A History of Surfing

( the definitive book on Surfing )

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This is the bible of surfing. I started writing this book in the late 70’s, it was written simply because it had to be done, somebody had to do it, not an outsider, someone who was involved 100%. In many ways I felt like the book was out of my control, material just appeared, nothing like this had ever been attempted before; I was compelled to make it happen before all the stories and pictures dissapeared. There was another book published in the 60’s called The Pictorial History of Surfing that was really the history of surf clubs in Australia. That author treated contempory surfing as a sport. My book goes beyond the sporting aspect of the activity; to me surfing is an art form, a cultural statement on the state of our society as it is right now. With so many thousands of kids and older people turning on to surfing, skateboarding and snowboarding this “flow” form of recreations is the number one growth activity around the world. I wanted to create, with words and picture a factual account of the activity as it has developed over the past 100 years. Many of the people written about in these pages have passed away, many of the original photographs have been lost and now this book is the only record. A lot of the unique principals and values that are inherent to the surfing tribe had to be preserved. I wanted both surfers, young and old and also the general public to not think of surfing as another competitive sport but a lifestyle. The inclusion of the history of Snowboarding is a good example of this “ From Water to Snow “ is an accurate portrayal of how surfers took to the mountains and the rode the snow in the same way that they rode waves, the snowboard is testament to this linage and gives solid evidence to riding this new medium.

From Water to Snow is the most important chapter in the modern history as it gives understanding as to why skiing was on the wane until snowboarding came along. As skis became wider and more user friendly more and more riders were turned on to skiing, snowboarding and surfing. No one has ever documented this lineage before; the fact is that surfers invented the snowboard. Except for one inventor named Sherman Poppen who put a rope on the front of a board for the snow the line is complete. Sherman worked for the Brunswick Bowling Company; they sold a million boards between 66 and 77 for $10 each. Sherman's “Snurfer” handled like a water-ski where the direction was controlled by leaning back and pulling on the rope, this is almost the complete opposite of how a surfboard or skis are controlled. A champion surfer from the 60’s named Mike Doyle built a mono or single ski in 69/70, he was restricted by how to attach his feet to the board, traditional ski bindings were his only option, however this forced him to stand with his feet parrel like a normal skier. Another surfer named Wayne Stoveken from the east coast of America was very vocal about Doyle getting it all wrong. He worked with another surfer named Dimitriije Milovich to overcome the problem of standing like a surfer, either in Goffy or Natural foot stance. The Winterstick was born in the early 70’s. Tom Sims was a very talented skateboarder and surfer who also hailed from New Jersey, he has pictures of boards that he used in the snow back to 1963. Jake Burton is the most successful snowboard manufacturer in the world today, his dedication to following the snowboard / surfing dream is apparent is all his companies products.

Attitude and hardcore Alternatives is the final chapter in the latest edition. As surfing gains more and more converts, the sheer numbers of extra people in the line-up are creating a fresh set of problems. With intense overcrowding it is all about giving respect to gain resect, so everybody can get a wave. Naturally the amount of rideable waves cannot change to accommodate these swelling crowds. With over 85 Waveloch wave pools around the world and numerous artificial reefs, the problem is being addressed. Windsurfing developed into Kite surfing and is a fantastic alternative.

Every time there has been a significant change I have included it in the latest update. We have had three updates since first publishing in 1983. In recent history the advent of surfing bigger and bigger waves by both towing in with the aid of a Jet Ski and traditional paddling has been thoroughly documented in words and pictures. The number of women starting to surf in the last 10 years is phenomenal, on most beaches around the world the number of girls equal the boys. This book is dedicated to Tom Blake; he is the man responsible for putting the first fin on a surfboard back in the early 30’s. This book is an ongoing project that will be updated till the day I die and hopefully added to by my children long after I have gone.

Nat Young. Sun Valley, January 2008.