by Waine Ryan
The art of surfing or wave sliding with a wooden board originated in Western Polynesia over three thousand years ago. The first surfers were fishermen who discovered riding waves as an efficient method of getting to shore with their catch. Eventually catching waves developed from being part of everyday work to being a pastime. This change revolutionised surfing.
Many believe that it was the Hawaiians that gave birth to surfing, but this is often debated by the Tahitians and the Samoans who where the power house of the Pacific back in those days. Even many Hawaiians will give credit to the Samoans as the fathers of surfing who would sail their boats by the stars for weeks to visit and who knows maybe even surf with their Polynesian brothers and sisters. One thing is for sure that Hawaii has continued on and has truly embraced surfing as a major part of its life style and culture unlike most of the many other Polynesian countries that left one of the world’s oldest sport behind to give way to modern day sports such as rugby and other sports and past times.
Captain James Cook
Captain Cook, the great English Navigator and explorer who sailed the Pacific back in the late 1700s could not only be credited for “discovering for the mother country” new lands including Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Tahiti, The Cook Islands and much of the Pacific but many of the best surfing destinations to surf in the world.
Early historical records of surfing appear in the late 1700s, when Europeans and Polynesians made first contact in Tahiti. Captain James Cook described how a Tahitian caught waves with his outrigger canoe just for the fun of it: “On walking one day about Matavai Point, where our tents were erected, I saw a man paddling in a small canoe so quickly and looking about him with such eagerness of each side. He then sat motionless and was carried along at the same swift rate as the wave, till it landed him upon the beach. Then he started out, emptied his canoe, and went in search of another swell. I could not help concluding that this man felt the most supreme pleasure while he was driven on so fast and so smoothly by the sea.” Cook made many references to surfing as a joyful pastime as did Sir Joseph Banks who was Cooks botanist. Many drawings where done by Cook’s team of surfing in the Pacific on their travels in the 1700s. The question has to be asked – Why did it take the rest of the world to figure this out?
The sport of kings (surfing) has come a long way since the ancient days in Polynesia where boards where made of wood, just over one inch thick, no wax for grip, no fins to help turn and no leg ropes to save your board from being washed in by the waves away.
Surfing in ancient days was a way of showing bravado, not much has changed to today. The main difference is that a big wave in ancient days was about three foot reef break compared to the 80 feet waves that some ride today.
Modern day surfing in the Pacific
It is hard to believe that even today most of the waves in the Pacific are yet to be found or rode. The biggest ocean in the world with thousands of islands.
Many considered some of the most isolated places on Earth. It is worth noting that Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, PNG, Solomon Islands were not even on the map as potential surf trips or holidays twenty years ago. Today we know that there are waves in most islands including Vanuatu, Norfolk Island, New Caledonia, Marshall Islands, Kiribati and much of Micronesia.
With storms and that travel for hundreds of miles, to finally break in warm waters, with perfect-shaped reefs, points and beaches, brushed by the soft warm trade winds off the land, with pristine lagoons, palm tree-lined beaches, mountain back drops with rivers and waterfalls and the gentle friendly smiles of the locals what are you waiting for. For the real hardcore travel who might have a lot of time and money to explore you can, but the good news is that you don’t have to any more.
Surf travel companies like Line Up Surf Travel in Sydney are excepts on all things surf travel. Making it easy so that you and your tribe sorted for the next surf adventure. There are many resorts and surf camps set up right throughout the Pacific that specialise in making sure that their guests get the best waves with a minimum of fuss, like Maninoa Surf Fales in Samoa where daily guided boats take you to many of their world class waves and bring you back to meals on the table. So what are you waiting for? Your dream surf trip is waiting for you.
Who knows you might be like one of Cook’s man who fell in love with surfing and the people and a lifestyle so much, he did not get back on the boat?