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Sam Reid


Sam C. Reid (1908-1978) was right in there with Duke Paoa Kahanamoku and Tom Blake as an influential surfer during the first half of the Redwood Era. An early mainland surfer, amongst his many notable surfs, Reid joined with Blake to be the first to ride Malibu in 1925. He rode a varnished, solid California redwood rockerless plank, 10 feet, 1 inch X 22 inches.

When Reid graduated from Santa Monica high school in the early 1920s, "there were only six surfboards in the entire United States," recalled Reid," and they were in Southern California."

Sam Reid arrived in Waikiki in the 1920s, later calling himself "a rebel with a cause." He went on to become the first haole to win the Hawaiian Surfboard Championships in 1929 and then again in 1931 and '32, and also to become a member of the Hui Nalu.

During the time he was on O`ahu, Reid "did extensive research on the origins of surfing, in the archives of the Bishop Museum, 'so I could appreciate what it was.'"

When he wasn't out surfing, Sam Reid worked on a book he titled The Pursuit of Freedom for about twenty years. In 1946, he moved to Santa Cruz, in Northern California, "where he was promptly appointed captain of the Santa Cruz municipal lifeguards and made Santa Cruz his home."

Following the growing influence of television in the coverage of surfing events in the 1960s, Sam Reid once lamented, "there's no more grace in surfing. Television has done this. You see, with television, sports became commercial. And surfing became commercial."

To this day, Sam Reid is honored by the State of Hawai`i, at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu. His name, along with those of Duke Kahanamoku, Sam Kahanoko, Johnny Paia and Tua Kealoha, is especially honored. Additionally, Reid is held in highest honor in Santa Cruz, as that surf community's early surf elder.

Surfing had indeed revived. On the Mainland, it was embraced by a limited number of watermen and even some women. The epicenter of Mainland surfing established itself in Southern California, initially due to George Freeth. This epicenter continues to present day mostly because of the industry and the more favorable climate of the Southern California waters vs. the Northern.

"When conditions were warm and sunny the beach became the new place to be," wrote Nat Young. Surfing's expansion to the Mainland would later cause a shift from Hawai`i to Southern California as world surfing's centre of activity.

It was natural that Redondo Beach, in Southern California, should sprout early as a surf spot in the United States. With the publicity gained by George Freeth (1883-1919) first riding Redondo surf in 1907 and the succeeding years after, surf fever spread.

Soon after he began surfing Redondo," surfing historian Leonard Lueras noted, George Freeth "took upon himself three proteges, 'Pink' Furlong, 'Sid' Williams, and 'Lou' Martin, the latter two of whom mastered the art and assisted him in many of the aquatic performances..."

Following their lead, a kid named Dennis O'Brien hit Redondo, in 1910. Surfing veteran Charles "Chuck A Luck" Ehlers recalled meeting O'Brien in the summer of 1920, along with Frank Roedecker, who was the first person to invent swim fins. Later, when his family moved to Hermosa Beach in 1922, "we heard there were two new surfers."

At that point, Bill Ehlers, Chuck's brother, built him a board. "Bill used 2 pieces of 2" X 6" floor joist wood... and nailed them together with 1/2" X 2" trim wood top and bottom. He rounded the edges and painted the board with grey house paint. Using this board, I learned to ride on my knees on 2' to 5' waves."

This board was followed with an improved version. "Tony, a friend of Bill's, along with Fred Alkire decided to build me a good surfboard like George Freeth's. They bought 2 pieces of 2" X 8" redwood, 6' in length. It was beautiful. They used a draw knife to round the bottom edges from the square back to the bow shaped nose. The finish was shinny shellac. The name Chuck A Luck was cut on the nose. After practicing for a week, I learned to drag one foot or the other to start to start a cut across the face of the swells. My brother was all smiles when I was able to go from knees to a stand up position while riding. We invited all our relatives down to watch me at 8 years old [1923] go speeding across the waves from right to left."

In mentioning an early "Log Jam" -- too many surfers out -- Chuck A Luck recalled "Spud O'Dell Moorman, (Dilly) Dillon Perrine, [and] (Tule) Sal Clark soon joined me in surfing... Spud's mother made us swim trunks of light white canvas that laced up the sides of our thighs. Later, one of the seven Kerwins [John]... joined the gang. We surfed between El Segundo Pier (where Spud's father worked) to Redondo Beach. Out of Redondo came Matt Davies and Denny O'Brien. We all took our boards in Denny's flatbed truck."

"In 1924, the gang (by now about 10 surfers) traveled between the Hermosa and Manhattan Beach Piers. John and Mary Kerwin, Tom Eggers, Spud Moorman, Dilly Perrine and Matt Davies brought a young boy about 4 years old named Oral August (Blackie) who rode on the nose of Matt's board, Tule Clark's, Denny O'Brien's, John (Doc) Ball's and others."

"In 1926," continued Chuck A Luck, "John Ott, who lived on the alley (later Palm Drive), a second mate on the Matson Lines (SS Lurline and SS Monterey) brought a Hawaiian (a big fellow) to see how a young boy made a surfboard go right or left across the face of a swell or the white water. He watched me start off by putting my toes or whole foot in the water right or left while on my belly. He said that from watching, he had got the way to turn a board."

"In 1927 Dilly Perrine and Spud Moorman heard about surfing at Malibu [probably from Blake who first surfed it with Reid, two years before, in 1925]. We three rode in a rumble seat car with 3 boards sticking out. We met Tom Blake and Cliff Tucker from Redondo while in Malibu riding perfect, long right slides on glassy water with very sharp peaks. We left early, for it was a narrow road and a long way to home.

"End of 1927 the Hawaiian returned. He said his name was Duke Kahanamoku. The board he brought with him was about 10' long and solid. It made two of my boards. We surfed together on 5' to 8' waves for 3 days. When he left he gave me the 'Mahalo' board (about 160 lbs.). I could not pick up the tail end to drag it. My brother and I took it to the beach on a wagon and planks. Too much work, so we left the board along the side of the house. Ten years later I sold the Mahalo to Johnny Dale of Manhattan Beach for $10."

"By 1928 and 1929 there must have been about 30 surfers," in Southern California, Chuck A Luck Ehlers remembered. "It was becoming a popular sport though tough to learn, particularly the current, location of ocean holes, shelfs and where the best peaks were."