Revisiting 40-plus years of surfing in 20 minutes

The stairs were closed for repair and my friend Dave Gladstone served as my Sherpa, guiding me down the slippery dirt trail to the base of the cliff at Swami’s. Not much surf and not many people on water or sand. Nice afternoon though and I desperately needed to dust off the stress of the day.
I made camp on the rocks near RC and we talked about the new carving in the park, something he termed the “Tilting Tiki.” Sure to launch a thousand quips and nicknames the tiki will certainly reignite private debate on public art. I call it Gumby, because of its comical asymmetry. Of course it’s not a classic highbrow masterpiece, standing majestic like Michelangelo’s “David,” but a winking totem that can serve to remind us all not to take ourselves too seriously. It’s taken a while but I think I like it.
RC reminded me of the first beach art either of us were aware of, “Hot Curl,” a crude statue built by Michael Dormer and Lee Teacher, set up on the rocks at Windansea. There were no permits for the cement surfer and the city quickly removed it. After appeal, they decided it could stay. Then a rather famous surfer in the region got drunk and demolished it with a baseball bat. Or so the story goes. That was somewhere around 1963, so the debate and defacement of public art in our area has something of a history.
One thing led to another and soon RC and I made a cerebral visit back to Maui in 1969. We had both lived in the same neighborhood during that vintage year. I had gone to school with his brother at Maui Community and was getting good grades until the college built a second story on the library. The surf was so good so often that year that the view proved impossible and I ended up missing more classes than I attended.
RC was more realistic. He was there to do whatever it took in order to surf. We didn’t run in the same circles at the time, but we knew a lot of the same people and surfed all the same spots: Kahului Harbor where my roommate Ed got chased from the water by a 12 foot tiger shark, the River mouth and a decent left point called Pakakalo.
Neither RC nor I are big fans of surf chord, but they would have been handy if they had been invented for Maui’s Honolua Bay back then. Those who have surfed there know that it is a virtual ding factory and a lose board quickly becomes a broken board.
The stories switched from boards to classic cars and I told him how my brother had taken my 1962 Ford Falcon out on the infamous Hana Road and tried to jump a puddle with it, Dukes of Hazard style, before drowning it up to the roof. They left the poor thing there and never were able to revive it.
We rambled on, him telling me stories of hot surfers that rode the bay, the best of the lot being Les Potts, Paul McKinney and Herb Torrens. RC had picked up Potts hitch hiking one day and Les, who was a musician and would later help found a band called Space Patrol, sang a song he had written about watching the Maui sunrise from under water. Trippy.
We laughed as nearly half a century of surf washed over us, and I said goodbye before making my way around the point to snag a few good waves and create memories. We could go on forever and, if what the ancients say is true, we surely will.

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