It is a fact that surfing has existed for a long time. Nowadays, it has become a part of modern culture. We can find people surfing casually anywhere we can see tame waves. When we hear the word surfing, we often associate it with the fun activities when everyone has such a good time. However, surfing wasn’t always just a recreational activity.
In Polynesian culture, surfing is an integral part of people’s life and even has a religious significance. In Samoan and Tahiti, surfing is more than just a sport and used to be a way to train warriors for battle. There is much more to surfing than riding waves on a fancy board and branded suit. Below are fun facts about surfing to give you a broader perspective on this challenging sport!
1. Surfing is One of The Oldest Sports on Earth
The fact about the first invention of surfing is blurry. We don’t know precisely when the first surfing happened because it is an ancient practice. One of the most famous written records about surfing is Captain James Cook’s diary in 1778. He and his crew witnessed Tahitian men riding waves on some kind of wooden planks.
Recently, archeologists found cave paintings in Polynesia that can be traced to the 12th century. The illustration clearly depicts the old version of surfing. These findings support the idea of surfing as one of the oldest sports on earth.
2. The World Record For The Longest Surf is 3 Hours 55 Minutes
The Panama national surfing champion, Gary Saavedra, was recorded in the Guinness World Book of Record for the longest time spent surfing a wave in open water. Saavedra recorded 3 hours, 55 minutes, and 02 seconds surfing in the Panama Canal. He recorded that achievement by riding a 41.3 miles wave created by a boat in 2011. This action also broke the longest distance spent surfing a wave.
3. World War II Played a Major Role in Surfing Revolution
World War II had a significant impact on surfing popularity. When the US soldiers came to the Hawaiian islands, they found a glimpse of surfing culture. Over time, the surfing culture traveled along with the soldiers to California and found its way to Europe.
The development of chemicals and new materials, including fiberglass, styrofoam, and resin during the war, also impacted the surfing industry directly. These new materials are essential for modern surfboards. Consequently, these lighter boards enable surfers to tackle challenging waves easier. The fact that terrible war has a fun impact on surfing is unexpected!
4. Dale “Hawk” Velzy was the First Commercial Surfboard Shaper
Dale Velzy was credited with being the world’s first commercial surfboard shaper. After serving as a merchant marine during World War II, he returned to Manhattan Beach, where he began shaping surfboards commercially and opened the world’s first surf shop, Velzy Surfboards. In fact, we can now enjoy some fun time surfing solely because of this one man.
Velzy’s most crucial contribution to board design was the Pig surfboard. He took the surfboard’s wide point and moved it back toward the tail, making it more maneuverable.
Without Velzy, we may not know the surfing business like we know today. He was the first person to sponsor a surfer, the first to put a name on a surfboard, the first to open a surf shop, and the first to print a surf company t-shirt.
5. The Annual Dog Surf Contest
The World Dog Surfing Championship is an annual dog surfing contest in Northern California. The event is not only for sports and fun but also has a good cause. It helps local charities raise money by sponsoring a contestant or a team. A portion of the income of this event benefit dogs, surfing, and environmental non-profit organizations.
The first Surf Dog competition in history was proposed by the author of the book “The Dog’s Guide to Surfing” in 2016. The success of the event inspired similar dog surfing championships across the world. However, the 2020 and 2021 annual championships didn’t happen because of the COVID 19 pandemic. Still, the last 2019 championship was a success with approximately 50 contestants.
6. The Longest Surfing Marathon was 29 Hours 10 Minutes
Do you love extreme sports? Here is a mind-blowing fun fact that will make you respect surfing even more! Ben Shaw broke the Guinness World Record for the longest surfing marathon in 2014. He set the longest surfing marathon record after riding waves for 29 hours and 10 minutes at Kure Beach, North Carolina!
Shaw started to surf at Kure Beach at 6:30 am on August 30th and continued until 11:40 am the next day. To set this record, he surfed over 300 waves.
While breaking the record, he also raised awareness for Ocean Cure, a non-profit organization dedicated to giving free surf lessons for medically fragile youth and adults. Before Shaw, Kurtis Loftus held the world record for the longest surfing marathon after surfing for 29 hours and 1 minute.
7. Kelly Slater Holds the Record for the Most Money Earned Through Surfing
Kelly Slater is a legend in surfing history. In his 20-plus-year career, he has built a net worth of $20 million. He holds the record for the most money earned through surfing in one year when he made $3 million in 2011.
The total net worth he earned is also from business ventures related to surfing. He is a successful actor appearing in several movies, including Baywatch, which features surfers extensively. He also released a video game, Kelly Slater’s Pro Surfer, for PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube, and GameBoy in 2004.
8. Margo Oberg was the First Female Professional Surfer
Margo Oberg was the first woman to earn a paycheck from surfing when she won $150 in the Smirnoff Pro-Am in Santa Cruz in 1969. This achievement marks an important milestone in the female surfer history.
In 1970, Oberg retired from surfing after losing to Sharron Weber at the World Championships. And then, in 1975, Lightning Bolt offered her a great contract deal, and she returned to the professional scene. In fact, she then managed to win the Women’s International Professional Surfing Championships in Malibu!
9. Oahu’s Pipeline has The Deadliest Wave in the World
This following fact may not be so fun for people who love surfing. Yet the allure of the adrenaline rush in the face of danger is irresistible!
Oahu’s Pipeline is considered the world’s deadliest wave, and it remains the ultimate proving ground for surfers. In the early 20th century, the Pipeline wasn’t regarded as surfable. It broke fast and hollow. It seems like fitting a 10 feet long surfboard is impossible. But since surfboards have become shorter and lighter, the Pipeline has become the center of tube riding.
However, the wave is still one of the most dangerous waves to ride. In fact, Seven surfers have died attempting to challenge Pipeline’s waves, and many more have suffered severe injuries.
10. Surfing Contributes up to $50 Billion a Year to the Global Economy
Surfing represents a very profitable market and a growing industry. In 2016, a study by researchers at the University of Oxford concluded that surﬁng waves contribute approximately US$50 billion to global economic activity each year.
Contrary to the stereotypes, most surfers are highly employed and well paid, according to a report in 2011. The study samples show that surfers surf around 108 times per year and spend an average of $40 per visit.
11. The Largest Wave Surfed was 80 Feet High
The official Guinness World Record for the largest wave ever surfed is the 80-foot wave at Praia do Norte, Nazaré. The record was held by Brazil’s Rodrigo Koxa on November 8th, 2017. Koxa beats Garrett McNamara’s records with only two feet difference.
Previously, in 2013, Garrett McNamara and Carlos Burle rode massive waves around 100 feet in Portugal. However, Guinness World Record didn’t officially recognize it because there was an issue with the size estimation.
In 2014, Frenchman Benjamin Sanchis stood atop a 108ft monster in Portugal. Unfortunately, he could not complete the ride as he fell down when he attempted to maneuver.
12. The Largest Collection of Surfboards
Donald Dettloff holds the world record for the most extensive collection of surfboards. He has 647 different surfboards displayed around his property in Haiku, Maui, Hawaii.
He’s been collecting surfboards for 15 years, starting back in 1990. His surfboard collection is very popular and known as the surfboard fence. He wired the surfboards to his wall to prevent them from blowing away.
13. 67% of Injuries are Caused by the Surfboard
We often associate surfing injuries with the coral, reefs, sand, or sea wildlife, especially sharks. However, the surfboard is, in fact, the main leading cause of severe injuries, at around 67 percent.
The second most common surf injuries were caused by contact with other surfers at approximately 45%. Wiped out accounts for 36% of all injuries, and 18% of surf injuries were caused by striking into the sea bed. So, shark-related injuries are statistically lower!
14. Cristobal de Col Pulled 34 Maneuvers in One Single Ride in Chile
Cristobal de Col established a Guinness World Record for the most number of tricks ever done in a single wave. He completed 34 cut-backs at The Red Bull Chicama Challenge in 2012.
He surfed a long wave for two minutes and 20 seconds. Chicama in North Peru is known for the longest wave in the world. Col initially wanted to do the 360 maneuvers but changed his mind since curved turns are the most suitable for this wave.
15. The Record for the Most People Riding One Surfboard is 66
The world record for the most people riding a surfboard is 66. It was achieved by Visit Huntington Beach and the Epic Big Board Ride in Huntington Beach, California, USA, on 20 June 2015.
The board was 42ft (12.8m) long, and the 66 people surfed on it for 12 seconds to meet the world record requirement that says it should be longer than 10 seconds. This new record beats the previous record set by 47 surfers in Queensland, Australia, about a decade ago.
Imagine dozens of people surfing on a super longboard. Such a unique and fun fact about surfing!