Polynesian cultures had been surfing for centuries before Europeans witnessed the sport in Tahiti in 1767. During the early 1900s, a wealthy land developer paid Hawaiian George Freeth to surf outside of his resort as a way to entertain guests. The sport caught on with Californians. The first competitions were held in the 1920s. By the 50s and 60s, the surfing culture emerged and was represented in films, music and television. Over the years, many surfers gained recognition in the sport and spread the culture.

The Duke

Duke Kahanamoku was born and raised in Honolulu among a family of surfers and athletes. Along with the popular water sport, Duke excelled in swimming and track and field. By the age of 20, he set new American records for the 50-yard and 100-yard sprint. The Duke set a world record when participating in the Stockholm Olympics a year later. He won gold medals for the 100 and 400-meter freestyle relay in 1912. After his death in 1968, he was declared Surfer of the Century in 1999. In commemoration of the beloved athlete, the U.S. Postal Service introduced a postage stamp bearing his likeness in 2002.

Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz

He was born and raised in Texas to a surfing family. Paskowitz later earned his M.D. from Stanford Medical School. However, he grew weary of life as a physician and moved to Israel where he established a surfing community in hopes of uniting Arabs and Jews. During the 60s and 70s, he and his wife, accompanied by their nine children, started life as beach bums. Living in a camper, the family ventured across the United States as Paskowitz surfed professionally. During the 80s, he founded the Paskowitz Surfing Psychiatric Clinic and worked with troubled youth. He also established a Surf Camp and promoted health and diet among the surfing community. In 1991, Paskowitz was inducted into the International Surfing Hall of Fame.

Kelly Slater

Cocoa Beach, Florida native started surfing at the tender age of six. Five years later, he won four United States Surfing Championships. He became a professional surfer at the age of 18. In 1992, Slater became part of the Baywatch cast as Jimmy Slade, which helped popularize surfing among the general public. By 2011, he successfully broke all of the pro surfing records. Florida declared Kelly Slater Day and erected a 10-foot tall statue of his likeness. One of his surfboards can be seen in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.