A royal sport – Edward’s 1920s surfari

As the Museum of British Surfing prepares for opening on Good Friday, we have released newly discovered pictures from our archive have to the world’s media showing Edward Windsor, the Prince of Wales, surfing in Hawaii in 1920 – the only know action photos of the young royal riding the waves, and the earliest pictures so far of a Briton stand-up surfing.

On his first official trip to Waikiki in April he was taken out in an outrigger canoe, then later in the day was coaxed into standing up on a surfboard to ride the waves for the first time by the great Olympian and father of modern surfing Duke Kahanamoku.

However, the future King Edward VIII was so stoked on surfing that he ordered the royal ship HMS Renown to return for 3 days in September just to surf! On this secret surf trip he hooked up with Duke’s brother David Kahanamoku, and along with his great friend Lord Louis Mountbatten, they went surfing every day. The photos were signed by the Edward and Louis as a thank you to their hosts.

Mountbatten was taught to surf by Prince Kalakaua Kawananakoa, the only son of Prince David Kawananakoa who had surfed in Bridlington on England’s east coast in 1890. One of the photos in the gallery below shows the foursome taking a break from surfing and resting on their surfboard.

HMS Renown was even late leaving… because the prince was still out in the surf! As you can see he got quite good in a short time – and remember the surfboard he was riding was a finless, solid wooden plank of native Hawaiian koa weighing around 100 pounds.

The Museum of British Surfing has a replica of David Kahanamoku’s surfboard, shaped by Greg Hall from 100 year old koa wood, on display in its early surfing heritage section at its base in Braunton, North Devon.

You can see more pictures in our history pages, and we’ll be adding even more details from the prince’s surf trip in the weeks to come.

Great coverage in The Guardian newspaper with a photo gallery here and a report from their news pages here of our surfing museum launch & historic photo discovery.