Surfboards, Windsurfing Boards, and Bodyboards
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Surfing is a sport to us today, but it wasn’t always viewed as such. Surfing originated with the Polynesians who inhabit most of the Pacific islands. It predates contact with Europeans, which makes exact dating difficult to do. However, it is safe to assume that they practiced it for several centuries before Europeans saw them doing it in the 18th century AD. To them it was a religious experience, akin to communing with the gods.
It was actually because of this religious overtone that surfing was almost completely wiped from the face of the earth. Following discovery by traders, Christians sent missionaries to the pacific islands to attempt to civilize the “savages” there. The Christian attempt at civilization was akin to cultural mass murder. Cultural names were forced to be abandoned in favor of Christian names. Any practice that was even distantly connected with religion was stamped out as a sinful pagan practice. This was very nearly the fate of surfing.
Thankfully, the missionaries failed to completely eradicate surfing from the Polynesian consciousness. This led to a reintroduction of surfing to the west in the early 20th century. This cultural conversion was particularly effective in Australia and California. People who visited these places, as well as Hawaii, brought back with them a love of the feeling of surfing.
This has lead to an amazing propagation of “surfing like” activities. Stop and think for a moment about popular new sports in the past 30 years. If you made a list, you might spot a common theme. Skateboarding, snowboarding, kite boarding, body boarding, and wake boarding are just a few sports that have been “invented” in the past three decades. Each and every one of them calls surfing a patron sport. Snowboarding and skateboarding especially were made for those that wanted the same feeling as surfing, but lived away from the ocean.
Along with those sports comes a huge chunk of modern popular culture. Every sport has some specific equipment that is necessary to effectively participate in the sport such as windsurfing boards for windsurfing. This has led to the development of a number of brand names for particular sports. Boarding brands include the likes of quicksilver, Roxy, rip curl, Burton, and Hurley. Odds are someone you know has surf wear put out by one of those brands. This just showcases how large surfing has become as cultural force. They even make scuba gear. Not too bad for a sport that was once in danger of being stamped out completely eh?