Quick Intro: History of Surfing in New Zealand
Unlike most regions of Western civilization, the history of surfing in New Zealand can be traced back to the native Polynesians in a form of canoe surfing and body surfing known as whakarere that predates the arrival of European settlers. Duke Kahanamoku was the first person to use a modern style of surfing when he gave an exhibition of the sport before a crowd of exhibited onlookers by catching waves off Lyall Bay in at the turn of the century. Duke Kahanamoku was a surfer from Hawaii who one five Olympic medals in swimming and helped to spread longboard surfing all over the world.
In the decades following the introduction of modern surfing to New Zealand by Duke Kahanamoku and other surfers, the popularity of surfing grew through the spread of a growing number of lifesaving organizations. These organizations used surf boards for both recreationally and as a tool during lifesaving operations throughout the early history of surfing in New Zealand. Eventually, different lifesaving organizations in New Zealand became increasingly competitive with one another, and the first surfing competitions were held by rival lifesaving organizations as early as the 1910s. The first nationwide lifesaving surfing competition was held in 1922 amongst affiliated surf clubs.
By the middle of the 20th century, surfing enthusiasts in New Zealand had begun creating custom surf boards designed for local surfers. One of the most influential surf board designers in New Zealand was Denis Quane. Denis Quane started surfing on a traditional 12-foot longboard at the age of eleven in 1953, but he began using custom 7-foot boards made by local surfers within the years to come. By the late 1950s, Quane was designing surfboards of his own made of fiberglass and balsa wood. Quane's board began selling very successfully, and a number of other surfboard shops carrying locally crafted boards began popping up in the North Island.
The next major development in the history of surfing in New Zealand occurred when the American surfers Rick Stoner and Bing Copeland brought their Malibu boards to country in the 1958. Surfers from all over New Zealand got the opportunity to learn about these boards and the national competitions that year and returned home to start crafting similar surfboards of their own in their hometowns. Due to the fact these new boards were far easier to maneuver and transport, a whole new generation of surfers soon emerged and came to dominate the coasts of New Zealand throughout the 1960s.
It was around this time that Australian surfers became to visit the top beaches of the country in high numbers as more Australians were learning to surf purely for recreational purposes. Many New Zealand surfers refer to the middle of the 1960s as the era of "the surfing revolution" that officially put New Zealand on the map as an ideal location for high quality surfing. The Australian surfer John McDermott won the Senior Open title at the NZ Surfriders Association competition in 1963, and he soon joined forces with national surfing championship winner Peter Way to play a pivotal role of the growth of the sport in New Zealand into the 21st century.
Throughout the late 20th century, surfing became an increasingly important part of New Zealand's culture as the reputation of country's ideal surfing waters grew throughout the world. In 1976, the first event of the first World Professional Surfing Tour was held in New Zealand and won by Michael Peterson. By 1984, the New Zealand official surf team was travelling on the international circuit and beginning to dominate the World Championships. In 1995, New Zealand hosted The Billabong Pro in Raglan for the nation's first ASP World Qualifying Series. While the New Zealand Surfing Association was responsible for the growth of the sport in the islands during much of the 20th century, the organization underwent restructuring in 1997 and is now known as Surfing New Zealand.
During the early 21st century, New Zealand has hosted major events for all of the internationals surfing competitions, and more recreational surfers travel to New Zealand today than ever before. Some of the best known surfers New Zealand surfers competing today include Emma Williams, Paige Hareb and Alan Byrne.