HISTORY OF SURFING
This is surfing today – a serious kind of water sports. And once it was for the Polynesians, than for the ancient Hellenes – the Olympic Games: a synthesis of art, sport and religion. Surfing was born in Tahiti. The history of surfing begins around the 4th century AD Polynesians living here and on other islands, Hawaii began to explore new territories. Only the most brave and deft navigators reached new shores, carrying the oldest traditions of Polynesian tribes. Among the customs was the slip on the waves on the board.
Not everyone was honored to ride the wave. Surfing was considered an exceptionally noble occupation. Only kings could afford to dominate the waves. For the noble, the beaches with the best waves were identified – and the best waves were also the property of the kings. Therefore, to divide the wave with a prince or a king was considered a crime. And the crime was punishable by death.
Surfing was not just entertainment. If the king fell from the board, he certainly fell from the throne. The authority of the ruler was largely influenced by his ability to show himself on the waves. In view of this importance of surfing, the approach to it was appropriate. Priests called the most recalcitrant, long and high waves, using spells, ritual dances, thousand-year statistics and signs. Hereditary shapers (masters of manufacturing boards for surfing) created nominal royal boards on the technology passed from generation to generation and accessible only to the elite. Boards of mere mortals and heirs of the gods differed significantly: the royal “olo” reached a length of 7 meters (on average – about 5 m), and “peasant” boards – no more than 3.5 meters. Regular competitions were usually held in honor of religious festivities.
The expeditions of Cook attracted the interest of Europeans to Hawaii. Runaway convicts and missionaries rushed, each in its own way, to accelerate the evolution of Polynesians to the level of a civilized society of the XIX century. Strong tanned islanders, proudly rushing with the wind, without writing and clothing, did not correspond to the European notion of a modern man. Along with other features of the Hawaiian culture, surfing was recognized as a pagan excess and officially banned. So began a new stage of development in the history of surfing.
After the overthrow of the monarchy, the shadow of surfing still continued to run over the shores of the Hawaiian Islands, although in Tahiti and New Zealand it was virtually exterminated. Probably, because of the difficulty of execution, riding on the waves has not gained popularity among the guests and the new owners of these lands.
The Hawaiians quickly died out. Accustomed to tropical rainstorms, storms and drought, they were absolutely unfit for the European way of existence. New viruses, alcohol, other people’s traditions, persecution. If the population of Hawaii at Cooke was 800 thousand people, then in a hundred years, at the end of the XIX century, Hawaiians remained no more than 40 thousand. In Honolulu, the largest city in Hawaii, only one in four was a native.
Surfing was the entertainment of only a few crazy foreigners who ventured to taste Hawaiian exotics. One of these thrill-seekers was Mark Twain.
In the 90 years of the century before last, one of the last born surfers was the Hawaiian princess Kaiulani. The last representative of the old school of Waikiki (the locality on the coast of Hawaii) was riding on a long board – “olo”. Kaiulani was the niece of the last representatives of the ruling dynasty in Hawaii and at the same time the daughter of Governor Archibald Klegorn. Therefore, she went to receive higher education in England. Traveling through Europe, the “savage” surprised the local nobility as an outstanding linguist, musician, artist, rider, swimmer and surfer. The Princess did not hesitate to demonstrate her art off the shores of the foggy Albion, opening up to the highest society of Europe this fascinating occupation.
Own in the board
At the beginning of the XX century only a couple of eccentrics were still fond of surfing. Some, haole (whites), like tropical exotic. Other, native Hawaiians, in search of lost freedom. In 1907, Hawaii arrived already known then writer Jack London. He also tried to saddle a wave – and, according to eyewitnesses, quite coped with this. Inspired by the ocean and surviving remnants of islanders’ traditions, London in the same year wrote the story “Sports of the Kings: Surfing on Wyquic”.
Two people helped him to surf the famous writer: Alexander Hume Ford is a journalist and researcher who, in fact, taught Jack London to ride the waves, and George Frith. The latter was a descendant of Hawaiian kings. On the board he inherited, Frith at the age of 16 learned to stand standing on the waves, reviving the lost skill (tourists mostly went to bed). Very soon he became the most famous