Water Sports

The Biggest Days In Surfing History

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The Biggest Days In Surfing History

A month ago, surfers from around the world headed to Hawaii’s Maui Island to take on some of the biggest waves in surfing history. Enormous waves crashed over the reef as pros and amateurs alike risked death in search of the perfect ride. A combination of unusual weather patterns had come together to create a once in a lifetime swell at a little place on the north shore of Maui. It’s a spot colloquially known as Jaws for the capacity of its pounding surf to swallow a board, and the rider, whole. That afternoon, as surfers jockeyed for position near the impact zone, Oahu native Aaron Gold dropped into what was about to become the wave of his life. As the tunnel he was surfing into grew ever deeper, onlookers watched in awe as Gold rode the 80-foot wave into the record books as the man to paddle into the largest wave in history.

It was a day that will be remembered as long as people surf, and one that reminds us of some of the other most important days in surfing history.

1769: Joseph Banks Makes The First Recorded Observation Of Surfing By A Foreigner

sandwhich islanders surfing

Image: Wikipedia commons

James Cook was an English explorer who led some of the first explorations of the Pacific by a European. After stopping on the island of Hawaii, one of his crew, Joseph Banks, wrote down his observations of the natives engaging in a practice they called he’enelau. To the natives of Hawaii, it was a spiritual and cultural traditon dating back a thousand years. They rode waves on wooden boards to honor their ancestors and gods. This event marked the first time that any non-native became aware of this tradition.

1910: Tommy Walker Introduces Surfing To Australia


Image: Wikipedia

In 1910, Tommy Walker returned to Austrailia with a surfboard he bought in Hawaii for two dollars. Throughout the next twenty years, he worked tirelessly to popularize the sport among his fellow countrymen. As the sport took root there, Australia became one of the most important hubs of innovation that turned the sport into what it is today.

1907: Jack London Tries Surfing For The First Time

jack london

Image:wikimedia commons

In 1907, novelist Jack London took a trip to Hawaii where he tried surfing for the first time. His significance as a literary figure did much to popularize the sport among Americans after they read about his experience.

1926: The First Waves Are Ridden In Europe

leca de palmeira

Image: wikipedia

At Leca De Palmira, Portugal, surfers rode the first waves off the shores of Europe. This marked surfing’s emergence as an international sport.

1992: Kelly Slater Wins The ASP World Tour Title

kelly slater

Image: Wikipedia

In 1992 Kelly Slater won his first title in the surfing Pro-circuit. Kelly Slater’s rise as the “Michael Jordan of Surfing” marked the start of a new era for the sport and a new surge in its popularity.

2011: Garrett McNamara Rides The Largest Wave Of All Time

largest wave ever

Image: Surfertoday

In 2011, Garrett McNamara was towed into what soon became the biggest wave ever ridden by a surfer. The wave, off the cost of Nazare, Portugal, crested up to 90 feet. He dropped down the length of a swimming pool towards the crashing surf below. It was a wave that easily could have ended with the surfer’s death. Yet though a combination of icy determination and skill, he was able to ride it out and ride into history.

Wyatt is a writer and your friend. You can follow him on Twitter @WyattRedd.

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