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Cowabunga is a slang word in 1960s surfer culture, used as an expression of exhilaration when riding the waves.
The word evolved from "kawabonga'" a word used by the character Chief Thunderthud on the United States children's television program Howdy Doody in the 1950s. "Kawagoopa" was an all-purpose exclamation of the Tinka Tonka Indians, the fictitious tribe of Princess Summerfall Winterspring and Chief Featherman, and "kawabonga" was the equivalent exclamation of Chief Thunderthud, who was of the Ooragnak Tribe. By the 1960s, surfers who had grown up watching Howdy Doody adopted it for surfing use, turning it to "Cowabunga."
1970s through 1990s
Another U.S. children's television character, Cookie Monster of Sesame Street, began to exclaim "kowabunga!" in the 1970s. (Note the "K" spelling. He used it during a Letter of the Day segment as an example of a "K" word. When challenged by Prairie Dawn that it was not a word, he replied: "Kowabunga too a word. It esoteric, but it poetic in its own right.") The character Snoopy from the Peanuts comic strip also made popular use of the word.
The word reached greater popularity in the late 1980s and early 1990s when used by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Michelangelo and in the early 1990s when used by Simpson family member Bart on t-shirts but only twice on the show, except for one joke.
There was also a wrestler in the southern federation United States Wrestling Association that went by the name Cowabunga, as he portrayed a Ninja Turtle in full costume.
Dr Zarkoff's assistant, Munson, exclaims "cowabunga" in the movie Flash Gordon.
A press release for The National Human Genome Research Institute read "Cowabunga! Scientists To Start Bovine Genome Project", and a MSNBC article has been titled Cowabunga: Manure becomes electricity.
It was used in the movie Barnyard but instead the cow said "man-abonga" for a little role reversal.
In 1997, the expression was used in the home video "Tulsa, Tokyo, and the Middle of Nowhere", by Isaac, Taylor, and Zac Hanson of the pop group Hanson.
By the character Marcus Brewer in the 2002 movie About A Boy.
By Scooby Doo in the movie Scooby Doo.
In the song Party like a rockstar by the rap group Shop Boyz.
By the protagonist in the videogame Shadow Warrior when picking up the riot gun.
The professional wrestler Christopher Ashford-Smith used the gimmick Kowabunga the Ninja Turtle during the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles craze of the early Nineties.
By Mikey of the TMNT.
Again by the Bart Simpson character in the South Park episode "Cartoon Wars." When Bart attacks Kyle from behind, he exclaims, "Cowabunga, mother ******!" perhaps also referencing McClane's famous quote from the film Die Hard.