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Mo‘ikeha and Sons

As surfing emerged and developed in Western Polynesia between 1500 B.C. and 400 A.D.,1successive waves of Polynesian sailing expeditions explored and settled all of Polynesia.2 Double-hulled voyaging canoes covered thousands of miles of open ocean. They were guided only by celestial bodies, the flight of the golden plover3 and other birds, and sets of ocean swells as aids to primitive navigation – known today as “wayfinding.”

Legendary early-Twentieth Century surfer Tom Blake marveled: “No more daring and courageous sea journeys are to be found in history.”4 Indeed, by 800 A.D., the only other known significant seagoing explorations on the planet had been made by Phoenicians sailing the coast of Africa, Irish travelers reaching Iceland, and Vikings discovering the Faroe Islands between Norway and Iceland.5

After the major period of Polynesian expansion was over, there were later voyages consolidating the links between the islands. In this period of ali‘i voyaging, the most famous of the voyaging chiefs was Mo‘ikeha. He is the first surfer we know much about.

Mo‘ikeha's legend is not always easy to follow because of the numerous -- often conflicting -- versions of his exploits that have been recorded. But, back in the 1990s, I gave it a shot. Here it is as a free eBook, excellent for viewing on a mobile device, available for downloading and sharing as a pdf file:

Click on image above to download

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"Sandwich Island Girl" Updates

There is new, additional evidence that the "Sandwich Island Girl" may have existed and surfed Asbury Park, New Jersey, in the summer of 1888. Please visit the updated chapter, especially the later section with the updates from 2017 and 2018:


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Nick Gabaldon (1927-1951)

I've wanted to write about Nick and add his story to the LEGENDARY SURFERS collection for a long time.

Over the decades since his death, there's been a good deal of folklore added to Nick's history as a surfer. Wanting to get it straight, myself, I've done my own research and this is the result. 

I hope Nick's story inspires you as it has many others.


-- Malcolm Gault-Williams, July 2018

To read, please visit:


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Surfing Years 1950-51

Taken out of mothballs and dusted off a bit, I've reintroduced my chapter on surfing circa 1950-51 at:

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SHACC New Website

Welcome to the new SHACC website!

Please continue to enjoy the writings on surfing's history and culture at LEGENDARY SURFERS - one of many services brought to you by the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center (SHACC).

Due to the transition from the old SHACC website to the new one, quite a number of chapters in the LEGENDARY SURFERS Collection are missing -- especially from 1950 onwards. Please bear with us. They will return.

-- Malcolm Gault-Williams, surf writer for over 25 years

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Shared History - Oct 2017

With this post, I am beginning a new series here at LEGENDARY SURFERS I call "Shared History." The title has a dual meaning: surf history that is shared and surf history that we have been a part of.

This history is not particular to the month that it is listed (in this case, "October 2017"). It's just that the material concerning the surfing history or item of surfing cultural significance reached my desk on that month and that is the month I've collected a group of the best. Material ranges from the earliest recorded writings about surfing to the latest video, just released. As a writer of surfing's history and culture for over 25 years, this is information I feel is important for readers and viewers who are most interested in our history as surfers and the culture we share.

This first group consists of links I've collected during the month of October 2017 (LEGENDARY SURFERS Newsletter #99). Each month I will pass along a new list for you to check out. Aloha!

Mike Bright - Melbourne, Australia. Photo courtesy of the Bright Family.

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Bruce Brown Has Passed

Bruce Brown (1937-2017) has passed on while in his sleep at home. Many memories, videos, pictures and expressions of gratitude for the film treasure chest Bruce has left us... are being shared at the LEGENDARY SURFERS Facebook Group at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/99148475798/

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Doug Fiske and Early SURFING Magazine

Doug Fiske has written about his life as a surfer, photographer, editor and art director at SURFING Magazine, 1960s into the 1970s. A very personal retrospective, he's posted "The Blink of an I" online, along with a ton of graphics.

Doug's been gracious enough to let me include his memories in the  LEGENDARY SURFERS  collection. Please visit:

" The Blink of an I " by Doug Fiske

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Surfing Timeline

SurferToday has put together "The most important dates in the history of surfing" and it is located on their website at: https://www.surfertoday.com/surfing/10553-the-most-important-dates-in-the-history-of-surfing - The list is a bit sketchy after the 1980s, but gives a good overview of major events and significant developments in recorded surf history: 

3000-1000 BCE: Peruvian fishermen build and ride "caballitos de totora" to transport their nets and collect fish;
900 BCE: Ancient Polynesians ride "olo" boards as a traditional, religious art form;
1769: Botanist Joseph Banks writes first description of wave riding at Matavai Bay, Tahiti;
1778: Captain James Cook touches the Hawaiian Islands;
1866: Mark Twain tries surfing in Hawaii;
1885: Three Hawaiian princes surf for the first time in the USA, at the San Lorenzo river mouth, in Santa Cruz;
1898: Hawaii is annexed by the USA;
1906: Thomas Edison films surfers for the first time, at Waikiki, Hawaii;
1907: Jack London visits Hawaii and tries surfing at Waikiki, Hawaii;
1907: George Freeth is publicly announced as the "Hawaiian wonder" who could "walk on water", at Redondo Beach;
1907: Surf Life Saving Association is founded in Australia;
1908: Alexander Hume Ford founds the Outrigger Canoe and Surfboard Club;
1911: Duke Kahanamoku, Knute Cottrell and Ken Winter found Hui Nalu;
1914: Duke Kahanamoku introduces surfing to Australia, at Freshwater Beach;
1920: Duke Kahanamoku wins two gold medals for the USA at the Olympic Games, in Antwerp;
1920Edward, Prince of Wales, is photographed surfing in Hawaii;
1922Agatha Christie, the crime novelist, learns how to surf in South Africa;
1926: Tom Blake and Sam Reid surf Malibu for the first time;
1926: The first waves ridden in Europe are filmed in Leca da Palmeira, Portugal;
1928: Tom Blake organizes the first Pacific Coast Surfriding Championship, at Corona del Mar;
1929Lewis Rosenberg rides the first waves in the UK;
1929: The world's first artificial wave pool is built in Munich, Germany;
1930: Tom Blake build the first waterproof surf camera housing;
1930: The "Swastika" is the world's first mass-produced surfboard;
1933: San Onofre is surfed for the first time;
1935: Alfred Gallant Jr. applies floor wax to his surfboard;
1935: Tom Blake writes "Hawaiian Surfboard", surfing's first full-length surf book;
1935: Tom Blake introduces the first stabilizing fin on a surfboard;
1935: John "Doc" Ball founds the Palos Verdes Surf Club in California;
1935: Tom Blake writes an article on how to build a surfboard in "Popular Mechanics" magazine;
1940: Gene "Tarzan" Smith paddles a 14-foot board from Oahu to Kauai, in Hawaii;
1943: Hawaiian big wave pioneer Dickie Cross dies at Sunset Beach, in Hawaii;
1944: John Crowell, Charles Bates and Harold Cauthery work on surf forecasting for the Allied Invasion of Normandy;
1943: Tom Blake adds a twin fin system to a hollow timber board;
1945: Frank Adler founds the Australian Surf Board Association;
1948: John Lind founds the Waikiki Surf Club;
1951: Hugh Bradner, a MIT physicist, produces the world's first neoprene wetsuit;
1952: Jack O'Neill opens his "Surf Shop" in San Francisco;
1954: Hobie Alter opens his surfboard factory at Dana Point;
1954: Wally Froiseth organizes the Makaha International Surfing Championships;
1956: First waves ridden in France, at Biarritz;
1956: Dave Sweet shapes the world's first polyurethane foam surfboard;
1957: Mike Stange, Greg Noll, Pat Curren, Mickey Munoz and Harry Schurch ride Waimea Bay for the first time;
1957: Hollywood surf movie "Gidget" is released;
1958: Marge Calhoun becomes the world's first female surfing champion after winning the Makaha International;
1959: John Severson founds "The Surfer", the world's first surfing magazine;
1961Philip Edwards rides Banzai Pipeline, in Hawaii, for the first time;
1961: Dick Dale pioneers the surf music genre;
1962: The Beach Boys release "Surfin' Safari";
1962: Bob Evans founds "Surfing World", Australia's first surf magazine;
1964: The World Surfing Championships hit Manly Beach, in Australia;
1964: Eduardo Arena is elected the first president of the International Surfing Federation (ISF);
1964: John Kelly founds Save Our Surf;
1966: Bruce Brown releases "The Endless Summer", the world's first surf movie;
1967: Alex Matienzo, Jim Thompson, and Dick Knottmeyer surf Mavericks for the first time;
1969: Greg Noll rides one of the biggest waves of all time at Makaha, Hawaii;
1969: Steve Russ, a kneeboarder, invents the surf leash in Santa Cruz, California;
1969: Doug Warbrick and Brian Singer found Rip Curl in Torquay, Australia;
1969: Alan Green and John Law found Quiksilver in Torquay, Australia;
1970: O'Neill markets the one-piece fullsuit;
1971: Tom Morey invents the bodyboard;
1971: Jeff Hakman wins the first edition of the Pipeline Masters;
1972: Kelly Slater, the most successful competitive surfer of all time, is born in Cocoa Beach, Florida;
1973: Ian Cairns wins the first world surfing title, at the Smirnoff World Pro-Am Championships;
1973: Gordon and Rena Merchant found Billabong in the Gold Coast, Australia;
1978: Hawaiian lifeguard, surfer and waterman Eddie Aikau, 31, is lost at sea, south of Molokai, never to be found;
1979: Michel Barland designs the world's first commercial computerized shaping machine;
1979: Lacanau Pro, the first ever surfing competition held in Europe, debuts in the southwest of France;
1980: Simon Anderson creates the "Thruster" surfboard fin system;
1982: Ian Cairns founds the Association of Surfing Professionals;
1983: Michael Ho wins the first edition of the Triple Crown of Surfing;
1984: Glen Hening and Tom Pratte found the Surfrider Foundation;
1984: Tom Carrol and Kim Mearig win the first ever ASP World Tour;
1986: Mike Stewart and Ben Severson surf Teahupoo, in Tahiti, for the first time;
1986: Herbie Fletcher tows Tom Carroll, Martin Potter and Gary Elkerton into 10-foot waves at Pipeline, Hawaii;
1987: "California Games" is the world's first video game featuring surfing;
1992: Kelly Slater wins his first ASP World Tour title;
1995: The Olympic Movement recognizes the International Surfing Association as the world's governing body for surfing;
2000: Laird Hamilton rides the Millennium Wave at Teahupoo, Tahiti;
2005: Clark Foam, producer of 60% of the world's surfboard blanks, shuts down;
2011: Garrett McNamara rides the biggest wave of all time, in Nazaré, Portugal;
2014Gabriel Medina is the first ever Brazilian to win a world surfing title;
2016: The International Olympic Committee (IOC) votes unanimously for the inclusion of surfing in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games;

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Buzzy Bent (1935-2015)

Alfred Ernest Bent III, aka “Buzzy”, was born on May 6, 1935, in La Jolla, California.1 His father was a B-24 pilot killed in World War II. His “mom was the sweetest, kindest, and a beautiful mother in La Jolla raising two boys as a widow near the beach at Windansea,” his friend John Elwell recalled.2

At 12 years old he was white snow blond, tan, well built, muscular, high spirited and at the beach every day after school. He borrowed a shortened plank that had been made for a dwarf who lived nearby; the son of a Navy Captain, Tommy Hederman.3

“Buzzy was surfing this short traditionally shaped plank with amazing maneuverability; exhibiting extraordinary balance and coordination,” recalled Elwell. “He was the apex example of the California beach boy to come: wild, aggressive, successful, full of life on a meteoric path.”4

Many did not, but the Windansea surfers of the 1930’s that did return from World War II resumed surfing only to find younger surfers on the beach and on the waves. Buzzy was part of the new generation. The old returning surfers became their unofficial mentors and the younger guys became “gremmies.”5

During the war, when things went wrong or got messed up in the military -- especially on board aircraft -- “gremlins” were blamed. These were little imaginary creatures that got into things and caused problems. When the WWII vets returned, they drew comparisons between gremlins and the young kids who were around on the beach getting in the way, throwing sand, and pulling off pranks. “Gremlins” was later slanged to “gremmies” which would later change to “hodads” -- those still learning to surf. The gremmies became the new “surf rats,” changing clothes in the street, mooning passersby -- things like that.6

“The board scene was of heavy ‘planks’ on The Coast after the war,” remembered Elwell. “Rumors were circulating of a new board and new name appearing on the horizon and it was Bob Simmons. Simmons had been making brief beach appearances in San Diego with his new boards and boomerangs; usually at lifeguard stations, then more frequently at the Tijuana Sloughs, at Imperial Beach, where Dempsey Holder was the San Diego County Lifeguard.”7

“In the late summer of 1950,” continued Elwell, “Windansea had a Luau and invited the Southern Californian surfing community. It turned out to be a wild bash with good size surf that day.

“Joe Quigg, Matt Kivlin, and Leslie Williams showed up with a new model of a surfboard they called ‘Malibu Boards’ [aka ‘Malibu Chips’ or just plain ‘Chips’] similar to Simmons boards but with pointed noses. They didn't do so well but caused interest. A San Diego City lifeguard Maynard Healtherly and his wife ordered the first couple of boards in San Diego, as did Buzzy Bent, and they had them by December of 1950. Buzzy bought a 10 foot Quigg that would be considered over-size today. They were an immediate success and immediately followed by board makers Velzy, Hobie, and others. Simmons had bowed out of mass producing.”8

“Buzzy knew and surfed with Simmons and was the only one who could take off inside of him and pressure him with speed on a wave. Simmons would stop by his house and pick oranges from his tree. They were good friends and Windansea was a favorite hang out for Simmons until his death in 1954.”9

L-to-R: Buzzy Bent, Dempsey Holder and Bobby Ekstrom
Image courtesy of The Surfing Heritage and Culture Center

“Buzzy Bent became a overnight phenom,” continued Elwell, “catching more rides, getting the the best waves, and creating a new standard of surfing in the next few years... Buzzy was nonpareil; none better and he became better each year.10

Not to be confused with Buzzy Trent, Buzzy Bent became a pioneering surfing stylist, often credited for inventing the “WindanSea bottom turn.” Dale Velzy said that in the early 1950’s, Buzzy Bent was "IT!" -- the surfer that all the other San Diego wave-riders looked to for cutting edge moves and inspiration.11

“Those of the time like Velzy, Quigg, and those that saw him were astounded by his skill,” Elwell remembered. “He was an inspiration to others like Pat Curren and every Windansea young surfer like Butch Van Artsdalen and Carl Ekstrom. Phil Edwards came around in the late 50’s and was equally as good as Buzzy, but considered not as strong. Surf photography was just coming in and there were no magazines until the 1960’s. But everyone knew then and by word of mouth who the best surfer was and it was Buzzy Bent.”12

Of the post-war new generation of surfers -- of which he and Buzzy were part -- John Elwell wrote: “Velzy was smoking pot under the Hermosa Pier shaping boards... Teen age drinking, pot, and regular trips to TJ. The post war generation lead to a cultural surfing change. They were the nuclear age surfers and lived under threat of nuclear annihilation and did not give a shit and wanted to get as many waves as possible before it happened. Buzzy and others portrayed this wild devil may care generation. Butch [Van Artsdalen] and many others did, also, and died early.”13

Buzzy Bent. Image courtesy of Swaylocks.com

“Buzzy went off to college at the University of Colorado and surfed during summers and skied during the winter,” recalled Elwell,14 graduating with a degree in business.15 “He married his sweet heart at college and got a commission in the US Navy.”16 He was commissioned as an officer in the Underwater Demolition Team (the precursor to the current Navy Seal Team) stationed at Coronado.”17

“Buzzy had been a very good high school athlete and student, and was physically strong,” Elwell continued. “He became stronger after UDT training.”18

After his time in the military, Buzzy made custom surf boards, working first with balsa and then foam during the transition in surfboard core materials. He bought a vintage wooden hulled ketch which he lived on in the San Diego harbor and sailed around Southern California and Mexico.19

Buzzy moved to Aspen in 1961 for a winter of skiing. He taught skiing, joined the Highland ski patrol, worked as a waiter and took on various other jobs before forming a partnership with Hawaiian surfer, Joey Cabell. They opened the Chart House restaurant on Durant Street across from the Little Nell, in Aspen, on July 4, 1962.20

“The first location was modest, with just a few tables in a converted diner. However, two principles present in 1962 remain staples of every Chart House location – great food and equally impressive views.”21

“He met up with Joey Cabell who had restaurant experience in Hawaii,” remembered Elwell, “and with borrowed money started the first Chart House restaurant in Aspen. Then quickly had a chain of successful steak houses hiring close friends as managers and partners. They were quickly millionaires. Buzzy still surfed and became a Class A ski racer. He made brief appearances in Hawaii surfing and was far better than many others... Bud Browne said he filmed Buzzy on the biggest wave at that time at Waimea. Buzzy had the skill, strength, and courage to go toe to toe with the best in Hawaii and in the world by all who knew him and surfed with him. There are only a few photos of him surfing and he was forgotten as other surfers came into the spot light.”22

After the success of the first restaurant Buzzy and Joey went on to open three additional Chart House restaurants, including the one in La Jolla, before Buzzy sold his interest in the company.23

“Branches soon appeared in Redondo Beach, Newport Beach, and Honolulu...” wrote Matt Warshaw in The Encyclopedia of Surfing. “The Chart House became a kind of surfing institution, as generations of Californian and Hawaiian surfers took jobs there as waiters or bartenders, so as to free up daylight hours for surfing.”24

For Buzzy, there was a downside to the success of the Chart House chain, even though he did not realize it at the time. “There was so much money; too fast,” his friend John Elwell emphasized. “Buzzy bought an airplane, a Ferrarai, went into sky diving, drugs and alcohol; other women and divorce, and another marriage, relationships, and more children. Then, a succession of tragedies with his brother crashing and killing himself in the plane off Windansea, his mother dying of cancer, and a gifted beautiful, honor student, daughter dying in Nepal on a trip suddenly of disease.”25

One of the great tragedies in Buzzy's life,” remembered Butch Van Artsdalen’s sister Annette, “was the death of his younger brother PG Bent (along with Pete Sachsie) in a plane accident over WindanSea Beach.

“I was told that PG was always trying to measure up to Buzzy’s lofty reputation by doing daring things and that the plane crash was a result of one such thing. The source told me that Buzzy blamed and never forgave himself for his brother's death.”26

Buzzy took a pay off in the Chart Houses, as they declined,” recalled Elwell, “tried other restaurants, had a beautiful sail boat, invested in a movie that didn’t make it and lost more money. Joey Cabell kept the Hawaii Chart House. The management tried to buy the franchise out and the enterprise was sold and resold.”27

Buzzy continued to reside in Colorado where he owned an organic fruit farm in Paonia, lived in Telluride, and later returned to La Jolla to open a restaurant, ‘The Waves Bar and Grill,’ before settling in New Meadow, Idaho.28

What I will always remember about Buzz was his positive attitude,” wrote his friend Ed Andrews, “his genuine smile and his creative ingredient. His restaurant in Telluride, the ‘Cimarron’ had a model of his yacht on the wall in the bar area. In the dining room, there was a huge photograph (like 10 feet tall and 15 feet wide) of him and Greg Noll taking the drop at Waimea Bay on the biggest wave ridden that year (69). Buzzy was driving down the face of a 30 footer right next to Noll. He was fearless!”29

“Buzz was never pompous or arrogant,” continued Ed Andrews. “I drove to McCall, Idaho to visit Buzz a few years back and saw the work he had done on the restaurant/cafe he wanted to open in New Hope. He took an old run down loggers cafe that had been closed for years and turned it into a beautiful interior which all of us would have been proud to have been a part of. It is so unfortunate that he never got to open it.”30

“Those who are still alive still remember Buzzy as ‘The Wunder Kind,’” John Elwell said of his friend. “A highly skilled surfer whose rapid rise to wealth combined with tragic circumstances... He will be remembered as Windansea’s earliest and best post-war surfer; a good guy by all that knew him.”31

1  La Jolla Light, 8 January 2015. http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/lajollalight/obituary.aspx?pid=173754139
2  Elwell, John. Email to Malcolm, 17 November 2017.
3  Elwell, John. Email to Malcolm, 17 November 2017.
4  Elwell, John. Email to Malcolm, 17 November 2017.
5  Elwell, John. Email to Malcolm, 18 November 2017.
6  Elwell, John. Email to Malcolm, 18 November 2017.
7  Elwell, John. Email to Malcolm, 17 November 2017.
8  Elwell, John. Email to Malcolm, 17 November 2017.
9  Elwell, John. Email to Malcolm, 1 and 17 November 2017.
10  Elwell, John. Email to Malcolm, 17 November 2017.
12  Elwell, John. Email to Malcolm, 17 November 2017.
13  Elwell, John. Email to Malcolm, 18 November 2017.
14  Elwell, John. Email to Malcolm, 17 November 2017.
15  La Jolla Light, 8 January 2015. http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/lajollalight/obituary.aspx?pid=173754139
16  Elwell, John. Email to Malcolm, 17 November 2017.
17  La Jolla Light, 8 January 2015. http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/lajollalight/obituary.aspx?pid=173754139
18  Elwell, John. Email to Malcolm, 17 November 2017.
19  La Jolla Light, 8 January 2015. http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/lajollalight/obituary.aspx?pid=173754139
20  La Jolla Light, 8 January 2015. http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/lajollalight/obituary.aspx?pid=173754139
21  Chart House Story, http://www.chart-house.com/our-story.asp
22  Elwell, John. Email to Malcolm, 17 November 2017.
23  Chart House Story, http://www.chart-house.com/our-story.asp
24  Warshaw, Matt. The Encyclopedia of Surfing, ©2003, p. 97.
25  Elwell, John. Email to Malcolm, 17 November 2017.
26  Surfing Heritage and Culture Center.“Those Who Leave Too Soon,” http://www.surfingheritage.org/2013/02/those-who-leave-to-soon.html.
27  Elwell, John. Email to Malcolm, 17 November 2017.
28  La Jolla Light, 8 January 2015. http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/lajollalight/obituary.aspx?pid=173754139
29  Surfing Heritage and Culture Center.“Those Who Leave Too Soon,” http://www.surfingheritage.org/2013/02/those-who-leave-to-soon.html
30  Surfing Heritage and Culture Center.“Those Who Leave Too Soon,” http://www.surfingheritage.org/2013/02/those-who-leave-to-soon.html

31  Elwell, John. Email to Malcolm, 17 November 2017. Buzzy passed away on January 4, 2015.

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