Surfing today


Duke Kahanamuko

By the end of the 19th century, the interest in surfing had died out and was practiced only by a handful of natives on the island of O'ahu. Hawaii had been discovered by Captain Cook and many foreigners began to explore, trade and eventually settle on the islands.

One of the main factors contributing to the disappearance of surfing was that by 1900 the number of full-blooded native Hawaiians had dropped drastically. Native Hawaiians made up only 25.7 percent of the total population of the Islands.

The sport had completely gone back to its beginnings: boards were short, riding techniques were simple. The activity became unskilled and practiced only by a few.

Surfing's comeback from near extinction was a result of a few factors, but mainly due to the influence of certain natives on the scene at the time.

Known as the "Father of Modern Surfing," Duke Kahanamoku was an Olympic swimmer who started a surf club on Wakiki Beach. Duke swam in exhibitions and swimming meets in Europe and the United States. His popularity attracted attention on the West Coast and Southern Californians became interested in surfing.

There was a myth that only a Hawaiian could acheive balance while standing and riding a wave. Despite this belief, in the early 1900's, a number of Honolulu residents, both natives and Caucasians, re-discovered the waves at Waikiki, and gradually the interest was renewed.

By the 1930ís, surfers were no longer satified with simple wave riding. Their ambitons overpowered the equipment they had been using. Ever since then the surfboard was the focus - "pushing technology and design to provide boards that could match surfers' skills."

Tom Blake was one of the pioneers of reinventing surfboards. His Hallow Hawaiian Board weighed half of what traditional boards weighed at the time. The lighter board was controversial in competitions, but recognized as a success.

In those years, builders were experimenting with all sorts of sizes, shapes, weights, and materials. Blake had another innovation to add a small fin on the bottom, underside of the board. This helped in turning and cutting through the wave. World War II helped in the discovery of certain chemicals and materials that kept boards together. surfers now had waterproof glues that kept the pieces together withou having to use bolts running from rail to rail. Fiberglass, resin, and styrofoam also came out of research during WWII.

An ritual created by the revival of the sport was the Surf Safari. The introduction of the automobile made it easier for surfers to go up and down the coast of California in search of good waves.

The Golden Age of surfing was the 1950s. After the war, many people enjoyed prosperity and leisure time. Beach movies, surf fashion and a show called Gidget helped commercialize the sport and reinvent the lifsetyle. Surfing had gone from an elite and scared island activity to a multi-million dollar industry.