Making Waves: Gone with the offshore wind

The surf days in the ‘60s were exciting, more than exciting times they were a whole world.

The Beach Boys were blaring out tunes like “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” old beater cars were piled high with boards driving down the Coast Highway, and bleach blond surfers were walking on the beaches with colorful longboards under their arm.

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Dick Dale, King of the Surf Guitars, blasted out his surf tunes at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Newport Beach as surfers and surf girls did the surfer stomp till midnight. Then they woke in the morning to paddle out again.

California was surf crazy and the rest of the country wished they were there.

Malibu, Swamis, Trestles, Rincon, and in Hawaii, Sunset and Waimea Bay all famous surf spots were packed with gremmies getting tubed inside curling waves.

O yea, gremmies, these were younger surf riders whose floppy hair made them look like gremlins, gremmies for short.

As for me, waves broke in my mind day and night. I lived for surfing. Mark Twain cleverly said to never let school interfere with your education. I never let school interfere with my surfing. I’d get to school and across the street were cars filled with surfboards and there was a buddy grinning and waving me over to head to the beach. School or surf? There was no choice, I was off to the beach. I’d deal with school tomorrow.

California was the center of the surfing world and Hawaii was surf heaven across the sea.

Seeing surf movies with names like “Big Wednesday” and “Endless Summer” with perfect waves pounding in Hawaii made every kid stoked out of his mind to fly to the islands.

Hawaii was surf Mecca and for every disciple of the waves it was mandatory to make a pilgrimage to the North Shore of Oahu. You had to go.

Back then it cost $75 one-way from Los Angeles to Hawaii. You mowed a few lawns, did some chores and you had a ticket to Surf Heaven.

Shaggy dudes in Huarache Sandals, shorts and a T-shirt piled out of planes in Honolulu and watched their boards hauled out, then met friends at the airport and were off to the North Shore.

I say dudes and not surfer girls because in the early days not many girls surfed. Nowadays women waveriders are ripping up the waves just like the guys.

Once in Hawaii, most went to smaller breaks like Ala Moana and Waikiki. Waimea Bay, Sunset and Pipeline were for experts. You must have some sand in your surf shorts to take off on a 40 footer.

This brings us to the waveriding pros. In every sport there are heroes, ours were Surf Gods. In baseball you have Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and Jackie Robinson. In football, it’s Joe Montana and Tom Brady. In basketball, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson.

In the surf world, we had Phil Edwards, David Nuuhiwa and Greg Noll.

Phil Edwards was king of surfers. He was the undisputed best and smoothest surfer in the world. He would slide down massive mountains of water graceful as a swan.

Next was David Nuuhiwa, a thin, flashy guy from Hawaii whose claim to fame was his 30 second nose-ride. Riding an 8-foot wave he hung ten toes over the nose of his board for 30 long, hooting seconds. The usual time is 5 seconds. He did moves on waves fifty years ahead of his time.

Finally comes Greg Noll, known as The Bull. A huge, hulking bruiser who surfed the biggest wave ever ridden. He charged down a 70-foot wave and made it! He was totally fearless, a famous story teller, and a true hero.

Sadly, this big waverider passed away recently. It marked one more end to the era of great surfers in a surf-crazed world.

Aloha to Greg Noll as he paddles into the sunset for the last time.

He was a symbol of a bygone era of cocky surfers and their surfer girls, of Beach Boys songs drifting on the air and woodies piled high with boards. Look for it only in books and old Surfer Magazines.

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It is a time gone with the offshore wind.

Dennis Gregory writes a bi-monthly column for West Hawaii Today and welcomes your comments at makewavess@yahoo.com.