule that prevents you from running into other people.

5. Do not Abandon Your Board

This is a very important rule especially when it is crowded. Losing control in your board can be dangerous because it has the potential to hit other surfers. This means if you are paddling towards the surf and a wave is coming, you are not allowed to ditch your board and dive under. What you can do is a duck dive, which is grabbing the nose of your board and pushing it down so you and your board move under the wave. This keeps everybody safe.

6. Do not Hog the Waves

It is essential that you are not trying to catch every single wave for a couple of reasons. First, you want to give others an opportunity to ride one. Second, you will tire yourself out.

7. Respect the Beach

Lastly, respect the environment around you and do not litter. Locals, or anyone for that matter, do not appreciate it when they see their beaches littered with trash.

All these etiquette rules apply to competitions, but they have their own rules themselves. In competition surfing, events are divided up into rounds. In these rounds, surfers are judged and scored on the degree of difficulty, innovative maneuvers, variety of maneuvers, and speed, power and flow. Judges score the competition with between the ratings of 0.0 (Poor) to 10.0 (Excellent). The surfer with the highest score at the end of their heat wins. They can be deducted points if they interfere with other surfers or cheat in any other way. It is as simple as that.

Which Country Started Surfing?

Although it is not clear what country started surfing, historians believe it originated in the Polynesian Islands of the Pacific Ocean. However, it advanced and was documented the most in Hawaii. Surfing was ingrained in the spirituality and culture of the Hawaiian people. There was a code of rules called kapu that governed the sport. When picking a tree to carve, Hawaiians would make offerings, prayed for waves with the help of a local priest called the kahuna, and even gave thanks after surviving a wipeout. At first only the elite could participate in surfing, but it was later spread to all social classes.

Surfing was practiced for centuries before it was first written about by William Anderson in 1777. He was a surgeon on Captain Cook's ship, and was impressed by the beauty of the sport. However, the missionaries regarded the activity as sinful and deterred it from Hawaiian culture.

Who Invented Surfing?

The inventor of surfing is not known, but the father of modern surfing (picture below) was Duke Kahanamoku. Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku (full name) was born August 26, 1890 by Waikiki, Hawaii. He was a part of the famous Waikiki Beach Boys, a group of men who taught visitors how to surf. He became an innovator in surfing by developing the flutter kick, a technique used while paddling a surfboard. Not only was Duke an accomplished surfer, he was also an Olympic swimmer. He has won three gold medals and two silver medals between 1912 and 1924.

When was Surfing Established?

Surfing was established in 1964 when the first World Surfing Championship was held in Manly Beach, Australia. The competition was held by the International Surfing Association and the winner was Australia's Midget Farrelly. This kicked off surfing as a professional sport and other organizations such as the World Surfing League also caught on to develop their own ranking system and competitions.

Surfing became popular right after the first championship in Australia. In that same year, people surfed the Pipeline in Hawaii for the first time, Bruce Brown, an American documentary filmmaker, released The Endless Summer, and 65,000 people attended the first championship in Manly, Australia. In 1965, Peru's Felipe Pomar won his first championship and the popularity spread to South America. Then in 1966, during the third World Surfing Championships, 80,000 people were in attendance.

The sport that started in the small islands of Polynesia finally began to become a worldwide phenomenon. Here are the countries that surfing is most popular in.

  • United States
  • Brazil
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Portugal
  • Spain
  • Puerto Rico
  • Peru
  • Uruguay
  • South Africa

Surfing History Key Facts and Timeline

Surfing was discovered in the Polynesian islands in 1777, but historians say that people there have been participating in the sport for centuries.

After it was discovered, missionaries discouraged it amongst the locals because they believed it was sinful.

However, surfing remained an integral part of Polynesian culture, and it grew in popularity because of innovators like Duke Kahanamoku, who taught visitors how to surf and was an Olympic medalist in swimming.

Popularity began to grow in the 1960s when the first World Surfing Championship was held in Manly, Australia. About 65,000 people were in attendance, and that number grew to 80,000 three years later when the championship was held in San Diego.

Today, surfing is an activity of leisure and competition because of the Polynesians. They innovated the sport in a way where it was accessible to all social classes, and as a result, many people can enjoy participating in it all around the world.

  • There are surfing etiquette rules as well as competition rules
  • Etiquette rules are mostly for everybody's safety and should be taken seriously
  • Competition rules let surfers know how they will be judged and scored, and also lay down rules that would harm their score, such as interference
  • Last Fact: You should go to your local beach and take some surf lessons to get started!


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