magazine : motion
pictures, hawaii, 1912
Mid-Pacific Magazine : Motion Pictures, Hawaii, 1912
A.H. Ford: Surf Riding for
the Motion Picture Man
The Mid-Pacific Magazine
Published by Alexander Hume Ford,
Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii,
Volume 4, Number 3, September,1912.
author is not accredited, it was almost certainly the work of
the publisher, Alexander Hume
Riding the Surfboard at
Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Territory of
Surf Riding for the Motion Picture Man
A few more years and the art of riding the surfboard might have become
one of the lost arts never to be rediscovered.
Now that the motion picture ﬁlm tells the trick in every
detail, even should the people of Hawaii neglect this art of
the Sandwich Islanders of old, the motion picture will teach
new generations how the secret of surfboard riding may be
How nearly the surfriding on boards came to extinction few
It was only in Hawaii that the Polynesian practiced the art of
standing on a tiny plank, no longer than himself, and while he
stood on his frail board urged it onward before the biggest
rollers of the sea.
Many years ago surfriding had died out among the natives of
all of the Hawaiian Islands save Hawaii, Oahu and the little
Island of Niihau.
The Hawaiians have dwindled in a hundred years from 250,000 to
less than a tenth of that number.
But a handful on the big Island of Hawaii now practice surfboard riding, and it is
doubtful if half a dozen of these can stand erect on the board
while it is in motion.
On the little Island of Niihau but a very few hundred natives
exist, and but a few of these practice the art that once made
famous as the home of the most daring surfers.
During the month of September there is a surf that bears down
Start Out. [See page 279]
Niihau, great rollers miles across.
There are still a few experts left who swim out a mile or so to
sea and catch these big waves.
Usually they do not ride the board before them, but after the
wave is once caught glide the board on the bias until, beneath
the hollow of the advancing wave, they are carried forward
toward the beach, yet shoot along the face of the wave, at
incredible speed, across the bay.
It is beyond hope that another generation will produce on Niihau
such skilled surfers.
On the Island of Oahu it is doubtful if a surfboard has been launched for a generation, save at Waikiki
Here the sport of surfriding is kept alive, not by natives, but
by white men and boys who have learned the sport within recent
Nearly a decade ago, when it was known in Honolulu that Edison
had sent a man to make motion pictures of the surfriding at
Waikiki, interest was renewed in the old Hawaiian water sport.
Men who had, as boys, learned to ride the board, became
interested again, and those youngsters who lived at Waikiki
beach began practicing on their long-neglected surfboards in
anticipation of seeing themselves on the screen in motion.
The pictures were taken, and once more interest died down, until
there were very few who could ride the waves.
Then came the invasion of the malihini, that is the
“stranger” began to arrive.
To him surfboard riding was a miracle.
He wanted to accomplish the marvelous art to return to his
native land and astonish his friends someday at the nearest
But, alas! there were no teachers.
Some newcomers did get together and organize the Outrigger Club,
securing a place on Waikiki beach where surfboards might be
stored and dressing rooms built.
Once again the motion picture man became interested.
Pathe Freres sent their representative to picture the marvelous
water sport, and Burton Holmes secured from Bonine ﬁlms that
told the whole world how they rode the surfboard in Hawaii.
It remained for M. Bouvillain of Pathe Fréres to make pictures
that would show
The motion picture is secured by making a
separate photo each sixteenth of a second; these enlarged are
projected on the screen at the same rate of speed.
the novice how the wave was caught and mastered.
The Outrigger Club was all ablaze with excitement.
For two years its hundreds of members, especially the
Juniors, had been striving to learn the tricks of
surfriding, and many were eminently successful.
Surfriding became a white man's sport in Hawaii, and not
a few young women and girls learned to master the surfboard.
A great steel tripod was built for the representative of
Pathe Freres, and this was carried far out on the reef
into deep water.
Here it was erected and a platform built just above the
highest waves, and on this platform M. Bouvillain
erected his motion picture camera.
Here he caught the waves as they formed and the men and
boys as they watched over their shoulders the oncoming
roller, ready to paddle forward as the down-slope of the
advancing roller began to lift their boards.
This was not all, however; the Pathe man began from the
beginning; he made motion pictures of the riders
approaching the surfboards on dry land, pictures of them
launching their boards and paddling out to the big waves
half a mile out at sea.
Every movement of the arms and legs was depicted—from
start to ﬁnish; no motion could escape the rapid ﬁre of
the ﬁlms; so that today as French may be learned from
the phonograph record, so the swimmer may study the
secrets of surfboard riding from the motion picture ﬁlms.
The Start Out.
As it takes about the eighth of a second for the eye to clearly
catch and retain a picture, by persistency of vision the picture
on the retina is carried over and the jerky movement is reduced.
In making natural color ﬁlms, the pictures are taken and
projected at thirty-second of a second intervals, so that the
color pictures appear to run more smoothly.
In Paris there is a great international library of ﬁlms in the
special vaults of Pathe Freres.
The surfriding ﬁlms are there, and generations hence the student
may rent a
Coming in on a Small Wave
A Nearer View.
positive of one of these ﬁlms and project the picture at any
speed he may desire to closely watch the movements of the
man and board in catching the waves.
It is no sinecure to stand far out at sea on a frail
platform, the surf rolling a foot or so beneath, and calmly
turn the handle of the motion picture camera that must
remain ﬁrm and steady on its tripod.
M. Bouvillain did this once.
After he had left the great steel tripod it collapsed and
still lies at the bottom of Waikiki Bay, the waves rolling
Hundreds now ride the surfboard at Waikiki, and the next daring motion picture
man will send down to posterity ﬁlms showing men on
surfboards with boys standing on their shoulders, as well as
of girls and women who have become expert surfriders.
The next ﬁlm will doubtless show the surfriders and the
scenes at Waikiki in all the richness of natural color.
The motion picture has done much to preserve the art of
surfriding, and fortunate is Hawaii to have the only safe
beaches before which this sport may be indulged in the year
The Mid-Pacific Magazine
Published by Alexander Hume
Honolulu, Territory of
Volume 4, Number 3,
Geoff Cater (2010-2016) :
The Mid-Pacific Magazine : Surf Films, Hawaii, 1912.