While for some, surfing is a mere recreational activity, for others it is an art form, a cultural way of life, and a nearly religious experience. Surfing has waxed and waned in popularity since its inception in the 1700’s, but there’s no doubting its present status as one of the coolest and most “radical” sports on the planet.
This fascinating facet of ocean culture has an amazing history and a wealth of fun facts, and Peter Stone wants to share all that we’ve learned—as well as some super cool surf jewelry in sterling silver for the surfer in your life!
Surfing is Born
Surfing originated in ancient Polynesian culture, where it enjoyed an importance in daily life that hasn’t been seen since, even in the most surf-oriented communities today. Leadership of the tribe was determined by surfing skill, and the chief always had the best board, made from the best tree available. Beaches were segregated based on tribal status, and prestige and status were conferred directly by wave-riding skill.
What is now known as Hawaii was immersed in surf culture when Capt. James Cook first made European contact with the islands. Two pages of his journal are devoted to the explanation of this native “diversion,” marking the first written record of the sport. For early Hawaiians, surfing, or “he’enalu” (wave-sliding), was culture, art, and religion. Priests offered surfing prayers before the sea was broached and crafting a board was a deeply spiritual ceremony.
Seen as a pillar of native culture, surfing was discouraged and forbidden by the missionaries, mainly German and Scottish, who arrived in Hawaii in 1821. By the 20th century, only a handful of native Hawaiians continued to surf and craft boards. The ancient art was diminished, but far from defeated.
Surfing made the leap over the Pacific to the west coast of the United States in 1907, when Railroad mogul Henry Huntington invited George Freeth to surf the coast as a publicity stunt to promote the Huntington Beach Pier. This, coupled with the exploits of Duke Kahanamoku, “Ambassador of Aloha,” Olympic medalist, and avid waterman, helped to re-establish the sport in Hawaii, America, and elsewhere. Australia, a modern day hot-spot for surfing, owes its introduction to the sport to Duke Kahanamoku, and commemorates his contribution by displaying his board at the Freshwater Surf Life-Saving Club in Sydney.
With the promotion of the film, Gidget, and the introduction of surf music by The Beach Boys, surfing was elevated from the “underground” into a national fad. Today, surfing is a multi-million dollar industry that has invaded waterways across the globe, spawning surf shops, surf resorts, surf contests, surf camps, and surf forecasting with the use of ever-progressing technology. Surf locations like Mavericks on the California coast, Waimea Bay in Hawaii, and the Gold Coast of Australia, among thousands of others, attract millions of surfers every year. Interestingly, the surfing culture has influenced land sports as well: innovative surfers facing a day without waves invented the art of sidewalk surfing—known today as skateboarding.
Surfers have developed their own culture centered around riding the waves. Becoming a surfer is a long process, requiring hard work and many hours of practice and effort. Dedication and perfectionism abound within surf communities, despite the common description of “slacker,” or “beach bum.” Many surfers see the sport as an extension of their spirituality. In Huntington Beach, a non-denominational church holds services on the beach, followed by a morning session on the waves by the minister and his congregation. Nat Young, famed Australian surfer, even tried to register surfing as a religion, although the request was never granted.
Surfing, as an unofficial religion, is based on harmony, belonging, and connection with the natural world… which really isn’t all that different from other nature-based religions. Who among us can deny that this powerful message is worth practicing, regardless of how we choose to practice? Peter Stone believes in sharing your inspiration wherever you find it, and if your altar resembles a carved koa longboard… we salute you, and offer our support with a collection of beautifully-rendered surf jewelry to delight you, inspire you… and keep you stoked!
Order within 7 days of this post (3/17 to 3/24) and get 15% off all surf jewelry with coupon code: SURFBLOG15