Surfing is an ancient practice that has been around for centuries, originating in the Pacific Islands. While the exact origin of surfing is unclear, it is believed to have been an integral part of the culture of the Polynesian people who inhabited the islands of Hawaii, Tahiti, and Fiji. The first Westerner to observe surfing was Captain James Cook, who witnessed the practice during his voyages to the South Pacific in the late 18th century.
Historians believe they have found the oldest surf photo ever. It was taken in the early 1890s in Hawaii. Herbert Smith, an amateur photographer born in Manchester, shot two Polynesian natives carrying surfboards on a sandy beach at Hilo Bay, on the Big Island of Hawaii. According to the specialists, the snap is more than 120 years old and was captured three decades before surfing became a proper tourist attraction in Waikiki Beach, Oahu. The author of the photo, Smith, was a draper. He traveled from Liverpool to Honolulu and spent a year working and documenting life in the Pacific archipelago when Americans were taking over Hawaii. However, it wasn’t until the 20th century that surfing became a popular activity around the world. In the early 1900s, Duke Kahanamoku, a Hawaiian surfer and Olympic swimmer, travelled to the mainland United States and introduced surfing to the world. He performed surfing demonstrations and competed in surf contests, which helped to popularize the sport. For many, Duke is the ultimate surfing legend - the father of modern surfing. But he was also a prolific record-breaking swimmer, with multiple Olympic medals under his belt. The ambassador of Aloha lived a colorful life in the days of black-and-white photography. Kahanamoku was a tall and athletic human being. With his smooth, laid-back attitude, the Hawaiian conquered many hearts and inspired generations to come.
Despite living in the offline era - the image of Duke was never captured by a digital camera - he is one of the most photographed water sports athletes of the 20th century. The Big Kahuna helped promote surfing and the Hawaiian islands like no one else. And he never asked anything in return.
While the history of surfing may be rooted in ancient traditions, the sport has undergone significant changes over the years, adapting to new technology and evolving cultural attitudes.
Despite these changes, the essence of surfing remains the same: the joy of riding the waves and the sense of connection with the ocean.