Thursday, September 20, 2007

Early History Of Surfing

If images of the kahuna (experts) ritualistically chanting to the Gods to bring the waves, protect men and women who rode them, bless the carved wood boards, kings and queens battling for wave rights and integration between man and the magic of the sea brings images of the history of Surfing to your mind’s eye, then you must be filled with Aloha, as the Polynesians intended. The history of surfing dates back centuries before the first written account of observing ‘the sport of kings’ in 1779 by Lt. James King in the ship’s log of Captian James Cook’s Discovery.

He scrutinizes the sport as existing purely for sport and amusement; “The Men sometimes 20 or 30 go without the Swell of the Surf, & lay themselves flat upon an oval piece of plan about their Size and breadth, they keep their legs close on top of it, & their Arms are us'd to guide the plank, thye wait the time of the greatest Swell that sets on Shore, & altogether push forward with their Arms to keep on its top, it sends them in with a most astonishing Velocity, & the great art is to guide the plan so as always to keep it in a proper direction on the top of the Swell…”Surfing was created as a royal pastime, embedded in the codes of the kapu (taboos) as governed by the Hawaiians.

It was a very well-respected and almost mystical experience which kings and queens welcomed into their lives. When the Europeans began to arrive from England in droves in the early 1800’s, bringing with it their puritanical Calvinistic Christian philosophies, the kapu of the Hawaiians was destroyed and they were forced to live a more European way of life. With this change came the degradation of surfing as offensive to God and Jesus Christ. The Hawaiians were manipulated into believing in a resulting eternal damnation for surfing, and consequently, the sport fell out of favor.

The thrill and immortality of surfing was not completely demolished and there were dedicated lone surfers continuing to take on the waves, despite the Calvinists’ demands. Tourists from other countries began to hear about the fascinating sport and wanted to try it for themselves. In 1851, the writer Reverend Henry T. Cheever inscribed his observation of the mysticism, skill and beauty of surfing. Mark Twain has recorded his account of having wiped out on a wave during his initiation to the sport in 1866.

Surfing stayed on an underground level and continued to decline until 1907 when author Jack London, native surfer George Freeth and eccentric wanderer Alexander Hume Ford founded the Waikiki Swimming Club. London was famous and influential, bringing surfing to the world’s attention with his book “A Royal Sport: Surfing in Waikiki”. George Freeth won the title of “First Man to Surf in California”, which wasn’t exactly true but drew public attention nonetheless. Hume Ford petitioned for Waikiki to be a permanent home for surfing and won. On May 1, 1908 the Hawaiian Outrigger Canoe Club was founded and the sport began to flourish again.

Eric Hartwell oversees "The World's Best Homepage" intended to be a user-generated resource where YOUR opinion counts. Anybody can contribute and all are welcomed. Visit us to read, comment upon or share opinions on sport and visit our associated site articles for free.

No comments: