Written By: Ben Cosgrove

The best surfing photos can capture an essence of the sport—and so can observations from some of the greatest surfers of all time. Some pithy of words of wisdom follow, as well as some extraordinary images of surfing in days gone by.

“Out of water, I am nothing.” Duke Kahanamoku

“Surfing’s one of the few sports where you look ahead to see what’s behind.” Laird Hamilton

“It’s like the mafia. Once you’re in, you’re in. There’s no getting out.” Kelly Slater

“If in doubt, paddle out.” Nat Young

“One of the greatest things about the sport of surfing is that you need only three things: your body, a surfboard, and a wave.” Naima Green

“I surf to get tan.” Shane Dorian

“It’s not tragic to die doing something you love.” Mark Foo, who would drown while surfing at Mavericks in California in 1994

“I’ve tried changing my surfing, which is the worst thing you can do. Everyone surfs their own way. If I try to surf like someone else, I look like a dork.” Andy Irons

“Surfing is such an amazing concept. You’re taking on Nature with a little stick and saying, ‘I’m gonna ride you!’ And a lot of times Nature says, ‘No you’re not!’ and crashes you to the bottom.” Jolene Blalock

“I could not help concluding this man had the most supreme pleasure while he was driven so fast and so smoothly by the sea.” Captain James Cook, on watching a Hawaiian surfer in the late 18th century

“Surfing is very much like making love. It always feels good, no matter how many times you’ve done it.” Paul Strauch

“You’re sayin’ the FBI’s gonna pay me to learn to surf?” Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves), Point Break

“If it swells, ride it.” Anonymous

Surfers, Malibu, California 1961

Surfers, Malibu, California 1961

Allan Grant/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Surfing, California, 1950

Surfing, California, 1950.

Loomis Dean/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Surfing, Lima, Peru, 1959

Surfing, Lima, Peru, 1959.

Frank Scherschel/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Surfing, Malibu, California 1961

Surfing, Malibu, California 1961

Allan Grant/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Surfing, Hawaii, 1959

Surfing, Hawaii, 1959.

Ralph Crane/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Surfing, Manhattan Beach, Calif., 1965

Surfing, Manhattan Beach, Calif., 1965.

Ralph Crane/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Surfing, Australia, 1958

Surfing, Australia, 1958.

John Dominis/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Surfing, Australia, 1958

Surfing, Australia, 1958.

John Dominis/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Surfing, Hawaii, 1963

Surfing, Hawaii, 1963.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Surfing, Lima, Peru, 1959

Surfing, Lima, Peru, 1959.

Frank Scherschel/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Surfing, Malibu, Calif., 1961

Surfing, Malibu, Calif., 1961

Allan Grant/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Surfing, Hawaii, 1959

Surfing, Hawaii, 1959.

Ralph Crane/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Surfing, Malibu, Calif., 1961

Surfing, Malibu, Calif., 1961.

Allan Grant/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Surfing, Malibu, Calif., 1961

Surfing, Malibu, California, 1961.

Allan Grant/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Sixteen-year-old Kathy Kohner (the real-life inspiration for the character of Gidget) rides a wave, Malibu, Calif., 1957.

Sixteen-year-old Kathy Kohner (the real-life inspiration for the character of Gidget) rode a wave, Malibu, Calif., 1957.

Allan Grant/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Surfing, Malibu, Calif., 1961

Surfing, Malibu, California, 1961

Allan Grant/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Surfing, Malibu, Calif., 1961

Surfing, Malibu, California, 1961

Allan Grant/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Surfing, San Onofre, Calif., 1950

Surfing, San Onofre, California, 1950.

Loomis Dean/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Surfing, San Onofre, Calif., 1950.

Surfing, San Onofre, California, 1950.

Loomis Dean/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Surfing, Lima, Peru, 1959

Surfing, Lima, Peru, 1959.

Frank Scherschel/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Surfing, Lima, Peru, 1959

Surfing, Lima, Peru, 1959.

Frank Scherschel/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Surfing, Malibu, Calif., 1957

Surfing, Malibu, California, 1957

Allan Grant/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Surfing, San Onofre, Calif., 1950

Surfing, San Onofre, California, 1950

Loomis Dean/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Surfing, San Onofre, Calif., 1950

Surfing, San Onofre, California, 1950.

Loomis Dean/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

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