JANUARY 15: The Sydney Seagull

1915_Isabelle_Lathem100 YEARS AGO TODAY, fifteen-year-old Isabel Letham became Australia’s first surfer. Maybe.

Letham joined Hawaian surfing legend Duke Kahanamoku (the Big Kahuna) in a tandem surfing exhibition at Freshwater Beach, near Manly, Australia. “And as a result,” Melbourne University historian Nikki Henningham said in 2007, “she goes down in history as the first Australian to ride in Australian surf in the Hawaiian style — the first Australian surfer.”

Letham2“(Kahanamoku) paddled on to this green wave and, when I looked down it, I was scared out of my wits,” Letham recalled. “But he took me by the scruff of the neck and off we went, down the wave.”

Letham spent early months of 1915 touring around Australia with the Big Kahuna and his entourage. The press nicknamed her the Sydney Sea Gull and Diana of the Waves.

Some say Australians had been surfing for at least three years, without Letham’s publicity, before The Big Kahuna arrived in 1915.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s