Overview Of The Origin Of Surfing

When you think of someone surfing, you may have the image of a brave soul riding the waves, always with the potential of a wipeout moments away. While surfing has become synonymous with a daring bravery, spirituality and easygoing culture, the sport has a long history that transcends generations. In truth, surfing has long been considered a tradition among kings. Stories abound of early cultures that others witnessed performing feats on the waves along the coasts upon which they lived. Where did surfing originate? Which peoples first began to travel upon the waves on thin wooden boards? In this article, we'll take a closer look at the mysterious origins of surfing.

A Mystery Shrouded In History

Nobody knows for certain when surfing began. Archaeologists have uncovered cave drawings that show early cultures balancing themselves upon the waves. These same drawings suggest that the leaders of tribes perfected the discipline. Indeed, they were expected to be the most adept "wave riders" of their tribe. Kings and queens routinely participated in surfing contests. Most experts agree that surfing started somewhere in Western Polynesia. From the scant evidence they've been able to retrieve, it's likely that the sport began nearly 3,000 years ago.

The Ill-Fated Trip Of Captain Cook

One of the first recorded accounts of surfing is an entry in Captain Cook's journal. It was penned by Lieutenant James King upon Cook's untimely demise. While trying to kidnap a chieftan of a Hawaiian tribe, Cook was killed by the island's inhabitants. King witnessed many of the Hawaiians riding the waves on wooden boards. He had never seen the sport before and described the account in detail within Cook's journal. He explained the technique that the islanders used to stay upon their boards as the waves brought them to shore. In time, King returned to England. But, his entry in Cook's journal remains the first written account of surfing.

The Natives Ride The Waves

At the time that Lieutenant King witnessed the Hawaiians surfing, he didn't realize how immersed their culture was into the sport. It was an integral part of their lives. It touched upon their spirituality and societal caste system. Tribal leaders were accorded their own beaches on which to enjoy surfing. Those who were positioned lower within the tribe weren't allowed to surf the same waters as their chiefs. However, commoners who were able to display impressive feats while surfing were given the privilege of enjoying the best beaches. For the natives of Hawaii, surfing was life.

Surfing Through The Ages

Since the time when Lieutenant King recorded what he had observed in Cook's journal, surfing has spread around the world. It has penetrated the fabric of popular culture to capture the imaginations of millions of people. Once the sport of kings, it is now a sport for anyone willing to brave the waters with their surfboard. For many, surfing is more than merely a sport. It's a way of life. They connect with the same sense of spirituality as that of ancient Western Polynesian tribes. Though we'll likely never know when surfing truly began, we have enough evidence to appreciate that it is one of the oldest sports in the world. It will continue to evolve as millions find themselves mysteriously drawn to this ancient sport of kings.