The extreme sport of surfing was first observed by British explorers in the mid 18th century, when Captain James Cook of the HMS Endeavour encountered a group of Polynesians lying on their stomachs on top of what appeared to be tree bark as ocean waves swiftly carried them from sea to shore. Captain Cook did not realize at the time that what he was observing was called “surfing”, nor should it be assumed that this activity had not been going on for hundreds of years prior to the HMS Endeavour’s trip to the South Pacific. It is reasonable to conclude that surfing has most likely been a form of recreation since humans first swam in the ocean. The use of any type of “board” could likely have evolved from just plain “body-surfing”, which plenty of ocean lovers, take part in to this day. However, perhaps Captain Cook’s early observations are significant to the extent that this sport called surfing has indeed evolved into an exciting and thrilling hobby for some, and even a proverbial way of life for many others.
Surfers around the globe have become infatuated with riding waves and the generalized feeling of peace and well-being that this sport seems to promote to those who participate in only a way that they themselves can describe. Whether a surfing enthusiast is riding one of the giant waves off the northwest shores of Hawaii, or waiting for a freighter in the Gulf of Mexico to stir up a few smaller waves off the east coast of Texas, one thing all surfers agree upon is the concept of “the stoke”. Surfing has taken on a lexicon of its own over the years, and the term “stoke” is used to describe a feeling of both anxiety and elation in achieving an exhilarating ride on nature’s waves; all while coming to a place of self-actualization of being one with nature; the air, the wind, the water, and the coastline. This feeling or sensation appears to be addicting, as thousands of surf enthusiasts have either found a way to incorporate surfing into their daily routines, or in more extreme cases, surfing legends have carved a name for themselves within this tight-knit subculture of people who travel the world in search of the perfect wave, or at least the feeling of being “stoked”.
Surfing, for all of its inherent thrills, is, as mentioned above, an extreme sport. This means that surfing can be dangerous, much like auto racing, rock climbing, and sky diving. Thus, it is imperative that a surfer be aware of his or her surroundings, the weather conditions for a particular day, tidal variations, as well as ocean currents. Surfers, even the most skilled, have in fact lost their lives while surfing, which undoubtedly contributes to the mystique and feeling of exhilaration when paddling out to sea in the hopes of catching an unforgettable wave. True surfers, though, are fearless and in some form of acceptance that the sport that they not only love, but need to live, can indeed be dangerous.
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