Tracing the Roots of Surfboard Art through the History of Surfing
Hunting & Gathering
For thousands of years, the coastline of Peru has been a thriving source of a wide variety of seafood. While the majority of the local tribes (the pre-Columbian Moche and Chimu cultures) began fishing from the coastline thousands of years ago, someone with ingenuity decided to build a raft at some point to access a broader amount of available seafood. According to studies of native languages from that time, the first generation of reed-woven surfing rafts, known as Tups, was created. Several thousand years later, when the Spanish arrived in the region, they gave the rafts the name caballito de totora, which is still in use today.
The tradition of surfing for fish first appears in 3,000-year-old artwork representations. These early surfers are depicted in ancient Peruvian clay sculptures and pottery, with one sculptured item utilizing a flatter surface rather than the forward-curved shape.
Hawaiian surfing trips by Polynesians
The name Polynesia, which means "many islands," refers to a vast collection of islands in the eastern Pacific Ocean. The ability to surf successfully was a sign of status in Polynesian culture, with the clan chief considered to be the best surfer. Over the years, Polynesians migrated to other islands in search of better living conditions, among them Hawaii, where the same societal plaudits were bestowed upon the best surfers according to their cultural structure.
Hawaiian royalty rode up to 25-foot-long carved, polished redwood surfboards, while the general populace rode smaller boards. Since several of these surfboards weighed close to 100 pounds, surfers had to be physically fit to carry and control them both on land and in the water. Later, fins were included in the bottom design to help with improved directional control.
Instead of being a need, surfing was based on ancient religious ideas in Hawaiian society. Carefully selected trees (redwood and Acacia koa) were then carved to the owner's specifications. The last stage was to get the board blessed by a priest before diving into the ocean.
The arrival of European missionaries temporarily suppressed surfing in Hawaii, but once this impact subsided, surfing swiftly resurfaced thanks to visiting Americans who took up the sport and brought it back to the United States, notably to California.
The American Craze of Surfing
The conventional surfboard shape immediately started to change in the US, for example, the board was shortened to between 6 and 10 feet. South American balsa wood was used in place of redwood to create a lighter, hollowed-out board that would perform better in the water. Tom Blake and George Freeth were two key designers for these early inventive innovations. As surfers sought ways to distinguish themselves on the water, wooden surfboard decorations and artistic embellishments started to appear on surfboards.
Later models of surfboards made use of other materials, including fiberglass-coated Styrofoam or polyurethane foam. Boards were customized with cutting-edge artistic designs and vivid colors, which were then covered and readily shielded by the fiberglass layer. Artists (surfers and non-surfers alike) started to broaden their horizons and channels for sharing their artistic design work through board marketing and advertising venues as a result of this new ability to preserve board art.
Surfboard Wall Art & Advent of Surfboard Decor
Surfboard wall art (paintings, posters), wood surfboard wall art, surfboard wall décor (carvings, sculpting), and even the use of some of the same surfboard materials, such as fiberglass, resins, and polymers, contributed to the development of a new riotous culture of surfboard decor (i.e., surfboard tabletops). The early surf art was influenced by many well-known artists, including Drew Brophy, Rick Griffin, and others.
As movies successfully emphasized the world of surfing through their narratives, magazines began to broadcast the most recent news in surfing and art design. Beginning in the late 1950s and continuing into the following decade, surfing also had an impact on music. The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, Chuck Berry, Dick Dale, and many others who followed are well-known examples of surf-inspired artists and bands.
Like the waves that this type of art portrays, custom painted surfboard art will always alter and evolve through time. Since there are always fresh waves to explore, surfing and hence surfboard art will never lose its thrilling yet serene allure.