A Fine Little Revival

Teddy Roosevelt, America's burly new President, unknowingly did his part to help revive surfing. A sportsman who hunted and trekked and occasionally swam nude in the Potomac River, Roosevelt was evangelical in his praise of robust outdoor activity.

Surfing’s revival in the early twentieth century made perfect sense. Seascape painters and poets had already done their part by rehabilitating the public’s regard for the ocean—what had been seen as a roiling vastness filled with sea monsters and splintered boats was now viewed as a place of beauty, self-discovery, sensuality, godliness, even comfort. “Where rolled the ocean,” dashing Romantic poe...

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