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Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, June 9, 2000


A forgotten surf
hero is paid his due


Bullet "Tom Blake Surfing 1922-1932":
By Gary Lynch (T. Adler Books), 68 pages; available through; $35 plus $10 shipping and handling

By Greg Ambrose
Special to the Star-Bulletin


MOST people who have lived in Hawaii for any substantial amount of time are well aware of the reverence in which Duke Kahanamoku is held for his many accomplishments, which brought honor and recognition to his island home.

But these kamaaina will respond with a quizzical look when asked about Tom Blake. And that's sad, because the Wisconsin farm boy fiercely loved his adopted home in Hawaii, and showed that aloha by helping spark a renaissance in surfing and paddleboarding more than 70 years ago.

Between 1922 and 1932, Blake researched and resurrected the surfboard designs of the ancient Hawaiians, then revolutionized surfboard and paddleboard design with innovations that allowed greater maneuverability, efficiency, speed and ease of transport.

He also invented sailboards and developed a water housing for cameras that enabled photographers to capture famous action shots of surfers at Waikiki.

Historian and surfer Gary Lynch of the Central California coast has enjoyed a long relationship with Blake, and someday will finish his epic paean to Blake and his many accomplishments. For now, Lynch is content to whet readers' appetites with "Tom Blake Surfing 1922-1932."

Lynch provides a brief introduction to Blake, then steps back and lets amazing historical photos tell the story of this period of Hawaii's recent past, without the distraction of captions.

At the end of the book, each photo is explained with detailed information that places it in a social and historical context.

Blake will probably never be accorded the same adulation and recognition as Duke Kahanamoku, but this book will inspire a greater appreciation of his achievements.

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