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River surfing:Setting the record straight.

Posted: Tue Apr 30, 2019 1:14 am
by DEP
Aloha,
My name is Don Piburn and I live on the island of Oahu. I am considered a bit of a pioneer in the latest re-emergence of the sport of board surfing on stationary river waves (http://riverbreak.com/news/stories/the- ... r-trilogy/). I am researching for an article I am writing about river surfing history.
Per John R.K. Clark’s Hawaiian Surfing: Traditions from the Past, the Waimea, Wailuku, and Wailea Rivers are just some of the places cited in 19th Century in Hawaiian language newspapers as places where Hawaiians river surfed going back to antiquity. Although these periodicals mention river surfing by name (heʻe puʻe wai), there are no written descriptions of how the sport was actually performed. Clark cites contemporary examples of river surfers, however none are stand up surfers that can be dated as far back as the early 1970s.
The reason this is important is that Bavaria, Germany professes to be the birthplace of standup river surfing beginning in September of 1975. What would challenge that narrative is conclusive pictures, newspaper articles, or period writings proving that paipo surfers not only rode river waves prone (kipapa), kneeling (kukuli), drop-kneed (hoʻokah kuli), but also and especially standing (kū) at any time prior to 1975.
Does anyone have pictures, stories, connections, resources, or ideas to help me with my research?
Mahalo,
Don P.

Re: River surfing:Setting the record straight.

Posted: Tue Apr 30, 2019 3:37 am
by bgreen
Have you asked John himself (he would be the best bet) or contacted the Bishop museum?

Re: River surfing:Setting the record straight.

Posted: Tue Apr 30, 2019 10:35 am
by Uncle Grumpy
Besides John Clark I would suggest also Tom (Pohaku) Stone & Malcolm Gault-Williams as sources.
As far as contacting the Bishop about surf info, good luck with that.
Working at SHACC for years I have reached out to them more than once to no avail.
In fact just last week one of our SHACC members called up and spent 15 minutes telling me how disappointed he was in the Bishop's almost complete disinterest in Surfing. He said they have one single board on display.
IIRC I think there is some footage or photos out there from back in the 50's & 60's of kids surfing at the Waimea rivermouth.

Re: River surfing:Setting the record straight.

Posted: Tue Apr 30, 2019 1:23 pm
by Nels
I don't have first-hand knowledge, just memory from media, but maybe it would be of help.

There was a trip of bodyboarders to I think the Snake River to ride river waves. I would assume locals had already done this, certainly kayakers. If memory serves Ben Severson was one of the Bodyboarders. Not sure the year. He's in Hawaii last I heard about him so might be worth contacting. No earlier than the 70's obviously.

Back in the 70's I recall a photo in Outside magazine of a guy on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon standup surfing a Doyle Soft surfboard. Not sure the exact year. Come to think of it that would be after 1977 though.

That's the earliest I was aware of river surfing.

Re: River surfing:Setting the record straight.

Posted: Tue Apr 30, 2019 3:17 pm
by bgreen
Uncle G, I did contact the Bishop Museum once but it was through a contact of John Clark. When I went to Oahu a couple of years ago, John organised for me to see the boards, both upstairs and downstairs (which aren't on display) .

Re: River surfing:Setting the record straight.

Posted: Tue Apr 30, 2019 4:33 pm
by DEP
What a great response!
Aloha everyone and mahalo for being so accessible and helpful. bgreen, I will indeed get in touch with John Clark and Bishop Museum. I thought I would beat the bushes just a bit before I reached out so I’d know what is out there. Uncle G., I’ll do my best to find Tom (Pohaku) Stone and Malcolm Gault-Williams. Nels gets the youthful memory prize: Back in 1985 and again in 1986 water sports brand Body Glove took their team of professionals to the Lunch Counter rapid on Wyoming’s Snake River. I was able to get in touch with Bill Meistrell, the co-founder of Body Glove, who was there in 86. He says body boarders Ben Severson and Danny Kim blew everyone away doing boundless spinners and riding endless over-and-under each other while sharing the wave.
Please do keep baking this and sharing ideas everyone. I'll let you all know how this pans out.

DP

Re: River surfing:Setting the record straight.

Posted: Wed May 01, 2019 7:39 pm
by rodndtube
DP,
Suggest trying to contact DeSoto Brown, Historian of the Bishop Museum. He also contributes to The Surf Blurb where you could also pose the question. Another two places to make inquiries include Swaylocks (surf board building site) and KSUSA (kneeboard surfing site), both of which have a lot of senior surfers and memories much better than mine.

I recall some vintage footage in older surf movies (late-1960s or earlier), something to do when the North Shore is flat. And I think in Sports Illustrated there is an article about "paipo surfing" in Montana, alas that was in 1980 (and short on details).

Re: River surfing:Setting the record straight.

Posted: Wed May 01, 2019 11:00 pm
by DEP
These are really great suggestions rodndtube.
If I could dredge up that 1960s river surfing footage, it would really help me to challenge the current global river surfing narrative. I continue to follow up on everybody's ideas as best I can.
I'm sending out requests and posting per everyone's suggestions. So far, it's been a little quiet, except here.
You folks are so helpful.
Mahalo!

DP

Re: River surfing:Setting the record straight.

Posted: Thu May 02, 2019 8:04 am
by rodndtube
The surfriders in Munich have really taken their Isar River surfing to a high level. You will often see various riders show up with their vehicles full of slats of timber that is then used to tailor the wave shape.

Re: River surfing:Setting the record straight.

Posted: Sat May 04, 2019 1:28 am
by Nels
I know you are interested in stationary river surfing - but I also know people surfed river tidal bore waves in the 1960's. The first I read of it was Rod Sumpter on the Severn River in the UK in maybe 1968, Surfer Magazine article. They have one in Atlantic Canada too. Possible people in those areas would have stationary wave experience too. That might push the year, but of course doesn't get you to Hawaii.

Re: River surfing:Setting the record straight.

Posted: Sat May 04, 2019 6:11 pm
by DEP
Good point, Nel. I'll be sure to include something about bore surfing history, as it does indeed go back into the 1960s. That said my search for images or writings about stationary river wave stand up surfers that can be dated prior to 1975 continues. I was able to get through to John Clark, and he's being really helpful with a number of places I can post to. He tells me he was hoping to find exactly what I'm looking for, that is detailed descriptions of early river surfing, but that information never turned up. Keep on baking this folks, as I still haven't found what I'm looking for.
DP

Re: River surfing:Setting the record straight.

Posted: Sun May 05, 2019 3:56 am
by bgreen
This may be of interest. Arthur may have other info: https://apluse.de/rs/rs_hist_e.html

John is a very helpful guy. Did


Tom Pohaku Stone - https://www.facebook.com/PohakuforAHA

Sledding - https://www.nationalgeographic.com/trav ... in-hawaii/

http://www.hawaiibc.com/home.htm

Re: River surfing:Setting the record straight.

Posted: Tue May 07, 2019 1:45 am
by DEP
I appreciate all these ideas, bgreen.
The article I'm writing is not intended to be a comprehensive description of river surfing history; rather I hope to celebrate those who went first, insofar as we know. Beyond that I hope to revel in the outtakes, in-between stories, and lesser known but important aspects of river surfing history that took place prior to the turn of the millennia. Firsthand accounts from river surfing’s latest incarnation are patchy, and the individuals who lived it are moving toward the day when they are no longer here to tell their stories. It’s worrying that the so few river surfer know the names and history of those who truly pioneered the sport.
For that reason your link referencing the history of river surfing in Germany is especially useful, as it's author is Arthur G. Pauli, the first to river surf on a surfboard in Europe.
I worked for years both with and for Native Hawaiian programs throughout the State of Hawaii including Kamehameha Schools, the largest private school in the United States. Their student body is composed entirely of children of Hawaiian decent. Among the many cultural experiences I've been honored to participate in, I was actually able to ride atop a Holua sled. I have tried to contact Pohaku Stone to see what he might know. I am still waiting to hear back, but I will try again after a while.
Don P.