Surfing’s Early History
Creating worker-oriented buildings that promote the productivity and morale of their users for decades, Douglas Austin is an architect based in San Diego. In his spare time, Douglas Austin enjoys surfing in the San Diego area. The history of surfing involves practitioners of diverse backgrounds and international influences.
Though surfing has existed in some form for hundreds of years, the form most recognizable to modern audiences was created in Hawaii. Practiced by people of all social classes, surfing was performed with wooden boards, longer boards belonging to royalty. Strict social etiquette called kapu dictated which social class claimed which surfing spots and board construction, among other aspects of the sport and people’s lives. Remnants of kapu remain in the modern day in proper conduct between surfers.
Surfing’s popularity waned in the 19th century when Europeans came to the Hawaiian islands. The people native to the islands worked on sugar cane plantations, which reduced their leisure time. In contrast, their prior diet required fewer hours to prepare daily, leaving more time to enjoy surfing. However, surfing resurged in popularity in the mid 20th century.
20th-century developments in surfboard construction drew on materials sciences and engineering. California-based aerospace engineers and materials scientists used their expertise to create more durable and streamlined surfboards, as well as wetsuits to allow for surfing in colder waters. The 16-foot length boards, common at the time, shortened to eight feet. Features like fins and pointed noses were added, granting surfers greater mobility and control and opening up the chance to ride larger waves in more hostile environments.