1920 - Edward, Prince of Wales, learned to surf at Waikiki Beach
Edward Albert, Prince of Wales, learned to surf on the long, rolling combers of Waikiki beach during a Royal visit to Hawaii in April 1920, and he loved it.
He was taught by the famous beach boy, and the man considered to be the father of modern surfing, Duke Kahanamoku ‘The Duke’ inherited his name from his father, who back in 1869 had been named after the Britain’s Duke of Edinburgh following an earlier Royal visit to the islands.
Prince Edward started his wave riding experience in a canoe, but soon graduated to a surfboard. The Duke took him out on a huge solid wood plank to ride tandem Joe Brennan’s biography of the great Kahanamoku, ‘Duke of Hawaii’, tells how straightaway Edward wanted them to catch the biggest wave possible.
We go-o-o-o!” cried the Prince in a long yell of ecstasy as they took off on their first wave together. ‘We go-o-o-o!”
At the end of the ride he said, “I never want to leave here.” The Duke replied, “Stick around Lotsa big surfs – and they’re all free.”
It wasn’t long before Prince Edward was riding waves standing up on his own. Despite wiping out on his first attempt and taking a knock on the head from his heavy wooden board, he carried on for several hours until it’s reported that he was quite adept at surfing and didn’t wipe out too often. Brennan writes, ‘the Prince became a solidly-sold devotee of the sport, and seemingly couldn’t get enough of it.”
The Times of London told the British public how the Prince “revelled in the new sport, greatly enjoying the exhilarating rides.” Edward was so stoked on surfing he insisted on returning to Hawaii later that year to ride the waves again – and it seems that he may also have surfed during a Royal visit to New Zealand in the mid 1920s.
He later went on to become King Edward Vlll, but abdicated the throne to marry American divorcee Wallace Simpson – it’s not known if his love affair with surfing continued when they left England for the Bahamas.
Back in Britain people were riding waves on our shores from the early 1900s Many wealthy Britons were able to holiday in Hawaii where they learned surfing from the famous Waikiki beachboys.
Soldiers returning from the First World War took to the waves in the West Country, the Channel Islands and the south coast using wooden bellyboards, influenced by their Commonwealth comrades on the battlefields from Australia and South Africa.