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1940s: World War II

The following is a draft of my first chapter in my work-in-progress: LEGENDARY SURFERS: The 1940s, volume four in the series:

1943; photographer unknown

The surfing decade of the 1930s ended with the United States entry into World War II, following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.[1]

The war was already well underway, having begun in Europe in September 1939. The Japanese and Chinese had been at war even before then.

World War II was a global war that more or less lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved most of the world’s nations, including all the great powers of the time that subsequently formed two opposing military alliances known as the Allies and the Axis. The Second World War was the most widespread war in human history, with more than 100 million people serving in military units. In a state of “total war,” the major participants placed their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities at the service of the war effort, erasing the distinction between civilian and military resources. Marked by significant events involving the mass death of civilians, including the Holocaust and the only use of nuclear weapons in warfare, it resulted in 50 million to over 70 million fatalities. These deaths make World War II by far the deadliest conflict in all of human history.[2]

The Empire of Japan aimed to dominate East Asia and was already at war with the Republic of China by 1937. The world war is generally considered, however, to have begun in September 1939 with the invasion of Poland by Germany and subsequent declarations of war on Germany by France and Britain. From late 1939 to early 1941, in a series of campaigns and treaties, Germany formed the Axis alliance with Italy, conquering or subduing much of continental Europe. In the early stages of WWII, Germany and the Soviet Union partitioned and annexed territories between themselves of their European neighbors, including Poland

At this point, the United Kingdom, with its empire and Commonwealth, remained the only major Allied force continuing the fight against the Axis, with battles taking place in North Africa as well as the long-running Battle of the Atlantic. In June 1941, the European Axis launched an invasion of the Soviet Union, giving a start to the largest land theatre of war in history, which tied down the major part of the Axis’ military forces for the rest of the war. In December 1941, Japan joined the Axis and attacked the United States and European territories in the Pacific Ocean, quickly conquering much of the West Pacific.[3]

“In 1940, going into ‘41,” Palos Verdes Surfing Club member and San Onofre regular E.J. Oshier back-storied, “it more and more looked like there’d be a war.” War was already underway in Europe and in Asia

“There was a couple of guys from Oakland that had started surfing, that I could go down with. They never got very good, but they were very good friends of mine. They decided they were going to enlist in the National Guard. At that time, you serve a year in the National Guard and you could get out and you’d served your time, right? Except it wasn’t right (laughs). I thought, that’s a good idea. I’ll get in with one night a week with the National Guard. So, I did that and everything was going fine until December 7, 1941,” the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, outside of Honolulu, Oahu.

“That day… was a beautiful day at Santa Cruz,” E.J. remembered. “I was out at the Rivermouth, where the San Lorenzo River empties out. There’s pictures of me in Doc Ball’s book taken at the Rivermouth.” Back in those days, the Rivermouth could get really good.

“Oh, it was phenomenal!” praised E.J. “It was absolutely machine waves. In the winter, a big sand bar would build up off the San Lorenzo River, you know, sort of a narrow triangle and the waves would hit the peak of that triangle, out there at a good distance offshore and start to build. The shoulders would just taper off magnificently, like they were right out of a machine. There’d usually be a set of 3 or 4 waves, then a lull. You absolutely couldn’t go wrong.

“I was out there having a wonderful time. I surfed a few hours and one wave I took close to the point. Some guy ran over and say, ‘Hey! You better get out of there and get back to your car and go back to San Louie Obispo –” where the National Guard armory was – “The Japs just bombed Pearl Harbor! Everybody gotta get back to their camps!’ Well, there went my ‘year.’ It ended-up five years in the army instead of one year [in the National Guard],” E. J. laughed about it. “I was surfing the day they bombed Pearl Harbor.”

“… It was such a good day. The sun was out, it was warm, and the waves were beautiful. And that was the last time I surfed Santa Cruz. Never had an opportunity to surf it, again. But, I had a lot of good surf there [during those two years].”[4]

Another Palos Verdes Surfing Club member, LeRoy “Granny” Grannis remembered the day well, also:

“We were down at the beach on December 7 of 1941. A whole bunch of us down there, right next to Hermosa Pier. I don’t know what we were doing; playing volleyball or something. All of a sudden – somebody had a radio – and we heard over the radio that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor and we all looked at each other and we knew that nothing would ever be the same. Eventually, just about all of us ended up in one branch [of the armed forces] or another.”[5]

With the bombing of Pearl Harbor, what had been the United States’ material and psychological support to counter worldwide imperialism and fascism turned into an active alliance against the Axis – Germany, Japan and Italy. Suddenly, as writer Leonard Lueras put it, “most of the beach boys who had hitherto spent their every bit of free time on the blue became, by Executive Order, boys in blue.”[6]

U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Declaration of War speech to Congress:

“Yesterday, December 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its Government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives have been lost. In addition American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya. Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong. Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam. Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands. Last night the Japanese attacked Wake Island. This morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation. As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us. No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.
Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces - with the unbounded determination of our people - we will gain the inevitable triumph - so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December seventh, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.”

World War II had profound effects on all of American society, including surfers. As Solberg and Morris wrote in A People’s Heritage, “Although the United States was never totally mobilized for war, World War II produced far greater government intervention in the nation’s economic and social affairs than during World War I or the depression. As a result, the years 1941-45 altered radically the country’s self-image, restoring the self-confidence Americans had felt before the Crash. The years between Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima were a time of ferment leading to new values for the American people economically, socially, and in their technological outlook.”[7]

“World War II cramped surfing’s style for long, too long,” Duke Kahanamoku told his ghost writer, Joe Brennan. “Most all of the able-bodied young men who had been contributing to the fast development of the sport wound up in the military service or in defense plants. It was a time of vacuum for surfing.”[8]

“The ocean itself became off-limits to civilians,” wrote surf writer Craig Stecyk, “as many [surf spots]… were sealed off in the name of defense. Malibu became a Coast Guard base. Point Dume was dynamited and occupied by military observers. San Onofre beach was pressed into duty as a Marine training area. Panic ruled the coast. The Elwood oil field near Santa Barbara was shelled by a Japanese submarine. Another marauding coastal raider surfaced off Ocean Park.”[9]

Concertina wire strung along Waikiki beach and other beaches of Hawai’i and California symbolized the shutdown surfing suffered during the ensuing war years. Since surfing was considered impractical and self-indulgent and most surfers were in the armed services -- mostly the Navy -- no surf contests were held during the war years of 1941-1945.[10]

In one of the stranger chapters of surfing’s history, it was toward the end of the Second World War that surfboards were seriously considered for use as an instrument to advance military objectives.

After the United States Marines suffered over 50% casualties in the taking of Iwo Jima in the summer of 1945, the Navy brought several Naval Combat Demolition (NCD) teams to Camp Pendleton to learn how to use surfboards. It has been suggested that the Navy was, in part, inspired by Gene “Tarzan” Smith’s paddling between the Hawaiian Islands on his paddleboard, unassisted.

Hot Curl surfer Fran Heath credited his fellow Hot Curler John Kelly with the idea of using surfboards militarily. Both became members of an Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) during the war. “We considered using surfboards for reconnaissance missions,” recalled Fran. “That was Kelly’s idea. But, boards are too easily spotted from low-flying aircraft and there’s no protection if you’re spotted, so that idea was scrapped.”[11]

Another idea that ended up with surfers involved was the formation of Naval Combat Demolition teams. These were different from the UDT’s which were more sabotage/espionage oriented. The NCDs were “created when the Navy realized how many casualties were being caused by landing craft grounding on unchartered reefs and other underwater obstructions during Pacific island invasions.”

The NCD teams consisted of 30 highly trained frogmen. The job of the NCDs was “to swim in to the beaches of Japanese-held islands in the dead of night, reconnoiter the reefs and other obstructions, chart them or blow them up and swim back to their ship or submarine before the sun came up. The NCD teams never gained the fame enjoyed by the Navy’s Underwater Demolition Teams, the parent of today’s Navy Seals. Perhaps the reason for this is the NCD teams spent most of their time swimming, whereas the UDT’s, like the Seals, did some of their best work above the high tide mark.”[12]

“The Navy perfected the NCD surfboard in the summer of 1945,” Larry Kooperman documented. “Its first mission was to be the reconnaissance off the coast of Japan in preparation for the invasion of the Japanese homeland by units of the United States military. These Warboards were hollow wooden surfboards built of a thin layer of redwood over a wooden frame. They were about 14 feet long and weighed about 60 pounds. They were camouflaged so as to be almost invisible in the night-dark water. Built into these boards, between the frames, was a depth sounder. Each board was to be equipped with a two-way radio that was used to relay the depth sounder’s readings to the mother ship.”[13]

In late summer 1945, the NCD teams were “ready to paddle to war.” However, the atomic bomb drop on Hiroshima on August 6th and on Nagasaki three days later preempted the need of the Warboards and they were never used operationally.[14]

A more lasting war technology that was to effect surfing profoundly was the development of the neoprene wetsuit. According to Bev Morgan, the neoprene wetsuit was invented by Hugh Bradner for use by Underwater Demolition Teams during World War II.[15]

With masks, fins and now wetsuits, underwater sabotage became a reality. Although short-lived, another technological advance was the Lambertson Lung. This “most primitive self-contained rig,” as Fran Heath put it, “enabled you to swim underwater without leaving the telltale string of bubbles typical to the scuba.”[16]

And then there was fiberglass and resin... 

[1] Gault-Williams, LEGENDARY SURFERS, Volume 3: The 1930s.
[2] See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II
[3] See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II
[4] Gault-Williams, Malcolm. Interview with E. J. Oshier, October 10, 1998.
[6] Lueras, Leonard. Surfing, The Ultimate Pleasure, designed by Fred Bechlen. Workman Publishing, New York, ©1984, p. 109.
[7] Solberg, Curtis B. and Morris, David W. A People’s Heritage, ©1974, John Wiley & Sons, p. 179.
[8] Kahanamoku, 1968, p. 45.    
[9] James, Don, Surfing San Onofre to Point Dume, 1936-1942, ©1996, p. 16.
[10] Lueras, 1984, p. 109 and 111.
[11]  Gault-Williams, Malcolm. “Legends of the Hot Curl.” Fran Heath quoted.
[12] Kooperman, Larry. “Wave Warriors of the Navy,” The Surfer’s Journal, Volume 1, Number 2, Summer 1992.
[13] Kooperman, 1992.
[14] Kooperman, 1992. These may have been what Fran Heath referred to as “Kelly’s idea.” See Chapter 12, “Legends of the Hot Curl.”
[15] The Surfer’s Journal, “Undercurrents,” Volume 1, Number 3, 1992, p. 125.
[16] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  “Legends of the Hot Curl.” Fran Heath quoted.

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Isabel Letham, 1915

The following was written by Fred Pawle, for The Australian, December 27, 2014, under the title: "Legend and fib combine as Isabel Letham surfs into history on wave of fancy."
THE wave Isabel Letham caught at Dee Why beach, Sydney, on February 6, 1915, was neither long nor spectacular. According to one newspaper account of it, she spent most of the ride “toppling backwards”, and in the end fell off.
But, in one of the strangest twists in Australian sporting history, it was enough to get her into the Australian Surfing Hall of Fame, an honour usually reserved for people whose contribution to the sport spans an entire lifetime.
She achieved this status by embellishing the story of her Dee Why ride to make it far more significant than it was. Her audience — the surfers of Australia — were convinced by her story because, for reasons I’ll explain later, they desperately wanted it to be true.
Oral storytelling, particularly about new and radical experiences, forms a large part of surf culture. As a result, surfers, who are not the most literary bunch, are prone to exaggeration. But even by their hyperbolic standards, the Letham story is extraordinary. The truth, as usual, is even more fascinating .
A reassessment of Letham is overdue, partly because her status in surfing has become ludicrously high, and partly because the centenary of her alleged achievement is approaching, and it would be a shame if the planned celebrations on Sydney’s Freshwataer beach on January 8 commemorated a fallacy.
These are the known facts of that historic summer of 1914-15. The great Hawaiian Duke Kahanamoku, a gold-medal-winning swimmer at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, was invited to Australia to compete in races in Sydney and Brisbane. While he was here, he also put on demonstrations of “surf shooting” in the Hawaiian style (riding a surfboard while standing), of which he was at the time one of the world’s best practitioners and protagonists.
By far the most significant public demonstration was the first one, at Freshwater, Letham’s home beach, on January 10 1915, which was attended by about 400 spectators. For a long time afterwards, this was considered the day Australian surfing was born.
A month later, another demonstration was held at Dee Why Beach, a few kilometres north. On this occasion, Letham, 15, a keen young ocean swimmer and a bit of a tomboy, was invited to ride tandem with Kahanamoku, which she did, making an impression on all three journalists present, as well as the crowd of thousands.
“When ‘the Duke’ stood up the sight was grand,” Sydney’s The Telegraph said. “Later, Kahanamoku came in standing on his head, and at another time carried a lady passenger.”
The Sydney Morning Herald also confirmed it: “He was accompanied at intervals by Miss Letham, of Freshwater, and it was a rare sight to watch both swimmers on the surf board.”
The Referee, a sports newspaper, said Letham’s ride with Kahanamoku was the “more sensational spectacle” of the demonstration, but only because it showcased the Hawaiian’s skill — Letham spent most of the ride “toppling backwards”. The ride ended when both Letham and Kahanamoku wiped out.
In the late 1940s, as surfing began its ascendancy within Australian culture, this story of the ungainly tandem ride at Dee Why became conflated with the Duke’s surfing demonstration at Freshwater, which was beginning to acquire newfound historical significance. Stories began to be published placing Letham front and centre at the Freshwater event.
The Sydney Morning Herald in 1948 said that Kahanamoku had taken Letham “out with him (at Freshwater) and they would come right into the beach with incomparable grace and precision”. A similar account appeared in a book called Surf Australians Against the Sea, by C. Bede Maxwell (1949). In 1959, Heroes of the Surf, a history of the Manly Surf Lifesaving Club, said Kahanamoku “took three waves with her (Letham) standing on the board in front of him”. None of these publications cites sources.
Yet the only surviving contemporaneous newspaper account of the Freshwater demonstration is by W. Corbett of The Sun, who wrote in some detail about Kahanamoku teaching two Manly swimmers how to surf by themselves. Had Letham ridden tandem with Kahanamoku that day, it is inconceivable that Corbett wouldn’t have mentioned it.
The arrival of mass-produced fibreglass boards in the 1960s helped surfing to explode in popularity, and with it the Letham myth took off. In 1968, the Daily Mirror published a story about Kahanamoku’s visit, which focused on the Freshwater demonstration; Letham is quoted as saying that as she and Kahanamoku took off on the wave it “was like looking over a cliff”.
“But after I’d screamed a couple of times he took me by the scruff of the neck and yanked me to my feet. Then off we went down that wave,” she said. For the next two decades, she continued to repeat the story, with only minor variations, in print interviews, an oral history and a video recorded in 1986. She collected most of her own clippings into a personal archive, which was donated upon her death to the Dee Why public library, where they remain. Those clippings are punctuated with notes by Letham correcting minor mistakes by the various journalists. In none of the clippings does she dispute the increasingly accepted fact that she surfed with Kahanamoku at Freshwater.
The story was even embellished without Letham’s input. A book called The Surfrider, edited by Australian journalist Jack Pollard and published in the mid-1960s, claimed that Letham not only rode with Kahanamoku, but managed to sit on his shoulders as well. This claim is made in the book’s foreword, which is attributed to Kahanamoku, but according to Geoff Cater, one of Australia’s leading surf historians, the foreword is almost certainly Pollard’s own work. In it “Kahanamoku” says: “There was a tiny girl in the crowd that day who by her manner seemed more excited than all in the crowd. I put her on my shoulders and we made a few good rides.” Shoulder-riding, Cater says, didn’t become popular until the 1940s, when long hollow boards made the trick easier to perform. This detail has since been repeated at least twice, both by surf journalist Phil Jarratt, in A Complete History of Surfboard Riding in Australia (2013) and That Summer at Boomerang (2014).
But why all this credulity and exaggeration? To answer that, one needs only to look at the rest of Australian surfing history. It’s filled with blokes. Not just any blokes, but yobbos. Australian surfing history is mostly a procession of aggressive, arrogant, hard-drinking, drug-abusing, brash dudes whose obsession drove them wild, sometimes literally. Our brand of surf culture propelled Australia to some world titles and gave us a distinct national character on the pro tour and the various surf meccas around the world, but it came at a cost. The Letham story was a perfect foil. At last, Australia had its own Gidget! A tomboy who rode with Duke! But even this new development couldn’t escape the inevitable male fantasy — if they rode a few waves together, could they have also, you know…? Letham never married or had children, and later in life was still expressing her reverence towards him, saying he “is still in my heart”.
This year, Phil Jarratt published what some male surfers were probably already thinking. That Summer at Boomerang is a historical novel centred on Kahanamoku’s 1914-15 tour. In the introduction, Jarratt says “all the events depicted actually happened”. The book then goes on to describe a series of increasingly flirtatious encounters between Letham and Kahanamoku, ending with a sad dockside farewell during which Letham’s eyes get “misty” and Kahanamoku hugs her “tight for long seconds” and kisses her on both cheeks, saying, “I’m going to miss you, young lady”.
Letham herself repeatedly gave the impression that she, if not Kahanamoku, established a deep emotional bond on the day they supposedly rode together at Freshwater. But Sandra Kimberley Hall, Kahanamoku’s official biographer, is not convinced. Any romantic interaction between a 15-year-old white girl and a 24-year-old dark-skinned Hawaiian in Australia in 1915 stretches the bounds of plausibility, she says. “Nowhere in Duke or Isabel’s archives is there anything that would lead researchers to believe there was a romance, a fling, or even a friendship between the two of them,” she says. “It’s laughably ridiculous.”
Hall says Letham’s claim to have ridden with Kahanamoku at Freshwater is similarly fanciful. “It sems that at some point in time, Isabel confused Dee Why with Freshwater,” she says, adding that it was “unlikely” that the pair rode tandem at Freshwater.
Two weeks after the Dee Why demonstration, Kahanamoku left Australia. Letham persuaded her father, a master builder, to make her a board like Kahanamoku’s. She and her friend Isma Amor, a fellow surfer tomboy from Manly, began spending weekends at remote Bilgola beach on Sydney’s northern beaches surfing and earning the label “wild young things”.
Jarratt’s book describes Letham’s later, fruitless attempts to reconnect with Kahanamoku, stopping in Waikiki, but not finding him, on her way to the US in 1918, where she worked for a while, trying to break into the film business, before returning home to be with her dying father. She returned to the US in 1923, where she finally and briefly saw Kahanamoku again. She has said nothing of this meeting, one of three they would have before Kahanamoku died in 1968, aged 77. The romance, if there was one, was never rekindled. Letham stayed in California and became a highly respected swimming coach at the glamorous Women’s City Club in San Francisco. She sailed home to Australia in 1929 and continued coaching swimming and water ballet. She died in 1995.
Surf historian Peter Warr interviewed Letham at length between the late 1980s and early 90s. He says Letham was still obsessed with Kahanamoku even then. “It was much more than a teenage girl’s puppy love,” he says. “She was still infatuated with him.” Letham smiled as she recalled Kahanamoku, Warr says. “She started talking about her feelings for him. I said, ‘that’s wonderful that you kept these feelings all these decades,’ and she just said, ‘oh, he’s in my heart’.”
Warr compares Letham’s love to that of other women from her generation who fell in love with soldiers who died in battle, then never married. “It was a much more controlled society back then,” he says. But asked by Warr if she would have liked to marry Kahanamoku, Letham hinted that a more conservative process was at work. “She said she would have if circumstances had allowed. By that she meant the White Australia Policy. It would have been a scandal.”
Cater has a different theory: Letham used her lifelong devotion to Kahanamoku as a cover for her own sexual orientation. “It was a perfect blanket,” he says. “She had the story that she met him as a teenager and never looked at another man. The evidence is more than plausible that she used the story to cover up her own sexuality.”
If Cater is correct, Letham’s story to cover up her own taboo same-sex secret grew so big that it earned her in 1993, induction into the Australian Surfing Hall of Fame, alongside real surfing legends like four-times world champion Mark Richards and seven-time champion Layne Beachley. Letham’s entry on the Hall of Fame’s website repeats the dubious story about Freshwater, saying she “never forgot the exhilaration of that first ride”.
This historical ambiguity creates a dilemma for the organisers of Duke’s Day, the three-day celebration commemorating the centenary of Kahanamoku’s visit, starting on January 8 at Freshwater. One of the highlights of the celebration will be a re-enactment of the now mythical Letham-Kahanamoku ride. Duke’s Day committee chairman Stephen Bennett says the Letham story, which had been “relayed through the generations”, is beyond doubt. “It is hard to believe that the story about Isabel would have been perpetuated unless it was true as there were so many eyewitnesses who were present,” he says.
The most overlooked person in all of this is Tommy Walker, of Manly, who is increasingly seen as the real first surfer in Australia, riding a board he bought for $2 in Waikiki during a trans-Pacific crossing.
Cater’s website quotes The Telegraph describing surfing at Manly Beach in January 1912, three years before that supposedly historic day at Freshwater. “A clever exhibition of surf board shooting was given by Mr. Walker, of the Manly Seagulls Surf Club. With his Hawaiian surf board he drew much applause for his clever feats, coming in on the breaker standing balanced on his feet or his head.”
Sadly, the centenary of this event, which is more significant and plausible than Letham’s ride at Freshwater, went past uncelebrated.

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LEGENDARY SURFERS: 2004-2014 by Malcolm Gault-Williams

This Portable Document Format (PDF) collection of all postings at the LEGENDARY SURFERS website over the past eleven years marks my continued move toward more digitized publication. It is notable in several respects:

  • This “ebook” is completely portable on electronic devices, in a format compatible for reading on any ebook reader. Unlike the content on the website, the content in the ebook is not dependent on a connection to the Internet. You can even take it to the beach!
  • The 1,172 pages (6.25 MB) contain text, images, and internal and external hyperlinks. The internal links function on their own and are particularly helpful when selecting posts in the Contents or following Footnotes to source references. To use the ebook’s external links, yes, you’ll need to be connected to the Internet.
  • Because the ebook is basically an electronic file, it can be easily shared with friends and family. I have not set any restrictions on its replication as long as normal copyright rules are respected. This ebook makes a great gift from you to other surfers you know who appreciate a more detailed look into the history of surfing.
LEGENDARY SURFERS: 2004-2014 is just $4.95, using PayPal. Since I do all order fulfillment myself, please be patient with an occasional delay in getting your ebook to you. If there is ever a problem with your order, you can always reach me via the comments section at the bottom of this webpage (if the PayPal icon does not appear, you are probably reading this from a mobile device and will need to go to the LEGENDARY SURFERS website itself):

I sincerely hope you enjoy this collection that represents eleven years of LEGENDARY SURFERS posts on the Internet. Please feel free to add any comments you may have about it. I always love to hear back from my readers!

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Of all the surfers of the Sixties, Miki Dora was, by far, the most notorious. Dora had started making a name for himself in the Southern California surfing scene of the "Pre-Gidget Era," in the mid-1950s. By 1957, he was already well-known throughout the surfing world. As champion surfer and fellow Malibu rider MikeDoyle reminds us: "the unrivaled king of Malibu in those days was Mickey Dora, 'Da Cat.'" The way Dora rode was widely emulated and his attitude toward the commercialization of the sport was eventually shared by many of us. Dora was extremely influential throughout the 1960s and 1970s. His "legend" continues on, despite his death in January 2002. And, although less so than in those days of yore, the Dora mystique continues to effect surf culture -- more so than we know or some would care to admit.
The LEGENDARY SURFERS ebooklet on Miki Dora simply titled "DORA" is taken from the popular on-line chapter at LEGENDARY SURFERS and enhanced with 50% new material (16,586 words), updated following Miki's passing.

To order your ebooklet in printable portable document file format (PDF) for USD $2.95 (delivered to your email address), click on the Pay Pal icon below (if not visible, you are probably using a mobile device and will need to go to the LEGENDARY SURFERS website):

All order fulfillments are done manually, so please be patient in case there may be a delay. Should you have any problems with your order, please comment at the bottom of this posting and I will be sure to get it.

Aloha and Thank You for Your Interest in My Writings!

Malcolm Gault-Williams

Contents of What You Will Receive:

  GIDGET, June 27, 1956
  THE MID-1960S
  P.O.P. PIER, 1968
  TRAVELLING THE 1970s and '80s
  JAIL TIME, 1983

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TOMMY ZAHN: For The Pure Joy of It All

"Figures like Tom [Blake] and Duke [Kahanamoku] are really historic figures... Had they never existed, the sport wouldn't be quite the same. And where can you find guys in this game who led such exemplary lives? These were the real contributors and innovators. I did none of these things... I surfed, paddled and swam for the pure joy of it all. I was successful in some of my ventures... all more or less forgettable. I tried (not always succeeding) in living an exemplary life. It was my pleasure to have been personally acquainted with figures like Duke, Tom, Pete [Peterson], Rabbit [Kekai], George [Downing], Joe [Quigg], Wally [Froiseth], Gene [Tarzan Smith]; but I have no desire to beome a 'professional-grand-old-man-of-surfing'" - Tom Zahn, November 5, 1989

"You will get your day of recognition when the long boards come back." - Tom Blake to Tom Z., August 1967

The complete, unedited biography of Tommy Zahn is available in printable ebooklet form for $2.95. The 24,792 word article (49 single-spaced pages) is the master copy of a smaller article that was originally printed in THE SURFER'S JOURNAL, Volume 9, number 2, Spring/Summer 2000 (sold out). Over 50% more material is included in the ebooklet version.

To order your ebooklet in printable Portable Document File format (PDF) for just USD $2.95 (delivered to your email address), click on the Pay Pal icon (if not visible, you are probably using a mobile device and will need to go to the LEGENDARY SURFERS website):

All order fulfillments are done manually, so please be patient in case there may be a delay. Should you have any problems with your order, please comment at the bottom of this posting and I will be sure to get it.

Aloha and Thank You for Your Interest in My Writings!

Malcolm Gault-Williams

Contents of What You Will Receive:

  Boards, Boats & Lifeguarding
  As A Kid
  Tom Blake
  Pete Peterson
  War Years
  Pete's Plastic Board, 1946
  Hollywood & Marilyn
  The Islands
  Haole Treatment
  Island Influences
  George Downing
  Rabbit Kekai
  1947 - Zahn, Quigg, Kivlin, Rochlen & Melonhead The Darrylin Board, 1947-48
  The Malibu Perpetual Surfboard
  Paddling ChampMolokai to O‘ahu, October 1953
  Diamond Head Paddleboard Race, 1954
  "Bounding the Blue on Boards"
  Catalina-to-Manhattan Beach Paddle Races
  Catalina-to-Manhattan, 1955
  Catalina-to-Manhattan, 1956
  Sculling
  Australia, 1956
  The Kivlin to Dora Connection
  Late 1950s, Early 1960s
  Catalina to Manhattan Beach Paddleboard Race, 1958
  Catalina to Manhattan Beach Paddleboard Race, 1960
  Catalina-to-Manhattan Beach Paddleboard Race, 1961
  Diamond Head Paddleboard Race, 1962
  The Lifeguard's Lifeguard
  Skin Cancer, 1979
  1984's Almost Forced Retirement
  Paddling Mentor
  Jim Mollica
  Mike Young
  Craig Lockwood
  "Recollecting Zahn" by Craig Lockwood
  First Encounter
  Second Meeting
  Making Time
  Zahn's Other Side
  End of an Era
  Waterman Memorial
  Design Guru
  One For Pete
  Taplin Talk

Tommy listed "A few significant extracts" from his "Aquatic Sports Activities."  In his order, they are:

  2 times winner - Surf Life Saving Association (SLSA) of Hawaii Rough Water Swimming Championships
  4 times winner - Diamond Head Paddleboard Championships, Honolulu, Hawaii
  5 times winner - Catalina to Manhattan Beach Paddleboard Race
  Winner - 1956 International Rescue Board Race, Surf Life Saving Association of Australia
  2 times winner - Hermosa-Manhattan 2 Mile Roughwater Swim (age group)
  CIF Swim Finalist - High School
  US Navy Swim Team - San Diego
  First Senior Olympics 1 Mile, Run-Swim-run & Relay, 1980-82
And, in "Related Work Experience," in the order Tommy listed them:
  24 Years skipper of rescue boat Baywatch Santa Monica. Second highest rescue count of all 8 Baywatch stations.
  7 Years as Training Officer for the Lifeguard and Harbor Division, Santa Monica
  Part time Training Consultant for the California State Lifeguard Service, District 5, 1961-62
  Captain and Training Officer for the Honolulu City and County Lifeguard Service, 1959; Reorganized the service

Also noteworthy, but unlisted by Zahn:

  Pacific Coast Dory Championship, twice

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“The Malibu Board” ebooklet tells the story of how the prototype for today's longboard came into existence in the late 1940s. While Bob Simmons set the stage for its development, his assistants and protoges Joe Quigg, Matt Kivlin, Tommy Zahn and Dave Rochlen came up with what we now refer to as “The Malibu Board,” or in Oceana as simply “Malibu’s”.

The design’s potential was not realized right away. It wasn’t until Dave Rochlen and guys like Melonhead (Porter Vaughn) and Leslie Williams started ripping Malibu apart with these boards. The whole story is covered in this ebooklet, available by ordering, below.

To order your ebooklet in printable Portable Document File format (PDF) for just USD $2.95 (delivered to your email address), click on the Pay Pal icon (if not visible, you are probably using a mobile device and will need to go to the LEGENDARY SURFERS website):

All order fulfillments are done manually, so please be patient in case there may be a delay. Should you have any problems with your order, please comment at the bottom of this posting and I will be sure to get it.

Aloha and Thank You for Your Interest in My Writings!

Malcolm Gault-Williams

Contents of What You Will Receive:

  1946: Fiberglass & Resin
  .. Fiberglass
  .. Resin
  1947: Zahn, Quigg, Kivlin, Rochlen & Melonhead
  .. Tommy Zahn
  .. Joe Quigg
  .. Dave Rochlen
  The Darrylin Board
  Other Joe Quigg Designs, 1947-49
  .. 1st Pintail Gun, 1st Fiberglassed Skeg
  .. Foam Prototype
  .. Multiple Fins
  .. Grey Ghost
  .. Malibu Perpetual Surfboard
  .. Nose Rider & Ridicule
  1948
  1949
  .. Hot Curl Experiments
  .. Foam Experiments
  .. Simmons Styrofoam Sandwich Boards
  The "Birdman" & The Malibu
  Matt Kivlin & The Malibu
  .. Dave Rochlen
  Simmons Breaks It Off, 1950
  Joe Quigg in Later Years

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He was one of the great ocean paddlers of all time -- some say the greatest. An early California surfer, he was also a lifeguard, Waikiki haole beachboy, fighter, and -- later a Honolulu policeman. He is credited with helping rediscover the North Shore of O‘ahu as prime surf territory and his inter-island paddles are the stuff of legend.

One day in the early 1980s, he walked out into the California desert and left the beach and all who knew him forever behind. His name was Gene Smith, although he is best remembered by his nickname of "Tarzan," after the character immortalized by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Despite all that we know about him -- especially his paddling records -- he was such a loner, so different, and left surfing so strangely, that mystery surrounds his memory to this day.

Thanks to friends like Gary Lynch and members of the Smith family, I have been able to get a clearer picture of who legendary paddler Gene "Tarzan" Smith was, the accuracy of the legends that surround him, and a full inventory of his accomplishments. Much of this was published in two articles for The Surfer's Journal:

  “Last Chapter: 'Tarzan' Smith"”, The Surfer's Journal, Volume 7, Number 4, Winter 1998.

  “TARZAN DEDUX: Chapter Fill-Ins From The Life of Gene Smith,” The Surfer's Journal, Volume 13, Number 2, Spring/Summer 2004. Photographs from the Smith Family photo album.

I combined the research for both printed articles into one chapter for the LEGENDARY SURFERS collection. This chapter contains all the information from the two articles, plus material that was left out due to space considerations with the magazine versions. Total length is approximately 14,200 words, comprising 38 pages, including footnotes and vintage photos from the Smith family collection (6.48 MB).

To order your ebooklet in printable Portable Document File format for just USD $2.95 (delivered to your email address), click on the Pay Pal icon (if not visible, you are probably using a mobile device and will need to go to the LEGENDARY SURFERS website):

All order fulfillments are done manually, so please be patient in case there may be a delay. Should you have any problems with your order, please comment at the bottom of this posting and I will be sure to get it.

Aloha and Thank You for Your Interest in My Writings!

Malcolm Gault-Williams

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