Evolution of the surfboard

Ewolucion of the surfboard – Ewolucja deski surfingowej

Tym razem piszę po angielsku kochani. Po pierwsze muszę pisać w języku angielskim aby nabrać wprawy skoro mieszkam w Australii, po drugie jest to przyjemny tekst o surfingu i deskach surfingowych, dlatego nawet jak nie mowisz perfect po angielsku  może uda Ci się go zroumieć, jeśli nie to chętnie napiszę po polsku kilka ciekawostek o deskach surfingowych, daj znać <3 Miłego czytania

This time my post is in English, not because I do not like write in Polish but it is good practice for me to write more in English and this post tells about Surfboard’s invention and in my opinion it is quite interesting ;p I looked up for some info and decided  to share it with you <3  It is my essay in English, hope there is not many mistakes.



Surfboard – What is that?

‘Surfing is the sport of riding waves in an upright or prone position. Surfers catch ocean, river, or man-made waves and glide across the surface of the water until the wave breaks and loses its energy’ (SurferToday n.d). After reading a clear definition of what surfing is, it is easier to understand what surfboard exactly means. As you can see ‘surfing is the sport of riding waves’ (SurferToday n.d) and to explore the ocean we need a board on which we can simply surf. The board is easily called the surfboard. A Surfboard is used in surfing as a riding board. Surfers are able to stand on it throughout the duration of a wave. Surfboards are usually not that heavy and are very buoyant containing foam or epoxy.

According to SurfingStatisticsBrain.com there are 23 million surfers in the World. In the beginning of one’s surfing adventure it is hard to ride a wave for a long time, however statistics say that the longest amount of time spent surfing one wave is 37 minutes. 1.56 billion dollars is the annual amount of money spent for hard good products like surfboards, skateboards and accessories. Surfing is an individual discipline, but the largest recorded number of people surfing the same wave is 103. (Statisticbrain 02.04.2017)


The riding of waves has existed since people began swimming in the ocean. Bodysurfing is known as the most ancient kind of wave riding. Different sources indicate that Polynesians were the first humans who actually stood up on the surfboard (Wikipedia n.d). According to Marcus the surfboard was discovered the first time after Captain Cook’s death in 1779 (n.d.). Lt. King found 2 pages of surfboard description which were ridden by locals at Kealakekua Bay on the Kona coast of the Big Island. This sport’s discipline in ancient Hawaii was mainly a spiritual experience. Surfing was a good opportunity to be more connected to the Gods and also building a surfboard was one of the ancient rituals (Clubofthewaves n.d). This artform also helped ancient Hawaiian’s to find the unique species of fish and be the best chefs around. Till the moment Capitan Cook arrived in Hawaii, Hawaiians were very athletic and healthy. With his arrival many foreigners and visitors explored the same destination, also an illness called syphilis caused many problems on the island. (nationalgeographic, 2013)

All surfing culture was slowly disappearing. Foreigners didn’t have much respect for the ancient traditions. When the nineteenth century approached surfing lost it’s popularity, but not forever. In the beginning of the 1900’s came the ressuerection of surfing. A group of teenagers who actually started cultivating the riding of waves  were called ‚Beach Boys of Waikiki’. (clubofthewaves n.d) “The Beach boys of Waikiki were a renowned group of Hawaiian watermen who worked on the beaches of Waikiki from the 1920s to the 1950s when guests from all around the world began arriving to stay at the two luxurious new Waikiki hotels: the Moana Hotel and the Royal Hawaiian Hotel”(aloha-hawaii n.d)

Caucasians had believed that only native Hawaiians possessed the capacity to surf. This changed when a Hawaiian native of Irish-Hawaiian descent named George Freeth moved to California and introduced surf-riding to Southern California’s residents. From that moment this gift had spread around the world (WHITCOMB, 2000). He actually designed his own surfboard, he cut his 16-foot redwood board to a more nimble 8 feet and demonstrated his skills in a publicity stunt for the Redondo – Los Angeles Railway (popularmechanics n.d.)

A few years later in 1915, Duke Kahanamoku known as the father of surfing introduced this sport to Australia. (Surf Today n.d )


Changes and developments of the surfboard.

The popularity of surfing were very important to business. Advances in surfboard design around the 1920’s were making the sport far more accessible to the amateurs. Surfboards were originally made from hard and heavy woods such as Redwood, Cedar or Wili Wili.These kinds of surfboards weighed up to 60 kg and because of this they were very difficult to travel with and surf. (kuntiqi n.d)  

A very important person in the surfboard industry was Tom Blake. In 1926 he drilled holes into his 15-foot-long redwood board to reduce its weight, then encased it in two other pieces of wood. In 1930 a version of his super-fast board became the first ever mass-produced. (popularmechanics n.d)

“On 18th April, 1931 Thomas Edward Blake submitted three pages with a detailed drawing for a ‚ Water Sled and was subsequently granted US Patent No. 1,872,230 by the US Patents and Trademarks Office, Washington DC” (surfresearch n.d). In 1932 this was a breakthrough in the surfboard’ industry.  The heavier woods were combined with light Balsa wood.  Because of that wooden surfboards became much lighter, easier to handle and surfing started to become more popular. (kuntiqi n.d)

Year by year surfboards have had more of a hydrodynamic design which has allowed them to go into the curl of the wave and ride in the pipe. The first surfboard made entirely of Balsa wood probably dates back to 1940 and the shaper’s name was Bob Simmons aka The Father of the Modern Surfboard ( legendarysurfers n.d) In the 1950`s, Balsa wood was the most popular material for creating surfboards. The  most recognisable names in the surf shaping industry are:  Hobie Hobie, Velzy, Jacobs and Swee Velzy.  “Surf writer Scott Hulet noted in a 1997 profile of Hobie for Longboard magazine that in addition to being a good surfer, tandem rider and shaper, „Hobie’s genius hinged on invention, experimentation, and follow-through.”                          ( legendarysurfers n.d)

In the late 60s aussie champ Nat Young and shaper Bob McTavish collaborated with Greenough on boards containing less thickness in the rail with a faster, thinner and more flexible low profile fin. At that time fins were more like keels – quite useless compared to today’s standards (DiMartino, 2017 )

The next very important moment in surfboard industry was adding the second fin to the board. Mark Richards invented it to create more flowing curves. He was inspired by a small twin-keeled board. “ The twin fin design was not useful in big surf. It was drifty and jittery in juice, but in small to medium surf, it was fast and loose, giving the surfer both flow and maneuverability not imagined at that point” (DiMartino, 2017)

In the 80’s, typical shortboards were measuring from 5-foot small wave boards to 8-foot boards called guns for big surf using either 1 or 2 fins. Anyway it wasn’t enough for surfers and shapers, they were still looking for some more innovative solutions.  One day a guy from Sydney named Simon Anderson offered another option that would change surfboard design forever (thoughtco n.d.) He attached a third fin to the surfboards tail and positioned it centrally behind the twin fins. It still wasn’t enough and shapers added a fourth and fifth fin, but it wasn’t as popular as the three fin setup.

In the late 90’s Brian Whitty invented the removable surf fin system in Australia. This system gives the opportunity to travel with your board and allows you to replace your fins with different shapes and sizes. (360guide 2012). In 1971 Pat O’Neill invented the surfboard leash. The leg rope or leash is used to attach your board to your leg. It’s an absolutely invaluable piece of surfing equipment for several reasons. Mainly It helps you to not be separated from your surfboard.

Years ago surfing was definitely more demanding than these days. When people used to come off their board they would have to paddle hundreds of metres or even miles to salvage their board (360 guide 2012)

Surfboard today and in the future

Surfboards today could be generally categorized as shortboards, funboards, longboards, fish, guns, and tow-boards. The horizons of surfboard shape and design is forever expanding,  although various of materials and techniques have been tried in basically the same way as they were 30 years ago (360 guide 2012).

These days surfing become more popular, although still it is thought as one of the most difficult water sports in the world. That is why shapers from different countries will look for new solutions for this art. In my opinion surfing has got beautiful roots, and we shouldn”t change it too much. Already we have many boards to choose from and explore the ocean on the board which suits us. Probably surfing moves in circles as shown by the current popularity of longboards again. It is about to enjoy riding waves, as long the board will be surfable it will be fun.

I just started my adventure with surfing, it is hard but also amazing! I hope I will explore it more every day!

Do you surf? Do you have your favourite board? I am about buying my first board, any recommendations? 🙂


Reference list:

Aloha – hawaii n.d., The Waikiki Beachboys, Aloha from Hawaii, retreved 9 September 2017, <http://www.aloha-hawaii.com/oahu/waikiki-beachboys/>

Bourne, J 2013, Inside the curl: Surfing’s surprising history, National Geographic, retrived 10 September 2017, <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/08/130803-surfing-surprising-history-hawaiian-culture-extreme-sports/>

Club of waves n.d., History of the surfboard, Club of waves, retrieved 8 Seprember 2017, <http://www.clubofthewaves.com/surf-culture/history-of-the-surfboard.ph>

DiMartino. J  2017, The History of the Surfboard, Thoughtco.,  retrieved 14 September 2017, <https://www.thoughtco.com/the-history-of-the-surfboard-3154870>

360guide 2012, History of the Surfboard: from 150lb/68kg straight planks to modern quads, 360guide.info, retrieved 14 September 2017, <http://360guide.info/surfing/history-of-the-surfboard.html#axzz4sX3Lditd>

Kuntiqi n.d.,Balsa Surfboard History, Kuntiqi,  retrived 10 September 2017, <http://www.kuntiqi.com/about-kuntiqi/balsa-surfboard-history/>

Legendarysurfers n.d., Hobie Alter, SHF, retrived 10 September 2017, <http://www.legendarysurfers.com/2012/07/hobie-alter.html >

Marcus, B n.d., From Polynesia,with love: The history of surfing from capitan cook to the present, Surfing of life, retrieved 10 September 2017, <http://www.surfingforlife.com/history.html>

McCarthy, E 2012, A Brief History of the Surfboard, .Popular mechanics,  retrieved 10 September 2017,<http://www.popularmechanics.com/adventure/sports/a7666/a-brief-history-of-the-surfboard-8347626>.

Statisticbrain 2017, Surfing Statistics, Statistic brain research institute, retrieved 10 September 2017,<http://www.statisticbrain.com/surfing-statistics/ >

Surfer Today n.d.,The extraordinary surfing life of Duke Kahanamoku, Surfer Today, retrived 10 September 2017, <https://www.surfertoday.com/surfing/11323-the-extraordinary-surfing-life-of-duke-kahanamoku>





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