In 1912 Ignacio de Arana, Spanish Consul in Hawaii came back home to Vitoria, in the Spanish Basque Country, after several years in the islands and brought back his olo (traditional Hawaiian wooden surfboard) and one issue of The Surf Riders of Hawaii, the first ever printed surfing publication. There is no evidence that Mr. de Arana ever surfed on the Basque coast, but this is the first ever-recorded contact someone from the north coast of Spain had with surfing (he actually surfed in Hawaii before coming back home).
One century later, and surfing has become huge in the North of Spain since the pioneers started it all in the early 60s: international contests, professional surfers, world-class waves, big waves, some of the best surfers in the world ride boards made on our shores, and a new Basque wave-making technology took the surf media by storm last year. Given all this, and worried that the new generations might not be aware of our surfing past, six months ago we started working on the first ever exhibition on the history of surfing on the North Coast of Spain.
Open to the public since 21 June this exhibition – in the beautiful Maritime Museum of Bilbao, right by the old docks on the Ría- is both for surfers and non-surfers. It features a 7-minute documentary made from various home videos, that displays the surfing on our coast since the 60s until today. The main piece is the Line of the Times, a 13 m (42ft) long wall that tells the highlights of our surfing in each of the 4 regions (Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia), from 1912 up to the present, with boards, photos, texts, skateboards, wetsuits and trophies. You can even see the booklet The Surf Riders of Hawaii that Ignacio de Arana brought back in 1912 and that has been in his family home for a century; one of the very few issues of that book left in the world. This exhibition also explains the making of a surfboard, tells the history the most important contests of our coastline, where our best waves are and a takes a look into the two sides of big wave surfing.
So if you find yourself in Bilbao or nearby (Mundaka is less than an hour away) between now and the 13 January 2013 and the waves are not happening, take the time to learn more about surfing on the North Coast of Spain. Who knows, it might even get you some extra waves from the locals…
Museo Marítimo Ría de Bilbao
Open until 13 January 2013.