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Rare A.R. Gurrey Jr. Surfing Book: ‘The Surf Riders of Hawaii’ Up for Auction


Scott Bass, Board member, Surf Heritage & Culture Center and director of the Surf Auction

Joel T. Smith, chair of the Surf Heritage & Culture Center print committee.


A.R. Gurrey is regarded at the father of surf photography and his book "The Surf Riders of Hawaii" is considered the first book on surfing. The hand-made book was published in 1914 and there are only 8 copies known to exist. This extraordinary look into early surfing history will be up for auction in Orange County benefiting the Surf Heritage & Culture Center in San Clemente, California. The center is a repository of images, oral histories, surf books, magazines and literature.

This book is extremely rare. "It's believed to be the only existing copy owned by the Gurrey family," says Scott Bass, Board member of the center and director of the Vintage Surf Auction. "It seems like a natural fit to have this book, The Surf Riders of Hawaii, be part of this auction," he tells KPBS. "Gurrey set the standard for surf photography as we know it today," says Bass.

Behind the Book: A.R. Gurrey Jr.

Joel. T. Smith, chair of the Surfing Heritage & Culture Center's print committee has been given a rare glimpse into this book, he actually owns a copy and says Gurrey was a remarkable man. "He was very educated, had a degree in engineering and instead of joning his father in his insurance business, he opened up an art gallery, one of the first in Honolulu," says Smith.

Gurrey became interested in surfing and then dedicated himself to taking pictures of surfers from the land and from the water, sometimes in a canoe.

"What makes him distinctive is he was a surfer himself and captured the sport much better than anyone before," says Smith. "He was truly the father of surfing photography.

Smith says Gurrey's art gallery failed in 1923 and he was forced go back to work for his father. During that time the family residence was struck by a flood and fire destroying all of Gurrey's film negatives. He died at an early age. "I think he died of a broken heart," says Smith, "because his dreams were pulled out from under him."

Other items up for bid include surfboards donated by San Diego surfing legend Skip Frye. For more information and videos on the auction go to the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center Website.

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