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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Did George Freeth surf in Atlantic City in 1903?

It is commonly assumed that the Hawaiian born, George Freeth made his first appearance surfing on the mainland of the United States in 1907. The Hawaiian Star heralded his departure on July 3rd of that year with the headline proclaiming


On July 22nd of 1907, the Santa Monica Daily Outlook commented

SURF RIDERS HAVE DRAWN ATTENTIONMany people daily gather to watch the Hawaiians in the surf at Venice…

Although not named, the “Hawaiians” that the Daily Outlook speaks of are most likely George Freeth and fellow Hawaiian, Kenneth Winter. An August 2nd article in the Hawaiian Gazette title “FREETH SURFING AT VENICE” mentions

“Freeth and Kenneth Winter tried surf-riding at Long Beach, but found the rollers there unsatisfactory, finally making a contract with Manager Hanna at Venice. There, exhibitions are given by Freeth every afternoon…”

But this may not have been the first time that George Freeth surfed on the mainland of the United States. One week prior to his departure in 1907 a curious article appeared in the June 28th edition of the Hawaiian Gazette that might place George Freeth surfing in Atlantic City, New Jersey as early as 1903. The headline read “Freeth Will Ride Atlantic Rollers” and goes on to claim “Freeth has the privilege of being able to boast that he is the only man living who has ever surfed on the Atlantic coast.”. The article goes on to tell the tale of a young George Freeth shaping his own board and riding the surf at Atlantic City, New Jersey.

“With a hatchet and jackknife he fashioned this into a surfboard and again sought the sad sea waves. Far out he swam and then, among the breakers, began to have a real swim, pretty soon he noticed a rowboat coming out his way but he was having too good a time to pay any attention. Pretty soon the boat with four life-savers aboard got abreast of where he was standing on his head on the slab.
“Here, young fellow, you can’t do that here,” shouted one of the rowers.
Freeth saw that they were speaking to him and just to show that he could do it, he balanced on the board again and wiggled his toes in their direction.
“Get in out of here.” Continued the life-saver, “no one is allowed to come this far out; we can’t spare all the men on the beach just to look after you.”
“You run along back to the girls,” said George, “This looks pretty good to me out here. I think I’ll swim out a little farther where I won’t keep hitting my knees,” and Freeth started to push his slab in the direction of Ireland.
That made the life-savers mad and they began to chase George. Three of them tried to corner him but he dived under them and splashed in their faces with his feet as he passed. Then he caught a roller and surfed past them towards the beach. He did all kinds of stunts, zigzagged between the pier legs, and had the time of his life, but he had to come out sometime and when he did the whole beach police force was laying for him. What they did to him George doesn’t tell and it would be unfair to say here, but he didn’t surf at Atlantic City anymore.”

This article does not give a date for when this event happened but it does note that Freeth boarded a steamer, “rounded the Horn” and “was given a discharge in Philadelphia”. The only time Freeth had left the Hawaiian archipelago prior to his 1907 California visit, was sometime during the summer of 1903.

From the August 18th 1903 Evening Bulletin, Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii;

“George Freeth, son of Mrs. E.K. Freeth, of Emma Street, won the fancy and high diving and the 100-yards swimming race in the tournament at West Chester, Pa., on Independence Day. Young Freeth is an employee of one of the local telephone companies of that place.”

Roughly one hundred miles from West Chester, Pennsylvania, the world-famous seaside resort of Atlantic City, New Jersey would not have been too far away for the young George Freeth to visit.

There is no author attributed to the June 28th story in the Hawaiian Gazette. Possibly it was Alexander Hume Ford who is credited with the two photos appearing along side the article. But until a secondary piece of evidence comes to light supporting the claim in the 1907 article, we can only take this unnamed writer at his written word.

Did George Freeth surf in Atlantic City in 1903? It certainly seems possible.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Sailing the Time Machine

Sailing with Bernadette on the Santa Monica bay. Light winds and swell. Very pleasant. The Pacific Palisades are in the foreground. Craft name: Time Machine.

Merit 25

Name: Sailing 8-17
Date: Aug 17, 2012 12:02 pm
(valid until Feb 13, 2013)
View on Map
Distance: 18.1 miles
Elapsed Time: 5:06:33
Avg Speed: 3.5 mph
Max Speed: 6.5 mph
Avg Pace: 16' 56" per mile
Min Altitude: 0 ft
Max Altitude: 39 ft
Start Time: 2012-08-17T19:02:44Z
Start Location:  Marina Del Rey Pier 44
Latitude: 33º 58' 51" N
Longitude: 118º 26' 33" W
End Location:
Latitude: 33º 58' 52" N
Longitude: 118º 26' 33" W

Friday, May 04, 2012

Kahanamoku Again is Hero

While training for the 1912 Summer Olympics in Sweden, Duke Kahanamoku managed to save the lives of at least two men. Duke was perfecting his already impressive swimming stroke under the watchful eye of George Kistler, coach of the University of Pennsylvania swimming team. Kahanamoku was residing near Philadelphia with the family of Lew Henderson when, as reported in the May 16th, 1912 Evening Edition of the Hawaiian Star, Duke assisted in the rescue of two sailors, who went in swimming in the Schuylkill River and became exhausted.  Duke and a companion pulled them out and got them safely to shore

Here is Duke explaining the situation in a letter to Lew.

“We were out canoeing all day yesterday up and down the Schuylkill River.  Say, Lew; there’s certainly some crowd along the river here.  We rescued a couple of sailors yesterday.  One of them could hardly swim:  just managed to get ashore.  I believe the two did not know how to handle themselves.”

Only a few weeks prior, Duke had dived for a man who had gone to the bottom of the swimming pool at Atlantic City.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Sculling Canoe!

Jake Frith's "Sculling Canoe"
Rowing For Pleasure is a great blog by Chris Partridge covering row boats and the joy of being on the water. Here is a great post about...

"a plastic canoe converted to rowing by the simple wheeze of cutting a rowing station out of an old quad scull and bolting it down in the canoe."


Monday, March 05, 2012

Explore Canada Videos - Lonely Planet

After filming the intro for this video, I was accosted by a heavy smoker with marshmallows in their pockets. Talent and assistant were visibly disturbed by the altercation. Expedient departure ensued and relief was granted in the form of a burger. Travel videos are fun. 

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

100 Years Ago Today - Duke Leaves Hawaii

It was on this day, February 7th, in 1912 that Duke Kahanamoku left Hawaii for the first time. He was on his way to the Olympic Trials on the mainland. Duke had recently smashed swimming records at the Amateur Athletic Union's first swim meet in the Territory of Hawaii and much hope was being placed on sending Duke to the mainland to represent Hawaii.

“It would be a good thing for Hawaii from an advertising standpoint if Kahanamoku were sent to San Francisco to take part in the trials. Win or lose, he can be relied on to make a credible showing” – H.M. Ayres, sportswriter for The Hawaiian Star, January 4th 1912.

Duke and his travelling partners "were literally smothered with leis and were the recipients of countless good wishes from friends and well-wishers." (Hawaiian Star - February 8th, 1912). Accompanying Duke was another Olympic hopeful, the distance swimmer, Vincent "Zen" Genoves, as well as the expedition manager, Lew Henderson, and last minute addition, E.K. "Dude" Miller. 

"It was decided at the last moment to send Miller along. He knows the boys intimately and can talk Hawaiian, a fact which should be of great help to the expedition as far as Kahanamoku is concerned."(Hawaiian Star - February 7th, 1912).

The group left Honolulu aboard the S.S. Honolulan bound for San Francisco. In the coming weeks, Olympic Trials were being held in Pittsburgh, Chicago and New York. 

“The Hui Nalu gave their club yell, a quintet club sang “Aloha Oe”, Berringer’s Band struck up “Auld Lang Syne” and it was off and away with the speedy water artist on whom the Territory is banking to bring her much fame and advertisement.” (Hawaiian Star - February 8th, 1912).

The above photo is mis-captioned. From left to right are Genoves, Miller, Kahanamoku and Henderson. The photo is from the February 27th edition of the Hawaiian Star, but the picture was obviously taken upon departure from Honolulu as there would have been no other locations where the group would have been showered in leis.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Origami Kayak

Two photos and three specs... I am going to go ahead and not get excited.

Oru, The Origami Kayak

Update: 2016 - Oru Kayak is a going concern. My initial pessimism was unfounded.