Okay, so surfing is your favorite sport and you don’t know much about its history. Surely, no one would like to “uh-oh” when asked about more information of their favorite sport! We understand a lot of people cringe at the thought of reading about anything’s “history” but you are now reading the most interesting information about Surfing’s history you’ll ever find anywhere else.
FATHER OF THE MODERN SURFING:
Firstly, let’s get to know about our father. No dear, we’re talking about “Father of the Modern Surfing”, George Freeth (1883-1919). He is the first modern surfer.
How did he managed to become so popular? Well it’s what we call luck! While on vacation Henry Huntington (American railroad magnate and collector of art and rare books) saw Hawaiian boys surfing the islands. He decided to hire a young Hawaiian to ride surfboards in front of his hotel Redondo Beach (California) to entice visitors to the area.
Then the young Hawaiian cut the huge 16-foot hardwood boards that were popular at that time to make them more manageable. This is how the original “Long board” was created and it made him the talk to the islands.
That Hawaiian boy was George Freeth.
THE PROMOTOR OF GEROGE FREETH:
Alexander Hume Ford (1868-1945) is remembered as the guy who turned Jack London (author) on to surfing; the promoter of George Freeth, Duke Kahanamoku, and of Hawaii, itself.
Most significantly, Alexander Hume Ford is best remembered by us surfers as a founder of the Outrigger Canoe Club; a man who – more than most anyone of his time – helped revive Hawaiian surfing, spreading it around the world.
HOW IT BECAME POPULAR AROUND THE GLOBE?
Body surfing is the oldest type of wave catching. Standing up on surfboard is the innovation of bodysurfing developed by the Polynesians. The influences for modern surfing can be directly traced to the surfers of pre-contact Hawaii.
On the HMS Endeavour during the third voyage of Captain James Cook in 1769, Joseph Banks first described the art of surfing, called he’enalu in Hawaiian language (which translates into English as “wave sliding”).
Here is an extract from his report;
“In the midst of these breakers 10 or 12 Indians (Native Tahitians) were swimming who whenever a surf broke near them dived under it with infinite ease, rising up on the other side; but their chief amusement was carried on by the stern of an old canoe, with this before them they swam out as far as the outermost breach, then one or two would get into it and opposing the blunt end to the breaking wave were hurried in with incredible swiftness.
….. We stood admiring this very wonderful scene for full half an hour, in which time no one of the actors attempted to come ashore but all seemed most highly entertained with their strange diversion.”
The Hawaiian people made surfing more of an art and integrated surfing into their culture. As mentioned earlier, they referred to this art as he’enalu. Before entering the oceans, they prayed the gods for protection and strength to undertake the mystifying ocean.
Kahuna (priest) would be call upon if the ocean was tamed, he would aid them in a surfing prayer asking gods to deliver great surf.
Spiritual Ceremony of constructing a surfboard:
Prior to entering the ocean, the priest would also aid the surfers (mainly of the upper class) in undertaking the spiritual ceremony of constructing a surfboard.
Surfing on the East Coast of the United States began in Virginia Beach, Virginia in 1912 when James Matthias Jordan, Jr. captivated the locals astride a 110-pound (50 kg), 9-foot (2.7 m) Hawaiian redwood board. “Big Jim’s” board, given to him by his uncle, is believed to have originally been 12–15 feet (3.7–4.6 m) tall, but was whittled from a round nose into an arrow-like shape. Virginia Beach has since become one of the centers of East Coast Surfing, and is host to the East Coast Surfing Championships.
Surfing was brought to Australia in 1915 by Hawaiian Duke Kahanamoku. He demonstrated this ancient Hawaiian board riding technique at Freshwater (or Harbored) in Sydney, New South Wales.
True surfing culture continued to evolve quietly by itself, changing decade by decade. From the 1960s fad years to the creation and evolution of the short board in the late 60s and early 70s to the performance hotdogging of the neon-drenched 1980s and the epic professional surfing of the 1990s (typified by Kelly Slater, the “Michael Jordan of Surfing”. In 1975, professional contests started.
That year Margo Oberg became the first female professional surfer.