why is knowing surf history/lore important?

Discussion in 'Surfing' started by cuda, Dec 2, 2019.

  1. cuda

    cuda Well-Known Member

    Aug 23, 2007
    serious question, please educate this sorryass ignorant kook.

    I often hear surf industry people, commentators and IG influencers make statements lauding the importance on knowing surf history. e.g. Joel Tudor et al

    I'd honestly like to know to what degree do you think that knowing surf history is important and to what end does it serve you? Is this mainly a Hawaiian or regional thing?
    Is there an over-arching cultural function of surf history?
    Is there a comparison, like an artist ought to know Art History?

    I'm sure i will think of more questions but should be a good starting point.

    thanks in advance
    s.i.k. cuda
  2. dingpatch

    dingpatch Well-Known Member

    Apr 2, 2014
    Florida USA
    In the Beginning, there was JJ Moon.
    PeakMaster likes this.
  3. NJ Longboarder

    NJ Longboarder Well-Known Member

    Jan 3, 2005
    Just my 2 cents.

    Often times, people with a personal interest try and explain why it is important to others. If you are in a specific industry, you can learn a lot by studying the past to learn successes and failures for how's/whys moving forward. If you aren't in that industry, learning history is just for personal enjoyment/interest and has no real importance.

    Personally, I like history of old cars, surfboards, architecture, engineering, manufacturing, etc. If you have similar interests, I can talk about it for days. If not, I try to keep quiet as it is not important.
    DJR, Roach, sightpoint and 2 others like this.
  4. Ricksurfin

    Ricksurfin Well-Known Member

    Jun 9, 2019
    San Clemente, CA
    Knowing the history gives you a better appreciation of the sport
  5. Chilly Willy

    Chilly Willy Well-Known Member

    Feb 15, 2004
    USA New Jersey
    I find the history and progression of surfboard design to be particularly interesting and helpful in my surfing life. Any given surfboard design sits in the timeline between a previous design and subsequent design -- what were the limitations on materials at the time? What problems did they solve (or try to solve) with this new design? And what shortcomings were improved upon with the next design? What waves was the board intended to be ridden in, and with what style? Why did or didn't that design stand the test of time? All of these things help me tremendously -- most notably when the waves are too big, I need an excuse why I'm not going to paddle out, and I want to blame it on my board.
  6. Dawnpatrol

    Dawnpatrol Well-Known Member

    May 7, 2006
    Good thread Cuda. My institutional memory of surfing goes back to the mid 50's when my dad put me on a 12' kook box. That Blake design back then has taught board makers today how to incorporate that design into modern wooden board building today (i.e., internal wooden ribs). Just one example why surfing history can be important. Over the decades of surfing I have seen how surf history has brought us full circle on materials we use for boards, e.g., wood, to design, et. al. Just think how we have come full circle on boards? From 12' hollow planks to 12' gliders, from longboards to shortboards and back again to the longboards. For me Cuda, I like looking back over those 60 years and appreciating where the sport came from and where it's going. One things for sure, surf history has given me an appreciation of the "good old days" when a handful of surfers and I plied the waters of the PNW.
    DJR, Roach and Driftwood like this.
  7. Driftwood

    Driftwood Well-Known Member

    Dec 2, 2014
    Great topic.

    I only have a few minutes before my next class, so I'll keep this short for now. Knowing your culture, besides all the benefits of being exposed to board and riding styles, surf exploration precedents, etc. allows you to partake and transmit something greater than just your personal experience. If you're not into that, okay.

    It also allows you interpret differently what you're seeing - especially what you're seeing channelled through a media or brand perspective. I just spoke last week at a conference about the mechanics of how women surfers in California in the 20's through the late 40's were largely removed from the collective historical narrative of the sport/lifestyle. All kinds of misinformation out there, even from some well-intentioned and otherwise knowledgeable parties. Totally affects how we see women in the lineup, in the industry, and how they see themselves as well. That's just a quick example but you get the idea.

    Same goes for knowing examples of spot preservation or destruction, etc.

    Obviously I'm all for historical/cultural research and transmission. But then again that's what I do for work.

    "All of these things help me tremendously -- most notably when the waves are too big, I need an excuse why I'm not going to paddle out, and I want to blame it on my board." That's classic!
  8. Sax-son

    Sax-son Active Member

    Nov 23, 2019
    Three Rivers, CA
    Surfing style and surfboard building are definitely built on what came before more than just about any sport I know. When I first started surfing, it was pretty much an amateur sport embraced by watermen and the lifeguard culture followed the gromms that came after. Nowadays, it is a professional sport with folks making a living doing it. I started in the early 1960's, when foam boards were already established. I had ridden a few of the balsa boards that were built in the late 1950's but they were rare to find even then. The number were few because only a few people owned and or shaped them. I figure now my involvement around the sport almost goes back almost 60 years, but I do not consider myself a historian by any measure. I just know what I personally experienced.

    I was 13 when I first started surfing and my first surfboard weighed 35 lbs. I had to carry that thing 6 blocks to the beach where I lived with no idea if there were any waves. I witnessed the development of the modern surfboard and wetsuit technology in those years and rode just about every model of board that would go on to become a classic. Some were complete hypes and others truly wave machines. We use to switch boards around quite a bit between us just to see what we perform the best on. When I hear a conversation about a specific model of a vintage longboard, I can usually say, "Yeah, I had ridden those before and can usually point out their strengths or weaknesses. That's where the history and lore come in handy.
  9. shapewright

    shapewright Well-Known Member

    Aug 6, 2006
    USA California
    For me, knowing the history and evolution of the designs and the advancement of ability to ride each era of Surfboards.
    I may be wrong, but the youngsters don’t care, today is the only thing they care about.
    I started surfing in late 1960, the board storage racks in Waikiki were a virtual time line of surfboard design.
    Boards of the 30’s and 40’s were still being ridden daily, the foam era was just few years old.
    Also the top surfers from this era were the ones adapting to the new designs.
    Nearly everyone of these watermen have passed away, there goes the oral traditions that were passed from person to person.
    Once they went, so did their knowledge, only those who were around the proverbial camp fire heard their words and knew the tales.
    For me as a builder to have seen the ancients and sat with the legends is a living encyclopedia of lore that is now fading quickly into a past that will never be again
    DJR, McQuad, pefa and 6 others like this.
  10. SeniorGrom

    SeniorGrom Well-Known Member

    Mar 20, 2012
    USA New Jersey
    Everyone is different I suppose but maybe the deeper your enthusiasm the more you thirst for answers about things past-present-future.

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