Author: Matt Warshaw

HANG TIME WITH MIKE PURPUS AND ANGIE RENO: THE 1974 PLAYGIRL CAPER

California surfers Mike Purpus and Angie Reno were both in their mid-20s prime in 1974, when Playgirl magazine came calling. Both had star turns in Five Summer Stories. Purpus had just won the Malibu AAAA contest and was second runner-up in the Smirnoff. Reno was regarded among the most fearless North Shore surfers, and would...

RIPPED FROM THE HEADLINES: THE SURFIE-ROCKER WARS, SYDNEY, 1962-’64

The Surfie-Rocker Wars, as named by the Sydney press, were a series of scrapes between the local middle-class suburban kids, most of whom either surfed or were in surf lifesaving clubs (Surfies), and working-class day-trippers from a few miles inland (Rockers). Nobody was killed or badly injured in the Surfie-Rocker Wars. But the fighting, on...

1956: EXCERPT FROM “THE NINTH WAVE,” BY EUGENE BURDICK

Iowa-born Eugene Burdick (1918-1965) was an Oxford-educated Rhodes scholar teaching political theory at UC Berkeley in 1956 when The Ninth Wave, his noir-tinged first novel, was published. Burdick’s other fiction and nonfiction books include The Ugly American, a best-seller from 1958, and 1962’s Cold War thriller Fail-Safe; both were made into movies. In this excerpt,...

“ACCELERATOR: THE TERRY FITZGERALD STORY,” BY PHIL JARRATT

This article ran in the Spring 2000 issue of Surfer’s Journal. It has been slightly edited and shortened.  *  *  *  Coledale, 1960. A collection of miner’s cottages hung like a string of imitation pearls around the neck of a coal-rich cliff that falls away to the sea. Dominating the village on the south coast...

1964: HANG TEN SURFWEAR IN A “MAD RACE TO KEEP UP WITH ORDERS”

“Plant Run by L.B. Couple Scores Scores with Special Suits for Surf Riders: Idea Suggested by Surfer.” This Long Beach Independent Press-Telegram article by Ken Chilcote ran on February 23, 1964.   *  *  *  Thanks to the Jackie Kennedy look in fashions, a Long Beach firm has become the leading manufacturer of surf wear! When...

“THE FATHER OF SURFING,” GEORGE FREETH PROFILE by IAN WHITCOMB

A shorter version article ran in the August 2000 issue of American Heritage Magazine, under the title “The Beach Boy.” Whitcomb was a semi-novelty British Invasion rock-and-roller, who later became a producer, actor, and history writer.   *  *  *  I was hurrying down an endless corridor in San Francisco’s International Airport, in a swirl of...

SURF LESSONS FROM GEORGE FREETH, 1912: “IT REQUIRES UNLIMITED NERVE”

This uncredited article ran in the Los Angeles Times on July 14, 1912, with a five-tiered title: “Through the Combers – Riding Surf Board Thrills – George Freeth is Teaching Girls at Redondo – Hawaiian Swimmer Performs Hair-raising Stunts – Pretty Miss Says it is the Best Sport in the World.” This version has been...

“GEORGE FREETH: KING OF THE SURFERS AND CALIFORNIA’S FORGOTTEN HERO,” by ARTHUR C. VERGE

Arthur Verge is a history professor and a former lifeguard from Southern California. This article first ran in the Summer-Fall 2001 issue of California History magazine.   *  *  *  Not far from the crowded shoreline of Waikiki Beach is the final resting place of a native Hawaiian who forever changed California and its image to the...

“FREETH WILL RIDE THE ATLANTIC ROLLERS,” GEORGE FREETH’S MYSTERY SURF ADVENTURE TO NEW JERSEY

This unattributed article ran in the June 27, 1907, issue of the Honolulu Advertiser. Freeth, at some point prior to his famous move from Hawaii to Southern California in 1907, did in fact visit the Eastern Seaboard. This is the only account, however, in which he surfed while there. Freeth himself is not on record...

1883 – 1918: GEORGE FREETH’S LIFE AND TIMES IN NEWSPRINT

George Freeth was born in Honolulu in 1883 and began surfing at age 19. He helped reintroduce stand-up riding (as compared to prone or kneeling), and after moving to California in 1907 he almost single-handedly popularized the sport in that state. Freeth also was instrumental in creating the beachfront lifeguarding profession. Freeth died in 1919,...

“WATERMEN’S LIVES: RECOLLECTING ZAHN,” BY CRAIG LOCKWOOD

Craig Lockwood’s profile on surfer and paddleboarder Tommy Zahn ran in a 2001 issue of H20 magazine. This version has been slightly edited and shortened.   *  *  * When Tom Zahn paddled his final strokes beyond life’s barrier reef, he slipped across leaving in his wake a superb series of accomplishments as a waterman. Born...

“FORTUNATE LIFE: HOW MARGO MADE HIS OWN LUCK,” BRENDEN MARGIESON PROFILE BY ANDREW FARRELL, ASL, NOVEMBER 1999

Our boat is steaming at full speed toward a thundering lefthander called People Eaters. Eight-foot sets are screaming down the horribly shallow reef. Some of us are hooting, some are silently in awe. Brenden Margieson is on the bow, waxing his 6′ 10″ and occasionally looking up to see another thick slabbing left that may...

“A ROYAL SPORT,” JACK LONDON’S OPERATIC ODE TO SURFING

Jack London’s widely-read surfing essay, originally titled “Riding the South Seas Surf,” was published in a 1907 issue of Women’s Home Companion. In Cruise of the Snark, London’s 1911 travel book, it was retitled “A Royal Sport.”  *  *  * That is what it is, a royal sport for the natural kings of earth. The...

CHARMIAN LONDON, EXCERPT FROM “OUR HAWAII,” 1917: “THE SURFING EXPERT, ERECT WITH FEET IN CHURNING FOAM, MAKES STRAIGHT FOR THE BEACH”

Charmian Kittredge, an educated, wealthy, free-love-believing Socialist from the San Francisco Bay area, was born in 1871. At age 34, she married Jack London, five years her junior and at the peak of his fame. In 1907, the couple sailed from San Francisco to Honolulu aboard the Snark, a 45-foot yacht London designed himself. “Riding...

“APPARENTLY, THERE ARE MANY WHO CAN WALK UPON THE WATERS.” EXCERPT FROM JAMES MICHENER’S “HAWAII”

Hawaii, James Mitchener’s epoch-spanning 930-page novel, was released in 1959—the same year Hawaii became America’s 50th state. This excerpt below takes place in 1820. The first missionaries have arrived in Lahaina, Maui. Some are being dropped off while others, including John Whipple (played by Gene Hackman in the 1966 movie) and his wife Amanda, are...

“INFINITE GAMES: THE FINAL DAYS OF PETER CRAWFORD,” by DC GREEN

DC Green’s profile of Australian kneeboarder and photographer Peter Crawford ran in the Summer 2004 issue of Surfer’s Journal. Crawford died at age 48, on Christmas Day 1999, in Bali, reportedly due to complications from either a snake or spider bite. This version has been slightly edited and shortened.  *  *  *  1995: The first Quiksilver...

“SURFING AND THE OLYMPICS,” BY STEVE PEZMAN

This article ran in the Winter 1995 issue of Surfer’s Journal. It has been slightly shortened and edited. *  *  * The revitalized International Surfing Association (ISA) has been marketing its new public membership concept in print ads that cry out, “Join and Help Us Make Surfing an Olympic Sport.” Pardon me, but I think...

1965 MALIBU INVITATIONAL: PHOTOG BRAD BARRETT STOKES THE FIRES, LITERALLY, OF HIS PAST

Surf photographer and writer Brad Barrett, from San Diego, was 18 when he shot the 1965 Malibu Invitational. Three years later he became a staff photographer for SURFER Magazine.   *  *  *  The story about how these images of the final heat of the 1965 Malibu Invitational came to be, and continue to exist, comprise...

DEPARTMENT OF LINGUISTICS: WE SHOULD HAVE STUCK WITH “SHARKBOARDS”!

This essay on mostly-archaic terms and phrases used to describe “surfing,” “surfer,” and “surfboard” is excerpted from the Introduction to Pacific Passages: an Anthology of Surf Writing, by Patrick Moser, published in 2008 by the University of Hawaii Press.   *  *  *  The term “surfriding,” though mostly archaic, is nevertheless useful in characterizing the general...

“DO THE RIGHT THING,” DEREK HO PROFILE BY STEVE BARILOTTI

Steve Barilotti’s profile of Derek Ho ran in the January 1991 issue of SURFER. This version has been slightly shortened and edited.   *  *  * If Derek Ho never rides another wave in his life, his place in the North Shore pantheon will be eternally riveted in place by his brilliant performance at the 1986...

“HEY BRUDDA, SEE YOU IN THE TOP 16!” HO BROS PROFILE

Matt Warshaw’s profile on Michael and Derek Ho ran in the October 1986 issue of SURFER. This version has been shortened and edited.   *  *  *  Sandy Beach, east side of Oahu. It’s just past noon, the sun is beating down dry and hot, the trades are wailing sideshore, the surf is head-high and gutless....

1777: CANOE SURFING IN TAHITI, BY WILLIAM ANDERSON. “I COULD NOT HELP CONCLUDING THAT THIS MAN FELT THE MOST SUPREME PLEASURE”

William Anderson was the surgeon on Captain James Cook’s third voyage to the South Pacific. The entry, often mistakenly credited to Cook himself, was originally published in 1784 as part of Cook’s three-volume set A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean. Anderson’s topic is the disposition of the local people. The text below has been slightly...

1769: CANOE SURFING IN TAHITI, BY JOSEPH BANKS. “THEY WERE DRIVEN TOWARD SHORE WITH INCREDIBLE RAPIDITY”

Joseph Banks was a botanist on Captain James Cook’s first voyage to the Pacific Ocean. As the scene opens, Banks and Cook and other crew members are on their way back from an unsuccessful meeting with a local chief about replenishing food stocks, as well as returning items that had been stolen from the visitors...

CHAS SMITH TALKS SURFING, GOTCHA, AND COKE WITH MICHAEL TOMSON

Excerpted from Cocaine + Surfing: A Sordid History of Surfing’s Greatest Love Affair, by Chas Smith, 2018  *  *  *  It really is a wonder that cocaine transitioned from the disco dance floor to the go-go eighties without losing any steam. Gaining steam, even. Becoming a necessary component of yuppie life alongside skinny piano ties...