Hawaii: the thrill of surfing attracted thousands of new tourists in the early decades of the 20th century | Photo: Unknown Photographer

The 20th century marked the birth of surfing as an outdoor water sports activity, and the Hawaiian Islands were the epicenter of a cultural and economic revolution.

In the first decades of the 1900s, the art of "surfboarding" - or "surfriding" - brought thousands of new tourists to the iconic Pacific Ocean archipelago. Hawaii was en vogue.

The local beach boys would teach foreigners how to catch a wave, and tourism flourished. In the early 1940s, Frederic Ullman, Jr. produced a "sports reel" for Pictorial Films, capitalizing on Hawaii's strongest touristic offerings.

"Riding the Crest" invites the viewer to discover Honolulu's most popular water sports: body surfing, surfing, and outrigger canoe riding. Back in the day, the surfboards weighed between 50 (22.5 kilograms) and 100 pounds (45 kilograms).

"The gentle art of striding a streamlined ironing board while a breaker pushes you from the bay to the beach in nothing flat. The boards are carved from a solid slab of wood or build up of laminated strips," the narrator says.

"The first thing to do is to paddle out and find an incoming wave; a gentle swell that looks like is gathering up enough steam to be a big breaker."

Selling Hawaii to the "malahini" (newcomer) was quite easy. The always appealing surf riding canvas attracted a new generation that was eager to try walking on waves. And "Riding the Crest" only added thrill to Hawaii's ever growing aura.

Discover the most important dates in the history of wave riding. For more in-depth information about how surfing evolved from a royal pastime to a global sport, get "The History of Surfing."

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