We’re not too sure when some ancient grommet decided to take a plank of wood into to the sea in the hopes of standing up, but we’re glad they did! Whether you’re new to surfing or a complete beginner, it’s a good idea to know your surfing roots so here’s an intro from Westcountry Surf School. Study well, we might spring a quiz mid-lesson!
Surfing has been around as long as people have been in love with the ocean. Probably forever if we’re honest. Cornwall may be the home of surf in the UK but the sport owes its heritage to Polynesian culture and in particular Hawaii. That’s why most people think of huge waves in tropical waters when you tell them you’re going surfing for the weekend!
It was first seen by European explorers in the summer of 1769 but it wasn’t until the early 1900s the Hawaiians organised the Hui Nalu (surf club) and competed in neighbourly surf competitions with the Outrigger Canoe Club that surfing started to make waves worldwide.
Soon Duke Kahanamoku, an Olympic swimmer, travelled the world and thrilled audiences with his surfing style. Think Kelly Slater of the time, Duke became a bit of a celebrity and even scored parts in Hollywood films. All whilst recruiting new surfers wherever he hit the water. Duke’s 1917 record for surfing the longest wave of all time still stands by the way, although we’re sure we’ll have you close after your first lesson!
The sport gained popularity over the 1930s but it wasn’t until the 1940s that photographers began to capture shots from the waves instead of the shore. This made it easier for photographers Tom Blake, the founder of the Pacific Surf Championships, and Doc Ball to publish “Californian Surfriders” in 1946 and spread surf lifestyle to anyone with an interest.
Surf Movies started appearing in the 50s and, fuelled by rock and roll and free time, more and more creatives started heading to the beach to experience pristine waves and the appeal of laidback surf culture. Bruce Brown’s “Endless Summer” was released in 1963 and is widely thought of as the best surf movie of all time. Why not have a watch, grab a GoPro and get inspired for your own lesson down in Newquay?
Enough about the guys, surfing is for everyone. There are records of Polynesian Queens getting amongst it and in the 1950s Anona Napolean and Eve Fletcher carved a place for women in the surf line up worldwide. Anona, the daughter of a respected Hawaiian surfing family, and Eve, an animator for Walt Disney, won competitions across the Californian coast and Hollywood began looking to the sea once again. In 1959 the film “Gidget” was released. A surfing initiation story and teen romance all wrapped up into one, “Gidget” helped fling surfing into the mainstream and inspired a new generation of teens to grab a board and have a go. This is the time most surf stereotypes began to form: blonde hair, beach bums, campervans, acoustic guitars… you know the ones!
As the audience for surf culture grew, magazines began to crop up and LeToy Grannis (another fearless surf photographer) founded “Surfing Magazine” in the early 1960s.
There are hundred around today all talking about gear, guides and the best surfers past and present. You can pick up a copy by the beach or browse online whilst landlocked as far from the shore as possible. Surfing has never been bigger yet still remains a radical idea to many, so it’s a good time to get a lesson booked and come see what all the fuss is about with Westcountry Surf School!