: surfing with duke, 1914-1918
Baker : Surfing with Duke, 1918 .
Baker, Reg "Snowy:
Riding - The Sport With a Thrill
The Mid-Pacific Magazine
Published by Alexander Hume Ford,
Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii,
Volume 15, Number 3, March 1918.
published here in 1918, the article was written several years
earlier, certainly before Duke visited Australia in 1914-1915.
1910 Harold Baker
Baker: General Physical Culture, Melbourne. G.Robertson
& Co., 1910. Pages 54 to 61.
In days of old
at Waikiki, the native often used a
surf-board not ﬁve feet in length, and on this he would
stand before the largest breaker.
In fact the larger the billow, the smaller need be
surf-board to support the rider
of the waves.
James J. Williams : Surf Board
Rider, circa 1893.
Alexander S. :
Hawaii and Its People
Burdett & Co., 1899, New York, 1899.
During the trip across from Australia, I
was looking forward to a
meeting with the world-famous swimmer, Duke Kahanamoku.
Riding - The Sport With a Thrill
By REG. L. BAKER
Reg. L. (Snowy) Baker is Australia’s leading
sports of all kinds, and a physical culture
Surf-board Stunt at Waikiki.
On arriving at Waikiki, it was not very long before this aquatic star was
introduced to me.
What a ﬁne fellow he is!
He stands quite six feet
high, and is built proportionately.
On looking him over, I
could easily picture him a
Together with the Duke, I
motored round to the various clubs surrounding this famous watering place, and met a whole host of ﬁne
people, who all greeted me with the greatest of courtesy.
At Waikiki beach one, on ﬁrst
glimpse,is bound to be a bit disappointed after seeing the
stretches of golden sand we have around sunny New South
To be correct, there is hardly any sand here at all, for the
bed of Waikiki bay is all coral, and looks if anything a
little uninviting; but as they all explain here,
it is not the bed of the sea they come
for, but to shoot the breakers.
in the Small Surf,
I was invited by the Duke to accompany him into the
water, and try surf-shooting
with the big boards; a sport that has been made famous the
world over by the natives of these islands of Hawaii.
From the veranda of the hotel, I had watched for some
considerable time the wonderful feats performed by the
native surfboard riders.
To see these natives go through their various
performances on the big waves is almost astounding.
Kahanamoku arranged a special display by the creme de
la creme of Hawaii‘s surf
He knew I was an enthusiast in swimming and
as well as boxing.
The surf-board riders had with
them what they called “old men boards."
They are up to ten feet long by three feet wide.
They are fairly light and are paddled out over the water by
the surfer, and in this manner they skim along at an
alarming rate, until at length you can hardly espy them in
It struck me as being rather peculiar (after in Sydney
having always taken the wave as it goes to break) to seethe
manner in which these fellows take big green waves that
apparently have no intention of breaking at all.
The surfers will paddle out for half a mile, and a mile
in some cases, and await the incoming of a desirable
Lying here like a ﬂotilla of torpedo boats, they will
suddenly espy somewhere out to sea a wave that will suit all
purposes. and they let out a most unearthly yell and move
outwards or inwards, so that they may have their boards in
position to take it.
They point their boards in-wards and paddle for their lives
with the big green comber chasing them in the rear.
When it overtakes them they stop paddling and steer with
When once they get their board correctly on the wave they “carry on" with
some of the most amazing antics.
I saw one man standing on his head while the board was traveling
along at the rate of thirty knots per hour. and in another instance, I saw one board-rider standing perfectly upright, with another
fellow standing on his shoulders.
I thought it quite an extraordinary piece of work, but I am
told it is a common occurrence here.
They throw somersaults and do all manner of things whilst
they are rushing shorewards.
After witnessing this performance,
which absolutely thrilled me, I was naturally anxious to get
in and have a try at it.
I suggested this to the "Duke," who readily consented to
seeing me through, so we entered the water together.
We proceeded to paddle our boards out over the shallow
waters of the bay for some distance.
Of course, the "Duke" was quite an adept at it, but my board would persist in going the wrong way.
We eventually reached the appointed spot out to sea, and he
endeavored to explain and show me the method of board riding.
We did not venture out nearly so far as the natives whom I
spoke of before, but got closer in where the waves were
A suitable wave came and he mounted me on the board and shoved me off shorewards, but, oh! what a
dumper I got. I travelled down, down, down towards that horrible coral bed I
spoke of before.
I simply thought I was never coming to the surface.
All sorts of things whizzed through my brain; I thought of
all the strange antics I had just a moment ago seen the
black fellows doing, and at the same time, the miserable
imitation I had made.
As I struggled through the water to reach the top, I had
scarcely any breath left, and on emerging, the “Duke” was
laughing ﬁt to split.
I felt like being annoyed, but, of course, could not with
such a good-hearted fellow as I had with me.
I tried another breaker with the board and got on a
little better on this occasion. just missing a nasty dump.
After a few times with "Duke" aiding me with practical
advice the whole- time, I succeeded to a certain degree, and
it was not long before my board whizzed along
tossing spray on all sides.
To come down on the crest of a huge wave at Manly is a
wonderful sensation, but to come down on a big board and tear along at a terriﬁc rate is the very
pinnacle of thrill and exhilaration.
Of course, surf-board riding is not possible on Sydney beaches,
because the waves are not suitable.
The waves at Waikiki are long and low, and on occasions do
not even break at all, whilst on the Sydney beaches they are
high, and from what I know of them they are often very
inclined to "dump."
To shoot our breakers in Australia with these big boards
would entail too much danger both to the rider and those
I do not suppose I exaggerate
at all when I say that the breakers on this beach are longer
than on any other beach in the world.
I am told that it is on record here that the native surf-board riders have
ridden for a mile.
I know this sounds "tall," but my authority was good.
There are great long, regular, sweeping billows after a
storm at Waikiki that carry the natives in for quita mile,
and there are rollers after a big “Kona” storm that sweep
across Hilo Bay, on the big island of Hawaii, that carry the
native surf-board riders in
miles at a run.
Just on the right hand side of Waikiki is a huge
headland. known as Diamond.Head. which resembles. somewhat,
a couchant lion.
It casts giant shadows across the bay, and it is in
these shadows that the native surf-board riders will be
seen frolicking on the waters.
I shall never forget the “slides” I had down the face
of those “green mountains" at Waikiki.
(2016) : Snowy Baker : Surfing, Mid-Pacific Magazine, 1918.