Reflecting upon the most recent Aloha Classic. I wanted to offer the musings of an old blowhard who witnessed many Aloha Classics and the competitors that came before and without reservations compare. After all, I was there in the beginning as a competitor and water photographer. I rarely watched a contest from shore, most often silently offering my throwaway scorecard to the gods. I had the best view in the house. This time around, my only view was in live stream, or a few seconds delay (the countdown clock a bit off from the horn).
First off, I have to say that my body took a lot less abuse from my position (though bedridden with the Florida Flu). If you read my book, Maui Glory Days, you would know that the goods scored to survival ratio was pretty small. Contests are a hard thing to shoot from the water with so few people in the water and none interested in lining up with you for the shot. I must have dove under a thousand waves and taken a few to the head for every good shot or movie clip. One time I experimented with a remote live feed from my water camera to Casey Bennet’s TV truck. Where was my drone? So in the respect of coverage, I would say some things are better these days, unless you take into account that film rules over video. Maybe Alex, Mike and Robby weren’t as spectacular in their duels in the movie, Impact Zone, but talk about surfing style and film resolution… just an old fart’s opinion I guess. Maybe it was just that when I filmed a contest, the sun was out, the water was blue, the wind was blowing. The riders were on rollercoasters.
Slugfest vs. Slogfest
Were the conditions “all time” and “epic” beyond belief? Not in old blowhards opine. Challenging, sizeable, absolutely. But the best days at Hookipa are when the faces are bowled up with plenty of wind to power. This is when it’s logo to mast high. Anything above that and the rip plows through the wave and makes it akin to skiing the last run of a great powder day… when it’s already been chewed up. 6 to 8 feet? First one on the lift. Kudos to how these guys handled it, but I can remember going through the "dailies" of that epic, classic final between Mike and Alex. Ten minutes of solid action (no 20 minute heats bitd). How to cut it down? And Why?
From a competitor’s standpoint, I would have given a left nut to compete under the scoring system they used at this year’s AC. Best two wave rides are scored, that’s it? No jumps? Being a heavyweight and no flair for jumping, I could never advance through the light air heats, because bitd you were scored on quantity, on constant activity. Dunkerbeck would have never won a contest at Hookipa under the current scoring system. That’s what the world cup guys brought to the table with their multitude of gear for every equation - activity, big jumps - not waveriding skills. I’m not such a blowhard as to say that when it wasn’t blowing hard that I could match up with the surfing style of a Dave Daly, but there were plenty of world cup guys that lacked the Ho’okipa experience and wave riding knowledge of even the most mediocre of Mauians. With a two wave quality scoring system, even the Maui Wanna lady who sold popsicles on the beach could have had a “party on their face” li dat. Okay, that’s taking it a bit too far, but you get the point, maybe. Not saying I’m for or against it, for better or worse. the new scoring really changes the game. Where’s my time machine and can I have my can opener back off the rocks? Too bad, so sad, my wife would say. Take out the garbage.
Kai Katchedourian, who did a fantastic job of lending his enthusiasm and knowledge of the sport through the mic, said, quote: “Everybody out here is the best there has ever been in the sport.” Now, Kai’s awesome and all, but not sure if I can get on board with that sentiment, and why would I? I'm an old fart. Of course, everyone thinks their generation’s stars are the best that’s ever been, but champions have come and gone and there’s still only one King. And one King of Hookipa. Post a photo of Robby if you want a million hits. And Mark Angulo and Jason Polakow. I would confess though that if Kai Lenny put his time into it, there would be no argument. Hit hit hits, I've never seen a guy make two hits in a row so quickly, so fluidly. But Robby and my Glory Days riders? They invented those moves.
Yeah, that Sabutai Samurai kid is pretty awesome, too. But no rider today has the full compliment of the sport going. Nobody rules all disciplines. That doesn’t even exist today. Whuhappened to the Slalom event? Specialties, it's a sandwich shop in my book. Not that book. That book has Picnics and Spinach Nut Burgers.
Well, like I’ve already blown hard enough, much harder than it blew in this year's edition of the Aloha Classic, another event to fall under the curse of the contest. The rocks are well fed. As for the TV show put on by Zone Media (nice take off of Impact Zone Productions, BTW), I thoroughly enjoyed the coverage, the drone work, and mostly because Kai K was so damn ayeyiyeyieyie drum banging entertaining. He got so wound up and then let it fly like few I’ve ever heard. I hope he takes up the mic more often and does a podcast or something.
Yes, this old blowhard comes from a professional broadcasting world. I’ve produced for the NBA Magic and Thunder, and worked on shows for PGA Pebble Beach, had my own Central Coast Sports show on CBS. We had some elaborate setups, and here was Kai on his grandmas couch and blankey throw, with who’s on first Funkman (playing Dick Smothers to Tommy), and the guests like Matt Schweitzer calling his son’s heat, and Craig Yester (the Yester Days), and the many other guests that filled the sad moments of chop ripped waves under grey skies and struggling to stay afloat and off the rocks, they all made it a show. And of course, the guys that went on those rocks.
Maui Glory Days. I'll still take them.
Seal Beach, 1970. Bruce Matlack is portrayed in Sunset Magazine riding what seems to be an actual wave forming. How many can say they sported a sail number under 1000? He was, as coined in "Wind Legends: The History of Windsurfing," one of the first "Johnny Appleseeds" of our sport.
I met Bruce at a SoCal regatta, one of those family gatherings where people followed Bruce around the race course. Or was it at San Felipe, Mexico? A thick marine layer fogs the memory of the exact time and place. Huntington Lake? But what remains clear in scrapbook of my mind is Bruce and his gal Markie, the friendliest folk on the "tour" sharing stories in the shade of their VW van. Bruce, talking at a feverish pace, spewing his passion for the sport. Markie, calming his rants when they hit the tops of the thermometer. Me, a kid with big hair soaking it all up as if I was listening to Bear from Big Wednesday.
I recall asking Bruce why he was so fast, and was it just that he was so skinny. His flyweight yellow board, a reject snuck out the back of Hoyle's young factory by the workers for ten bucks, was perhaps a weapon. A flash of callous and flex of the sinew proved it was from a long marriage with the teak boom.
One of the first dealers of the Windsurfer (Bob Pefley, my boss in Santa Barbara Harbor was perhaps the first), Bruce set up shop in Seal Beach and sold gobs of the great white whales of death (Clay Feeter coined it). But this was years after the young Matlack toured the country seeking takers. Nobody took. Certainly I knew I was the first "redneck to step foot on one" – read the damn book, ya'll – when Dave Ullmann (famous sailor/sailmaker from Newport Beach) brought one with him to a 470 Regatta in Gulfport.
I had asked Hoyle for an interview for Wind Legends, but even though Matt was pleading with him to do it (and I had traveled quite far at the promise), Hoyle turned turtle when I told him I was from Georgia. He had forgotten who I was, the memory of my big hair mashed to pieces by lawyers and patent fights. The mere mention of Georgia set him off, as when he was traveling the country with long hair and this surfboard thang, some rednecks beat him up. Oh well, I didn't get the interview with him but I did get one from Bruce, who invited me to Florida to pore through magazines and old films he'd collected over the years. The guy was a walking talking encyclopedia, and had some two buck chuck to share as well.
Well, I'm rambling, so off I go. But before I do, I must remind you that Bruce Matlack has stood on a board for more years than any other human in history, and was the first champion of our sport. And to buy the damn book.
P.S. Bruce says, "no pumping." Ya'll do look like a bunch of air humpers. If you need to do that for exercise, go to the gym or get a room.