Wind sports have been round for some time now. They have been round for much longer than most people might realise. Most sports that we practise today come from our ancient history and tell us a little about early human history. While sports such as ice skating or sailing can be quite easily traced back to early human transportation, something like football is a little less easy to trace back. In many cases sports like football and lacrosse developed as a peaceful means to settle conflict. With some sports, and especially wind sports, the connection to how early and pre-industrialised humans got from place to place.
As with many sports they were originally related to survival and transportation. Sailing is an obvious example of wind sports evolving from transportation to hobby. There’s no one region on the planet that uniquely developed sailing. From Scandinavia to Polynesia, nearly all places that had navigable lakes, rivers, seas, and oceans developed sailing in one form or another.
Scandinavia is well-known for its Viking history and their seafaring traditions, especially the famed (or perhaps infamous) longboats. These ships were mobile encampments that allowed the Vikings to spread their culture—or at the very least themselves—far and wide, sailing as far away from their Nordic homelands as North America and through the Black and Caspian Seas down into Persia and Byzantium. With lightweight ships that could be carried—albeit it painstakingly and slowly—across land from one river to another by their crews of around 50 people, the Vikings were some of the most mobile people of the Middle Ages. Although they always returned to Scandinavia, the raiders were able to travel tremendously making them one of the best or possibly the best seafaring regions of Europe.
On the other side of the world, in the South Pacific, nearly all cultures had strong and vital connections to the ocean. Places like the Philippines to the north and west or Indonesia had kingdoms, chiefdoms and tribes that were all dependent on the sea to various and varying degrees.
But the undisputed champions of sea-going cultures in the Pacific were the Polynesians. It’s difficult to discuss them as a singularity as their culture was as diverse as the islands of the Pacific. The fact that they were able to colonise places as far away as Easter Island of the coast of South America or the Hawaiian Islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean is testament to their impressive ability to be on open sea for weeks on end, surviving off the ocean they were sailing on.
There were and are many seafaring cultures across the world and many worth discussing and reading about if one is interested in wind sports. For someone getting into the sport and wanting to know a little bit more those, the Vikings and the Polynesians are two of the most fascinating.