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The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum (SBMM) is pleased to present “Southern California Beach
Culture from George Freeth to World War II” a lecture by Patrick Moser taking place on
Thursday, July 20, 2023 at 7:00 p.m. The presentation, incorporating some of the stories from
Moser’s book, Surf & Rescue, will be enhanced with original photographs of the people and
places who built California beach culture in the first half of the 20 th  century. Cost is free for
SBMM’s Navigator Circle Members, $10 for all other members, and $20 for members of the
public. There will also be a pre-lecture reception for members only from 6:15-6:45 p.m. Learn
more about the event and register here:

Patrick Moser | Credit: Courtesy

Moser’s presentation introduces the early history of California beach culture as we recognize it
today—surfing, lifeguards, and the image of California’s beaches as places of fun, health, and
sex appeal. The arc of that story began with the arrival of native-Hawaiian George Freeth in
Southern California in 1907. He made headlines with his rescue of seven fishermen, an act of
heroism that highlighted his innovative lifeguarding techniques; but he also funded California’s
first surf club and coached both male and female athletes including Olympic swimming
champion and “father of modern surfing” Duke Kahanamoku. Freeth combined surfing and
lifeguarding to create the foundation of what would become an important part of the Golden
State’s global identity.  
After Freeth passed away in the flu pandemic of 1918-1919, a new crew of lifeguards and surfers
continued his legacy, along with the rise of private clubs and the glamour of Hollywood. In the
1920s, that included Hawaiian Duke Kahanamoku. In the 1930s, the arrival of Tom Blake’s
hollow paddleboards, from San Diego to Santa Barbara, along with the influence of surfing clubs
and competitions, gave California a homegrown beach culture and helped it create a coastal
identity distinct from Hawaiian influences. For a brief overview and trailer for this presentation,

This event is generously sponsored by Marie L. Morrisroe.

About the Speaker
Patrick Moser is a professor in the Languages and Literature Department at Drury University in
Springfield, Missouri. He is the author of Surf and Rescue: George Freeth and the Birth of
California Beach Culture (University of Illinois Press, 2022) and the editor of Pacific Passages:
An Anthology of Surf Writing (University of Hawai‘i Press, 2008). He has published articles on
surf history in the Journal of the Polynesian Society, The Critical Surf Studies Reader, and
the Pacific Historical Review. He also publishes articles in mainstream surf magazines and has
collaborated on two books with world surfing champion Shaun Tomson—Surfer’s Code and The
Code: The Power Of “I Will.” He is currently at work on a new book, Waikīkī Dreams: Building
California Beach Culture during the Great Depression.

About the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum
The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum (SBMM), which is located in the Waterfront Center
Building (formerly the Naval Reserve Building), opened its doors to the public in July 2000,
with the unique mission to interpret the rich and diverse maritime history of the Santa Barbara
Channel. SBMM is an interactive museum – a place where the public can experience maritime
culture without leaving the harbor.
Founded by a group of fisherman, divers, and sailors, SBMM provides hands-on learning
opportunities for all ages, delving into Santa Barbara’s robust maritime history while
highlighting the important role the Santa Barbara Channel plays in our culture and community.
From the engaging exhibitions, visitors leave with a love for and better understanding of the
Santa Barbara Channel – its abundant marine life, the multiple recreational activities it provides,
and the people making a living on its waters. Learn more at

Contact: Jessica Tade
Deputy Director
Santa Barbara Maritime Museum
(805) 284-0299


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