The complicated history of surfing – Scott Laderman

Check out our Patreon page:

View full lesson:

Today, surfing is a multi-billion-dollar global industry, with tens of millions of enthusiasts worldwide. For some it’s a serious sport; for others, just a way to let loose. But despite its casual association with fun and sun, surfing has a richer and deeper history than many realize. Scott Laderman shares the hidden history of surfing.

Lesson by Scott Laderman, directed by Silvia Prietov.

Thank you so much to our patrons for your support! Without you this video would not be possible.
Hiroshi Uchiyama, Adi V, Michal Salman, Peter Liu, Tamás Drávai, Mark Morris, Robert Sukosd, Catherine Sverko, Julie Cummings-Debrot, Ricardo Rendon Cepeda, Maya Toll, Jose Mamattah, Mauro Pellegrini, Javier Martinez Lorenzo, Ka-Hei Law, Chris, Tim Leistikow, Andrés Melo Gámez, Renhe Ji, Alex Serbanescu, Della Palacios, Vik Nagjee, Karen Goepen-Wee, Stephanie Perozo, Bryan Blankenburg.


  1. Christianity did such a mess globally it’s unreal! I think we would be living in a much different world today if they had never tried to export their religious ways to cure what they are told is sin.

  2. Funny how you mention that Hawaii was annexed but not colonised! You make it sound as if “other” white men overthrew the kingdom and 5 years later Americans came in to annex it. While in reality it was the united states itself who did this and without a just cause for that matter… How’s this called an annexation? Colonisation was not considered appropriate by the late 19th century, yet the US did exactly that!

  3. This was really well animated. I both understood the VO better AND was delighted by its beauty.

  4. Yeah I have to correct ppl who associate "surfing as a hwite person thing" and tell them how it's a Polynesian thing. So disheartening that ppl don't associate the sport with the ppl that originated it.

  5. This is a beautifully done history short on an amazing sport; brought on by an even more amazing culture. It deeply saddens me all that the colonist have done, the pieces of culture and life taken away. Thank you TED-Ed!

  6. There is evidence of the presence of surfing for more than 500 years on the islands of Polynesia. The English explorer James Cook arrived in Hawaii in 1778, where he learned about Bodysurfing (similar to this sport but without a board) and Bodyboarding. But it is in the north of Peru, where the first evidences of people practicing this sport 4000 years ago are found. These are found in one of the huacos (pre-Inca pottery) where a man is shown on something similar to a piece of wood that glides on the waves. This places the origins of this sport in South America, although it would be the Polynesians who centuries later would bring the taste for surfing to places like Hawaii.

  7. Thanks Ted-Ed. As a part Native Hawaiian it's great to see surfing's history explained. The only minor detail is the structure that the surfers are standing on at the end. It looks very similar to a Mayan temple. Hawaiians did not create structures like that. My guess is that the artist looked at remnants of ancient temples, or heiaus, and extrapolated that design merging it with Mayan temples.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.