That Summer at Boomerang, by leading surf writer Phil Jarrat, is an evocative retelling of the little known story about the birth of surfing in Australia and the early beginnings of our beach culture and sporting heritage. In the first summer of World War One, while Australian soldiers made their way to the battlefields, the world’s original aquatic superstar sailed for Sydney.
Over a two-month, three-state tour, Hawaiian Duke Kahanamoku revolutionised perceptions of surfing and swimming, and changed forever the direction of fifteen-year-old Isabel Letham’s life. When the charistmatic Duke picks an average Aussie girl out of the audience to ride his long board with him into shore before a packed beach, it’s a symbol of the seismic change that is already rippling through the nation as the rules and regulations of the 19th century give way to the anything-goes beach culture we recognise today.
The story centres on Sydney, Australia, but moves between Honolulu, Stockholm and the Olympics in 1912, and even California (where the Duke eventually goes in search of a Hollywood film career, followed by Isabel). But many more characters from history people these pages – such as novelist Jack London, our first sport promoter Hugh ‘Huge Deal’ Mcintosh as well as other sporting greats – as one season, one summer, epitomises the end of an era and the birth of a new one.
‘That Summer at Boomerang immerses the reader in a time “when fun was young”. The entwined stories of Duke Kahanamoku and Isabel Letham, whose paths crossed at Freshwater beach at the dawn of the age of celebrity and the beginning of the Great War, are the foreground to a fascinating portrayal of Australia and Hawaii, of sport and business, at that seminal moment.’
‘Duke and Isabel are entrenched as iconic figures in the world of surfing. This is a wonderfully romanticised account of what “really” happened in the summer of 1914.’
‘Phil Jarratt has worked a miracle and resurrected Duke Kahanamoku, bringing him to life with great research, wit and storytelling, and above all love for all of surfing’s characters.’