Since the early 1990s, we have all been under the impression that the first sheet wave surf simulator was invented a) in the 90s and b) by Tom Lochtefeld. As soon as this photo of Duke Kahanamoku on what is obviously the world’s first FlowRider® surfaced, what we all thought we knew was immediately debunked.
Rich Halsten, the Deputy State Archivist in Hawai’i’s State Archives Department, contacted us first to tell us about his discovery. He called from the Archives Building on King St. in Honolulu which is ironically a mere 5 miles from where Kahanamoku spent most of his days in the early 1900s, Waikiki Beach.
“I went on a Royal Caribbean cruise with my family back in November – we fell in love with the FlowRider,” Halsten said. “I started doing some research about the company and came across an article that credited a Tom Lochtefeld as the inventor. I immediately thought of this photo and knew I had to bring it to someone’s attention.”
For close to 85 years, this photo has been in the “Miscellaneous” section of the Duke Kahanamoku folder between two sheets of archival paper. Halsten told us that his department could never figure out what exactly was going on in the photo, but the lightbulb turned on when he was watching his kids flowboard aboard Harmony of the Seas® in November.
Kahanamoku, the “Ambassador of Aloha,” was a five-time Olympic medalist in swimming, won many outrigger canoe races, pioneered surfing, tandem surfing and beach volleyball, acted in more than a dozen full-length films and once saved eight people from a capsized ship with his surfboard. Now “Inventor of the FlowRider surf simulator” can be added to his list of amazing accomplishments. Aloha & April Fools!!