Frank Beaurepaire is perhaps not a name immediately associated with surfing, after all how many surfers do you know have been knighted? Frank was a world class swimmer (world record holder when Duke visited Melbourne in the summer of 1914/15). Although not impressed with his own efforts Frank Beaurepaire was one of Victoria’s first surfers.
In his life Frank Beaurepaire was many things, world record swimmer, industrialist, Melbourne Lord Mayor and a surfer . . . way back, when very few people were surfing in Victoria. After the end of WW1 Frank headed to Hawaii to visit his friend Duke Kahanamoku, mix with the locals, and have a go at this new fangled surfing thing. He was impressed enough to write an article for Life Magazine that appeared in August 1921 titled “Riding the Waves at Hawaii”.
Frank and Duke became firm friends, the Beaurpaire’s honeymooned in Hawaii where Duke welcomed them (on the way to Canada) and they visited Duke again a number of times over the years. It is a great story but for us the most significant surfing connection of Frank’s is that he recorded the earliest known footage of anyone surfing in Victoria. Frank filmed Victorian surfing pioneer Louis Whyte and others surfing at Lorne riding solid timber surfboards sourced from Duke Kahanamoku.
There is also a pebble in the pond moment here, a moment that would surface decades later when Sir Frank was Lord Mayor of Melbourne. You see Frank was one of the prime movers in getting the Olympic Games to Melbourne, sadly he wouldn’t live long enough to see this plan come to fruition. Here comes the ripple . . . his old mate Duke Kahanamoku came out to help celebrate the 1956 Melbourne Olympics as did teams of surf lifesavers from America and Hawaii. They came to compete at the first International Surf Championship hoped to be part of the Olympics (it was never officially sanctioned). Those American’s and Hawaiian’s brought with them revolutionary new, shorter, lighter, Malibu style surfboards that changed Australian surfing forever . . .
Frank confessed that he was no great surfer, but surfing captured his imagination at a time when very few Australian’s were getting involved or promoting it. One hundred years later grateful for his early efforts and recording the genesis of surfing in Victoria.
Images (C) courtesy of the National Sports Museum @ the MCG
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