What Makes Surfing Popular?

Why surfing is so popular?

Let me start with a personal note, as it will genuinely accompany us through this post: I don’t like what’s popular. Now let me explain.

You see, when you’re a kid all you want is to align with what everyone else is doing. You want to fit in, to be like your friends, to do what’s cool.

And that makes sense! We’re social animals after all, and the need to belong is hardwired into our DNA.

But as you grow older something changes. You begin to realize that fitting in isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, it can be quite stifling. You start to feel the need to express yourself in your own unique way.

You start to develop what I like to call an “individual taste”. You know, you start to like things that not everyone likes. And to me that’s great! It’s part of growing up, finding your own identity.

But surfing is different. Surfing is a popular sport now more than ever as it’s even part of the Olympic games. And I love it.

And of course, there’s nothing wrong with liking what’s popular. It actually feels good to do something that many people already chose to do before it, it gives some sort of affirmation – kind of “you’re in the right way” whispering.

Surfing wasn’t always popular among the crowd. Something started to crack inside many human beings, including me.

I think it has something to do with the fact that surfing is the perfect combination of physical and mental challenge, the sense of freedom and adventure, and the social aspect of the sport.

Let’s break that down a bit, shall we?

History First – How It All Started?

First, a little bit of history: surfing is essentially riding waves, and this activity likely has ancient origins, dating back to when humans first started swimming in the ocean.

In this regard, body surfing is the most ancient form of wave catching. The sport of surfing may have started earlier than previously thought.

Archaeological evidence suggests that ancient cultures in Peru surfed on reed watercraft for fishing and recreation up to five thousand years ago, while the relatively recent innovation of standing up on a surfboard was actually first developed by the Polynesians.

The modern history of surfing, however, is most often associated with ancient Hawaii. The ancient Hawaiians were masters of the ocean, skilled in fishing, canoe building, and wave riding. And they had a name for this unique activity: he’e nalu, which translates to “wave sliding”.

Joseph Banks noted the art of surfing in his journal while on board HMS Endeavour (a British Royal Navy research vessel) during James Cook’s maiden voyage while staying in Tahiti in 1769.

The Hawaiian royalty was the first to really embrace surfing as a pastime and it quickly spread throughout the islands, causing surfing to become an important part of Hawaiian culture and tradition.

The ancient Hawaiian people didn’t see surfing as just a fun activity, hobby, or career like we do today.

Rather, surfing was incorporated into their culture and made into art rather than a sport. After the Western World discovered Hawaii, Hawaiian culture changed.

While Europeans were focused on exploring and colonizing the Pacific, they viewed the islands as being small and unimportant in comparison to everything else.

Due to that, immigration from other countries was raised and during the same period, surfing was actually suppressed, which many people saw as a waste of time.

The popularity of surfing waned, but then everything changed – Waikiki became a tourist destination.

A few wealthy Americans came to the beach and saw that the locals were surfing at an established surf break in Waikiki and they themselves wanted to try it out.

The news of this new sport quickly spread, and locals in Waikiki began giving lessons and demonstrations for tourists.

This began as a foundation for surf culture, which has been recreated countless times around the world and is continuing today: people who, for at least part of their daily lives, devote the majority of their time to living on or near the beach and surfing as much as they can.

The groups in Hawaii following Australia, and California set the scene for global modern surf culture as we know it today.

What Is It In Surfing That Makes It So Popular?

It was once noted that “A surfer that doesn’t respect his past will have a dull swell present”. I completely made that up but knowing the history of a hobby and your passion could explain the status of surfing popularity.

But what is it that made surfing become so popular today?

Physical and Mental Challenges

The physical and mental challenge of surfing is what really sets it apart from other sports.

Paddling out to catch a wave, popping up on your board, and riding the wave all the way, require a lot of strength, stamina, and coordination. It’s a full-body workout that will leave you feeling exhausted but exhilarated.

Sure, other sports are physically demanding, but few require the same level of focus and concentration as surfing.

You need to be in the moment, completely present, or you’ll get wiped out, or even worse, regret that you missed that gnarly swell.

You need to be able to read the waves, anticipate where the wave will break, and then make your move. This takes focus, concentration, and split-second timing.

Relaxation and Freedom

There’s also a sense of freedom and adventure that comes with surfing. When you’re out there on your board, it’s just you and the waves.

You can go where you want when you want, and no one can tell you what to do. It’s a sport for those who crave independence and an adrenaline rush.

And then there’s the simple fact that it’s really fun. Surfing is one of those activities that just makes you feel good.

It’s a great way to relax and forget about all your troubles. When you’re out there riding the waves, you can’t help but smile and get excited.

Surfing Is Just Cool

One of the most awesome things about surfing is that is just a sport that looks really cool. It’s hard to admit because that’s a bit narcissistic, but we have to stay objective – it just looks so badass to be riding a wave on your board.

It takes a lot of skill and athleticism to do it well, and people can tell when you’re good at it. Surfing is definitely a sport that looks impressive to spectators.

It’s also the surf culture, which unleashes (make sure you have your leash on 🥁) the awesomeness of the aloha vibes – a relaxing, chill, and cool atmosphere induced by surfing slang, music, and clothing. The surfing culture has already spread all over the world among surfers and non-surfers alike.

Surfing Community

There’s the social aspect of surfing. Surfing is a very social sport. When you’re out there on the waves, you’re part of a community.

The surfer’s community has also helped to create a sense of camaraderie and fellowship among surfers.

The surfing community is one of the things that makes surfing such an amazing sport. It’s a community of passionate people, that share the same lifestyle.

This creates connections between people from different cultures, classes, nationalities, and walks of life on the basis of what they love to do.

The aloha spirit is alive and well in the surfing community. When you’re part of the community, you feel like you belong. You feel like you’re part of something special.


so as you already figured, there are many reasons that make surfing popular today. History played a main role, as it’s one of the most ancient sports in the world.

It’s also a sport for those who crave independence and an adrenaline rush, that uses much of your body muscles and your brain, and then there’s a simple fact – it’s really fun and cool.

Stay connected and get to know the surfs around you and be a part of the surfing culture. It’s awesome and fulfilling, I promise!