Surf, Terrigal Photo by

Australian surf culture

Surfer in Margaret RiverSurfing is a very popular watersport, and Australia has some of the best surfing spots in the world, possessing some of the surfing champion of the world. Surfies travel the globe looking for 'the' waves, and many of those occur around the Australian coastline, in particular the infamous . Always take local advice on the waves, which must be treated with respect. Check out some of the popular surfing beaches.

Surfing and our surfing culture is not just a fad of the 20th century, but is actually a culture that is thousands of years old! It has only been in the last 100-to-200 years that records the history of surfing and surf culture.

It is thought that Captain James Cook first observed this pastime in the early 1770s. It was around the same time that missionaries suppressed the sport, outlawing it as being an 'unchristian' activity. It is believed that it was gambling that actually caused its demise when they removed sport from the activities of the noblemen who used to bet on the size of waves and length of ride. Surfing is said to have disappeared to most of the world for a couple of hundred of years. Previous to that Polynesians used to stand proud on wooden surfboards crafted from the timber of sacred trees. Fifteenth century 'Meles' (Hawaiian chants sung by elders and passed down generation to generation) record the surfing activities of the great Royal families and other dignitaries of even earlier times.

The Duke

It wasn't until December 1914 that Australian surfing history is to have officially begun when the legendary Hawaiian Olympic champion, Duke Kahanamoku, re-introduced the sport of surfing to Australia. He was invited to give a surfboard riding exhibition, and promptly shaped a surfboard out of a solid piece of Queensland Sugar Pine. A 16 year girl, Isabella Letham, was plucked from a large crowd on the beach at Freshwater, Sydney, and became the first official record of an Australian learning to surf and actually standing up riding waves. After Duke left Australia, Claude West, "the Hawaiian's star pupil" became Australia's first surf champ and ruled as such from 1915 thru 1924.

Surfing soon captured the imagination of locals and quickly built up a cult of devotees and proceeded to capture the imagination of sporting Australians. A whole way of life had developed around surfing and the search for the perfect wave. It soon became commonplace along coastal towns to find long-haired surfers cruising the more popular beaches in beaten-up old cars full of friends, surfboards and good humour. In the early sixties, surfing was then introduced to Europe by Australian Lifeguards.

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