Surfing in California dates back as far as the early 1900’s. When the well respected Hawaiian from Waikiki, Duke Kahanamoku (pictured to the right), introduced the sport to Southern California. Bringing his hand shaped, hardwood surfboards via freight.
George Freeth, a Californian that grew up sharing waves with Kahanamoku in Waikiki during the early 1900’s was responsible for the true evolution of the sport in Southern California.
By the mid to late 1920’s George was California’s first official lifeguard and had established many Surf competitions up and down the coast of California.
1930’s was when American Surf Photographer Tom Blake first put a camera in a water housing, getting his first feature with National Geographic Magazine in 1935. Tom was also an innovator of the surfing world, the first to install a fin on a board.
Tom Blake also had a spread in the L.A. times during the early 1930’s, influencing a surf photographer by the name of John Heath ‘Doc’ Ball.
In 1929 ‘Doc’ had been given a Kodak Autographic by his dentist father’s assistant. Having drawn inspiration from Tom Blake’s spread, ‘Doc’ dedicated years to documenting everything that surrounded surf culture. He captured the parties, construction of boards as well as the travel and exploration of different surf breaks at the time.
Unfortunately ‘Doc’s’ house was flooded in 1964 destroying most of his archives, luckily he’d always hand out photos to fellow surfer’s over the years so his timeless images are still around today.
During the 1950’s -1960’s, surf photography, magazines and films attracted national interest to the sport, spawning groups of vagabond-surf culture all over California.
Director Bruce Brown’s surf film ‘Surf Crazy’ and in particular ‘The Endless Summer’ are classics and some of the first surf productions to bring large profits. Consequently bringing commercial attention to the sport. Eventually leading to surfing being as popular as it is today with sponsorships and multi-million dollar brands like Hurley, Quiksilver, Ripcurl and Billabong.