Know Your Commentator…Strider Wasilewski

 

 

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In an ongoing Split Peak Soup feature, which I’ll now dub, “Know Your Commentator”, I’ve been fortunate enough to pick the brains of the World Surf League commentating squad. I’ve spoken with the dapper and daring Peter Mel, the stoked Brazilian Andre Giorenelli, and the ageless Kaipo Guerrero.

Now, the spray has settled since Owen Wright’s win at Snapper, a spectacular return to competition after a head injury that had him sidelined for fourteen months. Next up is finals day at stop number two, The Drug Aware Pro (I know, it doesn’t make sense), located in Margarets River. So far, the venues have been solid yet tricky, the surfing tame and repetitive, overall. I’m a surf fan goddamnit so I’m gonna be watchin’ anyways!

Of all the commentators, a man named Strider Wasilewski gets the best view in the house. Usually during important heats the camera will pan to the “Wazz” as they call him, either stradling a surfboard or ski raft, mic in hand, calling the shots from the water. Strider spends a bit of time on land as well, and his seemingly uncontrollable, ageless froth is fully evident during exciting moments.

Who is Strider you ask? Well, the California kid cut his teeth rushing giant Pipeline, and was able to travel the world as a Quiksilver athlete, with some of his most memorable moments inside mutated monsters at Teahopoo in Tahiti. I was fortunate to have tolerant parents who let me watch …Lost’s What’s Really Goin On/Wrong movies religiously at a ten year old. Strider had some mental clips at Pipee and a mean holwler monkey impersonation that awed me then and to this day. I tracked the Wazz down before the comp to ask him about his job, and his surfing.

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Strider, mic in hand, calling the shots in Fiji

 

You grew up in Los Angeles. Can you remember your first experience surfing? What was the LA surf scene like back then?

My first surf was out in front of our apartment in Santa Monica. It was in the late 70’s. My brother and I would wait for people to loose their boards, snake ’em and ride them until they figured out we were riding them!  (Laughs).

The surf scene was super localized, you surfed where you lived, that was that.

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Baby Wazz

 

You rose to legend status with your efforts at Pipe. How does a kid from LA show up and just rush the joint. Can you tell me about your first, favorite, and worst tube/hardcore beatings out there?

I think you dream big and big things will happen. It’s a little easier to avoid a beatdown because of phones and everything getting out in social media– localism has slowed down a lot. When I first got to the North Shore it wasn’t just in the water, it was everywhere! I couldn’t even go to Food Land without getting verbally abused! Man if the kids visiting Hawaii now only knew what it was like…

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Pipe, a mutant of a wave that put Strider on the map

Tell me about your relationship with Pipeline

I surf Pipe as much as possible, it’s a place that calls to you. It always has, I think my love of the tube is why I was first drawn to Pipe.

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Strider standing tall at Pipe

 What was your first gig behind the mic? Did you think you’d follow that path, or was it a one off thing? How did you get on the WSL’s radar? 

I worked at a contest in Brazil about 5 years ago. I went because I always wanted to try it out. I surfed for Quiksilver and had asked them to do one of their events for years but the producer would never let me even give it a try! Then when the WSL took over I asked again, and they gave me a chance. We have a great relationship that’s mutually beneficial.

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The Wazz and longtime friend/coworker, Pete Mel

Did broadcasting come natural to you, or did you have to work on your delivery over the years?

Doing this new job was pretty natural but there is a learning curve. I’m still learning and all the people I work with help me every event. I’m pretty much the rookie of the group, but I’m getting better…

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It seems like the entire surf industry comes to play during events. How hectic do the line ups get with all the pros, commentators, locals, visitors, nutritionist/hypnotist/coaches/nail clippers all trying to satiate their own surf appetite?How do you guys avoid such tensions?

The tour surfers are all really cool; they mostly respect each other in and out of the water. Sometimes the lineups get a little crowded and it gets a little edgy. Our crew usually finds other places to surf, or find other times to surf when everyone has finished warming up. Its definitely something we think about and try and give the tour surfers the respect and space they deserve.

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RUSHING maxed out Chopes

Describe what it’s like being in the water commentating with the current caliber of surfing? I notice you get pretty frothed. Is the energy of the heat contagious? 

I get super frothed while I’m in the water; I love surfing and the level of surfing these guys are doing is crazy high! I get pumped from all the energy around an event: the waves, the heat, the athletes… I’m so close to them I hear and see a lot, some stuff good, some bad(laughs). I’ve had to learn to calm my self down a little and better compose my information. I still get over frothed but I’m getting better at my delivery.

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On The Nose with Michel Junod

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Previously featured in Santa Cruz Waves

There is sometimes an unflattering, and often undeserved, stereotype of older surfboard shapers: that they are cantankerous and jaded old grumps limping through their shaping bays like lame prize horses, their brains frazzled from long-term exposure to hazardous resin, foam and fiberglass (that, or from all the acid they dropped in the ’60s and ’70s). Sixty-seven year-old boardmaker and longboarder Michel Junod is none of that. He’s robust, clever, grateful and just plain stoked on life, even in the face of a market that is primarily focused on brand name, mass-produced shortboards and fishes. He has a winning business model—making people happy—that’s worked for him the past 50 years.

“People are stoked when they get a custom surfboard,” Junod says. “I’m known as a guy you can come to for a fun, custom board.”

Born in Santa Monica in 1948, Junod grew up in and around the water. From an early age, his mother gave him swim lessons and would take him to the beach in the summers to enjoy the sand and surf. By the time he was 10, he and his best friends would spend most of the summer body surfing and hanging out at the beach. “If you are born by the beach, you don’t really know anything else,” reflects Junod. He caught his first wave on the south side of the Santa Monica Pier in May 1962, around the time that surfing was really taking off in Southern California.

After a few years spent honing his skills, Junod met Carl “Tinker” West, the owner and shaper of Surfboards by Challenger in Mission Beach, San Diego. Tinker built him a board, which led to his first surf team experience and introduction to shaping. In 1966, Tinker moved to the East Coast to open a surfboard factory in New Jersey. That summer, he invited Junod and a couple of other team riders to come work on and promote his boards.

tinker Tinker and Team Challenger

“That’s the way a lot of guys learned—either they worked at the shop sweeping as a kid, or surfing for the team,” says Junod.

Junod spent the next three summers learning to shape and build boards for Tinker. He moved to Santa Cruz in 1970 after an old friend offered him a job shaping for Overlin Surfboards and promised an uncrowded “Wild West” of a surf town. “And wild it was,” he remembers. “There weren’t any leashes yet so no one was even surfing at high tide because they didn’t want to lose their board into the cliffs. There were just a few of us shapers back then. It really was a whole different world.”

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After only a few chilly winters in Santa Cruz, Junod could hear the tropics calling. Over the next two decades, he lived and surf on the North Shore of Oahu and on Kauai, where he started a family with his wife, Jodi. He made a modest living shaping for some of the islands’ most reputable brands: Surfline Hawaii, Lightning Bolt Surfboards and Dick Brewer.

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Junod: high-lining  in Hawaii

In 1990, he and Jodi packed up and returned to Santa Cruz, where he began shaping for Pearson Arrow Surfboards and was soon drawn back to his longboarding roots. Before long, Junod had become an integral member of the local longboard scene, which has seen a resurgence over the past 20 years.

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He was a regular at contests, riding for the Big Stick Surfing Association surf club, and began his own label, shaping for most of the area’s best longboarders. All the while, he continued to hone his skills on the nose. Just ask Santa Cruz’s noseriding heir apparent, Mark “CJ” Nelson.

“Michel Junod is hands down my favorite longboard surfer to watch here in Santa Cruz,” says Nelson. “He is a perfect example of a surfer who has made the appropriate sacrifices in his life to keep his surfing and style top notch for the last 40 some odd years. His surfing is smooth and simple with perfect positioning and an emphasis on style. Dignified and honorable—exactly how I strive to be.”

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These days, Junod is still shaping custom boards and hanging 10 all over town. He has this advice for the aging surfer who’s contemplating throwing in the towel: “I always tell people who want to or are close to quitting surfing in their 50s and older, ‘Don’t quit, because you’ll never start again,’” he says. “If you are physically able, and want to keep that part of your health regimen and stoke going, you have to keep at it because somebody else is going to take your place in the lineup and you’re going to come out one day, flail [around] and go ‘Aww, I can’t do it anymore!’

“Later, if you change your mind and want to get back into it,” he adds, laughing, “you better move to Mexico or something—because in Santa Cruz, there are infinite guys to contend with.”

Find him online at surfboardsbymicheljunod.com.

 

The HeART of Barney

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A Shawn “Barney” Barron Art Show

The late Shawn “Barney” Barron was truly the clown jester of the Santa Cruz surf scene. His antics, in and out of the water were over the top, to say the least. Everyone who knew or were exposed to him has at least one bizarre, yet hilarious anecdote to illustrate this.

For example, about fifteen years ago I was surfing Pleasure Point during a fun south swell. I saw a black truck pull up to the Cliffside, and out emerged Barron, already clad in his fluorescent Hotline wetsuit. With the car still running and his dog in the camper shell he proceeded to scale his way down the sheer cliff, apparently disinterested in the preferred Billy goat trail that existed before the sea wall.

He paddled out, singing loudly, caught one wave to the beach and scaled the same sketchy cliff route he’d taken to get down. He jumped in the idling truck and took off. Everyone in the lineup just shook their head and burst out in laughter.

This is Barron in a nutshell. Impulsive, outrageous, and unbelievably amusing. He devoted his life to entertaining others with his brand of hard charging and explosive aerial surfing. As a poster boy for Volcom, he was able to travel the world, scoring magazine covers and prominent roles in heaps of surf films. While many have seen his comic book inspired wetsuits and brightly painted surfboards, other than the people close to him, the vast majority of his fans are unaware just how much of a creative genius he was.

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This Friday, at 6PM at the R.Blitzer Gallery, a mind boggling collection of his art will be on display in an art show/tribute called, “The HeART of Barney”. Along with live music by Ribsy’s Nickel, and Ono grinds from Pono Hawaiian Grill, this show is a true grassroots community event to honor the treasure trove of Barron’s amazingly expressive and eclectic artwork. There will also be prints of Shawn’s paintings available for sale, along with other goodies.

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As a child, Barron was fueled by boundless energy that made it hard for him to sit still during school. Despite a lack of engagement in traditional schooling, he had an extremely active mind and imagination.

“Early on he was inspired by the world of space and science fiction by our father (Shawn’s stepfather, John Coulter),” remembers his step-sister Amelia Coulter. “He would take my brother up to Berkley to little known theaters to watch strange Sci-Fi films. Shawn ate it up. They both had a love for toys and all things unusual”.

Barron was always a standout surfer but it wasn’t until high school when his art teacher, neighbor, and family friend Katie Harper saw the potential for creative genius when he took her classes.

“We had a lot of fun,” remembers Harper, “We played around and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get super traditional stuff out of him so I just tried to guide him in his areas of strength– which was spontaneous, energetic, and colorful. His art was textural, very tactile; not too abstract like other abstract artists, but very playful. He was a playful kid. Because of that, I realized that he wasn’t going to let this go, like, “Oh I’m going to take this art class and be done with it”. I realized that he was really an artist. Truly an art spirit. A young art spirit and it was just a matter of time before he locked on and used it for his life, the way he navigated his life.”

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Art became a sanctuary for Barron, who had struggles with bi-polar disorder. Like surfing, it was a way to express the explosive energy that was constantly simmering in his imagination, as well as the reflective and painful lows. As Shawn became more prolific, this became more and more apparent to Harper.

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“He used it (art) as a therapy, as a playful medium, an exploration, as an adventure”.

Barron’s art was very impulsive and diverse. One day he would be working on an oil painting of UFO’s, and the next he would be using physical objects as a medium, like the infamous “Trophy Man”.

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“In going through his work you can see really distinct phases,” recalls Coulter. “In the late 90s/ early 00’s he had a really intense creative period where a lot of his work seemed more pop in color and style. He then got really into body molds, landscapes, abstracts, lots of dots and circles, and of course, girls. He painted canvases so many times I don’t know how the paint ever really dried. Prior to his death he went through another really pretty creative phase, with a much softer tone, yet still bright with tons of color  and subtle shapes… He was mourning the death of our mother and to me, you can see some this in his work. They were extremely close.”

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Now the public has a chance to appreciate the massive collection of art that he created. It’s a chance to honor a very conflicted, yet beautiful soul. I can attest to this gentle spirit. As a grom growing up on the EastSide, I was scared to death of the older Westside guys; yet Barron was always very approachable and kind to me. It was this “Allsides” mind frame that made him a favorite for local surfers across town; hell, across the globe. I like to think that Barron’s creative and sensitive soul has found a comfortable place in the universal soup of energy that we refer to as the universe.

Harper sums up Barron’s stay on this earth quite simply.

“Shawn was just one of those people who wasn’t going to be stuck in a box and to conform, and more power to him! He was a wonderful spirit. He was a gentle man”

I hope to see you all this Friday at this once in a lifetime event, which is orchestrated with love by Coulter, Sandbar Brenna, FleaHab, Nate Weinstein, and Patrick Trefz.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1815923328621270/

Instagram @shawnbarneybarronart

 

I’m A Grom, and I’m Angry!!

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JUST YOU WAIT!!!

I’m a grom and I’m angry. I’m sick and tired of the older boys dropping in on me and taking all my waves. I’m fed up with the titty twisters, dead legs, monkey bumps, and Mexican Hat Dances. I don’t like picking licorice out of my hair after being dumped headfirst into the trash can. Why do the older guys pat me down for lunch money every time I go to the beach to check the surf? I can feel my blood boil when they talk trash on my older sister and my mom. Maybe I should take some Ju Jitsu classes and learn how to wrap these bullies into a pretzel.

Too bad I’m just a little fella, and all I have are these wiry arms and chicken legs. I’m growing though, so they had better just watch out.   Man, sometimes it’s tough being a grom.I’m so angry.  Good thing I can go out surfing and get rid of some of this pent up aggression. All I have to do is paddle out and unleash my fury on some innocent, unsuspecting lip. It’s such a relief when I feel my fins blow out the back of the wave, my body tapping my minds inner anger to execute extreme acrobatics. As I pump down the line of this well-groomed launch ramp, all the noogies, wet willies, and “your momma” jokes act as fuel for my lethal lift- off.

When I stick my angst aided aerial, my angry quickly subsides. The feeling of stoke after pulling a big move is enough to cure any case of bad mojo. A couple tubes later I’m ready to come in a happy camper, completely calmed from a successful session of liquid therapy.  Like the icing on top, it turns out all the older guys were watching my session from the beach.  What better way to get my revenge than to put them to shame on my own terms.  The cherry on tops comes when I walk by the crew of ruffians and hear one of the boys address me.  “Sick wave little guy.  Not bad for a grom”.  I smile and walk by, and for once I don’t feel so angry.

Preview: Surfers’ Blood-By Patrick Trefz

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Patrick Trefz’s new film, Surfers’ Blood, is a film about diverse individuals spanning across the globe who share a common thread. That thread is the saltwater that runs through their veins; a passion for sea that compels them to devote their lives to playing in the ocean. ‘Cause that’s what it is right? A gigantic playground where grown men and women can feel young and full of vigor and inspiration.

“That’s what this film is; stories from a diverse group of humans who all share this primordial connection with the ocean. From the history of old world Basque Coast oar fishermen to a Silicon Valley visionary’s unorthodox computer surf board shapes—they all live and breathe to be in the ocean, in whatever form that may call to them.  It’s about their almost genetic need to be around the sea. There are striking similarities between Isotonic Ocean Water and internal body fluids, so I thought the title SURFERS’ BLOOD to be apt title,” Trefz explains.

Now, Trefz has dropped a preview of Surfers’ Blood on Redbull TV. Click the link  below to check it out.

Surfers’ Blood a film by Patrick Trefz

Archives: Last Time w/Peter Mel

 

LAST TIME W/PETE MEL

By Neal Kearney

This article was previously printed by Transworld Surf in 2008

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Went left at Mav’s–  Last session I had, I went left.  It’s so crowded out there these days that now the lefts are free game.  Because of the packed lineups, sometimes you’re forced to deal with what your given. The risk level at Mavs is highest it’s ever been.

Shaped a board–  My older son Anthony hit me up for one last year and we shaped one together.  Shaping boards is a lot of hard work and I have a lot of respect for shapers.  I still have a great interest in it, but my schedules been so hectic it’s hard to find time to do it but Anthony might be getting another one later this month.

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                                                     The Condor getting roasted by Lil’ John

Got burned– John John, my youngest son, burns me all the time. Last time we surfed together he saw me on a wave and completely toasted me.  I don’t mind as long as he’s the only one who burns me.

Signed an autograph–  In Puerto Rico.  I just got back from good will tour for Quiksilver over there.  Signed as many autographs as I ever have in a weeks trip.  The Puerto Rican surf culture is super stoked, and the waves are fun too!

Got schooled by a grom–  Last summer at the Quiksilver Pro at Puerto Escondido. Ashton Madeley, a grom from South Side has had my number the past few comps I‘ve surfed against him in. But I finally got him back at the Volcom Contest last week.

Disagreed w/ judges-  I agree to disagree. Its part of my job being a to analyze what’s going on while I’m webcasting, but ultimately I’m not a judge, all I can do is give my two cents.

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                                                                     Pete, getting beat

Two wave hold down–  It’s happened to me twice.  My last one was Jan 2007, at Mavericks. I had a wipeout which I didn’t even realize I was held down for two waves until Garret McNamara came to pick me up on the ski and yelled at me to let me know.  That’s when I kinda freaked out.

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This wave eats boards for breakfast! Photo-Nelly

Broke a board– Last week at the Harbor.  Due to all the crazy storms, we’ve been fortunate lately to have some dredging sandbars lately.  But unfortunately, when the waves are dredging, your gonna pay some dues and break some boards.

Last book you read–  Called “Blue Water Gold Rush” by Tom Kendrick.  It’s a story about the urchin fishing trade in California.  It’s an incredible story I highly recommend it. Couldn’t put it down.  My old buddy Chris Brown is an urchin diver so I read it to get an idea of what it‘s like.

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Chris Brown Wrap Around

 

Sold a bar of wax–  At Freeline Design last Tuesday I sold a bar of Sex wax.  Happens every time I work at the shop.

Won a contest–  Last week at the Volcom contest at 26 th ave , the beach break right by my house.  It’s been a long time since I’ve won a comp and it feels pretty damn good.

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Pete’s right…

Pulled in at Waimea shorepound– During the Quiksilver Eddie Aikau event the year Bruce won.  Didn’t get a chance to this year.  In order to win the contest you almost have to.  I don’t think people really realize how gnarly it is.  Its one of the most dangerous shorepounds in the world.

Chased out of the water by a shark–  It’s never happened .  Knock on wood.  Closest call when I was surfing an unnamed slab up north and two seals buzzed me with fear in their eyes.  Thought I was a goner, but no shark.  So never really gotten chased out, but definitely had the shit scared out of me.

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Pete’s proud Papa

 

Surfed with pops–  Just last month, dad and I surfed pleasure Point.  It’s so cool to surf with your dad, he’s in his 60’s.  Hope to keep doing it for years to come.

Got a stand up tube–  Santa Cruz Harbor just yesterday.  It’s illegal to surf there, but when its on it worth the risk.  Harbor patrol has been on it lately, issuing tickets during the last swell.  Tazy and Columbo got tickets (laughs).

Stressed on the economic situation?  This summer I almost sold my house, scared that I might lose it.  I realized I needed to do everything I could to keep it.  Got a vacation rental in the back, anyone need a room in Santa Cruz? Hit it up on vacationrentals.com!

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Pete, whipped into a thickie

Had a tow surf– I tried it again on a swell last month.  I’ve come to realize that tow surfing is weak.  Paddling is where it’s out.  Watching the boys push it has gotten me inspired.  This year some of the boys, like Ramon Navarro, Greg Long, Shane Dorian, and Mark Healy have paddled into the of the biggest waves this year.

 

Last time you where grateful–  Just recently realized how grateful I was for my longtime sponsor Quiksilver, who’ve given me so much support over the years.  Also my other sponsors, Sanuk, and JC for all the boards. I live a blessed life, and I’m grateful for their support.

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Pete and the beautiful Tara Mel

Last romantic Moment– Last night.  Can’t go into details but lets just say the romance has  lasted all these past 16 years.  Sweet surprises and candlelight dinners help keep the romance alive.

Last Magazine you read–  Transworld! (laughs) I also read a great article in Mens Journal about how to quiet your mind.  Some of the tips were incredible like -have a purpose, meditate, and cultivate good relationships- all in order to keep the stress down.  Stress can kill you, and I’ve found the tips useful.

Last time you pulled back on a wave–  During the Eddie.  In my first heat a set came at the very beginning of the heat, started to look over the ledge and pulled back.  Wish I could have that moment back, kicking myself cause it was one of the biggest waves that came through that heat.

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A true surf fan, by a true surf fan

Last autograph you got– I got one from Grant Twiggy Baker after the he won the Pico Alto event in Peru. I like to collect winners contest jerseys. I also got a signed Nat Young’s O’Neill Coldwater Classic victory singet last year.

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The beautiful and daring Savannah Shaughnessy

Last time someone made an impression on you- This winter at a session at Mavericks, Savannah Shaughnessy, a 20 year old young lady from Santa Cruz, rushed a big one on the bowl at Mavericks.  It’s rad to see the women getting out there and charging.

Last time you threw up– Can’t really remember. I stopped drinking three years ago, and now that I’m not polluting my body, I haven’t really been getting sick anymore.  Since I’ve been taking care of my body I can feel the difference, it‘s great.

Flashback Friday- How Three Hawaiian Princes Brought Surfing to Santa Cruz

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Gaze out to sea along our beloved coastline on any given day and you’ll see scores of rubber-clad fun seekers sitting in dense packs, waiting patiently for signs of an approaching wave. Once the waves pour in, these wave riders employ a number of different crafts to catch and ride them.

Some ride short, pointy boards that allow them to carve and even launch above the breaking waves. Others use longer, round-nosed boards for a more relaxed ride, during which the surfer can coast and trim casually, at times dancing to the nose, hanging the toes and gliding along as poised and erect as a statue.

You may even see surfers riding prone on much smaller, rectangular boards, or stand-up surfers using wide paddles to propel their large crafts into the breakers.

These aquatic enthusiasts are a tough and dedicated breed of passionate athletes who willingly enter the frigid waters, even in the most treacherous of conditions, just to get their saltwater fix.

Plain and simple, Santa Cruzans are crazy for surfing. And why shouldn’t they be? After all, our town boasts a number of world-class breaks, beautiful beaches and a rich surfing history. Innovators such as wetsuit pioneer Jack O’Neill, world-renowned shapers like Bob Pearson of Pearson Arrow and modern day surf icons such as Pete Mel and Jason “Ratboy” Collins serve as examples of our community’s influence on the world of surf. In fact, Santa Cruz has had more of an impact on surfing history than most of us probably realize.

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Santa Cruz, the TRUE “Surf City”, USA

Despite the area’s long-held reputation as one of the most popular surf mecca’s in the world, though, there’s a bit of history that has slipped through the cracks, until now.

The gumshoe efforts of two passionate local surf historians have revealed the story of the three Hawaiian princes. These princes were the first to surf in mainland America, and the first place they paddled in was Santa Cruz.

The culmination of 35 years of work, Santa Cruz’s Geoffrey Dunn and Kim Stoner have put together a clear, concise and historically supported account of the Hawaiian princes’ stay in Santa Cruz. It is hard evidence supporting a story printed in the local newspaper, the Santa Cruz Daily Surf, on Monday, July 20, 1885.

In the Daily Surf’s page two Beach Breeze column, the writer mentions — along with reports of a packed beach, ideal summer conditions and 30-40 swimmers “dashing and tossing and plunging through the breakers” — the three princes and their surfing exploits in front of a crowd of merry beachgoers at the San Lorenzo River mouth.

“Everyone knew about the Daily Surf mention in 1885,” Dunn said. “But no one knew the actual story.”

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Geoffrey Dunn here at home in Santa Cruz

Dunn spent his childhood playing in the waters of the river mouth and has always felt a strong connection to the place. Like most of his peers who grew up on the Westside, Dunn spent a great deal of his time swimming and surfing. The river mouth was his favorite, and he and cousins would surf it on mats during the summer.

“The river mouth used to be an entirely different spot before the harbor was around,” Dunn said. “When big western swells came in during the summer, the wave could get really good and powerful. I’ve always been fascinated with the river mouth as a surf break and could imagine how good it used to get. Being familiar with the story of the princes’ surfing exploits there, I can understand why it caught their attention, as back then it would’ve resembled some of their home breaks on Oahu, such as Waikiki.”

Dunn’s personal connection to the river mouth and love for our city’s rich surfing history inspired his subsequent quest to unearth the details of the surfing princes once and for all. Dunn teamed with Stoner, his childhood friend and a devout advocate for the preservation of Santa Cruz’s surfing history who had similarly developed a fascination with the story of the princes, and began years of research.

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The original boards on display in Santa Cruz

Rare documents and photographs were gathered from the Hawaiian Legacy Archive in Honolulu and the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley. They also found previous mentions of the princes by former Sentinel historian Ernest Otto. In time, a clear picture of the princes’ visit to Santa Cruz, as well as the impact their “surfboard swimming” had on its residents, began to emerge.

As it turns out, the young princes had indeed spent time in Santa Cruz while attending St. Matthews Hall in San Mateo, a military school for boys. During their time off school, the princes, named David Kawananakoa, Edward Keliiahonui and Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana’ole, had stayed with Antoinette Swan, a native of Oahu and an adopted member of the royal family.

Swan moved to Santa Cruz in the 1860s with her husband, Lyman. Her home served as a perfect summertime respite for the young men, who most likely were anxious to surf like they did back home on Oahu. It’s easy to see how inviting the waves peeling into the San Lorenzo river mouth on that hot and festive day in 1885 were for the young Hawaiians.

The report of the surfing exposition highlighted the amusement and joy that beachgoers experienced. Ten years later, another article mentions how local boys had taken to surfing the river mouth like the Hawaiian princes. This nugget of overlooked history shows how surfing caught on in Santa Cruz. The surfing spectacle must have had a profound effect on the generation of citizens who witnessed it, adding weight to our town’s claim to the title of the real “Surf City, USA.”

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What “localism”?

Kristen Zambucka, an artist and writer from Honolulu who is friends with the descendants of the royal family, came up with the idea to create a plaque to display somewhere in Santa Cruz. After collaborating with Zambucka on the design of the plaque, Dunn got financial support from the royal descendants of the Kawananakoa and Marignoli families. Bronze artist Sean Monaghan and Tom Ralston of Tom Ralston Concrete helped design and build the base, and additional funding came from the Santa Cruz Woodies Club and Friends of Parks and Recreation.

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The plaque. Surfing means so much to this town. Here we honor those who came first

For Dunn, the plaque is a perfect way to celebrate the legacy of those who first brought surfing to America.

“It’s gorgeous,” he said. “The city could’ve done something else, but they went out of their way to do something special and I couldn’t be any more pleased. Tom and Sean did a beautiful job on this and created what I think is the most spectacular framework for a monument in California. It’s a beautiful monument, and I’m proud to have played a part in this effort to uncover and pay tribute to a rich part of our community’s history.”

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