Guest Post: The Condensed History of Surfing and Other Water Sports

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About 71% of the world is covered in water. It is the elemental and essential constituent of life, which is reflected in humans themselves as pretty much 50% to 70% of our bodies consist of H2O alone. It is therefore far from strange that we are so fascinated with this element – the vast blue horizons and angry rivers that cut through the countryside. Humans are naturally inclined to enjoy water-related activities, and throughout their existence, civilization has given birth to numerous water sports – some of which are prominent while others have been altered or buried by the sands of time. If you are eager to learn about this topic, here is the condensed history of water sports.

Before history

When talking about the early history of water sports, one is at a loss of specific dates and precise information. Water-related activities have been an integral part of our existence since homo sapiens has come into being and even long before. Still, if you were hell bent to pinpoint at least some specific facts about the nature of water sports as we know them today, you would find out that they came to us from beyond the glistening horizon of the Pacific. Faraway and exotic islands where the climate is always hot, and the water is always just the right temperature.

Aquatic activities gave birth to disciplines

The sea-faring people of Polynesia have typically spent most of their lives immersed in the pristine, crystal shallows and deep of the azure ocean, and their way of life was more connected to this element than that of the average continental human. Because of this lifestyle, it was inescapable that they would invent fun aquatic activities which would spread and become a widely accepted part of our global culture. Surfing, as it is known to the modern man, has allowed us to harness the power of the waves in order to show prowess, agility and finesse.

Of course, this was not the only way to prove agility and endurance – pearl diving was also a widely practiced activity among the people of the Pacific islands. The danger of plunging into the depths from a cliff and holding breath among the seaweed as they searched for the pearl only made the entire activity more exciting due to the promise of a shiny reward at the end.

The major breakthrough in the 17thcentury

The rest of the world might not have found out about these activities if, in the 17thcentury, the British maritime fleet did not explore the Pacific islands extensively. On the epic coastlines of Hawaii and Tahiti, the European explorers came across the native residents who enjoyed their favorite pastime, which was later named surfing.

Water sports expand

Even famous writers such as Mark Twain and Jack London tried their luck at this sport during their time – and their renown actually helped the popularity of these activities (though Mark Twain was rather unsuccessful at his attempts). The turning point for surfing came in 1912, when George Freeth and Duke Paoa Kahanamoku surfed on the shores of California, thus instigating this state’s fascination with the activity. This was also a year when Tommy Walker became an expert rider in Sydney, and the sport subsequently expanded across Australia.

Just like all other sports, the rules and regulations became refined, detailed and the boards themselves morphed and changed to satisfy the ever-increasing list of standards. You can just take a look at the extensive options and features of Firewire surfboards in order to see how this cult of surfing has evolved. While this may sound like the relentless trend that takes all joy out of the activity, but the essential drive of those that practice it has remained the same – the blood-pumping rush of taming the symbol of the angry Mother Nature embodied in a wave and applying one’s own skill and discipline to achieve this.

On the other hand, the discipline of swimming was part of the Olympicssince 1896, and it perfectly paralleled the development of a swimming pool according to athletic standards. It was won by Alfréd Hajós of Hungary, in Athens. Water polo originated in England as far back as 1870, and it took several decades for the rest of the world to catch up. It became a part of the Olympics in 1900. Interestingly enough, women did not compete in water polo for a whole century – this particular glass ceiling was smashed in 2000. Snorkeling and deep diving, just like surfing and pearl diving, has mostly been relegated to ‘worldly’ disciplines practiced by the populace all around the globe according to no particular set of rules.

Once you take a broad look at the history of water sports, it becomes absolutely clear that human beings view this element as something more than a necessary part of their nutrition and biological makeup. It’s also a source of fun, the environment that transports them to the realm of playful abandon and imagination. As soon as you immerse yourself into the big body of water, you become connected with something primordial within you, and a very specific side of this elemental human nature as well: While our deeply rooted passions and drives can be dark and violent, water appears to connect us to the positive flipside of this nature – which is perfectly reflected in simple yet profound nature of water sports.

About the Author:

Diana Smith is a full time mom of two beautiful girls interested in topics related to home improvement, DIY and interior design. In her free time she enjoys reading and preparing healthy meals for her family.

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