Source Documents
origin of  watercraft - surfboards, 2014-2016 

On the Origin of Watercraft - Surfboards.

On the Origin of Watercraft and Oceanic Navigation
By Means of Design and Experimentation
On the Origin of Surfboards

A Natural Philosophy of the Art of Surf Riding.
Shoalhaven River, NSW, 2014-2016.

Following numerous drafts, this paper is intended to establish the basis for all my research on the science and art of surf riding.
Although subject to future revision, the current version has been uploaded to celebrate the centenary of Duke Kahanamoku's surf riding exhibitions in Australia at Freshwater, Manly, Cronulla and Dee Why during the summer of 1914-1915.

At Freshwater:
Daily entries from 14th December 1914 posted at in Australia

While the general focus is surf riding, the broad context is maritime history, in some aspects it is archaeological, anthropological, occasionally philosophical, and often speculative. 
The accreditation for the illustrations and photographs link from the images.
A number of the footnotes have links to transcribed extracts, also available in the Source Documents menu

Swimming Floats, Float Boards and the Invention of Swimming.
One of man's earliest wooden tools was the log when used as a swimming-float, the first solid watercraft and the basis for all subsequent maritime developments, until the use of metal.
These developments may have not been exclusive to Homo sapiens, Richard Dawkins  has suggested that "Homo erectus, conceivably made boats as well as fire," and  Homo floresiensis, while somewhat controversial, could not have occupied the island of Flores without some type of watercraft.

The appearance of wooden tools in the archaeological record is exceptionally rare, and, consequently, their importance has been significantly underestimated.
For example, the prototype for the first tipped-spear was, no doubt, a version of Odysseus's burnt stick, sharpened and hardened in hot coals and then impaled in the eye of the Cyclops.
Writing of later developments, Jabob Bronowski (1970) noted:

"it may be that the idea [of working in stone] comes, in the first place, from splitting wood, because wood is a material
with a visible structure which easily opens along the grain, but it difficult to shear across the grain."

Furthermore, in speculating on the development of ancient coastal cultures, any potential archaeological sites have by now, surely, been severely disrupted by major changes in sea levels.

In his definitive study, Water Transport- Origins and Early Evolution (1946), James Hornell  began:

 “It is doubtful if early man became acquainted with the art of swimming prior to the utilisation or invention of some form of buoyant appliance capable of supporting his body when he ventured beyond his depth in river or lake.”

A simple log, buoyant enough to support the rider, the swimming-float was used initially in crossing deep or rapidly flowing water courses, usually freshwater rivers and lakes, or occasionally, coastal lagoons.
Held by one or both arms horizontal to the swimmer's body, where the beam was broader than the length, the log was propelled by a frog-like kick of the legs; now commonly identified as one component of the breast stroke swimming style.
Occasionally, the one free arm may be used either cross-arm, as in the breast stroke, or with an over-arm stroke.

Swimming-Float: Horizontal, after Leonardo da Vinci, 1490.

The application of these skills formed the basis for the development of basic swimming, independent of a buoyant support.
In 1645 Michael Hemmersam observed of the "Moors" of the Gold Coast, West Africa:

"In the second and third year they tie the children to boards and throw them into the water, and so they learn to swim.
Thus they are brought up with little trouble.”

In Australia, the swimming-float was still use in the early years of the 20th century.

Aboriginals with swimming-floats, Arnhem Land, c1930.
Photograph: Donald Thompson.

Note that that these early experiments with timber were probably paralleled with the use of composite craft, rudely, or even naturally, formed from dry branches or reeds.

While reed rafts and boats would reach a high degree of sophistication in the hands of ancient shipwrights, it is likely that their initial use was largely confined to inland waters.
The Egyptians famously constructed huge ships from papyrus reed for use on the Nile, and in 1970 Thor Hyderdayl successfully crossed the Atlantic on a replica reed vessel, Ra II.
Sea-going reed rafts or boats were used across the Pacific basin,
including the caballito of Peru, the seri of California, pora of Rapinui (Easter Island), and the reed catamaran of Tasmania.
However, these later developments were most probably constructed in response to the lack of suitable timber, invariably the preferred material for sea going vessels.

This study focuses primarily on developments in timber in the littoral tropical coastal zone.
Timber is structurally superior, was the dominant material for shipbuilding until the 19th century, and clearly preferred for use in the surf zone, described by Willard Bascom as "the most exciting part of the ocean."
Generally, the littoral tropical coastal zone ensures regular access to alternative bio-cultures, including sources of freshwater, with a rich seasonal biodiversity, not to mention benign air and water temperatures.

The first swimming-floats were possibly obtained by serendipity, for example, suitable sized logs selected from a horde of fallen timber following a flood or an extreme wind storm.
Later, after identifying suitable buoyant timbers from the local forest, harvesting and shaping of small craft could be carried out with basic labour and rudimentary skills- suitable branches, broken from a tree trunk, with any protuberances removed and the irregular ends trimmed over a hearth.

Subsequently, in the first application of naval architecture, a relatively wide and long wooden swimming-float was turned 90 degrees and paddled longitudinally.
This was the "float board," a term used in 1825 by Lord Byron to describe the surfboards of Hawaii.
Whereas the swimming float was usually propelled with one arm, with support under the chest, both arms were now free to use in the over-arm stroke, and importantly, the rider could also use either the frog-kick or the high speed scissors-kick.

Float-Board: Longitudinal, after Leonardo da Vinci, 1490.

The crawl, the fastest style of swimming, is characterised by the combination of the alternate over-arm stroke and scissors-kick.
Often, and clearly erroneously, referred to as the Australian Crawl or the American Crawl, the anecdotal histories in each case invariably source the earliest influences as “native swimmers.”
It’s antiquity and superiority to other strokes was confirmed by “native swimmer,” Duke Paoa Kahanamoku at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics.
The other modern competitive strokes are the breast-stroke, noted above, and the back-stroke, the over-arm stroke and scissors-kick of the crawl, inverted.
The most recent, the butterfly, combines a simultaneous over-arm stroke, occasionally used by board paddlers, and a dolphin-kick, an efficient method when swimming fully submerged.

Furthermore, with the longitudinal orientation of board and body, the float-board could be paddled even faster than when swimming the crawl.
Later, larger boards, wider than 13'' (33 cm), offered the alternatives of paddling using the more powerful kneeling position, or in the more relaxed sitting position, both
significantly improving the rider’s field of sight.

The maximum float-board width is about 24 inches (60 cm), above which paddling technique is impeded.

When managed by a skilled rider, the float-board vastly expanded access to remote hunting and foraging grounds.

The use of float-boards in the Pacific was first reported
de Quiros in 1595, who voyaged with Álvaro Mendaña to the Marquesas, where they were greeted by:

"about seventy canoes, in each of which came three men, in some more in others less.
Others came swimming, and others on logs."

Two hundred years later,
its use was still prevalent in the Marquesas, David Porter noting in 1812:

"a kind of surf board, (is) used chiefly by the boys and girls, and are intended solely for paddling about the harbour."
Furthermore, the use of the float-board could be a pleasant and invigorating experience in a, as yet, unexplored environment.
Throughout his novel, The Wind in the Willows (1908), Kenneth Graham is fulsome in his praise of a life aquatic.
In "one of the most-quoted lines from all of English literature," Ratty contemplates the pleasures of "simply messing about in boats."
The full passage is worth (re-)reading, beginning with Mole's comment:

"Do you know, I've never been in a boat before in all my life."
"What?" cried the Rat, open-mouthed:
"Never been in a -- you never—well I—what have you been doing, then?"
"Is it so nice as all that?" asked the Mole shyly, though he was quite prepared to believe it as he leant back in his seat and surveyed the cushions, the oars, the rowlocks, and all the fascinating fittings, and felt the boat sway lightly under him.
"Nice? It's the only thing," said the Water Rat solemnly, as he lent forward for his stroke.
"Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing - absolute nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.
Simply messing," he went on dreamily: "messing—about—in—boats; messing----------- "

Ratty and Mole simply messing about in boats.
Ernest Shepard: Toad Hall from the water, 1931 (detail)

The Coastal and Pelagic Fishery.
Initial exploration and foraging in the coastal zone (beach combing) would have uncovered many food sources similar to freshwater varieties; however, there would have been a large number previously unaccounted species.
There is considerable world-wide variation in samphires, the name given to the distinct edible plants that grow in coastal areas.
he coconut (Cocos nucifera), a source of flesh and freshwater in an airtight container, is widespread across the Pacific; its value to the navigator only surpassed by the green sea turtle.

A large variety of marine species were available for ready harvest, particularly when exposed on the low tide.
These include shellfish, crustaceans, and echinoderms-
starfish, sea urchins, sand dollars, and sea cucumbers.

The variety of open ocean species was illustrated when examples were stranded on-shore, often the result of extreme tidal or swell events, and, in the case of the larger mammals or fish, particularly if affected by illness or injury.

Joseph Lycett: Aboriginals feasting on a beached whale,
Newcastle, NSW, ca. 1817.

The acquisition of aquatic experience and technological skills saw the float-board employed as a platform for fishing, at the most simple level, serving to support the catch collected when diving for marine species.
Robert Rattray (1923) documented the padua of Lake Botsumtwi, West Africa; a unique case of an ancient float-board still in use in the 20th century, and which is examined in detail below.
He illustrates four simple types of nets used by mpadua riders, and notes "another way of catching fish which is even more primitive.
It is called abontuo.
The fisherman dives under the water, remains under from thirty to forty seconds, and comes up holding a fish between his teeth - to leave the hands free for swimming."

It could be also used to stalk fish and birds with a spear (or harpoon); to set nets or basket-traps; when dragging nets (possibly in tandem); or with a line and hook.
The use of the spear, or harpoon, a timber shaft with the tip carved or fitted with barbs was widespread in Palaeolithic times.

Fishing-line, thread, twine, or rope, was produced from fine strips of plant matter, and is an essential component in producing nets and baskets.
These items are even rarer in the archaeological record than timber, however, fossilised fragments "of probably two-ply laid rope of about 7 mm diameter" have been found in one of the caves at Lascaux, dated about 15,000 bp.
In Australia,the jaw of Mungo Man, dated to 43,000 bp, shows severe wear to the rear lower molars on one side, with the strong implication that this was the result of preparing large amounts of thread or twine, to be woven into fishing nets.

Illustrated on the right, the world's oldest fish hook, possibly 23,000 bp, was unearthed in East Timor, alongside evidence from fish bones that modern humans were catching fish from the open ocean as far back as 42,000 years ago.
Almost half of the 38,000 fish bones at the site were from pelagic species, that is, fish that dwell in the open ocean, with tuna the most common species, but also evidence of humans eating sharks and rays, among others.

"How the pelagic fish were caught isn't known, but the researchers speculate that it was done from boats or rafts using either nets or fibre lines with hooks." (my emphasis)

The nesting grounds of coastal, sea, and migratory birds are rich sources of both flesh and eggs.
The most famous example of the harvesting of sea-bird eggs is the bird-man ritual of Rapanui (Easter Island).
With the return of the migratory sooty-tern, contestants vied to be the first to return with an egg from an offshore island hatchery, success assuring prestige for their clan for the upcoming year.
The competitors paddled to sea on pora, woven reed float-boards.

Radiguet: Bird-man competitor and pora, Rapanui, 1841.

At some point, a float-board was integral in the rescue of a tribal member in distress, the saving of a life significantly cementing social bonds or obligations.
One modern surfboard, the rescue board, has been specifically developed for this purpose.
The recognition of the potential dangers of water and the commitment to assist anyone in difficulty appeared early, and still operates, in the moral code.
The Maritime Search And Rescue Convention of 1979 obliges state parties to:

 "ensure that assistance be provided to any person in distress at sea… regardless of the nationality
 or status of such a person or the circumstances in which that person is found."

Given the importance of buoyancy, an awareness of difference between green and dried timber, with a reduction in water content from a possible 50%,  down to 12%, and the identification of suitable lightweight timbers from the local forest was primary .

With time, the available technology for harvesting and construction included fire and an expanding variety of bone, shell, and/or stone tools, as well as such wooden poles or ropes required to remove and transport the log from the forest.
The method employed by the timber-cutters of Seafon, on the west coast of Africa and recorded by John Atkins in 1735, was probably universal.
On their annual expedition up-river:

"They cut it into large pieces, and leave it on the ground till the land-flood favours their bringing it into the river, and then
canoes are laden away with it, to lay in store at Barcaderas, where the Chief are still left residing."

Recognising the potential of the off-shore fishing grounds, and after generations of familiarity with in-shore conditions, the ancient coastal fisherman went down to the sea on boards.
Well over 50,000 years ago, the float-board was the basic watercraft of the early tropical coastal fishermen.
Given that the development of the swimming float to float board and then to the sea-going raft was likely an extremely long-term process, the earliest experimentation must seriously predate the first sea-crossings by the  Australian Aboriginals on wooden rafts.

From a lost world in deepest Africa- the Mpadua of Lake Botsumtwi.
A float-board is, by definition, longer than it's width and wider than it is thick or deep.
Generally, a larger float board supports a larger weight, and a smaller board is easier to control, with an ideal standard size probably approximating a rider's surface area.
When there was a necessity to transport large loads or tribal members, such as the very young, the elderly or even in the later stages off pregnancy, long-term familiarity with the float-board readily presented the possibility of a composite craft, the raft.

Although used on an inland lake, the float-boards, padua (plural, mpadua), of Lake Botsumtwi in modern Ghana, as described by Robert Rattray, effectively illustrate how such craft could provide all the transport and fishing needs of early tropical coastal dwellers.

The lake is formed in the basin of of a million-year old meteorite impact crater and, reminiscent of Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World (1914), this ancient design has endured in its remote jungle location as a result of the rigorous enforcement of local taboos prohibiting the use of canoes, paddles, or any mechanised vessel.

Rough hewn from logs of a light wood, "almost as soft as cork," the padua is 6 to 8 inches thick, about a foot wide, and range in length from 6 to 10 feet.
With the template trimmed at the nose and tail, they are paddled either prone or sitting.
Furthermore, the construction and dimensions correspond closely to
the olo board of ancient Hawaii, a "thick" (5 to 8 inches) and "narrow"  (less than 15 inches) board made from light-weight willi willi, and ridden prone.
Clearly, ancient float boards similar to the padua would have been particularly effective in launching through the surf zone to access off-shore fishing grounds and islands, and, recreationally, as surfboards.

When passengers or bulk goods required transportation, several padua are bound together to form a temporary raft, mpata.
In 1842, one of H.M.S. Beagle's longboats encountered a party of Aboriginals using an identical method on the north-west coast of Australia.
Mid-way in crossing
Patterson Bay, a distance of approximately three miles, the raft was described as "quite a rude affair, formed of small bundles of wood lashed together, without any shape or form, quite different from any we had seen before."
Two women and several children were aboard, the raft propelled "by four or five men supporting themselves by means of a log of wood across their chests." 

The propulsion of a raft by swimmers was not confined to tropical waters, when crossing a river in Tasmania on a quickly constructed bark catamaran in 1829,
George Augustus Robinson reported:

"It being small I put my legs over it and four of the young female aborigines laying hold at each corner with one hand
with the other swum across towing the catamaran, and I was soon landed on the opposite side."

Prone and sitting mpadua riders.

Several padua bound to form a temporary raft, mpata.
Lake Botsumtwi in West Africa, 1920.

Down to the Sea on Boards
Any enthusiasm for launching upon the open ocean was tempered by an acute awareness acquired from extensive coastal foraging and intensive contemplation of the nature of the surf-zone.
The collective understanding of the effect of the tides, the daily change in swell conditions, and the short-term variation in the surf-beat, no doubt emphasised the potential danger of the surf zone.

In addition to the responsibility to rescue those in distress, a host of misadventures, occasionally fatal, suggested a second commandment, to be applied rigorously both on and off-shore:

Do not turn your back on the sea.

While the Law of the Jungle was already in operation, the Law of the Sea was only just beginning.

On the Waikiki beachfront, Oahu, a statue commemorating famed surfer and Olympic swimmer, Duke Kahanamoku, has received some local criticism.
Suitably aligned for the benefit of visiting photographers, his back is towards the ocean.
This, it is said, something that Duke would never do

Duke Kahanamoku statue,
Waikiki Beach, Oahu.

This essential knowledge is applied before launching and negotiating through the surf-zone, that is, the paddle-out.
Based on the local conditions, launching is preferably from an advantageous location, such as in a rip, inside a bay or river entrance, or from behind reefs or points that provide a shadow from the prevailing swell direction.
In the more rigorous conditions of the open ocean, the timbers selected for float-boards now also required some strength, and it is likely that shapers developed a preference for easily worked grains, and were perhaps becoming aware of the benefits of seasoned timber and experimenting with water-proofing pastes.
In a transition from freshwater rivers and lakes to the ocean, swimmers and float-board riders would have experienced an improvement in performance, due to the higher specific density of the salt water.

No doubt, those who first ventured out to sea did so after considerable contemplation and in the most benign conditions, and the encounter with sizable swells was only attempted with substantial experience.
Critically, is is important to assess the maximum size of the swell before venturing seaward.
In the late 1940s, Willard Bascom, charged with regularly launching a military Dukw into the surf of Oregon, devised a practical and efficient method of estimating the height of breaking waves.

"Simply stand  on the beach face at such a level that the top of the breaker is exactly in line between your eye and the horizon.
Then, as shown in Figure 56 (below), the vertical distance between eye and backrush curl (which is about the same as the
average sea surface) is equal to the height of the breaker."

Willard Bascom's method of
Estimating Breaking Wave Height.
Bascom's method appears to be intuitively understood by surf riders from the turn of the century, and reported wave heights correspond with published photographs and film up to the early 1970s.
Thereafter, for obscure cultural reasons, the question of estimating wave height is said to be in dispute within the surf riding community.
In paddling out, various methods are applied to avoid the incoming waves and there is considerable inconvenience, if not danger, in losing control of the board.
To retrieve a lost board, often the rider can be forced to swim all the way to the beach, which in itself, suggests that before launching in the surf, they already had advanced swimming skills.
It also points to the origins of basic body surfing skills, in an interview in 1915 Duke Kahanamoku suggested that:

 “shooting on a board and in a canoe must have started further back than body shooting.” 

While a loose board may be damaged, or even irretrievably lost, the most serious problem was that it may impact with the rider or, one of their companions.
These dangers are also present in the return to shore, however, for the fisherman they are magnified by the possibly of the loss of the catch.
Collective experience indicated two further laws- always hold on to the board and, failing that, don't panic.

Whereas the fishing techniques and skills developed in the flat-water rivers and lakes were largely transferable to the open ocean, fishing from a float-board with a line and hook took on another dimension.
The "hook and hold" method is relatively simple and highly effective, the prey
finally secured after it submits to exhaustion.
However, as the  range of "large fish" in the open ocean is considerable, and the method is potentially strenuous, highly dangerous and an act of considerable bravado.

The physical and psychological stresses of the "hook and hold" method were explored by Ernest Hemmingway in his Nobel prize winning short story, The Old Man and the Sea (1952).
Of the old man's dreams, Hemmingway writes:

"He was asleep in a short time and he dreamed of Africa when he was a boy and the long, golden beaches and the white beaches, so white they hurt your eyes, and the high capes and the great brown mountains.
He lived along that coast now every night and in his dreams he heard the surf roar and saw the native boats come riding through it.
He smelled the tar and oakum of the deck as he slept and he smelled the smell of Africa that the land breeze brought at morning."

Santiago (Spencer Tracy) and the marlin,
The Old Man and the Sea, 1958.
In the 19th century, the "hook and hold" method was ruthlessly applied in the commercial extraction of whale oil.

Literature's outstanding account of the whaling industry is Herman Melville's Moby Dick, published in 1851.
At the novel's climax, the ship, the Pequod, her captain and and her crew are destroyed by the great white whale of the title.
Ishmael, the narrator and only survivor, is rescued by supporting himself on a coffin, constructed by the ship's carpenter at the request of his Polynesian companion, Queequeg, in response to a vision of impending death.

While fiction, it is the first account of, what is effectively, a hollow-timber float-board.
In the 1870s, Hawaiian surfboards were said to resemble "the lid of a coffin" by Charles Stoddard and Isabella L. Bird.

Hook and hold in extremis-
Ahab (Gregory Peck) and Moby Dick.

Ishmael (Richard Basehart) afloat on

Queequeg's coffin.

Moby Dick, 1956.

Back from the Sea on Boards
In the return to the beach, one option was to time the return with a lull in the surf beat to hurriedly paddle to shore, easily accomplished in benign conditions.
Otherwise, timing was critical and there is considerable danger in being stranded without momentum in the most violent section of the surf.

Alternatively, the power of the incoming waves provide an assisted, but potentially problematic, ride to the shore, that is, wave shooting or riding.
For success, the returning fisherman not only had to ensure their own safety, but also secure the catch, perhaps stored in nets or woven baskets
On the return to shore, the
"all powerful make the wave motive" is dominant..

Generally, the wave rider has two options, either a direct line down the wave and straight to the beach, (for want of a better term) "wave-shooting," or, with more difficulty, a transverse line across the
unbroken wave face, that is, "wave-riding."
If launching onto a breaking wave, wave-shooting usually requires the rider to accelerate down the face and into the trough to avoid the impact of the breaking curl, thereafter riding the wall of "white-water" to the shore.

This is often referred to as "going straight."
This is most commonly employed by fisherman, porters, and in cases of rescue, and particularly when using
canoes or boats.
Note that when shooting, the power of the wave is transformed as a "wave of translation" after breaking, and the rider then travels at wave speed, which generally slows as it approaches the beach.
As almost any buoyant object is likely to be driven shoreward by the power of the white-water, launching and riding the white-water is often disparaged as a rudimentary skill.
However, it value as a safe arena for developing surf skills, particularly for juveniles, cannot be over-estimated.
In addition, it is possible for the rider to traverse in the white water, travelling (slightly) faster than the wave speed, and even to change direction.

On a rocky shore line, some adjustment in direction may be necessary to effect a safe landing.

The experience gained in the white-water can be applied when riding waves on the outside break; in some rare circumstances, after breaking, the bottom may deepen again allowing the wave of translation to reform into a clean wave face similar to those breaking outside, although significantly smaller and less powerful than the initial wave.

Traversing is symmetrical, and the direction is specified from the perspective of the rider; that is when they are riding a "right (-hander),"
the surfer is travelling to the observers' left, and the reverse when the surfer catches a "left (-hander)."


Wayne Lynch on a large left,
somewhere off the coast of Victoria,

Rusty Miller rides a very-large right,
Sunset Beach, Oahu,

When wave-riding, most associated with "recreational surfing," the surfer travels faster, and on some occasions can travel significantly faster, than wave speed, implicit in the Hawaiian name for the surfboard, papa he nalu, translated as "wave sliding board."
Wave-riding will be examined in more detail below; suffice it to say at this point that the hydrodynamics are complex and the bravado, the skill, and the exhilaration can be considerable.

Wave selection can be critical for a successful shoot or ride.
Generally, the largest waves break at the greatest distance from the beach, and usually provide the quickest and most direct ride all the way to the beach.
Once committed, expert control is required as the board rapidly accelerates at the "take-off."

A common misunderstanding is that the surfer paddles the board “onto the wave,” as not-so-clearly explained by Tom Blake in 1935.

“in surfriding some momentum must first be attained, by paddling the board with the hands and arms, to catch up with the incoming swell.
(adjusted, and my emphasis)

Technically, at the “take-off,” the rider manoeuvres their craft to align it with a suitably steep area of wave face, the critical angle usually a function of the board or the vessels' buoyancy.
As the wave is travelling much faster (12 knots) than it is possible to paddle (5 knots), rather, it is the wave that "catches" the surfer.

Paddling for the wave both aligns the craft on the wave face and somewhat reduces the difference experienced in the acceleration to planing speed.
By accurate positioning, expert surfboard riders have been known to complete the "no-paddle take-off."

Willard Bascom noted that "surfboards, body-surfers and porpoises can take energy out of the waves to propel themselves by sliding down the forward surface of an advancing wave."
He then offered a basic explanation:
"The surfboard is thrust forward by a downhill force or slope drag, shown in Figure 46 as a vector connecting the gravity force to the buoyancy force (which always acts perpendicular to the water surface).

When the slope drag is greater than the hydrodynamic drag (water resistance) the object moves at wave-crest speed.
The trick of surfing, of course, is to get the board moving and the weight properly balanced so that the slope drag can take over the work of propulsion in the moment the wave passes beneath."
Note that is only in one plane, whereas "if the surf board is also moving sidewise across the face of the wave, it may move at a considerably higher velocity than the wave itself."

FIG. 46. Slope thrust drives the surfer and the porpoise, (after Harold Saunders), adjusted.

Bascom also explains the wave riding of dolphins and porpoises:
"The air-water interface is a surface of constant pressure; beneath it are other parallel surfaces of consitant pressure that move with imaginary waves that we subsurface reflections of the visible waves above.

Porpoises are neutrally buoyant and with a little practice learn to tilt themselves at the proper slope to take advantage of the slope drag to surfboard on some underwater constant-pressure surface.
These animals can ride beneath the bow wave of a ship indefinitely without appearing to exert any effort at all.
Apparently a porpoise can do this because the skin drag of his curious hide is less than the slope drag on the invisible surface."

A successful ride usually requires the rider to adjust their balance to moderate the board’s speed and negotiate the complex vagaries of the breaking wave, the shape and dynamics of which are infinitely complex.

Some of the internal forces of a breaking wave, based on motion picture analysis in a wave tank or channel, are illustrated by Willard Bascom, right.

The movement of a wave as it breaks in a wave channel.

In addition, the shape of the individual breaking wave is a function of the local wind conditions, diffraction or dispersal by coastal geography, off-shore and inshore bottom contours, and the water depth determined by the tide, with an constantly changing variation in the water level as a result of the action of the preceding wave.
Note that Bascom's illustration only details the forces in one plane, and does not represent "peeling," the horizontal progression of the curl to the right or to the left.
In addition to the above factors, the wave shape is function of water's unique properties of density, cohesion, and surface tension.

Furthermore, a well shaped wave takes the form of a concave spiral, of which Leonardo da Vinci observed:

 "the rotary movement of every liquid is so much the swifter as it is nears the centre of its revolution."

That is, when traversing the wave face, the water moving faster and the wave is steeper behind the surf rider, and the water is moving slower and the wave less-steep ahead.

Illustration: Liquid Concave  Spiral [adjusted]
Leonardo da Vinci: From Four varieties of spiral, 1513-1514.

Photograph: Liquid Concave  Spiral
George Greenough:The Innermost Limits of Pure Fun #5, 1970.

Note that the float-board, used either in a rapidly flowing river or on a wave, was undoubtedly one of man's earliest encounters with the concept of speed, travelling considerably faster, and with minimum physical effort, than ever previously experienced.

The only other contemporary available thrill was probably cliff-jumping, an activity with some similarities to wave riding.

While a successful return to the shore was principally assessed by the securing of the harvest, it was demonstrably an exciting activity requiring daring, experience, and skill.
Cliff-jumping into water, from the highest available point, was an ancient test of bravado, and a similar status is attributed to riding the largest available waves.
Note that the jump could be said to be a measure both height and the length of the ride, and also the rapid acceleration, similar in both cases, at the “take-off.”

Experience is to the fore in wave selection and in aligning the take-off position.
When riding, experience plays some part in "reading the wave" to make suitable adjustments in balance, however athletic skill can significantly affect performance.
Less obvious, less quantifiable, and intrinsically human, is the element of style, another feature common to wave riding and cliff-jumping.
On land, the combination of performance and style are integral elements in the appreciation of the art of dancing.

In his novel set on the south-west coast of Australia, Tim Winton appreciated surf riding's combination of physical challenge and performance art:

"blokes dancing themselves across the bay with smiles on their faces and sun in their hair.
How strange it was to see men do something beautiful.
Something pointless and elegant, as though nobody saw or cared."

Wave selection, wave size, length of ride, athletic performance, and style are the basic elements regularly considered by surf riders in assessing wave riding skills.
These were no doubt considered by judge who awarded first place to
Nakooko, the winner of the first recorded modern surfing contest, held at Lahania, Maui, to celebrate Kamehameha Day in June 1877.
Victorious over three male competitors, Nakooko was a mature woman, "past her youth, yet ... of a comely form."

As the float board developed into the specialised surf riding board, in the general maritime world it would continued its role as the self-rescue craft of last resort.
Throughout history there are abundant records of shipwreck survivors clinging to a buoyant piece of timber, before being rescued or washed to shore, suffice it to note two early accounts from the Mediterranean.

“So it scattered the raft's long beams. And Odysseus
Bestrode one spar as if he were riding a horse.” - The Odyssey

“But the centurion ... commanded that they which could swim should cast
themselves first into the sea, and get to land.

And the rest, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship.
And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land.” - Acts

  St Paul's rescue at Malta Bay.
Inspired by a fresco in the Vatican by Niccolò Circignani, circa 1580. (detail)

Float Boards and Surfboards
In detailing Log Swimming Floats, James Hornell noted that:

 “this section would be incomplete without notice of the surf board of Hawaii
There is good reason to believe that the Hawaiian surf board, now used only for sport, is derived from a true swimming
originally of direct material advantage to the islanders in fishing and in swimming from place to place along the coast."

Although no “primary” location for the invention of the float board-surfboard is likely to be confirmed, the coast of tropical Africa is the obvious candidates.
In 1962, Ben Finney examined several reports of surf riding in West Africa, and concluded that surfboarding in West Africa and Oceania was invented, and evolved, independently.

Pre-dating the first European account of Polynesian surf riding in 1769 by more than fifty years, in 1712 Jean Barbot reported that on the coast of West Africa:
"the young  have no other occupation than to play in the sea, thousands playing on the large waves of the surf
on the coast,
carried on little boards, until the sea casts them ashore on the sand of its beaches." (edited)

In 1756, on the other side of the Atlantic, Philip Aubin observed the children of the Tobago and the Turks islands islands similarly at play.

"They choose a plain beach with no rocks; there, they will move together, each one having a plank in his hand,
as wide as they can find, then they put their chest on the board; then they abandon themselves to the wave."

In the most detailed account of African surf riding, John
Adams (1823) writes of Fantee children amusing  themselves in the ocean using terminology reminiscent of many reports from Polynesia.

"[On] pieces of broken canoes, which they launch, and paddle outside of the surf, when, watching a proper opportunity, they place
their frail barks (boards) on the tops of high waves, which, in their progress to the shore, carry them along with great velocity."

That the surfboards are described as "pieces of broken canoes," is significant.
In his seminal account of surf riding in Tahiti, Joseph Banks (1769) describes the craft, perhaps a little inaccurately, as "the stern of an old canoe."
Broken dugout canoes, most likely splitting longitudinally with the grain and with the timber already finished, in general could have been readily recycled as float-boards, and on the open coasts as surfboards.

On the coast of West Africa, juvenile surf riders grew up to be oceanic fishermen, and wave riding was a common practice when returning to the shore in their dugout canoes.
While the earliest occupation of the islands of the Pacific is currently dated around 2000 BC, the coasts of Africa were occupied considerably earlier.
Furthermore, half way between Africa and the Pacific, considerable wave riding skills were evident at Madras, on the east coast of India, using the famous masula, a sewn plank boat, and the catamaran, a small raft comprised of three logs.

Charles Gold: [Catamaran surf rider], Madras, 1800.

The earliest known European depiction of surf riding, Gold's illustration appeared 30 years before comparable illustrations of surf riding in Hawaii.

For the success of the Polynesian eastward expansion, into the rising sun, the necessary conditions almost certainly included vessels of considerable size and sea-worthiness, accompanied by highly developed navigation, fishing, foraging, and surf skills.
While this does not imply a continuous thread of development from shores of Africa to coral reefs of Hawaii, it strongly suggests the float board was progressively invented and re-invented by early coastal fishermen throughout the tropical zone, and this cumulative experience, in conjunction with a development of manual skills and tools, formed the basis for all future developments in maritime exploration and naval architecture.

Hornell's assumption that the Hawaiian surfboard was "originally of direct material advantage to the islanders in fishing and in swimming from place to place along the coast" is confirmed by members of Cook's expedition in 1778-1779.
Charles Clerke, John Ledyard and George Gilbert, all reported "surfboards" as used as a method of transportation only, as famously depicted in John Webber's A View of KaraKakooa, in Owyhee, 1778.

John Webber: A View of KaraKakooa, in Owyhee, 1778. (detail).
However, his contention that, in 1946 the Hawaiian surfboard is "now used only for sport," is slightly inaccurate.
While the float board had developed into the surfboard principally for sport, it has always retained it potential as a rescue craft and b
y 1946 the hollow timber surfboard was firmly established as a rescue craft in Hawaii, Australia, and on both coasts of the USA.

In respect of the earlier definition, a surfboard is a float board, used or designed to negotiate the surf-zone.
Surfboard design can seek to maximise performance when paddling out- the paddle board, the race board, or the rescue board.
Or, it can seek to maximise performance when riding the wave in- the surf riding or, in Hawaiian, the papa he nalu or “wave sliding" board.
In pre-history, the wooden block swimming float achieved its highest level of sophistication in design and application in the alaia surfboard of the Hawaiian islands.
It was a wide and thin surfboard shaped from a billet (plank) split from the koa, or a similar, tree.
Common in the Tahitian and the Hawaiian Islands, where highly skilled riders were known to ride standing, it was on the later that surf riding became most advanced and culturally entrenched.

This is not surprising; within tropical Polynesia (excluding New Zealand), the Hawaiian islands had the largest land mass, the greatest natural resources, the largest population, exposure to all swell directions, and, largely due to the relative youth of the archipelago’s coral reefs, many of the planet's best surfing breaks.
While the "heavies" at the Pipeline and Waimea Bay are rightly famed, Waikiki remains the ultimate surf riding nursery.

Originally built in sold timber, the majority of fibreglassed polyurethane foam surfboards of the late 20th century retained a longitudinal wooden core, the stringer.
Alphonse Pellion:  Hawaiian alaia, papa he nalu [The Houses of Kraimokou], circa 1819.

Regularly reproduced in surfing books, the illustration is invariably and incorrectly, captioned as "the first image of an olo surfboard."

In the hands of the Polynesians, the alaia was like no other watercraft in the ancient world.
The dynamics of the surfboard are rightly complex, and were not encountered by modern shipwrights until the building of high-speed pursuit craft in the Second World War.
To paraphrase Lindsay Lord (1946):

 “The surfboard's bottom operates at the boundary between two mediums, one of which is approximately 800 times as dense
as the other ...  the fundamental laws of standard naval architecture simply do not apply to a hull skimming the surface."

FIG. 46. Slope thrust drives the surfer and the porpoise, (after Harold Saunders), adjusted.

Two Floatboards = One Raft.
[Awaiting endnotes]
Hornell suggested:
"A couple of logs lashed roughly together probably formed the first advance in the evolution of certain types
of wooden boats from the wooden block used as a swimming float."

Extended experience with the float board offered two options for creating larger sea-going craft, first by combining several float boards to make a raft, a composite craft whose construction and components could have wide variation.

The mpadua, and their temporary raft form, the mpata of Lake Botsumtwi, noted above, are relevant examples 

The raft provided the first regular application of poles and timber paddles, and probably the first use of sails, the steering oar, and centreboards.
In many locations, the regular interchange between the morning off-shore wind and afternoon on-shore, surely was incentive to experiment with off-shore sailing.
Numerous accounts of native fishing record the use of the morning off-shore wind to venture to sea and returning with the on-shore later in the day.
Even with the most rudimentary rig, a safe land-fall was to be assured.
On a larger scale, the principle was used by the Polynesian sailors in their occupation of the eastern Pacific.
In a reversal of Hyerdahl’s theory, by embarking in irregular westerly winds, if unable to locate a suitable land-fall, they were assured of a swift return home with the onset of the dominant eastward flow.

The alternative option, which was certainly a later development, was for a float board shaper to harvest a very large log, and by hollowing out the centre, create the dugout canoe.
A dugout canoe is a small narrow boat, usually pointed at both bow and stern, hollowed from a tree trunk.
The oldest known canoe is the dugout Pesse canoe found in the Netherland which, according to C14 dating, was constructed  between 8200 and 7600 BC.[25]
The oldest known canoe found in Africa, the Dufuna canoe, was constructed about 6000 BC. [27]

Also, it is possible that cross-fertilisation from raft builders contributed to the development of the double dugout canoe, and subsequently addition of the outrigger to the dugout canoe.

Similarly, it is probable that raft construction, such as the Madras catamaran, suggested the addition of clinker or cavell side panels to the dugout canoe; the basis for the future construction of enormous timber vessels, where the dugout canoe, or the float board, retained its primal role as the keel.

According to
Wolfgang Rudolph (1985), the famous fast-sailing clipper ships, initially used to smuggle opium from India to China, were not drawn up as plans.
fter a log was roughly dimensioned to scale, it was hand-shaped shaped by the builder/craftsman "with such care and knowledge as to raise them to the level of artists."
The most celebrated builder of clipper ships was Donald McKay who worked in Boston from 1843 until 1880.
Although his shipyard employed the latest  steam-driven saws and wood-turning lathes, McKay  he continued to shape his models from his own craftsman-like experience, relying chiefly on his eye and hand.
When the design was approved, the model was cut into a dozen or so transverse slabs which were then enlarged to serve as a model for a rib mould to match with the most suited naturally bent oak limbers.[28]

Dr. van den Bergh said it was unlikely that Homo erectus could have built boats that could have taken them to Flores.

“Personally, I think it was some freak event like a tsunami,” he said.[1]

I thought the tsunami event was certainly possible, however it does to some extent suppose the relocation of reasonable number of persons,  ideally with a range of age and experience, and, obviously, able to reproduce.
At the absolute minimum, one fertile pair of the species- the Eve and Adam scenario, or perhaps Blue Lagoon (1980)?[2]
To me this seems extremely unlikely.
As a wild guesstimate, with no evidence whatsoever, the minimum for a successful occupation of a new territory could  possibly number about 5-10 (?).
However, I do note there are records of a number of failed occupations with much larger numbers.
Also, was the entire Indonesian archipelago occupied by the human flotsam of a sequence of tsunamis? 

Alternatively; one of man's earliest wooden tools was the log when used as a swimming-float, the first solid watercraft and the basis for all subsequent offshore maritime developments, until the use of metal.
These developments may have not been exclusive to Homo sapiens, Richard Dawkins  has suggested that "Homo erectus, conceivably made boats as well as fire," and  Homo floresiensis, while somewhat controversial, could not have occupied the island of Flores without some type of watercraft.[3]

Dawkins' use of the term boats is misleading, and it would be incorrect to imagine that they were sailed.
Throughout Asia, for short crossings to visible landfalls, early navigators/colonists used the raft, the combination of several riding floats, for the transport of multiple persons or goods.
Concievably as a fleet, rather than a one-shot lone-wolf, these were paddled and/or kicked, transporting a number of persons with a range of age and experience along with some tools, and probably fresh water, food, and perhaps even fire.
The most significant use if the raft was around 50,000 thousand years ago, when Aboriginals first navigated the straits between South East Asia and Australia, a distance of perhaps 90 kilometres, and the first definitive benchmark in maritime history.[4]


[Projected for sometime in 2015: The Raft]

Swimming Floats, Float Boards and the Invention of Swimming.

Also note:
Surfing Heritage & Culture Center: Origins of Surfing Exhibit,  June 20, 2019.

Dawkins, Richard: Unweaving the Rainbow - Science, Delusion and The Appetite for Wonder, Penguin, London,1988, page 296.

Homo erectus is an extinct species with the earliest first fossil evidence dating to around 1.9 million years ago and the most recent to around 143,000 years ago.
The species originated in Africa and spread as far Georgia, India, Sri Lanka, China, and Java.
 -, viewed 10 May 2014.
Homo floresiensis
-, viewed 10 May 2014.
Homer: The Odyssey, Book 9, circa 700 BC.

Bronowski, J.: The Ascent of Man, BBC (1973) page 95.
Bronowski's philosophical treatise draws widely on his experiences as a Polish-Jewish British, sometimes American, mathematician, biologist, historian of science, theatre author, poet, inventor, humanitarian, parent, and lover.
Also see:
John Lienhard: Clarke and Bronowski, University of Houston, 2003.
Hornell, James: Water Transport- Origins and Early Evolution, Cambridge, 1946, page 1.

Hornell's work is wide-ranging, rigorous, and perceptive, the early chapters unique in the literature.

He differentiates between two types of floats:
"Swimming Floats: accessory devices designed to assist in supporting the body while swimming."
"Riding Floats: a simple means of transport which are bestridden by fishermen and travellers who propel the rude craft paddlewise, with their hands," page 1.
Swimming floats are subsequently sub-divided, based on construction, into Wooden Blocks, Inflated Skins, and Earthen-Pot Floats, pages 2-.17.
The division, based on the position of the paddler, either prone or sitting, is unfortunately less than rigorous, for example he classifies the mpadu of Lake Botsumtwi as riding floats, when they could also be classified as swimming floats.

Hornell's definition is reconfigured here, to read:
"Swimming Floats: wide and short accessory devices designed to assist in supporting the body while swimming."
1946 James Hornell: Swimming Floats.
Leonardo Da Vinci: Vitruvian man, manuscript, circa 1490.

Hemmersam, Michael: Description of the Gold Coast, 1639-1645.
Apolonia Hemmersam, Nuremberg, 1663.
Translated, edited, and published in
Jones., Adam: German Sources for West Afican History 1599-1699.
FranzSteijnerVerlang, Wiesbaden, 1983, page 109.


1645 Michael Hemmersam: Float Boards, Swimming and Canoes, West Africa.

Narrative of the Voyage of the Adelantado Alvaro de Mendana de Neira for the Discovery of the Islands of Solomon
in Morga, Antonio de, Torres, Luis Váez de:
The Philippine islands, Moluccas, Siam, Cambodia, Japan, and China, ... 16th century
Translated by Baron Henry Edward John Stanley, The Hakluyt Society, 1868, page 66.
1595 De Quiros : Marquesas.

Extacts from various editions and translations.

Porter, Capt. David: Journal of a Cruise Made to the Pacific Ocean in the US Frigate Essex in the Years 1812, 1813, and 1814.
 Wiley & Halsted, New York, 1822, page 74.
1813 Capt. David Porter : Madison's Island, Marquesas.

?????Lubelfing, Johann, von: Voyage of 1599 to 1600, UIm, 1612, in
Jones., Adam: German Sources for West Afican History 1599-1699, Wiesbaden, 1983, page 109.

1597-1600 Johann von Lubelfing: Swimming and Canoes, West Africa.

Thompson: Donald Thompson in Arnhem Land, (2003) page 201.

The Egyptians ???
In 1970 Thor Hyderdayl successfully crossed the Atlantic on a replica reed vessel, Ra II.

sea-going reed boats
of Peru,
the seri of California,

Matthew R. Des Lauriers:
The Watercraft of Isla Cedros, Baja California
pora of Rapinui (Easter Island)
reed or bark catamaran of

While the littoral zone usually extends several kilometres upstream from the head of a large river, in some cases small freshwater creeks and lakes can be directly adjacent to the foreshore.
In 2005, based on DNA research, anthropologists at Cambridge University significantly re-assessed the importance of early coastal dwellers in the progressive occupation of the planet, and suggested that rapid coastal migration out of Africa was a possible explanation for how Australia was inhabited thousands of years before modern humans colonised Europe.

Forster and Matsumura : EVOLUTION : Enhanced: Did Early Humans Go North or South?
Science Magazine, 2005,Number 308, pages 965-966.


2005 Debora Smith (SMH, Science Editor): Earth's first beachcombers ended up in Australia.

Bascom, Willard: Waves and Beaches, Anchor Books, New York 1964, [Introduction] page ?.
Willard Bascom was a pioneer in the science of oceanography and his book is the definite account of breaking wave dynamics and their effect on coastal landforms.

serendipity; a faculty of making desirable but un-sought for discoveries - Macquarie Dictionary (1991).
Campers and bush walkers are often pleasantly surprised to find “just the right” forked stick or rock to support the tent or hearth, and the possibility of early man encountering naturally processed “tools,” that served as proto-types, should be at least considered.
Byron, the Rt. Hon. Lord: Voyage of the H.M.S. Blonde to the Sandwich Islands in the Years 1825-26.
John Murray, Albemable Street, London, 1826, page 97.
George Anson Byron (1789-1868) inherited the peerage in April 1824, following the death of his cousin, the famous poet and swimmer, George Gordon Byron.
1825 Lord Byron: Liliah and Floatboards.

The first surfing book, self-published with eight hand printed photos of surfing at Waikiki, included an excerpt from G.G. Byron's poem "Childe Harold" (1820?), which has been often replicated in many subsequent books.
- Gurrey Jr, A.R.: Surf Riders of Hawaii.
.A.R. Gurrey Jr., Honolulu, 1911-1914, page 3.

1911-1914 A. R. Gurrey Jr.: Surf Riders of Hawaii.

In his first timed competition in Honolulu harbour in 1911, Duke Kahanamoku dominated the short distance events swimming in his traditional "native" style, clipping over a second from the current American record for 50 yards, and over four seconds faster for the 100 yards.

The Hawaiian StarHonolulu, August 14, 1911, page 6.

The times were disputed by the mainland authorities, however, and insisted that the Hawaiian officials were in error in their timing, or had incorrectly calculated the distance, and possibly both.

Graham, Kenneth [Anne Gauger, editor]: The Annotated Wind in the Willows.
W. M. Norton, New York, 2009, quotation page 13, illustration page 33..
River and Rowing Museum

The Coastal and Pelagic Fishery.

National Library of Australia

Rattray, R.S.: Ashanti, Negro Universities Press, New York, 1923.
abontuo, page 66.

1923 Robert Rattray: Padua at Lake Bosumtwi, Africa.

Wikipedia: History of Fishing, viewed 1 July 2013.

Wikipedia: Traditional fishing boat, viewed 1 July 2013.

bp, before the present, that is before 1st January 1950, after which carbon-dating is unreliable.

ABC: First Footprints, 14 July 2013. {?}
Zoë Corbyn: Archaeologists land world's oldest fish hook, 24 November 2011, viewed 1 July 2013.

"Far older fish bones have been found at sites in southern Africa – those at the Blombos Cave in South Africa, for example, date from 140,000–50,000 years ago – but they have generally been from inshore species whose capture would require less complex technology."

fishing hook photograph

Radiguet: Bird-man competitor and pora, Rapanui, 1841.
Hyerdahl, Thor: Easter Island, Souvenir Press, London, 1989, pages 21, 144-145.???

The over the years the rescue board has taken many forms, notably the surf-ski, but as of 2014, an almost generic light version is used by rescue units around the world.
The motorised jet-ski or wave-runner could be said to be distantly related.

International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue Convention 1979, Chapter 2.1.10.

Wikipedia: Wood drying, viewed 22 October 2014.

Atkins, John: A Voyage to Guinea, Brasil and the West Indies, C. Ward and R. Chandler, London, 1735, page 227.

1735 John Atkins: Canoes and Fishing, Guinea and Brazil.

"They that goe down to the Sea in Ships, and employ their labour in the great waters, they see the Workes of the Lord, and his wonders in the depe."
- The King James Bible, Psalm 107.

"There is no more fascinating subject than the history of man's going down to the sea in ships and then out across it.
It is the story of maritime peoples everywhere."
- Sharpe, Andrew: Ancient Voyages in the Pacific, London, 1957, page ?

Wikipedia: History of Indigenous Australians, viewed 22 October 2014.

From a lost world in deepest Africa- the Mpadua of Lake Botsumtwi.

Rattray, R.S.: Ashanti, Negro Universities Press, New York, 1923, pages 54 to 66 and Appendix A. page 74.

1923 Robert Rattray: Padua at Lake Bosumtwi, Africa.

Bosumtwi Worldwind SW Public Domain
User:Vesta - Created with NASA WorldWind by User:Vesta using Landsat 7 (false color) satellite image.
Lake Bosumtwi, Ghana, view from Southwest. Bosumtwiis a lake-filled impact crater, about 10.5 km in size an 1.3 million years old.
Vertical exaggeration 3x
Location: 6° 30′ 25.99″ N, 1° 24′ 24.01″ W

Conan Doyle, Sir Arthur: The Lost World , originally published in Strand Magazine, London, April–November 1912.

Online at Project Gutenberg
Wikipedia:The Lost World (Conan Doyle novel)

Writing of surfboards in 1870, John Papa Il named and described the olo as a "thick board," undoubtedly the "narrower board, made from the wood of the 'Wili'Wili," a lightweight timber often used for canoe outriggers, as identified by David Malo in 1838.
Neither author indicated a specific length for the olo board.
In an article published in 1896, the authors described "riding with the olo or thick board, ... this style was called kipapa," that is prone.
Despite the article's numerous errors and inaccuracies, following Tom Blake (1935), the article has been highly valued and often quoted  by surf historians, although riding in the style of kipapa, which is consisent with all the other accounts, is rarely highlighted

- Malo, David: Hawaiian Antiquities (Moolelo Hawaii), Bernice P. Bishop Museum, Honolulu, 2005, page 223.
 [Writen in native Hawaiian circa 1835-1840, translated by Nathaniel B. Emerson, circa 1889, first published 1903.]

1838 David Malo: Surfriding.

- Ii, John Papa: Fragments of Hawaiian History.
Bernice P. Bishop Museum, Honolulu,
1995, page 135.
[Written and published in the native Hawaiian language and published 1866-1870, the first English translation printed 1959.]

1870 John Papa Ii: Board, Canoe and Body Surfriding, Diving.
- Anonymous,
N. K. Nakuina, [Thomas Thrum]: Hawaiian Surf-riding.
Thrum, Thomas G. (editor) : Thrum's Hawaiian Almanac and Annual for 1896.
Honolulu, 1896, pages 106 -113. 
1896 Thrum*: Hawaiian Surfriding.
- Pukui, Mary Kawena and Elbert, Samuel H.:  Hawaiian Dictionary : Hawaiian-English, English-Hawaiian.
  University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu,
first edition 1957, 1986, page ?

- Blake, Tom:  Hawaiian Surfboard, Paradise of the Pacific Press, Honolulu, 1935.
Reprinted as Hawaiian Surfriders 1935, Mountain and Sea Publishing, California, 1983, page ?

Stoke, J. Lort:
Discoveries in Australia, T. and W. Boone, London, 1846. Volume 2, pages 15-16.

1842 J. Lort Stokes: Swimming, Floats and Rafts, North West Australia.
Patterson Bay is now known as
Port Darwin.

Robinson, George Augustus:Tasmanian Journals, (?), 1834, [26 March 1829] page 138.See
1834 Augustus Robinson: Swimming, Rafts and Canoes, Tasmania.

Rattray, R.S.: Ashanti, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1923, figure 9.
1923 Robert Rattray: Padua at Lake Bosumtwi, Africa.

Rattray, R.S.: Ashanti, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1923, figure 6.
1923 Robert Rattray: Padua at Lake Bosumtwi, Africa.
Down to the Sea on Boards

surf beat: the frequency and number of waves in a “set."
It is commonly reported that the “3rd-7th wave is always the largest.”

Dylan, Bob: "The Book of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, The Law of the Jungle, and the Law of the Sea, are your only teachers."
-Jokerman, Infidels, Columbia, 1985.

Kathie Fry: Hawaii for Visitors

Bascom, Willard: Waves and Beaches, Anchor Books, New York 1964, Fig. 56, page 173.
Note that in the case of Willard Bascom, John Kelly's objection "how many oceanographers are seen out in the surf actually measuring waves?" is irrelevant.
- Kelly, John  M.:   Surf and Sea, A.S. Barnes and Co.Inc., New York, 1965, page 223.

Corbett, W.F.: Kahanamoku Talks,The Sun (Sydney), 8th January 1915, page 6. 

don't panic
This sound advice could be said to have universal, and perhaps intergalactic, application, the words said to appear in large letters on the cover of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
- Adams, Douglas: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Pan Books, 1979.

Hemmingway, Ernest: The Old Man and the Sea, Arrow Books, London, 1993, page 18.

Wikipedia: The Old Man and the Sea

Still from The Old Man and the Sea, 1958.

Wikipedia: The Old Man and the Sea, Film

Melville, Herman: Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, Harper and Brothers, New York, [November] 1851.
First published in October 1851 by Richard Bentley of  London as The Whale.

Wikipedia: Moby Dick

Still from Moby Dick (1956), Image 1

Moby Dick, the film:

Still from Moby Dick (1956), Image 2

Stoddard, Charles: Summer Cruising in the South Seas.
Chatto and Windus, London. 1874.
Gay Sunshine Press, San Francisco,1987, page 95.


1874 Charles Stoddard: Surfriding in Maui, 1867.

Bird, Isabella L.: Six Months in the Sandwich Isles- Amoung Hawai'i's Palm Groves, Coral Reefs and Volcanoes.
John Murray, London, 1875.
Mutual Publishing, Honolulu, 2004, page 69.


1873 Isabella L. Bird: Surfriding at Waikiki, Hilo and Kauai.
Back from the Sea on Boards

"This [detailed analysis of high performance wave riding] is of course a supplement direction to the all powerful make the wave motive."
McTavish, Bob: Bob McTavish is in this wave. He probably had a plan to get out of it.
Surfing World, Volume 8 Number 4, January 1967, page 16.

1967 Bob McTavish: Bob McTavish is in this wave. He probably had a plan to get out of it.

As the European traders expanded their influence, local fishermen were often recruited to transfer passengers and goods in their canoes or boats from ships through the surf zone.
For European passengers, the standard method of landing was a considerable thrill, mixed with a certain apprehension.
On the west coast of Africa this was recorded by Henry Meredith (1812), Paul B Du Chaillu (1867),  Hugh Dyer (1876), John Whitford  (1877), and illustrated in London's The Graphic (1891).
On the east coast of India, the marsala was famous for ferrying passengers and goods in the extreme surf conditions of Madras.

Bascom, Willard: Waves and Beaches, Anchor Books, New York 1964, page 160.

Photograph by Dr Don James.
Cover of Peter L Dixon's The Complete Book of Surfing, G.B., 1966.
The cover was signed by Mr. Miller while attending the 30th anniversary of the introduction of Simon Anderson's Thruster at North Narrabeen SLSC, 20th November 2010, with many thanks to Rusty and Simon.

Photograph by Aaron Chang.
Surfing Magazine Volume 16 Number 12 December 1980
The cover was kindly autographed by Wayne at the Natural Necessity Surf Shop, Gerringong NSW, 10th March 2005.

First transcribed by Rev. Ellis as papa faahee in Tahiti, 1817-1822 (Volume 1, page 223), and as papa hi naru in Hawaii in 1823 (Volume 4, page 368).
Ellis, Rev. William : Polynesian Researches, During a Residence of Nearly Eight Years in the Society and Sandwich Islands, Volumes I to IV..
Fisher, Son and Jackson, London, 1831.

1830 Rev. William Ellis: Surf-riding in the Society and Sandwich Islands.

Bascom, Willard: Waves and Beaches, Anchor Books, New York 1964, Fig. 56, pages 126-128.

Blake, Tom:  Hawaiian Surfboard, Paradise of the Pacific Press, Honolulu, 1935.
Reprinted as Hawaiian Surfriders 1935, Mountain and Sea Publishing, California, 1983, page 43.

Bascom, Willard: Waves and Beaches, Anchor Books, New York 1964, page 40.

Leonardo da Vinci (C.A.296vb), 1513-1514.
Quoted in
Kemp, Martin:
Leonardo da Vinci - The Marvellous Works of Nature and Man.
J. M. Dent and Sons Ltd., London, 1981, Reprinted 1989, page 307.

1515 Leonardo da Vinci: Hydrodynamics

Leonardo da Vinci: Four varieties of spiral, based on Institut de France, Paris, 1513-1514, 42r.
Kemp, Martin: Leonardo da Vinci - The Marvellous Works of Nature and Man.
J. M. Dent and Sons Ltd., London, 1981, Reprinted 1989, Fig 84, page 308

1515 Leonardo da Vinci: Hydrodynamics
Number 5 (page 25) of a sequence of six stills taken from movie film shot by George Greenough and published under the title The Innermost Limits of Pure Fun in Surf International, Volume 2 Number 6 in 1970, with the film later released under the same title.
The most remarkable image was printed double over pages 26 and 27 and in a small format on the front cover, with a caption
by the editor, John Witzig: "We think this is probably the most outstanding surfing photograph ever shot."
Witzig's use of the conditional, "probably," has proved to be unnecessary.

1970 George Greenough: The Innermost Limits of Pure Fun.
Winton, Tim: Breath, 2010, page?

The Hawaiian Gazette, Honolulu, June 20, 1877, page 3.

Homer: The Odyssey, Chapter V, 370.
800 BC Homer: Odysseus Survives a Shipwreck

[Luke]: Acts 27: 43- 44.

60 AD Luke: St. Paul's Bay, Malta.

"A mosaic about St Paul's rescue on Malta, inspired by a fresco in the Vatican by Nicolò Circignani and given to Malta by Pope Benedict XVI."
Andreas Moser The Happy Hermit

Archivum Secretum Vacticum: The Meridian Hall

Wikipedia: Niccolò Circignaniò_Circignani

Float Boards as Surfboards

Hornell: Water Transport (1946) Cambridge, 1946, page 4.

Finney, Ben: Surfboarding in West Africa, Wiener Volerkundliche Mitteeilungen, Wein, 1962., Volume 5, pages 41-42.

1962 Ben Finney: Surfboarding in West Africa.

Barbot, Jean: Barbot on Guinea 1678-1712, edited by Hair, Jones, and Law, The Harklut Society, London, 1992, page 532.
1712 Jean Barbot : Canoes and Fishing, Guinea.

Aubin, Philip:Shipwreck of the sloop Betsey, ..., on the coast of Dutch Guyana in south America in 1756.
in Desperthes, Jean: Histoire des voyages, vol 3, 1789, page 295.
1756 Philip Aubin: Surf Riding in the Caribbean.

 Adams, John: Remarks on the country extending from Cape Palmas to the River Congo.
 G. & W.B. Whittaker, London, 1823, page ?

1823 John Adams: Surfboard Riding on the West Coast, Africa.

Surf riding in Polynesian, using part of a broken canoe, was first witnessed by James Cook, Joseph Banks and Dr. Solander on the west coast of Tahiti on 28th May 1769, as reported by Banks in his journal.
Cook clearly observed, but never wrote about surf riding in Tahiti, or in Hawaii.

-Beaglehole, J. C. (editor): The Endeavour Journal of Joseph Banks, 1768 - 1771
The Trustees of the Public Library of New South Wales, 1962, page 283.

1769 Joseph Banks : Surfriding in Tahiti.

1. Hemmersam, Michael: Description of the Gold Coast, 1639-1645.
Apolonia Hemmersam, Nuremberg, 1663.
Translated, edited, and published in Jones., Adam: German Sources for West Afican History 1599-1699.
FranzSteijnerVerlang, Wiesbaden, 1983, page 103.
1645 Michael Hemmersam: Float Boards, Swimming and Canoes, West Africa.

2. Barbot, Jean: Barbot on Guinea 1678-1712, edited by Hair, Jones, and Law, The Harklut Society, London, 1992, pages 529-532.

1712 Jean Barbot: Canoes and Fishing, Guinea.

3. Atkins, John: A Voyage to Guinea, Brasil and the West Indies.
C. Ward and R. Chandler, London, 1735, page 69.
1735 John Atkins: Canoes and Fishing, Guinea and Brazil.

4. Henry Meredith: An Account of the Gold Coast of Africa with a Brief History of the African Company
London, 1812, pages 57-58.
5. Alexander, James Edward: Narrative of a Voyage of Observation among the Colonies of Western Africa, ... in 1835. Henry Colburn, London, 1837, Volume 1, pages 178 to 179.
1812 Henry Meredith: Canoe Surf Riding on Gold Coast, Africa.

Australian National Maritime Museum.

"Such shaped rafts are known on the Tamil coast of South India, where they are most numerous, under the generic name of kaIfu-mar-am (= tied logs), anglicized into catamaran, and as this term has been adopted into the English language in this form, it will hereafter be so employed.
A common and deplorable error is to apply this term to an outrigger canoe, a misnomer that causes endless confusion."
- Hornell, James: Water Transport- Origins and Early Evolution, Cambridge, 1946, page 61.

The first depiction of Hawaiian surf riding is commonly attributed to F. Howard, Sandwich Island Surf-riders, the frontispiece to Rev. William Ellis's Polynesian Researches: Hawaii, 1831.
It is, however, marginally preceded by Rev. Isaac Taylor's Surf Swimmers (Sandwich Islands) in his book The Ship, published in 1830
Taylor, Rev. Isaac: The Ship.
 John Harris, London, 1830, page ?
Ellis, Rev. William: Polynesian Researches: Hawaii.
Fisher, Son and Jackson, London, 1831, frontispiece.

1830 Issac Taylor: Surf Riding in Hawaii.
1831 Rev. William Ellis: Surf-riding in the Society and Sandwich Islands.

Clerke, Charles: in Cook:Voyages (1991), Volume 3, Part 2. page 1321.
1778 James Cook's Mariners : Surfboards in Hawai'i. 

Ledyard, John: A Journal of Captain Cook's Last Voyage to the Pacific Ocean, and in Quest of a North-West Passage, between Asia and America; Performed in the Years 1776, 1777, 1778 and 1779.
Nathaniel Patten, Philadelphia, 1783, page 69.
1779  James King and Mariners: Surfriding in Hawai'i.

[Gilbert, George] Christine Holmes (editor). Captain Cook's Final Voyage: The Journal of Midshipman George Gilbert.
Caliban Books, Horsham, Sussex. University of Hawaii Press, 1982, page?
1779  James King and Mariners: Surfriding in Hawai'i.

John Webber: A View of KaraKakooa, in Owyhee, 1778.
First published in
Cook, James and King, James: A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean
Douglas, Reverend John (editor), G. Nicholl and T. Cadell, London, page ?. 1784, Plate 68.
1779  James King and Mariners: Surfriding in Hawai'i.

Buck, Peter Henry (Te Rangi Hiroa): Vikings of the Sunrise
J.B. Lippincott & Co, Philadelphia, 1938.

Pohl, Henry F.: Conquering the Surf - Lifesaving and Surfboarding
Hoffman-Harris Inc., 424 Fourth Avenue, New York, 1944.

The most detailed account of Tahitian surf riding is:
Morrison, James : Journal on HMS Bounty and at Tahiti, 1787-1792
Mitchell Library, Sydney.
1788 James Morrison: Surfriding in Tahiti.

"The heavies at the Pipeline are okay, But they can't match the savage surf at Waimea Bay."
- Jan and Dean: Ride the Wild Surf.
Composition by Jan Berry, Brian Wilson, and Roger Christian, Columbia Records, 1964.

Nick Carroll: Personal conversation, Newport, 2005.
After many consecutive winters on the North Shore, Nick had only recently returned from a family vacation at Waikiki.
For the first time, his visit was during the summer when this coast receives considerable swell from the South Pacific.

Alphonse Pellion: The Houses of Kraimokou, circa 1819.
Printed in
Freycinet, L : Voyage autour du mode ... 1817 - 1820.  (Voyage around the world ... 1817 - 1820.)
Chez Pillet aine, Paris.  1825,
Volume 2, Part 2, Book 4, Chapter XXVII, pages 517 to 622 (?).

Generally the olo is described as
a "thick (5 to 8 inches) and narrow (less than 15 inches) board made from light-weight willi willi."
See the olo footnote above.
The board in this illustration is thin and wide, as specified for an alaia, and from scale is approximately 15 feet long by 20'' wide.

Lord, Lindsay: Naval Architecture of Planing Hulls Cornell Maritime Press, New York, 1946, pages vii and 31.

Two Floatboards = One Raft.

Hornell, James: Water Transport- Origins and Early Evolution, Cambridge, 1946, page 61.
1946 James Hornell: Swimming Floats.

Rudolph, Wolfgang: Boats, Rafts and Ships
Translated from the German by T. Lux Feininger
, Adlard Coles Limited, London, 1974, pages 126-127.
See 1974 Wolfgang Rudolph : Clipper Ship Design and Construction.

wikipedia: Donald McKay
--- Endnotes under construction.---

dugout canoe
REVISE me please

A dugout canoe is a small narrow boat, usually pointed at both bow and stern, hollowed from a tree trunk.
The oldest known canoe is the dugout Pesse canoe found in the Netherland which, according to C14 dating, was constructed  between 8200 and 7600 BC.[25]
The oldest known canoe found in Africa, the Dufuna canoe, was constructed about 6000 BC. [27]

- Wikipedia: Traditional fishing boat, viewed 1 July 2013 (edited).

Hornell is somewhat ambivalent in nominating the "first watercraft."

In Chapter XI, he writes of the bark canoe;

In a paper read at the meeting of the British Association in 1936 I advanced evidence to show that both of the two types of plank-built boats in use in Europe at the present time—the clinker and the carvel build—are arrived ultimately from the dugout canoe. Of this I remain convinced, but further acquaintance, recently acquired, of the variations observable in the constructional methods employed by certain of the Australian aboriginal tribes when building their bark canoes, appears to indicate that the dugout canoe in some localities, if not in all, represents only an intermediate stage the evolution of planked boats; that the dugout is not the fans et origo of the series, and that the beginning of boat construction must be moved much further back in time as measured in terms of material culture. In other words, the genesis of many present-day types of dugout, perhaps of all, consisted of an imitation in wood of the form of a canoe made from a sheet of bark. This does not rule out the possibility that dugouts were developed invented independently in more than one locality, and that some may have evolved in a different manner. This must remain an open question for all time.”

 - Hornell: Water Transport (1946) page 181.

  large boats and ships [planking]

"Building boats from planks meant boats could be more precisely constructed along the line of large canoes than hollowing tree trucks allowed.
It is possible that planked canoes were developed as early as 8,500 years ago in Southern California.[33]"

- Wikipedia: Traditional fishing boat, viewed 1 July 2013.

The largest rowed ships were trimerrines of imperial Rome, however in the 19th century, even small ships used oars and sweep oars for manoeuvring inside harbours, for example George Bass and Matthew Flinder's Norfolk, circa 1807.

‘’A scientific team led by Lamont-Doherty scientist Martin Stute essentially took the past temperature of an equatorial region in Brazil by tapping an aquifer and analyzing waters that seeped underground tens of thousands of years ago.

They found that the mean annual ground temperature 35,000 to 10,000 years ago, when the last ice age ended, was 5.4 degrees C, or just under 10 degrees F, lower than today.’’

Columbia University Record -- September 15, 1995 -- Vol. 21, No. 2

MacGregor’s wooden split paddles were presented to Royal Canoe Club in 1959 and have subsequently been used as the annual trophy at the BCU National Inter-Club Sprint Racing Regatta, being first presented in 1977 to the winning club, Fladbury.

The original ‘Rob Roy’ canoe was built in 1865 by Thames boatbuilders Searle & Sons of Lambeth for John MacGregor’s tour of Europe, the subject of the bestselling book ‘A Thousand Miles in a Rob Roy Canoe’ and is now preserved at the River and Rowing Museum, Mill Meadows, Henley on Thames, Oxfordshire, RG9 1BF, UK. It is clinker built with an oak hull and cedar deck.

BUC Sprint Racing UK

John Summers: Toward a Material History of Watercraft

If I have seen further it is by standing on ye sholders of Giants.
- Issac Newtown, letter to Robert Hooke, 1676.
The phrase is most famous as an expression of Newton's,

but he was using a simile which in its earliest known form was
attributed to Bernard of Chartres (circa 1124).

Duke and Viola Hartmann (later Caddy),
tandem surfing at Laugana Beach, California, in 1922.
(Paragon Agency)

Hall,Sandra Kimerley:
Duke -  A Great Hawaiian
The Bess Press, Honolulu, 2004, 2004.

The works of several authors have been instrumental in its development, most obviously Charles Darwin's On the Orign of Species (1859).
Jacob Browowski's philosophical treatise, The Ascent of Man (1973), among many insights, notes that cultural advancement has been conditional on the democratisation of knowledge and an often uneasy alliance of science and art.
While remote from my subject, I was privileged to observe first-hand the preparation and writing of A Most Unique Ruffian (1969), an account of a 19th century serial-murder, by my high school history teacher, J. S. O'Sullivan.
The definitive work on early maritime history is James Hornell's Water Transport- Origins and Early Evolution (1946), and for breaking ocean waves, Waves and Beaches (1964) by Willard Bascom.
Importantly, Bascom gives an empirical method for estimating breaking wave height (generally ignored by most surfers) and a basic account of the dynamics of surf riding, further enhanced by Lindsay Lord in Naval Architecture of Planing Hulls (1946).
And, of course, Dr. Ben Finney's Surfing – The Sport of Hawaiian Kings (1966).

Special thanks must go to everyone who have over the years contributed boards or books or stuff, provided information and corrections, answered questions, and politely listened to my more extreme ravings.
Many are close friends and fellow enthusiasts, some are famous (champions, industry professionals, journalists, and photographers), but most are not.
As a vast portion of the literature is unclear, inaccurate or incorrect, there is a need to be rigorously define, or redefine, many terms and concepts.
While there are numerous descriptive terms generally used to describe surfboards, from first principles, surfboards come in three lengths.
Relative to the height of the (intended) rider they are either a long, standard, or short board.
However, the importance of length is exaggerated and surfboard width is far more critical, with a maximum at about 24 inches ( cm), above which paddling technique is impeded.
Boards less than 13 inches ( cm) are designed to be ridden prone, above which they become more suitable to be ridden sitting, kneeling, or standing,
With an increase in width, or the leading edge, the board and also planes earlier on the wave face, commonly
To correlate length and width, relative to a rider's approximate surface area (hxw), the board is either large, standard, or small.

Cater, Geoff:

On the Origins of Surfboards
By Means of Design and Experimentation
or, A Natural Philosophy of Surf Riding.
Shoalhaven River, NSW, 2014.

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Geoff Cater (2014-2016) : On the Orgins of Watercraft - Surfboards, 2014.