Surfing 1778–2015 by Jim Heimann (Taschen) is a must-read for any surf enthusiast, from the pros hitting the waves to the dreamers who can quote very single line of The Endless Summer. The book traces the history of sport in incredible details — we’ve never seen anything so comprehensive yet engaging — plus it comes packed with breathtaking imagery, both vintage and contemporary. Here, a few excepts on key moments…
“One version of surf history begins in the coastal salt marshes west of Trujillo, Peru, among the tall chlorophyll-green stalks of Schoenoplectus californicus — California bulrush to English-speakers, totora to Peruvians. Traders used caballito reed boats, probably invented around 3000bc, to move goods short distances along the coast, while fishermen used them as a roving nearshore platform. In short, the caballito was designed for the serious, tedious business of feeding the community. At some point, though, the fluttery thrill of riding a wave on a caballito became its own reward, removed from the daily work routine and pursued for its own sake. A form of surfing began. Possibly the original form.
“A more accepted version of early surf history connects the sport directly and organically to ancient Polynesia. Almost everything now thought of as innately Hawaiian actually originated in Tahiti — surfing included. Hawaii’s first inhabitants probably sailed up from Polynesia’s Marquesas Islands around 300 ad, and 800 years later, Tahitians conquered and resettled the Hawaiian Islands, bringing not only their animals, fruit, and animism to the islands, but also surfing. Before this, we can only guess at the start date for some rudimentary proto-Polynesian form of surfing, which may have begun as far back as 2000 bc. Only on the main islands of what is called East Polynesia (Hawaii, the Marquesas, Tahiti, the Cook Islands, and New Zealand) was surfing practiced by adults as well as children. Of this group, just the Tahitians and Hawaiians used full-length boards and rode while standing. And of these two, only the Hawaiians, probably beginning around 1200 ad, developed the sport into a communal obsession. This original surf lust, as much as the islands’ accrued developments in board design and riding technique, is what marks Hawaii as surfing’s birthplace.”
— Matt Warshaw
Tom Wolfe (Yes, Tom Wolfe)
“Perhaps more in tune with surfing’s actual zeitgeist were Ed ‘Big Daddy’ Roth, a nonsurfing cartoonist and hot-rod icon, and Tom Wolfe, a skinny, pale, bespectacled New York journalist. Wolfe not only stumbled onto Roth and Dick Dale while researching his iconic car culture Esquire article ‘There Goes (Varoom! Varoom!) That Kandy-Kolored (Thphhhhhh!) Tangerine- Flake Streamline Baby (Rahghhh!) Around the Bend (Brummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm)…..,’ he also attempted to infiltrate surf culture directly in a flawed, but famed 1966 essay on the surfers of La Jolla, who he called ‘The Pump House Gang,’ which would be republished in a book with the same title.
“When he first showed up asking questions of local surfers at San Diego’s Windansea Surf Club in his trademark seersucker suit, garrote-tight tie, and sneakers, Wolfe, a Virginia-raised, Manhattan dandy, was viewed with equal parts disdain and curiosity. Yet he managed to insinuate himself, particularly among the younger La Jolla surfers, so that he could wind up his observational engine.
“‘They had very little sense of resentment toward their parents or ‘society’ and weren’t rebels,’ Wolfe wrote. ‘Their only ‘alienation’ was the usual hassle of the adolescent, the feeling that he is being prodded into adulthood on somebody else’s terms. So they did the latest thing. They split off — to the beach, into the garages! — and started their own league, based on the esoterica of surfing. They didn’t resent the older people around them; they came to pity the old bastards because they couldn’t partake of this esoteric statusphere.’’
— Chris Dixon
The XX Factor
“Another source of surfing’s growth in this period came from the other half of the global population: women. When the movie Blue Crush came out during the summer of 2002, featuring pro surfers like Hawaii’s supremely confident big-wave charger Keala Kennelly, a new generation of young girls flocked from theaters to the beach in search of waves.
“Women’s surfing grew exponentially during the 1990s and onwards. The main impetus was Title IX, a federal law passed in 1972 that mandated equal opportunity for women to participate in federally funded education programs, including intercollegiate sports. Title IX caused a surge in the number of female athletes: from 300,000 high school athletes to over two million by 1980, what Time magazine called a “revolution” in sports. And the legislation’s impact was reflected in the results of the 2012 Olympics, with the U.S. women’s medal count exceeding that of the men’s for the first time. Title IX programs and scholarships created millions of female athletes capable of paddling out at local breaks.
“Title IX helped the number of women surfers rise from 5 to 8 percent of all surfers to 15 to 20 percent a decade later. Lisa Andersen, who came out of Florida with a remarkable combination of athleticism and surfing skill, emerged as the standard-bearer of the movement. In 1996, Andersen became the first woman to appear on the cover of SURFER in 15 years, with a caption challenging the men: “Lisa Andersen surfs better than you.”
— Peter WestWick & Peter Neushul