Wednesday, September 22, 2010

History Of Surfing: Sport Of The Kings And The Common Man

Surfing is something many people enjoy. Anywhere there's an ocean you are likely to see at least one or two people out there catching some waves, or at least trying to. It's not only a popular way of having some fun, it can also be a very lucrative sport. There are competitions held around the world, where contestants are able to win trophies, thousands of dollars, and a title.

This sport is thought to have originated in Hawaii. When the first Europeans arrived on the islands it can be said that they were a bit taken aback by seeing the native islanders frolicking in the water and standing on very long heavy boards as they glided through the breaking waves. This was something mainland people had never encountered before.

The ancient Hawaiians viewed riding the waves as an art. The higher ranking members of society would always have the bigger, lighter boards, while the lower ranking members were allowed the smaller, heavier boards. There were, and still are, many rituals practiced in Hawaii that go along with not only making these boards, but riding them as well. The ocean was a sacred place to the ancient peoples of Hawaii, and for many of them it still is.

With the arrival of missionaries, riding in the waves with surfboards began to decline. Having fun in the surf, to them, was an undesirable practice and they wanted it to be wiped out. Outsiders from all over also contributed to the waning of the sport, but a few stubborn kings held fast to the practice and were able to thwart the attempts by the newcomers, and the sport once again began to thrive.

In the early 1900's, a swimmer and surfer named Duke Kahanamoku started traveling around the world giving swimming presentations. He also used this time to familiarize the rest of the world to the sport of surfing. There is a statue of this wave riding pioneer that still stands today on Waikiki Beach on the island of Oahu.

During the winter months on the island of Oahu, you will find numerous wave-riding competitions. From Waimea Bay, to Sunset Beach, during the colder months, not only does the rain increase, but so does the size of the waves. The waves at Pipeline Beach are some of the most famous in the world. A great number of people have died trying to surf the monstrous waves created there, but the Pipeline Master's Competition is still held there today despite the many risks.

Surfing is an exhilarating ride which requires a great amount skill and balance, not only to get up on the board, but also to stay on it. For beginners, learning how to get on the board can sometimes take all day, but once you're standing and you've managed to catch your first tiny swell, chances are the next time you're near the ocean, you'll find it difficult not to want to grab the nearest board and make your way out past the breakers.

1 comment:

Linda Ballou said...

Thank you for the informative article. In my book Wai-nani, High Chiefess of Hawaii, inspired by Ka'ahumanu the favorite wife of Kamehameha the Great, the royals surf together in a beuatiful duet.Wai-nani even surfs with her best friend a dolphin named Eku and uses him to teach the children how to ride the waves.
If you love the ocean you will love Wai-nani.