History of Surfing

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A Surf Tale

An account of surfing's thousand year voyage from the kings of Hawaii, to the surfers exile from society, to the multi-billion dollar industry of today.

The Sun's radiation heats the upper atmosphere, sending the energy toward the earth's surface and finally mixes with the planet's counter-rotational currents, creating jetstream flows. The winds flow over the ocean's surface creating friction that spawns chops, pushing up the seas forming perfect bands of open ocean swell. Pushed on by gravitational forces, the swells speed away from the winds that they came from, moving across the deeps until they feel the drag of the shallows near the coast. As the swells rise up out of themselves, they peak, curling into the liquid dreams that we surfers ride (Kampton 4). Surfing is not a sport, and no true surfer would ever claim otherwise. Yes, it requires all the essential elements of a sport; strength, discipline, balance and most of all practice but unlike a sport, surfing isn't a competition. True, even most surfers refer to it as an "extreme sport", but the truth is, we do so because it's impossible to create a word that completely describes surfing. It is an experience in its own class, a spiritual conquest quest, searching for the perfect wave. Surfing has come a long way since it was first conceived (roughly 1500 years ago). From the Polynesian "watermen" and Hawaiian Kings, to the European takeover in Hawaii and surfing's American debut in the early twentieth century and all the way through present day, surfing has had a rich history. Over the decades, surfing has fit in to a number of roles in society, but whether we surfers are seen as beach-bums or heroes (as of late), we still surf only because we love it, because the ocean's calls us, because nothing else on this planet can create the sensation felt by riding a wave. Surfing: A Kings Sport

To most, surfing is often described as a Hawaiian art-form, and rightfully so, Hawaiians apparently have been surfing for over a thousand years, but most experts will tell you that surfing began in Ancient Polynesia somewhere between the eighth and ninth centuries. Because the historical records of these ancient civilizations were carved into stone and bone, much of their culture has weathered away and little of their history is known. Nonetheless, we have an understanding of how surfing evolved from these South Pacific tribes.

The Polynesians were true voyagers; they knew the sea as the natives of Australia knew the land. They had perfected the science of celestial navigation and frequently made thousand mile journeys, hitting their target destination perfectly. The Islanders braved the ocean by rowing large canoes made from forest hardwood. They stabilized them with outriggers, enabling the boats to keep from flipping while paddling into the surf. These crafts were propelled by wind being corralled in sails made from pandanus leaves, or when sailing into the wind, they could be rowed with small paddles. The islanders were accustomed to long journeys at sea seeing as these boats were primarily used to venture out on their regular trading routes with other islands, or even on long explorations. It was on these Expeditions that the Ancient Polynesians are believed to have discovered and inhabited hundreds of remote islands, including present day Easter Island and of course Hawaii. It isn't clear how the Polynesians actually discovered surfing, but we can all conjecture. Assuming that these ancient people were familiar with paddling in the ocean, they surely understood that while paddling with a swell, one could feel the next wave building behind them. As the wave begins to peak, it pulls you down, and then draws you up, then allowing one to fall along the face of the wave, skipping forward across the surface. It seems to be the best guess that surfing started much like that, a fisherman catches a lift to shore from a day out at sea, stops paddling, and enjoys the...
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