Whilst we in Europe were dealing with Roman conquest, religious squabbles in the Crusades, the odd plague and the occasional war, the Polynesians were a much more sensible, peaceable bunch: They got busy inventing surfing.
No one is quite sure when the first Polynesian stepped on a board (which they’d shape from a solid tree trunk) but the activity was firmly rooted in their traditions before Europeans first met them in 1779. It certainly isn’t a recent fad.
“Much like today the wave sliders of ancient Polynesia prayed for surf, wanting to be challenged by bigger and bigger swells.”
Surfing was way more than the hobby it is now. Back then it was an art form woven into the cultural fabric of Polynesia and especially Hawaii. It was generally restricted to the upper classes with warriors, chiefs and priests the people most commonly seen in the water. Their ability to tame the biggest waves meant they earned extra respect and rose through society.
Much like today the wave sliders of ancient Polynesia prayed for surf, wanting to be challenged by bigger and bigger swells. There were also dedicated shapers within the community who were skilled at carving the massive 12-20 feet boards from solid Koa trunks. Researchers have yet to discover whether these shapers also sold overpriced board shorts.