California: The New Frontier

Los Angeles would try anything; it inhaled people, and exhaled ideas and trends. This was the only place in early-twentieth-century America where surfing might be embraced as something more than a curiosity.

Jack London dutifully praised Alexander Hume Ford in “A Royal Sport” as a wave-riding authority, then turned his attention to another, more commanding figure. “Shaking the water from my eyes as I emerged from one wave, and peering ahead to see what the next one looked like,” London wrote, “I saw him tearing in . . . standing upright on his board, carelessly poised, a young god bronzed with sunburn...

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