Surfing Diffusion: Types of Surfing Genesis (the Case of Spain and Europe)

Some Types of Surfing Genesis

By Daniel Esparza (Senior Lecturer Palacky University)

(…) once the data has been examined and compared, it has been possible to formulate first, and classify later (inductive approach), the level of foreign influence in every pioneer centre studied in this article. It has been observed at least four different types of genesis based on the level of foreign influence, that I have provisionally labelled with the following names until a superior way of classifying it is found: I) endogenous genesis; II) quasi-endogenous genesis; III) mixed genesis; IV) exogenous genesis. These four categories can be grouped inside of the following two: (i) consolidated genesis, and (ii) non-consolidated genesis. As far as the latter is concerned, these types of cases are perhaps the most interesting from a historical point of view since they mostly remain to be discovered. These types of genesis consist of attempts at surfing by one or several individuals, but were interrupted without continuity by these individuals, as it happened in the case of Ignacio Arana, Spanish consul in Hawaii (1911-1914), who took two surfboards to Spain in 1914, the case of Nuno Fernandes in Figueira da Foz (Portugal), in the 1940s, the case of Rosenberg (1929) and Pip Staffieri (1941) in England.

Let us describe and classify all the four examples of consolidated genesis:

I) Endogenous genesis. There is no foreign influence. This type of genesis was related to those places where surfing was born as a natural longue-durée process of a relationship between natives and the waves. As far as this research has concluded, this only occurred in Polynesia, where surfing (he’e nalu in Hawaiian) was a natural and cultural activity among the ancient Hawaiians. It is also known that in Tahiti, surfing (in its stand-up style, not prone, as it was usually practised in the rest of Polynesia), was eventually practised by natives.

II) Quasi-endogenous genesis. In this type of genesis the local pioneer surfer does not have any direct contact with the surf, but virtually only through the mass-media (films, magazines, documentaries, etc.), but decided after this virtual contact to shape their own rustic surfboards. This was the case in Salinas (Asturias), where Félix Cueto created a surfboard inspired by the front cover of the Surfing USA L.P., in 1963. The case of San Sebastian (Basque Country), where Iñaki Arteche shaped a surfboard inspired by the cover of Life magazine (issue 25th October, 1963, where a red surfboard appeared). The case of Pepe Almoguera, Malaga (southern Spain, Mediterranean) in 1970, where he designed two surfboards, after watching an American movie at the Albeniz cinema, where background images of people surfing in California appeared.

III) Exogenous genesis. The influence of foreigners is completely direct. Local surfers learned about surfing observing it from the shore and finally borrowed or even bought their own surfboards. This was the general case on the Canary Islands at the end of the 1960s (and the beginning of the 1970s). It was also the case for Tapia de Casariego (Asturias) in 1968, introduced it by the Gulley brothers from Australia; and also the case of San Vicente de la Barquera (Cantabria), where Peter Viertel introduced it.

IV) Mixed genesis. By mixed genesis it means those that share both elements from quasi-endogenous genesis and exogenous genesis. This means that the pioneers became familiar with surfing for the first time through the mass-media (quasi-endogenous), but did not design surfboards, but instead ordered them or bought them abroad (exogenous characteristic), as was the cases with Jesús Fiochi in Santander, who ordered and bought his surfboard in France in 1965; similarly, the case of José Luis Elejoste, from Vizcaya, who in 1965 bought a surfboard in Biarritz (France).

*** There is a need to improve this theory with further information from other parts of the world (additional case studies). There is consequently a need to join forces with other colleagues around the world. This should result in the formation of a more robust theory and a deeper knowledge of surfing expansion.

More information in: ESPARZA, Daniel (2016) Towards a Theory of Surfing Expansion: the Genesis of Surfing in Spain as a Case Study, Ricyde, n. 44, pp. 199-215


Surfing pioneers in Europe: The first ‘known attempts’ (for now) on surfing in Europe

*(One correction before starting: There have been founded «new and older» references, even from the 19th century).

The following references are (were) the first known attempts on surfing in Europe  History is alive, and probably very soon we will find out more hidden moments of surfing genesis in the past (as it has happened). The first historical reference related to surfing in Europe belongs to Ignacio de Arana (1880-1918), Spanish consul in Hawaii (1911-1914), who brought the first two surfboards to Europe (to Vitoria, Spain), although for now there is no evidence that he was able to use them in Europe.  He also brought to Spain in 1914 the first edited surfing book in history, The Surf Riders of Hawaii, which survived generation by generation in the family library of Vitoria up until the present day. Later on (in the 40s), the first discovered visual surfing reference in Spain from a surfer is from José Luis Elejoste.

Spain sending consul 29.9.1911 Hawaiian Gazette pag 1
Hawaiian press, 1911.

In the 1920s, in England, it was quite usual to see people in the summer using small planks in order to play (prone) with the white water (bellyboarding) at the beach, but this was not surfing. The first image of actual surfing (stand-up) in Britain is connected with a private film by Lewis Rosenberg from 1929. This movie was “discovered” for the surfing community in 2011. Rosenberg shaped a surfboard on his own from balsa wood, inspired by a documentary about Australia, where surfing images appeared. He travelled from London to Newquay to practice.

Rosenberg surf
Lewis Rosenberg at Holywell Bay in Newquay Cornwall 1929

There is additional evidence of surfing in 1941 with a photo of Pip Staffieri standing-up on a surfboard. Staffieri also shaped a surfboard inspired from the 1929 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (about Hawaii). These two activities were sporadic and without continuity. The first surfing clubs were established in two different places in the U.K. in the mid 1950s: in Newquay and on Jersey island.

On the continent, the starting point (admitted by almost everyone) is the summer of 1956 in Biarritz, (France), when Peter Viertel (scriptwriter) introduced illegally from Spain one surfboard (brought from California to Pamplona by Dick Zanuck to the filming of the movie Sun also Rises). In Biarritz, Peter Viertel inspired a bunch of French beach boys, such as George Hennebutte, Joel de Rosnay, Michel Barland and Jack Rott. The first surfing club was founded three years later in 1959, and that very year was also founded the first surfboard mark in Europe, the prestigious Barland-Rott.

Pedro Martins de Lima
Pedro Martins de Lima prepared to surf nowadays

In Portugal we have found an isolated attempt at surfing in the 1940s by Nuno Fernandes in Figueira da Foz, where he built a surfboard based on a model from an American magazine. He used it, but he did not go on surfing. Pedro Martins de Lima is considered the pioneer of surfing in Portugal, having introduced surfing in 1959, in Estoril, when he brought a surfboard from Biarritz. He actually discovered surfing in the 1940s, on the Azores Islands, in an American magazine found on a U.S. Naval base. He practised bellyboarding for more than a decade, with a small wooden plank and fins, until 1959 when he bought that surfboard in France and become surfer until today.

Oriñon 2 (maruri, meco y giribet) copia
One of the first attempts of the genesis of surfing in northern Spain, Cantabria, circa 1965-66. Photo: Archivo Mecolay

In Spain, surfing began at almost the same time in several pioneer centres along the long Spanish coast, and without a knowledge of one other during the first months, even years, of the genesis of surfing in Spain. The first pioneer centres began in northern Spain (San Sebastian, Sopelana, Santander and Salinas) circa 1964, and in Southern Spain (Cadiz) circa 1964. Other centres begun some years later, as Zarautz (1967), Coruña (1967), Canary Islands (circa 1968); and the last relevant pioneer centre, Malaga, the first Mediterranean surfing centre of Spain, that began in 1970.

Daniel Esparza, Palacky University in Olomouc

To cite the source: Esparza, Daniel (2016) Towards a Theory of Surfing Expansion: The Beginnings of Surfing in Spain as a Case Study . RICYDE. Revista internacional de ciencias del deporte [International Journal of Sport Science]. 44(12), 199-215.

More information in: Esparza, 2013, 2014; Gardinier, 2004; Mansfield, 2009; Molina-Torn, 2013; Nunes, Mendes and Jorge, 2015.

Portada y contraportada Surf Espana solo 1. Portada copia