The exact origins of surfing are not certain, but the practice was first observed in Tahiti in 1767. Research has found that surfing existed in Polynesia (a region of the Pacific Ocean including New Zealand and Hawaii) for hundreds of years before the 1700s. Surfing was used to judge who a tribal chief should be, which says a lot about how important surfing was in Polynesian culture.
From Polynesia, its popularity grew in the USA via three Hawaiian princes who surfed from their boarding school in California. They provided lessons for their peers. The Californian coast was ideal for surfing, but it took until 1975 for a professional tour to start here.
Surfing is defined as riding a wave using a board, regardless of whether you stand, sit or perch. But, of course, not just any wave is suitable for a surf. Windy conditions are needed to generate waves that are high enough to ride, making specific spots more suitable to surfing than others. The coastline near our park at Perran Sands being a classic example as an area that is widely known for producing epic waves. It isn’t a case of the windier the better though, as gales can make waves become too choppy. Ideal conditions are light to medium offshore wind, blowing into the front of the wave and creating a pocket for a surfer to ride it.
In recent years, wave pools have been created to replicate the ideal conditions for surfing, for times when natural conditions can’t. For the first time in history, budding surfers no longer need to get to the coast to have fun, but most experienced wave riders will tell you there is no substitute for the original home of surfing: the seaside.
In general terms, Kelly Slater is probably the best-known name within the surfing world. Millennials will remember his name being attached to the popular PlayStation surfing game of the early 2000s, with this writer being amongst the millions who played the game enthusiastically (in my case without ever stepping on an actual surfboard!).
After many years campaigning, surfing is finally set to make its debut at Tokyo 2020. There will be two medals on offer, one for men and one for women. One of the biggest decisions for organisers to make was whether to host the events in an artificial wave or at the seaside. In the end, they went for the second option, meaning unlike any other sport at the Olympics the actual start date for surfing is undecided. There will be a waiting period of 16 days to make sure the conditions are the best they can be, and the events will take two days to complete once started.
In a field dominated by Australians, Brazilians, French and Americans, Team GB won’t be sending any surfers to the games that have space for just 20 male and 20 female competitors. That’s not to say that Britons haven’t done some stunning surfing in the past. British-born South African Martin Potter is perhaps the most famous name, claiming the World Surfing Games title in 1989.
Welshman Carwyn Williams is another individual to reach the elite level of the sport, winning the European Professional Surfing Association (EPSA) tour in 1985 and 1986 and reaching a top 30 world ranking a few years later in 1989. Lucy Campbell is an English and British champion at the tender age of 24 and will hoping for an Olympic bow in the future.
There are now over 500,000 people that regularly surf in the UK, with its popularity rising enormously over the last few years. Cornwall is the country’s surfing capital, and the surfing capital of Cornwall is Perranporth, which happens to be where our pretty Perran Sands park is located. That’s right, we’re at the very heart of UK surfing! It doesn’t matter if you’re an amateur or a veteran, our beaches entertain all types of surfers. If you need some hints and tips, we host a range of lessons with expert instructors to set you up nicely for a spot of surfing. These cost just £30 for those aged 8 and above.