Brief History of Surfing

Author: Eric Hartwell

In the early 1900's the
Hawaiians organized the Hui Nalu (surf club) and competed in neighborly
surf competitions with the Outrigger Canoe Club. This drew a great deal of attention to the Waikiki surf shore,
bringing a revitalized interest in the sport, which had fallen out of
favor in the late 1800s. Duke Kahanamoku, an Olympic star in swimming,
popularized the sport further by traveling internationally and showing
off his surfing style to thrilled audiences around the world. He was
favored by Hollywood elite; having acted in bit parts in films and was
always recruiting new surfers wherever he went. He is credited with
surfing the longest wave of all time in 1917, in the popular surfing area now called Outside
Castles in Waikiki. His 1000 meters plus wave record has yet to be

In the 1930s, the sport of surfing was experiencing a Renaissance. Tom Blake, founder of the Pacific Coast Surf Championships that ended with the onset of war in 1941, was the first man to
photograph surfing from the water. Another photographer and surfer
named Doc Ball published California Surfriders 1946, which depicts the
pristine coastal beaches and good-time, relaxed atmosphere of surf
living. Surfing, although curtailed in the aftermath of WWII, revived
as always by the 1950s. Bud Browne, an accomplished surfer and
waterman, created the first 'surf movie' with his 1953 "Hawaiian
Surfing Movie". This inspired many photographers, filmmakers and
surfers to continue documenting the sport, culminating with is arguably
the best surf movie of all time, 1963's "Endless Summer" by Bruce
Brown. The film opened up the genre of the surf movie and the art of
surfing to non-surfing people, accumulating fans and inspiring

Although surfing was a male-dominated sport, adventurous women surfers
can be seen all the way back to the times of the Polynesian Queens. Two
notable 'surfer girls' were Eve Fletcher and Anona Napolean. Eve
Fletcher was a California-born animator for Walt Disney and Anona
Napolean was the daughter of a respected Hawaiian surfing family. The
two pioneered the sport for modern women, winning surfing competitions
up and down the California coast at the end of the 50s and into the
60s. Hollywood was quick to be on the scene and with the 1959 film
"Gidget", surfing was flung far out into the mainstream, never to
return to its humble, ritualistic beginnings. "Gidget" inspired a slew
of "Beach Blanket Bingo" movies that brought surfing to a new
generation of teens and inspiring a new genre of 'surf music' that
accompanied films and made The Beach Boys more famous than Elvis in the

Surfing spread throughout all media and Surfing Magazine
was born in the early 1960s by famous surf photographer, LeRoy Grannis.
After that, other publications cropped up bringing more information on
the sport, equipment and stars of the surfing scene. John Severson, an
accomplished filmmaker and photographer, created Surfer Magazine,
originally called "The Surfer". These publications brought advertising,
professional surfing, surf culture and publicity to the now very
popularized sport.