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Surfing in the modern era

Surfing is not only a sport, but an entire culture with its own history and heritage. All throughout the world's beaches, surfers can be spotted. Some waiting for the next big wave while others are riding them. But this sport this not become popular at random. Various innovations and trends have given the impetus to allow this sport to grow. Our modern understanding of surfing takes has evolved over the centuries, from its Polynesian beginnings to its modern lifestyle. Here's a short glimpse into surfing's more recent history.


In 1946, a huge shift rocked the surf world. Bob Simmons, a surfer and surfboard designer from Pasadena, California, constructed a foam-filled surfboard that included balsa wood rails and a deck made of plywood. This meant that surfboards need no longer be made out of wood. After this innovation, Pete Peterson took it a step more and created a surfboard made of fiberglass that weight about 25 pounds, a feat that was unheard of to surfers at that time. Fiberglass technology, a material that was becoming more and more developed during World War II, was now becoming the new norm in surfboard material. Then came Hobie Alter and Gordon Clark who made the first boards completely out of foam and fiberglass and thus revolutionized the market. These surfbords were much more agile. The renowned Jack O'Neill, whose name became synonymous with surf equipment, then made the first wetsuit in the 1950s.

Surfers in Waikiki

Around that time, in 1953 a photograph was published in many newspapers and journals around the world which showed surfer Woody Brown surfing an enormous wave off the Oahu's coast in Makaha beach. This photograph inspired many amateur surfers and surf lovers alike to move to Hawaii and continue their passion there. Among these emmigres were Fred van Dyke and Peter Cole, who alongside Edie Aikau and Buffalo Keaulana, became one of the more renowned and greatest surfers of the modern era. In those times, surfing then moved up from being a hobby to a recognized sport. Hollywood then embraced this new phenomenon. Movies like "Gidget" and "The Endless Summer" were big hits and brought out many people out to the beach to learn how to surf. Surf fashion also started to become a trend. Boardshorts became highly popular and surfwear shirts became more and more of a trend. Surfing even became a popular theme in music with the Beach Boys making airwaves throughout the world. Surfing became an unstoppable movement.

Surfer in Oxnard in the 1970s

Then in 1966, a daring innovation by Nat Young occurred in the world of surfing. The shortboard was invented sparking the "shortboard revolution". Measuring at about 6 feet, this small board now created a new boom in the surf industry. In places where only dozens of surfers were to be found, thousands were now seen flocking to the waves. These surfboards were now being constructed in mass-produced plastic making them easier to find and cheaper. These surfboards now look almost alien-like to their original Hawaiian and Polynesian origins.

There are now hundreds of surf magazines, newspapers, journals, video games, movies, fan clubs, camps, and other institutions around the world dedicated to surfing making it a multi-billion dollar industry. Despite all the commercialization and hype, surfing still sticks to its simplicity and natural wonder. Surfers, regardless of all the publicity, still have to wait for nature to form the waves. It is a sport that can never be spoiled for it is an quintessential to nature itself.

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