Surfing History

Sunday, 4 January 2015 · Posted in ,

In the early 1900’s the Hawaiians organized the Hui Nalu (surf club) and competed in neighborly surf competitions with the Outrigger Canoe Club. This drew a great deal of attention to the Waikiki surf shore, bringing a revitalized interest in the sport, which had fallen out of favor in the late 1800s. Duke Kahanamoku, an Olympic star in swimming, popularized the sport further by traveling internationally and showing off his surfing style to thrilled audiences around the world. He was favored by Hollywood elite; having acted in bit parts in films and was always recruiting new surfers wherever he went. He is credited with surfing the longest wave of all time in 1917, in the popular surfing area now called Outside Castles in Waikiki. His 1000 meters plus wave record has yet to be overtaken.

In the 1930s, the sport of surfing was experiencing a Renaissance. Tom Blake, founder of the Pacific Coast Surf Championships that ended with the onset of war in 1941, was the first man to photograph surfing from the water. Another photographer and surfer named Doc Ball published California Surfriders 1946, which depicts the pristine coastal beaches and good-time, relaxed atmosphere of surf living. Surfing, although curtailed in the aftermath of WWII, revived as always by the 1950s. Bud Browne, an accomplished surfer and waterman, created the first ‘surf movie’ with his 1953 “Hawaiian Surfing Movie”. This inspired many photographers, filmmakers and surfers to continue documenting the sport, culminating with is arguably the best surf movie of all time, 1963’s “Endless Summer” by Bruce Brown. The film opened up the genre of the surf movie and the art of surfing to non-surfing people, accumulating fans and inspiring neophytes.

Although surfing was a male-dominated sport, adventurous women surfers can be seen all the way back to the times of the Polynesian Queens. Two notable ‘surfer girls’ were Eve Fletcher and Anona Napolean. Eve Fletcher was a California-born animator for Walt Disney and Anona Napolean was the daughter of a respected Hawaiian surfing family. The two pioneered the sport for modern women, winning surfing competitions up and down the California coast at the end of the 50s and into the 60s. Hollywood was quick to be on the scene and with the 1959 film “Gidget”, surfing was flung far out into the mainstream, never to return to its humble, ritualistic beginnings. “Gidget” inspired a slew of “Beach Blanket Bingo” movies that brought surfing to a new generation of teens and inspiring a new genre of ‘surf music’ that accompanied films and made The Beach Boys more famous than Elvis in the 60s.

Surfing spread throughout all media and Surfing Magazine was born in the early 1960s by famous surf photographer, LeRoy Grannis. After that, other publications cropped up bringing more information on the sport, equipment and stars of the surfing scene. John Severson, an accomplished filmmaker and photographer, created Surfer Magazine, originally called “The Surfer”. These publications brought advertising, professional surfing, surf culture and publicity to the now very popularized sport.

Keywords: surfing, surf, sport, surfer, the sport

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