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Jack London Loves Purple

Jack London
Waikiki, 1910 Photo: AR Gurrey
Alexander Hume Ford
Hui Nalu Club
Outrigger Canoe Club, 1909

Visitors to Hawaii almost all became surfing advocates to one degree or another. “Surf Board Riders,” a two-minute reel produced by the Thomas Edison Company in 1906, showed a group of surfers riding at Waikiki; it played in nickelodeons as far east as New Jersey. One year later, Jack London, living high on royalties from his adventure novels like Call of the Wild and White Fang, and every bit Teddy Roosevelt’s equal as a hale celebrity outdoorsman, sailed his home-designed ketch Snark from S...

The godfather of he-man prose, London really let go in his article, with plenty of flexed-bicep adjectives and metaphors—waves are “bull-mouthed monsters” and the wipeouts deliver “smashing blows.”