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blythe : surfboard riding at waikiki , 1926 

Samuel G. Blythe  :  Introduction to Surfboard Riding, Waikiki, 1926.

 Extracts from
Blythe, Samuel G.:
My Dear! He Says Hawaii Is American!!

Illustrations by Ray Morris.
Honolulu,: T.H., Published by Nelson "Pete" Pringle,
Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Library, c1928.

University of Michigan Library

Samuel George Blythe (1868-1947) was an American writer and newspaperman who appeared on the cover of Time Magazine on 20 August 1923
Blythe visited Hawaii in 1925, his observations were first
published in The Saturday Evening Post then later in book form in 1926.
With a considerable debt to Mark Twain, Blythe, aged forty, humorously recounts his unsuccessful attempts at surfboard riding; the two illustrations by Ray Morris echoing Surfbathing Success and Failure printed in Twain's Roughing It (1872)
Whereas Twain wrote in 1872 that none but natives ever master the art of surf-bathing thoroughly, Blythe concludes it is only for the young, all advertisements to the contrary notwithstanding.

wikipedia: Samuel George Blythe (1868-1947)

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These investigations concluded, I turned my attention to surfing, to riding in atop the glistening breakers that scatter their pearls on the golden sands of the beach at Waikiki, as the advertisements say: riding in on a surf board as the bronzed and graceful beach boys ride in, a diversion that is typically Hawaiian, that is exhilarating and exciting, and at the command of one and all. Simple as can be.
Nothing required but a surf board, which are numerously for hire, a willing disposition and the knowing how to

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Listen avidly to a Hawaiian song after they have had their laundry bills.
[Not shown]
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There is the Pacific.
There are the breakers.
There is the beach.
All you have to do is to paddle out atop the surf board to the first or second line of breakers, turn the nose of your surf board to the beach, wait for a wave and come in a-whooping, riding on the crest of the wave like whatever it is that rides atop wave crests-like a Kanaka beach boy, let us say-a picture of grace, of daring, of muscular beauty and of Neptunish or mermaidish, as the case may be, abandon and enjoyment.
That is positively all.
See small bills.
But hold: On reviewing these remarks it occurs to me that there are a few minor details it would be well to have in mind before beginning the day joyously by surfing in to the beach half a dozen times or so before breakfast.
As stated above, all you have to do is what it outlined; but before you do it it may be judicious to assay yourself along these lines:
Are you an expert swimmer?
Is your heart all right?
Can you stay under water for appreciably longer than the average dive?
Do you know how to take the waves at exactly the right moment?
How old are you?
Who is your next of kin?
Which shin do you prefer to have barked and is the nose dive or the splash your favorite way of falling off a moving object into salt water?
How good are you at maintaining a balance on a wriggly object seven to ten feet long and eighteen inches wide?
Is exercise harder than running up long flights of stairs your forte?
Can you loaf around in the water for a couple of hours and enjoy it?
In short, are you twenty-five years old and as agile as an acrobat, or are you more than forty and inclined to be a bit pursy and short of breath?
My room at the Moana Hotel, facing the surfing places, had a balcony, and I stood on it when I first

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came and watched the surf riders careering in on their narrow planks.
It seemed absurdly easy and it surely was most exciting-an adventure.
Those Kanaka boys paddled out a mile or so, turned their boards in the proper manner, hooked onto the wave at exactly the right moment, jumped up on the board and rode in, waving their arms and singing, pictures of grace and skill.
Why, a child could do it!
No trick at all.
And fun- gosh, what fun it must be!
It seemed like a cinch to me, for I am a good swimmer, and do a lot of it.
So I clambered into my bathing suit and went down to the beach.
"Gimme a surf board," I said to a beach boy.
"Know how?" he asked, and there was a certain expression about his lips I did not like-sort of a pitying smile.
"No," I told him with a trace of annoyance in my voice; "but I can learn, can't I?"
"Mebbe," he said, and off we went.
He showed me how to mount the board and how to paddle with the least exertion, and presently we were out to the second line of breakers.
I noticed that most of the surfers were far beyond, at the first line, where the breakers were heavier.
"Why not go out there?" I asked him.
"These will do for now," he said, and he smiled again, that oh-you-poor-fish smile.
And he was right.
Inside of twenty minutes I had proved I was a poor fish-a very poor fish-practically no fish at all.
He told me how to do it, headed up my board, and we waited for a breaker.
Presently one came curling along.
The plot was to begin paddling before the breaker reached me, to get the board under way, to be in the proper position to have the wave catch me, and as it caught me to let Nature take its course and go

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careering in atop the wave, a graceful and imposing specimen of athletic beauty and skill, riding triumphantly shoreward, uttering wild native cries.
"Now!" he said, and I began paddling furiously.
The beach boy left me like a shot, standing on his board.
I flailed the water frantically, swallowing plenty, and waited for the grand sensation.
It did not come.
Presently I got enough spray out of my eyes to see objects dimly, and my beach boy was far away, my wave was far away, and I was dubbing around in the trough of the sea not four feet from where I had been before the breaker came.
"Pshaw!" I said, or words to that effect.
"If he can do that I can. It's only a knack."
And I looked around for another breaker.
I saw one, but not quite quickly enough.
It saw me first.
It hit me with the impact of forty pile drivers, and next thing I knew I was practically one mile beneath the surface of the water, trying to claw my way to the top.
Eventually I got there, and I discovered my board bobbing up and down several rods away.
I swam meditatively to it, meditatively and slowly, because I was about two-thirds full of salt water I had engulfed on my way down to the bottom, loaded almost to the Plimsoll mark.
I clambered on the board, jettisoned as much of my cargo as I was able, and waited for my boy to return, the sore and salty sport of every breaker that came along, buffeted here and there by the waves, banged up and down on the board, but still game.
It was only a knack.
I was sure of that.
The boy came paddling swiftly back.
"Why didn't you come?" he asked.
"Oh," I said, "I wasn't intending to come that time.
I wanted to make some observations of the coral on the bottom.
All ready now though.
Let's go!"

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"Now"- he said.

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He turned the board.
I heard a hissing and a roaring behind me.
Towering above me like a giant green wall was a wave- a veritable tidal wave it looked to me.
I began paddling, beating the water and kicking my feet.
I caught the wave!
I was borne along with it at the speed of an express train.
It was marvelous.
It was transcendent.
It was the crux of adventure.
I began to shout my triumph.
Then the dodgasted board rolled over and I went down half a mile or so under that wave and recargoed myself with salt water sufficient for a long voyage.
The boy said I was not in the middle of the board, but too much on one side.
Well, ten or fifteen breakers came along and I made a gallant struggle with each of them, and got no nearer the shore than I was originally.
I was banged about on the board, slammed, in the shallow part, on the sharp coral, filled to the brim with salt water.
My exhaust sounded like a 400-horse-power Liberty engine, the skin was off my shins and off my arms and off several other places.
I could feel my good old reliable heart pounding like a triphammer, and I finally paddled wearily back to shore.
I passed beach boys and young men and young women riding in erect on their boards, perfectly balanced, shrieking with joy, symbols of grace and agility and poise, and I stopped for a spell to look them over and get my breath.
All young.
Not a gray hair or a bald head to be seen.
"Youth," I said to myself; "Youth. That's the answer."
And it is, so far as surf-boarding is concerned.
There are a few oldsters who can do it, but they learned when they were young.
However, not entirely convinced, I tried it again next day, having had a good rest, plenty of linament, and being en-

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[See above]

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dowed with a certain obstinacy in such matters that forbids defeat.
Forbids, did I say?
I mean invites.
If you are too far back on your board, my tutor told me, the board will not move.
He was right.
If you are too far forward, the board will do a nose dive and so will you, or any other sort that happens.
Right again.
If you are too far on one side or the other, you will roll off and under the board.
Right for the third time.
It was uncanny how right that boy was-and humiliating how wrong I was.
He was patient.
I stuck until the bitter end.
I had had two little rides out of twenty tries, and was pretty cocky.
"Now I'll stand up," I said, "and ride in."
He looked at me with a sad expression in his liquid Hawaiian eyes.
"All right," he told me.
"I'll get behind.
When I holler, you stand up."
Everything was set.
I saw myself riding in like the other surf masters who were shooting gloriously by me.
"Now!" screamed the boy, giving my board a tremendous shove.
Whereupon a middle-aged writing person, who should have known better, clambered to his feet and stood, for fifteen seconds, on that squirmy, fast-flying board.
Monarch of the sea!
Emperor of the surf!
Then- plah!
Down! Down!
The only thing that stopped me was a bed of coral, with its edges sharper than razors.
That stopped me immediately- and painfully.
I clambered up through the green and salty sea, rose like a porpoise, spouting water and exuding it from every pore.
The board was forty feet away.
It seemed like forty miles.
I dragged myself upon it.
I paddled in, took assay of my cuts and bruises, squeezed some [29 ]

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A large and satisfactory hole.
[Not shown]
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more salt water out of my system and tottered back to the hotel.
The room boy came in as I was binding up my cuts.
"Have a good time?" he grinned.
"Not so very."
"Well, master," he said, "it ain't a game for nobody but the young."
He was right too.
It certainly is remarkable how explicitly accurate those Kanaka boys can be.
"You take the outrigger canoe," he said, as he handed me the iodine for my coral cuts.
So I took one and rode the surf in a dignified and suitable manner.
It was a humiliating thing to do, but not so humiliating as what I had been doing.
Surfing is a wonderful sport, but only for the young, all advertisements to the contrary notwithstanding.

Blythe, Samuel G.:
My Dear! He Says Hawaii Is American!!

Illustrations by Ray Morris.
Honolulu,: T.H., Published by Nelson "Pete" Pringle,
Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Library, c1928.

University of Michigan Library

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Geoff Cater (2016) : Samuel G Blythe : Introduction to Surfboard Riding, Waikikii, 1928.