From The Very Beginning:
Not far from the crowded shoreline of Waikiki
Beach is the final resting place of a native Hawaiian who forever changed California and its image to the world.
Beneath the Freeth family tombstone is his simple burial marker. Only the engraved lettering “G.D. 1883-1919” designates it as his grave. The small grave site makes no mention of George Douglas Freeth, Jr., as having been awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal. Nor does it indicate that he is considered the father of modern ocean lifesaving. No mention is made that he was the person who first demonstrated and taught the sport of surfing in southern California. Within the serene tropical con fines of Oahu Cemetery, however, the light winds blow eastward toward the mainland, seemingly carrying the gentle spirit of the man whose impact on such California icons as ocean lifeguards, surfers, swimmers, and water-polo players, is still felt in modern times.
Freeth’s greatest impact on California, however, remains his instrumental role in revolutionizing the profession of ocean lifesaving. Before his arrival, a few volunteer lifesavers utilized ocean safety skills that focused on the use of lifeboats and rowing crews to save individuals from drowning. Adapting to changing times, local conditions, and new technologies, Freeth preached and practiced the importance of quick action to carry out rescues. As importantly, and as a lasting legacy, many of the young swimmers under his guidance became the future nucleus of today’s ocean lifeguard services in California. As a result of Freeth’s innovations and the standards he established, drownings on modem guarded beaches in California have become extremely rare.
Although George Freeth’s “passage,” as Hawaiians call the period between birth and death, was short, it was nonetheless full. From the shores of Hawaii to the sands of California, George Freeth touched thousands of lives for the better.
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