Surfing is bigger than ever. Though an ancient Polynesian pastime imbibed with spirituality and cultural significance, it only began to emerge in terms of global popularity during the late 1950s and early 60s. At this time, the modern surfing era began in its ancestral home of Hawaii as well as in California and Australia. Since then surfing has gone through a few booms and even some lulls, but in terms of mainstream appeal and global spread, it is now experiencing unprecedented growth.

From Hawaii to Bali, Portugal to Russia, South Africa, Brazil, California and Morocco, there are dedicated surfers, hobbyists, professionals and casual admirers of surf culture.

Today we ask the burning question: Why is surfing popular?

why is surfing popular
Surfing in the 1950s, Corona del Mar, California. Pic: Orange County Archives

After much thought and a fair bit of research, we’ve come up with 25 reasons as to why surfing is so popular. Here they are in no particular order:

1. It feels like walking on water

What other sport lets you glide across the water without any additional tools except the board under your feet? Surfers can feel like they are flying, skating, swimming and walking on water all in one good session.24.

2. Surfing is addicting

Call it an obsession, a compulsion or just a healthy quest. The search for the perfect wave may always be just out of reach, but the closer you get the more fun you have!

3. It looks cool

This one may be a bit narcissistic, but if you also love watching other people surf, count yourself as a great appreciator of the art. Whoever you are — surfers and non-surfers alike — you have to admit that surfing looks seriously cool.

why is surfing popular
A cool Indonesian grom. Pic: Jared Hersch (Flickr CC)

4. Surfing gives you a great reason to travel the world

It’s no longer just Hawaii, California and Australia that have active surf cultures. Anywhere there are decent waves, there’s bound to be some kind of surf scene and this is becoming more so every day. Pick a coast, grab your board and follow your dreams!

5. It provides an adrenaline kick

Like all active sports and nature-based activities, surfing gets those endorphins going, but few pursuits can match the adrenaline kick of catching a great wave.

6. It feels awesome to be out in nature, especially on the ocean

Being out in nature can be a healing experience, and this is never truer than when you’re out on the ocean. Feeling depressed? Hit the waves!

why is surfing popular
Pic: Stephane/Surf Girl (Flickr CC)

7. Surfing is challenging

Nobody said surfing was easy. While virtually anyone can start surfing mild beach breaks with a bit of instruction. After your first couple of surfing lessons, you’ll be ready for your next challenge — and they keep on coming!

8. It makes you feel alive

Getting out on the waves is as close as it gets to becoming one with Mother Nature. Surfing is exhilarating, healthy, and helps to instil an appreciation for life and the natural world.

9. Surfing is excellent exercise

Looking for a fun way to get fit? Look no further than surfing! It works all the major muscle groups and gets you active like no other hobby.

10. Surfing takes you to some of the most beautiful places in the world

Find skiing too cold? Think hiking is too isolating? As nature sports go, you can’t get much better scenery than a beautiful tropical beach or ocean vista. Surfing in a scenic holiday spot delivers great weather, a fun and social experience, plus incomparable views.

why is surfing popular
Scenic Bali surf. Pic: Egor Pasko (Flickr CC)

11. You can surf in the best weather

In the same vein, many of the world’s top surf spots are also located where the weather is best. Though surfing is possible year-round and in many climates, it started in Hawaii and other Polynesian islands, so it’s perfectly suited for warm, comfortable weather.

12. Surfing provides adventure

From the thrill of catching a wave to travelling the world and the challenge of finding “secret” surf spots, there are many aspects of the surfing lifestyle that involve adventure.

13. People think surfers are attractive

This may be a particularly shallow reason, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Surfing is a healthy activity, helps get you fit, shows skill and looks cool. Strangely enough, many people find these things attractive.12.

14. It’s an environmentally friendly sport

Surfers tend to care about the state of the oceans because they enjoy being in them and would rather not swim and surf in polluted waters. Surfing also gives you an awareness and appreciation of the natural world. All you need is a surfboard — and if you opt for one made from sustainable materials, you’re surfing ultra-green.

15. Big wave surfing

While it’s certainly not the kind of surfing that can be practiced by the masses, big wave surfing has made a serious impact. The sheer spectacle that daredevil big wave surfers like Garrett McNamara create regularly puts surfing on the front pages of many mainstream news sources.

why is surfing popular
Big wave surfer Jeff Rowley. Pic: Minnie Vuong/ Xvolution Media

16. The surfer community

Identification with a group can be a powerful feeling. Surfers share a common love and lifestyle. This brings people together, bridging different cultures, classes, nationalities and walks of life.

17. Surf culture is cool

It’s not just the activity of surfing that is cool. The clothes, the music, the slang… surfing culture has spread all over the world and is popular with surfers and non-surfers alike.

18. Famous people who surf

From Agatha Christie to Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, celebrities have helped bring surf culture to the masses. Even President Barack Obama and Prince William known their way around a surfboard.

19. Surfing is daring

Depending on your skill level and what kind waves you like to ride, surfing can provide some serious thrills — if you dare. There aren’t many sports that can provide the kind of excitement you experience rocketing through a perfect tube.

20. You get to experience nature — first hand!

Besides the beach, the sea, the sun and the sand, surfers sometimes interact with amazing animals including dolphins, sea lions and even whales!

21. Kelly Slater

Probably the best surfer ever, this 11-time ASP World Champion still rips at the age of 43. Both the youngest and oldest person to ever become champ, Slater’s blend of skill, athletic prowess, charm and good looks makes him the perfect surfing personality to help the sport grow. He’s also acted and appeared in several films and television shows (including a recurring role on Baywatch) as well as produced surf documentaries.

Why is surfing popular
Kelly Slater. Pic: Pedro Gómez (Flickr CC)

22. Surfing has ancient connections

The origins of surfing reach back to Polynesia several hundred years ago, prior to these cultures’ contact with Europeans. For Ancient Hawaiians, it was a spiritual art form. Whether they know it or not, each surfer is connected to this hallowed tradition.

23. Surfing has become a serious sport

Since the 1960s surfing has continued to grow as a sport, both professionally and in terms of amateur popularity. Pro surfers are now regarded as elite athletes with serious skills.

why is surfing popular
Ancient Polynesian surfers. Pic:

24. Technology

Advances in surfing tech have improved things like surfing equipment and monitoring the swell, allowing surfers to reach and ride waves like never before.

25. Surfing is big business

Once a lot of money can be made from something, corporate interests will exploit it. Besides the many independent companies, surfcamps and schools, there are large corporations involved in selling equipment, promoting competitions and giving endorsements to professional surfers.

Dive into the ultimate surf experience with Rapture Surfcamps, where every wave tells a story. Our surf haven awaits, offering a blend of excitement, skill-building, and relaxation.Choose Rapture Surfcamps for an unforgettable adventure.

Book your surf getaway now and discover the perfect blend of adrenaline, skill development, and beachside bliss.