Friday, December 26, 2008

Makaha, 1952-1956

Another great photographic scrapbook has been added to the exhibitions section of THE SURFING HERITAGE FOUNDATION online collection. "Walter Hoffman's Hawaiian Scrapbook, 1952-1956" is a personal look into an historic time at Makaha...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Katie Laverne Grannis (1919-2008)

LeRoy's wife Katie recently passed on. Here's her obituary, along with a link to the online guestbook where you can leave messages to LeRoy and the family:





Katie Laverne Grannis - GRANNIS, KATIE LAVERNE

Katie LaVerne Grannis passed away December 3, 2008, in Carlsbad, California, with her husband of sixty-nine years, Leroy (Granny) Grannis, and her family by her side.

Katie was born on September 23, 1919, in Salt Lake City, Utah, to Iva Perkins and Edward A. Tracy. She had a sister Bette Tracy Finlayson, as well as a half-brother Ted Sizemore and a half-sister Ruth Sizemore Goodcell. The family moved to Southern California in 1923, and Katie grew up in Huntington Park, graduating from Huntington Park High School in 1938. In 1939, she married Leroy Frank Grannis. They had four children, Katie (Kit) Padilla, Frank Grannis, Nancy Grannis-Wiig, and John Grannis. They lived in Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, and Hermosa Beach, until retiring to Carlsbad in 1978.

From the early 1960's to the early 2000's, Katie and Granny travelled extensively nationally and internationally to photograph surfing and hang-gliding events, as well as to visit friends and family. Katie loved animals and children, and was very loyal to all of her old-time friends. She was a loving, devoted wife, mother, sister, and friend, loved and respected by everyone who knew her.

She is survived by her husband, four children, six grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, and one great-great-granddaughter, as well as her sister Bette and numerous relatives and friends. A private Burial was held on December 9th, in Redondo Beach. A Celebration of her life will be held on Sunday, December 28th, from 1 - 3 p.m., at the Harding Community Center auditorium, 3096 Harding Street, Carlsbad, CA.

SignOnSanDiego.com > News > Obituaries

Friday, December 12, 2008

Beach Volleyball

Beach Volleyball has its roots in surfing. The first players were surfers...

The following is from Batchgame.com. Original article has some nice photos, especially one of Duke Kahanamoku and members of the Outrigger Canoe Club, 1915:





BEACH VOLLEYBALL... First played: 1915 at Waikiki, Hawaii and in Pacific Palisades California, USA

Beach volleyball, or sand volleyball, is an Olympic team sport played on sand. Like other variations of volleyball, two teams, separated by a high net, try to score points against the other by grounding a ball on the other team’s court. Competitive beach volleyball teams usually consist of two players, though recreational variations can contain up to six players.

Originating in Southern California, beach volleyball now enjoys worldwide popularity, even in countries without traditional beaches, like Switzerland...

Though popularized in Southern California, the first recorded beach volleyball games took place on the beaches of Waikiki in Honolulu, Hawai’i at the Outrigger Canoe Club. Originally designed to give bored surfers something to do when the surf was down, the game quickly developed into more organized six-man matches. The most famous early player was legendary waterman, Duke Kahanamoku.

In 1920, construction of new jetties in Santa Monica, California created a large sandy area for public enjoyment, planting the seed for beach volleyball development in that region. The first permanent nets began to appear, and recreational games were soon being played on public parts of the beach, as well as in private beach clubs. 11 such beach clubs appeared in the Santa Monica area, beginning in late 1922. The first inter-club competitions were staged in 1924, marking the first beach volleyball tournaments to be played in California.

Most of these early beach volleyball matches were played with teams of at least six players per side, much like indoor volleyball. The concept of the modern two-man beach volleyball game, however, is credited to Paul “Pablo” Johnson, an indoor player. In the summer of 1930, while waiting for players to show up for a six-man game, Johnson decided to try playing with only the four people present. The game was forever changed.

Beach volleyball began to appear in Europe in the 1930s. By the 1940s, doubles tournaments were being played on the beaches of Santa Monica for trophies. In the 1960s, an attempt to start a professional volleyball league was made in Santa Monica. It failed, but a professional tournament was held in France for 30,000 French francs. The first Manhattan Beach Open was held in 1960. The tournament is now considered the “Wimbledon of Beach Volleyball”.

In the 1970s, a few professional tournaments in Santa Monica were sponsored by beer and cigarette companies.

At the professional level, the sport remained fairly obscure until the 1980s when beach volleyball experienced a surge in popularity. Players like Karch Kiraly and Sinjin Smith became household names. In 1987, the FIVB created the first World Beach Volleyball Championships, played in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. The FIVB began organizing worldwide professional tournaments, and laid the groundwork for the sport’s Olympic debut in 1996.

Despite its increased popularity in the 80’s and 90’s, American beach volleyball suffered setbacks. In early 1998, the American women’s professional tour - the WPVA - closed its doors and filed for bankruptcy. Later that same year, the American professional men’s tour - the AVP - also filed for bankruptcy, plagued by problems as a player-run organization.

In 2001, the AVP reemerged as a for-profit, publicly-traded company that combined the men’s and women’s professional tours, with equal prize money for both sexes...

batchgame.com » Blog Archive » Beach volleyball

Monday, December 08, 2008

Santa Monica circa 1904

At last, we have photographic evidence that there were surfboards in Southern California before George Freeth's arrival, from Hawaii, in 1907.



The image was recently "found" by Cal Porter and estimates on its date most accurately given by Cary Weiss, who wrote:

"I did some brief research using as my primary source the softback book by Jeffrey Stanton -- SANTA MONICA PIER, A HISTORY FROM 1875 TO 1990 -- also Fred Basten's SANTA MONICA BAY and some of my photo collection and input from my 88yr old mom who was head of costume and of wardrobe for ABC and film.

SEE PAGES -PHOTOS AT PAGES 13-16,19-20 IN STATONS BOOK

1. THE FIRST LARGE PIER BUILT BY RAILROAD OWNERS [in Santa Monica] IS THE L.A.AND INDEPENDENCE WHARF-BUILT IN 1875 AND CONDEMNED IN 1879.

2. THE PIER IN QUESTION IS CALLED THE NORTH BEACH PIER, NOT THE S.M. PIER - BUILT IN 1898 NORTH OF WHERE THE L.A. PIER WAS - AND PARTIALLY DESTROYED (AS WAS THE WOODEN SLATTED BOARDWALK) BY A STORM IN 1905.

THE MUNICIPAL AND LOOFF PIERS WERE BUILT NEXT TO EACH OTHER IN 1908 AND BECAME ONE - THE SANTA MONICA PIER - THE CITY BUILT THE MUNICIPAL PIER TO CARRY SEWER OUTFALL.

3. THE BEACH DRESS IN THE 1890'S TO 1900+ WAS SUCH THAT MEN'S WOOLEN SUITS HAD 1/2 SLEEVES AND WOMEN WORE FULL DRESS OUTFITS WITH LEG COVERINGS -- NOT UNTIL AFTER 1900 DO YOU SEE MEN AND KIDS IN WOOLEN TANK TOPS LIKE THE ONE IN TSJ PIC.

WOMENS EVERY DAY DRESS WAS MORE FRILLY, BUSSELED AND HEAVY MATERIAL IN THE 1890'S.

4. THIS PIC WAS PROBABLY TAKEN IN 1904 OR '05 WHILE THE PIER AND BOARDWALK WERE STILL IN TACT...

CARY

Also helping in the detective work on this was: Ben Marcus, Gary Lynch, Arthur C. Verge and Joe Tabler.

Friday, November 21, 2008

RELL SUNN (1950-1998)



Aloha and welcome to the RELL SUNN chapter of the LEGENDARY SURFERS collection.


( Photo special courtesy of Tom Keck )

Initially, this chapter features "Rell Sunn, 'Heart of the Sea'" by Kalikiano Kalei and links to other Rell resources. Over time, additional writings and links will be added.



( Rell image courtesy of http://kurungabaa.files.wordpress.com/2008/11/rell10a.jpg )


Rell Sunn Internet Resources
Some Rell footage in:
"Rell Sunn, 'Heart of the Sea'" by Kalikiano Kalei


When I was a child in the 50s, I did not have many heroes that I looked up to. Perhaps it was the result of having had a rather tumultuous childhood, complicated with the unanticipated sadness associated mostly with the premature loss of one’s parents. Perhaps part of the reason also was that I led a somewhat secluded life without many close friends and certainly no ‘regular gang’ to hang with. How ironic to reflect, then, on the fact that personal heroes were an aspect of life for me only after I had grown up considerably. Until then I was the only ‘hero’ I was personally aware of…a regard reflecting more my immaturity and lack of experience in the world than anything else. One needs, after all, to turn inwards first for whatever strength there is to call forth when adversity first occurs.

In today’s Hawaii, there has also been much change and not all of it (as in my own personal case) has been entirely good. Despite that fact, it is interesting to consider for a moment that the Chinese ideogram for ‘Danger!’ consists of distinct two sub-characters: one that signifies ‘change’ and one that represents ‘opportunity’. Change may your worst enemy or your best friend, depending upon many considerations. Most of the time it is a matter of will power and perseverance that makes the difference between the two.

While the changes in Hawaii that came about through the end of the traditional ‘kapu’ system, with its attendant deposing of the Gods brought to Hawaii by the Pacific Islanders from the Marquesas in the 1200s (and the coincidentally perfect timing of the first Christian Protestant evangelical missionaries who arrived almost simultaneous with that religious upheaval), change in all aspects of the human experience ironically remains the sole experiential dynamic that will always be a constant in an ever changing world and universe.

Thus, despite my own personal changes, brought about by pure random misfortune, and the collective cultural misfortunes suffered by the ancient Hawaiians at the hands of western outsiders (haole malihini, in the island idiom), both the native Hawaiians in their way and I in my own have been compelled by the forces of experiential reality to yield to the currents of life and adapt to changes time has brought with it.

So it was, when I first came to the islands myself, I viewed life through a new set of eyes and experienced events with a whole new set of understandings. It was fortunate in that I could absorb all the many new and strangely attractive aspects of island life unencumbered by any of the burdensome baggage that I had been handed as a child on the mainland, and could build a completely new set of values, based upon what I saw and encountered.

It was only after my arrival in Hawaii that I came to understand some of the greater insights that are one of the benefits of a mature outlook on life, conferred by age and experience. Suddenly, I became aware of heroic figures around me: ordinary people so successfully adapted to the formative geographic and social challenges of their island lives that they seemed to engender a natural sense of respect and appreciation in others like myself. Part of this nature was certainly due to the unique island culture that has been built around the traditional Hawaiian extended ‘ohana (family) model, with its deep-seated sense of communal responsibility, shared awarenesses, traditional values, and mutually supportive cohesiveness among its members.

As my understandings of Hawaiian traditional culture grew and took root (despite my being a pasty white Irish-French haole guy from o’dare), I found myself not only inspired by the ancient culture (that had been literally dismembered and reconstructed by western evangelical Protestant missionaries), but also very much aware of entirely new standards of individual worth and moral rectitude exemplified by certain outstanding Hawaiians of note and stature. In this manner I began to emulate a small group of Hawaiians I looked up to as role models who inspired me, and whose example I could attempt to honor and respect in my own life.

These individuals were not astronauts, ball players, rock stars, stock brokers, or theoretical physics scientists, but ordinary Hawaiians possessed of those most basic personal qualities we define as character, high-mindedness, personal courage, and that most wonderful and uniquely Hawaiian quality of all called the ‘Aloha spirit’. They were people who in addition to possessing great personal character, had a broader and more compelling awareness of how inherently connected we human beings all are: how very much we need to accept each other as members of a vast family of similar beings, despite our visual appearances, varying skin colors, and differing personal outlooks.

On of the first of my newly discovered Hawaiian heroes was, perhaps understandably, the revered Duke Kahanamoku. As someone who not only typified great strength, both physical and moral, Duke had a singular nobility of nature (again, a manifestation of the aloha spirit) that impressed all who came to know him. ‘The Duke’ was simply one among a small but significant number of great Hawaiians that fate has graced the islands with, but clearly one of the most outstanding and beloved Hawaiians of the present century. I have never met a single person in the islands who ever had less than the highest regard for Duke and for the selfless effort he maintained throughout his life to spread good will and encourage uniform regard and respect for people everywhere. It was no accident that he was regarded as the ‘Ambassador Emeritus’ for all Hawaii toward the end of his long and eventful life, for he was always radiating warmth and good will among all who came in contact with him. His was the primal essence, in my opinion, of what we today call the ‘aloha spirit’.

Another personal hero I acquired was Eddie Aikau, of whom as a lifeguard and expert Hawaiian waterman it was admiringly said that no matter what the circumstances, no matter how great the challenge, or how intimidating the wave, “Eddie would go…” The story of Eddie’s life is as fascinating in its own right as was the Duke’s, beginning with his early introduction to surfing as a local keiki (child) at Waimea Bay (North Shore, on Oahu), and although Eddie was visited with personal misfortunes that are the ineluctably common fare of all mortals everywhere, his personal values, sensitive insights, physical strength, and great character stood out above his adversities for all of us to admire. As a kid who was always (and remains) one of the world’s worst surfers, my respect and admiration for Eddie Aikau’s abilities on the waves simply increased proportionately. I may not have been able to stay on a wave (even a small one) for more than a few minutes, but that didn’t keep me from maintaining the greatest possible regard for Eddie as both a devoted lifeguard and extraordinary Hawaiian waterman. Like the Duke, he was as at home in the water as out of it, and in the end, when he vanished at sea, going for help on his surfboard from the stricken outrigger Hokule’a (‘North Star’ in Hawaiian) on 17 March 1978, the true essence of Eddie’s aloha spirit shown out as an all-illuminating source of selfless giving. After years of conjecture by many about exactly what it was that set Eddie apart as a person of admirable substance, most today agree that it was that unique Hawaiian spirit of love for the ocean and kindred regard for others’ welfare and safety that motivated Eddie throughout his life—both as a lifeguard and as a waterman. That is also the spirit of aloha.

Now I am as aware as anyone that too many ‘heroes’ in our modern age are an artificial contrivance in many instances: deliberately fabricated, scripted, and purpose-created iconic representations of euphemistic worthiness deliberately engineered or exploited by media and public relations flacks. While I would never demean the pseudo-heroic regard accorded public servants like firemen, police officers, and other public service functionaries, we as a nation all too often seem obsessed with a need to create and embrace exemplary heroes. As Joseph Campbell observed, decades ago, human beings have a powerful, primeval need for heroes we may look up to from the midst of the wilderness of our collective uncertainties. Many modern heroes are therefore the result of wish-fulfillment artifice and foundering collective moral insecurities, and are quite often enshrined as paragons of admiration (more often posthumously, of course, because it would never do to call a hero a ‘hero’ to his face and laud his achievements too loudly). Even in overstated American culture, that would be an all too unseemly American proclivity, it would appear. If you ask anyone who has been adulated as one of these ‘heroes of the moment’, he will be the first one to set you straight about the fact that no ‘hero’ ever sets forth to be deliberately heroic. Most will admit only to being ‘ordinary individuals that fate and circumstances have simply placed in a particular spot, at a particular time, and that they reacted as almost anyone would under similar life-threatening constraints: instinctively and unthinkingly. Still, we need to believe in our heroes…

That all having been acknowledged, the kind of heroism that I refer to here is not of the spectacular, splashy sort, nor is it the typical venue of firemen, policemen, and others who protect the public welfare. The heroism I refer to is a more ordinary type of nobility consisting of an unconscious desire to do the best one possibly may for one’s fellows. To live life honestly, positively, and always courageously, but while so doing to never lose sight of the basic need to regard all live on this planet with humane respect. Above all, it incorporates an unconscious selflessness in the going about of that life and a natural embrace of the high minded potential we human beings may live up to in our short span of ordinary mortal life on earth. It is no coincidence, to my way of viewing all this, that the core of it all is encapsulated within that state of grace Hawaiians call the ‘Aloha spirit’, that kindred concern for all life, everywhere, mixed together with a genuine love for every aspect of the natural world we inhabit.

In Hawaii, this sense of ‘Aloha spirit’ that has always typified the highest traditional cultural values of the islands incorporates all of the qualities I mentioned above: a loving respect for others (especially family and community), a kindred awareness of the shared fate and destiny of all human beings, and a profound regard for the natural world, its vast oceans, and natural resources: a world that is that is not just our home, but our critically important life support system. Within that context, a remarkable Hawaiian woman whose name means ‘heart of the pluming waves’ once defined the ‘Aloha spirit’ as being: “…simple, really…you give and you give and you give…and you give from here (the heart), until you have nothing else to give.”

I have always thought that was a particularly beautiful way of describing the aloha spirit, since this definition comfortably parallels the best Christian traditions of ‘loving thy neighbor as thyself’ (something even someone like myself, who although raised as a Christian, but who no longer holds those beliefs, may appreciate and readily accept) and always striving to do good works.

All of this leads me to another personal hero of mine, or should I say ‘heroine’, for the individual in focus here is indeed not a kane (man) but a wahine (woman)…a wahine, a sistah, and a kumu (teacher). That individual, by given name was Ruella Kaolioka`ehukai Sunn, although she was more commonly known as simply ‘Rell’, or ‘Auntie Rell’ to her friends and family on Oahu. Rell was later lovingly regarded on her native island (and indeed throughout most of Hawaii) as ‘the Queen of Makaha’ for the inspiration she provided as a role model for women and particularly women surfers (‘wahine he’e nalu’), who were prior to her time disregarded as merely pretty sex objects in a predominantly man’s sport. It is about Auntie Rell Sunn that I wish to write at some length here, for she strongly exemplified in the ordinary living of her life the aloha spirit of the Duke and Eddie Aikau that is today so seldom seen in the vain, self-absorbed, and impersonalised modern American culture that has in recent decades been forced upon Hawaii.

Rell Sunn was born on Oahu in 1950, which is about 4 years after my own birth (she would be 57 today, if she were still with us). Rell was the 4th of 5 children born to her Chinese father, Elbert, and her Hawaiian-Irish mother, Roen. I can’t help but take some pride in knowing of that special merging of blood lines in Rell’s ancestry, since these three cultures are remarkable among all those in the world for having achieved special greatness throughout recent past centuries. The Sunns were not well-to-do, but simply an average local family who lived the ‘ohana tradition of respect and love for family. Rell’s father, Elbert, was a beachboy at Makaha Beach. They lived right around the corner from the Makaha Point, at the very doorstep of the beloved Kai (ocean) that has always been so much a part of the ancient Hawaiians’ lives. Rell was quickly introduced to the ocean almost as soon as she could walk.

Rell once said in an interview that “Most Hawaiian grandparents name you before you’re born. They have a dream or something that tells them what the child’s name will be.” Rell’s full first name (Roella) came about as a partial combination of her father’s and mother’s names (‘Roen’ and ‘Elbert’), although it was revealed by a family member that a fond family nickname for the energetic young keiki was ‘Rella propella’, a humorous reference to her boundless enthusiasms for the ocean she loved so much. Her middle name, ‘Kapolioka’ehukai’, may be loosely translated in Hawaiian to ‘Heart of the Sea’ (although it more accurately translates to ‘heart of the pluming wave spray’), a beautifully appropriate name for someone to whom the ocean meant so much. Rell said she personally hated her given name ‘Roella’ and since no one ever used it anyway, she simply changed it to ‘Rell’ and went on from there. To this day, many who came to know her mistakenly think her name was actually ‘Rella’, rather than Rell.

Commenting on her fascinating (and formidable) admixture of Irish, Hawaiian, and Chinese ancestry, Rell once remarked “It’s like we’re at some big luau and everyone says, ‘Come on, Rell…go dance!’ The Chinese part of me says, ‘No, stop it; don’t make a fool of yourself.’ The Hawaiian part says ‘Yeah, sistah. Go for it. Geev’em! Ged ou’ dere!’ And the Irish part says, ‘Well and good, but first a wee pint of Guinness!’”

Having had her home on the island’s West Side at internationally famous Makaha Beach, the ocean formed a spectacular backdrop for her entire childhood. With the world focused as it was on Makaha’s legendary surf in the resurgence of interest in surfing that hit Hawaii in the 50s and 60s, Rell’s childhood senses were saturated with the surfing activity that had become such a major activity at Makaha. With the encouragement of such notable surfers as ‘Buffalo’ Keaulana (one of Hawaii’s ‘grand old watermen’ of today), ‘Rabbit’ Kekai, and ‘Buzzy’ Trent, little Rell quickly came to worship all that surfing represented.

“John Kelly, George Downing, and Wally Froiseth were my idols”, Rell noted. These inspiring role-models taught the young woman how to listen and from their captivating talk-story sessions about surfing, she learned an enormous amount of information about the ocean before she even started surfing it. Before long she seemed to have developed what amounts to a sort of profoundly empathetic sixth sense about the ocean and its many moods that would serve her well in the years to come.

Her family had at the time a battered old longboard and with it Rell entered the surf (under the watchful eyes of family), starting at the tender age of 4 years. She quickly gained exceptional mastery of the ocean waves she loved so much. Later, her water skills won her a surfboard of her own in a contest. She laughed about that, observing that at this early age she had already learned what it was like to love, having objectified that old surfboard as something sensual and alive and deserving of her affections as much as the family poi-dog. Rell even put the board on her bed at night, she once confided, giving it pride of place alongside her as if it were the family dog! Continuing to talk of her early childhood days, she admitted that if the family board were in use, she or her sibs would grab any other board belonging to someone else that was temporarily not in use and sneak out to surf with it. If there was no board available, the keiki would simply body surf.

In the 50s, as renewed interest in surfing grew, girls were regarded as not really belonging on the waves, for despite the ancient traditions of Hawaiian he’e nalu (in which women and men enjoyed surfing equally), more recently men came to consider surfing as a special venue for their exclusive use. Since there were no well-known women surfers at that time to emulate, Rell thought of herself as simply ‘one of the boys’ and didn’t let any sexist bias of that sort put her off the further discovery of this exciting sport. Consequently, she learned from her heroes with the same alacrity as her male peers.

As Rell grew, her abilities grew commensurate with her enthusiasms, to the point that she was more fish than human in the often daunting curls and monster swells that characterised Makaha’s winter surf conditions. Several times she met the great Duke Kahanamoku, including one memorable instance during a trip to the San Diego World Surfing Championship with the Hawaiian contestants, when she was 16 (1966). That experience, plus living at Makaha where the big yearly Makaha surfing event took place, confirmed her conviction that women could and would soon create a much deserved place for themselves among the top surfers of the day. In her opinion, it was merely a stoke waiting to be grabbed and she went for it with typical passion.

According to her peers and those who knew her, she had little fear of the often formidable surfing conditions that could be found at Makaha and she was regularly surfing 15 foot swells in her late teens. As Rell explained it, she had absolutely no fear of drowning or dying in the water, due to her strong belief in the presence of protective aumakua (ancestral spirits) who were always nearby. At the time, Makaha was still really an ‘ohana thing, since everyone who surfed the beach looked after each other the way family would, keeping an eye out for each other’s safety. It was a closely knit community—both in the water and out of it.

As Rell grew out of her keiki days, in addition to her cultivation of exceptional skill on the longboard, she also blossomed into a stunningly beautiful, naturally attractive, and charismatic woman who could (and often did) melt the hearts of any man within eyesight. Everyone who had ever known her, either as a close friend or as a distant acquaintance, would agree that she had a healthy natural sex appeal that worked effortlessly for her. Despite this essence of a deeply female allure that radiated naturally from her, she remained light-hearted and completely unaffected by her beauty, and was about as far from being a vain, self-centered person as any breathtakingly desirable young woman may possibly be. The key to this unforced and supremely relaxed air of nonchalant self-deprecation, she explained when asked, was that she was always far more interested in the simple joys the ocean provided her than in any other aspect of her personal life—frequently including her own best interests! As a result, Rell’s graceful qualities, her effortless beauty, and exceptionally appealing qualities never once outshone either her formidable skills on a surfboard, or her sense of humility. To everyone she remained a fair-minded, open, friendly, genuinely charming, and sincerely generous person of great personal warmth.

Many men, including both those involved in the surfing scene and those who were not, fell heavily for this combination of assets that made her stand out so uniquely among her peers. She was, after all, a rare individual: a woman who was as good looking in a swimsuit as she was a talented and seriously capable contender on a surfboard. Thus, she continued to impress everyone who came into contact with her, all of whom noted she seemed to have a most perfect, most positive attitude towards living life as fully as possible by anyone blessed with all of her obvious gifts and attributes.

That is not to say that Rell didn’t have to pay her dues throughout life, since early on she did run into that unseen brick wall that constituted male resentment over having a woman challenge their fragile egos on the waves. To her credit, she could give as good as she got when required, competing fairly and with great strength, both moral and physical, against these firmly entrenched male biases. Having taken martial arts training, she held a Black Belt in Judo and was also familiar with the native Hawaiian martial art of Lua. A contemporary who once watched her surf amidst displays of sullen hostility by a few males, remarked on how he almost feared for her antagonists’ safety, knowing that she could probably have easily broken a nose, or wrapped them around a coconut tree if she had any such an inclination (an ability they had no knowledge of, of course) in the course of enduring their jibes and taunts. The fact that, according to a former close friend, she could be a ‘real bad-ass’ (the Hawaiian locals would say a ‘real Tita’) if pushed to the farthest limit of her resources, was not known by many, since her patience and tolerance were exceptionally long.

It may well have been the Irish temper and the Hawaiian strength of character from which that steely resolve derived, but whatever the source, Rell never let herself be put off anything she aimed at. You don’t free-dive to 80 feet, swim with Tiger Sharks, and be the first female lifeguard at one of the most famous beaches in all Hawaii without having substantial inner toughness. And you don’t make strong statements in a man’s exclusive arena without being able to give more than a friendly greeting and a warm hug.

Jeff Divine, a photographer who later came to become well known for his surfing images and who took many of her, shared his insights into Rell’s personality, acquired when they were in love many years back. He saw her respond once to a fusillade of abuse from some young male surfers with an unexpectedly strong ‘in your face’ reflex that clearly impressed them with her potential to back up her words with action. “You didn’t cross her”, he stated. “She had a certain toughness about her in a crisis. Lifeguarding is a difficult thing, really. You get people in situations where they are so panicky you literally have to subdue them by knocking them out, or they take you right under with them. She could do that, if necessary.” She was so generous and so loving by nature, however, that you would never guess that buried not so deeply inside that lovely creature was this Titanium determination to rise to whatever challenge presented itself. Some would call this a characteristic not ununique to both Hawaiian and Asian women: the so-called ‘iron fist in the velvet glove’ nature that is not always readily apparent under that attractive, feminine exterior.

Regardless of her inner substance, Rell, despite all of her superb physical attributes, her mental toughness, and superior skill on the waves, demonstrated none of the selfish desire to destroy her opponents in the water that is so common in today’s (2000s) professional surfing contests. Remaining composed and centered despite any bitterness or vindictive competitiveness she may have encountered, she was simply able to give it everything she had for the sheer joyous energy high the ocean provided her with. Rell Sunn was, in her appreciation of the water and her great respect and love for it, what we today call a ‘soul surfer’. That is, she surfed as if the ocean were her religion and she were its worshipper.

In addition to excelling as a surfer, Rell was also an exceptionally skillful free-diver, an excellent outrigger paddler, whose abilities as a waterwoman were honored by being made the very first woman lifeguard at Makaha Beach (something that no other woman had ever achieved in Hawaii prior to her being granted that exceptional recognition). Her superb physical coordination, her remarkable ability to hold her breath underwater, her exceptional sense of timing and balance….all were simply equal parts of this unique woman’s entire suite of extraordinary resources in the water. Rell Sunn remained a true Hawaiian ‘waterwoman’ of the highest caliber throughout her life.

As Rell became increasingly known in the surfing world of the 70s, she dedicated herself to helping inspire other women to take the surfing challenge right into the sport’s male turf, promoting sponsorship of international contests and championing the sport for woman in a manner that allowed women to finally gain equal respect from their male counterparts after so many decades of being put down as mere, decorous ‘beach bunnies’. In 1976 she joined a small group of women on the first international pro surfing circuit for women, strongly rejecting the ‘tits and ass’ media angle being exploited to promote the event. In 1979, Rell helped form Women’s Professional Surfing (WPS), to give women a first time voice in the pro surfing community and to help establish a strong female presence on the surfing scene.

With no respite from her other concerns, Rell experienced a failed marriage that took her to Oklahoma, concurrently encountering setbacks in her personal affairs. Returning to Oahu with a child (Jan), she became a lifeguard at Makaha once again so that she could earn a living and take care of her daughter. Despite the pressing demand of her surfing career and the need to earn a living, she managed to raise Jan with wisdom, love, and clear competence.

Always an animal lover, Rell reportedly once had as many a 13 poidogs (the term give to that uniquely Hawaiian mongrel that is a mix of every breed imaginable) enjoying her affection at home. She would even take them out surfing occasionally, an experience that somehow seems to change a dog’s life. Seemingly, after having ridden a board through surf, there seems a sense about a dog that he is indeed ‘special’ among his canine peers…perhaps more special than the other land-locked il’io (dogs) in his neighborhood. Or so it seemed to Rell.

Despite all of her formidable abilities, her boundless energies, and strong mental attitude, in 1982, in the course of surfing a Pro Tour contest at Huntington Beach (CA), Rell unexpectedly noted a small lump in her breast while toweling dry. In 1983 she was diagnosed with severely advanced cancer, though still young and amazingly vital at the age of 32 years. At the height of her form as a professional woman surfer, in the best condition of her life, she quickly received a blunt prognosis that the cancer had already metastasized to other parts of her body, giving her less than a year to live by the best medical reckoning.

Most of us (including ALL of us who are male and don’t have all the complex physiological and biochemical plumbing that go with being a woman) simply cannot in our wildest dreams imagine the utterly stark and bitterly bleak horror that such a discovery has the power to convey. It could just as well have been a death sentence, so far advanced was the neoplasm in her body.

Despite the daunting prognosis, however, over the following 14 years Rell battled her cancer with the same resolute determination that all of her substantial enthusiasms allowed, forcing the growth into remission three times, suffering a mastectomy (resulting in one of her sponsors, a well known swimsuit manufacturer, dropping her from their roster of surfing stars), exhaustive and debilitating chemotherapy, and even a bone marrow transplant in the process. Through it all, she continued to surf and sustain her usual activities. Concurrent with all of the medical interventional therapy that would have probably destroyed most other women and rejecting outright any depression over her long term prospects, she managed to forge onwards in the world of professional surfing, modeling, and promotion of women’s causes, sustaining almost as much focused activity as she had before the discovery of the severely advanced malignancy.

Among her range of activities at this time was a determined new effort to foster breast cancer prevention among women and work to encourage new research into finding a cure for the disease, through a pilot program for breast cancer awareness at the Wai’anae Cancer Research Center in Hawaii. In a new involvement, he threw her energy into peer counseling Hawaiian women on breast cancer and self-exams. As she continued to amaze those who knew her with this seemingly inexhaustible display of courageous determination and despite the increasing chance of her losing the pitched battle, she maintained that characteristic great warmth and deep love for all things that is the essential matrix of the traditional Aloha spirit. It was, after all, a quality she was famous for aside and apart from her fame as a surfer and her life as a Hawaiian woman of character and ability.

Another activity Rell undertook at this time was a surfing program for young children, called ‘The Rell Menehune Surf Contest’, within the community of Makaha Beach that at the time of the program’s establishment was beset with juvenile delinquency, drug problems, high school drop-out rate, and teen pregnancies. It should be noted that many of today’s hottest surfing sensations got their start in the Rell Menehune Surf Contest impelled by Rell’s determination to help Hawaiian keiki achieve excellence in their lives and rise above the often unhappy circumstances of their surroundings. Many of them today regard ‘Auntie Rell’ as their personal muse and inspiration for excelling in the sport of surfing.

Sadly, despite Rell’s seemingly inextinguishable strength and resolve, her condition continued to progressively worsen, until at the age of 46 years she was on the verge of finally being overcome by the spread of the fatal cancer to other vital organs. Less than two months before her demise from metastasis to the brain, Charlotte Legarde and Lisa Denker spent more than two hours interviewing her for the material that they would subsequently turn into an amazingly uplifting documentary about her life (and all that she had done to encourage women to take their rightful place as man’s equal). The name of that documentary is, fittingly, ‘Heart of the Sea’.

As the end neared, the outpouring of love and affection that had characterised her throughout her life returned to embrace her, as all Hawaii expressed its support for her. When she was so weak from the combination of her cancer and the ravages of chemotherapy that she could no longer paddle out into the surf, some of her many hoaloha would take her out and help her catch a final set of waves.

In January 2nd of 1998, Rell left an entire world marveling at all that she had achieved in her prematurely terminated lifetime to spread the true essence of the aloha spirit. Vibrant and charismatic, beautiful, talented, warmly generous to a fault, and always trying to do the best she could for everyone she met, Rell Kapolioka’ehukai Sunn is today rightfully regarded as one of those uniquely archetypal champions of all women everywhere who have fought against having the brilliant light of their energies shadowed by the often oppressive spirit of male chauvinism. To even superficially skim the many accolades and fond remembrances shared by those whose lives were profoundly influenced by Rell Sunn’s unquenchable spirit is to experience a melancholic, but emotionally uplifting inspiration. For many women suffering from cancer today, her story brings a powerful catharsis and message of renewed hope.

Among many, many reflections shared by those who knew her, is this one by former champion surfer, promoter, and Hawaiian State Senator Fred Hemmings: “Rell embodied everything that is great about surfing, but she grew larger than that. She represented the most basic values we hold so dear in Hawaii. Rell was always a giver and never a taker. To say she was a loving, giving, and always contributing personification of the Hawaiian aloha spirit is but a small testament to the immeasurable sum of her vital goodness.”

So great was Rell’s inspiring commitment to living the aloha spirit that even those ordinary souls such as myself, who never personally knew her, are profoundly affected by all that she represented in that highest possible living expression of everything that we have come to regard as being quintessentially Hawaiian. I for one, have gained the highest respect for ‘Auntie Rell’ in just becoming acquainted with her amazing story; I am only sad that I never had the opportunity of actually meeting her or seeing her on the waves she so dearly loved. I do take some small consolation in knowing that in concluding her physical life on the land, she has joined her ancestral aumakua (ancestral spirits) in the vast, life-giving oceans that constitute the Great Mother (Haumea) of us all and continues to regard those she leaves behind with love. Today, her spirit is truly one with the ocean, and nowhere more strongly than in the waters near her beloved Makaha.

I will close these words with a quotation that, although coming from a completely different venue (the aerospace world), I feel lends itself superbly to this remembrance of Aunty Rell. It is a quote from a letter sent to NASA Mercury astronaut Scott Carpenter by his father, just before carpenter’s famous orbital Mercury spaceflight in 1962:

“You are probably aware that I am not a particularly religious person, at least in the sense of embracing any of the numerous conventional doctrines. Yet I cannot conceive of a man endowed with intellect, perceiving the ordered universe around him, the glory of the mountain top, the plumage of the tropical bird, the roiling mysteries of the ocean depths, the intricate complexity of a protein molecule, the utter and unchanging perfection of a salt crystal, who can deny the existence of some higher power. Whether he choses to call it God or Mohammed, the Turquoise Woman, the Invisible Pink Unicorn, or the Law of Probability matters little. I find myself, in my writings, calling upon Mother Nature to explain things, and citing Her as responsible for the order of the universe. She is a very satisfactory divinity for me. And so I shall call upon Her to watch over you and guard you, and if she so desires, to share with you some of her vast secrets which She is usually so ready to share with those who have high purpose.”

Mahalo for listening and Aloha Kakou!

Kalikiano Kalei

Monday, November 10, 2008

Jim & Liz Irwin

Tribal elders were interviewed at the Oxbow World Longboard Tour, held at San Onofre, including Jim and Liz Irwin:



Wednesday, October 29, 2008

PETER TROY (1938-2008)




Welcome to this chapter on Legendary Australian Surfer Peter Troy (1938-2008).





Previous LEGENDARY SURFERS postings with still further links include:

Farewell 1
Farewell
Peter Troy (1938-2008)

Additional links not included in postings, above:

Herald Sun
Surfing Australia


The following is from Times Online, October 4, 2008: "Peter Troy: surfer, surf historian and adventurer."

Peter Troy was often described as the “father” or the “tribal elder” of Australian surfing, a pioneer of the sport in the 1950s and 1960s. He was also Australia’s first surf adventurer and explorer, the prototype of the sun-bleached, sun-dried blond lugging his “log” (surfboard) and backpack through at least 140 countries, in all continents, in search of “the perfect wave”. He is credited with inspiring many young men and women to take up the sport in England, the Channel Islands and Italy, also introducing it in Peru and Brazil, where he remains celebrated, and “discovering” several previously unsurfed breaks in remote areas of the world, notably Indonesia.

It was Troy, his girlfriend at the time, Wendy, and two other Aussie backbackers who trekked through thick jungle in 1975 to find the holy grail they had been told about — Lagundri Bay on the island of Nias, off Sumatra. The natives had body-surfed and rowed outrigger canoes through those waves for centuries but Troy and his friends were the first outsiders to ride them on modern boards.

Troy blazed what later became known as “the Hippy Trail” and ventured far beyond it, neither on nor in the search of drugs, but seeking those great waves, the spiritual high they gave him and the opportunity to understand new cultures along the way. His early adventures predated the Beach Boys’ hits but Troy’s “surfing safaris” took him around the world on foot, bus, motorcycle, or any vessel that could get him to a new beach. It is said that peroxide sales among local men rose wherever the handsome, wavy-haired Australian had been.

In the 1960s Troy hitchhiked, solo, from the world’s most southerly town, Puerto Williams, south of Tierra del Fuego in Chile, to the most northerly, Spitsbergen in Norway, stopping only when he found good surf. It took him a year. On the way, he became the first man to surf Punta Rocas in Peru and Arpoador beach, Rio de Janeiro, giving the bug to would-be surfers in both countries and spawning Brazil’s first surfing magazine. Roaming the world with a surfboard under your arm in those days, he said, was “like travelling around the world carrying a grand piano. Everybody wanted to know you. Everyone was nice to you.” The President of Brazil once stopped his limousine on a highway to give the young surfer a lift.

Troy’s surfing prowess was featured in one of the early surf films, Mark Witzig’s Sea of Joy, whose eventual cult status was aided by the psychedelic soundtrack by the Sydney band Tully. In it, he rode well-shaped waves in what, to surfers, was the newly discovered Tamarin Bay in Mauritius. In 1973 Troy and Wendy set off not to get with it, but to get away from it. He on a yellow 100cc Suzuki, she on a red one, they spent two years rambling from Bali, through Bangkok, Burma, India, Nepal, Kenya, RĂ©union Island, Mauritius, the Comoros and the Seychelles. It was during that trip that they discovered the barrelling right-handed break in Lagundri Bay.

“Peter always wanted to live in the Seychelles because he had seen a picture of the surf at La Digue in Surfer magazine,” Wendy recalled. “We went and lived there for three months but a beautiful three-masted square rigger came into the harbour and it was too tempting, so we got on as crew and sailed away up the Red Sea. That’s the kind of person he was.” They continued through Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Zaire, the Central African Republic, Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria and The Gambia before crossing the Sahara Desert — on the roof of a lorry carrying 56 goats — to North Africa and eventually Spain.

In 1980-81 the two set off from Darwin, North Australia, on another surf-seeking trip that would last 18 months. They drifted through Malaysia, Borneo, the Philippines, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, Russia, Turkey, Greece, Morocco and the Canary Islands before hitching a ride on a yacht across the Atlantic. Then came Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, the Galapagos Islands, Panama, through Central America to Mexico, the US and their goal — the big waves of Hawaii.

Peter Hemsworth Troy was born in Hamilton, Victoria, in 1938. His father served in the Second World War and, after he returned, moved the family in 1948 to the small coastal township of Torquay, 12 miles south of Geelong, to open its only general store and newsagent’s. Peter attended Geelong Grammar School but, a powerful swimmer, he spent his spare time as a lifeguard.

Troy found himself immediately at home in the surf. When he was 10 he rode the waves off Torquay’s Bells Beach — on an inflatable Surf-o-Plane, the prototype of what would now be called a boogie board, on his belly or kneeling. He graduated to full-sized surfboards as a teenager in the early 1950s, still mostly kneeling on them. In those days, Bells Beach was hard to reach, even by foot over a rocky outcrop, but after Troy and his friends bulldozed the first road, it became the site of Australia's first professional surfing championships and is now a magnet for surfers from around the world. Torquay, despite its small population, is home to Australia’s Surfworld Museum, the world’s largest surfing and beach culture museum, which Troy helped to set up.

It was on December 2, 1956, when he had just reached 18, that Troy’s life changed and a revolution in Australian surfing began. The Australian authorities laid on a “Surf Lifesaving Carnival” in Torquay during the Melbourne Olympic Games to show the world how good its lifeguards were. In front of 100,000 spectators, the young local lifeguard Troy was invited to represent Australia by riding his “toothpick” — a 16ft-long, narrow board built for paddling to the rescue of drowning people rather than for balancing on. He rode a wave to the beach to applause, but then four Californian and Hawaiian lifeguards took to the water on their own boards — so-called Malibu chips, only 9ft long and made of balsa and fibreglass. Neither Troy nor most spectators had seen anything like it. The visitors could twist and turn and walk up and down their boards with ease. Troy and his friends began building similar boards and Australian surfing took off.

Peter Troy, who was considered Australia’s official national surfing historian, was inducted into the Australian Surfing Hall of Fame in 2002 and awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) last year for his services to surfing. He died suddenly at his home in Mudjimba Beach, Queensland, and is survived by his wife, Libby, and two stepchildren.

Peter Troy, OAM, surfer, surf historian and adventurer, was born on November 15, 1938. He died from a blood clot in the lung on September 30, 2008, aged 69.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Layne Beachley Off-Circuit

[ From "ASP Champ Layne Beachley Announces Retirement," COOLER Magazine, October 10, 2008 ]

Layne Beachley (AUS), 36, former seven-time ASP Women’s World Champ and current No.3 on the 2008 ASP Women’s World Tour ratings, has officially announced her retirement from full-time competition, effective at the end of the year.

“I feel like now is a really good time, even though I am in my career best form, because I am an all-or-nothing kind of girl and to achieve the goals I set for myself in surfing, I have to give it my all and I’m not,” Beachley said. “I have to be honest with myself – I’m not commiting 100% time and energy and effort and focus into winning world titles. It doesn’t mean that I can’t win world titles, but my priorities are beginning to shift and my focus and my passion in business and charity work and my ambassador roles is beginning to have more appeal to me than competing for a living. I feel like I’ve achieved everything that I’ve wanted to and that it is good to go out while I’m still in top form.”

Beachley’s announcement comes as a surprise to the surfing community, given that the iconic natural-footer is surfing better than ever and currently challenging for the ASP Women’s World Title once again, sitting in the No.3 spot on the ratings at present.

“I feel like I’m surfing the best I have in my whole career,” Beachley said. “Nothing has really changed on tour except for my attitude. It’s my lack of commitment to winning. I base my choices on my experiences and my experience has told me that you have to be 100% focused and also love you’re doing. Even though I love what I do, I’m beginning to love what I’m doing out of the water more. My passion for competitive surfing has been diluted, and to achieve success and to win world titles, you can’t afford for it to be diluted too much. So now I’ve had to make a decision and I’m convinced I’m doing the right thing.”

The Sydney-sider is the most accomplished female surfer in the history of the sport, winning a record seven ASP Women’s World Titles (1998-2004, 2006), scalping 29 elite tour victories, and collecting countless accolades as one of surfing’s most recognizable figures.

“There’s been millions of highlights,” Beachley said. “I think every time that I stopped in my tracks and had to pinch myself and ask ‘is this real?’ have been the highlights of my life. Finding myself in the most random places on Earth, donning a bikini with a board under my arm and just staring out into the ocean in disbelief that I get to do that for a living. One of the greatest achievements was winning my first event back in 1993 and winning my first ASP Women’s World Title back in 1998. Those were both enormous acheivements for me.”

While stepping away from full-time professional surfing, Beachley hasn’t ruled out donning the jersey again should she receive an invite, and will continue to be a force both in and out of the surfing world with her clothing line, her numerous charities and other high-profile projects.

“I have my own brand, Beachley Athletics, which I really want to put a lot more time and energy and effort into,” Beachley said. “I don’t think it’s achieving the success it deserves because I can’t commit enough resources to it. I have my charity, Aim for the Stars. I’ve just begun promoting my book, Beneath the Waves. I will still stage the Beachley Classic. I love women’s surfing. I’m really passionate about it. Just because I’m walking away from the Tour doesn’t mean I’m walking away from women’s surfing. I’ll still be there as a supporter and a believer and also pursuing a career in the media.” Beachley is competing this week at her signature event, the Beachley Classic, held in Manly, Australia.

“I feel like I’ve created a legacy and that’s something to be incredibly proud of,” Beachley said. “I’ve instilled hunger and passion into the future generations of female competitive surfing coming up through the ranks. I know Steph (Gilmore) looks at me and wants what I got. It was Lisa Andersen before me that gave me the motivation to become seven-times ASP Women’s World Champion. That kind of drive and dedication that it takes to be a champion is the legacy I think I am leaving behind and it’s something I’m very proud of.”

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Peter Troy Farewell 1

As you know, Peter Troy recently passed on (please see previous posts). Damien Murphy of Australia's THE AGE has written (10 October 2008) a fine bio entitled:


PETER HEMSWORTH TROY, OAM, ACCOUNTANT, SURFER

15-11-1938 — 30-9-2008

AN AUSTRALIAN surfer of legendary rather than public fame, Peter Troy achieved several firsts while living the laid-back life of the eternal beach boy.

He may have been the first to ride the massive waves of Bells Beach, near Torquay, on a modern surfboard. In any case, on the Australia Day weekend of 1962, Troy staged a surfing competition at Bells that endures as the Rip Curl Easter Pro.

But his most enduring accomplishment was the travel he undertook for about 20 years from his mid-20s when he roamed the world with a surfboard, introducing surfing to Brazil, discovering the classic right-hand breaks of Lagundri Bay and Tamarin Bay in Mauritius. He visited about 140 countries.

His life became the stuff of others' dreams as his travels were recorded by Australian and American surf magazines, causing thousands of surfers to follow in his steps. His footloose trailblazing odyssey laid down the template, if not the style, for today's backpackers.

Troy, who has died at his home at Mudjimba Beach in Queensland from a blood clot on a lung, aged 69, was born in Hamilton, Victoria. His parents, Col and Mardi, bought a general store in Torquay after World War II, and in 1949 young Troy went to Geelong College. He won colours in football and swimming, and in 1957 rowed in the school eight that won the last Associated Public Schools of Victoria's Head of the River race rowed on the Yarra.

In those pre-wetsuit days, Torquay's summer coincided with the three-week factory Christmas break, the village hibernating for the rest of the year. Locals were few and close-knit and most of the simple fibro and weatherboard shacks were owned by Western District farmers or Melbourne tradesmen. Torquay's beach culture centred on the surf lifesaving club, which provided shelter for the young men who trekked the 100 kilometres from Melbourne every Friday night. The older men nicknamed Troy "Boy".

He was a club champion on hollow wooden boards when he competed at a 1956 international carnival coinciding with the Melbourne Olympics. Californian lifesavers Greg Noll and Tom Zahn paddled out to Torquay Point on their short balsa Okanui boards, and changed Australian surfing forever. The boards sported fins that held them in the waveface, allowing the Americans to slice sideways along the unbroken swell, instead of the straight-in-to-shore ride afforded by Australian hollow boards. The Torquay crew finally had a board that could tackle Bells.

Troy cut his teeth under Owen Yateman, an abalone fisherman and risk-taker, who occasionally caught waves at Bells in his fishing boat to amuse locals. He would take Troy to Bells in his motorcycle sidecar on the disused old Cobb and Co coach track and watched the youngster try to ride on his rubber Surf-o-Plane.

With balsa boards, the Torquay crew mounted their assault on Bells in 1957. They still argue over who was first, Troy or his rival Marcus Shaw. Troy told the Geelong College archivist recently he was "one of the first two".

In 1961, another local, Joe Sweeney, paid Barrabool Shire to bulldoze a track to Bells that afforded vehicle access and opened up the break to the world.

Troy trained as a chartered accountant and worker for Price Waterhouse in Melbourne. He took to showing surf films around Victoria and made a fortune. He bought his parents a newsagency in Torquay and himself an MG Tf, and made enough money from Bruce Brown's surf circuit version of Endless Summer to fund a trip to Europe in 1965 with Rennie Ellis, a Lorne lifesaver.

They saw the Beatles, slept on the Left Bank in Paris, sailed across the Atlantic in a yacht and hitched around the United States. Ellis' three-part series, Odyssey of a Surfer, appeared in the old Surfing World magazine in 1966 and launched 1000 dreams. Troy went to South America, then moved with his parents to Noosa Heads, where they ran a motel and started a short career as a surf-theatre owner and film producer (including Paul Witzig's 1971 film Sea Of Joy, which featured his Victorian heir apparent, Wayne Lynch).

He travelled: Bali, the Maldives, the Seychelles, the Galapagos and throughout Africa. "Carrying a 10-foot surfboard under your arm, you were an oddity and that was your ticket to travel," he said.

In the 1980s, Troy settled on the Sunshine Coast, living on Old Woman Island (Mudjimba), off Mooloolaba, and commuting by tinnie to his Surf Ratz surf shop.

His partner Libby travelled the world with him for several years after nursing him in a Brisbane hospital in 1969. They parted, but married in 2000.

Troy was instrumental in setting up Torquay's Surfworld Museum. Last year he was awarded the medal of the Order of Australia for helping to establish surfing as a sport, for his contribution as a historian and to the surf lifesaving movement.

Troy is survived by Libby and her son and daughter. His ashes will be scattered off Old Woman Island and Torquay.

---------------------

To view the original article, please go to:

Endlessly sought classic breaks | theage.com.au

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Peter Troy Farewell

[ From: Peter Troy farewell | thedaily.com.au, 8 October 2008 ]


There were two Peter Troys.

There was Peter Troy the fabled adventurer, someone who pioneered surfing around the globe and whose idea of a good time was crossing the Atlantic with no navigational equipment and limited sailing experience.

Then there was the chartered accountant, a meticulous man who assembled a lauded stamp collection.

The Australian Surfing Hall of Fame inductee’s family and friends remembered “both men” when they gathered in Nambour yesterday to celebrate his extraordinary life.

Mr Troy died last Tuesday from a blood clot on the lung.

He was 69.

As per his family’s request, many guests at the funeral wore loud shirts in honour of a colourful life.

Two surfboards were erected on either side of the coffin, which was drapped in a Surfing Australia flag, as a projector flashed images of Mr Troy’s adventures to the sounds of the ’60s.

Good friend Phil Jarratt told the audience how, like numerous people, he grew up worshipping the Australian surfing representative.

“He became the template for my life,” he said.

Mr Jarratt said his friend was one of the first people to surf the world-famous Bells Beach break in Victoria, introduced surfing in Brazil and hitch-hiked between the South Pole and North Pole.

“At the time of his death he was planning a trip to Antarctica,” he recalled.

Mr Jarratt said the Order of Australia medal recipient, who is survived by his wife Libby and stepchildren Lisa and Andrew, was totally committed to the surfing culture.

“Many thousands of surfers’ lives were changed by the idea of Peter Troy.’’

Another close friend of the legendary surfer, International Surfing Association vice-president Alan Atkins, described him as a “fountain of knowledge” and an expert on a 16-foot toothpick surfboard.

He said Mr Troy bridged the age gap by pushing the boundaries and possessed a contagious enthusiasm.

There was always a bit of excitement when he was around. “We all saw him as the master adventurer,” he said.

Mr Atkins said his friend thought it was important the history of surfing was kept alive.

Given Mr Troy is an integral part of that history, keeping the origins of the sport alive will, in essence, keep him alive. “Peter’s legacy is with us all,” Mr Atkins said.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Gordie's Story

[ From: Gordie's Story by Steve Boehne ]


There was a shapers tree published in Surfing magazine around 1980 that showed the infant origins of our surfboard industry’s shapers up to that point in time. I acknowledge that there were decades of unknown Hawaiian shapers in the early pre-history of our sport, but in the known times since 1900 surfing started in Waikiki with the official ambassador, Duke Kahanamoku. Amongst Duke’s peers there was a great waterman and surfboard shaper named Able Gomes who taught Gordie how to shape his first board. Gordon Duane, Gordie is very proud that his name appears in the shapers tree in the third tier right below Duke Kahanamoku’s.

The second tier just above Gordie is made up of the first surfboard shapers of the 1930’s and 40’s including Californians; Pete Peterson, Tom Blake, Joe Quigg, Lorrin Harrison, Dale Velzy and Bob Simmons. All these guys were introduced to shaping by the Hawaiians in Hawaii. The third tier were guys who started shaping in the 1950’s. They included (amongst others) Gordon Duane, Renny Yater, Hobie Alter, Hap Jacobs, Johnny Rice and Greg Noll.



Gordie had the perfect background to become a surfer-shaper. He was a star water polo player in high school and after high school; he worked as a cabinetmaker in his uncle’s cabinet shop. There he learned to use wood working tools and to appreciate quality craftsmanship. In 1950 at age 20, Gordie joined the Navy where he was soon stationed at the submarine base in Pearl Harbor Hawaii. Before long, he was renting boards from the “bath house” at Waikiki and learning to surf. He surfed the famous Queens reef where he met Duke, his brothers, Rabbit

Kakai and Able Gomes. Able offered to help him make his first surfboard. After WWII there were thousands of surplus Balsa wood Navy life rafts. Gordie got one of these from the base special services officer and used the base wood shop to slice and laminate the balsa wood into a balsa blank with three red wood stringers. With Able’s help and his well developed wood working skills, his first board came out perfect and rode like a dream. From that time on he was hooked on the surfing and a life of surfboard shaping.

After service in the Navy, Gordie settled in Huntington Beach where he surfed and made balsa boards in a garage for a while. His surfing friend, Jack Haley had a connection with the concessionaire at the HB Pier and arranged for Gordie to rent 4 rooms under the pier for only $10 per month. Gordie set up his first surfboard shop.

He stored and glued the balsa wood in the first room, routed the rocker out on the beach where the wind could blow the massive amount of balsa dust away, shaped in the second room, glassed in the third room and had a “show” room in the fourth. Gordie figures that he probably glued, shaped and glassed over 6000 balsa wood surfboards before Gordon Clark introduced urethane blanks

Gordie drove up to Dana Point and purchased one of the new foam blanks that “Grubby Clark and Hobie were making. When he tried to shape it, the thing would bow like a swayback horse. Gordie told Andy Jersick to run up to the Chevron Station on PCH and buy an inner tube. Gordie proceeded to saw the blank down the center, then glue the two halves back together with a wood strip down the center. He used the inner tube rubber bands to clamp it all together. From that time on Clark Foam came with wood stringers.

When His friend Harold Walker started making foam blanks, Gordie became his main customer. Harold was working in a boat shop in Costa Mesa when he learned about urethane foam from Chuck Foss who later also made Foss Foam blanks. Gordie made the original “plug” for Harold’s first mold. Then Harold rented a dilapidated building with a dirt floor that used to be a chicken ranch up on Beach Blvd. Gordie would meet Harold every night and together they would make four or five blanks. When Gordie went to shape the first blank, he was surprised to find chicken feathers flying out of the shoot of his planner. Apparently, the feathers had blown into the mold and become mixed into the blank. For a while Walker claimed that his blanks were as light as a feather.

General Veneer (lumber co.) on Firestone Blvd, in South Gate was where all the shapers bought their balsa wood. Gordie met Velzy, Yater, Noll and all the other shapers of that time at General Veneer. There was always a competition to get the best wood after each shipment arrived. Gordie had an advantage because HB was closest to South Gate. One day he had come in early and hand picked all the best light balsa wood. He spent $700 and bought 2000 bd. ft. He rented a trailer for this massive load and filled it plus his station wagon with wood. Just as Gordie was leaving, Velzy arrived with a moving van and paid $5000 for all the balsa General Veneer had. Velzy was the biggest surfboard manufacturer in the world. Gordie was blown away; he just couldn’t believe anyone could shape that much balsa wood.

One of Gordie’s friends, Don Triece was the art director of Knott’s Berry Farm. Don designed and drew Gordie’s first logo, a surfer made from circles similar to the Michelin Man, which was dubbed “circle man”. In 1958 circle man was upgraded to the now famous Gordie shield logo featuring the “free spirit” surf man inside a curling wave and the slogan “The Only Way To Travel” written across the top. This Shield logo was considered very avant-garde in the new modern art world of the 1950’s. The slogan was probably barrowed from a famous 1950’s TWA airlines TV commercial where a cartooned passenger sang out: “ TWA; the only way to fly”. Take a look at Jack O’Neil’s logo. He simply turned Gordie’s logo backwards and copied it for his wetsuit logo.

H.B. was a tough place to surf in the 1950’s. The easier spots like Malibu, Palos Verdes Cove and San Onofre were more popular with the old flat, heavy balsa boards. The HB surf pioneers were a tough, aggressive group which included Blackie August (Robert’s dad), Les Walen, Jack Haley, Bruce Brown, Walt Wessel, George Stremple, Dick Thomas, John Gray, Rocky Freeman, Don Stuart, Del Cannon, Lloyd Murray, Russ Jordan, Harry Schurch, Lynn Lockyer, Juan Montoya, Sandy Rittle, Walt Sawyer, Dave Francie, Danny Robishaw, Timmy Mcgilraph, Frank Ciarelli, Scott Robson, Buoy Wright, Harlow Lebard, Bill Vas, Andy Jersick, Gordon Clark, Sam Buel, Denny Buel, Chuck Burgess, Louie Tarter, Willie Lenahan, Danny Lenahan, Jack Haley and Gordie. Many of these guys were in the HB High School Graduating classes...

The surf was always bigger than anywhere else at the HB pier, many a balsa board broke in half against the pilings of the pier and Gordie remained very busy. Wetsuits hadn’t been used yet for surfing and the water was cold. Jack Haley would go the bull fights in Tijuana on Sundays and bring back a big bota bag full of cheap wine. The Monday morning surf session at the pier was always looked forward to because he would tie the bota bag to a piling and all the guys would share the wine as anti freeze.

Gordie’s shaping pros were becoming well known. Many of the best surfers would come to him for their Hawaii boards. In fact, Gordie made Dick Brewer’s first surfboard. For a while in Hawaii, Velzy boards and Gordie boards were the two most popular boards. All the Velzy guys hung out together and surfed a spot just North of Sunset. After a while everyone just called the spot Velzyland. The idea came from the newly opened Disneyland theme park. The Gordie guys mostly surfed a spot just South of Sunset, which everyone called Gordieland. Sunset itself was everybodyland. In 1960 the Kammie market opened across from Gordieland and the spot in years to come became known as Kammieland.

Gordie was one of the first to shape the forerunner of the modern short board when Owl Chapman and John Boozer came to him for shorter, faster boards to ride at Pipe Line. Everyone was trying to ride Pipe with standard 9’ to 10’ long boards. They were too long to fit in the hollow wave and too slow to make the section. Gordie made those guys 8’ baby guns especially for big Pipe Line before short boards were discovered. Butch Van Artsdale was named Mr. Pipe Line and John Boozer was named Mr. Afternoon Pipe line.

In Huntington Beach, the Gordie shop under the pier became a big hang out spot and the scene of many late night parties. It made sense, if you were a surfer and went down to the pier to check out the surf, before long you were hang’n with the guys at the Gordie shop.

Those were fun times with friends and full of goofy pranks. Gordie had a pair of shears in the glassing room he called the “duty shears”. During the big south swells when the guys would ride their boards through the pilings of the pier (shoot the pier) they would often get tangled in the fishing lines hanging down from the fisherman up on the pier. A big, nasty saltwater hook is enough to piss any surfer off. The angry surfer would run up to the Gordie shop and grab the “duty shears”. It was now his duty to cut off every fishing line interfering with the surfer’s right of way.

Surfing was growing by leaps and bounds; many of the hot young surfers were skipping school to go surfing and then hang’n at the Gordie shop afterwards. The Truant officer blamed it on the shop, but it was just the overwhelming allure of surfing. The city council wanted to close Gordie down. They passed a “no surfing after 10 am” ordinance and Gordie was the first person to be arrested for surfing in HB. Gordie was a tough son of a gun and he would give the authorities fits. Gordie wouldn’t back down to Vince Moorehouse; head of the lifeguards or anyone else who tried to boss him around. Gordie is a straight-ahead guy, he will tell you right to your face what he thinks about you good or bad. He didn’t walk away from a fight and probably started most of them.

Sometimes, when Gordie was busy shaping, the guys would make resin bombs by adding too much cobalt and MEK to the resin. They would throw the batch off the pier. When it landed, it exploded like a land mine. It wasn’t as easy to use resin in those days, there were several fires caused by the extremely flammable early polyester resins and acetone.

In 1959, while Gordie was out of town visiting his friend Rennie Yater, there was a mysterious fire that gutted the Gordie shop under the pier. Gordie lost over 100 surfboards in the fire and was nearly ruined. The sight of the boards lying out in the sand with their noses burned off was a traumatic site for him. In addition, he lost his lease under the pier. In searching for a new location, John “Frog” Van Oeffelen, team rider and long time friend, found an old oil field welding shop for rent up at Pacific Coast Hwy. and 13 th. Street. He and the gang helped Gordie move into the new location. There they entered the 1960’s and a new era of the polyurethane foam surfboard. The new shop was typical of surf shops in the 60’s, it smelled of the grass matt on the floor and laminating resin. You could only buy surfboards and sometimes a T- shirt. There were no sunglasses, skateboards or other superfluous junk. You bought paraffin wax at the supermarket.

This was about the same time as the Gidget movie. Surf music and the Beach Boys made surfing popularity explode. In fact, Gordie produced an underground surf film, “Sacrifice For Surf” that featured the HB pier and his favorite spots in Hawaii including one of the best sequences of a young Dewey Weber ever filmed.

Gordie made several very special show boards with multiple stringers, curved intersecting stringers, nose and tail blocks and radical abstract color designs. These boards were all displayed at the worlds first surfing trade show, the Surf O Rama at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium.

Gordie also advertised in the very first “Surfer’s Annual” the forerunner of Surfer Magazine created by his friend John Severson. From the exposure at the Surf O Rama plus advertising in the new Surfer Magazine, Gordie gained many dealers in Ca. and the East Coast.

Most of the Surf shops of the time became so busy shaping the boards that they now began sub contracting the glass work out to specialty glass shops. The demand for Gordie surfboards was now bigger than ever. He quite glassing the boards himself and sent his shaped blanks to Jack Pallard’s glass shop in Redondo Beach to be glassed. Later, he sent the boards to Bill Holden’s glass shop in Costa Mesa.

All the surf shops were experiencing stupendous success. Velzy was driving around in big expensive cars and enjoying the high life, but through miss management he lost the whole thing in the early 60’s. Business pressures built up for Gordie too. Between 1956 and 1980 he built around 46,ooo surfboards. In his little shop in HB, he had a show room for local surfers; he shaped the boards, and handled an unrelenting schedule of packing and shipping boards to his dealers. Gordie was CEO, advertising director, shaper, salesman, custodian, packer and shipper.

He said the pace made him “grouchy”. He just didn’t have time to hang out with buddies or baby sit shoppers. Well, Gordie was never known as a super tactful guy. When he was busy, if some kid or “looky-loo” guy wondered into the shop Gordie would say: What do you want? If the poor guy didn’t come up with the right answer fast, Gordie would say: “Well then get the ---- out of here”. Once when Bob Carbonell came by to visit, Gordie barked at him and Bob responding to Gordie’s grumpy nature said “The next time I want to feel bad,I’ll catch the flu”. Bob stormed out of the shop, but was back the next day for cocktail hour. Gordie wasn’t everybody’s best friend, but everybody respected his craftsmanship and his fine surfboards.

Gordie’s shapes are unique; His “plan shape” (outlines) were always graceful with smooth flowing lines. He hated big noses, fat rails and thick boards. He always made boards designed for good surfers, not beginners. The blanks were sculpted, foiled out to thin noses and tails. Rails tapered in a perfect parabolic radius. Gordie didn’t make a lot of templates over the years. He just changed the dimensions of the boards as styles changed. I’ve seen the Mark 5 template used on a 1960 board with a 15.5” nose and a 16.5” tail, and then the same Mark 5 template was laid out as a 1966 era nose rider with an 18.5” nose and a 15” tail.

When Greg Noll introduced the Miki Dora “Da Cat” model with a step deck, Gordie answered back with his Lizard model step deck, a nose rider that featured an elliptical concave on the deck that was easier to step into than the Da Cat model. His regular nose rider model had a similar elliptical concave under the nose. When the Aussies introduced V-bottom short boards, Gordie created the Assassin Pin tail V-bottom. This was the beginning of the short board era and the Assassin became shorter and shorter working it’s way down from about 9’ to 7’6”.



In the late 60’s Velzy really got into the “wild west” cowboy scene. He loved to wear his cowboy outfit, ride horses and shoot his lever action 30-30. Velzy spent many days wondering around in Death Valley, the Mohave Desert, and Arizona.

Gordie often accompanied Velzy on his explorations of old ghost towns and mine shafts. Gordie laughs as he recalls a time when they wondered upon an old graveyard outside a ghost town in Arizona. Velzy was hunting around for weathered pieces of wood for a project he was building at home. He pulled a couple of big slabs of wood out of the ground that had been there for a 100 years marking some crusty old miner’s graves and loaded them into the truck. When Gordie saw them in the truck, he said: “Man you’ve got to put those back. We’ll be cursed, those guy’s ghosts will follow us all the way back to Huntington Beach and haunt us for ever”. Velzy saw the potential hazard and reluctantly returned the grave markers back to the rightful owners. He just couldn’t remember which was which. It was this time while Gordie was into hunting and guns that he chose the name Assassin for his new pintail V-bottom short board. Gordie was thinking that the surfer would assassinate the wave with this predatory surf weapon. Unfortunately, Shortly afterward, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated which put a dark shadow over the word assassin. Gordie muses now that the name Assassin was probably a big mistake, but who could see the future in 1967?

During the busy, golden years of the 60’s, Gordie hired several different shapers to help him keep up. He was very particular about the quality of the work and he would inspect every board to see that it met his standards. Gordie says that the first guy he hired was Mike Oday. He is a soft-spoken guy who did top quality work for Gordie on and off for years. He eventually became the head shaper for Bob Russell of Russell surfboards in Newport. Finally, he quite shaping, got a job with the Phone Company and retired to Oregon.

The next guy, Larry Felker was amazing; he could shape 10 boards every night. Larry would shape all night and sleep all day, but Larry was out of control. He would get his paycheck on Friday and spend it on booze and gambling all weekend. Once Gordie got a phone call to come and pick him up in down town Santa Anna. Larry was gambling, got drunk and beat up. He had spent the night sleeping in a back alley. Larry had a wife and two kids. When his wife found out he had a job at The Gordie shop, She brought a tent and the kids and camped in the yard behind the shop all week until the paycheck came. Gordie had strict instructions to hand the check over to her.

Del Cannon was another guy who learned and shaped for Gordie. Del was a hot surfer and well known in the growing surf industry. Del eventually left and opened his own shop in San Clemente. Later, he closed his shop and became a commercial fisherman in Hawaii.

Don Stuart, Bruce Jones, Steve Boehne, Jim Fuller and Randy Lewis can all thank Gordie for their first shaping jobs. Randy once said, “All I ever wanted to do was to shape high quality Gordie long boards”. Some went on to make surfboards under their own labels. The Gordie shaping alumni all agree that he was a tough guy to deal with, but he taught you a lot about shaping, he was fair and there was always a paycheck at the end of the week.

Gordie’s best years were the 60’s where the classic boards were suited to his meticulous wood working abilities. Nobody could shape a rail just like Gordie; they were unique. At a time when others made templates with long straight rails, bulgee hips, and fat noses, Gordie’s templates always had a continuous curve with a slight point in the nose.



The hot surfers knew that a Gordie board would ride just right. As the 1970’s eclipsed the 60’s, the short board eclipsed the long board. You would not be caught dead carrying a long board across the beach at the pier. Gordie like Greg Noll, Jacobs, Bing and many of the other big name shops of the 60’s found intense competition from hundreds of new start up shops. The name of the new game was not quality; it was CHANGE. Shape designs were changing so fast that the board you just bought was old fashioned 6 months later. Consequently, prices dropped by half; quality became secondary and the new experimental outlines though often crude and unbalanced made the old long boards look prehistoric. Despite this, Gordie had the most fun in the 70’s as he and Randy Lewis shaped the boards for the rambunctious Hole in the Wall Gang.

Gordie sponsored the “Hole in the Wall Gang” Surf team of HB. The Hole in the Wall Gang was not named after the Butch Cassidy outlaws made famous in the Cat Balou movie, but was named for a hole in the retaining wall holding the sea cliff opposite the Gordie shop. Water from the gutter in front of the shop flowed through a pipe and exited to the sea through the hole in the wall. This is where the Gordie guys surfed. The Gang was a strange assemblage of seasoned HB surfers who weren’t part of the regular contest circuit, but like the typical Gordie rider of the 60’s they surfed hot, partied hard and carried the Gordie tradition of non conformity.

Wall Gang: Gordie - Jim Fuller - Duncan McClane - Bob Carbonell - John Taylor - John Van Oeffelen - Randy Lewis - John Sweeny - front row Lonnie Buhn - Morgan Floth - Bobbie Farley - Cindy White - Chris Cattel - John Boozer - Robert Koogan. not pictured: Gayle Chips - Vickie Reese - Hal Sachs - Butch Cash - Bill Rainforth - Bob Milfeld - Guy Grundy

The 4th of July was a big weekend in HB. The fireworks shot off the end of the pier brought crowds of people down to the beach. The HB police were overwhelmed by the mobs that in past years often rioted and burned police cars. Finally, in desperation, the HB police called in the Military police to help them patrol. The Gordie shop was always the scene of a big Hole in the Wall Gang party. As the beer was consumed, the fun loving gang got wilder. (Fun loving is in the eye of the fun lover, the cops just saw them as rowdy) There were at least a hundred people in the yard behind the shop. One of the gangsters threw a quart beer bottle over the fence; unfortunately it landed on the hood of a passing police car. Luckily, the sergeant driving the car was a friend of Gordie’s. The sergeant came charging into the shop with his MP assistant. Gordie saw his friend, but had some bad memories of the MP’s back in the Navy days. He yelled out “M.P.’s are not welcome in my shop, I had enough trouble with the likes of you at Pear Harbor; you can wait outside!” The sergeant asked who threw the bottle, just then Chris Cattel, who actually threw the bottle, wandered in the back door with a guilty look on his face but about 6 guys pointed out the back door. As the sergeant went out back, one of the guys grabbed the Serge’s hat and locked the door. The partiers out back explained that they were having a private party and that the police aught to go back downtown and regulate the out of towner’s there.

The Sergeant wanted to make someone pay so he grabbed Rooster Elliot and locked him in the back of the cruiser. When he left to go locate the MP, the gang freed Rooster from the cruiser and he got away. The Sergeant and the MP were so frustrated from this run around that they just got in the cruiser and left. The rest of the police battalion was so busy that no one could break free for a second assault on the Gordie shop. The next day, the Sergeant promised not to prosecute if he could just get his hat back quietly. With great relief, Gordie quickly complied with his friend’s request.

The Hole In The Wall Gang was a ruthless bunch of competitors with a tenacious nature and refused to lose a single trophy to the competition. Because of the depth of ability in the group, they immediately started winning contests, taking home the trophies and putting the Gordie shield in the forefront of the competition scene. They drew strength from team enthusiasm and the requirement that each sign up for multiple events. (If you loose in one event, you could still earn team points in the next). The Gang competed in W.S.A. contest in California, Hawaii, Texas and North Carolina.

In 1977 the Gang won the national team trophy at San Onofre and was given a commendation by the city of Huntington Beach. So, Gordie and his gang of ruffians went from being chastised by the city in the 60’s to commended in the 70’s...



When the woman who Gordie rented his shop from died, Her estate sold the property off to developers. Gordie was forced to move out. March 1980 was the end of the Gordie shop and the end of an era, but not the end of Gordie Surfboards. A few of Gordie's old shapers are licenced to make Gordie surfboards and the name lives on. You can see beautifully crafted Gordie boards in the Infinity Shop in Dana Point (www.Infinitysurf.com ) or contact Don Stuart about 50's replica balsa boards.

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The above article by Steve Boehne is beautifully recreated with a wide range of images at:

Gordie's Story

Friday, October 03, 2008

Hobie Cat's 40th

[ From: Homegrown Hobie Cat Marks its 40th Year By COURTENAY NEARBURG ]

It's been 40 years since Hobie Alter, Sr. launched his first beach catamaran, the Hobie 14, off the coast of Capistrano Beach in the summer of 1968...

Alter had already made a significant name for himself by 1968 as an innovative surfboard shaper and designer in Southern California. He began in the early '50s building balsawood boards in the garage of his family's summer home in Laguna Beach. Alter paired up with Gordon Clark, later of Clark Foam, to develop foam filled fiberglass surfboards in 1958, an innovation that would make the Hobie brand famous.

"I was already two weeks behind the day I opened the doors," Alter said of his surf shop on Pacific Coast Highway, a space his father bought for him for $1,500 in 1954 after his surfboard manufacturing operation outgrew the garage and spilled out onto his Oak Street lawn.

Alter had no formal training or education as an engineer, but design came as naturally to him as ocean sports. During a visit to Waikiki, he rode on legendary surfer Woody Brown's custom 40-foot beach catamaran, the Manu Kai. Alter returned to California and began looking at catamarans for himself. Alter bought boats but was not satisfied with their performance overall.

"We had to come in and be better than what was there and not be copying them," Alter said of his predecessors and competitors. He does not describe himself as an "inventor" so much as a "designer" who takes an idea and makes it better. "It's evolution, I guess."

Just as Alter was playing with catamarans, Art Hendrickson introduced himself at the surf shop in 1967, asking Alter what else he could do besides make surfboards. Hendrickson provided the capital for the ensuing nine months of experimentation that led to the first regatta of Hobie 14 prototype catamarans on the Fourth of July, 1968, when Alter and his friends raced against each other.

"I think the catamaran sailing world generally agrees that Hobie Alter's innovations have been the most defining (in terms of) impact on recreational and racing circles within catamarans," Scott Miller, a member of U.S. Sailing's multi-hull council, said by email. "There were other good competitors but Hobie was far and away the leader. The Hobie 16 is still in production after 40 years and is still (probably) the most raced catamaran in the world."

"We are the Kleenex of catamarans," Hobie Cat marketing director Dan Mangus said. "Our brand has crossed over that line. We're still a leader in the industry."

The Hobie Cat Company, based in San Juan Capistrano, operates three manufacturing plants that produce catamarans, kayaks, boating and kayaking accessories. Alter sold Hobie Cat in 1976 to the Coleman company, popular makers of camping equipment and accessories. The company has been owned by a private investing group for the past 15 years, according to Mangus.

"I was sitting around this table with a bunch of guys who didn't get their feet wetter than when they took a shower," Alter said of his decision to sell to Coleman in 1976. "I didn't really like running the business. I liked building things."

Alter licensed his brand freely throughout the '70s and '80s, but would revoke his license if he felt the new operators were not adhering to the quality and reputation of Hobie products. According to Hobie Sports president and son-in-law Mark Christy, Alter is "absolutely manic about his products being the best or at least close to it."

... These days, the senior Alter divides his time between a home on Orcas Island in Washington, where a custom-built 60-foot catamaran is moored, and Palm Desert, where he bought a home four years ago with his wife, Susan...

Homegrown Hobie Cat Marks its 40th Year With a Race | www.lagunabeachindependent.com | Laguna Beach Independent