Surfing - Where it all began...


Our team is itching to get back into the ocean...that post-monsoon swell cannot come soon enough! It’s been 3 months, (and literally, counting) since we’ve been able to go for a Surf here in Goa. So as we spend our nights dreaming of riding waves, we thought we’d shed some light on the sport that’s so close to our hearts. 

Now, let's start with the origins of Surfing...

It's a rather tricky task to trace back the exact moment where Surfing originated, but the general consensus is that it started somewhere around Samoa or among the Tahitian Islands. Eventually, it moved to the Hawaiian Islands and here, Surfing really caught on during the second millennium and crossed the line between a sport and a cultural necessity (Nick Carrol, Surfline Historian). 

“When they first saw people surfing in the late 18th century in Tahiti and Hawaii, Europeans were completely stunned and very impressed; Captain James Cook's lieutenant King thought it appeared to be "a most supreme pleasure", and he was dead right (though he didn't actually try it).” (Nick Carrol, Surfline Historian).

illustration from “Captain Cook’s Voyages round the World” (1897)

illustration from “Captain Cook’s Voyages round the World” (1897)

Up until around 1767, the main leisure activity and pastime for the Samoans, Tahitians, and Hawaaiins had been swimming. But now they paddled into the ocean with their finest wooden planks! (Yes, they surfed wooden planks, kind of mind boggling!). 

Roll on a few centuries and our forebears really upped the ante, they mastered the art of riding these wooden planks. As the Hawaiians adopted Surfing as an integral and sacred part of their culture, they would pray to the gods for courage and protection each time they went out for a “he’e nalu” or ‘wave sliding’ session.

Koa Wood Replica Surf Boards

Koa Wood Replica Surf Boards

In Hawaii the sport is called he'e nalu, meaning "to slide on waves," and the surfboard is called papa he'e nalu, "something flat for sliding on waves."
The word nalu, meaning "wave," also means "to reflect, to meditate." And this meaning comes from the roots na (peace, calm) and alu (to cooperate, to act together). 

When talking about the origins of Surfing of course you have to mention the GodFather of Surfing himself - Duke Kahanamoku. Duke, a five time Olympic swimming medalist spread his forefathers Surfing culture. Upon his retirement from swimming, he performed swimming exhibitions world-wide and incorporated Surfing into these shows. Thus, spreading the sport globally.

Duke Kahanamoku

Duke Kahanamoku

“Out of water, I am nothing.”
-Duke Kahanamoku

Globally, with a solid push from Polynesia and Hawaii a staggering evolution came about. With the development of the surf culture, and as more and more innovators arrived on the scene the technology evolved as did the equipment. Boards became shorter, sleeker and lighter (Thankfully, we no longer need to carry large wooden planks around!).

The Evolution of the Surf Board

The Evolution of the Surf Board

This evolution has grown the number of surfers drastically. Today we sit at roughly 35 million surfers - most on a wanderlust quest to find the most pristine and untouched-surf-spots scattered around the world. 

Never surfed but felt the calling? Ridden a little but keen to experience more or learn how to ride better? 

Stay tuned for next week's write-up on what the sport looks like today and how best to begin your Surfing journey! 

Cam Jassard - The History of Surfing: Everything you need to know.

Isaiah Helekunihi Walker, Waves of Resistance: Surfing and History in Twentieth-Century Hawaii, (2011).

Serge Kahili King, (2014).