Hawaii is home to many great inventions thanks to the innovative minds of the Hawaiian locals, but one of the greatest inventions has to be their state sport of surfing.
Here, we are going to be taking a closer look at one of Hawaii’s greatest inventions to find out more about its roots and how the locals of Hawaii view this exciting sport. So, let’s dive right in!
What Is Surfing?
Surfing is a popular surface water sport that originates from Hawaii and has been practiced for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years.
Ancient surfing first evolved from Polynesian people who traveled and populated hundreds of islands in the Pacific ocean but modern surfing as we know it is credited to have begun in modern day Hawaii.
This sport is one made for the adventurous as it involves riding wild waves while standing in either an upright or prone position.
Most surfers practice this sport in the ocean but today, you can find surfers in large rivers or enjoying man-made waves at water parks.
The main goal of surfing is to ride the wave on a surfboard, a long narrow plank that is light yet strong enough to support the weight of a person.
Surfing is now a huge sport that is practiced worldwide on the shores of many, many countries.
Due to its popularity, surfing debuted as an Olympic sport in 2021 where Hawaiian professional surfer Carissa Moore won the first ever gold medal for women’s short board surfing.
Surfing And Hawaii: A History
When surfing began in Hawaii, it wasn’t officially seen as a ‘sport’ – it was much more than that.
It was seen as an important part of the religion there and surfing ceremonies were performed to provide protection to the island and to secure the goodwill of the Hawaiian gods of the islands.
Everyone on the Hawaiian islands surfed – children, women, even the kings of the island, although there were rules which limited certain surfing spots to certain groups.
But for many years, Hawaiians surfed the waves until the island was later colonized by white Christian missionaries.
As life in Hawaii drastically changed, many parts of Hawaiian culture were lost or diffused so they could be replaced by European influence.
However, while surfing may have lost its religious influence, it never truly went away.
Decades later, surfing would gain popularity as travel writers like Mark Twain would spread word about the practice in their home countries.
Thus, visitors would flock to the islands to try out this new ‘sport’.
The heightened interest in surfing led to the emergence of surfing clubs but the sport truly gained worldwide popularity thanks to the efforts of one man – Duke Kahanamoku, a native Hawaiian surfer and professional swimmer.
Duke Kahanamoku had an impressive career as a swimmer, using the techniques he learned while surfing to win five separate Olympic medals in the early 1900s.
His talents led him to earn the nicknames ‘the Duke’ and ‘the Big Kahuna’.
After his success in the Olympics, Kahanamoku traveled the world to introduce surfing to countries where the waves were perfect for the sport.
Today, his legacy is still felt worldwide as places like Australia and California now have huge surfing communities – but all owe their roots to Hawaii, the birthplace of surfing.
Today, the sport of surfing is a lot different from the ancient ritual practices of the Polynesians or the religious ceremonies performed by native Hawaiians.
While surfing began as a religious ceremony, it is now considered a professional sport and a favorite pastime for those who seek thrills and enjoy spending time in the water.
Even surfboards have undergone a huge amount of change – they have shrunk in length, changed materials from different types of wood to epoxy, fiberglass, and more.
As surfing has grown in popularity in the last century, more and more competitions have cropped up all over the world where professional surfers can compete to win titles.
In 1976, the World Surfing League began as a way to find the world champion of surfing.
Every year, the League holds various competitive surfing tours, qualifying series, and special events such as the Vans Triple Crown.
The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing is one of the biggest surfing events in the world and it is held in Oahu, Hawaii.
It is technically the combination of three competitions in one and is attended by thousands of pro-surfers every year.
The way surfing now works as a sport is that each event includes rounds where each surfer can surf their best waves and score points.
A panel of five judges will judge the surf and reward a score out of a maximum 10 points, judging on aspects such as the speed and power of the surf, the variety of maneuvers including those that are difficult to perform, that are innovative, or are combined with other maneuvers.
If a surfer impairs the performance of another surfer, then they will be given an ‘interference penalty’ and thus lose score. The surfer can then lock in their two best waves (scores).
Overall, modern surfing is not as ‘rule heavy’ as other popular sports like soccer or ice hockey, but it is still one of the most difficult sports to master because it requires years of dedication, practice and patience.
There are also other risks associated with surfing including the risk of drowning, collisions, and serious injuries.
As a result, surfers must be well practiced and careful when surfing – but also enjoy the experience!
So, Hawaii is the home to the sport of surfing – one of the most popular water surface sports now practiced all over the world.
Although many people now associate surfing with Californian dudes with long blonde hair and shark-tooth jewelry, surfing has its roots firmly grounded in Hawaiian culture.
It began as a religious ceremony and now, despite years of colonization, it still has an important role in Hawaiian culture and is now the state’s official sport!