Surf Shooting Down Under

While still a junior member among English-speaking nations, Australia proudly took the worldwide lead in beach safety—with hundreds of lifesaving rescues made each year—and the bronzed clubbie, with his rubber swim cap and tiny pectoral-hugging swimsuit, become the country's first iconic figure.

It must have dawned on Kahanamoku, at some point during his three-month stay in Australia in 1914 and 1915, that by dodging his own troubles he’d placed himself in the middle of a troubled nation. Halfway into a three-year drought, the country’s entire wheat crop had just failed. Gallipoli’s slaughtering toll on Australian infantrymen was still a few months in the future, but the Great War was und...

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