History of Surfing
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Surfing traces its roots to Hawaii, where Captain Cook's 18th century expedition discovered the natives surfing on oval planks of wood. Lieutenant James King, an officer on this voyage, wrote the first known account of these Hawaiian surfers in the ship's log.
A century later, in 1885, surfing came to America when three Hawaiian princes attending St. Matthew's Military School in San Mateo, California, came up with a creative use of their free time. Using surfboards made of local redwood, they rode waves off Santa Cruz's San Lorenzo River.
After the United States annexed Hawaii in 1898, surfing received quite a bit of press. It was covered in several magazines, newspapers, and travel guides, and the first clubs that recognized the sport were formed. In 1907, an Irish-Hawaiian surfer named George Freeth showed his stuff on Redondo Beach to a crowd of delighted onlookers as part of a publicity stunt that introduced a new train line.
Surfing was brought to the United States' East Coast by Olympic swimmer Duke Kahanamoku. After winning two medals in Stockholm, he surfed for the crowds in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It was on a victory tour for the 1920 Olympics that he met Wisconsin resident Tom Blake.
World War II more or less put a stop to surfing, with relatively few surfers enjoying the waves during this period. However, material developments made during this period helped spawn the evolution of the modern surfboard, when Bob Simmons created the first surfboard layered with balsa, foam, and fiberglass. Initially built for his girlfriend, this new type of surfboard was much more maneuverable than those of older designs.
In 1959, the first West Coast Surfing Championship was held at Huntington Beach. Just a year later, the sport was so popular it warranted its own magazine, and The Surfer was founded. The United States Surfing Association was founded in 1961, and soon signature clothing and apparel lines were springing up specifically for surfers. By the end of the 1960s surfing was a business, and those who used to just surf in their spare time were suddenly making money doing it through prize money and product endorsements.
In 1967 and 1968 surfing evolved yet again when surfers decided to cut two feet from the front of their boards, giving birth to what is known today as the shortboard. In 1976 the International Professional Surfers were formed, allowing those that surfed an easier venue to enjoy surfing while getting paid. The first nine men to win the title of World Champion hailed from the Southern Hemisphere, but the first American, Santa Barbara's Tom Curren, took the title in 1985. American women, on the other hand, took the first 12 world titles.
By the 1980s, a surfboard design called the "thruster" was popular. This surfboard was short, lightweight, and wide-tailed, and had a pointed nose that lifted upward and three fins. The three fins allowed surfers even more maneuverability, as well as better trajectory.
While surfing had traditionally been portrayed in the media as a male sport even though many women participated, that changed in the 1990s with Florida's Lisa Andersen. Andersen not only won four women's titles in a row, she also made women's surfing more commercial and respected.
Today, the sport of surfing continues to evolve as surfers find bigger and more remote areas to surf. In 2001, a group of surfers tested the boundaries of the sport by surfing 50-foot waves in the middle of the ocean, out of sight of land.
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History of Surfing