R E M E M B E R
WHEN … Three Hawaiian princes introduced surfing to Santa Cruz? Now, 130 years later, their historic redwood surfboards have returned home. BY MELISSA DUGE SPIERS
PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE MAH
ON SUNDAY, JULY 19, 1885, nearly 30 years before Duke Kahanamoku popularized surfing in the mainland United States, three teenage brothers rode long redwood boards into the waves at the mouth of the San Lorenzo River in Santa Cruz.
These were no ordinary boys—as nephews of King Kalakaua, they were true Hawaiian princes. And the boards they rode were equally extraordinary: milled of fi rst-growth local Santa Cruz Mountains redwood by the Grover Lumber Company, they were “o’lo” boards, a long, heavy shape reserved exclusively for Hawaiian royalty. The Hawaiian princes soon returned home after their well-documented turn as the fi rst surfers in the continental United States, but it has taken 130 years (and a remarkable journey out of obscurity) for the boards to return to their point of origin. Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, David Kawananakoa and Edward Keliiahonui came to California as students at St. Matthew’s
Hall, a military academy in San Mateo. The Southern Pacific railroad had recently connected San Mateo to the coast, which enabled the princes to easily spend many weekends in Santa Cruz, where they either stayed with family friends or boarded at the Wilkins House on Pacific Avenue and Cathcart Street. Both locations were conveniently located near the San Lorenzo River, the mouth of which had been a popular location for “surf-bathing” since at least the 1860s. The beaches and surf line, of course, were significantly different than they are today, before the massive changes incurred when the Army Corps of Engineers built river jetties in the 1950s and constructed the Small Craft Harbor in the 1960s. At the time,
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7/24/15 2:02 PM