The world of surfing

Surfing is one of the top most popular sports in the world and it has continued to grow since the late 1800’s. Ever since the surfing legend, Duke Kahanamoku, made his appearance around the world, the idea of surfing has spread like wildfire. This unique sport has an incredible story of how it came to be what it has become today in the lives of many modern surfers.

The riding of a wave created by the ocean on a flat board is what is today known as surfing and it has been around for almost 800 years. Surfing first originated in Polynesia, where historians have been able to clearly read cave paintings of these ancient Polynesians riding mother nature’s waves. But, the sport did not become very popular until it was brought to Hawaii and developed there by many of the locals. An Islander by the name of Duke Kahanamoku was born in 1890 in Hawaii, where he grew up in the water and was a man of the sea. As this boy transformed into a man, he developed into an incredible swimmer and surfer that won local races with ease. In 1912 some of the best American swimmers journeyed to Hawaii where they raced against many of the fastest locals. At this time there was a lot of racial segregation between the white Americans and the dark skinned Polynesians. Duke and many others were looked at as lower class and were never expected to even compare to the other swimmers. However, this young swimmer won and shattered the 100m freestyle world record by 4.6 seconds. The new world record was a shock to the swimming world and it sparked Duke Kahanamoku’s fame. After that race he worked to become an olympic athlete and during his olympic career, he spread the idea of surfing to many different coastal areas. From then on surfing spread like wildfire throughout the entire world. 

Today, surfing is often considered the most dangerous, technical, and physically demanding sport of all time. Harnessing the power of an ocean wave requires great strength, discipline, and experience to find the beautiful grace in this difficult sport.  Like the careful shaping of a bonsai tree, “one must begin very early” to fine tune the skills necessary to eventually command the power of these waves to propel you down the coastline.  If started early enough, surfing combines both the power and beauty of ocean waves into one impressive sport.  As a Mother to a Son might say, “So boy, don’t you turn back.” 

Within this unique sport there are two different branches. One is longboarding and the other is shortboarding. Longboard surfing is a style that is graceful and beautiful to watch. Usually these surfers ride smaller waves with longer boards up to 10 ft tall. They catch the wave and walk along the board to perform many different tricks such as large turns and shifting to the nose of the board and then shift back down to the tail. One of the best tricks that a longboard surfer can do is call a hang ten. This is when they carefully walk up to the board and have all ten toes hanging off the board while maintaining their balance. Shortboard surfing has a much different style when riding the waves. This type of surfing is typically on larger waves and is filled with sharp turns and impressive airs. These two styles of surfing are very different but both so impressive when riding a wave. 

The ultimate surfing experience is to get into a barrel. This is where a surfer drops down deep into a wave and gets intentionally “trapped in a spiraling imperfection” of water that surrounds them. A barrel is the most thrilling and beautiful thing in the art of surfing and can cause surfers to constantly seek that perfect wave.  Like the obsession with the mysterious Mojave Phone Booth, that quest for that elusive barrel “just really grabs [you] … and [you] keep thinking about it  … and sometimes it gets [you] into its clutches”.  Surfers often spend all of their waking moments following tides, swells, and weather conditions searching for that one perfect wave with that perfect barrel.  

As a result of Duke Kahanamoku’s contribution to the spread of surfing it has grown to be the 24th most popular sport in the world. The love of surfing has united people from all over and created not just a community, but a culture. Surfing is continuing to grow even larger and more popular as more people are mesmerized by the talent of each surfer. This growth has forced others to consider it a major sport and caused it to be added to the olympics for the first time, last year. It is now a major part of culture, athletics, and entertainment. Surfing has come a long way since its founders and will continue to do so in the future.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s