Who was the first surfer? What drove them to stand on a plank hurtling shore­ward?

The first woman, or per­haps even a man, bored of the prone belly-board­ing frol­ics on rough­hewn wood or reed craft* de­cided to say ‘hold my beer’ one day and stand up.

Which leads to the ob­vi­ous point: at that mo­ment in his­tory they were the only surfer. Can you imag­ine the re­ac­tion?

“What the?”

“Ma­bel, what the fork are you do­ing? We’re rid­ing the waves not walk­ing on wa­ter! Get down right now! It’s un­gainly, and pos­si­bly an in­sult to which­ever de­ity we cur­rently be­lieve con­trols the sea.”

Change is al­ways re­garded with sus­pi­cion. Boards get­ting shorter, fins go­ing from one to three, per­for­mance go­ing into the air, surf­ing be­com­ing main­stream. For a sup­posed coun­ter­cul­ture surf­ing can be deeply con­ser­va­tive when forced in a new di­rec­tion.

So the prone to stand­ing par­a­digm shift must have been a doozy. Camp­fire gos­sip about this new fan­gled way of rid­ing the ocean-go­ing rollers must’ve been heated. Will it catch on? Is it an in­sult to the proud cul­ture of flop­ping around on belly boards? What hap­pens next? Is it too damn hard? And how the hell do you de­cide which foot goes for­ward?

The forethought and skill to ride a board carved out of a log (or bun­dled reeds) with stone tools would’ve been im­mense; es­pe­cially as it was pure re­cre­ation. Our an­ces­tors en­gaged in find­ing food, shel­ter and safety. Leisure time wasn’t a con­sid­er­a­tion. So surf­ing was one of the early, self­ish for sure, hob­bies or pas­times.

“Can’t be­lieve he’s rid­ing the break­ers again in­stead of tend­ing the crops or hunt­ing boars!” Maybe this is why the Easter Is­land cul­ture failed. Chopped down all the trees to make kick-ass big olos to shred the gnar didn’t they?

We are, of course, far re­moved from such mat­ters. Change still hap­pens. We can never put the ge­nie back in the lamp. ‘Un­spoilt by progress’ is a slo­gan merely on an­tique mir­rors in old-school pubs. We are the now. The lat­est, great­est, best boards and suits are avail­able at the mere press of a pocket com­puter. We can surf any­where in the world if we have enough green in the bank. But some things don’t change, that first time you stand up on a surf­board the thrill echoes through the ages. ‘I am walk­ing on wa­ter! I am a surf­ing god!’ Al­beit briefly. But those few sec­onds of the first suc­cess­ful stand are price­less. Not to men­tion the trans­for­ma­tional mo­ment you go from be­ing some­one in­ter­ested in surf­ing to be­ing a surfer.

If you’ve been with us for years, thank you, if you’ve just started your surf­ing jour­ney, wel­come to the crew. Now go get wet.

Sharpy Ed­i­tor

*The jury is still out on who the first surfers were, the Poly­ne­sians on their carved wooden craft or the Peru­vians and their reed-based goat boats. It’s kind of nice not to know. Imag­ine if we knew who the first surfer was and they were an ut­ter douchebag?


Chris Clarke chan­nelling the an­ces­tors.

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