Para los amantes del surf: ¡Conoce su verdadero origen como deporte!


For surf lovers: Learn about its true origin as a sport!

At The Indian Face we are lovers of outdoor sports, and surfing is one of our favourites. Do you want to know a little more about its history?

When the man discovered that he could stand on the water leaning on some kind of board he began to “ride the waves”.

Something very curious is that surfing did not begin as a recreational and/or sporting activity. There are some testimonies about indigenous people from Peru who fished in a boat called "caballito de totora" that allowed them to stay upright while fishing, then we found references in Hawaii where the inhabitants had perfected a kind of board and anxiously awaited the waves to slide on them .

The history, origin and evolution of the origins of surfing have very interesting characteristics that will arouse your interest in this sport, that's why we We motivate to describe them below.

historia del surf


There is evidence of the presence of surfing for more than 500 years in the Polynesian Islands. The English explorer James Cook reached the Hawaiian Islands in 1778. With the contact of the European colonizers, the indigenous cultures were repressed and surfing began to lose its popularity. James Cook was later killed by the natives. In the 20th century, surfing recovered, and with the interest of tourists and the US military in Hawaii, and the fame of the Hawaiian Olympian Duke Kahanamoku, surfing began to become popular on the coasts of California and Australia, later spreading to other countries.

This happened in the 50s-60s. At that time, the boards were large objects made of solid wood and surfing was a simple practice. Later it became more complex thanks to the audacity of pioneers like Óscar Rodríguez, patriarch of modern big wave surfing. There was also an evolution in the acrobatics and movements, to the level that research into new designs and board materials allowed other expressions.

In many countries on different continents surfing was already known in the 60s. Surfing is now practiced almost everywhere in the world, although the most buoyant board and accessory industries are based in Australia, Southern Europe and the United States. Surfing is also a thriving sport in Latin America, some areas of Chile such as Pichilemu (Punta de Lobos) and Iquique, as well as in Peru, are ideal for this sport.

historia del surf


There are numerous varieties of boards depending on the style of surfing and wave riding, and the constitution of the athlete.

Originally the boards used to be made of solid wood and between 1.20 and 4 meters long, depending on the islands. Currently the boards made with industrial materials are fiberglass and polyurethane foam, lighter and with more hydrodynamic designs, based on the experiences of a former NASA employee aeronautical engineer surfer.

They are made in a variety of sizes, ranging from traditional styles to 5-foot long boards.

historia del surf

Current boards respond above all to the evolution of the Australian style of surfing, with fast and powerful movements. The most widely used design is the “3-keel thruster”. Star base model of competition surfing devised by Simon Anderson, which is usually manufactured in measures between 5 and 8 feet in length, according to the complexion and height of the surfer or the size and behavior of the waves that are going to surf.

The boards are mainly made by hand, because it is a work of wisdom of the movement that can be customized to measure for each surfer. However, in recent years, tables made in series have begun to appear, made of epoxy materials that are more durable than the fiberglass used years ago.

Surfboards can be grouped as follows:

  • Shortboards: Generally between 5-7 feet.
  • Longboards (Malibu): Board of 8 and up to 12 feet.
  • Funboard – Hybrid: 7 – 9 foot board.


Within "board" surfing, or surfing itself, there are two basic categories depending on the size and type of board:

  • Shortboard, or short board surfing (between 1.50 and 2.10 meters)
  • Longboard, with boards equal to or greater than 2.75 m in length. This is the classic style of surfing (practiced in the 50s and 60s, it is the one that gave rise to today's Longboards.

Categories are also defined regarding the type of waves:

  • Surfing to generically refer to the widest range of styles and competitions.
  • Big wave surfing when the surfer practices especially and/or repeatedly on waves of more than 2 meters in height.(the wave is measured by the size of the tube, not by what the wall of the wave measures).

historia del surf


There are a series of basic movements in surfing, which are the following:

  • Take Off: It is the first maneuver that surfers do. The moment when you stop paddling while lying on the board and come to an upright position, ready to ride the wave. It takes off on the wave, more because of its power than because of the wind.
  • Bottom Turn: As its name indicates (in English, 'bottom' = down, 'turn' = turn). This maneuver consists of the first turn after the "take off". Once we gain momentum in the descent of the wave, it is necessary to turn to escape from the part of the wave that is breaking. At the bottom of the wave, its force stops driving us and it is necessary to maneuver with the inertia of the descent to be able to go back up. Otherwise, we will go directly to the shore, we would not be able to ride the wall of the wave, and the foam of the broken wave would reach us quickly. It is the opposite of the Cut Back.
  • Cut Back: Once we have slipped along the wall of the wave escaping the breaker, make a turn of almost 180º to get closer to it again.
  • Reentry: It consists of going up to the crest of the wave and making a sharp 180 degree turn, going back down.
  • Floater: It consists of sailing on the foam of a surf.
  • Tube: It consists of sliding inside the tube that creates the wave when breaking. This is considered the queen maneuver of surfing due to its difficulty and spectacularity. It is the perfect wave and dreamed by every surfer.
  • Aerial (or Air): This is the name given to any maneuver that involves taking off from the water and therefore is done in the air. There are different aerials that are distinguished by the "grabs" (ways of holding the board with the hands in the air - in front, behind, with both hands at the same time) or the movement that the surfer makes in the air (one One of the most spectacular is the "Air-360" in which the surfer rotates 360 degrees in the air.
  • “360”: Starts as a Reentry, but continues to rotate in the same direction for 360 degrees.
  • “Snap”: It is a kind of Cut-back performed more abruptly and with a smaller radius in the turn.


The difficulty of this sport lies both in the speed and in the size and shape of the waves. The waves suitable to be navigated in the surf style are those that evolve and break, developing the wall and the foam progressively to the right or to the left.

historia del surf

To identify the appropriate conditions for surfing, the description of various elements or parts of the wave is used:

  • Wall: It is the part of the wave that, when it rises, carries a surface of water on the horizontal line at various angles or even vertically. It is the part of the wave on which the surfer surfs.
  • Lip: It is the part of the wall and foam that falls immediately on the beginning section of the wall and the section on which it ends.
  • Arm: (in English shoulder): It is the volume of water that has a wall, that is, the length of the surfable part of the wave.
  • Hollow: Parts of the wall and arm that acquires a concave presence, in which great speed can be projected onto the surfer's body by passing the board over them.
  • Tube: Space of the hole that is involved under the fall of a curly moving lip as a consequence of the advance and breaking of the wave.
  • Crest: Top of the wave.

historia del surf

Several types of waves are named after their shape:

  • Shore: It breaks very close to the shore and is dangerous due to collisions with the bottom.
  • Hollow:It is the adjective given to waves whose shape rises creating a cylindroid section, where the configuration of force vectors allows more energetic navigation on the board.
  • Tubera: Hollow wave that breaks curling on itself in such a way that it defines a complete cylindrical space, within which it is possible to continue controlling the navigation on the board under the lip of water that falls from the upper part of the wall of the wave
  • Fofa: In Spain, this is the name given to waves that do not break hollow, or those that are almost all foam.
  • Bar:Wave that breaks dropping long portions of lip at the same time, closing the wall abruptly, making them unsuitable waves for surfing.

They are classified according to their size (in mainstream surfing):

  • Less than 1.50m/2m in wall height are considered small, “comfortable” waves, that is, of common height.
  • Up to 2 meters are considered medium or “normal” waves.
  • More than 2 meters from the wall is considered big wave surfing. So the adjectives of proportion define a different scale, whose highest levels have been exceeded by several tens of feet. For a few years there has been talk of giant wave surfing (See The Billabong XXL).

The size of the waves in surfing is measured depending on the culture where we find ourselves:

  • From behind, in the classic Hawaiian style as it is done in the Canary Islands.
  • From the front: from sea level to the highest point of the ridge, as is usually done in the rest of Spain.
  • Comparing it with the parts of the human body (shoulder wave, waist wave, man and a half wave). On the north coast of the Iberian Peninsula, the word "meter" is often used for a measure similar to that of an upright and bent man, that is, the average height of a surfer in action on the wave.

The behavior of waves varies greatly depending on the bottom on which they break:

  • On the sand: They are normally less violent waves, since the shapes of the sandbanks or taros are usually not very pronounced, constantly shaped by the action of the tides, currents and waves; Consequently, they offer less resistance to sea shocks and waves. The sandbars are not completely stable and the sand waves in some places are not the same every year.
  • Rock reefs (rock waves): They are the most stable, when sea conditions bring good waves, along with coral reefs.
  • Coral reefs: They are reputed to be the best waves, since the constant action of the hard sponge animals and the corals that live under these breakers shapes an obstacle that adapts in an almost magical way to the movement of wave. They are usually hollow and strong, highly appreciated for surfing.

historia del surf

The suitability of one or the other fund depends on each place:

  • Due to the type of tides, currents and sea shocks it receives.
  • Due to depth: Coral and rock reefs are the most dangerous.
  • In the sand banks, due to the type of coastal orography, the proximity of rocks that favor or not the formation of banks, the presence in the bay, the currents, etc.
  • Because of the proximity of the reef to the shore or the cliffs of the coast.

If you liked this article about the history and interesting facts of surfing, comment below about your best experience and share it. Do not forget to follow us on our social networks as @TheIndianFace to find out more about this and other extreme sports.

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