George Freeth Statue Stolen!

A bronze bust of George Freeth -- the man credited with bringing surfing to California 100 years ago -- was stolen sometime overnight, Redondo Beach Police said Thursday morning.

The statue, created by sculptor Terry O'Donnell, who died recently, has been on the Redondo Beach Pier for 31 years.

Police have not identified any suspects and will release more information about the theft later today.

Freeth was born in 1883 and died in 1919 during the influenza pandemic.

The bust was made from old photographs of Freeth who came to the South Bay from Hawaii.

People were generally afraid of swimming in the ocean during the time Freeth arrived in California. When they saw Freeth riding the breakers, people began to venture past the waves.

Younger surfers and lifeguards have become increasingly curious about Freeth, according to a Daily Breeze story last year.

"A lot of people didn't know who he was," said Joel T. Smith, a Hermosa Beach resident who has been surifing since 1962. "Only recently have people begun to recognize his contribution. He's a direct line to what surfing is today."

Smith said Freeth also helped create the surfing lifestyle that affected everything from music to clothing.

"He laid the foundation for the Southern California beach culture," Smith said.

There is a $5000 reward for the safe return of the statue!

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