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Surfing's Decline
Modern Surfing
The Duke
Modern Boards
Surf Clubs
Waikiki Beachboys
Competitive Surfing
Modern Surfing Greats
Surfing in Popular Culture
Tom Blake
Bibliography - Surfing

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Surfing's Decline

Forms of surfing developed in other parts of the world as well. In the 1830s, surfers were noted along the coasts of Senegal, Ivory Coast, and Ghana. In Northern Peru, fishermen sitting atop reed bundles rode their "boards" (caballitos) on waves back to shore.
Hawaiians avidly pursued surfing for centuries, but the sport suffered a dramatic decline in the 19th century. The fall off came directly and indirectly from Hawaii's interface with Western cultures. The Hawaiian population declined rapidly after exposure to a host of diseases for which they had no immunity. The breaking of the kapu and abandonment of other religious traditions meant the end of the annual Makahiki celebrations, ordinarily a time for athletic contests and games. Christian missionaries who followed brought a strong distaste for sports like surfing that involved free mingling of the sexes, little clothing, gambling, or that diverted Hawaiians from "honest" labors.

Before the decline of surfing, Lt. James King watched Hawaiian surfers: "The boldness and address with which I saw them perform these difficult and dangerous manoeuvers was altogether astonishing and is scarcely to be believed!"

Three nephews of King Kalakaua were the first board surfers in California. They attended military school near San Francisco and were noticed in 1885 "giving interesting exhibitions of surfboard swimming as practiced in their native land" (The Santa Cruz Daily Surf).

Canoe surfing
Canoes were paddled as well as surfed. In the 1940s, Duke Kahanamoku organized a team of six teenagers and after one month of training, they beat out six other teams for the Walter MacFarlane prize. Under the Duke's coaching, the core members of the team won every trophy during the next five years.

Canoe surfing continues today, popular at Waikiki and other beaches.

 Sites for further information

"From Polynesia, With Love: The History of Surfing From Captain Cook to the Present"

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