Today, there are over 23 million surfers worldwide. That population spans elite professionals, diehard beach bums, weekend warriors, and resort vacationers. International travel has never been easier; travelers are able to reach once near mythic locations in a matter of hours. Additionally, different forms of surfing have emerged in recent years, from stand up paddling to wake surfing, allowing, even more people to participate in the act of riding waves. The sudden emergences of wave pools have even given landlocked folks the ability to try their hand at surfing. With the recent leaps and bounds of advancements in surfing, it is easy to get caught up looking ahead to what the future holds, but we must not forget our roots. It is critical to take the occasional careful look back at the history as we continue to move forward.
The act of riding waves is thousands of years old. It is difficult to pinpoint the exact origin of surfing in ancient Polynesia because it predates European contact. There’s even been recent discussions to consider if it was first practiced in Pre-Inca Peru. Prior to the arrival of the colonial European powers in Polynesia, surfing was practiced widely across Oceana—in Hawaii, Polynesia, New Guinea, even as far as New Zealand. However, in Hawaii, surfing played a particularly significant role in society.