Surfing has been around for many years, in fact since 400 A.D and people are still going hard at it today and will for many more years to come.
The very first surfers were the Island folk who would use the waves to get over the coral reefs and back to shore after their hard days of fishing. They found that this was the easiest and quickest way of transport over the reefs so they continued to do it for many years. As time went on the art of riding waves then developed into more of a "leisure sport" than that of being a part of work.
The first actual surfboarders originated in the 1920's where they rode large redwood planks that weighed around 126 pounds. As technology developed the boards became shorter, lighter and became better designed. The next surfboards to follow were made in the 1950's, this time the boards where made of balsa wood and then covered in a layer of fiberglass, these boards reached a length of about 9-10 feet long.
In the 1960's the long board was introduced and was made of Styrofoam and again, covered in fiberglass. In the 70's the short board took over, which had a similar design to the long boards but were only around 6 foot in length. These proved to be very popular due to their faster speeds and easier maneuverability. Some of the people of today are still using the old fashioned long board, but as you would expect the design has changed significantly and they come in a few different lengths.
Now the sport of surfing has grown into a worldwide attraction and people are surfing in basically every country that has a coastline, even Alaska, as showed in the surf film "Endless Summer II." Nowadays people are taking to waves in all sorts of weird things, such as Kneeboards, Body boards, Kayaks and many other weird and wonderful things.
A few of the really dedicated surfers, and those that can afford to, will spend some of their time travelling the world trying to find their own perfect wave. Some of the lucky ones will actually find one. But now that we have all different types of boards peoples opinion of their perfect wave has changed to adapt to their type of board. As in the 60's a perfect wave was a point break like Malibu, but also today's people are surfing in all kinds of different places with different conditions, which also changes opinions. One person that as put all of these experiences onto film is that of Bruce Brown. Brown has made two surf documentaries about finding the perfect wave and they are called "The Endless Summer" and "The Endless Summer II." The first film was made around 35 years ago and the second was made in 1994.
The two films are about a couple of guys who travel around the world trying to find a perfect wave. Looking at the two movies you can notice how much surfing has improved over the years and how many new spots there are to surf.
There are many different things that can effect the characteristics of a wave such as size, shape and speed. The main influence on a wave is the wind, but there are four main factors of the wind that actually count, these are: The speed of the Wind.
How long the wind has been blowing for.
How far the wind has blown.
These three factors effect the size of the wave but there is one more factor, and that is the direction of the wind. The direction can alter the smoothness of the wave and how long the wave can hold up for. The other elements that can have an effect on a wave are the tides, and also the surface of the ocean floor of which the wave is breaking over.
To start with the tides effect the level of the water, and some surf spots need different tides to actually form a wave. For example if it is low tide, which means that the water level is lower, it might make surf spots really shallow, preventing anyone from riding the wave. But on the other hand another surf spot may be really deep and will only work when it is low tide and shallow.
The surface of the ocean floor has effect on the shape of the wave; for example Australian waves aren't as big and hollow as some of the waves in Hawaii are. This is because Hawaii has large lava reefs around the island that will jack up the swell out of really deep water and onto the shallow reef as shown in the diagram below. As with Australian waves, they are "feeling" the bottom of the ocean a long time before they are ready to break that weakens them slightly.
So I think that you would agree after reading this that surfing is a very popular and growing sport and also that it is a lot of fun.
So it doesn't really matter if you are a dedicated hardcore surfer that makes an effort to be able to interpret the tide charts and the weather map each night. Or just a surfer that will just go down to your local beach every now and then just to check if there is any waves and give it your best and have some fun. You are still a surfer and trying to have fun just like everyone else.