Antique Books That Mention Surfing

Throughout the 1800s, surfing was mentioned in the writings of many of Hawaii’s visitors, from little-known writers like Alex S. Twombly, to literary giants Jack London and Mark Twain.

As early as 1870, surfing was playing a part in popular books’ themes, story lines and titles, but it wasn’t until 1914 that the first book about surfing or surfers was published. This was The Surf Riders of Hawaii, a hand-made pictorial book by Alfred R.Gurrey,Jr. of his surfing photos. The next book written about surfing was Ron Drummond’s 1931 The Art of Wave Riding, a guide book to body surfing. The first book written about board surfing is Tom Blake’s classic Hawaiian Surfboard, in 1935. Tom Blake was a revolutionary force in early surfboard design, having invented the hollow board and the fin, and his book is a very collectible snapshot of the surfing art in the 1930s.

Collectible Books

The sixties brought the publication of some classic surf books, among them H. Arthur Klein’s Surfing, a Comprehensive Guide to Surfing History, Theory and Techniques, and Phil Edward’s (with Bod Ottum) excellent You Should Have Been Here an Hour Ago, a light-hearted guide to the surfing life well-lived. The byline on the cover describes the book’s message best: “How to hang ten through life and stay happy”.

The shortboard revolution in the late sixties spawned a new crop of surf books from the sport’s new heroes: Bernard “Midget” Farrelly wrote The Surfing Life, describing Australia’s newly re-invigorated surf culture, while Jack Pollard followed up 1963’s The Australian Surfrider with The Surfrider – the complete book on board and body surfing.

For more details on vintage and collectible surf books through all the eras beginning in the 1800s, including dozens of photos with detailed descriptions and values of all the most collectible publications, see the chapter Books in The Ultimate Guide To Vintage Surfboards & Collectibles.

Buy- The Ultimate Guide To Vintage Surfboards & Collectibles.