George Freeth: Waveriders Cast bio

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George Freeth, Surfer (1883 - 1919)

George Freeth was born in Honolulu on November 8, 1883 of royal Hawaiian and Irish ancestry. As a teenager, George revived the spirit and the Polynesian art of wave riding while standing on a board surfing! While on vacation in Hawaii a Real Estate developer, Henry E. Huntington, was astonished at Freeth’s surfing and swimming abilities.

He persuaded George to come to Redondo Beach in 1907 to help promote the new Los Angeles to Redondo beach rail service and the building of the largest saltwater plunge pool in the world. Freeth was advertised as ‘the man who could walk on water’. The arrival of George Freeth in California and the publication of Jack London’s articles about his personal first experience of surfing, combined with the popularity of the automobile and the newly discovered Beach Culture, sparked the start of popular interest in the modern sport of surfing.

George would mount his big 8 foot-long, solid wood, 200-pound surfboard far out in the surf. He would wait for a suitable wave, catch it, and to the amazement of all, ride onto the beach while standing upright.

Thousands of people gathered to watch this astounding feat. Freeth’s many accomplishments included the advent of ocean life guarding and introducing the game of water polo to the California coast. He trained many champion swimmers and divers and was recognised as the first official professional lifeguard on the Pacific Coast. George invented the torpedo shaped rescue buoy that is still used today in various updated versions, worldwide.

On December 12, 1908, during a violent south bay storm, George Freeth displayed his lifesaving prowess as he rescued 6 Japanese fishermen from a capsized boat. For his valour he was awarded The United States Life Saving Corps Gold Medal, The Carnegie Medal for bravery and The Congressional Medal of Honor.

George Freeth died on April 7, 1919 in Oceanside, California at the young age of 35 as a result of respiratory infections aggravated by the extreme exhaustion he suffered from his valiant but strenuous rescue at sea.

Archive photographs, original surfboards and written accounts of George Freeth’s life have been made available to us by the Bishop Pali Surf Museum in Honolulu.

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