First Surfer in the United States
George Freeth was born in Honolulu November 8, 1883 of Royal Hawaiian and Irish ancestry. As a youngster he revived the lost Polynesian art of surfing while standing on a board. Henry E. Huntington was amazed at Freeth’s surfing and swimming abilities and induced George to come to Redondo Beach in 1907 to help promote the building of “The largest saltwater plunge in the world.”
George Freeth was advertised as “The Man Who Can Walk on Water.” Thousands of people came here on the big red cars to watch this astounding feat. George would mount his big 8-foot long, solid wood, 200 pound surf board and wait for a suitable wave, catch it, and to the amazement of all, ride onto Redondo Beach while standing upright.
Freeth introduced the game of water polo to the West coast. He trained many champion swimmers and divers. George was the first “official life guard” on the pacific coast and invented the torpedo shaped rescue buoy that is now used worldwide. On December 16, 1908, during a violent South Bay storm, George rescued 6 Japanese fishermen from a capsized boat. For his valor he received “The United States Life Saving Corps Gold Medal.” George Freeth died April 7, 1919 at the early age of 35, as the result of exhaustion from strenuous rescue work.