Whilst living in Australia last year, I developed an warm affection for surfing, I mean, its hard not too when you live in a country where an entire lifestyle is built on the sport. Even though I didn’t actually surf myself, I spent countless hours photographing my partner on his quest to stand up and ride out a great wave.
When one looks back, you leave behind world renowned surf hero, Kelly Slater and the equally brilliant skills of California’s Dogtown residents, to find the roots of surfing washed up on the shores of Polynesia some 3000-4000 years ago. Of course, the pastime was much cruder; however the truth in its beautiful interpretation of nature was at its base.
Surfing Hero: Kelly Slater
Polynesian fisherman can be identified as the first ‘wave-riders’; they literally rode the wave to shore, hauling in their daily catch of fish. Boards ranged from 3-4 feet for children, and exceeded 24 feet for high ranking members of society. The population of Hawaii mastered the skill of standing on their boards over 1000 years ago – no doubt why Hawaii remains as the epicentre of surfing to this day.
Fearless Early Surfers
It wasn’t until the 1770’s that the Western world heard of surfing…and nearly wiped it out. When Calvinist missionaries landed on the shores of Polynesia, they imposed their religious ideals onto the native communities. Apparently…surfing was often a warm-up for sexual relations; and so the frivolity of the sport was deemed improper. Crazy!
Two blokes can be credited with the reinstatement of the sport in the early 1900’s. George Freeth, an original Waikiki Beach Boy, became friendly with an American writer named Jack London in Honolulu. London wrote an account of surfing, which launched Freeth into minor stardom. Whilst Freeth can largely be credited with the introduction of surfing to America, his influence is nothing on that of Duke Kahanamoku who took surfing worldwide! Duke is a surf legend – he once rode a now infamous ‘big wave’ over the deep water reefs of Oahu’s Waikiki Beach on a 16 foot surfboard, which weighed over 126 pounds.
Duke Kahanamoku taking the sport worldwide!
Today, surfing is not only a lifestyle and a much loved pastime but a competitive sport, and a beautiful one at that…way better than football anyway! From small, native roots to a global following, with international surf competitions and some of the worlds most recognisable brands, surfing has come a long way!