Saturday, July 7, 2018

George Freeth (1883-1919)

Aloha and Welcome to this biography of The Father of California Surfing
George Douglas Freeth, Jr.
George Freeth was the foremost of the haoles during surfing's "revival" at Waikiki in the first decade of the Twentieth Century. Not only would he be instrumental in helping to popularize surfing at Waikiki, along with the likes of Alexander Hume Ford and Jack London, but he would go on to successfully introduce surfing to the U.S. Mainland, become the first recognized professional ocean lifeguard, and one of the great watermen of the first two decades of the 1900's.

Inspired by the biography of George Freeth that Arthur C. Verge had published back in 2001, I gathered together everything I could find on Freeth and included it in LEGENDARY SURFERS Volume 1.

For a good many years, this chapter was only been available as a purchased ebook. It is now (as of April 2020) made freely available for downloading, reading and sharing.

Total pages: 42 (2.83 MB), including images and 7 pages of footnotes.


After I wrote this chapter, there was some great biographical work on Freeth done by surf writer Joel T. Smith and Geoff Cater, bringing to light some things about Freeth that we hadn't known before or not clearly understood. In an email Joel sent to Gary Lynch on May 11, 2022, he explained:

"My article on Freeth was the third part of a series I wrote long ago for TSJ [The Surfer's Journal], entitled Reinventing the Sport.

"Part I is Jack London, Part II is Alex Hume Ford, and Part III Freeth

"I wrote these over a period of time... got to meet Freeth’s relatives in Hawaii, and pretty much exploded the old myth that Henry Huntington brought Freeth to California to work at his indoor salt water pool in Redondo.  Fact is, Freeth came on his own with support from the Hawaiian Promotion Committee, went to SF [San Francisco] first to visit a brother and then surfed Venice, CA and worked for Huntington’s arch rival, Abbot Kinney, who owned the Venice Salt water Pool the year before he opened the Redondo Plunge.   

"More research followed in recent years with some good work being done by Geoff Cater of Surf Research in Australia. It is now known that Freeth lived in Philadelphia/New Jersey even before meeting Ford and London in Hawaii in 1907.  He probably rode some waves there on the East Coast years before surfing California."

The definitive history of Freeth was published in 2022, written by Patrick Moser:

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