Water sports as we know them wouldn’t be anywhere without some brave people who dared to ask: what if we could have even more fun in the water? We’re here to tell a condensed version of their stories (because you’re probably not looking for a 20,000-word blog on Ralph Samuelson). Read on to discover a quick history of the pioneers of water sports!
Before They Were Sports
The concept of watersports as we know them today varies greatly from its uses in the past. In fact, the origins of our favorite recreational hobbies come from necessity, not fun. For instance, the culture of Polynesia revolved around, in large part, the ability to tame and benefit from the ocean.
In addition to using devices similar to modern-day surfboards to fish, the people of Polynesia also used them to prove themselves as agile and capable human beings.
After the English exploration of the Pacific Islands, the seeds of modern watersports were planted. However, it wasn’t until the 1920s in Lake Pepin, Minnesota, that Ralph Samuelson had the bright idea to strap two boards to his feet. With skis attached to his stompers, Ralph was pulled forward by a boat; thus, water skiing was born. A little while later, Ralph set a precedent for exciting tricks by skiing off a makeshift ramp.
Since then, watersports have skyrocketed in popularity. From windsurfing to kitesurfing, there seems to be a human obsession with the water and our ability to navigate it in exciting and creative new ways. Water sports gear is a feat of engineering, so thank people like Gijsbertus Adrianus Panhuise and the Legaignoux brothers that we can kitesurf today!
Now that you have this quick history on the pioneers of water sports, we hope you can appreciate all the work (and, let’s be honest, experimental fun) that went into your favorite hobbies. Next time you find yourself on the water, remember the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of the pioneers who came before you—and then splash around and have fun!