On August 27, 1917, John Randolph Bray and Earl Hurd released "Bobby Bumps, Surf Rider."
"Bobby Bumps" is a series of silent animated short films created by Earl Hurd (1880-1940), an American film director and pioneering animator born in Kansas City.
The black-and-white cartoon series featured the adventures of a mischievous kid and his dog, Fido, and was produced and aired from 1915 to 25.
But why is "Bobby Bumps, Surf Rider," a four-minute animation, an important piece of history? The truth is that this could very well be the first appearance of surfing in animation and its first fictional use in cinema.
"It's not surprising that animators awoke to surfing before 'more serious' filmmakers," notes John Engle, author of "Surfing in the Movies."
"With its potentially violent man-nature interface, curious physical gestures, and the easily evoked exoticism of colorful locales, surfing offered ample visual and thematic possibilities."
"Bobby Bumps, Surf Rider" is contemporary to Duke Kahanamoku's early surfing demonstrations.
Still, it also proves that the sport of surfing was, in the mid-1910s, no longer a strange, obscure outdoor activity, at least in Mainland America.
A Simple Plot
The plot of the world's first short animated movie is quite simple. Bobby and his pup watch a few surfers catching waves and immediately want to join the crew.
"Gee! I wisht' we had a surf board!" Bobby Bumps tells his canine pal Fido. So they swipe an ironing board from the maid Goldy's workroom and go tandem surfing.
The problem is that they're having fun in shark-infested waters. Fortunately, Goldy comes to the rescue, tames the animal, and makes it her longboard.
In a matter of seconds, the maid catches the duo and teaches them a lesson. The film ends with Bobby and Fido being humiliated and Goldy receiving the "Champion Surf Rider" badge.
"Bobby Bumps, Surf Rider" is the first-ever animated surf movie.