Hawaii’s History of Surfing and Bodyboarding

by: Evan Fa

With the entire world converging on the North Shore of Oahu in the next few weeks during the winter surf season (read more about this in the previous post) for competitions, magazine coverage, and recreation, there arises the question of the difference between surfing and bodyboarding. While both surfing and bodyboarding are similar in nature due to the wave riding aspect as well as historical beginnings, there are also very much separate and distinct in regards to their respective industries.


Surfing’s Historical Beginnings in Hawaii

It has been noted that early Western explorers like Captain Cook witnessed the native Hawaiians in the act of surfing on their feet, knees, and stomach on a variety of different wood shaped boards in the waves. Upon colonization, the practice of surfing was less practiced and even forbidden during an era. Then Duke Kahanamoku re-introduced the ancient practice of surfing in Hawaii at the turn of the twentieth century. Since then surfing has taken on different shapes both in popular culture and as an industry to evolve into a respectable world wide sport.

Surfing is done by standing upon a board and riding a wave. The boards themselves come in a variety of different shapes, lengths and materials. The type of boards a surfer rides depends on the type of waves he or she is interested in surfing. Longboards are primarily used to ride less steep, less powerful waves. Shortboards, on the other hand, are primarily used to ride steeper, more powerful waves. One reason for that is due to the ability of the surfer to control and maneuver a particular type of board.



Bodyboarding’s Historical Beginnings in Kailua-Kona 

Just as bodyboarding takes its roots from the ancient practice of riding waves, or surfing, as witnessed by Captain Cook and his crew, the invention of the modern day bodyboard (or boogie board) took place on the west side of Hawaii island in Kailua-Kona. Tom Morey, a surfboard shaper and engineer, created what became the bodyboard out of a surfboard blank and some ironed on newspaper in order to surf some waves at a surf spot named Honls. After experiencing the thrill of riding his makeshift board, he began making and selling them. Since then the bodyboard has taken roots and spread throughout the world as an extreme sport for thrill seekers.

Bodyboarding is done by lying down (prone), on one knee (dropknee), or standing upon a board. A bodyboard is typically a third of the length or less of the modern day shortboard with a softer foam deck and a harder slick bottom. A bodyboarder typically wears a pair of fins in order to propel him onto a wave as well as maintain control as he or she surfs the wave. A bodyboard, just like with surfing, is suitable for the beginner as well as the extreme wave riding enthusiast.



The Essence of Surfing

Surfing, in its essence, is the act of riding a wave with or without a board. It is a wonderful way to challenge oneself as well as have fun. If someone is interested in taking surfing lessons while staying at one of the Turtle Bay Rentals, go to Hans Hedemann Surf School on the Turtle Bay Resort to book a lesson.

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