Traditionally, a legend is a myth or a person whose feats of heroism are celebrated, often to the point of mythology. As such, there are really very few legends in the surfing world. While the current generation tout surfers like Slater and Florence, in the years of my adolescence, the ‘60s and ‘70s, surfers like some of those pictured in the adjacent photo — Jock Sutherland, Donald Takayama and Linda Benson — continue to be legendary throughout the surfing world. Others, like that guy in the front row with the matching gray beard and visor, are impostors.
Nearly by definition, to be a legend requires having done legendary feats. Frye, Nuuhiwa, Takayama, Sutherland, the Aaberg brothers, Munoz, Hynson, Woody Ekstrom, August, Strauch, Bing, Eaton, LJ, Gidget, and Benson made an incredible impact on surfing over the years for the waves they rode and, in some cases, the surfboards they created to ride them.
Looking at the photo now, I feel uncomfortable being included in this elite group. These people influenced everything from the way I stood on a surfboard to what I wore in and out of the water.
David Nuuhiwa, seated in the lower left, arrived from Hawaii in the early ‘60s where fellow Hawaiian legendary transplant, Donald Takayama, raised him. Takayama, who landed on the Mainland a few years before Nuuhiwa showed up was the best Hawaiian surfer we had ever seen — quick, agile, graceful. He was also a board builder without peer, working for Bing, pictured in the second row in a red shirt, and Jacobs, who was not in the photo. He had also shaped for Velzy Surfboards Hawaii. By the early ‘70s, Takayama had gone on his own, where he eventually carved out a significant niche in the re-emerging longboarding market.
Nuuhiwa, who rode Takayama’s boards and, I believe, had him design the David Nuuhiwa Noserider, through Bing, was the next big thing to hit our shores. Through the aforementioned board, David nearly singlehandedly brought the front third of a surfboard onto center stage. Nobody did it like David.
Yet another Hawaiian raised surfer, Jock Sutherland, seated to Takayama’s left, became the second “Mister Pipeline,” after the original, Butch Van Artsdalen abdicated the throne. Sutherland rode deeper than anyone we had ever before witnessed at Pipeline and it would require Gerry Lopez to unseat him as the reigning monarch there.
In a row, and a class, all her own, Kathy “Gidget” Kohner, stands in a light blue T-shirt. It was she, along with Dick Dale and His Deltones and the Beach Boys, who launched the surf boom on the ‘60s. To Gidget’s right is another woman who carved out surf history, North County’s own Linda Benson.
These and a dozen or so others pictured are worthy of their own books, while some of us could quickly be dealt with in a paragraph or two, along with an honorable mention.
This photo was taken at the annual Luau & Legends of Surfing International. If you are interested in sponsoring a team this year or getting up close and personal with real legends and assorted posers like me, visit: http://luaulegendsofsurfing.org/luau-and-legends-of-surfing-invitational
Photo Caption: Some of surfing’s greatest legends