A brief journey though the history of surfing

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Although it is difficult to know the exact moment and place in which surfing came into existence because of a lack of documentation, different testimonies have given us an idea of its emergence and how it was transformed into a popular and impassioned sport. Would you also like to know a little more of its history? If that’s the case… read on!

Surfing is practiced by thousands of sportsmen all over the world and first came to Spain at the beginning of the 1960s. Today, there are more than 27,000 federated surfers in Spain and the sport is actively practiced in many parts of the country. But, where did this sport originate and why do its enthusiasts love it so much?

The South American origins of surfing

In Huanchaco district, in the province of Trujillo in Peru, is where we find the first traces of man’s intention to master the waves of the sea. The ancient inhabitants of this part of South America used to build an artefact from the totora reed.

Surfing in the Hawaiian Islands

Two hundred years later, in the 18th century, a British expedition led by Captain James Cook, known as the discoverer of the Hawaiian Islands, approached the natives of these islands and chronicled their way of life as well as their customs. The peculiar manner in which they slid over the waves of the sea caught his attention.  

Some of his writings refer to a kind of drill in the sea practiced by the youth that consisted in riding the waves lying face down on an oval plank of wood cut to their height and width.

Polynesian references

It is believed that surfing, as we know it today, originated in Polynesia, although it was a less evolved form because it was practiced lying face down or on one’s knees. The ancient inhabitants of these islands rode the waves as a method of attracting fish to their shores.

The disappearance of surfing in the 19th and 20th centuries.

From the year 1800, the arrival of Christian missionaries on the island saw surfing, together with many other traditions, prohibited in Hawaii because it was considered immoral. During this period the arrival of foreign settlers began to erode Hawaiian culture and the Hawaiian way of life became extinct due to the imposition of European culture, the large number of diseases that the ships brought with them to the islands and the suppression of indigenous customs. In the following 150 years, the Christian missionaries all but wiped out this sport completely.

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