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History of Surfing –
Surfing is one of the oldest continuously practiced sports on the planet. The art of wave riding, itself, is a mixture of sensitivity to being in the environment at a given moment and sheer athleticism. Uniquely, surfing is also one of the few sports that creates its own culture. Non-surfers and beginning surfers divide the question about surfing’s origins in two parts: “When were the first surfboards ridden?” and “Who were the first surfers?” A surfer who has been into it for a while might put it more in terms of: “When was the first stoke?” In Hawaiian, the term is hopupu, but it means the same thing: to be high on life, especially riding waves.
Riding with a board to catch the power of an ocean swell originated in Western Polynesia between three and four thousand years ago. The first surfers were Polynesian and began standing up on wooden boards in the surf of the Pacific Ocean sometime between 1500 B.C. and 400 A.D. Somewhere in that period — probably early on — the first surf stoked surfer began the surf culture many of us around the world practice in our own ways, today. Riding the ocean’s waves began with seamen who rode the waves of the open ocean in outrigger and double-hulled canoes. That surfing stems from a nautically-based culture with a legend-filled history of outstanding waterman is undeniable. The first surfers were waterman who initially became noted for their finesse with outrigger and double hulled canoes before taking to mere slabs of wood. Very possibly, these island fishermen first envisioned a more recreational use for waves when they used them as the fastest means for getting their canoes over the coral reefs and on to the beach with their catch. At some undefined stage, catching waves developed from being part of the everyday working skill of the fisherman to being a sport. Instead of work it became play. This change revolutionized surfing.
“For thousands of years,” wrote 1960s world champion surfer Fred Hemmings, “cultures living and prospering on the coastlines of the world’s great oceans viewed waves as an adversary of nature.” Where these people all saw difficulty, it took the Polynesians to see the fun in it.
Yet, the way of the surfer was not the same as that of the ocean-traversing voyager, sailor or ocean fisherman. As 1960s world champion surfer Mike Doyle pointed out in his autobiography Morning Glass, “The tradition of the waterman comes from Polynesia and is different from the tradition of the sailor. The waterman’s skills include surfing, paddling, rowing, and rough-water swimming. He might also be skilled at diving, fishing, spear fishing, tandem surfing, life guarding, and handling outrigger canoes. But he isn’t necessarily skilled at sailing or navigation. The difference is that a waterman focuses on the coastal waters, while the sailor’s realm is the deep water. By reading about the early days of surfing, I learned that the watermen who came before me didn’t just go to the dive shop or the surf shop and buy the latest thing on the rack. They designed their own boards, their own dive gear, and their own outrigger canoes. They were constantly thinking and experimenting with other watermen about ways to perfect their gear. Nobody knew then how a surfboard should be designed. The only way to find out what worked and what didn’t was to try it.”
Unfortunately, “wave sliding,” a.k.a. surfing — what was termed he`e nalu, in old Hawaiian — cannot be traced to its exact beginnings. How it developed in its infancy can only be surmised. Yet, there is some hope that future archaeological work in the Pacific will reveal some answers over time. Meanwhile, much of what we know of early surfing is what was recorded by the first Europeans to land in Polynesia in the late 1700s, hundreds of years after The Long Voyages had ended.
At the time of the first Polynesian/European contact on the island of Tahiti, in 1777 — British Navigator Captain James Cook described how a Tahitian caught waves with his outrigger canoe just for the fun of it: “On walking one day about Matavai Point, where our tents were erected, I saw a man paddling in a small canoe so quickly and looking about him with such eagerness of each side, as to command all my attention… He went out from the shore till he was near the place where the swell begins to take its rise and, watching its first motion very attentively, paddled before it with great quickness, till he found that it overlooked him, and had acquired sufficient force to carry his canoe before it without passing underneath. He then sat motionless and was carried along at the same swift rate as the wave, till it landed him upon the beach. Then he started out, emptied his canoe, and went in search of another swell. I could not help concluding that this man felt the most supreme pleasure while he was driven on so fast and so smoothly by the sea…”
References to the art of surf riding are scattered throughout traditional Polynesian meles — chants or oral history related told through song. By the end of The Long Voyages, surfing had become one of the most widespread of the Polynesian sports. He`e nalu was practiced in one form or another throughout the Pacific region, from New Zealand to Hawaii, and from Rapa Nui (Easter Island) to New Guinea. Board surfing became most advanced on islands within the Polynesian Triangle bounded by Hawaii , Rapa Nui , and Aotearoa ( New Zealand ). In Western Polynesia , Melanesia and Micronesia , surf sports like board surfing were mainly a children’s pastime, usually limited to boys. By contrast, on most main islands of Eastern Polynesia , surfing became a sport for both sexes and all ages. The epicenter of board skill was Hawaii , where he`e nalu developed its highest expression.
Assuming that, like most things, surfing started simply and then grew to be more complex, a likely sequence in the origin of Hawaiian surfing would go something like this:
1) From basic canoe surfing there followed simple body surfing, called he`e umauma (Hay-ay oo-MAU-ma) in the Hawaiian language.
2) Then came a rudimentary form of surfing, mainly a children’s activity practiced with small body boards, which spread throughout the Pacific. This type of simple surfing with a body board, — we commonly call it “body boarding” or “boogie boarding,” today — may be several thousand years old; as old, perhaps, as the settling of the Pacific islands.
3) From the body board, in Eastern Polynesia , sprang an adult sport practiced with bigger boards (papa he`e nalu).
4) Afterward, in Hawai`i , surfing reached its peak and “found its noblest expression.”
Various surf historians — like early 1900s surf pioneer Tom Blake, scholar Ben Finney and James Houston, as well as Leonard Lueras — have all noted that there were other spots on the planet where forms of surfing were practiced. One was the mid-western coast of Africa and the other was Peru.
Off the coast of western Africa , “in areas of Senegal , the Ivory Coast and Ghana . Near Dakar , Senegal ,” wrote Finney and Houston, “… African youths and young fishermen regularly body-surf, ride body-boards and catch waves while standing erect on boards about six feet long. These Atlantic skills seem in no way connected with the Pacific, either historically or prehistorically. Evidently, it’s an old pastime in west Africa; young Africans were seen riding waves while lying prone on light wooden planks as long ago as 1838, long before surfing began to spread from Hawaii.”
This was a reference to the British explorer Sir James Edward Alexander observing surfing by natives in Equatorial West Africa in 1835. Volumes one and two of Alexander’s Narrative of a Voyage of Observation Among the Colonies of Western Africa, published in 1837, are remarkable in their scope and detail. The often poetic accounts of every detail of West African life in the early 1800s — sex, murder, slavery, war, passion, drunkenness, death, revolt and a note on surfing — are impressive.
James Edward Alexander was anchored off the island of Accra , off the Cape Coast not too far from the “yellow sands” of what used to be called Guinea . On November 16, 1835 , while describing native island life, Alexander noted that, “from the beach, meanwhile, might be seen boys swimming into the sea, with light boards under their stomachs. They waited for a surf; and then came rolling in like a cloud on the top of it. But I was told that sharks occasionally dart in behind the rocks, and ‘yam’ them.”
Meanwhile, off the coast of Peru , wave riders constructed papyrus reed flotation devices which they would use to ride waves close to shore. That this practice went rather far back in time is substantiated by ancient clay pots that have drawings of Peruvians standing up while riding waves on these bundled reed floats. The papyrus “boards” were similar to modern ones in that the wide point was just behind the middle of the boards and they also had nose and tail lifts.
Surfing as we know it, however, stems from Polynesian origins and primarily from the Hawaiian development of the sport. As part of the general marine adaptation pioneered by the first people to enter the open Pacific, papa he`e nalu became a recreational activity that was most highly developed by the Hawaiians. The first Polynesian settlers to land in Hawaii were probably already skilled in simple surfing, and perhaps after a few hundred years of riding Hawaii ‘s waves the uniquely Hawaiian form of the sport emerged. So, actually, that first ride or first stoke could have been as early as 2000 B.C., at the outset of Polynesian migration from the Malay archipelago.
Although the spirit of surfing was diminished during the 19th century, it did not die. He’enalu, in fact, fared best of all the traditional Hawaiian sports and games. Most of the others quickly disappeared in the early period of foreign contact. Surfing’s flame died down, but a fortunate combination of circumstances preserved in Hawaii the Polynesian pastime that disappeared completely in such other early cultural centers as Tahiti and New Zealand . From somewhere a spark remained to smolder through the dark century of Hawaii ‘s transformation. It was nearly one hundred years after the abandonment of the taboo system, when what little that remained of the old world was almost unrecognizable, that new, fresh elements in a changed Hawaii fanned the spark and brought the sport of surfing back to life.
As the 20th century began, the Waikiki area of Oahu was the center for the few still surfing. Waves were ridden occasionally on Maui and possibly on Kauai . Surfing on the once popular Kona coast had apparently disappeared. Although Waikiki was a prominent surfing location in ancient times, its position as the center for the remnants of the sport depends as much on the major shift in the Hawaiian population from Kona to Honolulu. By 1900 28% of the Hawaiians and many part Hawaiians were living in or near Honolulu . This concentration may help to explain why surfing survived at Waikiki . Yet by 1900 even at its so called “center”, there was barely a suggestion of the sport’s former glory.
In 1900 one of the early surfriders at Waikiki, William Cantrell says, Princess Kaiulani was an expert surfrider from around 1895 to 1899. She rode a long olo board made of wili wili. She apparently was the last of the old school at Waikiki. Princess Kaiulani was the daughter of Governor Archibald Cleghorn and Princess Mariam Likelike and the niece of King Kalakaua and Queen Liliuokalani. Kaiulani was given the Ainahau estate in Waikiki by her Godmother Princess Ruth, and there she entertained Robert Louis Stevenson in 1889. He wrote a celebrated poem, “Forth from her land to mind she goes,” on the occasion of her departure to attend school in England, after which she traveled throughout Europe with her father. The Princess was widely loved as a linguist, musician, artist, horsewoman, surfer, and swimmer.
From 1903 to 1908 marks the true revival of the sport, encouraged by the following old timers: William Dole (Dole Pineapple Co), Dudie Miller, Duke Kahanamoku, Harold Castle (Castle & Cook) George Freeth, Dad Center, Kauha, Holstein, Jordan, Lishman, Atkinson, Steamboat Bill, Winter, Brown, Kaupiko, Mahelona, Keawamaki, May, Curtiss, Hustace, Roth, Aurnolu and McKenzie.
The large olo boards were no longer made. The alaia type boards in use could not match the fine relics of earlier days that you can see in the Bishop Museum, in Honolulu today. Most boards were about 6 feet long; many were hardly more than rough-hewn planks. The sport might be said to have returned to its infancy: boards were short, riding techniques were simple, the whole pastime was unelaborated and practiced only by a few. Soon after the turn of the century, however, the first signs of a revival appeared.
During the 19th century few Caucasians learned to handle a surfboard. Mark Twain, during his trip to Hawaii in the 1860’s said, “None but the natives ever master the art of surf-bathing thoroughly.” It was a popular myth, in fact, that only a Hawaiian could balance himself successfully while standing and riding a wave. Despite this belief, in the early 1900’s, a number of Honolulu residents, including many enthusiastic schoolboys and beachboys, re-discovered the waves at Waikiki, and gradually interest in the sport was renewed.
One of these was George Freeth, who was born in 1883 of Hawaiian and Irish parentage. In 1900, at the age of 16, he taught himself to ride standing up on the board instead of lying down. The board on which he accomplished this was a solid, heavy, 16-foot olo design. The story is that it had been given to him by his uncle, a Hawaiian prince, and the board is now a treasured item in the Bishop Museum in Honolulu. Freeth was an innovator and experimented with shorter boards by cutting the old 16-foot boards in half. As the locals were rediscovering surfing at Waikiki, tourist from the United States and Europe were discovering Waikiki for the first time. In 1901 the first major resort opened in Waikiki. The Moana Hotel was plush and built in a Beaux-arts style of architecture, distinguished by a grand Banyan tree in the courtyard fronting the beach and by a wooden pier that extended some 300 feet into the water. In order to promote the Hotel advertisements began appearing around 1906 proclaiming surfing and canoeing to be exciting vehicles of sport for tourists.
Surfing is and always will be a sport of intense excitement and the shared experience of riding waves in what is most responsible for its revival. In order to facilitate this shared experienced another Waikiki institution was beginning to emerge as a main player responsible for surfing’s emerging popularity in the early 1900’s — the Waikiki beach boys. In 1907 George Freeth was brought to Redondo Beach, California, to demonstrate surfboard riding as a publicity stunt to promote the opening of the Redondo-Los Angeles railroad owned by Henry Huntington — who gave his name to Huntington Beach. Freeth stayed on in California to become the first lifeguard, and in this way brought the art of surfboard riding to the United States. He became a national hero and earned both the Carnegie Medal for bravery and the Congressional Medal of Honor when in a particularly violent storm in December 1908, he made three trips through mountainous surf to rescue seven Japanese fisherman. At least 78 people owed their lives to his work as a lifeguard. He was a great swimmer as well as surfer, and in 1912 he would almost certainly have been selected to represent the United States at the Olympic Games had it not been ruled that he was a “professional” because he was a paid lifeguard.
At the age of 35 he died in San Diego during a national influenza epidemic; locals said that Freeth exhausted himself rescuing several swimmers at Oceanside and became an easy victim of the virus. Freeth was a great man; he had the build of a surfer and by “standing on the water” at Redondo Beach he began the move of surfboard riding out of Hawaii through the rest of the world. Also prominent in the new movement was Alexander Hume Ford, an adventurous mainlander who was so enamored with the sport that he took it upon himself to personally boost its revival and popularization. In 1907, Ford organized and formed the Outrigger Canoe Club, for the purpose of “preserving surfing on boards and in Hawaiian canoes”. Hence the birth of the world’s first organization whose sole mission was the perpetuation of wave-riding. The club soon offered facilities for dressing, and a grass hut for board storage right on the beach. This gave surfers easy access to the sand and to the long sloping rollers.
As we re-call surfing first came to California in 1907 to promote Huntington Rail Line – so it seems that right from the start surfing and commercialism went hand in hand as both the sport and the tourist travel industry evolved over the years. So much for the “soul theory of surfing evolution”. Yet, despite this capitalist drift, surfing is and always will be a sport of intense physical and cerebral excitement and the shared experience of riding waves is what’s most responsible for its revival.
By 1912 surfing was beginning to expand from the Redondo Beach area with places like the Palos Verdes Cove being ridden. It was Duke Kahanamoku who brought surfboard riding to Australia. In 1912, C.D. Paterson, of Manly, had returned from Hawaii with a solid, heavy redwood board which a few local bodysurfers had tried to ride, but couldn’t. Then three years later the New South Wales Swimming Assn. invited Duke Kahanamoku to swim at the Domain Baths in Sydney, where he broke his own world record for the 100 yards with a time of 53.8 seconds. While he was in Australia he made a tour of the beached and chose Freshwater to give an exhibition of the art of surfboard riding. He didn’t know about the old redwood board in the district so he set to work to build his own out of piece of sugar pine supplied by a surf club member whose family was in the timber business.
Sunday morning. A clear, brilliant day. Spectators were milling around to watch. Manly Surf Boat was on had to give Duke assistance to drag his board through the break – an offered he laughed at good naturedly. Picking up his board he ran to the water’s edge, slid on and paddled out through the breakers. He made better on time on the way out than the local swimmers who escorted him. Once out beyond the break it wasn’t long before he picked up a wave in the northern corner, stood up and ran the board diagonally across the bay, continually beating the break. Duke showed the crowd everything in the book, from head stands to a finale of tandem surfing with a local girl, Isobel Latham.
At this point surfing truly became an international sport. As surfing was about re-creating itself all around the globe, another institution was about to emerge from the ranks . Board shaper – A kahuna from ancient times. Although the old traditions and rituals accompanying the act of selecting a tree had been replaced with a modern ritual – plunk down some cash for a plank and drag it home – the soul of the Kahuna expressed their desire to maintain a link with the past through the Shaper.
The board itself became the hero. George Freeth and Duke Kahanamoku, two of the first modern shapers had proven many times that the surfboard was a lifesaving tool – while thousands enjoyed the art of wave-sliding (he’enalu) hundreds owed their life to a board and a surfer. George Freeth became a national hero and earned both the Carnegie Medal for bravery and the Congressional Medal of Honor when in a particularly violent storm in December 1908, he made three trips through mountainous surf to rescue seven Japanese fisherman. At least 78 people owned their lives to his work as a lifeguard.
One June day in 1925 at Newport Beach, Duke Kahanamoku was enjoying a picnic with fellow actors when a pleasure yacht, the Thelma, capsized in raging offshore surf. Of the twenty-nine people on board that day, seventeen died. With his surfboard, Duke managed to save eight, battling his way out and back through churning white water, three times. Newport’s police chief call Duke’s performance “the most superhuman surfboard rescue act the world has ever seen.
By the late 1920’s tourists flocked to Hawaii to experience the world’s most famous beach — Waikiki. Surfing was becoming very popular in southern California, partially because of the new and lighter hollow boards which were being produced by Tom Blake. The design was influenced by the ancient boards he had seem at the Bishop Museum. The original blank was 16′ x 2′ x 4′ thick — and about 150 pounds. It finished up 15’ x 19″ x 4” looking like a cigar but it was only 100lbs.
Over the next few years Blake and his good friend Duke Kahanamoku spent much time together shaping, surfing attempting world swim records and acting too, in Hollywood. Along with Johnny Weismuller, Duke and Tom were all world class swimmers and were constant companions on the southern California scene. In the late 20’s while Duke and Weismuller were in Hollywood, Blake was in Santa Monica, building lighter paddle boards, finally getting the weight to 60 pounds. Soon these boards shapes were modified to wave riding.
From about the early 30’s surfers weren’t content anymore with simple wave riding – the surfers ambitions out-raced the equipment they had to work with. Ever since then the surfboard was the focus – pushing technology and design to provide boards that could match surfers skills. Leading the field was TOM BLAKE.
During the 20’s techniques and equipment grew more and more refined and by 1928 a group of California surfers announced the 1st Pacific Coast Surfboard Championships. Adds in the Santa Ana Daily Register invited the public to bring their picnic baskets and enjoy a day at the beach watching surfboard riding by world famous figures such as Duke Kahanamoku, Tom Blake, George Freeth, and many more. Aug. 5, 1928 was the day of the big contest, and the largest crowd in the last five years was on hand to witness the event. This too was the day Tom Blake would introduce his latest invention, the Hallow Hawaiian Surfboard. Not everyone on the beach would appreciate his efforts though, because he was nearly laughed off the beach with his new board. As blake recalls,
“When I appeared with it for the 1st time before 10,000 people gathered for a holiday and to watch the races, it was regarded as silly. Handling this heavy board alone, I got off to a poor start, the rest of the field had gained a 30 yard lead in the meantime. it looked really bad for my board and my reputation and hundreds openly laughed. But a few minutes later it turned to applause because the big board lead the way to the finish of the 880 yard coarse by fully 100 yards.” Blake emerged from the water triumphant, and his reputation as an inventive and keenly competitive waterman grew even stronger.
With this success the hallow board was on its way to revolutionize modern surfing, but not without the usual controversy along the way. Sides were taken on both sides of the boards. “Blakes Cigar” as it was called in Hawaii had set new records in the 100 yard and half mile paddling events of the Hawaiian Surfboard Paddling Championships on Jan 1 1930. Longtime Waikiki surfer and paddlers Sam Reid recalled the controversy a 1955 memoir he wrote for the Honolulu Star Bulletin.
“It was a hollow victory , for Blake had hollowed out his 16 ft cigar board to 60 pounds weight , compared with an average 100 to 120 lbs. weight of the other 9 boards in the event.” The purist demanded that all contests by limited to solid boards while others called it the beginning of a new era in surfing. Reid goes on to say reverberations of the hollow board tiff were heard from one end of the Ala Wai to the other and echoes can still be heard at Waikiki even today, 25 years later. At a meeting of the 3 surfing clubs, Outrigger, Hui Nalu, and Queens, held immediately after the disputed races, it was decided that henceforth there would be no limit whatsoever on the design of paddleboards.
Within a year, Reid said, surfboard builders were experimenting with all sorts of sizes, shapes, weights, and materials, including airplane fabric boards, hydroplane bottoms and converted single sculls. Imagination of design ran wild as he recalled. Later in 1930 Blake received the first ever patent on a surfboard for his Hawaiian Hallow Surfboard. These 1st models were manufactured by their Thomas N.Rogers Co. in Venice, Ca. and a few years later by the L.A. Ladder co.
At this time too the Hawaiian scene were in full swing. Waikiki was the lap of luxury without a doubt. The tourist industry was bringing thousands of people every month to Waikiki . People from all over the world came to Waikiki, among these were many famous actors, musicians, filmmakers, and politicians. Among these early guests were Edward, The Prince of Wales, who created quite a stir when he stayed at the Moana Hotel and went for a outrigger ride. Also a few years later Shirley Temple, Bing Crosby, and many others were regularly scene at Waikiki. By this time the Beach Boys of Waikiki has become internationally famous not only for the surfing prowess, but also for their music, clowning antics, and colorful names. Who could forget names like Steamboat, Turkey Love, Rabbit, and Blue Molokai. Sarah Parks, the chief beachside and surfing correspondent for the Honolulu Star Bulletin during the 50’s recalls some of these legends in her most memorable surfing column. Miss Parks suggested that a bored Honolulu hostess should.
“invite Waikiki’s beach boys to partake of your board. Introductions She noted would go something like this: Hostess: Mrs McWorkel, this is Turkey. He’ll be seated on your left. And on your right we have another man from the beach, Sally. And have you met Steamboat? And this is Steamboat Jr., and these are Steamboats relatives, Tugboat, Sailboat, Lifeboat, and Rowboat. Of course you’ve met Dad, and here are Curly, Splash, Rabbit, Tarzan ,Boss, Panama Dave, Blackout, Wata, Zulu, Mungo, Eight Ball, Nose, Scooter Boy, and oh… here comes Dead Eye. Indeed what visitor to the world’s most famous beach, doesn’t yearn for the good old days when Da boys would go out and ride “beeg ones”on their 120 ft and longer redwood surfboards.
By now in California another phenomenon was about to give surfing a big boost, the car had made it possible to range even further to look for the perfect waves, and this ritual was called the surf Safari. Many a surfer would spend their weekends sat San Onofre, Long Beach, or Palos Verdes. Surfers were a colorful and radical group in California’s expanding population. These early California surfing pioneers were the ancestors of the Surfing Lifestyle we enjoy today. They were known for their colorful exploits, and for their party animal attitudes. However, these guys were no wannabe posers, anyone could throw a baseball, catch a football, or hack at a golf ball, but who the hell would want to carry the 100 plus pounds wood plank down the 2782 decent steps to Palos Verdes Cove, slip into the cool 50 degree Dec. water during a cold snap in a storm, and actually enjoy themselves. These guys were nuts, purple, and fully stoked. Early Calif. Surfers were he men of legendary stature, it was cold, it got big, and it took every ounce of your strength to surf, and the only thing you’d wish for at the end of the day was for a little more strength and just 1 no 2 more waves, and that’s it. Compared to the Hawaiian Brothers who really had it going on in those days, there was very little glamour to surfing in the early California days. But that would change soon enough. By 1935 Tom Blake was again at the leading edge of innovation. Ever since the beginning of surfing there was one peculiar drawback to board designs, and that was the boards propensity to slip sideways and always at a critical time in the maneuver.
Blakes innovation was to add a small fin at the bottom rear end of the boards. This allowed the surfer to pivot and turn more freely and with more lateral stability. Gone forever were the days of sliding ass, or straight off Adolph. This simple yet critical invention revolutionized surfing both for the spectator as well as for the surfer. Because the board became more maneuverable surfers were able to create more and more exciting rides from a spectator standpoint. The Pacific Coast Surfing Championships became an annual event and was dominated 4 of the next years by Preston “Pete Peterson of Santa Monica. Other Early surfing champs included Keller Watson, Gardner Lippincott, and in 1939 Whitey Lorrin Harrison, and in 1940 Cliff Tucker.
Tucker the 1940 champion said flat that his friend “Peterson was the greatest waterman on the West Coast in those days. As far as I’m concerned he was the best and maybe Whitey Harrison was second best. Tucker recalled that in the early 30’s surfing days ‘that a man could still be arrested in Santa Monica for not wearing a top”, and competition surfing was heavy duty and tough.
“If you were in a contest situation and a guy took off in front of you, he recalled, it was your obligation to show no mercy or decency. You either went right through him or otherwise mowed him down. I guess the only thing that’s changed over the years is that nowadays some folks surf that way even without the contest.
As we mentioned earlier one of surfing early ritual was the Surf Safari. This was not only a Calif. thing because by the early thirties some of the 1st California surfers began to make the voyage to Hawaii to take on the Fabled big waves. If you’d look at him today you’d say naah, but our guest Whitey Harrison was one of California’s Bad Boys of Surfing. In 1932 at the height of the depression Whitey tried to stow away on a ship bound for Hawaii but caught and was transported back to San Francisco. He spent the night in the slammer— and stowed away the next morning. After 2 and a half days hidden in a life boat he gave himself up, but at least this time he made it to the Islands. Meanwhile Pete Peterson had paid his way across but eventually he ran out of money and ended up moving in with Whitey at Waikiki. Later Whitey and Pete stowed away back to the mainland on the USS Republic masquerading as members of a contingent of 1,000 soldiers being shipped back to the states. Thanks to these pioneers stowing away became a surfing tradition right up to the 60’s, and Whitey himself made four out of five successful trips in this way.
All during the 30’s and 40’s there was a constant quest the refine and lighten the old style boards. While in Hawaii Pete Peterson found a solid blond colored wood board on the beach. The size and shape of this mysterious board were about the same as his board but it weighed only 30 to 40 lbs. Apparently it had been made in Florida with wood from So. America called balsa wood. Soon everyone was scrambling to get this new balsa wood and it became harder and harder to get.
In the late 30’s Pacific Ready Cut Homes, in California was the first company to mass produce commercial surfboards, and in 1937 hired Whitey Harrison to shape boards for them. These boards were constructed of balsa and redwood laminated together with the newly available waterproof glue. They were 10’ long 23″ wide and 22” at the tailblock. For his effort Whitey shaped four boards a day and knocked down $100.00 a month. These new boards were known as the swastika model because of the Co. logo. Years later Whitey found out that a guy named Dutch was a Nazi and when the war broke out they dropped the swastika.
History of Windsurfing –
Windsurfing or boardsailing is a sport that combines sailing and surfing and uses a one-person craft called a sailboard. The basic sailboard is composed of a board and a rig.
In 1948, twenty-year old Newman Darby first conceived of using a handheld sail and rig mounted on a universal joint, to control a small catamaran. Darby did not file for a patent for his design, however, he is regonized as the inventor of the first sailboard.
Californians Jim Drake (a sailor and engineer) and Hoyle Schweitzer (a surfer and skier) received the very first patent for a sailboard. They called their design a Windsurfer. The early Windsurfer boards measured 12 feet (3.5 m) long and weighed 60 pounds (27 kg). Later in the 1980s, Newman Darby did file for and receive a design patent for a one-person sailboat, the Darby 8 SS sidestep hull.
According to Newman & Naomi Darby in their article The Birth of Windsurfing: “Newman Darby found he could steer a conventional 3 meter sailboat by tipping it fore and aft enough to make turns even without a rudder.
This is when (late 1940s) Newman got interested in steering a boat without a rudder. Several sailboats and 2 1/2 decades later (1964) he designed the first universal joint to go along with a flat bottom sailing scow. This sailboard was fitted with a universal joint mast, a centerboard, tail fin and kite shaped free sail and thus windsurfing was born.”
Naomi Darby, Newman’s wife, was the first woman windsurfer and helped her husband build and design the first sailboard. Jim Drake’s and Hoyle Schweitzer’s patent for a sailboard was granted in 1970 (filed 1968 – reissued 1983). Drake and Schweitzer based the Windsurfer on Darby’s original ideas and fully credited him with its invention.
According to the official Windsurfing website “The heart of the invention (and patent) was mounting a sail on a universal joint, requiring the sailor to support the rig, and allowing the rig to be tilted in any direction. This tilting of the rig fore and aft allows the board to be steered without the use of a rudder – the only sail craft able to do so.”
Hoyle Schweitzer began mass-producing polyethylene sailboards (Windsurfer design) in the early 1970s. The sport became very popular in Europe and by the late 70’s windsurfing fever had Europe firmly in its grasp with one in every three households having a sailboard. The first world championship of windsurfing was held in 1973. Windsurfing first became an Olympic sport in 1984 for men and 1992 for women.
History of Paddleboarding (SUP) Stand-up Paddleboarding –
The popularity of the modern sport of SUP has its origination in the Hawaiian Islands, where surfing schools used stand up paddleboards to teach their students to surf. By standing on their boards using a one bladed paddle, students became familiar with the sport and allowed them to quickly spot the good wave sets.
In the early 1960s the Beach Boys of Waikiki would stand on their long boards and paddle out with outrigger paddles to take pictures of the tourists learning to surf. This is where the term “Beach Boy Surfing” originates, another name for Stand up paddle surfing. Some of the more famous Beach Boys such as Laird Hamilton and Rick Thomas would SUP when the surf was flat as a way to stay in shape, this was common with surfers.
In the 80’s and 90’s, as the Hawaiian surfers were SUPing to stay in shape between swell, they soon found themselves entering events such as the Moloka’i to O’ahu Paddleboard Race and Mākaha’s Big Board Surfing Classic.
History of Kiteboarding –
Kitesurfing, also known as kite surfing, fly surfing, and kiteboarding, involves using a power kite to pull the rider through the water on a small surfboard, a wakeboard, or a kiteboard.
A kitesurfer uses a board with foot-straps or bindings, combined with the power of a large controllable kite to propel himself and the board across the water. However, this simplicity also makes kitesurfing challenging. A kitesurfer’s body is the only connection between the kite and the board. The kite is piloted in the sky while the board is steered on the water.
The sport is still in its infancy, but is rapidly growing in popularity. In 2006, the number of kitesurfers has been estimated at around 150,000 to 200,000.
The sport is becoming safer due to innovations in kite design, safety release systems, and instruction. Many riding styles have evolved to suit different types of riders and conditions, such as wake style, wave riding, freestyle, jumping, and cruising.