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November 16 2017

Monsoon Season, 2017

With the end of the Southeast Asian Monsoon season , I reflected back on some of the storms that had rolled in over the past 7 months.

The rains came early this year. They afforded us the opportunity to plant a little earlier than we normally do. So, that was a good thing. On the downside, it was a good half year before I could get any serious brush cutting in, other than to do the lawns. And, then there were the nyoong ( mosquitoes ).

Temple chedi under construction and pool 
between our 9 rai farm and the government road.

The biggest storm came fairly early on, when we were wrapping up construction of the bungalow at our 9 rai rice farm . Although I’m constantly monitoring the government meteorological hourly radar shots, the storm caught me by surprise -- not so much that it arrived as it was so strong. Both Thip and I had opted to sleep that night in our village house because of it. When the storm subsided and I got back to the farm the next day, I found the refrigerator blown nearly over and making noise. Everything we had was soaked and strewn about the pad. We had been totally unprepared for the strength of the storm and, as the bungalow was not quite finished, all our stuff had been out in the open, under Bann Nah . It took us a full two weeks to clean up.

There were other storms, but not as bad and I got better at reading the radar images via my cellphone.

I watched a couple of the storms roll into our farm house complex. Others, I advised my wife that we should sleep at the village house -- mostly due to our dirt road leading to the farm from the government road. If it gets soaked repeatedly over the course of a couple of days, it’s just a real hassle to pass through. But, we got good at that, too.

November 14 2017

Early Surfing in The British Isles

My first Amazon Kindle edition in the form of an ebook:

The history of surfing's early beginnings in the British Isles, 1890-1943.

Click on the link below the image to read a bit about it and look inside:

November 12 2017

Favorite Images of 2016

By no means complete, here are just some of my favorite family images from the year 2016:

November 11 2017


Malcolm Gault-Williams substituting at KTYD-FM, Santa Barbara, Spring 1981. -- Length: 47:52 -- Audio Quality: Fair (one channel low and tape drag at beginning) -- Notable: Dave Hefner surprised me as I was about to pass the mic over to him for the morning shift. We had worked at the same Corpus Christi, South Texas, radio station (KZFM-FM) at different times in the early 1970s. He brought along a KZFM T-shirt from his time there. About half of this air check is Dave's show where he starts off with covers of Dylan songs and even some Dylan himself. Includes a great concert promo by Wayno.

November 10 2017

November 07 2017

Aloha Washington, 1902

Hawaiian George Freeth became the first person to successfully introduce stand-up surfing on wooden surfboards to North America. He started at Venice Beach in Southern California, beginning in 1907, then moved on to Redondo Beach and eventually Ocean Beach, near San Diego.1 He was, however, not the first person to surf off the beaches of the U.S. Mainland.

In 1885, Hawaiian Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana and Princes David and Edward Kawananakoa surfed for several summers at Santa Cruz, south of San Francisco, when not attending St. Matthews Military School in San Mateo.2 The sport, however, did not catch on there at that time.

There is the question about “The Sandwich Island Girl” surfing in New Jersey in 1888. It is still a mystery whether she did or not.3

Then, there were body boarders surfing prone at Wrightsville, North Carolina, in 1907 and possibly earlier.4

Indeed, Freeth himself may have put on some stand-up surfing demonstrations in New Jersey in 1905, but this has yet to be conclusively verified.5

What is little known is the story of the Emerson and Dole families surfing at Aloha, Washington, several years before George Freeth came to Venice.

Their story -- complete with numerous family photographs -- was written by Ralph Emerson’s great grandson, Gavin Kogan, and published in The Surfer’s Journal , Volume 15, Number 5, in 2006. The article is free to subscribers and only $3.99 for non-subscribers. It is located here:

Another version, with less text but more photographs, was made into an on-line scrapbook at the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center (SHACC), thanks to the Kogan family. It is located here:

In brief, the story goes like this:

In 1902, experienced lumberman and mill operator George Emerson began construction of a new sawmill south of the Quinault Indian reservation, which is just south of the vast Olympic National Park and National Forest, on the west coast of the state of Washington.6

George Emerson’s son Ralph was away in college at Leland Stanford University in Palo Alto at the time. While there, he met Wilfred Dole and two of his brothers, Norman and George, also Stanford students.7The Doles were members of a Maine family that had become Protestant Christian Missionaries to the Hawaiian Islands beginning in 1840.8

Wilfred, Norman and George Dole were also related to Sanford Ballard Dole, who became a lawyer and jurist in the Hawaiian Islands first when it was a kingdom, then a protectorate, republic and lastly as a territory. He was a proponent of Westernization over Hawaiian politics and culture and more than any one person was responsible for the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy. He subsequently served as President of the Republic of Hawaii until that government secured Hawaii’s annexation to the United States.9

When Ralph Emerson’s father began to construct the new sawmill, just west of the family beach house, Ralph was obligated to help with the mill during his summer vacations. He invited Wilfred, Norman and George Dole to join him. They did and enjoyed that first summer of 1902 so much, they came back afterwards.10

It “was during this time that the cedar surfboards were made at the direction of Wilfred’s older brothers who had a more intimate knowledge of surfboard making from their earlier years in Kauai. These boards were finless and were generally for prone riding,” wrote Ralph’s great grandson Gavin Kogan.11

Photo courtesy of the Kogan Family and SHACC

“Although only one board remains today,” continued Kogan, “it appears from the chronology of Dole brothers at the Aloha Lumber Company and existing photos that at least four boards were manufactured between 1902 and 1905.”12

The one surviving surfboard is Ralph’s. It is made of knot-less red cedar and measures 6-feet 8-inches long. The rails are beveled from the bottom to the deck. His initials, ‘R.D.E,’ are inscribed on the tail deck.13

Photo courtesy of the Kogan family and SHACC

In 1905, after Ralph had graduated from Stanford and toured Europe, “Wilfred left Stanford before graduating and joined Ralph to manage the new mill they had helped construct over the previous summers. Given the task of naming the enterprise, they chose to call the new mill the Aloha Lumber Company. With the railroad completed from Gray’s Harbor to Moclips, just west of the mill, the venture held great promise and up sprang the little town of Aloha, WA.”14

Ralph and Wilfred were successful with the Aloha Lumber Company, but also put in time as ”... avid outdoorsmen,” wrote Kogan. “Well preserved photos show the young men surfing, canoeing, fishing, horse riding and hunting... one can’t help but shudder at the scant protection light wool bathing suits must have offered against the chilly Olympic waters...”15

Kogan remembers his grandmother recalling that “we used to take out those old surfboards, us and the Dole kids, and ride them in the surf and Joe Creek. I think we must have rode those boards well into the 1920’s on a regular basis.”16

Photo courtesy of the Kogan family and SHACC

1  Gault-Williams, Malcolm. “George Freeth: Bronzed Mercury,” ©2013. An ebook chapter taken from LEGENDARY SURFERS: Volume 1., ©2005 and 2017.
2  The Daily Surf, July 20, 1885. First of several mentions of the princes in the local newspaper.
3  Gault-Williams, Malcolm. “The Sandwich Island Girl,” ©2017. A chapter in the LEGENDARY SURFERS series.
4  Gault-Williams, Malcolm. “USA East Coast Begins,” a chapter in the LEGENDARY SURFERS series.
5  Gault-Williams, Malcolm. “Freeth, Ford and London.” See original research by Geoff Cater at: “George Freeth.”
6  Kogan, Gavin. “Aloha Washington Scrapbook,” Surfing Heritage and Culture Center, courtesy of the Kogan Family; panel 4. - http://scrapbook.surfingheritage.org/Main.php?MagID=4&MagNo=18
7  Kogan, Gavin. “Aloha Washington,” The Surfer’s Journal, Volume 15, Number 5, ©2006, p. 94. - https://www.surfersjournal.com/product/aloha-washington/
10  Kogan, Gavin. “Aloha Washington,” The Surfer’s Journal, Volume 15, Number 5, ©2006, p. 94. - https://www.surfersjournal.com/product/aloha-washington/
11  Kogan, Gavin. “Aloha Washington,” The Surfer’s Journal, Volume 15, Number 5, ©2006, p. 94. As told to Gavin by his grandmother, wife of Ralph, Elizabeth Emerson Lambie. - https://www.surfersjournal.com/product/aloha-washington/
12  Kogan, Gavin. “Aloha Washington,” The Surfer’s Journal, Volume 15, Number 5, ©2006, p. 94. - https://www.surfersjournal.com/product/aloha-washington/
13  Kogan, Gavin. “Aloha Washington,” The Surfer’s Journal, Volume 15, Number 5, ©2006, p. 94. - https://www.surfersjournal.com/product/aloha-washington/
14  Kogan, Gavin. “Aloha Washington,” The Surfer’s Journal, Volume 15, Number 5, ©2006, p. 94. - https://www.surfersjournal.com/product/aloha-washington/
15  Kogan, Gavin. “Aloha Washington Scrapbook,” Surfing Heritage and Culture Center, courtesy of the Kogan Family; panel 7. - http://scrapbook.surfingheritage.org/Main.php?MagID=4&MagNo=18

16  Kogan, Gavin. “Aloha Washington Scrapbook,” Surfing Heritage and Culture Center, courtesy of the Kogan Family; panel 4. Elizabeth Emerson Lambie recalled by her grandson. - http://scrapbook.surfingheritage.org/Main.php?MagID=4&MagNo=18

November 05 2017

The Day Thailand Stopped

Thailand’s King Bumibol Adulyadej died, last year . Although long expected, Khon Thai sill felt a sense of profound loss.

During the one-year mourning period, the departed King’s body stayed in state in the Grand Palace and the Palace stayed open for people throughout the country and the world to come to pay their last respects. My wife made the two-day round-trip journey to do so and I think whoever felt close to the King and thought they could afford it, made the trek no matter what the distance was.

While the Grand Palace received twelve million visitors during the year mourning, an ornate cremation structure was constructed.

On the day of the funeral , 14 October 2017, most all Thais stopped their daily routines to participate in some way. Many were on-site near the Grand Palace and at replica cremation structures that had been built in each and every province in the country. TV’s and smart phones were glued to the day’s proceedings as they went on.

That night, the night of the actual cremation, it was like Thailand stopped completely.

October 28 2017

Ant Battles

This is a follow-up to my Home Alive! series, parts 1 , 2 and 3 .

It used to be that, here in the Thai Countryside, my major problems with living things were with mosquitoes, rats, termites, scorpions, and dogs.

Although I've seen more snakes this year than at any single time in my life, my main battles are now with ants.

The most common ants in the Isaan are:

The Pharaoh Ant ( Monomorium pharaonis )
These are the smallest ant species measuring only 1.5–2.0 mm in size and yellowish/light brown in color. The mother colony starts outside buildings and workers ants spread out inside your home to set up sub colonies inside.

They live within cracks within walls, electric sockets and in between tiles – anywhere where they can set up a new colony with multiple queens in any nest. They feed on anything with a preference towards sweet foods. They can eat dead insects, blood, meat and sweet left-over food. They breed all year round and after the queen has mated, she will split up and move on to a new nest to set up a new colony. These ants can bite and will produce an irritation, but no pain.

Indicum Ants ( Monomorium indicum )
These ants are small, but a bit bigger than the Paraohs, measuring 2.5 mm to 3.5 mm in size and dark brown in color. They generally make their nests outside, but as they forage for food, they will certainly invade your home in that pursuit. They are sweet feeders and also like protein food. They bite, but it’s no more than irritating.

Fire Ants ( Solenopsis geminate )
Just like the ones I was introduced to in South Texas so many years ago. These are nasty little ants with a worldwide reputation to bite. They are 2 mm in length. Workers have powerful stings. If you mistakenly stand on a nest, workers will slowly cover your feet and lower legs and then seemingly sting all at once. You usually don’t know they’re on you until your feet start to feel like they’re on fire -- hence the name. I always try to watch where I’m walking and definitely where I am standing.

Odourous Ants ( Tapinoma melanocephalum )
These ants are 1 mm in length, with head and chest black in color. They make their nests on top of the ground and within the root zone of trees. They particularly like bamboo trees and any tree where there is moisture. These ants also bite, but they’re only irritating.

Crazy Ants ( Paratrechina longicomis )
Crazy Ants are between 2-3 mm in length with yellow and brown hair on their black and brown bodies. They live outside the house and workers scatter to forage for food. As they forage, they leave a pheromone everywhere. This causes other workers to try and pick up the strongest scent that creates their “crazy and erratic” behavior.

They like to make their nests in cracks of wood and where there is a damp surrounding. You can sometimes see these ants move their eggs to new nests. These ants do not bite but just tickle with their movement on your body.

Weaver Ants ( Oecophylia smaragdina )
These are a red rustic color and are 7-11 mm in length. These are the ants whose eggs are somewhat of a delicacy to Thai/Lao people – Kai mut dang . They make their nests on the tree leaves, like mango trees. They make the leaves roll up and stick together by a sticky substance the ants secrete from their body.

These are very aggressive ants and will defend themselves effectively by biting and spraying an acid on any living thing that attacks them or thinks is attacking them. They can leave the skin feeling itchy and local swelling can occur. I never climb trees because of these guys. When I’m brush cutting, I’m also careful not to have my head brush up against any lower tree limbs.
Ants at our village house are not a problem for the most part. They’re all around, but they haven’t tried to take over.

The ant battlegrounds are out at our larger farm; specifically at Bann Nah, our farm house complex.

You can't blame the ants, really. Our dirt pad is raised and solid in the middle of the rice fields. We are surrounded on all sides by a quarter of a mile of rice patties -- wet for almost half the year.

It has long been a tradition of my family to leave ants alone.

There is this famous family story about my first son Das and his defense of ants in an altercation with another kid at school who was squashing some.

The story is funny now to look back on but I was brought up somewhat in the Buddhist way along with Christian and I passed the guidance on to my sons: no need to kill anything unless it’s for food or defense.

Now that Thip I are living out at the farm half of the time during the rainy season and most of the time the rest of the year, ants have become a real problem.

They get into everything. The real tiny Pharaoh ants really drive Thip nuts. They make homes even in-between fabric. So, you can’t have folded clothes or bedding around un-moved for any length of time for fear those Pharaohs are gonna set-up shop.

I have joked often about how ants are always crawling on my body here in the Isaan. More hours out of the day than not, I have ants exploring what they can find on my skin. But these ants don't really cause any problems. They’re usually Pharaohs or Indicums and generally don’t bite unless provoked.

The ant battles I engage in are when I can see clearly ant trails going upstairs and/or into the bungalow. I do my best to keep them out by spraying their trails and destroying their homes when set up close to our living areas. Insecticide for the trails and detergent water for the mounds are enough for them to get the message sooner or later.

It's not so much a war as a bunch of pitched battles. Forget fights; you’ll lose every time. Each battle I learn how better to fight the next one. But, I don’t have any illusions of a win. I’m not interested in annihilation. My strategy is to wear them down and make it more of a hassle for them to bother us than just do something else and live somewhere else. It doesn’t have to be far away, just not where we sleep or hang.

Some Ant Facts

· Ants have a natural built-in barometer that can detect rain. So if you see ants carrying eggs, you can accurately guess it is going to rain.
· Ants can gnaw through paper and plastic bags.
· Ants have two stomachs – their own and a social stomach that feeds the young and the queen.
· Ants are the strongest living creature, with the ability to lift 10 times their own bodyweight.

October 20 2017


Malcolm Gault-Williams substituting at KTYD-FM, Santa Barbara, California, Spring 1981.

Ohpensa 2017 / 2560

Wan Ok Phansa -- or what I refer to as Ohpensa here in Northeastern Thailand -- is the end of Vassa , the annual three months long “Rains Retreat” observed by Theraveda Buddists.

Ohpensa is celebrated in different ways at different temples, but all have their main ceremony at night. Part of the ceremony involves walking around the wat with lit candles, burning incense, and sometimes lotus blossoms. Fireworks are shot off and sometimes sky lanterns lit. I usually attend the morning ceremony and save the night time for myself out at the farm.

Just two weeks before, the morning sun looked close to Venus.

In 2014, due to the lunar eclipse that Ohpensa , I decided to forgo the night time temple ceremony and opt for the lunar show. I was not disappointed. That Ohpensa remains my most memorable to-date, not only because of the eclipse but also because of the many sky lanterns sent skywards all around me. Although we had lit some on the temple grounds and also were part of 2014’s Washiku Karen harvest ceremony where many where lifted aloft, I hadn’t realized until that night that most all temples and some communities also light sky lanterns. So, being out in the middle of the rice fields, you get this show of orange lights within a 360° field of vision.

The Isaan’s most well-known and popular celebration of Wan Ok Phansa takes place at Nong Khai , along the Mekong, on the other side of the river from the road to Vientiane, Lao. Naga Fireballs or Bung Fai Paya Nak (Mekong Lights) draw thousands of people to the riverside city in the hopes of catching a glimpse of them. Many Thai and Lao people consider these spiritual mysteries, others dismiss them as a hoax or, at best, subjects of skepticism . Either way, if the Naga Fireballs really do exist as a natural phenomenon, then they have not been scientifically proven.

Out at the farm, I could see periodic fireworks all around -- just as at our temple or if I were in Nong Khai . In fact, it seems that within the past three years, the popularity of fireworks has grown and the number of sky lanterns become less. For me, the sky lanterns are more interesting. They last longer and drift across the sky in unpredictable patterns. But, I'll take both!

Now that Bann Nah is a year old and complete with roof and porch, watching the light shows -- in addition to the full moon -- is even more enjoyable than before. With the added plus of a cellphone, I even watched the show while listening to music. Tom Petty had recently died and while I was not a big fan of his, he and his Heartbreakers did a number of songs I like. This night, although it had nothing thematically in common with what I was watching, I played my favorite song of his. Because it was somewhat chant-like, I played it a good number of times, over-and-over.

October 08 2017


Malcolm Gault-Williams substituting at KTYD-FM, Santa Barbara, California, spring 1981. - Length: 47:35 - Audio quality: Fair, one channel low - Notable: the Yoko Ono set.

October 04 2017

Volume 1 Ebook

Volume 1 of LEGENDARY SURFERS is now available in ebook format.

This first book in the LEGENDARY SURFERS series covers the very beginning of surfing's history, 2500 B.C. to 1910 A.D., through the life of "The Father of Modern Surfing," Duke Kahanamoku.

Total pages: 358. Total wordage: 145,950. Black and white historical images: over 50. Originally published in 2005.

Chapters included:
 The First Surfers
 Traditional Hawaiian Surf Culture
 Ancient Hawaiian Surfboards
 Legendary Polynesian Surfers
 Mo'ikeha and Sons
 The 1800's: Surfing's Darkest Days
 The Ka'iulani Board
 Surfing's Revival
 Bronzed Mercury: George Freeth
 Duke Paoa Kahanamoku

This ebook is a fabulous resource (I'm trying to be modest, here) and is being sold at a reduced price ($4.99) to make up for formatting inconsistencies that made their way in during conversion to ebook format. Because the file used is old (first edition published in 2005) and wasn't originally formatted to be an ebook, the table of contents is somewhat of a mess, paragraph separations are sometimes inconsistent, and footnotes are at the end of each chapter, rather than at the bottom of the page or end notes in the back of the book, itself. My apologies for that, but I've tried to make it up to you in the form of a reduced price.

The ebook is shareable to friends and family within two weeks of sharing.
To order the ebook or just browse a bit of it, please click on the cover, below:

October 03 2017


When I think of Thai ghosts, firstly, I am reminded of the people who plaster their faces with talcum powder during the New Year . Secondly, I think of the young girls usually in high school or college or older who religiously apply whitening cream to their skin -- not only ruining the natural sheen of their skin, but causing a distortion to their overall beauty.

You can't talk them out of it. The appeal of white skin to Southeast Asians has a long history. It goes back to the time when the white skinned Chinese dominated commerce in this part of the world. The Chinese themselves are hung up on white skin and this was passed down to the locals. In order to be beautiful (read: successful), one must be white. So, everyone wants to be successful like the Chinese. This is another reason why Westerners are looked up to: the color of their skin; as if it were confirmation of perceived Falang success.

Girls, especially, think they will look more beautiful with white skin. Unfortunately, due to the “wonders of modern science,” it is now chemically possible to achieve the color, if not the beauty.

But, the subject of ghosts in Southeast Asia is a serious matter. I’m not talking about Songkran partiers or young girls and whitening cream. I mean: the ghosts of living beings long dead. In this part of the world, mysticism is ever present and it is not a long jump between mysticism to superstitions. Everyone here believes ghosts exist and are active. When my wife touches on the subject, I am careful to be attentive. Should I dismiss the subject in an off handed way, I would just be showing my ignorance and my credibility would be diminished. So, I pay a certain kind of lip service to the subject of ghosts.

To be sure, ghosts are a problem. But, it is the fear of ghosts, really, that cause the problems. One case in point occurred recently. Thip was regularly riding our farm road back and forth to the temple for evening chanting. That was until her niece started talking about all the ghosts in this area (as if she knew). Thip hasn't been on our dirt road at night since.

Spirit houses used to be prevalent in our area of the Isaan, almost as much as home Buddha altars . A Thai spirit house is “the house of the guardian spirit.” They are found not only in Thailand, but also in Lao, Cambodia and Mynmar. They are placed in an auspicious spot, most often in a corner of a property. The house itself is in miniature in the form of a house but most often a temple. It’s mounted on a pillar or dais. It’s main intention is to provide a shelter for spirits who could cause problems for the people residing at that location, unless otherwise appeased (by food offerings, chanting, prayers, burning incense, etc.). The shrines often include human and animal figurines.

Kamattan Buddhist leaders have discouraged the installation and maintenance of spirit houses in recent years. As an example, when I first met my wife 18 years ago, her family house had a well-maintained spirit house and now they have none. My wife has never asked me if we can put up one, ourselves.

You still see many spirit houses throughout Thailand and Southeast Asia, however. They are especially popular with places of business who want to show they are appeasing the local spirits.

The main Buddhist ceremony connected with ghosts is Boon Khao Sah , where the dead are remembered and their spirits honored. During this time, as if they were living entities themselves, the spirits are allowed to move around and, in fact, encouraged to do so -- as if they’d been caged up for a year.

I can't say that ghosts don't exist. I also can't say they do. Although I've heard many stories of people who have claimed to see them, I never have.

September 27 2017

Hugh Bradner: The Wetsuit

Hugh Bradner is generally credited with the invention of the neoprene wetsuit in 1951.

For more about Bradner and the invention of the neoprene wetsuit, please go to:

Hugh Bradner - Wikipedia

(images courtesy of the University of California, San Diego and the Atomic Heritage Foundation)

September 24 2017

September 23 2017

Communication Technology

When I retired to the Thai countryside from California, in 2012, I was an active multi-player gamer . I had friends who I’d never met face-to-face scattered around the world. We would meet up at a set day/time and play together in a virtual environment in real time. First, the game was Call of Duty , then I moved to Battlefield .

I wasn’t sure if I could continue to play “video games” once I was in Thailand, due to the importance of not only download spped, but upload as well. It turns out that it never became a problem. We bought a plan to deliver a cellular signal to the provincial hub and it worked fine. A couple of year later, we upgraded to fiber optic. Can you imagine having a fiber optic connection in a Thai village of 500 people?

Having first the cellular and then the fiber optic connections enabled us to create a wifi hotspot that gives all our Internet-capable devices access. There’s my computer, the Playstation gaming console (also used for movie watching) and both Thip’s and my cellphones. It used to be that we’d get visits from family just so they could use our connection, but that doesn’t happen much, anymore, as more and more people are buying and daily using data plans for their cellphones.

Of course, Thip and I also have data plans for our cellphones, so that when we are not near the wifi, we can also access the Internet -- basically, from anywhere in Thailand. It comes in handy out at the farm. Thip likes to watch YouTube videos -- instructional videos, Buddhist teachings and Chinese historical drama. Me, I use the phone primarily to keep an eye on the weather radar, but at night sometimes I’ll watch a Netflix show or movie. Staying in contact with each other and our friends and family is also an important aspect. Both Thip and I can be on the go, but we’re easily reachable -- as long as we have our cellphones turned on!

The electronic technology has been there for a while, it just took me time to figure it out and how to use it to maximum benefit. Actually, I was a little resistant to heavy use of cellphones having noted how it has negatively affected inter-personal relationships. But, I had to remind myself of my longtime attitude toward television. It’s neither good nor bad. It just depends on how you use it.

(A favorite shot, Spring 2017... look closely and you'll see Thip watering plants and... viewing her cellphone screen!)

September 14 2017


Malcolm Gault-Williams substituting at KTYD-FM, Santa Barbara, California, 29 April 1981 - Length: 46:34 - Audio Quality: Good PLAYLIST: Joni Mitchell: "California" (partial) Marshall Tucker Band: "Can't You See" Malc back announce: "... on The Tide!" Commercial: Tony Rose Camera Joe Redford Toyota Cat Stevens: "Fathers and Sons" Buckingham Nicks: "Long Distance Runner" Fleetwood Mac: "Sisters of the Moon" John Stewart: "Midnight Wind" Malc back announce PSA: Seniors Day Commercial: Suzuki (Jim Trapp VO) Promo: "Jazz Network" with Joe Collins Forward promote: Dave Heffner Dire Straits: "Skateaway" Bob Dylan: "Serve Somebody" Tom Waits: "Better Off Without A Wife" Malc back announce: "... rice marks all over her face?"

A Bit Like Camping

When my wife and I are out at our 9 rai farm , it’s a bit like camping.

In my experience, there’s three basic ways to camp. One is what I consider pure: where you head out with a pack on your back and hike to a location where you set up a temporary camp. A second type is what my sons and I call “car camping,” where you park in an area or campgrounds and pitch your gear within sight of your transpo. You can even sleep inside it, if there’s room and you’re set-up for that. A third, I guess, is “RV camping,” where you have your own self-contained living unit that you take with you to a campground specially made to accommodate recreational vehicles.

Well, out at the farm, it’s a little like Car Camping. Our campground is the area around Bann Nah (the farm house), all outdoors. Of course, we sleep upstairs in a very nice teak walled bedroom, but otherwise, we’re outside.

Even though she likes being out at the farm, I know this camping aspect wears on Thip a bit -- especially rainy days, some of which if they are too heavy, cause us to retreat to our village house. I’m a lucky guy to have a wife with me on this adventure, who puts up with living so basically and without so many comforts.

The other day we were talking about the many problems people have with each other and the general turmoil that churns all over the world. Thip said we are fortunate to be able to live so simply, in the figurative shadow of our local temple.

As usual, she’s right.

September 13 2017

Early Surfing in the British Isles

This chapter in the LEGENDARY SURFERS collection is free for viewing here and also available as an ebook for $2.99. To purchase, please go here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075FRGWZ8/. The advantages of the ebook over the online edition is that it is portable, you don't need an internet connection to read it wherever you want to on a PC, tablet or phone. Additionally, it is shareable with friends and family for two weeks after sending and it is a file for yours to keep.

Whether you read it here or in ebook form, I hope you enjoy learning about the earliest days of prone and stand-up surfing in the British Isles!


You are about to read about  the earliest days of surfing in the British Isles, including prone surfing on body boards as well as stand-up surfing. In collecting all I could about the subject, I am greatly indebted to the work of Peter Robinson, founder of the Museum of British Surfing; Roger Mansfield, author of “The Surfing Tribe” ; the Museum of British Surfing; and J. M. Ormrod, author of “Middle class pleasures and the safe/dangers of surf bathing on the English South Coast 1921-1937.”

For images, my thanks to the Museum of British Surfing and Jeremy Oxenden.


Surfing along the coasts of the British Isles is far older than most people realize.
It used to be that we thought of surfing in this part of the world as beginning in the 1960s. There is an element of truth in this belief as stand-up surfing did not really catch on in the British Isles until then. However, there had been stand-up surfers long before then, as well as the far more numerous “surf bathers” who rode wooden body boards prone off the coasts of many resort areas.

Fact is, Hawaiian surfers first rode at Bridlington, in 1890; a local Briton in North Devon in 1904; numbers of vacationers in Newquay in 1921 and St. Ouen’s Bay in the mid-1920s. At Newquay, surfing on body boards has continued to present day.1

Piikoi Brothers, 1890

After introducing surfing to Santa Cruz during the time they were going to school in California in 1885, Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole Piikoi and his brother Prince David Kahalepouli Kawanaankoa Piikoi took a trip to the British Isles to further their formal education and surfed there briefly, on vacation. They were in company of their English guardian on holiday in Bridlington, Yorkshire, September 1890.

A letter, believed to be the earliest report of the sport in Great Britain, was uncovered by Hawaiian historian and author Sandra Kimberley Hall in 2011. Pictures of the trio and details of their vacation are part of the growing historical collection housed at the Museum of British Surfing.2

The fact that not only do we now know that Hawaiian royalty surfed while being educated in England in the late 1800s, but also t hat they chose a relatively obscure surfing destination like Bridlington on the east coast to paddle out and catch a few slides is just fantastic,” declared Peter Robinson, founder of the Museum of British Surfing.

“This is the earliest proven instance of surfing in Britain so far – previously we had thought it was the 1920s in England and the Channel Islands – but this blows our history right out of the water.

“The Victorian locals must have been incredulous at the sight of these Hawaiian princes paddling out, and riding back into shore most likely standing on large wooden planks, their dark skin and hair glistening in the North Sea waters.

“I only wish I could have been there to see it.”3

In a letter to consul Henry Armstrong from Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole Piikoi, the prince wrote that he and his brother, Prince David Kahalepouli Kawanaankoa Piikoi, were allowed by their tutor believed to be John Wrightson – to holiday in Bridlington.

The pair were given the reward for good work in their studies at colleges around Britain. They had been in England studying for almost a year.

On September 22, 1890, a joyful Kuhio could not restrain his enthusiasm in his letter to Armstrong:

“We enjoy the seaside very much and are out swimming every day. The weather has been very windy these few days and we like it very much for we like the sea to be rough so that we are able to have surf riding.

“We enjoy surf riding very much and surprise the people to see us riding on the surf.

“Even Wrightson is learning surf riding and will be able to ride as well as we can in a few days more. He likes this very much for it is a very good sport.”

It is thought the Hawaiian princes, the orphaned nephews and heir to Queen Kapiolani, would have made their surfboards from timber acquired from a Bridlington boat builder.4

The princes were cousins of surfer Princess Victoria Ka‘iulani, the half-Hawaiian, half-Scottish heir to the Hawaiian throne who was educated in Brighton a couple of years later, in 1892.

Sandy Hall pointed out that it is possible “She [Ka‘iulani] may have been the first female surfer in Britain, but the only tangible evidence – so far – is a letter in which she wrote that she enjoyed ‘being on the water again’ at Brighton.”5

Surfing did not spread from here. It was an isolated event and it was not until three decades later that body boarding became popular at some beaches along the British Isles.6

Prince of Wales, 1920

Edward Windsor-- the Prince of Wales and future but brief king Edward VIII -- surfed at Waikiki, Hawaii, in 1920.7 To Edward Windsor and Earl Louis Mountbatten go the honor of being the first Britons photographed surfing; Edward the first one to stand.8

He had gone to Hawaii in April 1920 on HMS Renown and was taken out by Duke Kahanamoku on an outrigger canoe, told Peter Robinson. He had a surf lesson and did OK, but absolutely loved it. He later [in July] ordered the royal yacht to go back to Hawaii so he could surf for three days. Duke was out of the country when he returned so David Kahanamoku took him out and these pictures were taken then.

According to an interview with David Kahanamoku in a Hawaiian canoe club newsletter in 1950, the two young royals surfed for two hours every morning and three hours every afternoon during their July stay.

“The prince learned quickly to ride the board standing, although he did have some spills,” Kahanamoku recalled. “Louis Mountbatten never mastered the art but was content to lie prone.”9
Despite their enthusiasm for the sport, there are no known efforts by either Edward or Louis to foster surfing in Great Britain.10

Agatha and Archie, 1922

Two years after Edward Windsor surfed in Waikiki, in 1922, his friend and famous crime novelist Agatha Christie became one of Britain’s earliest stand-up surfers while visiting Cape Town, South Africa, as well as Waikiki.

Christie spent her teenage years on the south coast of England, around Torquay, where “sea-bathing ” -- body boarding prone on a short wooden board -- was, by then -- a seasonal activity of young vacationers.

After the First World War, Agatha’s husband Archie was offered a position to help organize a world tour to promote the British Empire Exhibition scheduled to be held in London in 1924. The couple left England in January 1922, leaving their baby daughter in the care of Agatha’s mother and sister. They arrived in Cape Town, South Africa in early February and soon took to “sea-bathing” at Durban. There, they were introduced to prone surfing at the popular Muizenberg beach. Two years later, she wrote about her surfing experience in her novel The Man in the Brown Suit .

“Surfing looks pretty easy,” Agatha Christie wrote. “ It isn’t . I say no more. I got very angry and fairly hurled my plank from me. Nevertheless, I determined to return on the first possible opportunity and have another go. Quite by mistake, I then got a good run on my board and came out delirious with happiness. Surfing is like that. You are either vigorously cursing or else you are idiotically pleased with yourself.”

Agatha Christie and Archie continued their promotional tour to New South Wales, in Australia, and New Zealand before arriving in Honolulu on August 5, 1922. They quickly hit the beach and were soon stand-up surfboard riding at Waikiki, as Prince Edward had done two years earlier.

The larger boards and real surf were difficult for them to handle, at first. Also, like most Westerners, they were prone to sunburn. Cut feet from standing on coral also proved a limitation. At one point, Agatha’s silk bathing dress was almost swept off her by the Waikiki surf. To protect their feet, they bought soft leather boots. Her flimsy bathing suit was replaced by “a wonderful, skimpy emerald green wool bathing dress, which was the joy of my life, and in which I thought I looked remarkably well!”

Waikiki beach boys would swim the couple out through the break, help them select a wave to ride on and then retrieve their boards when they got away from them.

“I can’t say that we enjoyed our first four or five days of surfing –” Agatha wrote, “it was far too painful – but there were, every now and then moments of utter joy. We soon learned too, to do it the easy way. At least I did – Archie usually took himself out to the reef by his own efforts.”

“Most people, however, had a Hawaiian boy who towed you out as you lay on your board, holding the board by the grip of his bit toe, and swimming vigorously. You then stayed, waiting to push off on your board until your (beach) boy gave you the word of instruction. ‘No, not this, not this, Missus, no, no wait – now!’”

“At the word ‘now’ off you went and oh, it was heaven! Nothing like it. Nothing like that rushing through the water at what seemed to you a speed of about two hundred miles an hour; all the way in from the far distant raft, until you arrived, gently slowing down, on the beach, and foundered among the soft flowing waves.”

“It is one of the most perfect physical pleasures that I have known. After ten days I began to be daring. After starting my run I would hoist myself carefully to my knees on the board, and then endeavor to stand up. The first six times I came to grief, but this was not painful – you merely lost your balance and fell off the board. Of course, you had lost your board, which meant a tiring swim, but with luck your Hawaiian (beach) boy had followed and retrieved it for you.”

“I learned to become expert, or at any rate expert from the European point of view. Oh, the moment of complete triumph on the day that I kept my balance and came right into shore standing upright on my board!”

“In fact, on a rough day I enjoyed the sea even more.”

Agatha and Archie stayed in Honolulu from August until October, 1922.

It’s not known whether she continued surfing or not, upon returning to the United Kingdom. She had a writer’s retreat built at Burgh Island, Bigbury, South Devon, in the 1930s and that spot overlooks some small but very beautiful surf.11

Surf Bathing

In the Barnstaple and North Devon Museum there is a photograph, dated 1904, of Hobart Braddick, founder of Braddick’s Holiday Centre, and his surfboard. It is not known to what point he surfed on it. What little surfing there may have been at the beginning of the Twentieth Century, at least until 1921, was very rare.12

It is believed that surf bathing -- body boarding prone -- was introduced to Great Britain by Australian lifeguards, during or after World War I.13

J. M. Ormrod, in a paper titled “Middle class pleasures and the safe/dangers of surf bathing on the English South Coast 1921-1937,” wrote that “Surf bathing was a leisure pastime enjoyed along the south coast of England in the inter war years and up to the early ‘60s when its popularity waned in favour of the stand up surfing which we know today... Surfing was associated with swimming and... became known as ‘surf bathing’. ‘Surf bathing’ was conflated in the 1940s to ‘surfing’. Surf bathing was also known as ‘Cornish surfing’ in North Devon, [and] ‘Surf Riding’ in Cornwall...”14

Surf bathing in the early twentieth century was an activity supported and promoted by a developing tourist infrastructure, howev er, it was quite different from modern surfboard riding. First, the surfboards were: flat and made from plywood, squared at the body end and rounded at the other end, sometimes this end had a slight upward curve. Second, one did not stand up on the surfboard: The expert rider takes off lying prone on his surfboard on the crest of a wave that is just breaking, and providing his timing is correct he will get a run of anything up to a hundred yards, at a speed of ten to fifteen miles an hour. Third, the surfer did not surf in deep waters. This aspect of surfing is emphasized in most of the guidebooks, ‘Surf Riding makes a particular appeal to non-swimmers as it is never necessary to go into deep water’... this aspect of surf bathing is of crucial importance in its longevity and promotion as a holiday activity. Last, it was not a subcultural activity and was enjoyed by everyone: ‘…most people surfed – it was just the normal thing to do and accepted by all.’”15

1921 is the date usually given for the first native “surf bathing.

“The earliest images and references of surfing in Britain originate from photographs relating to colonial discourse, travel poste rs and guidebooks,” wrote Ormrod. ”... The earliest images discovered feature surfers at Newquay 1921-1922. The images show surfers in what was to become an iconic image in surf culture; featuring the relationship and centrality of the surfboard. In the photographs surfers stand on the beach with their surfboards either by their side, behind them or they peep out from behind their boards. Their boards, however, are coffin lids. It is not known whether these surfers rode the boards standing up or on their stomachs. The three photographs are dated 1921-22 and have been issued as postcards for sale around Newquay.”16

The seaside became the natural choice for crowds of holidaymakers to escape from inner city squalor: ‘They came not for their health, to decipher nature’s code, or for spirituality, but for sheer delight.’ By the early twentieth century England boasted ‘…a system of coastal resorts whose scale and complexity was unmatched anywhere else in the world.’ In 1911, Walton [who was the first to write about these resorts] estimates there were a hundred ‘substantial seaside resorts’ in England and Wales.”17

“Beaches in the early part of the twentieth century tended to be class specific,” continued Ormrod, ”... Cornish and North Devon beaches tended to be associated with the middle classes who often traveled from London eager to benefit from a healthy environment... Newquay and North Cornwall was a getaway resort first for the upper classes and increasingly for the middle classes at the beginning of the 20th century. The growth of the middle classes was also a factor in the steady increase of tourism.. The inter-war years was a time when stable income and continuous employment meant that middle class affluence and disposable income was growing... However, there is little doubt the most significant factor in the development of resorts was railway access.”18

St. Ouen’s Bay, Mid-1920s

Jeremy Oxenden’s family was surfing at St. Ouen’s Bay in the mid-1920s. In 2009, Jeremy wrote to me about it, attaching photographs:

Jeremy wrote of the above photograph: That is Oxo with the 5.5 prone surfboard. He surfed in Hawaii some time between 1919-1923... The Island Surf Club of Jersey UK w as formed in 1923...

“The Girls in the beach hut are Dot and Ching Martin, left and right, and Pat Oxenden in the middle. The beach hut went up in 1924. The... Army knocked all the beach huts down in 1940. My Grand Parents re-built their hut just after the war (WWII). It was their top priority. We still have the beach hut and still surf from there... Thank you for including Oxo and his surfing Gang.”19

“Snow,” 1928

Toward the end of the 1920s, Australian surfer Charles “Snow” McAllister visited England and surfed standing up at several locations.

“Snow ” McAllister is considered to be the “Father of Australian Surfing,” who not only was one of the first stand-up surfers in New South Wales, but also became a championship swimmer and surfer.
In 1928, Snow gave a demonstration of surfing on his way home from the Olympics held in Amsterdam, Netherlands, where he had been competing.

By this time, surfing prone on short wooden body boards had become popular at some of the beaches that held consistent surf.20But, like Duke Kahanamoku had done in Australia the decade before when Snow first got his start, demonstrations of stand-up surfing really captured peoples’ imagination. Not only that, but Snow had perfected a headstand while surfing, just like George Freeth had done back in Southern California.

The Daily Mail reported on September 12, 1928, that McAllister intended to “popularize surf board riding, described as the most thrilling sport in the world, at English seaside resorts.” It’s not known how many Snow visited, but he almost certainly visited Newquay. Years later, he told Tracks magazine about how, at one spot, the locals called the police when they saw him heading into sea because they thought he was going to drown, and the police escorted him from the beach for his own safety.21

About this same time, two other Australians were noted by J. M. Ormrod as surfing while vacationing at Croyde:

“Susan (Tunbridge Wells)... holidayed in Croyde, North Devon 1927-8 with her mother and sister when: ‘who should turn up but a couple of cousins from Australia who took one look at the breakers in the sea and were amazed to see no surfing. Without any loss of time they went to see the local village carpenter and supervised the making of two wooden surfboards and took us all down to learn how to surf…’ 22

Rosenberg, Rochlen and the Elveys, 1929

A year later, in 1929, Lewis Rosenberg and three friends traveled by train from London to Newquay, in Cornwall. Rosenberg had seen film footage from Australia of surfing off the coasts of that country and had carved his own homemade surf board.23

Rosenberg and his friends Harry Rochlen and brothers Fred and Ben Elvey were part of a close-knit group of Jewish immigrants who lived in London and Hove. They had reportedly been riding four-foot long wooden body boards in the West Country and Channel Islands for almost a decade. But in 1929, inspired by the Australian newsreel, they built a longboard, wrapped it in linen sheets, and took it on a steam train from London to Newquay, the most popular surf destination of that era and years afterwards.

Not only did they try to teach themselves how to surf standing on their board, they also filmed their exploits. This rare footag e laid untouched in a Cambridgeshire loft for many years before it was discovered by Ben Elvey s daughter.

When Maxine Elvey visited one of our exhibitions,” Peter Robinson, founder of the Museum of British Surfing said, “and told us she had film of her father’s surfing exploits on a wooden longboard in 1929 we were totally blown away. We took the reels of fragile 9.5mm stock to the local film archive for them to be preserved and transferred to digital tape – it’s a national treasure.”

The film is special for a number of reasons. Not only does it show Lewis and his friends attempting stand-up surfing for the first time, but it also shows what it was like being part of a group of friends enjoying life on the then-unpopulated Newquay beaches – sometimes riding the waves naked, and dancing the Hula wearing costumes made from seaweed.

Lewis even made a waterproof housing for his video camera, which was innovative for its time in Great Britain.

Maxine Elvey said her father Ben Elvey recalled they surfed in 1928 or 1929, but that it could have been as late as 1931. “They also saw a film called ‘Idol Dancer’ which showed Hula dancing in Hawaii – they copied this as well and made grass skirts from seaweed and danced and sung the lyrics ‘Goodbye Hawaii, my island paradise, we’re bound to meet again someday,’ on the Cornish beaches.”24

“We interviewed three of the old boys who were part of the surfing gang, and they were totally stoked on what they were doing,” said Robinson. “They were in their mid 90s when we filmed them, but as soon as we spoke about surfing and their beach lives, their eyes lit up and their memories came flooding back. It was truly emotional.”

Speaking in 2006, Harry Rochlen recalled that “We swam out and when the waves came in, my friend Lewis tried to stand on the board, like they did in Australia. After a lot of practice, we managed to do it. It was incredible, it really brings back memories. It was really thrilling, to be able to stand on the board and go on to the beach.”

It is unknown how many seasons Lewis Rosenberg, Harry Rochlen and Fred and Ben Elvey surfed together. Sadly, the eight foot board which had been lovingly shaped from a solid piece of wood was later stolen from Rosenberg’s home in London.

“I had no idea my father’s surfing would turn out to be so special,” said Lewis’ daughter Sue Clamp. “We knew the films were important but mainly because they showed the build up to World War 2 and the racial and political tension. It’s fantastic the lives of Lewis and his friends is being remembered in this way.”25

Jimmy Dix, 1937

The earliest British surfers we have detailed information about are Jimmy Dix and Papino Staffieri.
In 1936, Nuneaton dentist Jimmy Dix summer vacationed with his family on the north coast of Cornwall at Newquay. There, local people and visitors had been prone surfing on thin, flat plywood boards for well over a decade.

Jimmy liked bodyboarding, but was intrigued by an encyclopedia photo-picture showing “Hawaiians gliding shoreward standing on boards, as if Gods, propelled by the waves.

“This looked worth a try, but it needed a real board,” Jimmy recorded.

He decided to build one, himself. So, he wrote a letter to some one or some organization in Honolulu. He explained his predicament and requested the dimensions of a board that he might be able to ride standing up. It is possible he sent the letter to the Outrigger Canoe Club, but this cannot be verified.
He had a long wait for his reply. It was a time before international airfreight and letters had to cross two oceans and one continent by ships and land vehicles.

What eventually arrived at his front door in Warwickshire in 1937, was a large box containing a 13 foot long hollow wooden surfboard of the Tom Blake design, weighing 30 kilograms and signed by Blake with a hand painted map of the Hawaiian islands upon its deck.

Using this Blake hollow board as an example, Jimmy built a smaller one for his wife. In the summer of 1938, they both headed to Newquay in his Alvis to holiday and experiment with riding the two boards.26

Papino Staffieri, 1940-43

Papino Staffieri was born August 3 rd 1918, a son of an Italian family who moved to Newquay at the beginning of the century in order to pursue the ice cream business there.

“Pip,” as he was known to his friends, grew up in Cornwall overcoming a minor disabling of his left leg through polio at two years of age. He grew up to become very much a local boy in Newquay, with a love of the water and some prowess as a long distance swimmer .

He had watched the Pathe newsreels in the Pavilion cinema above Towan Beach in the mid-30’s. These had shown him the great Australian surfboats in races including epic wipeouts while being surfed to shore. He connected the surf in Australia with his own local waves; the same raw material rolling into his home beaches.

After surfing prone on the local flat surf-planers [bodyboards], Pip’s first opportunity to ride waves in a different manner came with a group of local boys who had taken to building canoes. George Old, who lived further down the street built canoes with canvas stretched on a wooden frame. Old was also the most skillful canoeist in the area. It was he who led the experimentation with wave catching among the group, which Pip managed to join for a while.

Unfulfilled, however, Pip dreamed of surfing as depicted in the picture he had seen of men surfriding off Waikiki beach, with Diamond Head in the background. This picture was from the 1929 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica which he had originally seen at the dentist’s office as a youngster.

Stand-up surfing suddenly came closer to reality for him one day as he set up along the sand with his pony and trap to sell ice cream to the holiday-makers at the Harbour. Two surfboards lay on the sand side by side. It was 1938 and Jimmy Dix and his wife had come to the beach at Newquay. He hadn’ t meet them yet, but seeing and being able to touch real surfboards stirred him into action.

He left the beach with his a mental blueprint of a working design for his own board. Pip was a competent craftsman and pursued the construction of his own hollow wooden longboard with some variations on the Tom Blake model:

His board was 13 6 long, with greater width than the Blake board. Its construction was of 3/8 ’’ Deal strips screwed to oak frames by brass screws with the whole shell sealed with a varnish finish. Dry, it weighed 112 lbs. Like all hollow boards, it had a nose drain plug to empty absorbed water. Most significantly, at a later date (circa 1941), he added a 3’’ deep fin for greater directional guidance. It’s not known whether this was an original thought or one he picked up.

Dix and Staffieri never actually surfed together. August was a busy time and Pip, the worker, spent all day selling ice cream before taking to the water in the long summer evenings. This was when Jimmy, the professional man, normally retreated to the hotel for dinner with his family.

A couple of summers later (1942), Jimmy, hearing of another man with a surfing board, visited Pip and took him out for a drink and chat. During their first time together, Jimmy showed Pip some simple box camera pictures of Jimmy and his wife standing, riding white water near the beach.
Dix and Staffieri would meet again over a few intermittent summers; but for Jimmy, his visits were only annual two weeks holidays.

Papino “Pip” Staffieri was the first stand-up surfer in the British Isles to ride for any significant length of time. Not only had he built his own board in 1940, but then learned to ride it with no example to follow, in the summer of 1941.

Pip’s favorite surfing spot was off the point between Great Western and Tolcarne beaches. Here, he would surf evenings, alone. Over time, he learnt to paddle and swim-push his board out through bigger swells to ride larger surf.

Pip continued surfing until about 1943, after which his seasonal involvement started to wane. The war had truly arrived and the world was in upheaval.

During the war, Australian Air Force officers on a reprieve from active service found themselves on “R&R” (rest and relaxation) break and lodged at the Great Western hotel overlooking Newquays’ surf beaches. They found opportunities to borrow Pip’s board for paddling and wave riding. Pip, in turn, was inspired by these men from the Australian surf life-saving tradition and subsequently devoted himself to body surfing.27

Surf writer Paul Holmes wrote to me in 2009: “As kids [at Newquay in the 1960s], we used to buy ice cream from Staffieri’s van. It was the best ice cream I ever tasted, but even as he knew we were all getting into surfing, he never talked about it.”28

As a man of 85, when his story became more widely known, Pip reminisced: “I don’t want you to think I was a great surfer – nothing like all the acrobatic stuff young people do on waves today. Some waves I’d ride lying down or on my knees part of the way, in between standing.”29

Riding surf standing up definitely did not catch on until the 1960s, as Paul Holmes noted to me:

“When I grew up in Newquay during the 1950s, surfriding on plywood bellyboards was a big deal during the summer months, especially during July and August when the water was at least passably warm and hordes of tourists flocked down from the industrial cities of the midlands and north. Our local ‘beach boys’ rented out such boards, along with deck chairs, canvas windbreaks (the northwest wind could be a beach party killer even when the sun was blazing) and visiting tourists could get a ‘tea tray’ with a pot of tea, cups and saucers, mini milk jug, sugar pot, teaspoons and a plate of scones and jam with Cornish clotted cream...

“From the time that I could swim, I and like-minded friends would ‘surf’ from May through September on such bellyboards, usually plywood but (like my favorite) sometimes a single plank about four feet long, a foot wide and one quarter to one half inches thick... All had a scoop nose steamed in. Usually they were ridden in the foam, launching into an already broken wave and planing to shore... But, I guess because we did so much of it, us ‘locals’ found that on small days, when waves broke in waist or chest-high water, we could launch across the face and get at least a short ride in the ‘green water.’ By 1960-61, I and a few others figured out that on a big swell we could swim out with our boards, using kid’s size swim fins, and take off on bigger waves, getting a much longer ride on the open face, especially at high tide when waves refracted/reflected off the cliffs, giving a wedge effect. (I should point out that conditions varied rapidly and radically because of the 17-22 foot tidal range).

“It's funny to me that even supposedly well-informed people so underestimate the wave action on the coast of Britain exposed to the North Atlantic. ‘Oh, there's surf in England? It must be pretty weak!’ Not so. I grew up with fishermen who knew where to avoid 60-foot cloudbreaks. I've seen bigger seas off the coast of Cornwall than I've seen on the North Shore of Oahu.”30

4  There is a possibility that the Piikoi brothers were bodysurfing and not stand-up board riding. This is just my thought in reading the wording of the letter.
5  Western Morning News, 11 April 2012.
8  Booth, Robert. “The Prince of Wales: new UK surf museum unveils sports noble roots,” The Guardian, 4 April 2012 at: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2012/apr/04/prince-waves-uk-surfing-museum
9  Booth, Robert. “The Prince of Wales: new UK surf museum unveils sports noble roots,” The Guardian, 4 April 2012 at: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2012/apr/04/prince-waves-uk-surfing-museum. David Kahanamoku quoted.
12  Ormrod, J. M. “Middle class pleasures and the safe/dangers of surf bathing on the English South Coast 1921-1937,” 2001. Posted on the Internet in 2004 at: https://e-space.mmu.ac.uk/617588/9/Such%20a%20jolly%20holiday%20(8).pdf. Page 1.
13  Holmes and Wilson, 1994. Cited in “Middle class pleasures and the safe/dangers of surf bathing on the English South Coast 1921-1937,” by J.M. Ormrod, 2001. Posted on the Internet in 2004 at: https://e-space.mmu.ac.uk/617588/9/Such%20a%20jolly%20holiday%20(8).pdf. Page 1.
14  Ormrod, J. M. “Middle class pleasures and the safe/dangers of surf bathing on the English South Coast 1921-1937,” 2001. Posted on the Internet in 2004 at: https://e-space.mmu.ac.uk/617588/9/Such%20a%20jolly%20holiday%20(8).pdf. Page 1.
15  Ormrod, J. M. “Middle class pleasures and the safe/dangers of surf bathing on the English South Coast 1921-1937,” 2001. Posted on the Internet in 2004 at: https://e-space.mmu.ac.uk/617588/9/Such%20a%20jolly%20holiday%20(8).pdf. Page 3.
16  Ormrod, J. M. “Middle class pleasures and the safe/dangers of surf bathing on the English South Coast 1921-1937,” 2001. Posted on the Internet in 2004 at: https://e-space.mmu.ac.uk/617588/9/Such%20a%20jolly%20holiday%20(8).pdf. Page 28. Ormrod added about the origin of surfing coming from Australians: “this has yet to be corroborated.”
17  Ormrod, J. M. “Middle class pleasures and the safe/dangers of surf bathing on the English South Coast 1921-1937,” 2001. Posted on the Internet in 2004 at: https://e-space.mmu.ac.uk/617588/9/Such%20a%20jolly%20holiday%20(8).pdf. Page 13.
18  Ormrod, J. M. “Middle class pleasures and the safe/dangers of surf bathing on the English South Coast 1921-1937,” 2001. Posted on the Internet in 2004 at: https://e-space.mmu.ac.uk/617588/9/Such%20a%20jolly%20holiday%20(8).pdf, pp. 15-16 and 20.
19  Oxenden, Jeremy. Email to Malcolm, December 2009. Replicated at: http://www.legendarysurfers.com/2009/12/1920s-st-ouens-bay.html
22  Ormrod, J. M. “Middle class pleasures and the safe/dangers of surf bathing on the English South Coast 1921-1937,” 2001. Posted on the Internet in 2004 at: https://e-space.mmu.ac.uk/617588/9/Such%20a%20jolly%20holiday%20(8).pdf, p. 29.
24  “The Idol Dancer,” by D.W. Griffith; silent film, 1920. Maxine Elvey quoted.
26  Ben Marcus’ notes for an exhibit for the Surfing Heritage Foundation (renamed Surfing Heritage and Cultural Center [SHACC]), 2008. See also “Newquay Surfing, 1929,” posted at LEGENDARY SURFERS, June 2010: http://www.legendarysurfers.com/2010/06/newquay-surfing-1929.html - original source: “UK surfing history started in 1929,” SurferToday.com, May 12, 2010.
27  Ben Marcus’ notes for an exhibit for the Surfing Heritage Foundation, 2008.
28  Holmes, Paul. Email to Malcolm, March 2009. Also replicated at: http://www.legendarysurfers.com/2009/03/cornwall-beginning-1960s.html
29  Ben Marcus’ notes for an exhibit for the Surfing Heritage Foundation, 2008.

30  Holmes, Paul. Email to Malcolm, March 2009. Also replicated at: http://www.legendarysurfers.com/2009/03/cornwall-beginning-1960s.html

September 08 2017

Lao Trip 16.4 - What Price?

When Mr. Loi dropped me off at Nongsoda -- after our trip to the bar girls bar -- we made arrangements for him to drive me to the border next morning, as soon as immigration opened up (8:00 a.m.) I would need the entire day to make it home late afternoon that day.

After he left, I showered up and then “made my rounds” for one last time, this trip.

I had a beer at the riverside vendors, but no food. I was still full from eating pah merk (squid) at the bar girls bar. I then walked up the riverside road and had another beer at the new “The View,” ending-up at Savan Khaim Khong .

During these three stops, I kept thinking back to that afternoon and the girls I had met . Now, as I watched Thai luktung and pop videos, my thoughts turned to a person’s price.

I wouldn’t go so far as to declare that “everyman has his price,” but I’m pretty sure most of us do. For the Lao sao I had met, they’re price is low probably due to their family situations. Most bar girls I have met sell themselves to make money for their families, their offspring and themselves lastly.

Now, there are bar girls who make a career of prostitution and, in Thailand, they’re pretty easy to spot because they’re very attractive, well made up, well dressed and -- increasingly these days -- sport tatoos. For these girls, they enjoy the lifestyle and the comparatively high income garnered by easy work.

In between professional bar girls and the ones who will be in the occupation for a much shorter time, are the college girls who attract “sponsors.” They show them a good time while they’re going to school but usually dump them once graduated.

But, back to the average bar girl: she’s just a regular attractive girl who lacks other skills that would earn her the same level of financial return. She’ll probably stay with the job until she meets a guy who has enough money to take her away and marry her, or until her attractiveness wains. Then, she’ll most likely go back to her village, often with children and a Lao husband.

Now, about price... what about me? What is my price? After all, I probably could have afforded to have any one of the girls I met today or had them all. But, I declined. Sure, I wrote about taking the High Road and that is admirable, but just how honest am I being?

While I drank Beer Lao, I mused about Nuey . What if she had been in the line-up? Or, another girl who was just so attractive to me that I couldn’t resist? I mean, could I have resisted?

Before I left my favorite Savan bar/restaurant/karaoke place, I asked my waitress if I could take a picture of her and she agreed. I forget her name, but I remember her well. Several years back, her family had her working in the kitchen and would not allow her on the floor. During her breaks, she would stand in the kitchen doorway, looking out on the scene of people eating, drinking, talking, laughing and having fun.

Well, she’s grown a little older -- I’d guess she’s around 17 now -- and the family lets her wait tables. It was my good fortune, this trip, that she waited on mine.

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