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California: The New Frontier

George Freeth, Redondo, 1907
George Freeth
Venice Beach, 1917
Charlie Chaplin, Venice
Washington state surfers, 1909

Jack London dutifully praised Alexander Hume Ford in “A Royal Sport” as a wave-riding authority, then turned his attention to another, more commanding figure.  “Shaking the water from my eyes as I emerged from one wave, and peering ahead to see what the next one looked like,” London wrote, “I saw him tearing in . . . standing upright on his board, carelessly poised, a young god bronzed with sunburn.” This was twenty-three-year-old Waikiki local George Freeth, and he had that effect on people....

Los Angeles would try anything; it inhaled people, and exhaled ideas and trends. This was the only place in early-twentieth-century America where surfing might be embraced as something more than a curiosity.