Back then, you could have been made a ruler if you managed to prove yourself. Since we have no way of knowing exactly when the first attempted surf session was, we are also in the dark about who had the idea in the first place. While our information about the first surfer is limited, we can do the next best thing and follow history to see who brought the sport to life. When European settlers first came to Hawaii, surfing lost a lot of its edge.
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Hawaiian locals were steered away from surfing, and the Christian settlers shunned it entirely. Still, surfing was such an essential part of Hawaiian culture that people never stopped doing it entirely. Around the end of the 19th century, tourism began to develop, and surfing started to make a huge comeback. People from all over the world started to notice how awesome surfing is, and this was fantastic for Hawaiian tourism. One of the most prominent early players in modern surfing was Duke Kahanamoku.
History of Surfing
From California to Australia, he traveled, surfed, and caught the eyes of thousands of eager spectators. He single-handedly popularized the Hawaiian surf tradition. Thanks to his enthusiasm and athleticism, the sport gained more attention than ever before. In hindsight, it seems like a strange question to ask.
How could something as amazing as surfing not be popular!? Once surfing starting to emerge as a sport, there were a few key factors that made it into a global hit. Due to the oppression that European settlers imposed on the Hawaiians, surfing was heavily discouraged during the 19th century. Still, it never entirely died out, and people continued to do it.
Hawaiian tourism starting to pick up in the late s, and lots of people traveled to the islands to take a crack at surfing. As interest in surfing increased, notable authors like Jack London and Mark Twain even gave it a try. As surfing superstars started to emerge over the years, it became a professional sport around Once the wave of interest in surfing picked up, it became an unstoppable sensation. Throughout the s, surfing continued to become increasingly huge thanks to media exposure.
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Bands like The Beach Boys lent their unique sound to writing music that was all about surf, sun, and spreading the good vibes that surfing is so well-known for. This popularity did a lot to help the growth of the West Coast surf scene, and it also made Americans even more fascinated with Hawaii. After Hawaii became a state in , the tourists came in waves pun strongly intended to ride the swells off the Hawaiian coast. From there, things continued to grow correspondingly. Surfing is now popular all over the world, and it is done anywhere people can catch a decent wave.
Hundreds of tourists still flock to Hawaii each year to get a piece of the surf action in the part of the world where it was created. However, for ancient Polynesians, surfing was more than just a fun way to pass the time. It was way more serious for them back then compared to how we view the sport today. For instance, there was a staggering difference between the upper class and the lower class in their culture.
This division meant that all aspects of society were predetermined by the code of kapu their laws. The code predetermined all aspects, including how to grow food, where you can eat it, and even where you are allowed to surf. Naturally, the chiefs and upper-class society members picked the best breaks for themselves.
The commoners also had areas where they could surf too, but it was strictly taboo for them to venture into the royal surf spots. Talk about hogging all the best swells! In addition to where you could surf, the code of kapu also gave instructions for how long your board could be. Commoners had shorter foot surfboards, while wealthier members of society used foot longboards. Fortunately for everyone, surfing also had a spiritual connection for Hawaiian society at the time.
Surfing was also used as a way to prove yourself and gain respect within the upper class. It was a way to show your strength, mastery of the waves, and skills. While the first surfers certainly felt the same adrenaline rush that modern surfers do, back then it was no laughing matter when you rode the waves. The code of kapu is no longer enforced today, and anyone can surf on any board that they want. Whether or not you are spiritual towards surfing, praying to the gods for great waves can only help your chances, right?
Ancient Hawaiian society had strict rules that laid out the laws for many aspects of life. These kapu taboos were also huge in determining where you can surf, how your board should be made, and what size it should be. Back then, they took their surfing very seriously. Making your surfboard was an almost sacred undertaking, and you had to follow the conventions just right.
The surfer would then dig out the tree and put fish in the hole as a spiritual offering. Once these practices were carried out to the last detail, a specialized artisan in the community would make the tree into a surfboard. Ancient Hawaiian surfers had to carry boards which were as massive as pounds. Sounds fun! Your place in society also determined how long your board was allowed to be.
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Longer boards were reserved for higher society, and shorter boards were permitted for commoners. The shape of your board was also a class indicator. You were bound to these rules regardless of what you wanted. Since ancient Polynesians lived a life that was so connected to the ocean, they had plenty of experience with woodworking and creating their watercraft. On top of knowing the best way to make surfboards, they were also skilled at making rafts and canoes for fishing.
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