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Book Review: The Surfriders of Hawaii remade

A local photographer recreates an early book about surfing.


Photo: Courtesy Tim Delavega

When Kauai photographer Tim Delavega got his hands on one of eight known copies of A.R. Gurrey’s 1914 book, The Surfriders of Hawaii, he knew he was holding an extraordinary tome. Only six pages long, and printed on handmade paper, it’s considered to be the earliest book dedicated to surfing. Along with poetry from Lord Byron and prose by Gurrey himself, it contains the first known photograph of Duke Kahanamoku riding a wave, according to DeLaVega.

DeLaVega, a lifelong surfer, was so taken by what he saw that he set out to recreate the book, paying painstaking attention to detail to make it an exact replica. “I just thought it was such a beautiful thing that other people should know about it and see it,” he says.

Eight years later, DeLeVega’s edition is complete and will be unveiled Aug. 17 – 25 at the 12th annual Duke’s OceanFest in Waikiki. In the meantime, two of the original copies known to still exist have sold at auction for more than $30,000. The festival organizers hope to also have a copy of one of the originals, which is now owned by a Mainland man, on display side by side with the centennial edition. Hawaii is home to two original copies, one at the Bishop Museum and one at the Mission Houses Museum library, DeLaVega says.

While Gurrey himself was not a professional photographer, his photographs captured the essence of surfing in a way that had not been done before, making him a pioneer of surf photography, DeLaVega says. “The photos are all technically proficient—beautifully composed and fastidiously rendered.” All of Gurrey’s photos are water shots, a technological feat for the times.

Duke’s OceanFest raises funds for scholarships for the Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation to support local scholar-athletes. For more information, visit dukesoceanfest.com.

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Honolulu Magazine March 2019
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