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Hawaiian Surf Rider

Date: 1930s
Overall: 280 x 180 mm, 2.8 kg
Medium: Bronze, marble, steel
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Sculpture
Object No: 00019636

User Terms

    This cast bronze sculpture by an unknown artist has been mounted on a marble base, inscribed with the title of the work, 'Hawaiian surf rider'. The figure is a Hawaiian man riding a wave on a surfboard, wearing a skirted 1930s-style swimsuit.

    SignificanceThe sculpture is an important representation of surfing in the 1930s, and depicts both swimwear and a board of the period. It also indicates the status of the sport in the first half of the 20th century, and its developing respectability in popular society.
    HistoryMany historians regard Hawaii as the birthplace of surfing. Ancient religious chants mention he`e nalu (surfing) and Hawaiian petroglyphs depict surfing figures. Stand-up surfing began in Hawaii around A.D. 1000, with the arrival of the Tahitians. The Big Island had the largest concentration of surfers, followed by Oahu. Both villages and Hawaiian royalty took part in the sport, with King Kamehameha (1758-1819) known to have surfed the waves on the southwest coast of the Big Island. Lieutenant James King, an officer in Captain Cook’s crew, made notes on a group of surfers that he saw at the Big Island’s Kealakekua Bay in 1778.

    The 19th century saw a movement away from the sport as a result of Calvinist missionaries preaching against it. However, by the beginning of the 20th century surfing had again become an important part of Hawaii's society and culture. A Hawaiian teenager, Duke Kahanamoku, became world-famous when he won a gold medal for swimming in the 1912 Olympics, held in Stockholm. Kahanamoku was also an expert surfer, promoting it internationally at places like Freshwater Beach in Sydney. By the 1960s, surfing was inextricably associated with Hawaii, and remains an important draw card for their tourism industry.

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