90 Incredible Surf Facts and Statistics

Surfing remains a popular sport with its vast history where people embark on riding the tides of the ocean waves. The first explanation of surfing dates back to 1778, when Captain Cook spotted a surfer in Hawaii, according to the book An Insider's Guide to Surfing

He was so fascinated by observing a man as he was normally driven smoothly by the seas' tides.

It is least to say that surfing truly is an incredible phenomenon and there’s a lot more to it than what you might see on the surface. And that is exactly why, this article will cover some of the most important surfing facts and statistics you can find anywhere.

90 Surf Facts and Statistics Everyone Should Know

Surfing is one of the oldest sports to have existed in the history of mankind. When you hear “surfing”, the first place that comes to your mind is Florida. 

Probably because that place, in particular, is famously known for it and has a museum dedicated to the history of surfing, the Flordia Surf Museum.

20 Incredible Historical Surf Facts

  1. Archaeologists have discovered evidence of surfing history that dates back to the 12th-century Polynesia. Moreover, there were numerous cave paintings found that clearly showed the existence of surfing and how the Polynesians brought it to Hawaii - the place where it became popular.
  2. According to the book “History of Surfing,” Surfing became another multimillion-dollar industry after the Second World War and evolved from more than a traditional “sacred and elite” sport.
  3. James Cook’s diary suggests that when surfing first reached Hawaii, it was not just a sport but considered to be a highly praised and crucial aspect of the people’s religion.
  4. During the 1950s, Jack O’Neill was the first to invent the wetsuits dedicated to protecting surfers from cold waters.
  5. It was also during the 1950s that Joe Quigg invented round noses, and surfboards made with lightweight fiberglass and polyurethane became more common.
  6. The birthplace of surfing is the ancient Polynesia, but it is often confused with Hawaii, as Hawaii is famous for surfing.
  7. To date, there hasn’t been any discovery regarding the founder of surfing. Therefore, the exact inventor’s identity remains unknown.
  8. Apart from Duke Kahanamoku boosting the popularity of surfing in the US and Australia, numerous surfing enthusiasts promoted the sport. Hence, it became a professional sport during the 1960s.
  9. In ancient Polynesia, surfing was associated with class. It was a separator between the upper and lower classes. That is to say, only the elites were allowed to surf.
  10. Making surfboards in ancient Hawaii was considered to be a sacred practice and you had to follow strict rules and laws to make a surfboard.
  11. The very first surf contest dates back to 1928 in California.
  12. The first “hollow” board was made by Tom Blake in the 1930s. To achieve this, he attached plywood over crossbeams.
  13. The Australian way of surfing first emerged to the general public in the 1960s. It was identified as different from tradition because of its aggressive maneuvers.
  14. The Billabong was founded in Australia on the Gold Coast by the enthusiastic Rena and Gordon Merchant.
  15. The body of Eddie Aikau has never been found to date during a surfing incident. He was lost in the south of the Molokai Sea in 1978.
  16. The world’s first ever movie based on surfing was released in 1966, and it was called “The Endless Summer.”
  17. Australia’s first-ever surf magazine was founded in 1962 by Bob Evans, a surf enthusiast who dedicated years to boosting the reputation of surfing.
  18. In 1961 the surf music genre was pioneered by Dick Dale, whose contribution significantly brought about the recognition of an entirely new genre for the surf culture.
  19. The surfing legends Dick Knottmeyer, Alex Matienzo, and Jim Thompson surfed the Mavericks in 1967 for the very first time.
  20. The title of the world’s most successful female competitive surfer in the history of sports was secured by Gilmore Stephanie in 2022.

20 Surfing Culture and Terminology Facts You Must Know

  1. Did you know that “hang eleven” is a surfing terminology used to describe a male surfer who is surfing naked on his board?
  2. In surfing terminology, “men in gray suits” is the name surfers have given to sharks.
  3. Surfers use the term “hodad” to describe someone who walks around the beach and pretends to be an expert surfer, but in reality, they cannot surf.
  4. During the 1950s, Kathy Kohner was the first young female to surf Malibu waters. Due to her age and size, surfers started calling her the “Gidget.” As the name describes, the term is a mix of “midget and girl”.
  5. According to the Academy of Surfing, the surfing culture encompasses traveling to exotic locations for the sake of riding untouched waves. Essentially, surfing embodies the spirit of freedom and escape.
  6. The three forms of surfing are called “Kaha nalu” (body-surfing), “no ka pakaka ale” (canoe-surfing), and “he’e nalu” surfboarding. Where he’e nalu is the final evolved form of surfing.
  7. The Australian slang for a surfer riding the waves aggressively is “aggro.” As the name suggests, it is short for aggressive.
  8.  From its Hawaiian origins, surfers and even non-surfers greet and bid each other farewell using the term “Aloha”. It is short for both “Hi” and “Bye”.
  9. The crack, fracture, or hole in a surfboard is called a “ding.” It is also a common surf slang.
  10. Even though surfing is a sport in the modern community, the surf culture still has a strong sense of tribalism embedded in its core.
  11. A more insulting term for waves that are too small to ride is “Ankle Slappers.” This term implies that the waves are only good enough to touch the ankles of the surfers.
  12. Another insulting surfer slang is “Barney”. This term is used to address untalented surfers who are not perceived as “cool” by other surfers.
  13. When surfers go surfing first thing in the morning, they refer to this as “Dawn Patrol.” As the name suggests, reaching the waves at dawn.
  14. In the world of surfers, when a smaller wave follows up and combines with a larger wave, it is called a “humpback.”
  15. In an event when a surfer falls off his or her surfboard, it is called “Grubbing”.
  16. The cord that connects the surfboard tail with your ankle is called a “Leggie”. It is a safety equipment that ensures you do not stray away from your surfboard.
  17. When a beginner or experienced surfer endangers other surfers or is ignorant of surfing manners. They are called a “Kook”. As simple as the term sounds, it is frowned upon.
  18. Duckdive” is a term for the surfing technique that involves dipping underwater along with your surfboard against a wave.
  19. For waves that break on hitting the sea shores, they are called a “shorey”. As harmless as the name sounds, these waves are quite challenging.
  20. Finally, “Stoked” is a surf term that is used to express great excitement and happiness to the point you are extremely hyped up.

10 Known Facts About Surfing Locations

  1. The globally known top five places for surfing are; Hawaii Oahu’s Pipeline; South Africa Jeffreys Bay’s Supertubes; Indonesia Kuta and Uluwatu; Micronesia Pohnpei’s P-Pass, and Half Moon Bay California Mavericks off.
  2.  A report by National Geographic states that there are four different types of waves in Huntington Beach, California. They are; Rolling waves, Dumping waves, Surging waves, and Standing waves.
  3. The first person to bring the surfing sport to California was George Freeth. For this, he was given the title of “California’s Forgotten Hero”.
  4. The greatest wave recorded in the history of surfing occurred in 1958 in Lituya Bay. This was a result of an 8.3 Richter scale earthquake that caused a 1,720-foot wave.
  5. Pororoca holds the record for the location with the longest wave ride in surfing history to date. It was a 37 minutes long ride that set a global record.
  6. It was in Tokyo, during the 2020 Olympics that the organizers unanimously decided to include surfing into the roster for the first-ever time.
  7. In 1928, the first ever major surf competition was held in California, known as the Corona del Mar.
  8. The two-times perfect 10s score by Kelly Slater was set in Teahupoo the Billabong Tahiti Pro Contest.
  9. Mauritius is well-known for its Tamarin Bay Localism - aggressive surfers that are unbelievably possessive about the waves. Regardless of your age, they will put you at the risk of drowning.
  10. Teahupo’o is not only a location known because of Kelly Slater’s record but also because the surfer Briece Taerea lost his life.

10 Surfing Records and Achievements

  1. The first record for the longest surf was set in 2006 by Seginho Laus. It was set at the Araguari River, and the time was 33 minutes 15 seconds.
  2. The longest surf record in 2011 was set by a Panamanian surfer, Gary Saavedra. It was after he surfed on an artificial wave for 3 hours and 55 minutes.
  3. For the largest surfed wave record in Portugal in 2013, Garret McNamara was the first to ride the 100-foot large wave and carve his name in the list of surfing achievements.
  4. In 2011, Kurtis Loftus, a 50-year-old man, set the world record for a surfing marathon in Flordia’s Jacksonville Beach. His record for the marathon was 29 hours and 1 minute.
  5. Kelly Slater has inarguably conquered the world of surfing records and is the only person holding the title for most professional wins. His collection includes 11 World Surfing Championship wins.
  6. The record for most people surfing on a single board was set in 2015 by 66 surfers on a 42ft long, 11ft, and 1-inch wide surfboard that was 1ft and 4.4 inches thick. This record was set in California at the Huntington Beach.
  7. The world record for the biggest surfboard collection was awarded to Donald Dettloff. A  man in Hawaii, whose collection consisted of 647 surfboards in 2009. He is also the first person to achieve such a unique record.
  8. The biggest women’s paddle-in-wave world record was set by Andrea Moller in 2016. This record was set in Pe’ahi, Maui, Hawaii, after she tamed a 42ft wave.
  9. In 2015, the longest kitesurfing world record was set by a team called “Kite the Reef.” The journey was 1,184 km long.
  10. The 489 km kitesurfing world record by a woman was set in 2016 by Anke Brandt. A German surfer who spent 30 hours and 30 minutes to complete the task.

10 Surfing Educational and Academic Facts

  1. According to National Geographic normal surfboard commonly weighs between 4 to 10 kilograms and is hollow.
  2. A longboard is a type of surfboard that is about 3 meters in length, with a rounded nose on the front part. They are slightly wider and thicker than the regular surfboards.
  3. Shortboards, on the other hand, are only 2 meters in length; comparatively, they have a pointier nose and more fins.
  4. The materials and chemicals to build the evolved state of surfboards were invented during the Second World War. This inevitably led to modern-day surfboards.
  5. Plymouth University, United Kingdom, is a rare case scenario offering a bachelor's degree in Surf Science and Technology.
  6. Southern Cross University, Australia, also offers a diploma in Sports Management. This is specifically specializing in surfing studies.
  7. Another bachelor of Science in Surf Science and Technology degree is offered by Edith Cowan University in Australia.
  8. Research shows that surfing consistently gains more popularity as it appeals to the youth of the contemporary era.
  9. Surfing is dependent on hydrodynamics - the study of moving water. Therefore, surfers require strong waves to perform the sport, which is otherwise impossible on still water.
  10. According to research conducted by HMS (Harvard Medical School), surfing stimulates certain brain chemicals that help the growth of new blood vessels and improve memory.

20 Most Important Surf Statistics of All Time

  1. Surveys by ISA (International Surfing Association) show that there are about 20 to 35 million surfers worldwide.
  2. Statistics show that the market size of the surfing industry worldwide reached 4.8 billion USD in the year 2022. 
  3. Similarly, the market size for the tourism industry related to surfing reached 9.5 billion USD in 2022.
  4. The total number of adult surfers in Australia was calculated to be over 723,700.
  5. Surveys conducted show that out of the total population that surfs, 35% are female surfers, and 65% are male surfers.
  6. According to Statista, around three million surfers participate in the sport every year, and the number has only increased since 2021.
  7. South Africa is the only country at the moment to have the most consistent surf. The consistent year-long storms ensure plentiful tides to ride.
  8. The number of surfing participants in the US from the decade 2010 onward was estimated to be over 3 million.
  9. Out of the approximately 25 million surfers, the fatality rate is 10 surfers per year. In other words, out of 2.5 million, only 1 surfer falls victim to the ocean every year.
  10. Studies have shown that the NSA (Australia’s National Surfing Association) had a turnover of 7.78 million AUD in 2020. However, the turnover rate decreased the next year, whereas net profit spiked up by 117,598 AUD.
  11. Statistical data forecasts that the 2021 to 2026 Asia Pacific surfboard market will grow at a CAGR of 7%
  12. Industry surveys show that over 720,000 surfboards were sold globally in the year 2018. This number only continued to increase.
  13. Erin Brooks is a teenage surfing prodigy who was denied Canadian citizenship and may possibly not represent Canada in 2024.
  14. There is a global phenomenon known as the Surfing Santas Festival, which has over 800 people dressed as Santas, and they surf on Cocoa Beach in Florida every year.
  15. A surf comprises catching a minimum of three consecutive waves to shore. Dale Webster has been in the sport since 1975, and by 2004, he set the record for 10,407 consecutive days of surfing.
  16. 40 hours is the longest surfing session to have been recorded in history. The record was set by an Australian man, Johnston Blake.
  17. The US and Australia together comprise 75% winners when it comes to title holders from 1964 to 2022.
  18. Hawaii has a record of producing 17 surfing winners. This also includes Carissa Moore - an Olympic gold medal holder.
  19. The 2021 WSL (World Surf League) Championship had a prize pool of 5.2 million.
  20. Surveys show that around 6.5% of Australians participate in surfing events annually.

Final Thoughts

Surfing is more than a sport, at its core, the surfing culture still has a strong sense of tribalism. The way surfers perceive each other and others in society is prominent evidence of this culture. 

In comparison to other sports, surfing holds strong historical significance and was an important part of religion.

However, with time it evolved from its three phases and became the surfboarding, that you know today. Nevertheless, for surfers and learners alike, knowing the important surf facts and statistics is crucial and a step towards appreciating this sport for its fascinating history.

Oliver Jones

Written by Oliver Jones

I'm a dedicated surfer and writer, and my heart truly belongs to the ocean. Surfing is not just a sport but a way of life for me. I ride the waves in the water and on paper, pouring my passion into every word I write.

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