Evolution of surfing
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Evolution of Surfing. GNM1136 Science of Forecasting Waves. The History of Surfing From Captain Cook to the Present By Ben Marcus.

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Evolution of surfing

Evolution of Surfing


Science of Forecasting Waves

The history of surfing from captain cook to the present by ben marcus

The History of Surfing From Captain Cook to the PresentBy Ben Marcus

  • On Captain James Cook's third expedition to the Pacific, his ships, HMS Discovery and Resolution, made the first recorded European visit to Hawai'i in 1778, when they stopped at the western end of the island chain on their way from Tahiti to the northwest coast of North America.

  • Cook was killed by Hawaiians

The history of surfing from captain cook to the present by ben marcus1

The History of Surfing From Captain Cook to the PresentBy Ben Marcus

  • Lieutenant James King was made First Lieutenant

  • After Cook's death in 1779 but before the Discovery and Resolution returned to England, Lt. King devoted two full pages to a description of surfboard riding, as practiced by the locals at Kealakekua Bay on the Kona coast of the Big Island. His following entry is the earliest written account of surfing.

The sport of kings an ancient hawaiian tradition

"The Sport of Kings" -- An Ancient Hawaiian Tradition

  • By 1779, riding waves lying down or standing on long, hardwood surfboards was an integral part of Hawaiian culture.

  • Surfboard riding was as layered into the society, religion and myth of the islands as baseball is to the modern United States.

  • Chiefs demonstrated their mastery by their skill in the surf, and commoners made themselves famous (and infamous) by the way they handled themselves in the ocean.

  • Anthropologists can only guess at the origin and evolution of wave-riding and surfboard construction in Polynesian culture, since there's no certainty about the timeline and movements of the Polynesians.

Evolution of surfing

Early Explorers Found 'The Hawaiian Sport of Surf Playing' to Be a National Pastime. Courtesy Bishop Museum Archive

The history of surfing from captain cook to the present by ben marcus2

The History of Surfing From Captain Cook to the PresentBy Ben Marcus

  • the first Polynesians arrived in the Hawaiian Islands in the fourth century A.D.

  • The Polynesians who made it to Hawai'i also brought their customs with them, including playing in the surf on paipo (belly) boards. Although Tahitians are said to have occasionally stood on their boards, the art of surfing upright on long boards was certainly perfected if not invented in Hawai'i.

  • When Captain Cook arrived in Hawai'i, surfing was deeply rooted in many centuries of Hawaiian legend and culture. Place names had been bestowed because of legendary surfing incidents.

  • The kahuna (experts) intoned special chants to christen new surfboards, to bring the surf up and to give courage to the men and women who challenged the big waves. Hawaiians had no written language until the haole (white-skinned people) arrived

The history of surfing from captain cook to the present by ben marcus3

The History of Surfing From Captain Cook to the PresentBy Ben Marcus

  • Before contact with Cook's crew, Hawai'i was ruled by a code of kapu (taboos) which regulated almost everything: where to eat; how to grow food; how to predict weather; how to build a canoe; how to build a surfboard; how to predict when the surf would be good, or convince the Gods to make it good.

  • Hawaiian society was distinctly stratified into royal and common classes, and these taboos extended into the surf zone.

  • There were reefs and beaches where the ali'i (chiefs) surfed and reefs and beaches where the commoners surfed. Commoners generally rode waves on paipo (prone) and alaia (stand up) boards as long as 12 feet, while the ali'i rode waves on olo boards that were as long as 24 feet.

Kamehameha at kamakahonu by herb kane

Kamehameha at Kamakahonu by Herb Kane

The history of surfing from captain cook to the present by ben marcus4

The History of Surfing From Captain Cook to the PresentBy Ben Marcus

  • Hawai'i and Hawaiian surfing fell into decline for more than 150 years around 1778. European contact was not good for Hawai'i. After the publication of Cook's and King's journals, Hawai'i became the central Pacific destination of choice for captains, brigands, adventurers, missionaries and other opportunists.

  • The haole brought new technologies, languages and Gods, along with vices and diseases that ravaged a society that had evolved over more than a millennium.

  • Haole and Hawaiian cultures were thrown together in swift collision at the end of the 18th century, and within the first 20 years of the 19th century, Hawai'i was changed forever.

The history of surfing from captain cook to the present by ben marcus5

The History of Surfing From Captain Cook to the PresentBy Ben Marcus

  • The undermining of Hawaiian culture accelerated in 1820, when the first of the Calvinistic Christian missionaries arrived from England and began to convert the Hawaiians from polytheism to the one True God

  • The Hawaiian culture fell apart but surfing remained strong.

One of the first known photographs of a surfer with his board c 1890 courtesy bishop museum archive

One of the First Known Photographs of a Surfer with his Board, c. 1890. Courtesy Bishop Museum Archive

The history of surfing from captain cook to the present by ben marcus6

The History of Surfing From Captain Cook to the PresentBy Ben Marcus

  • Fifteen years later, Mark Twain sailed to the Hawaiian Islands and tried surfing, describing it in Chapter XXXII of his 1866 book Roughing It.

  • "I tried surf-bathing once, subsequently, but made a failure of it. I got the board placed right and at the right moment, too; but missed the connection myself. The board struck the shore in three-quarters of a second, without any cargo, and I struck the bottom about the same time, with a couple of barrels of water in me."

The history of surfing from captain cook to the present by ben marcus7

The History of Surfing From Captain Cook to the PresentBy Ben Marcus

  • By the turn of the 20th Century, surfing had all but disappeared in the Hawaiian Islands.

  • Most of the surfing took place at Kalehuawehe on the south shore of Oahu, with a few surfers at spots on Maui, Kauai and the other islands.

  • Honolulu had become Hawai'i's largest city with one out of every four Hawaiians living there, but surfing on the reefs where hundreds had once cavorted was now a rarity.

Evolution of surfing

By the End of the 19th Century Surfing Was its Lowest Ebb. This Lone Hawaiian Surfer at Waikiki Beach Carries One of the Last Alaia Boards to Be Ridden There. Courtesy of Bishop Museum Archive

The 1900s london ford freeth duke

The 1900s: London, Ford, Freeth, Duke

  • In 1907, Jack London came to Hawai'i as a literary lion, having already published three best-selling adventure novels: The Call of the Wild, The Sea-Wolf and White Fang.

  • London was introduced to the joy of surfing by Alexander Hume Ford, an eccentric journalist and wanderer. Ford took London surfing, and there London met the most celebrated Waikiki beach boy of the time, a 23-year-old Irish/Hawaiian named George Freeth.

  • One of the boys riding upon the crests of waves was George Freeth, whom London encountered during surf sessions with Alexander Hume Ford.

George freeth

George Freeth

The kahanamoku brothers at waikiki courtesy of bishop museum archive

The Kahanamoku Brothers at Waikiki. Courtesy of Bishop Museum Archive

  • In 1905, the native Hawaiians began the informal HuiNalu (surf club), revitalizing native Hawaiian interest in the sport.

  • The HuiNalu and the Outrigger Canoe Club began friendly competitions, and by 1911 when the HuiNalu was formalized there were as many as one hundred surfboards on the beach at Waikiki.

Evolution of surfing


  • In 1912, Hawaiian beach boy Duke PaoaKahanamoku was already famous as a surfer and swimmer.

  • He was credited with developing the flutter kick to replace the scissor kick in freestyle swimming and was the three-time world record holder in the 100-meter freestyle.

  • As a surfer, Duke was one of Hawai'i's best ocean watermen, a beach boy and one of the founders of the HuiNalu Club.

  • Duke was a fine figure of a Polynesian, slim and muscular and built for speed, blessed with extraordinarily long hands and feet.

  • Duke Kahanamoku, 'Ambassador of Aloha and Surfing to the World.' Courtesy of Bishop Museum Archive

Evolution of surfing


  • In 1915, Duke was invited by the New South Wales Swimming Association to give a swimming exhibition at the Domain Baths in Sydney.

  • Australians were vaguely aware of surfing at the time, and the ocean-crazed people were thrilled when Duke fashioned an 8' 6" alaia board out of native Australian sugar pine.

  • Duke rode the board at Freshwater Beach in Manly in February of 1915 and singlehandedly put Australia on a path to superpower status in the surfing world.

Blake and the first fin

Blake and the first fin

  • After George Freeth in 1907 and Duke Kahanamoku through the 1920s, the population of surfers in California grew slowly.

  • Surfboards were mostly made of heavy and unwieldy redwoods and hardwoods with designs adapted from Hawaiian shapes to fit California conditions.

  • By 1928, a Wisconsin-born man named Tom Blake organized the Pacific Coast Surfriding Championships at Corona del Mar. Top surfers from all over California competed for the Tom Blake Trophy from 1928 to 1941, when World War II put an end to the event.

  • Blake was also the first photographer to shoot surfing from the water.

Evolution of surfing

Tom Blake, Important Surfing Pioneer and Creator of the Surfboard Fin. Courtesy of Bishop Museum Archive

Makaha pioneers rabbit kekai in middle wally froiseth on right

Makaha Pioneers, Rabbit Kekai in Middle, Wally Froiseth on Right

Eve fletcher circa 1959

Eve Fletcher, circa 1959

  • Unlike in ancient Hawai'i, surfing in the '50s and '60s was primarily a male- dominated sport. In spite of this, Eve Fletcher and Anona Napoleon were two adventurous and pioneering women who challenged the surf alongside the men.

Anona napoleon 1961

Anona Napoleon, 1961

  • Another woman surfing in Hawai'i at the time was Anona Napoleon, the daughter of a celebrated Hawaiian surfing family who inherited the Hawaiian talent for canoe racing and riding waves.

  • Napoleon was a world-class competitor in both surfing and kayaking who was temporarily paralyzed in a diving accident, but her competitive spirit and indomitable spirit enabled a miracle recovery.

  • A year after her accident, in 1961, she won the women's division of the Makaha International Surfing Championships.

Gidget and the era of modern surfing

Gidget and the Era of Modern Surfing

  • Gidget the movie brought surfing to international attention for the first time.

  • Then came the Beach Blanket Bingo movies, the driving surf guitar of Dick Dale, the sweet surf harmonies of the Beach Boys, and, by the mid-sixties, everybody was going surfing.



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