SEA GIRT — Author Vincent Dicks of Sea Girt recently published “Forsaken Kings, Emma Spreckels, The Surfer of Asbury Park,” a history-based novel about Emma Spreckels, who is believed to have been the first documented surfer on the East Coast.
Mr. Dicks is also the author of “Sea Girt, the Last Town at the Jersey Shore,” published in 2017 and “The Women Who Saved Spring Lake,” published in 2019.
Ms. Spreckels was the daughter of the “Sugar King” Claus Spreckels, a wealthy planter who operated in Hawaii with close ties to the monarchy.
It was this connection that allowed Mr. Dicks to identify the young woman from an 1888 news article who was reportedly surfing in Asbury Park. Though unnamed, the woman was described as a “Sandwich Island girl” and the daughter of a wealthy planter in Hawaii.
Through meticulous research of plantation records, Mr. Dicks identified Emma Spreckels as the primary candidate.
“I took it upon myself to go through each of them [plantation managers and owners], to try to identify who had an appropriately aged daughter to fit the bill, and then who might have been on the east coast in 1888, and Emma Spreckels was the one who fit the profile of this,” said Mr. Dicks.
As he began looking into her life story, he found more than just a surfer tale.
Her father’s involvement in Hawaiian politics lent her a unique perspective on the fall of the Hawaiian monarchy, as her family and the royal family shared enough of a relationship that King David Kalakaua even visited Emma in her San Francisco home.
Ms. Spreckels also broke ties with her father over love, eloping to marry a man her father didn’t approve of.
Vincent Dicks felt that her story warranted historical fiction to better explore the complexity of her life.
“I think it offers an opportunity for a richer story and more understanding in the detail of the thought process in the character’s lives,” said Mr. Dicks.
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