Sunday, August 15, 2010

Makaha International, 1958

Behind the scenes at the Makaha International Surfing Championships in 1958

August 14th, 2010  · John Lind Collection

The temperature in Honolulu rose to 86 degrees on August 19, 1958, but it probably seemed hotter as members of the International Surfing Championship Committee began arriving at the old Pearl City police station for their first planning meeting looking ahead to the next annual event at Makaha, considered the premier and most prestigious surfing contest in the world at the time.
Members of the committee represented the event’s co-sponsors, the Waikiki Surf Club and the Waianae Lions Club. The groups had worked together on the annual event for five years. In 1958, the committee’s chair was Waianae Lion’s president, William Jackman, who had come to Hawaii twenty years earlier and was stationed at Wheeler Army Airfield. He later became a senior civil service employee at Hickam Air Force Base.
Fireworks started as soon as Jackman called the meeting to order and announced the Lions had a proposal. He passed a copy of a written statement to Waikiki Surf Club president John Lind, then asked another Lion, David Klausmeyer, to read the prepared statement.
Klausmeyer announce the Lions had voted to withdraw as co-sponsors and instead take over and put on the event on their own.
The statement began by pleading inexperience and their own failure to follow rules established by the Internaional Association of Lions Clubs, which were described as “strongly opposed to any Lions Club co-sponsoring any project with another organization.”
But the Lions’ statement also cited “other pressures beyond our control,” which were not specified. One clue might be the reference to an interest in “fair unbiased competition”, possibly alluding to criticism already being heard from Austalian and California surfers who went home saying the local judges were biased in favor of Hawaiian surfers.
The Lions offered to turn the event back over to the surf club if, in the future, the Lions were unable to continue.
The Lions did not disclose that, prior to this meeting, they had already applied on their own for a permit from the city to use the Makaha Beach area for the event.
Lind, speaking on behalf of the Waikiki Surf Club, said he was shocked by the proposal and had no choice but to flatly reject it and, instead, accept the Lions’ decision to withdraw co-sponsor, minutes of the meeting show.
After a brief private meeting, the WSC members announced their official decision to reject the proposal and instead “carry on the project alone.”
During an open discussion that followed, Klausmeyer claimed the idea of the Makaha championships had originated with the Lions Club. This was quickly challenged by WSC members, who said the idea was originally floated by Lind, during an invited presentation to the Waianae Lions about the organization of the Waikiki Surf Club.
Following the meeting, the WSC executive committee immediately moved to register the Makaha event name, negotiate the beach permit with the city, and assigning responsibilities for everything from security to food to judging, pushing ahead without their former co-sponsor.
On September 20, 1958, Lind wrote Jackman to confirm that the Lions were now out of the picture and to “arrange an early impeccable settlement with the Waianae Lions Club in connection with all the property relating to the project which we at present jointly own.”
Operating on a tight timeline, Lind said the program had been set for the weekends of November 22-23 and November 29-30.
Jackman responded with a request for a joint audit of the finances by the treasurers of the groups, and the audit was quickly set in motion.
What is most striking, from today’s perspective, is how little equipment and money was held after putting on the event for five years. There was $494.54 in the bank as of October 12, 1958, along with three umbrellas for judges, 20 event vests, 18 judges shirts and hats, and 13 souvenir shirts. Total current value of these items was estimated at $72.76.
The accounting also notes that Chinn Ho has not followed through with a donation promised in 1957, and had advised he would not contribute more than $250.
Ho had been a backer of the Makaha Championships from the beginning, apparently believing that the public attention and news coverage would increase the worth of his land holdings in the area.
The partnership between the two organizations officially came to an end on October 22, 1958, when a check for $247.27 was sent to the Lions Club from the championships account and another $82.12 from the Waikiki Surf Club “in full settlement of International Surfing Championships funds and property.”
Documents of these events can be viewed in pdf format.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Donald Takayama

Born in 1944, Donald Takayama passed away in October, 2012.

Here's Pez's obit:

Back in 2010, Glenn Sakamoto interviewed Donald for Liquid Salt:

Donald Takayama

Don­ald Takayama is a leg­endary surfer/shaper born in Hawaii. After work­ing with Dale Velzy at the age of 11, Don­ald quickly became a world-renowned shaper as well as a top ranked surf­ing com­peti­tor. Over the last six decades, he has men­tored such surf­ing greats as David Nuuhiwa, Joel Tudor, and Kas­sia Meador. We spoke with Don­ald to learn more about his amaz­ing life.

What was it like grow­ing up?

We lived in Hon­olulu sur­rounded by the Pacific Ocean. Grow­ing up in Hawaii back in the day – it was nice and mel­low. The ocean was where we found our recre­ation. We would go fish­ing or find shells. Then we got into rid­ing waves.

Tell us about what attracted you to surf­ing

Surf­ing was really excit­ing. We would watch the Waikiki Beach Boys ride the waves in, so nat­u­rally we wanted to do the same. But we couldn’t afford it. If you wanted to go surf­ing you’d have to become inno­v­a­tive, cre­ate some­thing – like build­ing your own surf­board. It wasn’t like it is today where – mate­ri­als were sim­ply not avail­able. You really had to scrape the bot­tom or beat the alley­ways to get any­thing. We made paipos out of ply­wood, just so we could ride a wave.

Do you remem­ber the first time you stood up on a board?

Yes. It was on a paipo board. And it was a rush! I said to myself, my God that was fun! I just wanted to catch another one. It was so addict­ing. And you know, it never ceases to end – you are always learn­ing some­thing new.

What does surf­ing mean to you?

Surf­ing has been my life. It’s all I’ve done. It really doesn’t mat­ter how big or small the waves are. When you are out there surf­ing you are really com­pet­ing with your­self. Let’s say you are in a bad mood and you go out surf­ing, you catch one good wave and it makes your whole day – heck, it makes your whole week.

Also you are com­pet­ing with the ele­ments. There are no two waves are alike. So it becomes really chal­leng­ing. And it sim­ply puts a smile on your face when you get that ride. You get one good ride and nat­u­rally you want to try to bet­ter it.

Surf­ing is just there for total enjoy­ment. It gives you peace of mind. Phys­i­cally it’s good and men­tally it keeps you focused. For exam­ple, if you are both­ered by some­thing and you go surf­ing – it’s a release. You can for­get about every­thing. It’s just very, very enjoyable.

What about shap­ing?

Surf­ing is also a design thing. Since I cre­ate things, it’s about the equip­ment I am rid­ing. For dif­fer­ent styles of waves you design dif­fer­ent kinds of boards. You can change the length and make it longer. Or you can change the out­lines, the bot­toms and every­thing else. I design boards for dif­fer­ent types of peo­ple and their surf styles. To be able to build a board that com­ple­ments their rid­ing is very exciting.

When I think about design­ing a board for some­one, it’s a real chal­lenge. Where will they be surf­ing at? What are the con­di­tions? To me, shap­ing is a feat in itself. And I love the feed­back I get from my rid­ers! It’s a real accom­plish­ment and it just keeps going on and on. Luck­ily I’ve been able to make a liv­ing at shap­ing boards. It’s not a money-making thing by any means, but it is very rewarding.

What was Dale Velzy like?

Dale was a haole – but he was alright (laughs). When I started my busi­ness in San Diego, he would always look after me.

He would call me up and ask “Hey small kid, what’s up? How’s every­thing? – okay, good!” and he would hang up the phone. He was just really good peo­ple. I would give the shirt off my back for him. He gave me my first job when I was 13 years old. I would sleep in his fac­tory in a card­board box. He would also come to Hawaii and say “Hey small kid! Let’s go surfing!”

In return, when a cus­tomer would come into my shop and piss me off, I would call up Dale. I would say “Hey, Dale. It’s all your fault!” I would blame him because he started this whole surf­ing indus­try (laughs). He was just a really good per­son. I loved the guy and I miss him.

You were a shaper that was also an accom­plished surfer. Tell us about your com­pe­ti­tion days

Well, I sort of got turned off to com­pet­ing. It got to a point where it didn’t really prove any­thing. I could go into more detail, but I am sav­ing it for a book.

Tell us about your expe­ri­ence with Joel Tudor

Joel took surf­ing a new level. His abil­ity and skills are just phe­nom­e­nal. And he was a really good kid. When he was lit­tle, he used to pull on my trunks and say to me, “Hey, can you make me a board?” I would look at him and say some­thing like, “Oh piss off, kid!” As time went on, I would watch him and he would bring out his log and God, could he ride a long­board well.

Later, when we cre­ated the Ocean­side Long­board Club, it brought together all the old peo­ple back. We would gather and do bar­be­cue and all that. That’s when the long­board resur­gence started. And Joel and his abil­ity, opened the door to what long­board­ing is today. To this day, I wish we could have stuck it out. But then again, everybody’s gotta do their own thing.

What is your rela­tion­ship with Linda Ben­son?

Linda has always been my dear­est friend. I couldn’t have done much with­out her. Over the years she has given me moral sup­port and treated me as a good friend. I just love her to death.

Tell us a lit­tle about some of the peo­ple that ride for you

Well, there is Noah Shimabukuro. He’s like my hanai (adopted son). He really helps me with the design of my boards and he is just a won­der­ful, hum­ble per­son. I wouldn’t trade him for anything.

Kas­sia Meador is one-of-a-kind. She’s not a dreamer. She fol­lows through with her thoughts. And she is very ambi­tious. She doesn’t just sit around and think of things and wait to for it to fall into her lap – she works hard for it. Diane and I are very proud of what she has accomplished.

And then there is also Leah Daw­son, Cori Schu­macher, Kai Sal­las, Melissa Combo, and Chelsea Williams, too. All of these young peo­ple are build­ing futures for them­selves, which I admire. I really look for­ward to see­ing their future.

What’s your most mem­o­rable wave?

That’s really hard to say. You have your good days and bad days. Just like every wave is dif­fer­ent so is every day, so I really can’t say. There might be a day where I do a nice maneu­ver so I’d want to recre­ate it or bet­ter it. It never ceases to stop. I just always want to progress my surfing.

There has been a lot of good waves. And you know, I just want to get another one. But the age thing is creep­ing up. I’m start­ing to slow down. I’m not as agile and quick as when I was 20. But surf­ing still is a lot of fun. Just rid­ing a wave is such a thrill – it’s just bitchin’… it’s fab­u­lous! (laughs)

What are you most proud of?

It’s hard to say. I’m just proud to be here – the surf­ing envi­ron­ment, this lifestyle. I’ve had a lot of friends come and go. But I don’t take life for granted. There is only one life to live and if I had to live it all over again – I would do it all the same way.

What is the most mem­o­rable place you’ve been?

Through surf­ing I’ve got­ten to travel a lot. I’ve been to Europe, the East Coast, South Amer­ica, Aus­tralia, Japan, and back. I’ve got­ten to meet so many nice peo­ple and to learn about so many dif­fer­ent cul­tures. Mostly I’m happy to have been in the mecca of surf­ing – Cal­i­for­nia and Hawaii.

How impor­tant is the Hawai­ian word “aloha” and what does it mean to you?

Aloha is really impor­tant to me. I was brought up with it. To me, it means giv­ing, shar­ing, help­ing one another, and show­ing that you care. It means just try to be on equal level with peo­ple that you meet. That’s aloha.

You’re still stoked…

Yeah, I’m so stoked. For me, it’s really nice to be able to turn some­one on to surf­ing – like the feel­ing I got when I was surf­ing. I can just pass it on to some­body else. And I will be able to enjoy the same thrill and joy that I got out of surfing.

Shar­ing surf­ing with other peo­ple is such an awe­some feel­ing. I get turned on by it. It keeps the stoke going. For exam­ple, some­one comes in the shop and shouts “Don­ald, the board you made me works and the waves are so bitchin’ – let’s go out and ride!” – for me, THAT is the stoke.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Larry Bertlemann

Jason Borte updated his biography of Larry Bertlemann for Surfline, in December 2009. View the original, with images and links, at: Surfline: Larry Bertleman:

Larry Bertlemann (August 7, 1955-)

The Rubberman opened the door. Arriving amid a period of flux, he demonstrated that no limits exist beyond our imagination. He didn't invent the shortboard; he just showed us how to ride it. No one had a greater influence on the way people surf -- from the best in the world on down -- than Larry Bertlemann.

The only son (he has four sisters) of a former survival instructor for the U.S. Air Force, Lawrence Mehau Bertlemann was drawn to adventure at an early age. Born in Hilo, on Hawaii's big island, where his father ran an auto shop, Larry spent his early childhood hunting pigs and fishing with handlines, without so much as a thought on surfing. At age 11, he came to Oahu with his mother, putting Larry in proximity to Waikiki and the forces that would shape his life. "I still remember my first wave at Queens," he reflects. "I rented a board for an hour and stayed out all day. They had to chase me in. Rabbit Kekai was up there yelling at me, but then my mom told him who I was. Our family had a lot of pull at the time -- on both sides of the law, so he left me alone."

Longboards were still all that was known, and Bertlemann borrowed anything he could get his hands on. He eventually found a 9'6" in the bushes and rode it for a month before snapping it. Rather than mend the hulking plank, he glassed a fin on the front half and set out for some serious fun. By this time, school had become a nuisance, so after eighth grade, he dropped out in favor of the beach. The only graduating he was interested in was going from the bunny slopes of Waikiki to the bowl at Ala Moana. Without conforming to the restraints of competition, he experienced success by the early '70s. In the 1972 World Contest in San Diego, he finished third, followed by a victory in the 1973 U.S. Championships. Contrary to advice from his shaper, coach and mentor Ben Aipa, Bertlemann turned professional.

At the time, Gerry Lopez' subtle, Zen-like approach was considered the quintessential style, meshing with the wave being the ultimate goal. But Bertlemann, an avid skateboarder, envisioned translating his land-based repertoire of tricks to the water. "Visualization," he insists, was what separated him from the pack. "A friend of ours used to take Super 8 movies of us, and I would watch them thinking, wow, I could cut that line shorter. Anything is possible. I knew what I wanted to do; I just had to get the boards to do it."

The forward-thinking Aipa was the perfect match, creating wide, short (less than 6-foot) swallowtail and stinger designs that offered Bertlemann total freedom of movement. Always running at top speed and on the verge of spinning out, Bertlemann's low gravity cutbacks, 360s and switchfoot antics were spontaneous, yet completely functional. As he was joined by fellow test pilots Buttons Kaluhiokalani, Mark Liddell and later his cousin Dane Kealoha, Ala Moana and the more rippable North Shore venues became ground zero for progressive surfing.

From the time he was a cheeky grom, hanging out at Sparky's Surf Shop, Bertlemann was interested in design. He shaped his first board inside a friend's house, much to the dismay of the boy's parents. After watching Sparky and working with Aipa, he began shaping regularly, collaborating with Town and Country, George Downing, Hawaiian Pro Designs and others. A driving force in creating the swallowtail, Bertlemann also helped in the revival of ultra-short twin-fins around 1980. Donald Takayama, who runs the Hawaiian Pro Designs label, has a retro Bertlemann model on the market today.

Despite his distaste for the conformity of competition, Bertlemann became one of the most popular and well-paid professionals of the early pro era. He managed to finish in the IPS Top 16 in both 1976 and 1979, but his focus remained on progression and visibility. "I surfed for myself and the public, not for five judges," he insists. "How do you score a maneuver you've never seen before?"

His popularity, including a starring role in Hal Jepsen's 1975 film Super Session and nine cover shots between 1974 and 1984 -- the most of any surfer -- enabled him to attract lucrative endorsements outside the industry. With no managerial assistance, Bertlemann struck deals with Op, Toyota, United Airlines and others, enabling him to dictate his own schedule so long as he remained in the public eye.

Staying visible was simple for a surfer of such caliber, so long as he wanted to. Somewhere during the mid-'80s, Bertlemann vanished from the surfing radar, with rumors of his whereabouts fluctuating wildly. Says Bertlemann, "I wanted to see how the world is without water. I went skysurfing in Arizona, lived in Palm Beach, Florida, on the PGA National Course, but kept my deal with United and Southwest Air so I could go surf in Mexico, Puerto Rico or Rio on the weekends. I've surfed places nobody has ever seen."

Finally, around 1998, his need for speed and adventure got the better of him. The years of bodily abuse from skateboarding, surfing and motorcycle and truck racing resulted in two degenerating discs, leaving the right side of his body paralyzed. He has since regained motion through surgery and therapy, but he is far from the Rubberman of old.

After returning to Oahu, he began tinkering with computers and shaping as much as his body would allow. Twice divorced with three children and as many grandchildren, he never planned for his roots to sink too deep. "Home is wherever you leave your bags," he contended. But in the summer of 2001, he was arrested on robbery and firearms charges and spent the next xx years in jail, resulting in a popular "Free Bert" Campaign of bumper stickers and t-shirts.

Upon his release in xx, Bertlemann began making surfboards again - even forming mass-production deals with Rebel Boards and Santa Cruz. But, ironically, his biggest influence in terms of numbers may be on skateboarding. 2001's award-winning documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys, which chronicles the rise of vert skating begins with names like Tony Alva, Stacy Peralta and Jay Adams trying to take Larry's approach on a wave to streets and parks; they even call their slide-out turns, "Berts."

As for himself, the most progressive surfer of his generation still gets in the water occasionally, but he adds, "Only cruising." Perhaps that's for the best. When asked about alleged contemporary surfing in 2001, he contended, "What they're calling maneuvers, we called mistakes."

-- Jason Borte (updated, December 2009)

Some reflections from Larry Bertlemann at the 2009 ASR show in San Diego, California:

From "Standing Room Only" (Produced by Allan Main and Hugh Thomas in 1978), features Rabbit Bartholemew and Larry Bertlemann: