For centuries, surfing was a central part of ancient Polynesian culture. Surfing may have first been observed by Europeans at Tahiti in 1767 by Samuel Wallis and the crew members of the Dolphin who were the first Europeans to visit the island in June of that year. Another candidate is the botanist Joseph Banks being part of the first voyage of James Cook on the HMS Endeavour, who arrived on Tahiti on 10 April 1769. Lieutenant James King was the first person to write about the art of surfing on Hawaii when he was completing the journals of Captain James Cook upon Cook's death in 1779.
When Mark Twain visited Hawaii in 1866 he wrote:
In one place we came upon a large company of naked natives, of both sexes and all ages, amusing themselves with the national pastime of surf-bathing.
References to surf riding on planks and single canoe hulls are also verified for pre-contact Samoa, where surfing was called fa'ase'e or se'egalu, and Tonga, far pre-dating the practice of surfing by Hawaiians and eastern Polynesians by over a thousand years.
Swell is generated when wind blows consistently over a large area of open water, called the wind's fetch. The size of a swell is determined by the strength of the wind and the length of its fetch and duration. Because of this, surf tends to be larger and more prevalent on coastlines exposed to large expanses of ocean traversed by intense low pressure systems.
Local wind conditions affect wave quality, since the surface of a wave can become choppy in blustery conditions. Ideal conditions include a light to moderate "offshore" wind, because it blows into the front of the wave, making it a "barrel" or "tube" wave. Waves are Left handed and Right Handed depending upon the breaking formation of the wave.
Waves are generally recognized by the surfaces over which they break. For example, there are Beach breaks, Reef breaks and Point breaks.
|The Cobra||Teahupoo||Shark Island|
|Speedies, Gnaraloo||Banzai Pipeline||--|
|Lagundri Bay, Superbank||Jeffreys Bay, Bells Beach||Angourie Point|
Standup surfing begins when the surfer paddles toward shore in an attempt to match the speed of the wave (The same applies whether the surfer is standup paddling, bodysurfing, boogie-boarding or using some other type of watercraft, such as a waveski or kayak.). Once the wave begins to carry the surfer forward, the surfer stands up and proceeds to ride the wave. The basic idea is to position the surfboard so it is just ahead of the breaking part (whitewash) of the wave. A common problem for beginners is being able to catch the wave at all.
Surfers' skills are tested by their ability to control their board in difficult conditions, riding challenging waves, and executing maneuvers such as strong turns and cutbacks (turning board back to the breaking wave) and carving (a series of strong back-to-back maneuvers). More advanced skills include the floater (riding on top of the breaking curl of the wave), and off the lip (banking off the breaking wave). A newer addition to surfing is the progression of the air whereby a surfer propels off the wave entirely up into the air, and then successfully lands the board back on the wave. [source]