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Florida: The History of Surfing

Standing up on what is now called a surfboard is a relatively recent innovation developed by the Polynesians. The influences for modern surfing can be directly traced to the surfers of pre-contact Hawaii.

Florida riding of waves has likely existed since humans began swimming in the ocean. In this sense, bodysurfing is the oldest type of wave-catching. Standing up on what is now called a surfboard is a relatively recent innovation.

In July 1885, three teenage Hawaiian princes took a break from their boarding school, St. Mathew’s Hall in San Mateo, and came to cool off in Santa Cruz, California. There, the three teens surfed the mouth of the San Lorenzo River on custom-shaped redwood boards, according to surf historians. In 1907 George Freeth was brought to California from Hawaii, to demonstrate surfboard riding as a publicity stunt to promote the opening of the Los Angeles-Redondo-Huntington railroad owned by Henry Huntington, who gave his name to Huntington Beach. Freeth surfed at the Huntington Beach pier and travelled up and down the coast demonstrating surfing and life guard skills.

Surfing on the East Coast of the United States began in Virginia Beach, Virginia in 1912 when James Matthias Jordan, Jr. captivated the locals astride a 110-pound (50 kg), 9-foot (2.7 m) Hawaiian redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) board. “Big Jim’s” board, given to him by his uncle, is believed to have originally been 12–15 feet (3.7–4.6 m) tall, but was whittled from a round nose into an arrow-like shape. Virginia Beach has since become one of the centers of East Coast Surfing.

The Florida Surfing Association offers a surf program designed to meet everyone’s needs. Whether or not you have surfed before and always dreamed of learning or if you just want to, these programs consist of personalized surf instruction on the beach and in the water. They offer as an option, professional surf photography and video analysis. The focus of the sessions is on water safety and surfing instruction while having fun in the sun.

For those not familiar with the latest craze to invade sun-drenched Florida, here is a definition of “surfing” – a water sport in which the participant stands on a floating slab of wood, resembling an ironing board in both size and shape, and attempts to remain perpendicular while being hurtled toward the shore at a rather frightening rate of speed on the crest of a huge wave (especially recommended for teen-agers and all others without the slightest regard for either life or limb).