Thursday, June 11, 2015

Wally Froiseth (1919-2015)

Welcome to this chapter in the LEGENDARY SURFERS series, on Wallace "Wally" Froiseth!

This is an updated version to the original chapter that remains online at:

(Wally on paipo style body board)

Wallace Froiseth was born in Los Angeles on December 21, 1919. His family came to the Islands in 1925. “Summertime, back in the ‘20s,” Wally told me, “my father would drop us off down Waikiki and, you know, we’d be around the beach all day; surf and what not. Then, he’d come home from work, pick us up in the evening and bring us back to where we lived in Kahala.

“I had three brothers. One real brother and two, you know, step brothers that were my father’s from a previous marriage. So, there were four of us boys in the family at that time.”[1]

The Froiseths surfed with other kids living in and near Kahala; including Fran Heath and John Kelly. “Around the time we were in high school,” Wally recalled, “we used to paddle from John’s house at Black Point all the way around Diamond Head to Waikiki. Sometimes, after surfing, we’d paddle back. Sometimes we’d leave our boards on the beach and get home however we could, and have our parents pick ‘em up later.”[2]

Speaking of the surfers he hung with and his group being outside both the Outrigger Canoe Club and Hui Nalu groups of surfers, Wally recalled to Australian champion surfer Nat Young that, “We were what was known as the ‘Tavern Boys’ or the ‘Empty Lot Boys’ really. We started right next to Prince Kuhio’s beach home on Waikiki; they had a big empty lot with this big Banyon tree there... and we used to keep our boards stored inside the tree roots when we went home. Next day we’d come down, go surfing all day, and put our boards back there. We were kind of on the lower end of the beach [hierarchy], so to speak. At that time we knew about every board on the island and everybody that surfed. There were just the beach boys, a few others.”[3]

Competition was not a major focus; “people would just surf. Fellows like Hawkshaw and the Big Rock and Duke would do crazy stunts, you know, sit on a board with a chair and play ukulele, standing on their heads, that kind of old-time thing. When I was a kid these beach boys would take us out to surf tandem, when the waves got big; those of us who were not afraid. So of course I got kind of enthused about big surf, larger and larger waves for more of a challenge, because in those days you just caught the wave and slid a little angle, you couldn’t do what you can with a modern board.”[4]

“When I was real small,” Wally said, “Akamine, Ernest Enos and those guys – they’d take me out tandem, you know. They’d take me out First Break, eh? Small, little guy – probably before I did much surfing of my own. I never was the kind of guy to scream and holler and all that kind of stuff. I was too goddamned scared... they used to pick me all the time.”[5]

“As we grew up, we used to rent boards from the old Tavern; 50 cents-a-day, 25 cents-a-day kind of thing. And, then we finally got some boards of our own. We were able to buy or somebody gave us some.

“My first one I got given to me by a fella by the name of Allan Wilcox. He lived in Kahala and was a good friend of my family’s. He had a son and the son brought somebody down from the Coast; a school buddy. One of the fellas that started the Hui Nalu[6] club had made two boards for he and his friend. When the boy went back to the Coast, Allan Wilcox saw that I was really into big surfing. So, he gave me that board. After that, we surfed all around Kahala, Diamond Head, Black Point and Waikiki. Every place.”[7]

“What age were you?”

“Eight, 9 or 10; something like that.

“I don’t know. I seemed to take to it real heavy. Even my brothers – my real brother and I, we progressed up to Castle, but my other brothers weren’t that interested in it for some reason. They surfed all right; Queens, around that area. But, my brother and I weren’t satisfied with that. Rocky’s, Cunha’s – you know – bigger surf like Public Baths and then Castle.

“I was surfing Castle when I was, like, 11 years-old. I remember my brother kind of scolding me, because I went a little faster [further sooner] than he did. He was always mad because he was scared for my safety.

“What happened with me – I went out Castle to look at it. That’s how I started going out there. I went out to look at the waves and it’s so big, it fascinated me. You know what I mean? And so, then, what happened is – I can remember it real vividly – I got caught on a couple of sets; just pounded. And, then I was sitting out there after I got my board and everything and I figured, ‘Well, if I can take the pounding, why can’t I ride ‘em?’ So, I started riding ‘em. And I was so jazzed when I came home. My brother was all mad at me. So, then he started coming out, too...

One of the most influential surfers in Wally’s life was Tom Blake.

“Tom Blake – he and I were really good friends; my brother and him, especially.” Wally spoke fondly of surfing’s first great innovator; inventor of the hollow board, the skeg, sailboard and more. “In fact, he gave me one of those – he made 3 aluminum skegs down at the old Honolulu Ironworks down there. He gave one to Gene Smith – ‘Tarzan,’ they used to call him – one to me and kept one for himself.”[8]

At this point Wally looked at me kinda funny and then started talking about an article I had written on Tom Blake and his development of the hollow board. Without coming down on me, Wally wanted me to know a very important point about Blake’s early hollow boards:

“Tom Blake didn’t actually make those hollow boards down there [before they were manufactured in the early 1930s]. This guy Abel Gomes made the boards. He was a woodworker. Tom wasn’t that much of a woodworker. But, he had the ideas, you know. He knew what he wanted.

“Abel Gomes worked for a place they called Honolulu Sash and Door and they made all this kind of stuff. He was an expert carpenter and woodworker. He made the boards for Tom Blake – of course, to Tom Blake’s calculations – maybe all of them weren’t framed [chambered].”[9]

Getting back to Blake, Wally added:

“And he put the first sail on a surfboard... Somebody in Germany tried to patent that. The lawyers came down here and they’re asking me if I know anything and I told ‘em, ‘Yeah, I got pictures. I’ll show ya the first board with a sail on it. This guy wasn’t the first; Tom Blake was.’

“Turns out –” Wally’s voice rises when he talks of his friends “— look at these jet skis, man! That’s a takeoff on Tom Blake’s concept of a motorized surfboard, which he predicted would be the wave of the future. The only thing was, they just didn’t have the jet deal perfected back then.”[10]

“What about other surfers you looked up to?” I asked him.

“Oh, ah... a guy by the name of Ernest Enos. Like I say, we had nicknames. His was ‘Snot.’ Everybody called him Snot.” Wally caught my eye and added, not entirely convincingly, “I don’t know why...

“Another was a fellow by the name of Ox Keaulana – big guy. Of course, the Wili Wili brothers and, you know, Duke and all his brothers – they were all big on the scene; Akong Pang, Joe Pang’s uncle. Blue Makua was in our group. Steamboat Makuaha, senior: I kind of looked up to him... those guys ruled the beach.

Blue and I and all of us kids – when they had that jetty going out, you know, that walkway from Moana – we used to – wise kids and all – we’d go surf in between the piles and all that kind of stuff. Steamboat come along: ‘I told you kids, get outta dere,’ slap us in the head. You know, he was afraid we’d get hurt, cuz there were barnacles on the pilings. You could get hurt. Young kids, though, would do it.

“Those guys really took care of us. A Japanese guy, one of the few Japanese guys at that time – probably the only one who surfed – was a guy by the name of Akamine. He used to spin the solid board around, you know; 3-60. No skeg, flat bottom. It was easy to do, but, we [young kids] couldn’t do it.”[11]

“What about Dad Center?”  I asked him.

“I got beautiful pictures of him.” Wally pulled aside an older-than-the-rest photo album. 

“He was one of the guys who started the Outrigger Canoe Club, you know. That was before my time, but Dudie and the others... Dudie Miller and those guys got the canoe clubs going. Hui Nalu was more the local Hawaiian group. It was started to give the Outrigger some competition. Outrigger was more the haole group...”[12]

“Another guy, Buddy Adolphsen. He made our team pretty famous later on for patrolling the North Shore. We went to school together and all that kind of stuff. He went into the police department. When he retired, he wouldn’t quit patrolling the North Shore and rescuing guys, just like he had when he was younger.[13]

“Joe Pang was another guy who surfed with us and there was another kid who was kind of in the group – Henry Best... He lived down Kahala...”[14]

“When did ‘The Empty Lot’ gang start?”

“Well, when we were living down Kahala. See, Fran lived right next door to us – small kid time. John Kelly lived at Black Point.

“You know how kids are – you know every body in the neighborhood. You know where there’s any other kids around. You look for ‘em... and we went to school together...

“At that time, every surfer knew every other surfer. And, not only every other surfer, they knew every other surfboard. They knew exactly who owned the board. There were boards with initials and names and all kinds a crazy stuff and everybody had their own design.

“If they didn’t know you by your birth name, they knew you by your nickname. Everybody had a nickname. A lot of people knew somebody only by their nickname. For many, many years – and to this day, even – some people never really knew that my brother was my brother. Just thought he was my pal, because we went every place together. He and I were kind of an odd brother thing. We liked each other a lot. Most brothers, you know, they don’t...”[15]

Wally had earlier mentioned the brotherhood that existed amongst the Empty Lot Boys and I asked him to elaborate on that.

“Like I say, you knew you’d do anything to help the guys. We were really close. It was sort of a – it wasn’t a closed group. I mean, guys would come in, but it was a closed group in the sense that everybody who was tight in that group was really devoted to surfing. Surfing was practically their whole life.

“I mean, we talked about it, slept about it, dreamt about it, ate it – everything!

“We used to call it ‘surf drunk.’ There was not that many guys who were surf drunk, but we were. Guys came in – some of ‘em got to ride on big surf; like, Russ Takaki, you know; good friend... He’s one of the guys over here –” Wally pointed to a picture taken in the ‘40s. “— he surfed Castle too. He was one of the group. We clicked.

“In those days – not only us, but everybody else, too – we had kind of a code, you know; code of ethics, if you want to call it that. Where – like I say, if a guy loses his board and you’re in or around – anywhere’s near it – you’d pick it up for him. Like, one time, I tandemed Tom Blake from Castle into the edge of the reef at Public Baths on my solid board!

“That was one thing about the hollow boards [which Blake rode]; they kept going! Once caught by whitewater, it was gone!”[16]

I mentioned to Wally that I’d read that there had been some trouble between the Waikiki surfers in the Outrigger Canoe Club and the new Hot Curl surfers who had been known as the “Empty Lot Boys” and later were associated with the Waikiki Tavern when they got older.

“All the kids from the Outrigger used to tell all the girls our age, ‘Don’t fool around with those guys down at the Tavern. They’re bums and they’re, you know, not at your same level.’” Wally got slightly hot, recalling this. “That was the whole scene while I grew up.

“Even wahines, later on, when I was maybe out of high school – senior or something like that – wahines used to come and tell me, ‘Hey, you’re a nice guy! You’re all right.’ I’d say, ‘What do you mean?’

“‘These guys were telling me you guys were all ‘this and that’ and you’d do ‘this or that’ and all kind of stuff.

“We were a... I don’t think you could say lower club, but, we were, like, The Empty Lot Boys. Then there was The Tavern People, then Hui Nalu and then Outrigger. So, I guess the further down the beach, you got lower!

“As we got more into surfing, you know, we got better and got friends with The Tavern People. I never graduated from the Tavern area. That’s Queen Beach area, now. I was always there because all my friends were there. I grew up there. Everybody there was just a tight group. The only times you might mix with guys from Hui Nalu and some of the guys from the Outrigger, was night-time.

“The Tavern was a gathering spot. At night, guys would drink. Us young kids, though, we didn’t drink much. We’d just hang around. Guys would play music. We’d go follow them around at night. You know, like how they used to do in the old days. They’d take their instruments and walk down the street. If you’d hear a party, why, you’d go outside and play music and people would come out and everybody would be drinking and having a good time. That’s the way it was done...”[17]

“You think the guys at Outrigger were making those comments about you guys out of jealousy?”

“I always thought so, because we were progressing. We were doing things those other guys couldn’t do! We were the only guys that came out to bigger surf! You know, the word gets around in school. We’re talking about, ‘Hey, surfing Castle, big Public’s and Cunha’s, First Break...’ The rest of the kids, you know, they didn’t go out there. Very few went out in bigger surf. The bigger surf you go, the less guys go.

“So, without you doing anything, somebody’s talkin’ about you; you’re getting a reputation – deserved or not! That kind of thing. You don’t have to blow your own horn; somebody else is gonna blow it louder’n you can!”[18]

“Everybody used to be mad at us in Waikiki, cuz, you know, we’d pass them! Even Duke! We’d pass behind him, you know! And even Tom Blake, for awhile. I mean, the hollow board was all right, but then you put the fin on and it’s OK...”[19]

“Tell me about those big days in the ‘30s...”

“A couple of times, they had Honolulu Harbor closed,” Wally almost laughed. “We used to surf in front of Sand Island, too, you know. We were the only guys who surfed that area. I don’t know. The only guys we knew. But, with our Hot Curl boards, we could do a lot more – more challenge and we’d go lookin’ for it.

“There were days when Honolulu Harbor was total white water across; wave after wave. Waikiki – John Kelly and I were out one day. The biggest day I’ve ever seen Waikiki. We were out. We went out about 5 o’clock in the morning. It was real – you know, not quite light. The night before, we just talked all about this big storm comin’ and all kinda stuff. So, we got together. He and I went out and got out there... After we got out Castle – I mean, big Castle – waves just got bigger and bigger... We were lucky to get out. Every wave broke around Diamond Head as far as we could see to the harbor. Whew! Lot bigger than these –” Wally referred to the picture Blake had given him of a big day offshore from Waikiki. “He and I, we didn’t catch for about two hours! We just sat there; never picked up a wave, eh? We just – ‘Wow!’ You know; awed by the size.

“I gotta tell ya this story – Kelly comes up to me. ‘Wallace,’ he said, ‘let’s make a pact.’

“‘Whaddya mean?’

“‘Let’s make a pact and shake hands on it. The next wave comes – no matter what it is, we’re gonna take it.’ I said, ‘Oh, no!’

“I was scared enough as it was. But, knowing Kelly... I know if he goes inside and I don’t do this, he’s gonna say I was chicken. He’ll tell everybody. So, I can’t have that! So, I said, ‘OK.’ He and I shook hands; next wave came, we started on it.

“Kelly’s board hit a chop and he didn’t get down. But, my board – oh! Well, it was probably the smallest wave of the day, you know what I mean? I just went down, proned out and just – God! The white water about like as big as this room; can’t even breathe, sometimes, the white water was so massive. You just can’t breathe. You try’n keep your head up. So, I proned out and, by-and-by, it picked up again and going through Publics, I had it good – I mean, I had it great! At Cunha’s, I had to cut off, because, I mean – I could go on to shore. I could have made it all the way in, like everybody says Duke did, but who wants to go in there? I’d never get out again! And I was worried about Kelly.

“So, then I cut off when the whole thing broke and I stayed over there about an hour – just trying to paddle out. A big one would come and I’d get knocked in again and I kept doing that. Finally, I got out and I saw Kelly. And then we both lost our boards and that was about it. I don’t know of any wave he caught – neither one of us – outside of that one.”[20]

“Woody [Brown] told me they used to break bigger back then...”

“Yeah. I have a log –” Wally went over and found a small spiral bound note pad in his bureau. “— this is 1936... this is ‘39. This is the one I want to show you... This is the surf: Waikiki, ‘39. The first day, I was working – I’d just gotten out of high school and I was working downtown.” Wally stopped abruptly and placed the log book down. “I’ll tell you the whole story...

“At work, they told me, in January [‘39], ‘Take your vacation. You got a month’s vacation.’ So, I says, ‘OK, I’m going to take it in May.’ I figure, the surf in this area starts then.

“But, just as it happens, the month of May... all these dates, here... The first week of vacation: nothin’. I thought, ‘Oh, God, I took the wrong –’ You know, you can’t calculate and know when surf’s gonna come up that far in advance. Then, on the 17th, the waves got large. I mean, large. And then they got BIG and then they got huge and they got MONSTROUS! And, then it dropped down to huge, then it got big, then large and large and then big, then large, then big, then huge! It’s all one continuous storm! I haven’t seen anything like that before or since.”[21]

Wally described his log book rating scale: “M is monstrous, like August 25th of 1935... July 1928 and ‘29...” The scale went down from there; to huge, big, large and good.[22]

“At that time, the concept was a little different, you know. We wouldn’t do all these maneuvers that they do, today...  That wasn’t being done... The guy that did that kind of surfing [cut backs, etc.], if any, was my brother. We had a name for it... I forget what it was... It slowly developed into hot dogging. My brother Gene could stand way back and fool around like that more than any of the rest of ‘em.

“But, most of the time, Fran and all the rest of us – we wanted to get across.”[23]
And, they wanted to share.

“You see, in the old days, part of the enjoyment with us was watching other people surf. Like, at Castle. After you catch a wave and you’re paddling back out and see somebody catch a wave and come across, we used to just sit up and just enjoy him enjoying that wave or making it, getting caught or whatever it was.

“A lot of things like... people surfing together, there, in those days – somebody lose his board, you’d always go and tow it out to him and, you know, there was always companionship, camaraderie or whatever you want to call it. It was just great...

“Tom Blake, sitting outside, waiting for a set, talking all kinds – all these ideas... He and I used to see who could come up with the craziest idea. He used to say, put a big raft over there, have everybody just sit around and drink coffee or whatever, have a guy watching and then when a big set comes, everybody throw their board in the water and go catch the wave.

“There’s another guy. Rick Steere. He was from the Outrigger. But... he was of the haole group, but he wasn’t, really – he was different. When I first met him, we were sitting out Castle, you know. It was big. My brother and maybe Oscar were out there and also John... And so, I see this guy. He was puttin’ his head down, coming from first break, solid redwood board; just doggin’ it [paddling hard]. And he paddled over and he got into the goddamn lineup. But, he was maybe 200 feet outside of us. And then this big set came... That was a real Bluebird. He picked up this wave and I’m telling you... that thing; easy 20-foot.

“And so, I told those guys, ‘Who the hell is this guy? Where’d he come from?’ I’d never seen him before, you know. So then, what happened was, he got caught, naturally. He was outside of us before he got caught.

“So, when the white water got to us, we went down. When I came up, I was looking around. ‘Where’s that guy?’ We were looking out to sea. Then, he came up inside of us. Inside of us. Hoses Christ! So... we all swam for our boards; got separated and I guess he went back and I didn’t see him anymore – that day, anyway.

“So, I went down [to the Outrigger Canoe Club] – I wanted to know who this guy was. He was fabulous! So, I went down Outrigger and finally saw him and asked one of the guys, 

‘Hey, who’s that guy?’

“‘Rick Steere.’ He was a great surfer; talk about guts...”[24]

“Lorrin Thurston was around then, too, wasn’t he? He’s credited somewhere with having the first balsa board.”

“He and somebody else imported...” Wally replied. “I can’t say who was the first guy, but, he had a balsa board and there was a guy – a real rich guy came from the Coast – and he had heard about this stuff. So, he had ordered one; ordered this balsa from Peru and they shipped it down and one of the beach boys over Waikiki made him a balsa board out of it.

“I don’t know... I couldn’t say which came first. The first one I was associated with was the rich guy who had this balsa board made, shaped by the beach boys; my area. When the guy left and went back to the Coast, you know, he gave it to the beach boys.

“So, I got to try it out. Boy, what a difference! Oh, the balsa board was fast!

My only problem with it, at that time, was the wide tail, see. But, the buoyancy, paddling speed and all that kind of stuff – hold you up out of the water so much better than the solid redwood boards, you know. No comparison. And, catching the waves – so easy! Catch ‘em a little further out and all that kind of stuff.

“But, sliding, you could only get a certain angle and that was it. You go any more and it’d slide out, cuz it neither had the V nor a skeg.”[25]

“Oh,” Wally continued recalling other surfers around at the time, “another guy we used to surf with – Oscar Teller…  He wasn’t in the Hot Curl group. He was a Waikiki surfer, a good surfer; surfed Castle all the time. He and Gene Smith were really tight buddies. He and I were close, too, because he and I surfed more together than most anybody around.”[26]

“Gene Smith was with us early on; went between all the islands [paddling]. Last one, he got picked-up because there was no place to land, but he made it! I used to keep his boards at my house, because he had no place to store them.”

I asked him about Tarzan being the first haole beach boy.

“Gene Smith, in order to make money and get a business, he was down by the Royal Hawaiian. He joined that group there – Sally Hale and all those guys. They took tourists out in canoes; more the tourist deal, where with us it was strictly local guys... Gene Smith later disappeared. Tommy Zahn told me he walked into the desert and never saw him again. Tom Zahn really helped him out; a couple of times.”[27]

“In the lifestyle you guys lived, were there other aspects of Hawaiian culture you incorporated?” I asked.

“Canoeing,” Wally answered without a pause. “We were all heavily into canoeing; most all of us... Then, there was a group that only liked paddling – canoe paddling. We had some surfboard races in the mid-’30s, before the war.

“I was always angered... The Kahanamoku group and Outrigger group had this big deal; whoever wins the surfing contest – they had teams. Duke and his brothers all had a team and we had our scavenger group down here. But, you know, we were surfin’ 8-9 hours a day and we were in top shape and we’d catch any thing in the water, you know what I mean? Frank Kennedy was with us. He, my brother, Gene Smith and myself made up a team, see. And we wiped ‘em out. We came first in almost every event.

“Why I say I get angry, cuz the deal was, the team that wins is supposed to get a free trip to Australia – go over there and surf and all that kind of stuff. They thought they had it all sewn up, see. The Kahanamoku brothers were the big boys on the beach. Well, they were older guys that we looked up to, but, you know, we were feeling our oats – 18, 19, then. ‘They gotta show us they can beat us!’ That kind of thing.

“So, when we won, of course, we never got the trip...”[28]

I asked Wally about his first memories of Duke.

“To be honest with you,” Wally said, “he and I were great guys surfing together...” But, I got the impression that elsewhere was sometimes a different story. “In other words, he was one of the few guys’d come out to Castle, you know, from the Outrigger side. There was not that many who did. So, we had a lot of experiences together. I even dinged his big long board one time; put a big ding in it. He apologized to me, because I was on the inside of him. He was on the outside. With his big board, he couldn’t swing it fast enough. I had to get out of the curl, so, I ran right into his board. He and I had to swim in.

“Besides that, we started racing with canoes. I was very upset with him, initially, cuz we had this race where – we were young kids and ignorant, see – he... put his canoe so that his ama[29] touched our canoe and wouldn’t let our paddlers on that side paddle, so he just barely beat us and not in a fair manner.

“I was swearing – a young kid – ‘Hey, goddamn Duke, who the hell do you think you are?!’ Eric tells me, ‘Don’t talk like that. You know who that is, that’s Duke!’

“‘I don’t give a fuck who he is! He can’t do this to me!’

“So, he’s standing up there, receiving the prize, and I’m yelling and everybody’s going, ‘Who’s that guy?’

“‘He’s from the Tavern.’ So, that probably helped to get the reputation of Tavern guys being bad.

“Later on, when Woody and I and the rest made that trip across in the catamaran [1957], he sent me a note wishing me the best...”[30]

“Fran Heath was one of the best surfers around, during all that time,” Wally declared. “We used to go hunting for surf – the same group – John, my brother, Dougie Forbes and a couple of other guys. And Fran was one of the guys.

“I can remember times we went out to Mokapu,[31] before they even had the Marine Corps Air Station, you know. It used to be private land, see; Big surf, Mokapu.

“We used to take my ‘36 Ford, put all the boards in and go around the island – check surf; because, winter time, you know, no surf here.

“The ‘36 Ford Phaeton – that was a classic, boy! I used to drag with guys like Plueger. We’d smoke ‘em! Guys would come back and smoke us. We had a lot of fun racing until the cops would catch us; you know, night time. Guys used to bet around town, go to a couple of kids that had really hot cars. I never bet, but they used to bet, you know, we’d meet at some service station, make arrangements...”[32]

Here, Wally returned to the subject of Tom Blake’s first three aluminum skegs, one of which he had been given.

“I never did like the fin, at that time. That’s why I just put it [Blake’s skeg] away. I never did use it. Gene Smith used the fin. He put it on his board. And, Tom Blake had it on his board. When Tom had given that one to me, he said:

“‘Try it, Wallace.’

“But, my objection to it was I thought I’d run over somebody in a crowd or something and hurt somebody. So, I was scared of it.

“I never did use it, until later on, when I realized, ‘Well, it’s good, it does help’ and you can maneuver a lot more; a lot faster...”[33]

Talk about skegs turned to tracking on the face of a wave and the difference between it and riding white water and Duke’s longest ride.

“I always laugh at the vision of Duke surfing from Castle to shore, though. You know, that big story [of Duke’s longest ride]. Impossible to make it without riding white water and, to us, riding white water is, you know – it’s no challenge...

“In those days, I was there [Castle]. I ran away from school so many times and I got kicked out of school [a number of times]. My old man would drop me off at the top of the hill. I’d look out there at the ocean. I had a way of judging it. If the white water was as high as the top of the trees, there was good surf; below the top of the trees or you’re barely able to see it – forget it. I’d go to school.

“The only thing that saved me from a half-assed education was when I transferred up to boarding school at Iolani. I boarded. I had to stay in. My mother was so happy to see me go there; they [my father & mother] paid...”[34]

“We used to sit on the beach, weekends, when there was just moderate surf; ask anybody on the beach; take ‘em tandem; Everybody. Any girl... We weren’t trying to make out or anything, we just wanted them to enjoy it. ‘Hey, wanna go out tandem?’ Some would, some wouldn’t.

“Fact is, that’s how I met my wife – my present wife [Alice, a.k.a. Moku]. This guy Oscar had her out surfing and I had some other wahine out, too.[35]

“So, I was out and saw her with my buddy Oscar, eh? And I said, ‘Hey, let’s tandem and change partners.’ You know, I took a shine to her. ‘OK.’ So, we changed partners. I asked her for a date... When we first met was probably – that tandem thing happened probably mid-’40s. She was pretty young. At the time, she was really too young. As time went on, I saw her on and off and later married her.”[36]

Wally remained a force in surfing throughout the ‘50s, as he and the other Hot Curlers continued their love affair with Makaha and sometimes the North Shore. During this period, also, Wally spent much of his time organizing the annual Makaha surf contest, which became one of the most successful contests in the world.[37] In my questions to him, I gave the era short breadth, however, because I wanted to get to that 1957 catamaran voyage Woody had told me a little about.

It was a Hawai‘i-to-California trip they made in a catamaran Woody had designed and was the main builder of. The voyage was meant to qualify the craft in the TransPac. The Trans Pacific Yacht Race was a 2,225 mile sailing race from Long Beach to Honolulu.[38]

“Boy, we were coming down some swells, I’m tellin’ ya!” Wally got animated, like Woody had. “Oh, jeez. One time, a goddamn wave broke. I was steering and Woody and I were on the same watch, eh? The damn wave broke in the back; slammed me and Woody right inside the cabin, filled the whole cabin with water!”[39]

I asked him about an argument Woody had with the Cat owner.

“That was going up the Coast. The owner wanted to eat breakfast and we said ‘No,’ because – I was on watch and showed Woody that the damn pressure was dropping. You could see the damn needle dropping! We knew we were in for a hell of a blow. So, we tried to get everything down. But, he wanted to eat breakfast and he tried to insist on it. He almost burned himself. So, he got pissed-off at Woody.” So pissed, he wouldn’t let Woody skipper the catamaran back to Hawai‘i in the TransPac race.”[40]

By 1960, Wally Froiseth had long since become one of the most respected surfers in the world. In a “who’s who,” written by Otto Patterson and published that year, Wally was described as having “always been more intimate with the young islanders of all races than with the more pretentious surfers. He is a modest and sincere man but we know of no one in the Waikiki area who has been so greatly admired by natives and haoles alike, over such a long period of years.”[41]

Here it was many years later – 1996 – and it was getting late in the afternoon. Wally and Alice had a meeting of the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS) to attend. Did I mention that Wally is one of the guys that helped revive Polynesian canoe voyaging, much in the same way as Duke Kahanamoku and others revived surfing at the beginning of this century? Open ocean voyaging in traditional double-hulled canoes had been a near extinct act. Now, thanks to Wally’s work and the work of many involved in the PVS over the past twenty years, open ocean canoeing is alive and well. More importantly, open ocean voyaging has stirred-up Polynesian pride in their recognition as the world’s greatest of navigating peoples.[42]

My time with Wally was running short, so I had to gloss over the 1960s,[43] ‘70’s and ‘80s and get to present day.

“We were talking about Fran and his board...” I prompted Wally about the first Hot Curl surfboard in later years.

“He met my brother in town one day,” Wally said, beginning the story of the restoration of the first Hot Curl surfboard, “and called me up. ‘Hey, Wallace, remember my surfboard?’

“‘Yeah!’ I told him. ‘I’d sure like to see it.’

“We hadn’t seen each other in a long time. ‘Yeah, I’d sure like to see it, cuz I have fond memories of you surfing that damn thing.’” Wally looked at me, explaining, “It being the original thing – all like that.

“So, I went over his house. He showed me the board. Aw, I was horrified. The thing was just termite-eaten, cracked – all those white stringers chewed-up. So, I asked him, ‘What happened?’ Turns out, he left it with his boy on the North Shore and he didn’t take care of it. Fran went out to see it one day, saw what a mess it was, and got angry with his boy; brought the thing back to his house. But, you know, it’s shot; never surf again with it.

“‘I tell you what – lemme take the board –’ I fool around with wood and everything. ‘— let me take the board and I’ll try’n fix it up. It’ll take some time, but I’ll try’n fix it up. It won’t cost you anything, cuz I got wood and all that stuff already.’ He let me take it.

“I was all anxious. I wanted to put it back in top shape, you know, cuz, hey, I got a lot of aloha for the board, eh? And, it is significant.

“So, I brought it home and worked on it and it kind of inspired me to refinish my solid redwood board, you know. So, then I call him up, ‘It’s finished! Come pick it up or I’ll bring it out.’ He said, ‘No, just leave it there for awhile.’ He was moving from his house to an apartment and had no place to put it.

“So, I tell him, ‘OK, I’ll leave it here, but with the understanding that anytime you want it, you just come pick it up.’ You know, I got room downstairs on the racks. He talked it over with his wife and his wife said, ‘Why don’t you just give it to Wallace?’ I told him, ‘Naw, naw.’ I tell him, ‘I’ll accept it, but, if anything ever happens or if I get an offer from someone to buy it or something like that, I’ll let you know and you make the decision. It’s your board.’ So, I feel like it’s kinda his and mine.”[44]
I asked him about the boards in his cellar.

“I used to walk from Tusitala Street all the way down the beach,” Wally responded, “surf 8 hours and carry it back – my solid redwood board, downstairs, which weighs 68 pounds...

“That one there –”  Wally referred to the slot board with the V up on the deck; one of two that had really caught Fran Heath’s and my attention the day before. “— we made the tail thick and kinda sharp edgy for speed and, you know, with the slot and the fin. And then we started making the tails thinner, cuz, then you could sink it better. The thickness didn’t prove to be too good... we started to eliminate the Hot Curl round edges – you know, the calculated drag – with use of the fin.”[45]

I asked him about the other boards in his cellar, starting with the one that Fran and I had been particularly intrigued by.

“Solid koa board,” Wally declared. “We researched the boards at the Bishop Museum... We wanted to know the background. We were really interested. And so, when I found out, gee, they had olo boards made out of koa and things like that, I wanted to make a board out of koa and see how practical it would be, because I know koa was so heavy and that sort of thing.

“So, I made that board, but I made it in the Hot Curl shape, see. So, I figured, is this an advancement? Does it help, or hinder or what?

“But, I gotta admit. I used that solid koa board about three times and I used it out in good sized surf at Castle and what they call First Break Elks Club – you know, outside of Old Man’s... I used it three times and I don’t see how those – well, the wide tail would probably help for buoyancy, you know; like the old boards were. So, that would probably help. But, once you set it, it’s so heavy and so solid, you can set it in only one direction and then you gotta live with it. You gotta catch the wave at an angle to begin with, otherwise you’d never get around – you know, depending on where you catch it. That’s your course. Of course, you’d rather catch it when it’s pretty well hanging, otherwise it’s just a swell. But, it worked good! There’s no problem with it, except you just set a course and go from Castle right to Public Baths – no problem. I mean, the glide was fantastic. It was a whole different thing.

“Like, they [the olo riders of yore] wanted to just stand up and – like we always kid about – ‘take the Duke Kahanamoku Stance’ – you know, hands out, striking a pose.”[46]

Before we broke up, I asked Wally, “What advice would you give beginning surfers?”

“I’d say,” he said after some thought, “in the first place, that they would have to really love surfing, and not only really love surfing, but they would have to put their whole heart and soul in it. You know, just eat it, sleep it; like some of these kids in the professional thing. They do it; some of them for money, sure, but they enjoy it, you know. You gotta enjoy it with your whole heart and soul and if you do, you’re bound to get good at it. Nothing can stop you if you really want to do it – and enjoy it.”[47]

“What about us older surfers?”

“Enjoy it as much as you can; to the fullest you possibly can.

“I feel this way: I feel that any body that tries surfing will enjoy it. It doesn’t make any difference if you’re a world champion or whether you’re a weekend surfer. Some guys make fun of these guys that go around with the boards and get in the water once a week –  that’s OK! They’re enjoying it! They’re enjoying it as much as they want or as much as they can.

“And, if a guy is serious and wants to be a champion, he’s got to go all out. He’s got to put more into it. It’s like any thing. You can do most anything if you really want to.”[48]

[1] Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996. See also Gault-Williams, “Surf Drunk, The Wally Froiseth Story,” The Surfer’s Journal, Volume 6, Number 4, Winter 1997.
[2] Warshaw, “20th-Century Radical, The Surfer’s Journal, Spring 1995, p. 31. Wally Froiseth quoted.
[3] Young, 1983, p. 55. Wally Froiseth.
[4] Young, 1983, p. 55. Wally Froiseth.
[5] Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996. See also Gault-Williams, “Surf Drunk, The Wally Froiseth Story,” The Surfer’s Journal, Volume 6, Number 4, Winter 1997.
[6] Hui Nalu – Wee-nah-loo.
[7] Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996. See also Gault-Williams, “Surf Drunk, The Wally Froiseth Story,” The Surfer’s Journal, Volume 6, Number 4, Winter 1997.
[8]  Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996. Wally pronounced Gene’s nickname: “Tar-zahn.”
[9] Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996. Wally has a picture of cigar boards, Dickie Cross, Gene Froiseth, board made by Tommy Kukona.
[10] Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996. Wally has pictures of Waikiki Tom Blake gave him, that Blake used in his book, “before he went back that first time.”
[11]  Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.
[12] Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.
[13] Froiseth, Wally. Notations/corrections to draft, May 25, 1996, p. 3.
[14] Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.
[15] Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.
[16] Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.
[17] Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.
[18] Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.
[19]  Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.
[20] Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.
[21] Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.
[22] Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.
[23] Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.
[24] Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.
[25] Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.
[26] Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.
[27] Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996. See Gault-Williams, LEGENDARY SURFERS Volume 3: The 1930s, ©2012, chapter on Tarzan.
[28] Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.
[29] ama. n. Outrigger float.
[30]Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.
[31] Mo-kapu (Moo-kah-poo), Kai-lua, Oahu -- originally named Moku-kapu (sacred district) because Ka-Mehameha I met his chiefs here; it was “the sacred land of Ka-mehameha” (Sterling and Summers, 5:165). Lit., taboo district.
[32] Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.
[33] Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.
[34] Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.
[35] Froiseth, Wally. Notations/corrections to draft, May 25, 1996, p. 14.
[36] Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996. Alice, aka Moku “everybody calls her. Don’t ask me for her Hawaiian name...”
[37] Young, 1983, 1987, p. 55.
[38] Ocean Life Magazine, Volume 11, Number 1, Fall 1995, P.O. Box 405, Davenport, CA 95017, p.8. The TransPac was in its 38th year in 1995.
[39] Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.
[40] Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.
[41] Patterson, Otto B. Surf-Riding, Its Thrills and Techniques, C.E. Tuttle Company, Rutland, Vermont, ©1960, p. 108.
[42] Gault-Williams. Interview with Ben Finney, April 1, 1996.
[43] Notably, in the 1960s, Wally “put out a patent to make the paipo board before [the Boogie Board]. Those guys were businessmen. You know, we’re no businessmen.”
[44] Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.
[45] Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.
[46] Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996. Wally has a classic photo of Duke striking his patented pose.
[47] Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.
[48] Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.