Fishermen all over the world have been standing solo in their small vessels for thousands of years. Chan Chan is ground zero of a rich and ancient Peruvian civilization. Bordered by fertile lands and an ocean that teemed with life, Chan Chan was once the largest city in South America. On its shore near the village of Huanchaco is a coveted surfing beach where caballitos de totora which translates to “little horses made of reed” are straddled and then surfed by the local fishermen.
To aid in maneuvering the vessels into the waves, a split and hollowed length of bamboo serves as a double ended paddle. 3,000 year old shards of painted pottery depict the unchanged design of these same famously photogenic reed boats. It’s not hard to imagine young, virile fishermen showing off to their peers and potential mates by standing on a caballito and skillfully paddle surfing it to shore!
The first standup paddle surfers to surf for the sheer joy of flying down the line on a board are believed to be Hawaiian. Ancient Hawaiian islanders survived with nature, not because of nature. They called themselves keiki o ka’aina, literally “children of the land”.
The earth provided the islanders not only food and materials to build with, but a place of deep spiritual connection and playful recreation. Aina means “that which feeds”. The land, the sea and mankind were thought of as siblings born to the same parents at the beginning of time. As siblings of the sea, Hawaiians of all ages and sexes enjoyed playing together in the waves. Maka ’ainana is a term used to describe the common people, but it actually translates to “eyes of the earth”. Nature nourishes, and by custom, humans were to play with and protect their siblings, the land and the sea.
Though Hawaiians have probably been stand up paddle surfing for centuries, the earliest photographic evidence is only about 60 years old. Duke Kahanamoku, the most famous of the Waikiki beach boys, was said to use an outrigger paddle to help propel his heavy board into the velvety waves of Waikiki.
Source: StandUp Journal