Water Sports - Tracing The Origins Of The Four Most Popular Ones
by Brooke Hayles [January 29, 2007]
Water sports: they're fun to watch, exciting to participate in, and they've been enjoyed for ages! We've been trying to dominate water since the time we stood up as humanoids. We try to take air beneath the surface, we build crafts to skim across the surface, and we use the power of its resistance to build strength in our bodies.
Water sets the stage for some of the most unique, and yet some of the most common events in the world. Covering 75% of our Earth's surface, and making up over 90% of our bodies, it doesn't make you wonder why water has played such a huge role in our personal and professional lives. Let's dive in!
Swimming is the most popular of the water sports because it is easily accessible and inexpensive. In several of the earliest stories of classical literature, it's portrayed as a symbol of heroism and religion. The first known documentation of the various swimming methods is Nicolas Wynman's Dialogue Concerning the Art of Swimming, originally published in 1538. (Historians are still trying to figure out who he was having that dialogue with.)
With the development of swimming pools as we know them today, it became easier and safer for average people all over the world to learn to swim and master it. Swimming was made an Olympic event for the first time in 1896. The most publicized swimming events are the insanely ambitious attempts at swimming across the English Channel. It is a feat that requires strength, endurance - for both the distance and the notoriously frigid waters - and a lot of determination and courage.
The first man ever to swim across the English Channel was Matthew Webb of England who did so in 1875. In 1926, Gertrude Ederle from the United States became the first woman to cross the channel. From speed, to endurance, to form - the different styles of swimming are continuously evolving.
Snorkeling is a very thrilling water sport that involves viewing exotic fish and aquamarine life. It's like jumping into a painting where the views can range from extreme tranquility to paralyzing fright. Humans are definitely land mammals, and snorkeling is how we can enter a world that was not made for us. Long ago, snorkels were made out of hollow reeds.
After swimming, snorkeling is the next oldest water sport. There is a reference to it made by Pliny the Elder in first century Rome. Leonardo Da Vinci, the world-renowned painter and lesser-known inventor, created a more modern snorkel at the command of the Venetian senat. Da Vinci's snorkel was a tube attached to leather helmets used by divers. Most agreed that his invention was indeed better than a reed. Modern day snorkels are J shaped tubes, usually made of rubber, that open at one end and attach to a mouthpiece at the other end. The average length of the tube is 2 ft (61cm).
Surfing is reported to have first appeared NOT in Hawaii as many people mistakenly believe. Archaeology indicates that Peruvians (people from Peru) were "hanging ten" as early as 200B.C.E. Their boats were made from reeds, and even today, the local fisherman can be seen riding their "little reed horses."
Surfing really gained popularity in America, mostly in California, in the 1920s. By the 1960s, it was a highly popular sport among young people. When surfing first emerged as a water sport, the best surfers were long, handcrafted wooden boards. They were heavy and cumbersome to maneuver on the water.
Modern surfboards are made of lighter synthetic materials, and they're shaped in different aerodynamic fashions that allow more maneuverability and movement on the waves than was originally possible. International Surfing Championships are held all over the world including Australia, California, and of course - Hawaii.
A water sport that originated in England in the 1870s is water polo. It began as a form of rugby played in the rivers and lakes. The name comes from the English pronunciation of the Balti word for ball, pulu. Americans started playing it in the early twentieth century. Today there are several college teams and clubs for this sport.
For a while, Americans tried their own version of water polo that used a soft rubber ball and a larger pool. This game came to be known as softball water polo. However, due to a high incidence of violent behavior and rough play, this variation was abandoned. Men's water polo became an Olympic event in 1900 and women's water polo was added in 2000.
These are only a few water sports. There are many others that are equally thrilling, like white water rafting, water skiing, underwater hockey, diving, etc.
Whether you are participating or just watching, water sports are amazingly fun. If you want to take a cool break from the traditional sports like football and basketball, give your body the unique experience of water sports.
Water sports have excited and energized people all through the ages. This article takes a look at the origins of four of the popular variety - Swimming, Snorkeling, Surfing and Water Polo.
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