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Meistrell Twins From Midwest Turn Art of Surfing Into A Worldwide Commodity

THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, California — After the first recorded European visit to Hawai'i in 1778, British explorer Capt. James Cook, his third excursion to the Pacific, leading the ships Discovery and Resolution, observed a peculiar activity practiced by the Hawaiians at Kealakekua Bay on the Kona coast of the huge, colorful island.

About 20 to 30 men drifted out to sea lying chest down on a flat, oval board. Once a "swell," a word used in Capt. Cook's writings, ascends to a wave, the participants rise to stand upon the board, legs closely together, while the surf "with a most astonishing velocity" is guided in "a proper direction," back towards land, Capt. Cook wrote.

The men navigated the ride of the swell as close to shore as they could, many instantly diving and swimming back to land to avoid sharp rocks that could break the board or cause injury. Capt. Cook's report on this extraordinary activity would later be called the art of surfing.

In the 1944, twins Bob Meistrell and Bill Meistrell had moved with their family from Missouri to Manhattan Beach in California. The twins suddenly became fascinated with surfing and soon became lifeguards on the beach. Nine years later, they invested in a sporting goods business that led to an innovation still used today.


First published June 26, 2016

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