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Surf History for Sale

Surfing's first book, The Surf Riders of Hawaii, set to hit auction block

| posted on March 17, 2013

AR Gurrey wouldn't shoot digital. Photo: Gurrey/surfridershawaii.blogspot.com

The first book to ever exclusively focus on surfing will be auctioned off on May 11 through the Surfing Heritage Vintage Surf Auction at the OC Fair and Events Center in Costa Mesa and is expected to raise upwards of $30,000. The book, titled The Surf Riders of Hawaii, was first printed in 1914 by surfer/photographer A.R. Gurrey and depicts surfers in Waikiki between the years 1910 and 1914.

It’s been estimated that there were between six and eight copies of The Surf Riders of Hawaii printed, making this one of the rarest pieces of surf memorabilia in existence. Each version of the book was assembled and bound by hand and the images were printed on silver-processed paper. A separate copy of the book recently sold for $37,000 in a Sotheby’s auction.

The Surf Riders of Hawaii is the first book ever done exclusively about surfing,” said Joel Smith, an expert on the book. “This is a pretty remarkable piece…it’s a landmark in surf literature because it’s the first book dedicated to the sport.”

The man responsible for creating the book, A.R. Gurrey, is regarded as the father of surf photography. Much more than just a photographer, Gurrey was also a surfer, close friend of Duke Kahanamoku, and member of the Hui Nalu surf club. In addition to the iconic photos, the book also features short poems written by Gurrey and Lord Byron. This particular book had been in the hands of the Gurrey family for the last hundred years.

Relatively unknown among most surfers today, Gurrey moved to Hawaii at the turn of the century from San Francisco and, despite the legacy of his images, did not consider himself a professional photographer. The majority of Gurrey’s photos in The Surf Riders of Hawaii were shot from the water while riding in an outrigger canoe, an impressive feat considering the equipment of the time, and capture the essence of the sport at such a historical period. While the images that appear in each copy of the book vary, one of Gurrey’s favorite subjects, Duke Kahanamoku, appears extensively throughout them all.

“The Surfing Heritage & Culture Center is honored to be working with the Gurrey family heir to provide such a unique opportunity to surf enthusiasts everywhere with the sale of The Surf Riders of Hawaii,” said Scott Bass, Auction Director at The Surfing Heritage & Culture Center. “Preserving surf culture and having the opportunity to exhibit and auction such a valuable piece of history is a highlight of this year’s event.”