Duke Kahanamoko Introduces Surfing To Australia
Duke Kahanamoko worked in the clear heat at Freshwater Beach, Australia. With adz in hand, and wood chips around his ankles, he worked with a sun dries piece of Sugar pine suspended horizontally before him at waist level. The 24 year old stops and his eyes move across the rough planes of an unfinished surfboard.. The year was 1914, Duke Kahanamoko was 2 weeks through his first visit to Australia. The regional wood was different than what he found in the Honolulu lumber yards. So the board was made of medium density sugar pine rather than the dense Koa wood of Hawaii.
The developing board looked rudimentary even by early 19th century standards. It was squared of f at the tail, the sides flared to a spo about 3/4 forward and pulled together to a point. A measure of thought went int the design, chiseling out a concave section in the bottom of the nose. The waves at Freshwater seemed to be of average height and power, but the ocean surface was a rougher texture than he found in Waikiki, and he thought the concave feature would add a stabilizing effect to his new board.
When Duke Kahanamoko arrived in Australia, sportsmen everywhere recognized the pure blooded Hawaiian not just as the fastest swimmer alive and an Olympic gold medalist but as an international celebrity. Kahanamoko , whose self confidence was faulty at best, tended to view himself as little more than a gypsy son of Waikiki.
And finally, Duke Kahanamoko was about to give its first demonstration of stand-up surfing in Australia. He had already become surfing’s first and foremost nation-builder, founding a settlement of wave rider in Atlantic City two years earlier. He would do the same in Australia and New Zealand and would lift California surfing from relative obscurity to statewide and before long, to nationwide attention. Hollywood’s “beach movies” of the early 1960’s would show surfing as young and frivolous, a depiction that was not entirely wrong. But during the first half of the century, a growing international fraternity of surfers followed Kahanamoko’s lead and practiced a more courtly version of the sport…….. excepts from Matt Warshaw’s SurfRiders