Article located and contributed by Howard
Fink, October 2010, with many thanks.
Howard Fink wrote:
"Thought you'd get a kick out of this.
Mechanix Illustrated June, 1942.
Tennis-Ball Cannons mounted on paddleboards."
Howard Fink's Hi Sibley blog is at:
Mechanix Illustrated, June, 1942, page 120.
Shooting the waves at Vah Beach
I've been meaning to post this for awhile but haven't for various reasons. A few years back, I came across an article by Tony Lillis in Eastern Surf Magazine mentioning an article from 1912 about "wave shooting" in Virginia Beach. It appears that Mr. Lillis had been doing some research on east coast surfing history and had several articles published on the topic. After utilizing an age-old yet still wonderful service called Interlibrary Loan, I was able to obtain the microfilm for the newspaper that published it and after some time going through it I finally found the article in question. It's a really fascinating article and represents the earliest article from an east coast publication (that I have found to date) that not only mentions surfing but also acknowledges that east coasters knew about surfing. The first sentence reads,
"The fame of the Hawaiian wave shooters has spread around the world and thousands of tourists who have visited the beautiful Pacific Islands have returned home with wonderful tales of the skill the natives show in riding a giant comber to shore on a plank."
Not to be outdone by the "natives," the article goes on, "There is something
of the same sort of feat done here every summer day after day that is equally
as thrilling to see and far more dangerous and difficult to perform but
there is little heard about it. This is shooting the waves in dories and
canoes by young men of the cottage colony at Virginia Beach." The article
further describes some of the differences in these canoes which along with
"wave shooting contests" to be held using these canoes at the beach. I've
also read and seen other accounts describing canoe surfing and it seems
like this was perhaps popular on the east coast around this time period.
I'd certainly like to explore this more when I have the time.
I couldn't help but wonder if the author was writing this to help promote resorts and activities at the beach (why go to Hawaii when you can have all this fun and more much closer to home!) along with suggesting a little bit of neocolonial ideology that folks at home could do things equal to or better than the "natives" and that the skill required to surf a canoe is much more rigorous than riding a plank to shore. Anyway, that's all speculation on my part. If you're interested in reading the article here is the citation:
"Planning Regatta at the Va. Beach Casino; Dory and Canoe Races and
Wave Shooting Contests to be on Program." Virginian-Pilot and the Norfolk
Landmark. Friday, June 21, 1912, pg.4.