100 Years Ago Today

A History Of Events And Happenings From Exactly One Hundred Years Ago

California Girls Learn To Surf

Though his origins are clouded with legend, it is said that George Freeth was born in Oahu in 1883. His mother was part-Hawaiian and his father was Irish. It was reported that his grandmother was a pure Hawaiian woman who had 3 children with the man who was father to Princess Kaiulani. Hawaiians had generally rode the surf board only by lying on the board although they knew that their early ancestors had ridden in a standing position. Riding a board in a standing position was revived by Freeth in Honolulu in 1900. In 1907 Jack London was writing for THE WOMAN’S COMPANION and heard about a small group of Hawaiian beach boys participating in a “royal sport.”

“”Shaking the water from my eyes as I emerged from one wave and peered ahead to see what the next one looked like, I saw him tearing in on the back of it, standing upright with his board, carelessly poised, a young god bronzed with sunburn.”

Henry E Huntington – one of the Big Four railroad tycoons had just built his Pacific Electric Railway to Redondo Beach, California. He wanted an attraction to get tourists to travel to his new resort destination. After reading London’s article he hired Freeth to come to Redondo Beach and conducted demonstrations during the spring of 1907 establishing himself as Southern California’s first surfer. This also made him the first paid professional surfer.

Freeth also became the first official lifeguard in the US and developed the torpedo-shaped “rescue can” as a life-saving device. He organized the first life-saving squad to patrol beaches. He is credited with saving 78 lives including 7 Japanese fishermen whose boat was being swept to sea during a winter storm in the Santa Monica Bay. In recognition, he was awarded the Carnegie Medal for Bravery.

On August 3, 1912 George Freeth was in Redondo Beach teaching Miss Dolly Mings, Miss Birdene Packson and Mrs. Hattie Whitney how to surf. The surf boards used by Freeth and his pupils are of redwood and weigh about 40 pounds.The dimensions are 8 feet long, 24 inches in width and 2 inches thick. Miss Packson says “you feel just as though you were riding through the air in an aircraft when you are riding the breakers.”

THE FATHER OF SURFING by Ian Whitcomb :http://www.picklehead.com/ian/ian_txt_surfing.html

George Freeth
The first lifeguard and the first professional surfer


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