The world of surfing is cloaked in slang, hidden spots, locals-only knowledge, and hand signs. Most hodads and cooks have no idea what to make out of all of this.
Therefore I’ve listed 47 interesting, funny and helpful surfing facts. So enjoy, and remember to hang loose!
1. The Hang Eleven is a trick that only male surfers can perform
While most people know the ‘Hang Five’ (one foot on the nose of your board) and the ‘Hang Ten’ (two feet on the nose of your board, with the toes sticking over the edge), there is one more variety on these tricks.
The ‘Hang Eleven’ is simply put a ‘Hang Ten’ done while being completely naked.
2. The current record for most people on one surfboard is 47
In 2005, 47 people stood on one surfboard riding a wave in Queensland. The surfboard used to achieve this record was 39 feet (12 meters) long.
3. The biggest fear for most surfers is a ‘flat’ day
Many people think and argue that the biggest fears for surfers are: sharks, drowning, big waves, or crocodiles.
This might be true for some, but not for most. Most surfers fear ‘flat’ days. There is nothing worse than going on a surf trip or holiday and having no waves to surf.
4. There is a surf dog contest
In Huntington Beach, they hold an annual surf competition for dogs. This competition is used to earn money for animal charities.
5. Dennis Wilson was the only surfer from The Beach Boys
Although the band got famous with songs like ‘Surfing USA’ and other surf-themed songs, there was only one surfer in The Beach Boys. This was Dennis Wilson, the drummer of the band.
6. Zinc Oxide causes the typical white stripes on the faces of surfers
Due to the harsh sun and the reflecting force of the ocean, many surfers do their best to protect themselves against sunburn. Zinc Oxide is the most trusted sunblock, which lasts for hours in the water.
7. Layne Beachley holds the speed record on a surfboard
While being towed by the Topgear Australia team, Layne Beachley reached a top speed of 54.22 mp/h (78.26 km/h). Layne Beachley is a seven times world champion surfer and obvious daredevil.
8. Skateboarding originates from surfing
Surfers found a way to hone their skills on days when the surf conditions were not favorable. This was the birth of skateboarding.
(Check out this article to see if skateboarding helps with surfing)
9. The 20th of June is international surfing day
This day is all about taking care of the ocean, living the surfer lifestyle, and hanging loose.
10. Evidence proves that surfing is about 3 to 5 thousand years old
Architects have found that riding waves dates from pre-Inca times. Fishermen would go out on the ocean on ‘Caballitos de Totora,’ a type of boat.
When they would return to the shore, they used the waves to ‘surf’ back to the beach.
11. The oldest mentions of surfing in Hawaii date back to 1769
Joseph Banks wrote in his journal about how the chief’s main amusement seemed to paddle out to the furthest wave and then ride it back to the shore.
12. Shortboard surfing became popular in the early 1970s
Although shapers sometimes made shortboards for small people, women, or as an experiment, it took until the ’70s to become mainstream.
The style of shortboards that we surf nowadays dates back to the ’80s.
13. Big wave surfing began in the 1940s and ’50s
Due to the improvements of the surfboards, people started to search for bigger and faster waves. This gave rise to big wave surfing in the 1940s and 1950s.
14. The Second World War had a positive influence on surfing
During the Second World War, scientists invented fiberglass, resin, and styrofoam, among others. These chemicals helped to manufacture faster and lighter surfboards.
Most of these chemicals are still used today in the manufacturing of surfboards.
15. The oldest surfboard originates from 1778-1779
This board used to be surfed by Hawaiian royals in 1778-1779 and is now displayed at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, Hawaï.
16. The first major surf competition was in 1928
Since surfboards became more accessible for the public, this caused more people to surf, which resulted in the first major surf competition, which took place in 1928.
17. The first surfboards were made of native trees
Before the invention of the chemicals that now play a significant role in surfboard manufacturing, the surfboards consisted of a big slap of wood: no fins, no rocker, and most definitely not lightweight.
18. The first leg rope was invented in the 1970s
Peter Wright was the creator of the first leg rope. This invention took place in Raglan, New Zealand. Almost all surfers around the world now use leg ropes while surfing.
19. The oldest competitive surfer is Barry ‘Magoo’ McGuigan
Magoo started surfing at Bondi Beach in Australia in 1944. He participated in the Hawaiian championships at Makaha and competed worldwide in several other surf competitions.
He died in 2014 at the age of 85. A few months prior, he still surfed at his local beach.
20. Carissa Moore is the first woman to win the Olympic gold medal for surfing
The first time that surfing was an Olympic sport was during the games of 2021. The American athlete Carissa Moore won the gold medal this year and was crowned the youngest world champion surfer.
21. Italo Ferreira is the first man to win the Olympic gold medal for surfing
He became the world surf champion in both 2019 and 2021. After that, he went on to be the first man to win the Olympic gold medal for surfing during the games of 2021.
His explosive and entertaining way of surfing has gotten him much recognition in the surf society.
22. Kanoa Igarashi is the youngest professional surfer competing in the WSL
At age 18, Kanoa Igarashi is the youngest surfer competing in the world surf leagues. He was spotted at the age of six while surfing waves twice his size.
He told the Los Angeles newscast that his dream is to become a world champion one day. At the moment, he is ranked number 8 in the world.
23. Kelly Slater is the surfer with the most world titles
Kelly Slater has won an astonishing 11 world titles, making him the surfer with the most world titles. As a result, he is often referred to as the best surfer of all time.
24. Bernard ‘midget’ Farrelly was the first world surfing champion
The Australian surfer won the 1962 Makaha international world surfing championship. He won the 1964 inaugural world surfing championship at Manly Beach, Sydney, two years later.
This made Bernard Farrelly the first world surfing champion.
25. Kelly Slater holds the record for most money made with surfing in one year
Kelly Slater achieved this record in 2009 when he made $3 million.
26. Gary Saavedra holds the record for time spent surfing one wave on open water
For surfing one wave on open water, the record time is 3 hours, 55 minutes, and 2 seconds.
Gary Saavedra followed a wave-creating boat in the Panama Canal for 41.30 miles (66.47 km). This also makes it a record for the longest distance covered surfing one wave.
27. Rodrigo Koxa holds the record for surfing the biggest wave
On the 8th of November 2017, Rodrigo Koxa surfed an 80ft (24.4 m) wave at Nazaré. This achievement got him the Quicksilver XXL biggest wave award and earned him the current Guinness world record.
28. Surfers get nicknames
It’s very common in the surf culture for surfers to get a nickname. The nicknames are meant to be funny or describe the character of a surfer.
This can be his character or the way they ride the waves. Most surfers are called by their nicknames. This sometimes causes people not to know the actual name of the surfer.
29. Surf slang exists
Surfing is popular worldwide. Even Disney has made several films about it. The typical surf slang is very easily recognized in the movies and real life.
However, surf slang contains many words, most of which are unknown to the outside world. Some most known surf slang words are dude, hang loose, cooks, epic, shaka, and shredding.
30. Many surfers had long hair to show their sense of freedom
During the time when surfing gained more popularity, having long hair was seen as a rebellious act. Surfers often grew their hair long to show their sense of freedom and that they did not obey the norms of society.
31. The Shaka sign has many meanings, but above all, it is a sign of appreciation and love
Hamana Kalili is the name of the man that started the Shaka sign. The story goes that he had lost three fingers on one hand during a work accident.
So the rest of his life, he’d put this hand in the air as a sign that everything was alright or clear.
32. The first board shorts were invented in 1969
The founding fathers of Quicksilver started their brand with the launch of the first technical board shorts.
33. The number of fins under a surfboard ranges from 1 to 5
While three fins are the most common setup for a surfboard, the amount and types of fins keep evolving. Nowadays, many boards come with five-fin boxes, but it would often just be one back in the day.
Additionally, you can change the number of fins you want to use due to the evolution from glassed-in fins to removable fins.
34. The total score per surfer in one heat is based on their best two waves
A surf competition contains multiple rounds, which are made up of heats. Two to four surfers try their best to score as high as possible on at least two waves during these heats.
They can score anything between 1-10 per wave. Eventually, their final score will be made out of their two best waves, with a maximum of 20 points.
35. With surfing, the ‘rocker’ refers to the bottom curve of the surfboard
Most people will think about musicians when hearing the word ‘rocker.’ However, this is an important term when discussing a type of surfboard in the surf world.
A more ‘rocker’ surfboard is easier to turn but slower. On the other hand, a less rocker surfboard will be faster but harder to maneuver.
36. Any beginning surfer should know the terms: nose, tail, and rail
To understand the advice of your surf instructor, or any other surfer for that matter, you’ll have to know the following.
The ‘nose’ is the front-end of your surfboard, the ‘tail’ is the back-end, and the ‘rail’ is the two sides of your surfboard.
37. Surfers refer to frontside and backside when talking about their position on the wave
Frontside surfing means that the surfer faces the wave, and backside surfing means that the surfer is facing the beach.
A goofy rider will be riding frontside when surfing a left-hander. But a regular rider will be riding backside when surfing a left-hander.
38. The two types of surf stances are called goofy and regular
When somebody is ‘goofy,’ they ride with their right foot in front. This means that someone who’s ‘regular’ surfs with their left foot in front.
39. The direction in which waves break gets referred to as a left-hander or a right-hander
When a wave breaks to the left from the surfers perspective (to the right when seen from the beach) it’s called a left-hander.
When a wave breaks to the right from the surfers perspective (to the left when seen from the beach), it’s called a right-hander.
Since most surfers have a direction preference, it helps to know this slang when searching for the next spot to surf.
40. The invention of the wetsuit made it possible to surf in cold water
In 1951 Hugh Bradner made the first-ever wetsuit. This invention made it possible for people to surf at lower temperatures. Although wetsuits were originally created for the army, it is now widely used by water enthusiasts.
41. The best surfing is often at dusk and dawn
Due to the change in high and low-pressure areas throughout the day, the best surf usually occurs during dusk and dawn. There is often less wind in the morning, and if there is wind, it’s often offshore.
This creates better surf conditions. And the obvious reason is the fact that there will be fewer surfers in the water during the early morning.
42. There are lakes on which you can surf
You can surf on the Great Lakes on the United States - Canada border and Lake Tahoe between Nevada and California. The amount of people surfing here has increased rapidly.
43. The longest wave in the world is Chicama
This wave is located in Puerto Malabrigo in Peru, above Lima. When the conditions are good, you could have a ride of about 1.86 miles (3 km).
44. The biggest surf-able wave is in Nazaré
Nazaré is a seaside town on the west side of Portugal. The waves here occasionally reach more than 100 feet (30 meters) in height.
45. Costa Rica has the warmest surf-able ocean water
There are many places around the world where you’ll need a wetsuit to surf. Not in Costa Rica! The water at the Pacific coast of Costa Rica is between 77 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit (25 and 30 degrees Celsius).
46. Twice a year, you can surf the Amazon River
The tidal bore called Pororoca occurs twice a year in the Amazon River. This tidal bore comes with waves that can reach up to 13ft (4 meters) and travel as much as 497 miles (800 km).
Therefore the Pororoca waves hold the record for the longest time spent surfing one natural wave.
47. The world’s deadliest surf spot is Banzai Pipeline
Although surfing is considered an extreme sport, some locations make it even more extreme. Banzai Pipeline in Hawaï is estimated to have caused eleven fatal accidents and an unknown number of non-fatal accidents.
(Check out this article for more information on the Banzai Pipeline)
One of the oldest sports globally has many records, facts, cultural aspects, and funny twerks.
And although you could read all of them while surfing the internet or hear them while hanging out on the beach, the best surf facts are the ones you make yourself, which is a fact.
Some examples could be the fact that you paddled into that insanely high wave and made it out, the fact that you’ve been surfing all these years and still enjoy it, the fact that you’ve surfed all these different surf spots, and the fact that you consider yourself a free-spirited surfer.
Are you also interested in facts about other sports? Then be sure to check out our article on tennis facts!