surfers : george freeth
|While Jack and
Charmian London and Alexander Hume Ford were touring
Oahu by automobile in 1907, two surfing photographs
appeared in the Honolulu
press, along with an article headed Freeth
Will Ride Atlantic Rollers!
Ford and the London's had recently met George Freeth, who was currently the surfing instructor at Waikiki's Seaside Hotel, when they began surfboard riding, identifying him as as one of the local experts.
Published on June 23, the photographs had been commissioned by Ford at end of May.and the copy was, undoubtedly, his work.
In addition to reporting Freeth's intention to surf on America's east coast, Ford revealed how Freeth had already done so.
Although this is the only known report of Freeth surfing the east coast before 1907, the article's exorbitant detail has led some to question Ford's tale in its entirety.
However, as Freeth was in Philadelphia in 1904 it is possible that he did ride a surfboard at Atlantic City and, given that city's life-saving brigades were firmly established by the time, that his efforts would likely have made the life-savers mad.
George D. Freeth was born on Ohau in 1883, his father, part-Irish and variously named Captain or Governor George D. Freeth, traversed the Pacific principally engaged in exploiting guano deposits.
His part-Hawaiian mother, Elizabeth K. Freeth, descended from a long established local family,.
The family was familiar with Hawaiian society; in February, 1892.they attended her Majesty Queen
Liliuokalani's fancy dress Children's Ball at the Royal Palace.
George, aged 9, was a very proud soldier-like Zouave in a red jacket and yellow trousers and his brothers, Willie and Charley, dressed as the two Princes in the Tower.
George Freeth, Waikiki,
In Honolulu, two months after his parents separation in February, 1900, aged 17, George appeared at the second annual gymnasium exhibition of the Young Men's Christian Association; a junior competitor was Ernest Kopke who would later vie with Freeth for swimming honours.
A student of the lolani College, George was listed as one of the sub-editors.of first edition of the Ioiani College Magazine, published in August 1900, and in November he played as goal-keeper for the College's:(Association) Football team; a journalist noting that Freeth is improving but does not appear to know the game.
At the end of the month he played as a forward for the Iolani's, Ah Hun replacing him in goal.
The next year, Freeth was listed as an oarsman in the Freshman barge competing for the Mrytles, one of Honolulu's premier boat clubs, at Regatta Day on the harbour
By Independence Day, 1903, George was on the mainland's East Coast.
George Freeth, Waikiki, 1907.
Celebrated novelist, Jack London , first arrived in Hawaii in 1904 for and at the end of June, like all visitors of renown, was given his first experience with a surf-ride at Waikiki by local expert canoe-surfers, Jack Atkinson and Col. McFarlane.
By October of that year, George Freeth was back in Honolulu, named as a member of the Healani Boat Club's swimming team to challenge the Myrtles.
In Hawaii during this period, team loyalty appears to be extremely flexible, with members often moving between clubs.
After leaving college, George Freeth excelled in athletics and water-sports.
In April 1905 he completed an 80-foot dive into Pearl Harbor, the distance was so great and the lights so tantalizing that water had to be thrown on the surface to stir it so that Freeth could see it distinctly before making the leap.
George Freeth, who will make the 80-foot leap, April 1905
Apart from regularly appearing in swimming and diving competitions, Freeth was appointed the swimming instructor at the Healani Boat Club and competed for them in boat races.
In November, 1906, he was chosen as captain of the newly formed Hawaiian Swimming Club.
On land, in October 1905 he made a home run for the Diamond Heads to beat the Makikis in baseball; he played quarterback for Maile in gridiron, and starred as a forward when the same team played Association football (Socker).
Organised by Jack Atkinson, many expert board riders had entered; including Harry Steiner, Curtis Hustace, Dan Keawemahi, Duke Kahanamoku, William Dole, Keanu, Dudy Miller, Atherton Gilman, Lane Webster, and James McCandless.
A lack of swell saw the Regatta postponed from New Year's Day until March 17, 1907, where the skills of Harry Steiner and James McCandless were praised.
But the three judges, E. P. Law, C. W. Macfarlane, and Olaf Sorenson, awarded top points to Harold Hustace, who stood on the board, head up and head down and as an extra turned a somersault or two.
Three years earlier, in the spring of 1904, Harold and his brother Curtis Hustace were praised for using their surfboards to rescue a sailor at Waikiki; his face almost black from asphyxiation, the sailor was revived by being rolled over a barrel.
About a month later, Alexander Hume Ford arrived from San Francisco aboard the Alameda on April 26 and booked into the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Honolulu, the Royal Hawaiian at Waikiki not opening until 1927.
Outrigger Surfboard Riders, June 1908.
Possibly Atherton Gilman, Lane Webster, Harold and Curtis Hustace.
|The boys were also
out riding surf-boards so that all hands were
treated to an exhibition of sport to which canoe
surf-riding is second only.
The journalist observed that the grave and reverend legislators of the Nation and the Territory became boys again- you can't help it when the surf is like that of yesterday.
At Waikiki the next day, May 10, a number stayed most of the morning to try the surf riding.
It was probably during this week, sometime between May 8-12, that Ford had his introduction to surfing and George Freeth was photographed at Waikiki.
Three photographs were published before the end of the year in Ernest F. Acheson's Congressional Party in Hawaii Souvenir, May, 1907.
Captioned Champion Surfboard Rider, Freeth is shown wave riding while standing and prone, and alongside his board on the Waikiki shore line.
This board's template is distinctive in tapering from a wide rounded nose, similar to some prone boards of the era.
Freeth used almost identical design when he first travelled to California, as shown in a photograph taken at Rendondo Beach, circa 1910.
The West coast board is poor condition with several cross-battens affixed to repair substantial vertical cracks in the nose of the board.
To compare and contrast contemporary surfboard templates, see Board Portraits.
Waikiki, 1907. Rendondo Beach, 1910.
The Snark was off Waikiki by the morning of May 20 and anchored in Pearl Lochs, west of Honolulu, by the afternoon.
This was a disappointment for many locals who had hoped the famous author would have a far more public presence by mooring at the Honolulu docks.
Beginning on the morning of March 21, Charmian London's Diary, published in 1917, records that Jack had already planned to moor the Snark in Pearl Lochs, with use of an cottage adjoining the home of Albert Waterhouse.
The London's spent their first days ashore recovering from the voyage, organising repairs to the Snark, and reading a range of Hawaiian related literature.
The Snark moored in Pearl Lochs with Jack London ashore, 1907.
Aware that the London's had taken a cottage at the Seaside at Waikiki, Ford arranged to visit and show us how to use a board.
He provided a suitably large board and after one day of instruction, both Jack and Charmian successfully rode prone on several waves.
Jack's enthusiasm,however, resulted in a severe case of sunburn and by June 4 he was confined to bed where he immediately began, with Charmian taking dictation, his landmark article, A Royal Sport.
Published under the title Riding the South Sea Surf, this first printing was prefaced by a quotation by Mark Twain, that concluded none but natives ever master the art of surf-bathing thoroughly.
Fifty years later, London writes in glowing terms of the local natives' skill and style on the large waves breaking on the outer reefs of Waikiki.
Charmian and Jack London, Honolulu, 1907.
Ford also stated that he had sent this photograph of George surfing, along with his article, to Outing. .
Copyrighted by Alexander H. Ford it had been pronounced the very best photograph ever taken of a surfer in action; Ford having stood up to his neck among the breakers for days in order that he might be able to get a series of such photographs.
This was most probably one of photographs, pribably by Edward P. Urwin, that Ford arranged to be taken of George Freeth at Waikiki sometime after May 25, around the time of his first meeting with the London's in Honolulu, and before the event was noted in the local press on June 2.
George Freeth, Spinning in on a swift one, Waikiki, May, 1907
As surfing photographs had been in circulation since Dr. Henry Bolton first snapped surf riders on Niihau in 1890, not to mention the Waikiki footage filmed for the Edison Company by Bonine in 1906-7, the very best photograph ever taken of a surfer was a bold claim.
SURF RIDER BALANCING ON THE CREST OF A BREAKER
Pacific Commercial Advertiser, June 23 1907.
KEEPING JUST BEHIND THE BREAKER.
St. Nicholas Magazine, 1908.
While relaxing on Molokai, Charmian London's Diary records that some one recalled a story of Charles Warren Stoddard's, where the author and Joe talked about the old times, walking arm in arm, and arms about shoulders, in Sweet Lahaina.
The story of Joe of Lahaina appeared in Stoddard's South Sea Idyls, however, the London's may have had the English edition, titled Summer Cruising in the South Seas (1874)
Illustrated by Wallis Mackay, it was the first book depicting surfboard riders on the cover; as in many of her surfing illustrations, naked females.
At one time Mark Twain's secretary, Stoddard visited the Hawaiian Islands four times between 1864 and 1867, and although only acquainted through correspondence, he and Jack have called each other Dad and Son for years; their recent correspondence including a letter by Stoddard introducing Jack to Queen Liliuokalani.
Over a century later, it is impossible to know to what extent contemporary readers were aware of the book's homo-eroticism, including Jack and Charmian London, whose marriage had included open sexual experimentation.
|A week after Ford
had intimated that George
Freeth intended to demonstrate
surfing on the Atlantic coast,
the press reported on July 3 that George, now
the most expert surf
board rider in the world,
had sailed aboard the Alameda
to give swimming and
surf riding exhibitions on the Pacific
Whereas Freeth had indicated earlier that he and "Dudy" Miller would travel to Southern California, with a surfing canoe and surf boards, he was instead, equipped with a supply of surf boards and accompanied by Kenneth Winter.
It is unclear if Ford's profile, published ten days earlier, or Freeth's association with Jack London, in any way assisted in obtaining financial support from the Promotion Committee, or anyone else, for Freeth and Winter's passage, and the transportation of their boards, to California.
After less than a month in California, Kenneth Winter returned on August 8, and by mid-1908 he was elected the first captain of the Outrigger Canoe Club.
He later shared a controversial victory with Sam Wight at that year's Waikiki Regatta; riding long, heavy boards, they won easily; defeating the 1907 champion, Harold Hustace, who turned in vain on his diminutive board.
As a result of the victory, the journalist predicted that the fashion in boards will now turn to something long, thick and narrow.
Honolulu, July 1907.
visit to Molokai was followed by
visits to some of the other
islands by inter-island steamer,
the Snark still
undergoing repairs, but they
returned to Waikiki in late
July, and were invited to dine with Mr. and Mrs.
Frederic J. Church and their
guests, Mr and Mrs.
Mrs. Nicholson was better known as Alice Roosevelt, daughter of the serving President, Theodore Roosevelt,
Her husband was a Republican party leader, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and fourteen years her senior.
Staying for a month in the largest of the cottages at the Seaside, at the start of August the Longwoth's went canoe-surfing with Jack Atkinson, with crowds of spectators on the beach watching the canoe riding the crest of the waves.
This was not a new experience; during their first visit with the Taft party in mid-July 1905 they, along with then Secretary Taft, had ridden in outrigger canoes, courtesy of Jack Atkinson.
During the Pacific voyage in 1905, Miss Roosevelt was, obviously, not short of attention.
Although Washington gossip had Longworth as her accepted suitor, Miss Roosevelt did not let that matter interfere with her enjoyment, the Hawaiian press also noting Rhode Island's Stuyvesant Fish Jr. and Roger K. Wetmore , also visiting aboard S.S. Manchuria, along with locals Jack Atkinson and Walter Dillingham, as particular admirers of Miss Alice Roosevelt.
Alice Roosevelt, c1904.
Alice Roosevelt Enjoying the Surf in
Hawaii on Her Way to the Orient.
(From a photograph)
Miss Roosevelt wielding a paddle while surf riding.
She is at the end of the canoe, on the right.
July 30, 1905.
Canoes in the Surf, Waikiki, July 1905.
Alice in Asia: The 1905 Taft Mission to Asia
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Galleries Smithsonian Institution
A young god bronzed with sunburn.
Nakuina, Emma Metcalf:
Hawaii, Its People
and Their Legends.
Hawaiian Promotion Committee,
Honolulu, H.T., 1904.
Reprinted with Jack London's
The Joys of the Surf-Rider
The Cruise of the Snark.
Macmillan and Company, New York, 1911
|And from Hilo came news that Jack's cheques to some
local merchants were being returned from his Oakland
bank, endorsed not sufficient
While it was generally assumed that the bad checks were a simple mistake in his calculations, there was some sympathy for the Hilo men with the missing coin.
Bank of Hawaii Ltd., Honolulu,13 August 1907
E.O. Hall and Sons, $9.96, endorsed Jack London
| Source Documents
1872 Mark Twain : Roughing It.
1874 Charles Warren Stoddard : Surfriding in Maui.
1907 Newspapers : Swimming and Surfing.
1907 Ernest Francis Acheson : Congressional Party in Hawaii.
1907 Jack London : Riding the South Sea Surf.
1908 Jack London : Aloha Oe.
1908 Alexander Hume Ford : Riding Breakers.
1908 Alexander Hume Ford : A Boy's Paradise in the Pacific.
1908 Alexander Hume Ford : Beach Culture in Sydney, Australia.
1913 Martin Johnson : Through the South Seas with Jack London.
1915 Carroll Van Court and M. C. Merritt : George Freeth.
1916 Jack London : My Hawaiian Aloha.
1917 Charmian London : Surfriding at Waikiki 1907-1917.
1921 Lyba and Nita Sheffield ::Swimming Simplified
Alexander Hume Ford
Cruise of the Snark
The Woman's Home Companion
St. Nicholas Magazine
Charles Warren Stoddard
Wave motion theory
Alice in Asia: The 1905 Taft Mission to Asia
William Howrad Taft
Outrigger Canoe Club
Alexander H. Ford :
As accredited when published
The photograph accompanies
an article by Ford extolling the surfing
However, in Surfing
Hawaii (2011) page 48, Tim
Later printed, without
identifying Freeth i
Rendondo Beach, California,
George Freeth and 1910-type gremmies.
Left to right:
George Mitchell, Tommy Witt, Freeth, Ray Kegeris, Garry Witt.
Photograph: MR. Lemon, coutresy of Lou Martin
Stern and Cleary:
Surfing Guide to Southern California, 1963, page17.
Honolulu, July 1907.
Photographs courtesy of Ray Kegeris.
Stern and Cleary:
Surfing Guide to Southern California, 1963, page 17.
California, circa 1914.
George Freeth riding forwards and backwards - Rendondo Beach, 1914.
George Freeth with reel, high diving
and manning the surf-boat, 1915.
Carroll Van Court and M. C. Merritt: He Sure Can Swim.
Outdoor World Publishing Company, New York.
Volume 53 Number 2, August, 1915
world's champion surf board rider and celebrated
life-saver, teacher of swimming, diving and
Sheffield, Lyba M.and Nita Co.:
The Hicks-Judd Company,
San Francisco, c1921.
George Freeth with his mile-a-minute