It is believed that modern surfing as we know it today began in Hawaii around the 4th century A.D. when Polynesians based in Tahiti and the Marquesas Islands come over to the Hawaiian Islands. Among the many traits that were brought with them, was the pastime of playing on boards in the surf that they could lie flat on their stomachs on. It was here in Hawaii where the skill of standing upright on these boards was first created. However, there are also stories and theories of surfing at Tonga and The Samoa Islands that pre-date Hawaii by over a thousand years. Many of the European explorers would have first seen surfing performed in Polynesia during the late 1700s. There is also archaeological evidence that the Incas used a type of surfing for the purpose of fishing.
Surfing came to the USA in the late 1800s and it is widely believed that George Freeth is thought to be the first modern surfer. Freeth was instrumental in bringing the popularity of surfing to the area of Redondo Beach in California during the early 1900s. He also shortened his 16 ft board that eventually gave rise to the long board we are familiar with today. Freeth would display his surfing talents twice a day in front of the visiting crowd. Surfing also spread to Australia and by 1975, the first professional tour started. It was also the year when Margo Oberg became the first female professional surfer. Oberg by then had won her first competition at age 11 and her first world title at age 15.
The International Surfing Association (ISA) is the world governing body overseeing the development worldwide. ISA, based in San Diego, is recognised by the International Olympic Committee. The federation was founded in 1964, originally as the International Surfing Federation. ISA oversees the amateur side of the sport, including stand up paddle boarding, bodyboarding, and other wave riding pursuits. In addition to overseeing World Championships, ISA works in association with the World Surf League (WSL) who governs the professional side of the sport. WSL was founded in 1976 and oversees the men’s and women's professional tour, junior tour, and big wave tour.