The Beginning in Australia
This image from two centuries back of Polynesian maidens surfing in
the Sandwich Islands shows that surfing has been enjoyed by all sexes
since the dawn.
In Australia, surfing is wrongly recognised as beginning on the day Isabel
Letham joined Duke Kahanomoku for a wave at Freshwater Beach in February
Make no mistake, this was a wonderful day for surfing in Australia. Isabel
was only fifteen at the time and her memory was of riding just the one
wave, with the Duke pulling her up with him by the scruff of the neck.
Despite her father initialling forbidding her from continuing such a
dangerous pastime, Isabel was drawn to surfing and continued sneaking of
into the waves.
In the end Isabel's father, like so many after him, gave up and in fact
built her a beautiful redwood board made to the Duke's specifications.
This photo of her was taken about 1916 and was possibly on that board.
But there were other Australians surfing before this time, and among them
was another girl who also deserves her place in history.
Esma Amor was an accomplished bodysurfer who predates Isabel's feats by
several years at least. She is reported to have begun riding the Hawaiian
style surfboards, or possibly a locally hewn version, on Sydney's northern
beaches with the other pioneering surfers.