Surfing has seen a number of defining moments and developments over the years, but here are a few we think are pivotal.

1. The discovery of the North Shore, Oahu

When the original pioneers began to head west they uncovered stretch of coastline not rivalled by anywhere in the world. Break after break of truly world class waves. Hawaii is the benchmark for surfing everywhere. It is the proving ground for any surfer wanting to make it on the world stage. Surfing has its roots in Hawaii and it’s the rightful jewel in the world tour crown. Every winter the world’s eye looks upon Hawaii’s North Shore to see the next crazy trick or the biggest fattest barrel. So much expansion and progression of the sport has taken place here without Hawaii surfing would be a much duller sport.

North Shore2. The short board

The invention of the short board changed surfing forever. With less board to contend with it suddenly enabled surfers to do much bigger turns and get deeper in the pocket. The short board soon took over to become the most dominate aspect of surfing, although long boarding still enjoys massive popularity.

The short board3. Surf videos

Original classics like Bruce Brown’s Endless summer were played to public audiences across America in cinemas, theatres and auditoriums inspiring an audience of young surfers to get in the water. The same ting is happening now with the latest YouTube clip of the craziest air imaginable, surf videos are a major part of a surfer’s life. Since their conception in the 40’s and 50’s the surf video has inspired thousands to grab their boards and get in the sea. Instructive as well as motivational surf videos are used to help improve skills and techniques and are a major factor in the progression of the sport.

Surf videos4. The thruster

Simon Anderson winning the ’81 Bells Beach Classic was much more about the new fin set up than about his win, propelling this new design into the limelight. The advantages of the three fin set up are obvious, greater hold in the wave allowing for much more powerful turns. From this moment on surfing had changed for good, a new era began and a new standard for surfboard design was installed that remains to this day.

The thruster5. Airs

The rise of airs has been an interesting journey. From modest beginnings in the 70’s and 80’s there were many who opposed airs claiming them to be not real surfing. Receiving low scores in contests until fairly recently when the judges could no longer ignore the skill involved. Airs are a specialist area of surfing almost exclusively for waves under eight foot they require a lot of practice and an advanced technique that not everybody can the last ten years airs have evolved to become something extra ordinary and are firmly in the surfing mainstream for good!

Airs6. Tow-ins

Firstly with zodiacs (a type of inflatable RIB) and soon after with jet skis being towed into waves changed big wave surfing in a huge way. No longer having the restrictions of having to paddle into a wave being towed in allowed surfing to go big, really really big. The tow-in made the impossible possible letting people ride truly enormous waves. Before tow-ins going big meant a bigger board as you needed the length to get enough paddle speed to catch the wave. Jet-ski assistance not only enables you to catch much much bigger waves but also to use a much shorter board considerably improving performance. Starting in Hawaii and quickly spreading to every big wave spot out there, jet skis have made the exploration of outer reefs way more feasible. The only thing that seems to limit big wave chargers these days are the waves that Mother Nature serves up.

Tow in surfing7. Kelly Slater

How can one person be a defining moment of a sport? Well with Kelly Slater, he has been at the forefront of surfing for well over twenty years continually innovating and pushing the boundaries he has had many defining moments. Kelly is without a doubt the greatest competitive surfer of all time, he has won eleven world titles and has just about every competitive record there is, including the youngest and oldest world champion. Kelly has matched and beaten three generations of surfers always evolving and striving to the next level. At forty two he is in the twilight of his competition career but what he does next will surely surprise us all. “Whatever you do, you can do it better,”- Kelly Slater.

Kelly SLater

What do you rank as a defining moment in the history of surfing?


Global Surf Sounds brings together travel, surfing and music around the world. A source for the worldwide surfing community to reach the far ends of the earth in the search for the perfect wave, sound and adventure.