The following is Google Translate's best stab at translating the article from German.
Jonathan Weston was one of the first water photographers to break into the
Hookipa, made legendary surf films, plunged into the sea with a helicopter and had deep insights into the vibrant scene in Hawaii. An interview about golden times and what's left of it.
Every windsurfer who lived the sport in the 80s and 90s knows his pictures and films. His job was to show the world through pictures how great is windsurfing. So this interview comes at least 30 years late. But better late than never, right?
The windsurfing hype of the 80s has you washed from California to Hawaii,
where you were one of the first water photographers and became a filmmaker and from there apparently also back to one Lake in Sacramento. A long story so where do you start?
Best at the front. I had in the 70s studying photography
School in Santa Barbara / California (Brooks Institute of Photography) started but when I was on some races raced quite successfully and always windsurfing took up more of my life I gave up my studies. Like everyone back then, I also dreamed of Hawaii.In 1980 I packed my home-made custom windsurfer, one of the first ever made with Gary Efferding from a block of foam dock and took it to Oahu. The beginnings there were wild. Ibought a car for $200 - no,
it was more of a traveling wreck - that took me to the beach and me at the beginning partly as a place to sleep served. You quickly learned people, then lived in their garden and slept on the terrace. No money in my pocket. If some small change in the car under the seat
found it was a great pleasure. Everything what mattered was windsurfing every day
to go, nothing else. Sometime I needed some raw materials to shape a new board for me
and ended up at Town & Country Surfboards factory in Pearl City / Oahu.
At that time there were also manufacturers of surfboards an increasing
Demand for windsurf boards, because Windsurfing was the fastest
growing sport in the world. The owner the workshop, Craig Sugihara, said:
"Bring your board over when it's done. If it looks good, we have to
talk.” A shorter board later I had a job there as a shaper.
In the early 80s, they were all Windsurfing pioneers first on Oahu
At that time the material development was
not very far yet advanced. Oahu was ideal, and it was the time when Robby Naish, who grew up on Oahu dominated. Maui, however, was
unknown: and also completely at that time underdeveloped, the island was totally economically suspended - nobody wanted to do it voluntarily there. One day I was standing with mine Boss Craig in the workshop and showed him my latest board creation, a
very short board (for a time when waterstarts were rare) with a wide tail and bat wings. 'Looks like the car from Batman’s, my boss said. A guy from Maui came along and
if you continue building such boards I might give him your job. ’
The "guy" was Malte Simmer (later Founder of the Simmer sailing brand
Style, the Red.) And he built even wilder Stuff than me - Batman's car on steroids
so to say.
Did he get your job?
Fortunately not. But he showed me the first time pictures of Maui and wound up working for Barry Spanier at Maui Sails. That seemed like it worked out well for him. And he got to stay on Maui.
Robby Naish was already the hero in 1981 of the sport. Do you remember how
did you meet him for the first time?
I still remember it well. (I’m sure he doesn’t!) He was already a superstar at the time.
When he's at Diamond Head he usually started the garden of his girlfriend at the time, whose
parents had a house there. Rarely he mingled with us mortals on the beach. He always had an entourage around him, they rigged his stuff sometimes. When everything was ready, surfed, he got out, flew through the air, took a wave and ripped it to pieces. I wondered for a long time if he
can water start at all because he never crashed and still used his uphill. The windsurfing world existed then from Robby Naish, and things were moving fast.
People like Mickey Eskimo or Pete Cabrinha even, lived in Robby's shadow even though they were world-class surfers.
How did you get the hang of the life artist and shapers for photography
to get? (How did I get from shaper to photographer?)
I developed a friendship with a guy down on his luck, who packed the boards in the factory,
his name was Warren Bolster. He was a pretty crashed hard fallen surf and photog I heard who hardly liked windsurfing, always with his provocative questions towards my shape creations. I got an old skateboarder magazine in the Fingers, and spotted on many of the Images copyright "Bolster". It turned out that Warren was legend because he had been a photographer and editor of the Skater magazine and documented the legendary Dogtown and Z-Boys. Unfortunately he was pretty crashed (alcoholic). So we become friends and I take him to the Diamond Head and he rushed with a water camera in the break. My boss had to pretty quickly find a new warehouse worker. And with me too that awakened the love of photography and I saw that here was a better opportunity for me, knowing the sport well as a participant, many years of photography school (Brooks Institute) yet to be put to use, and I was a strong swimmer But I was still too much into windsurfing up on the board to get down into the water.
In what way?
I had a new job or so they said at Surfer Publications with Sailboarder (I had pitched them the idea and was hired as editor then fired before it began because some guys said I was a fraud and didn’t know how to windsurf. ok), one
of the big windsurf magazines of the day back then. I stood on the street in Dana Point, CA, leafed through the yellow Pages and finally applied to UP Sports. They built hangliders back then and sail and wanted also to offer windsurf boards. The condition at the time was: I get the job as a shaper if I did well at renowned Hang Ten Worlds at Cabrillo. So I did and beat Ian Boyd, lol, and Rhonda and Nancy, and a few others to do well. He was so young and women had to sail against men, but it counts. Steve Walden shaped my designs and off to Maui I went.
How was it in those days?
I came with Pete Cabrinha in 1981 there. It was tough even then, breaking ice in many ways. At my first day I ended up surfing session in Hookipa right on the rocks and destroyed
my equipment. The spot was made by Wave surfers dominated and up to the point
Defended blood. Five or more surfers at the break meant you stayed as
Windsurfers do better on the beach (not true back then, we got along pretty good. It was Diamond Head I was referring to in the interview… whatever). And it
gave windsurfers there like Mike Waltze the rash, who didn't like the spot
becoming increasingly popular. But it could not be suppressed.
How was it supposed in the times Milk and honey flowed and everyone
could get good sponsors?
During the early days – we are still talking about the early ones here
80s - it was by no means easy. There was Robby Naish, he was the king.
And then the rest came. I personally couldn't complain, I had with
Back then, UP Sports was a good sponsor. In 1982 I asked my boss about money
to pay a hospital bill to be able to. I was over in Hookipa been driven to the pile and with
her head on the bow of a surfer
popped (interpretation… a girl bailed on a wave driving her board’s nose into my skull). My boss thought about it briefly and told me he was doing me a favor now
would do: throw me out! He obviously thought I did
would have been too easy so far and would have to bite through to discover my talents. So has
he set me tough outside the door, although we're a really good one
had a friendly relationship. Back then I was horrified, looking back
of course he was right. This experience finally got me to take pictures
and brought movies.
Back then, film and photography was one
completely different approach than today ...
Absolutely. I ordered a water case. The first day I put it in
Camera in, swam in Hookipa the line-up, looked through the viewfinder
and saw my housing up was full (laughs). I had to work part-time for a long time as luau waiter and security guard to punch through until I get a new one Could afford housing, oh man. The
first roll of film that I developed but it was already in itself. There were
Photos by Mike Waltze, Fred Haywood and Matt Schweitzer, the likes of which had rarely been
seen. My swimming abilities and sport knowledge put me in the pit.
You are talking about some of the here greatest personalities of the sport.
Was it your buddies back then? Or you just had to have the boys
take pictures if you have the best Wanted pictures?
The hard core of Maui surfers was back then still small, of course I knew
everyone. Some were friends, others rather not. Mike Waltze was the one
Top dog and even quite angry on me because of an article I times published in a magazine
would have. It was about the fighting between windsurfers and surfers
on Oahu. I ended the article with the words: "Move to Maui, I did!"
According to Waltze, that had triggered a run on Maui. Like he had nothing to do with it. But we laugh about it now. Him owning all the parking spots and all.
Revenge followed in your first photo session in the water?
When I was in the line-up for the first time, Waltze came racing towards me. I was
sure that he behead me (take my head off). Ironically, it is the picture that was created landed on the cover of my book, Maui Glory Days.
What was so about your pictures at that time groundbreaking different?
I was the first photographer to swim with the camera directly in the Impact
Zone, at the point they call H Poko. Erik Aeder came a year later, but at the beginning I had this Spot for me alone, that was fantastic. There were lots of photogs on the hill with their big lenses, making all the money, but for me, this was a whole other sport, pretty much an impact sport. The real one breakthrough came with the first Helmet camera. The POV angle.
We're probably not talking about here GoPro format ?!
No not true. The thing was heavy as a bowling ball, I can hardly believe that
I didn't break my neck (laughs). The first attempts we did in secret back then
and are for the trial shots to Outer Sprecks (spot, a few kilometers
southwest of Hookipa) drove where there was no one back then (my test talent, Miles Valle, Malte Simmer). There were 15 seconds of videotape recorded, but that
cameras at that time couldn’t handle the shocks of the landings
and it was just picture noise to see after that initial footage that basically changed my world and well, it would have happened without me, the GoPro evolution, but a patent might have been wise! All I cared about was sharing the vision. But after the shitty video, it was clear that I was going to have to shoot film. But film cannisters ran only for 30 to 45 seconds of usable material. Most of the time went for swapping cartridges, assemble everything, lick the lenses clean,
around the annoying drops of water
to bead off. But even this short snippets of film were enough to
recognize what would be possible and doors
open at sponsors.
What is your specific tip?
Good recordings are not made when you film yourself, but
each other. Instead of filming yourself and water, it is better
to pursue a great windsurfer. Terrifying is that a lot of people with super light GoPro tool
modern action cams still don't understand how to take good cinema. That was my thing I guess. I was selfless in my imagery. That was the recipe for success back then of my first film, "Impact Zone".
You also had a lot with Mickey back thenEskimo worked because of his Staging was always controversial. How did you find working with him?
Mickey was just an amazing creative and he was sort of an outsider, and I liked the underdog with the underbite. His graphics adorned the Boards of different brands and he did everything to get a good shot to get. Whether he stood (landed) the move he didn't care or not, the main thing the photo became good. That brought him a lot of headwind in the scene, but ultimately he was creative with his Kind of extremely successful. Although he only won few heats, he had over 200 cover shots for windsurfing Magazines worldwide and sponsors like windsurfing Chiemsee. It was that Time when windsurfing became sexy and one at boot Düsseldorf Could fill halls with windsurf stuff. Mickey also threaded (helped me find sponsors for) years later a film project called Chiemsee "Double or Nothing" with Jason Prior and Francisco Goya. This movie had a script for the first time and should Drama and comedic elements - if you have the idiosyncratic sense shared for humor - combine and of course offer tangible action – for the case that the thing about acting and not so good at humor arrived. Everything went great - unfortunately I fell shortly before the shooting ended the helicopter.
The image of the crashed helicopter in the Spreckelsville's line-up went around the World. What happened back then? I had filmed from the helicopter several times and knew it wasn't 100 Percent is safe. Therefore worked I like to be with a famous pilot together. He had messed up a lot in life and instead of going to prison he had to go as a service to the community Make reconnaissance flights, to dig illegal marijuana plantations. So he could do well in rough Flying off-road. On this day however, another pilot had to step in, that I didn't know. But it everything was arranged, so I didn't have any Choice. I hung on the side of the helicopter out with the camera in hand and filmed. The new was not lacking courage, but control. Once he almost cut off Robby Seeger's head. It was adventurous. I said: Let's break up! We flew via Sprecks towards the landing site and waited for the permission of the Towers, I discovered Jason Prior surf there. Jason actually should have been Long ago in Hookipa on the water supposed to be, he was one after all of my main protagonists - but how he was usually late and a little bit unplanned. I took the opportunity a few last shots of him too when I make a very strong gust saw coming closer. The gust pulled the Heli up, turned him over and it swung towards the side towards Water surface. I was still trying jumping out but forgot that I was was strapped on. When the rotors did that Water hit, it was the loudest Sound I have ever heard. Everything was silent for three seconds Pilot and I took a quick look at each other and a few moments later we were under water. The helicopter was on the Reef. I could see the surface above me see, but got one of the two seat belts are not on. I was under water for a long time, I guess like two minutes. Fortunately I had back then a horse lung. When I was liberated, I managed to show up briefly, but the camera with that heavy battery pack pulled me down again. Let go of the camera somehow didn't come in at that time the sense. I solved it under water released batteries (I later swam out and found them) and finally couldPop up. That I do that with easy Survived injuries was a great luck. Still was on timely completion of the film unthinkable at the time. (It was released four months late, Double or Nothing… better late than never).
You filmed all the icons of the scene Who is left in your head?
Mark Angulo and Jason Polakow. (mostly Craig Maisonville) They were just unique in their time regarding their creativity on the Water. Everything looked easier with them as if they were floating. Robby Naish was equally impressive but he was always better at Wind from the left. Mark Angulo was probably the one with the most talent. For the Angulo brothers Mark and Josh the rest did not only have good sides ... Mark could have won anything but unfortunately the creative are not always the most professional (not my words. Mark was Mark and less concerned about the professional side of the sport than pushing the limits). Jason Polakow was different there, he was more professional and is never lopsided Got caught. His problem was that constant injuries. I think there is hardly a bone in that not a screw is stuck. Would be less injured, he would have Dominate windsurfing even more can. On the other hand, it would be his kind easy to surf without injuries was not possible.
What were you then - creative or professional? I share fate to some extent of the creative. I loved taking pictures but actually I always wanted to rather be on the water windsurfing myself, underneath then of course the work and it suffers came other photographers like Erik Aeder or Darrell Wong, the big deals landed with big brands.
Why did you get the island from which you you dreamed for so long, in the end
turned his back again?
At some point there were other things more important. For example, school for
my daughter. I was concerned about this not being a good place for her. I left there in 2000 (for a NASA gig in Sausalito and then to Carmel). With it I have this chapter in my book ended for me.
Do you get a lot of feedback from the Legends of the scene, presumably who’ve
Little. Most protagonists don't want to read it, they don't want to
look back. But I get a lot Praise from people who are normal windsurfers
are and who like to look back and soak up the stories. It shows the life that many people
would have liked back then But unfortunately for most people Hawaii stayed
Mike Waltze: “You’re in my spot.”
Me: “What?” I looked around the bluff at Ho’okipa, where you could once park anywhere. There were open spots everywhere. I wouldn’t even call them spots.
“My parking spot.”
Not exactly how I wrote it in my book, but I’m too lazy to look up the excerpt. I hadn’t spoken to Mike since the making of Wind Legends some 12 years ago. He called asking for some footage for his movie, “An Excellent Life.” I said sure, and by the way, is it okay if I portray you as a bad ass, because, you know, you were.
Mike and I had actually played demolition derby with our Maui Cruisers, fully ramming each other head on in the parking lot. Then we’d go out and make some killer photos together. It was a weird chemistry.
So when I described a scene I had written about him in the first draft, where Pete Cabrinha and I were standing on the bluff and he pulled up…
“You’re in my spot,” Mike blurted out.
“That’s it! That’s great!” I said. “Can I use it?”
“Sure. Can I use your footage?”
“Sure. Can I put you on the cover of the book?”
When I talked to Jesus Cort Superstar (see blog post below), who I’d also not spoken to in ages… Cort began the conversation with those very words… “You’re in my spot.” He thought that line was great, but I immediately attributed it to the genius of Waltze.
Cort and Mike are best friends. They go everywhere together. They even went skiing to Georgia or Poland or both – probably the only open resorts. Hmmm, I wonder if they’ll ever make it back? Anyway, my point is, they are good friends, and I reminded Mike that we were not. He wanted my film for free. It was a safe time to point that out.
Cort coined Waltze with one of his Yogi Larned sayings about the size of fight in the dog. I was certainly the bigger size of the dog in that fight, but it was never really a fight, and I was more laying on your back for a belly scratch Golden Retriever than lock jaw Pit. I always had great respect for Mike. He was, after all, the King of Ho’okipa. Yet, even though we were next door neighbors and had mutual friends like Gary Eversole, Fred Haywood and Scotty O’Connor, we still kept our distance.
The first time Mike and I rubbed raw elbows was through journalism. I’d written an article in Sailboarder called “The Diamond Head Dilemma.” There was even more friction going on down there between the windsurfers and surfers than Mike and I. Richard Whyte had just gotten in a fight. Surfers were yelling at us as we zoomed by. I came up with a bunch of novel ways to defend oneself. Razor blades on the end of your boom, passive aggressive stuff like that. I ended the list with, “Move to Maui. I did.”
When I opened up the next issue of Sailboarder, there was a shocking letter to the editor from Mike. It basically stated that I was running from something. Then he blamed everyone coming to Maui on me. I reminded Mike about it, and the fact that the first photos published of Maui were of Matt and Ye. He said he couldn’t remember writing the letter and with all the Maui Wowee in the air, why not believe him? Regardless, I would actually like to have taken some of the blame from my photographs, but not the article. And if I was running from something, at least for once I ran in the right direction.
If I had a beach bungalow on Maui, Mike and I would be good friends today. We’d be kicking back, clinking glass and talking story about the glory days. I’m certain of that.
I was surprised when I received a text from Cort to give him a call. Though we have tread the same waters for years, as life takes its tacks and jibes we’ve not crossed tracks in decades. Though I’d always admired him, It would be a stretch to call us close friends. I figured he might have some briny bone to pick about the book.
I biked up to Lake Folsom, took a break and gave him a call. I won’t share the depths of the conversation to protect the innocent nor even the wicked, but suffice to say it was a wild look back. To my surprise, Cort told me that he loved the book, had read it in one sitting from start to finish. But then it came…”You know, I was more than a pretty face. I won two world championships.”
I honestly didn’t remember that. I thought Robby won them all. I know he was on fire in the early eighties and a true pioneer of Hawaiian wave jumping, as witnessed in this great photo by Steve Wilkings. Yet, all accolades aside, I’m still going with pretty face – just as I’d give his cohort Mark Robinson the speedobod award – banana hammock notwithstanding. My book didn’t delve into who won this or that championship, and certainly not those that happened pre-Maui.
Cort was a shining star for sure, and good lord, did I not refer to him in print as Jesus Cort Superstar? There’s nothing wrong with having a pretty face. I wish I had such a pretty of a face, though I’m not sure I’d have been able to handle the troubles that came with the package. Cort is certainly a legend but was not featured in my movie, Wind Legends, and though he had a cameo in the book, not highlighted enough for all he was worth. And he was worth a lot. He made more money than most of us “sponsored” sailors put together. He might have been second on the money list next to Robby. The fact is, there are so many legends in on our sport it could fill volumes.
Cort had browsed onto my FB groveling about all the big stars being mum about the book, then advised that most of them don’t really want to look back. Come on, man. Even Alex? Certainly, it could be difficult when you were once riding high and then along comes the next. Bruce, Matt, Mike, Ken, Robby, Bjorn, Antoine…any reminder of that peg knock might sting. But I would think most of them are mature enough to swallow that pill and relish their post windsurfing fame successes.
Referring to my films, Pete Cabrinha once told me that “If you’ve pleased 50% of your audience – and yourself – you’ve succeeded.”
Looking at my book from a sales perspective, I didn’t feel like I’d succeeded. Impact Zone, my first book, was far more successlful. Glory Days has been slogging along akin to when you get caught on the outside at sunset with big waves and the wind shuts off. Alas, nobody who writes a book with the intention of it being a best seller sells more than ten and since one of my daughters read it, and my Mom, I’m glad I penned it. Thank god my wife didn’t read it.
Cort is always full of wisdoms as well. I’d go as far to say he is the Yogi Berra of windsurfing. “If you want to make a small fortune, start with a large one.” Cort. He claims at his 101 BoardSports shops in the bay area that he makes “tens of dollars.” It’s just not fair that god gave him these great looks and the gift of gab as well. Of course, god gave him cancer as well, but he took that adversity with a dose of wisdom, which only gave him a higher perspective on life. If God gave him worms he’d go fishing.
I asked Cort if he had any wisdoms for me or criticisms even better. I asked him why, as talented as I was, others were largely more successful. Was it because they were more cordial with the universe? “That’s it,” he said. “A lot of people don’t get your form of humor. It’s smart, but some, they take your Seinfeldian scarcasm as just being mean.” A tough pill to swallow as I don’t mean to be mean, but I can look back on it as well as forward and then sideways to try and improve, at least to 50%. If I make myself laugh, I win.
He talked about Ken Winner and how he told him to read the book, as Ken is quite featured. I would think that at least Ken, a guy I always figured was born with a large dose of pride, would eagerly want to read about himself. But no, Ken doesn’t want to look back. Evidently, Mr. Winner’s happiest when he focuses on the present and the future. I guess a young, smart, fast foiling girlfriend helps. Maybe when he can’t keep up with her, he’ll read the book.
Then, Cort and I got to talking about shared, ahem, exploits, and the final wisdom: “It’s just as easy to marry a rich girl as a poor one.” That had the clock hands burning circles, until my Strava app beeped me. I had to jump back on the bike before the sun set so I could walk the dog. The dog doesn’t give a hoot about my book nor my humor, as long as I hand out treats.
Looking back, there are so many great guys like Cort that I wish I had spent more time getting to know. Perhaps with my brand of humor, I’d piss them all off so what’s the point. Don’t look back. But please do.
The waves were cracking, booming loudly on the reef right outside the beachside home I found myself and my family carousing. There was no wind on those waves, nor people. I picked up the phone and called Robby.
I wish that my memory matched the vivid recall of my dreams. Upon awaking, I felt as if I was still stuck in this dream, and didn’t find it that funny. Robby has always treated me well, and would never have said the things he did to me in this dream. Still, the realization that the end result is reality shook me like a Kelby doll being ragged in the turbulence of a crushing napalm. Who writes like that?
In this reality, I’d sent two of my books, Maui Glory Days, to Robby’s mom, Carol. One was signed for his family and one to read for Robby. Yes, selfishly I had hopes that he might endorse it like he does in his FB videos of this and that product. Of course, they are products of his own, but just one little photo on FB of him smiling, holding the book up with his usual hat on backwards, flashing a shaka sign would have propelled my little book into the Amazon stratosphere.
A couple of months went by and neither The King nor any of his other major disciples had not spoken highly nor lowly on SM about the book, a book largely about them. Naish, Waltze, Schweitzer, Angulo, Simmer, Polakow, Kalama, Haywood… not one word. Mumsters.
Then, Bruce Matlack included me in his anti-pumping group email, and there was The King’s email address. I thought, what the heck. I’d just write Robby to see if he had at least received the book. And then, to my surprise, Rob kindly wrote back that he’d pick it up over Christmas, right after he returned from New York and his new film premier. Ah, great, I thought! I love this guy!
With this promise in my pocket and the one that had been dragging on for months from Delius Klasing to consider publishing the book in several languages, it was hard not to get my hopes high. The publisher was just waiting on the editor from Surf magazine to give his approval or not, and if so, they’d present it at the annual meeting for strong consideration. The editor, Manuel, loved it.
Fast forward two months later. I wrote Rob again to see if he had read the book. No reply. Not that I expected one. Between business, movie producing, and wave chasing, the guy is busy as hell. It probably got buried amongst his millions of emails and I don't want him to think I’m groveling. I just want hime to read the damn book.
Worse, book sales had taken their natural course and diminished to one per week. I only make about a buck a book, so there went my dream of retiring and finishing my other five books, books that have nothing to do with windsurfing. Hemingway-esques and Steinbeck-eeks, though not as good nor depressing. Perhaps I should drink more.
Then, Delius Klasing replied that, while they and the editor both loved the book, they only did well with Instructional books. There was no market for windsurfing books. So it was all up to me and my self-publishing. And Robby. Or whiskey.
I lay down my head to sleep and like one of those long drawn out advertisements revealing what supplement do we actually need to take to get rid of this belly fat, we can finally get on with the dream:
The waves were cracking, booming loudly on the reef right outside the beachside home I found myself and my family carousing. There was no wind on those waves, nor people. I told my wife, after discussing that she doesn’t remember her dreams, at least not as vividly as I do, that I had to make a call. Book sales were suffering.
Robby began to speak before I could even say hello. “What’s up, Jonathan?”
“Oh, hey, Robby. How are you?”
“Good. What can I do for you?”
“I was just down here at… I think it’s Waltze’s, or perhaps Polakow bought it…”
“Right! Angulo’s. Anyway, the waves are cracking.”
“Right. So what is it you want?”
“Well, I was just wondering, you know, if you had a chance to read my book.”
“Nope. I told you I wasn’t interested in publishing.”
“I just thought you might find it interesting. There’s a lot about you in there. I realize there’s a lot about you in every book about windsurfing…”
“I just don’t have time nor, I hate to put it to you, the interest.”
“Well, maybe you’d enjoy some of the stories about your friends in there?”
Silence. More waves cracking. I thought I’d lost him, and then…
“Okay, Jonathan. I tell you what. Send me a fifty, a bag of dog food, and a peanut butter cup in one envelope. If the peanut butter cup isn’t crushed when I get it, I’ll read it.”
“Oh, great! Wait, what? A bag of dog food and… a peanut butter cup?”
“In other words, I’m not interested in reading it.”
He hangs up. I look at my wife and she asks me how it went. I want to tell her, but I wouldn’t want to say anything bad about The King. So I eat my words. There is a banana in there. A banana is what gives you the belly fat.
Then I woke up. Robby is still The King. He's a great guy. He's just too busy. Maybe one day, when he slows down to 80, or on a 20 hour plane trip, he'll pick up the book and start reading, and never be able to put it down.
Some people get on my case about the title of the book, in particular, Glory Days. I had a little FB contest to see which name was best… Back in the Day, Surviving Hawaii, Glub Glub…and blame Clay Feeter for convincing me Glory Days was the best. I had to add Maui to the title because some other Bruce not named Matlack had coined the song. There were also about ten religious books under the same title, which was curious, because there was a nod to the God Squad right there in the Prologue, Saving Kelby. “God wasn’t going to save Kelby. I’d have to.” Now, New Agers would claim I was the instrument, but my own horn nadda toot. Tom Pace makes a much more convincing Jesus. I did save quite a few lives over my Maui tenure, and my own okole was saved by surf god Bill Boyum one day, an unknown angel on others.
Back to my point. Youngsters and old kids claim they are in the glory days with lighter equipment and cooler colored shorts, and I’m not neon arguing that. I see maneuvers, sky high jumps and speeds attained like never before. But these were the glory days. When the equipment was evolving in a revolutionary manner, breaking from the mold of well, molds. Plastic molds. Nobody rode the same board anymore. It was all about custom and crazy designs that all somehow worked one day and were scrapped the next. Core maneuvers were being unleashed left and right and gods and goddesses of the sport were having their faces etched in the cliffs of Hookipa. So yeah, they were glory days all right, much like the day when Gerry Lopez showed up at Michael Jan Vincent’s surfspot on a short board. I sign my book, Glorious Days Ahead, and I hope to have a few left in me.
With Luderitz wrapped for some of the fastest wind powered beings on the planet, I wanted to reflect on the origins of how windsurfers became faster than a speeding bullet. In my book I charted the history of speedsailing so I won’t rehash the whole of it here, just the seedlings planted (peanuts from Planters no doubt). BITD (Back in the day, for those that think BITD stands for some sort of shot one would need to receive from the speed arenas of today), very few people were focused on speed. It was all about the evolution of gear enabled for riding waves. So when Fred (Haywood), who lived on the same property in Kuau, Maui, as I, started dragging out speed needle after speed needle, all shaped by housemate Jimmy Lewis, I thought of how isolated his efforts were. He talked about some guy named Pascal Maka, and how Jimmy was shaping these boards for him to break the speed record at some place called Weymouth. I thought he had been having one too many Vermouths, but Fred didn’t drink. Nor did he smoke. He just chased women, and was already breaking speed records in that regard.
Fred would lend me one of his boards – he had about 20 scattered about the lawn – and I would try to keep up with him. It was a vain effort.
Fred came back from this Weymouth after breaking the 30 knot barrier, riding high and adorned by the press like some kind of Greek folk hero. The accolades were large and long lived. Then along came this scrawny kid from Breast, or was it Brest? Straight out of Gunsmoke, he had pistols at the hip and came slinging. Yes, it was Brest, he was French, but spoke with an accent which I had lost all track of due to living on Maui where the accents were a blended cacophony. Anyway, I laughed. Fred was King. There was no knocking him off. He had kicked Pascal’s ass and wasn’t that enough of a lesson for the French?
So there I was finally keeping up with Fred on a speedboard at Sprecks, a heavy movie camera atop a helmet strapped to my head long before the word GoPro was coined. And then this kid comes blazing into the picture from behind, throwing smoke from his gun like he was from another planet (scene is in the credits of the movie, Impact Zone). Then the kid went out and broke the 40 knot barrier. It was long ago.
Fast forward to today, and rewind the past few years to this little gunslinger’s challenges. Other gunslingers had swung into town and swooped the record away. Speedsailing had become a thing, and ditches were dug to support it. The kid was greying now, yet continued to battle. Then came a bigger bullet that struck the kid, a cannonball they call C. It tried to put him down more than once and he met each challenge, still marching forward.
This year, he showed up at Luderitz and gave it his all, throwing down remarkable speeds and claiming his place amongst the top ten speedsailors in the world. Against bigger sailors, he strapped himself with lead and wrapped himself in a wingsuit to counter the drag of hurricane force desert winds and with that, in my mind, he was the winner.
Kid Victorious…Erik Beale. Lifetime achievement award.
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.