Helping Matt Warshaw put together the Encyclopedia of Surfing website wet my feet in the surf industry pool, and for that, I will always be grateful. But the early stages also took months off my life. We had to copy and paste tens of thousands of words from pdfs into the backend of the EOS website, and my god, there were so many formatting problems. There was also the ceaseless updating of entries. Then there was the creation and management of a Kickstarter account to pay for the damn thing. Learning how to put together a 501c3 non-profit organization ain’t exactly a walk in the park either.
But, I’m sure you’d agree, it was well worth it.
And now, bless his heart, Warshaw’s doing it all over again. Well, to be exact, he’s already done it again. His definitive tome on the subject, The History of Surfing, is now, just like the Encyclopedia of Surfing before it, a website. Go look at HOS and come back. It’s ok, I’ll wait.
Isn’t that something? Like a grown-up version of EOS. A version of EOS that’s been around the block a few times, matured a bit, can tell a story, knows how to order a proper cocktail, and sonofabitch, I bet it even speaks passable French.
Here’s a bit I like that shows how some of the sport’s earliest icons were oddballs. In this case, George Freeth:
Freeth himself remained something of an oddity. He was handsome, but not overwhelmingly so, with black hair, dark skin, and doleful blue eyes. Though naturally trim and wiry, endless swimming and paddling had given him the surfer's classic V-shaped upper body. Freeth became more famous for his lifeguarding work than his surfing, and during a heavy winter storm in 1908 he jumped off Venice Pier several times to rescue a group of capsized Japanese fisherman—a front-page act of heroism that earned him a Congressional Gold Medal. On a sunny summer day at the beach, men gathered around and waited their turn to earnestly grip Freeth's hand, while the bolder women patted his bare arms and shoulders. But Freeth apparently had almost no life away from the beaches and pools. He never married. He lived in hotels and boardinghouses, politely turned down invitations to social events, and in 1919, at age thirty-five, died alone in a San Diego hospital, a victim of the Spanish Flu pandemic. None of his family attended the memorial service.
EOS isn’t going anywhere. It’ll still be there for you, chock full of videos and charming photos, spilling over the brim with terabytes of surfy data. HOS, like the book it’s based on, fleshes out the raw info in EOS with context. It’s a reading tour through our little sport’s past, guided by the capable hands (and words, I suppose) of surfing’s favorite cynical historian.
The first two chapters are live now, with the rest being rolled out, chronologically, a section or two at a time, over the rest of the year. Just enough to keep you hooked.