History of Surfing in Dates

The history of surfing is rich for events. Numerous books have been written on this topic, and a cycle of articles could have easily be written on different interesting developments in the history of surfing the waves. But today, we decided to limit ourselves by a mere review of key dates and events that had shaped the surfing we know today.

~2000 B.C.: Various tribes are considered to have been surfing in the swells of the Pacific Ocean for over 4000 years.

~1000 B.C: Peruvian fishers started building and using boats called caballitos de totora to transport fishing nets and catch the fish.

Традиционная перуанская лодка рыбаков caballito de totora
Traditional boat of the Peruvian fishermen

~900 B.C: Surfing the Oloh boats is an ancient religious tradition of Ancient Polynesians.

~1000 A.D.: According to historians, it was Hawaii where surfing appeared as a culture, although it is not known for certain. Ideal weather, rich soil, and water sources full of fish allowed Ancient Hawaiians to enjoy riding the waves during their breaks in the work routine.

Первозданные Гавайи
Primeval Hawaii

1769: The first record of surfing belongs to a botanist Joseph Banks, a member of Captain James Cook’s great voyage to the Southern area of the Pacific Ocean. While watching the natives of Tahiti rejoicing on the swells onboard canoe-like boats, he wrote:

— We stood admiring this very wonderful scene for full half an hour, in which time no one of the actors attempted to come ashore, but all seemed most highly entertained with their strange diversion.

1778: Captain Cook reaches the Hawaiian Islands. While observing the Hawaiians, a crew member, lieutenant James King described surfing as ‘the most supreme pleasure.’ He wrote: …upon the Water, where there is a very great Sea, and surf breaking on the Shore. 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 used to guide the plank, they 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. And the great art is to guide the plank so as always to keep it in a proper direction on the top of the Swell, & as it alters its direction.”

1821: Hawaii becomes a transshipment point for commercial vessels. Calvinist missionaries from Great Britain invaded Hawaii and imposed their religious beliefs. Thus they banned surfing because they considered it to be the ‘unpleasing to God’ activity. Surfing and the Hawaiian culture have been virtually destroyed.

Древние гавайцы на волнах
One could assume the British missionaries did not appreciate such an activity

1872: Mark Twain tried surfing in Hawaii. Here’s what he writes about his experience in this novel called 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. None but natives ever master the art of surf-bathing thoroughly.

1885: Three Hawaiian princes catch their first waves in the continental part of the USA.

1898: The USA annexed Hawaii.

1906: Thomas Edison films the silent movie called ‘Hawaiian Islands.’ Among others, it depicts Hawaiians on the waves of the Waikiki beach. This movie is considered to be the first-ever movie about surfing.

1907: George Frit, a Hawaiian from Waikiki, also known as ‘the Hawaiian miracle’ who ‘could walk on water,’ introduced surfing to the Americans. He was the first professional surfer in history. 

1907: Jack London tries surfing on the Waikiki beach in Hawaii.

1907: A lifeguard association called Surf Life Saving Association was founded in Australia.

1908: Alexander Hume Ford moves from South Carolina to Honolulu and founds an Outrigger Canoe Club. This was the first organization aiming at surfing promotion. The Club became a driving force of the surf-tourism in Hawaii. 

1911: Duke Kahanamoku, Knute Cottrell, and Ken Winter organize a Hui Nalu Club (Club of the Waves) located in Oahu.

Дюк Каханомоку
Duke Kahanamoku is the father of modern surfing

1914: Duke Kahanamoku introduced surfing to Australians at the FreshWater Beach Exhibition in Sidney. Duke is considered to be the Father of modern surfing and became the world’s first surf celebrity.

1920: Duke Kahanamoku won two golden medals in swimming at the Olympic Games in Antwerpen as a part of the USA team. He won a total of 5 golden medals during his carrier. 

1920: Edward, the Prince of Wales, went to Hawaii for a vacation, captured by a camera while surfing.

1922: Аgatha Christie tried surfing in South Africa.

Агата Кристи пробует сёрфинг
Аgatha Christie trying surfing

1926: Tom Blake and Sam Reid surfed the waves of Malibu for the first time.

1926: Surfing in Europe was first captured by a cinema film in Portugal.

1926: Tom Blake revolutionized surfing by making the first surfboard under 50 kilos. His hollow brand surfboards weighed 25 to 35 kilograms and allowed moving in directions other than straight ahead. They soon became popular all over the world. 

1928: Tom Blake organized the annual Pacific Coast Surf Riding Championships in Corona Del Mar near Los Angeles. He was the one to win there on the board designed by him.

Том Блэйк со своей полой доской
Tom Blake with his hollow board

During that period, surf communities began to appear over the entire California beach of the Pacific Ocean, from San Diego to San Fransisco. That period is considered to be the Gorden Age of surfing.

1929: Lewis Rosenberg hits first waves in the UK upright on the board. It was only in a lying position that the British used to surf before, using wooden analogs of the present-day bodyboards.

1930: Tom Blake builds the first water-proof box for the photographic survey in water.

1930: The ‘Swastika’ company launches the first mass surfboard production. 

Swastika boards advertising poster

1935: Alfred Gallant Jr. became the first surfer to wax the board for grip improvement.

1935: Tom Blake produced yet another revolution by attaching a fin to a surfboard. The same year, he wrote the first book on surfing called Hawaiian Surfboard and an article on making surfboard for Popular Mechanics magazine.

Первый плавник на доске для сёрфинга
The first fin on a surfboard

1943: Tom Blake equipped one of his boards with two fins.

1945: Frank Adler founded the Australian Surf Board Association.

1945: By the end of World War II, the world’s surfing capital had moved from Waikiki to Malibu. The local long waves on The Point were considered ideal.

1948: John Lind organized a Waikiki Surf Club.

1951: Hugh Bradner, am MIT physics, invented the neoprene wetsuit. Initially, this wetsuit was designed for Navy scuba divers. But surfers quickly realized that it also allows surfing in cold water.

1952: Jack O’Neill opened the first Surf Shop in San Fransisco.

Магазин Джека О'Нила
Jack O’Neill’s Surf Shop

1954: Hobie Alter opened his surfboard manufacturing plant in Dana Point, California.

1956: Dave Sweet manufactured the world’s first polyurethane board. Nowadays, this construction remains a standard.

1956: A Hollywood scriptwriter Peter Viertel and producer Darryl F. Zanuck arrived at Biarritz, France, to film The Sun Also Rises movie. They brought the surfboard along. The local dwellers quickly became familiar with surfing and turned Biarritz into a surf-town. 

1957: Mike Stange, Greg Noll, Pat Curren, Mikey Munoz, and Harry Church first surfed at Waimea Bay. Since then, this place has been considered an iconic big wave spot.

Первая сессия на волне в Ваймеа Бэй
The first session on the wave of Waimea Bay

1957: Frederik Kohner issues a book about a girl named Gidget. This female character was based on his daughter. After the movie was filmed in Hollywood based on the book, surfing became popular throughout the world. 

1958: Marge Calhoun becomes the first woman world champion in surfing by winning in the Makaha International competition.

1959: John Severson issues the world’s first magazine on surfing called The Surfer.

1961: Phil Edwards from California was the first to surf the Pipeline spot. Before him, surfers used to believe that wave was impossible to ride. Nowadays, this strong, swift, deadly, but still ideal wave is the center of the world’s surfing. 

1961: Dick Dale sets America on edge with his surf rock. The same year, The Beach Boys music group was organized, influenced by Dale’s music style.

1962: The Beach Boys pump out the Surfin’ Safari hit.

Группа The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys music group

1962: Bob Evance published Surfing World, the first Australian magazine on surfing.

1963: Alex Matienzo, Jim Thompson, and Dick Knottmeyer surfed the wave they called Mavericks for the first time. They were riding mellow longboard waves along the shore.

1964: The International Surfing Association, or ISA, was founded. It is nowadays the key surf organization in the world. Members of ISA organize the Surfing World Championship, train the referees for competitions, certify instructors, and promote surfing.

1966: Bruce Brown filmed The Endless Summer — the world’s first surf movie. It has inspired many surfers to start a journey searching for the waves in other countries. Today, this move is a real classic, a must-see for every surfer.

Афиша фильма The Endless Summer
The Endless Summer movie poster

1966: Nat Young won the competition riding board he named Magic Sam that he personally manufactured with his own hands. The board was somewhat shorter and much more maneuverable than the ones his competitors had. This moment is considered the beginning of the shortboard revolution. 

1969: Greg Noll rode the world’s largest wave at Makaha, Hawaii.

1969: Steve Rass invented the surf leash, later patented by Pat O’Neill. At first, surfers used to laugh at those using the leashes, but as we witness today, the leash is nowadays an essential part of almost all the surfers’ equipment.

1969: The Rip Curl company was founded by Doug Warbrick and Bryan in Torquay, Australia. In the same year, the Quiksilver company was founded in Torquay by Alan Green and John Law.

1969: Corky Carroll became the first Champion, and Margo Godfrey became the first Woman Champion in surfing at the Smirnoff World Pro-Am Championships.

1970: O’Neill launched a one-piece wetsuit to the market.

1971: Tom Morey invented bodyboard.

Первый бодиборд и его создатель
The first bodyboard and its inventor

1971: Jeff Hakman won the world’s first Pipeline Masters contest. Today, this contest is the top competition in the world.

1972: Kelly Slater, the greatest surfer of all the times, was born in Cocoa Beach, Florida.

Келли Слейтер - величайший в мире сёрфер
Kelly Slater, the world’s greatest surfer

1973: The Billabong company was founded by Gordon Rena Merchant in Gold Coast, Australia.

1975: Jeff Clark was the first to conquer the giant Mavericks wave. During the season, its height may reach 82 ft (25 m).

1976: Peter Townend wins in IPS’s first World Surf Tour.

1978: Eddie Aikau, a famous Hawaiian lifeguard and surfer, aged 31, went missing in the ocean. Later, a legendary big-wave contest was named after him In Memory of Eddie Aikau.

Эдди Айкау на волне
Eddie Aikau riding the wave

1979: Michel Barland set up the world’s first computerized surfboard-shaping machine.

1979: Lacanau Pro, the first surfing contest in Europe, took place in southwestern France.

1980: Simon Anderson mounted three identical fins on a surfboard, producing yet another revolution in surfing. Today, the majority of all the boards worldwide are equipped with such a setup of fins called a thruster

Саймон Андерсон и его thruster
Simon Anderson and his thruster

1982: Ian Cairns organized the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP). Today this organization is known as WSL and remains the key organizer of the World Tour. The World Tour is a series of premier competitions throughout the world, in which the 32 best surfers of the world take place.

1983: Michael Ho won the first contest called Triple Crown of Surfing. To receive the triple crown today, one must earn the top scores in three elite Hawaiian competitions: The Hawaiian Pro at  Haleiwa, The World Cup of Surfing at Sunset Beach, and The Pipeline Masters at Pipeline.

1984: The Surfrider Foundation was founded by Glenn Hening and Tom Pratte. The foundation is dedicated to the protection of the world’s oceans, waves, and beaches.

1984: Tom Carroll and Kim Mearig won ASP’s first World Tour.

1985: A Tahitian Thierry Vernaudon was the first to conquer the Teahupo wave in Tahiti.

1986: Mike Stewart and Ben Severson surfed the Teahupoo. Later they made this spot known by the entire surf community. 

1986: Herbie Fletcher towed Tom Carroll, Martin Potter, and Gary Elkerton into a couple of 10-foot waves at Pipeline.

1992: Kelly Slater won his first title of the World Champion in Surfing according to ASP.

1995: The International Olympic Committee recognized the ISA as governing body of surfing.

2000: Laird Hamilton rode the monstrous wave at Teahupoo, later referred to as the Millenium Wave. Before this event, surfing a Teahupoo wave that high was considered impossible. 

Millenium Wave
That very ride over the Millenium Wave

2005: Clark Foam, a company that outputs 60 percent of the world’s scope of polyurethane pieces for surfboards, closed down.

2011: Kelly Slater won his 11th title of World Champion in surfing.

2011: Garrett McNamara, the bigwaver from Hawaii, rode the largest wave in Nazare, Portugal. The wave was estimated at 90ft (30m) high. Today, Nazare is the Mecca of big-wave surfing.

Рекордная волна Гаррета МакНамары
The unprecedented wave of Garrett McNamara

2014: Gabriel Medina became the first Brazilian to win the title of World Champion in surfing.

2016: Voted anonymously, the International Olympic Committee included surfing in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games program.

2017: Surfing Magazine closed down.

2020: After 60 years of publications, The Surfer, the world’s first magazine on surfing, was closed.