Saturday, December 27, 2014

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.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


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!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


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" was written and self-published in the 2001-2003 period of my writing about the history of surfing and its legends. For almost 20 years, it was only available as a for-purchase ebook. It is now freely readable, downloadable and shareable by getting it at the link below. When prompted for a password, enter: moondoggie

Aloha and Thank You for Your Interest in My Writings!

Malcolm Gault-Williams


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

Sunday, December 21, 2014

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

Thursday, December 18, 2014


“The Malibu Board” chapter in ebook format tells the story of how the prototype for today's longboard came into existence in the late 1940's. 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 Oceania 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 that they got everyone's attention. The whole story is covered in this chapter, which is finally available for free. To view and/or download, please go to:

When requested for a password, enter: darrylin

Please note on page 5 that the date for the Darrylin Board is marked as 1947, based on Joe Quigg's memory, but subsequent research and recollections from a number of other people -- including a thorough check of the timeline -- indicate the board was made in 1948, after Joe had come back from The Islands for the first time and after Simmons had already built light boards for Aggie and Vicki.

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

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Gene "Tarzan" Smith (1911-1986)

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 was 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).

Long available only by purchase, this ebook is now free and can be freely shared. To read and/or download, go to:

When prompted for a password, enter:


... Aloha and Thank You for Your Interest in My Writings!

Malcolm Gault-Williams

Monday, December 15, 2014

The 1920s

During the period 1920-1929, the popularity of surfing continued to grow amongst the determined and dedicated. Surfing's revival during the previous two decades had gone by relatively unnoticed by the rest of the world, with the exception of Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

With the death of George Freeth in 1919, surfing's spread was left to Duke Kahanamoku almost single handedly. From a surfing perspective, the 1920s was largely Duke's era and he dominated all news about the sport during that time. However, Duke was not alone. There were growing numbers of surfers at Waikiki, in Australia and California. Significantly, another champion swimmer named Tom Blake got interested in surfing and would become - second only to Duke - the most influential surfer of the next two decades. This chapter covers the events and the surfers of the 1920s in the kind of depth that cannot be found anywhere else.

"The 1920s" is 17,287 words long and comprises 46 pages in length (726 KB), including several pages of footnotes and historical images. The chapter is formatted in Adobe Acrobat's free Portable Document Format (PDF) for easy viewing and printing from your computer. Additionally, the electronic file can be freely shared with friends and family.

To order your ebooklet in printable Portable Document File format for 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:

  WAIKIKI, 1920'S
  TOM BLAKE 1921-23
  LAAC, 1921-29
  TOM BLAKE, 1924-25
  THELMA, JUNE 14, 1925
  SAM C. REID (1908-1978)
  DRILLED-HOLES, 1926-29
  SHARK'S COVE, 1928

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The 1910s

The period 1910-1919 was the first full decade following Surfing's Revival at Waikiki in the first years of the Twentieth Century. In many ways, we know less about the 1910s than we do the first decade of surfing's resurgence because, once the revival was underway, the growth of surfing became less dramatic, albiet more far-reaching. This chapter covers the events and the surfers of that decade in the kind of depth that cannot be found anywhere else.

"The 1910s" is 14,784 words long and comprises 42 pages in length (1.81 MB), including several pages of footnotes. It is formatted in Adobe Acrobat's free Portable Document Format (PDF) for easy viewing and printing from your computer. Additionally, the electronic file can be freely shared.

To order your eBooklet for just USD $2.95, please click on the PayPal icon (if not visible, you are probably viewing this on a mobile device; please order from the LEGENDARY SURFERS web site):

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:

  AUSTRALIA, 1800'S-1903
  NEW ZEALAND, 1910
  WAIKIKI, 1910-1915
  USA EAST COAST, 1912-1919
  AUSTRALIA, 1911-1919

Saturday, December 13, 2014


This LEGENDARY SURFERS chapter on “the Father of Modern Surfing,” Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, has been one of my most-popular over the course of the past 10 years. It contains all of Duke's life relative and specific to surfing, in addition to his other contributions. To my knowledge, there is no other source available - either in print or on the Net - that contains as much detailed information about Duke's life as a surfer.

“Duke Paoa Kahanamoku” was updated and expanded in 1999 and 2005, to replace a previous version that contained some factual errors. Please note that information about Duke's longest ride, the boards he rode, his surfing in Australia, and his surfing on the East Coast of the USA have all been corrected in this version. Many other sources on Duke - both published and on the Net - have this information in error.

Word count: 31,007; total pages: 64 (1.46 MB), including images and 8 pages of footnotes.

To order “Duke Paoa Kahanamoku” for just $2.95, please click on a Pay Pal icon:

All order fulfillments are done manually, so please be patient in the 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.
I hope you enjoy Duke's story, and help spread the true Aloha Spirit that Duke, himself, helped foster throughout the world.

Malcolm Gault-Williams

Contents of What You Will Receive:

  Descendant of the Ali`i
  Barefoot Freedom
  Under the Hau Tree
  Bigger Boards for Bigger Surf
  "Riding the Surfboard," Mid-Pacific magazine, February 1911
  Freestyle Records Broken, August 11, 1911
  The Kahanamoku Kick Overseas, 1912
  The 1912 Olympics, Stockholm, Sweden
  1st Surfing on the East Coast, 1912
  More Than A Beach Boy
  Hawai`i's Ambassador
  Duke Surfs Freshwater, December 24, 1914
  Duke As Catalyst To Australian Surfing
  World War I
  Duke & Dad's Half Mile Ride of 1917
  Olympic Gold and Silver, 1920
  Corona del Mar Save, June 14, 1925
  The Father of Modern Surfing
  Duke's 16-foot olo design
  Rabbit Kekai
  New Sheriff in Town
  Nadine (Nadjesda) Alexander Kahanamoku (1905-1997)
  World War II and After
  Physical & Financial Health, 1955-61
  Kimo McVay
  Twilight Years, 1962-68
  Duke Kahanamoku Surf Team
  The Passing, January 22, 1968
  Duke Swims Away

"Out of the water I am nothing" - Duke

"Duke attained his greatest surfing satisfactions and some of his greatest achievements as a rider after his 40th year." - Tom Blake

"Why not honor a living monument?" - Arthur Godfrey

"My boys and I, we showed 'em how to go surfing." - Duke, speaking about the Mainland Surfari of the Duke Surf Team

"Duke was Duke. His values came from the sea. He walked through a Western world, but he was always essentially Hawaiian. And because of the simplicity and purity of that value system, money was never that important to him." - Kenneth Brown

"Duke was not in the business of being a beachboy. But in the larger sense of the word - of a man who lived and loved the ocean lifestyle - Duke was, as far as I'm concerned, the ultimate beachboy." - Fred Hemmings

"He had an inner tranquillity. It was as if he knew something we didn't know. He had a tremendous amount of simple integrity. Unassailable in integrity. You rarely meet people who don't have some persona they assume to cope with things. But Duke was completely transparent. No phoniness. People could say to you that Duke was simple - the bugga must be dumb! No way. That's an easy way of explaining that. Duke was totally without guile. He knew a lot of things. He just knew 'em." - Kenneth Brown

Related Resources:

Read About Volume 1 of LEGENDARY SURFERS


Thursday, December 11, 2014


Four different types of surfboards came out of the Polynesian settlement of Hawaii and the evolution of Hawaiian culture which occurred during the period of the Long Voyages (300-1000 A.D.). Hawaiian surfboards had their beginning around or after this time. It is unknown how much the Hawaiian boards stemmed from the Polynesian.

The four types of Hawaiian surfboards were, in order of their length: the Olo, Kiko`o, Alaia and Kioe (aka Pae Po or Paipo). This chapter documents as much as is known about these boards and comprises the world's most complete information on the subject.

This LEGENDARY SURFERS eBooklet on Traditional Hawaiian Surfboards (aka "Ancient Hawaiian Surfboards") focuses strictly on the boards, their construction, composition and rituals surrounding their making and dedication. It is enhanced with additional material and images which make this eBooklet the best and most concise, detailed single-source on the Hawaiian surfboard of the pre-European contact period.

This original LEGENDARY SURFERS eBooklet was first published in 2003 and then revised in 2005 to include additional material.

Total pages: 18 (585 KB), including three pages of footnotes.

To order your eBooklet for just $2.95, please click on a Pay Pal icon:

All order fulfillment is done manually, so please be patient in the 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:

  Papa He`e Nalu
  The Olo
  The Kiko`o
  The Alaia
  The Paipo (Kioe)
  Wood Types, Collection, Shaping and Rituals
  Board Consecration and Ceremonies

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Traditional Hawaiian Surf Culture takes a stab at collecting together all that we know about early surfing culture -- at least prior to and immediately following European contact in Hawaii, in the late 1770s. This chapter is the most concise, detailed information on the subject available anywhere, excepting Volume 1 of LEGENDARY SURFERS, itself.

This original LEGENDARY SURFERS chapter was written in 1999. The eBooklet version -- written in 2004 -- was revised at that time to include additional material.

Word count: 11,069; Total pages: 26 (888 kb)

To order your eBooklet for just $2.95, please click on a Pay Pal icon below:

All my PayPal order fulfillment is done manually, so please be patient in the 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: