THE DIFFERENT STAGES OF HISTORY
Surfing is an ancient sport with a long and uneven history
3000 - 1000 BC - Pre-Inca origins
Caballitos de Totora
Drawings showing fishermen riding waves on wooden planks and boats made of reeds, known as ‘caballitos de totora’, have been found on ceramics and on the walls of caves from the Inca period.
Surfing in Peru
Thus surfing was really born on the northern coast of Peru. “Caballitos de Totora” are still popular with fishermen and tourists today.
900 BC- Hawaii origins
James Cook Voyages
The earliest records of the Hawaiian origin of surfing date back to 1769. During the first James Cook’s voyage on the HMS Endeavour, the botanist Joseph Banks first wrote about wave riding at Matavay Bay, Tahiti.
Later, in 1778, on the 2nd trip Captain James Cook saw surfers at the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii). He started to write about surfing in his travel diary. But then he was killed by the inhabitants in Kealakekua Bay, who thought he wanted to kidnap their high chief.
Surfing for Pleasure
So, it was his successor, Lt. James King, who described surfing, as he had seen it in the Bays of Kahalu’u and Holualoa on the Big Island of Hawaii. He became passionate about surfing and was surprised to see that it was not intended for any trial of skill, but purely as an amusement.
Lt. James King’s diaries mention that local inhabitants “seem to feel a great pleasure in the motion which this exercise gives”.
Surfing as a Spiritual Activity
Surfing had been a common practice among the people of the Hawaiian Islands since the 15th century. It allowed the tribal chiefs who challenged the sea to prove their power and superiority. They were surfing large boards, called Papa-he-nalu. They were cut from a tree trunk according to an ancient ritual. The Polynesians, meanwhile, challenged each other in surfing duels, the winner being granted a better place in the tribe. Surfing became a spiritual activity for them and was deeply rooted in Hawaiian religion and culture.
The Destruction of Hawaiian Surf Culture
The publication of books on Cook and King’s voyages after their return to Europe attracted explorers and missionaries to the islands. Their arrival unfortunately led to the emergence of previously unknown diseases such as syphilis, tuberculosis, etc. on the islands. According to some estimates, the arrival of European settlers led to the death of nearly 90% of the native Hawaiian population.
The missionaries also established their own religious and economic system on the islands, which led to the destruction of important elements of the local culture, and practically killed the tradition of Hawaiian surfing.
The Pursuit of Happiness
Around the same time that Cook and King’s travel diaries were published, the French and American Revolutions took place. Around the same time Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence of the United States.
Some historians claim that the addition of the ‘inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness’ to this founding document is due to the influence of surf stories from Polynesia on their authors.
North America origins - 19th century
First American Surfers
After the annexation of Hawaii in 1898, the lost tribal tradition of surfing was revived in California. A joint effort between writer Jack London and Alexander Hume Ford led to the invitation of Hawaiian surfer George Frith to California in 1907. Frith was awarded the title ‘The First Man to Surf in California’. A few years later, in 1911, London, Ford and Frith opened the first surf club in Waikiki, the Outrigger Canoe Club.
The Father of Modern Surfing
Duke Kahanamoku made the sport truly popular in 1912. Duke was one of the pioneers of surfing. As a passionate Hawaiian surfer and Olympic swimming record holder, his demonstrations in California caused far more excitement than those of Frith. Thanks to his Hollywood fame and unprecedented surfing skills at the time, he really popularised the sport. Duke is considered the father of modern surfing. His appearance on the beaches of California marked the beginning of the era of American surfing.
Australia origins: 20th century
Rescue Surf Clubs
During colonial times, a law prevented Australians from swimming and enjoying the sea and beaches. This law was repealed in 1903 and Australians started using the beaches. As a result, Australians began to use the beaches. However, the sea remained a dangerous environment and so rescue organisations began to emerge. The training of ocean lifeguards quickly became a sport in its own right.
It all started on Manly Beach. The first rescue demonstrations were held on the beach in 1903. The Surfing Association of Australia arose from the founding of the Bondi Surf Club in 1906 and nine other rescue clubs in 1907. Then in 1909, the first documentary was shown around the country entitled Surfing in Manly. A year later, the Manly Surf Carnival attracted hundreds of spectators, with men and women giving surf and rescue demonstrations.
In 1910, Tommy Walker brought a 10-foot surfboard “bought on Waikiki Beach, Hawaii, for two dollars” to Manly Beach in Sydney. Walker became a skilled surfer and in 1912 he held several surfing demonstrations in Sydney at the Freshwater Carnival.
Surf Life Saving Association
Then in 1914 Olympic swimming champion Duke Kahanamoku was invited to the Eastern Australia to demonstrate surfing in front of thousands of spectators at the carnival in Freshwater. In 1915 he returned to surf in tandem with a young girl named Isabelle Letham. Duke’s board is now on public display at the Freshwater Surf Lifesaving Club in Sydney. Furthermore, in 1923 the Surf Bathing Association evolved into the famous Surf Life Saving Association.
Australia is a surfing nation. Many Australians surf on local beaches and children even learn the sport in gym class at school. On Australian beaches you’ll find some of today’s best surfers in the water, such as Joel Parkinson, Mick Fanning and many more.
Modern surfing : 20th century
The Free Spirit of Surfing
The 1950s marked the beginning of modern surfing history as surfers increasingly started visiting Hawaii. GuysCharacters such as Fred Van Dyke, Peter Cole and John Kelly started surfing giant waves at Makaha Spots, Sunset Beach and later Waimea Bay, along with local surfers such as Eddie Aikau and Buffalo Keaulana.
Surfing became increasingly popular in the 50s and 60s as many artists and musicians became aware of the surfing culture, associating it with the “flower power movement”.Characters such as Fred Van Dyke, Peter Cole and John Kelly started surfing giant waves at Makaha Spots, Sunset Beach and later Waimea Bay, along with local surfers such as Eddie Aikau and Buffalo Keaulana.
Modern Surfboard Design
With the use of plastic and composite materials and industrial production, surfboard design has changed dramatically. Hand shaped wooden boards were replaced by blanks made of chemical foam and polyester resin.
The invention of wetsuits (by the legendary Jack O’Neill) and the invention of lice have also contributed to the wider spread of the sport. Surfboards have undergone a significant evolution: Thrusters and new board designs emerged, allowing surfers to perform increasingly impressive manoeuvres.
Finally, over the past 50 years, surfing has taken an unprecedented turn. Culture and style have changed. Great surfers like Tom Carroll with his ressive style, Tom Curren with his ability to surf big barrels began taking the sport to ever new heights.
Today, the continued growth of surfing’s popularity is provided by world-famous surfers, especially global stars like 12-time world champion Kelly Slater, John John Florence, Gabriel Medina and others.
Despite globalisation and the latest technology, the growth of the surfing industry has managed to preserve some of the pioneering spirits through the commercialisation of surfing. Surfing is a state of mind that has no boundaries or limitations.
Wherever there are waves, there are communities of surfers who live its spirit and enjoy the closeness to nature and harmony with the ocean.
Surf Camp in Lanzarote
Nowadays it is a lot easier to start surfing. All you need to learn to surf and get acquainted with the surfing lifestyle, the pura vida, is to spend your next holiday in a surf camp. Fun and safe surfing lessons will introduce total beginners into this new world. Intermediate and advanced surfers who want to practice by themselves, can rent surf boards and enjoy catching waves on their own.
Our school RedStarSurf is located in the village Caleta de Famara, Lanzarote, Canary Islands. Furthermore, we offer relaxing yoga classes to complement the physically demanding water sport of the kings!