At the end of October, the International Surfing Association will hold the 50th anniversary of the World Surfing Games in Punta Rocas, Peru. This is the second time the WSG are being held in Punta Rocas. The first time was 49 years ago, when Peruvian Felipe Pomar took the top prize with his aggressive and unconventional style. Pomar went on to become one of the few people to ride a tsunami, when an earthquake pulled him and a friend out to sea, forcing them to ride the resulting tsunami back to shore.
This year’s tournament sees the return of the international surf competition to Peru, marking the explosion in popularity surfing has seen since Pomar won in 1965. The sport can be traced back to Polynesian culture predating European contact. He’enalu was more than a leisure activity; it was a central part of their culture. Colonization killed off their tradition of surfing, with only a handful of Hawaiians continuing the culture. Pre-Columbian Peru also has a history of surfing, with their totora reed boats considered to be a predecessor of the modern surfboard. Felipe Pomar has recently taken on the role of educating the world about Peru’s surfing traditions.
It wasn’t until the turn of the 19th century that surfing came to America. The first first documented case in California was 1885, when three teenage princes from Hawaii surfed in Santa Cruz for a school break. In 1907, George Freeth, the father of modern surfing was brought over from Hawaii to surf on Huntington Beach as part of a publicity stunt to bring in tourists. It was around this time surfers in Waikiki began to revive the sport, part of which was an effort to boost tourism to Hawaii. Hawaii’s “Ambassador of Aloha,” Duke Kahanamoku is responsible for bringing surfing to the modern age, exposing the sport to the United States and popularizing it in Australia.
Today, there are more than 20 million surfers around the world, with legendary surf spots dotting the map from California to Fiji. The International Surfing Association has more than 86 nations as members, and are hoping to get into the Olympics in 2020. In the meantime, the 50th annual World Surfing Games started Oct. 24 in Punta Rocas, featuring 192 athletes and officials from 32 countries.
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