Life Altering Surfs in your life......

After reading the awesome thread by ambrose regarding your first wave/what/where, it brought back memories of growing up in the ocean here in Hawaii and the many surf experiences I’ve been lucky enough to be part of over years which now span around 37 that I can remember… My Dad was an avid diver, liked to fish and had a sailboat in Haleiwa Harbor so going to the beach was a common thing for us. I never got on a surfboard till later but waves were the draw… Bodysurfing, oooooo yeah!

I was into bodysurfing alot then one day when I was around 10 or 11 I saw other kids at the Waikiki Wall riding wooden belly boards that we call Paipo boards. Man they were having fun! I dreamed of this for weeks wishing I had a Paipo board then eventually resigned to the fact that one would never fall out of the sky to me so I went ahead and started to make my own… With the go ahead from Grandpa to use a piece of his 3/4" plywood and his tools, I cut out a sorta thumbnail shaped board. All the edges were splintering so Gramps showed me how to round off the corners etc so I wouldn’t come home a bloody mess. I filed, sanded, surformed away till I had made safe, rounded edges… I had created what I felt was a design sufficient enough to ride waves at the Wall… I then spray painted it red and put a big silver spray paint lighting bolt on the top… I was stoked!!

This was around 1974 and I would ride the Bus across the island without adult supervision. Things sure were different then… I used to get a transfer and hop another bus at Hotel street or Ala Moana all for a dime. Anyway, the Wall was across the island and a 2 hour bus ride for me but I had a new board and stoke like never before… The anticipation was peaking but this day I would finally be able to satisfy it… When I arrived at the Wall it was perfect! 1 to 2’ and crystal clear water. The Wall its pretty much a closeout but hey, I only knew how to go straight anyway! I put my all blue Duck Feet on (Remember those?) and waddled down to the water and launched… The next 4 hours I was in Heaven! It was the first time I’ve ever been on a Paipo board and the first time I rode waves where I glided along for quite aways just tripping on the reef passing by clearly… I even rode a few where I was ahead of the curl on the face… Just a total mind blowing session better than I dreamed… The other thing I remember clearly was the insane belly rash from the unfinished plywood deck that had only spray paint… I still came home a bloody mess! Haha!!! But still stoked out of my mind… After that session the possibilies seemed endless…

Shortly afterwards they came out with the Morey Boogie Boards and for me, that opened the doors to the world of riding waves far and long tube rides… About the same time I fell madly in love with a used yellow 5’6" single fin in Da Surf Hut located in Wahiawa… I never stand up surfed yet but that board had me in its grip… But that’s another story… I know a lot of you guys have similar stories of significant surf sessions… I’d love to hear about yours…




Having surfed most of the breaks on the northshore in the early 70’s we decided one day to finally give pipeline and backdoor a try on a 4’ Hawaiian day.

Somehow in the scrambling around in the break jostling for position I somehow got disoriented and thinking I was on the backdoor side only looking over my left shoulder I paddled in to juicy one took the drop in the blinding offshore spray and made a hard gliding right turn right into a Pipe tube going the wrong way.

totally trashed my friends borrowed board with split tails nose broken fins and huge chunks of reef embedded in the board, my feet and my head with a shredded back.

Funny part was all the hoots from the shore when I crawled in as everyone thought I did it on purpose like some kind of kamakazi macho Jose Angel move when it really was idiocy that I paid for dearly with my body and my pocket book as a grom.

I’m sure the wolfpack and early versions would’ve beat me down for that one…

Never surfed Pipe after that…

I figured I already surfed it the hard way…



I think it was 1991 and after a 15+ year absence I returned home and tried to take up my favorite past time again. Took me a year starting with an amazing Jim Turnbull custom 10’ bonzer thruster to get my arm strength back but I became an surf animal all over again making the 4 AM drive to the country up Kunia Road from Ewa Beach on the weekends always trying to be the first one out at Alii and leaving as soon as the morning crowd showed at 7-8 AM.

I got so used to paddling out in the dark it never phased me about how stupid it was especially surfing solo like I do. I guess I was just trying to relive those days of youth I remembered from the early 70’s up there.

Anyway one morning in early winter in 91 I started to paddle out in what seemed some bigger than normal whitewater but you couldn’t really tell because it was still pitch black. And as I was paddling out I could hear and barely see two crazies yelling and tearing apart the outside having a good old time… Turned out it was Charlie Smith and my friend Andy Miko a little high but shredding none the less.

Well as soon as I get out and feel the strength of the current I realize that something isn’t right. And although I’m way way outside I start scratching for my life when I see what looks like dark lines coming in. I make it over four waves but on the fifth just as I seem to be popping through I get that awful feeling of weightlessness and falling backwards. I still can’t see anything but you can feel whats happening none the less.

After what seemed like hours I finally get slammed upside and pummeled something terrible. I almost lost it in the pummeling and finally used my cord to pull myself back to my board and got one breath before getting slammed by the next big white water.

I actually thought I died and lost track of any concept of time and space. When I finally came my senses I was somewhere past the breakwater heading to Puena park. Luckily I never lost my board (a BK 7’6") and almost half barfing I paddled back to the breakwater climbed up and walked back to the beach.

Just as I got back to the beach and sat down the sun started to show so you could actually see something and I sat down and started to cry a bit thinking how stupid what I had just done was. Luckily I got it togethor just as the first guys showed up and we sat in awe looking at the lines and whitewater. When I asked some of the regulars how big it was they said 8-10’ Hawaiian.

It was a couple hours and about 2 dozen surfers later that I forced myself to paddle back out and catch a small 4-6 inside wave rode it all the way to the beach and went home. Never to surf Alii or anywhere on the northshore in the dark like that again.

When folks at my white collar job at work tell me that the stress is just too much to take I kind of look at them and say yea sure…

But I think you really need to almost die a couple of times to put things into perspective.

That what I like about surfing

kind of makes the rest of life look reasonable and easy…

And BTW I would never chance anything close to these two events in my elder years…

Cruise isn’t just for missles…

Awesome oneula!!! Great stories! I couldn’t help but giggle at the Pipeline pull in… Hehehe!

Hi CarveNalu.

A thread like this is a great idea. It’s always good to hear peoples stories (especially surf stories). I offer the following from my normally uneventful surfing life.

I have been surfing for a little over 20 years now (late starter on stand up boards at 17) but had never surfed the North Shore of Hawaii. Always made excuses about Indo being closer and cheaper and the waves here in Victoria being pretty good anway, etc.

I did however, always harbour a quiet dream of surfing Sunset Beach before my time was up. Last year I decided that at 40 years of age I wasn’t getting any younger and it was now or never. So I (my wife actually) booked two weeks on the North Shore for my 40th birthday.

We arrived on the North Shore late in the afternoon and my first view of Sunset Beach was as I had always imagined. Overhead, sunny and offshore with only about five guys out . I asked one of the lifeguards why it was so uncrowded. “Weekday and everyone is surfed out. Surf has been good the past few days” he said. Couldn’t wipe the smile off my face as paddled out - just soaking it all in. Paddled out to the position where those wide peaks come in and sat for a minute or so. Two friendly locals said hello and then continued their conversation. I kept moving and paddled out toward the main peak (didn’t really want to get caught inside just yet) and up to a group of the remaining three surfers, all of whom stopped their conversation to say hello as well. When I took a proper look I realised who those three surfers were. Barton Lynch, Ken Bradshaw and Peter Cole on his big yellow board. I’m sitting there, and by now my smile is so big they must have been thinking “who is this idiot and what is he smiling about?”. Barton and Ken both catch waves and I’m left there with Peter. He starts to chat with me about the waves, etc and I’m thinking this must be some kind of bizarre dream. What a gift to receive from Hawaii on my first visit to the North Shore, to feel the spirit of aloha and sit and talk with someone of the stature of Peter Cole. I have surfed better waves than that first surf at Sunset Beach, but it will be the one I remember with the biggest smile.



Great story RDM… I can feel your stoke!!! That’s one of the neat things growing up here. Your always surrounded by amazing surfing talents…

Another story… This one is about the used, yellow 5’6" that had me in its grips…

I used to go into a surf shop in Wahiawa called Da Surf Hut. It was a little store right on Kam Hwy where I used to go to smell the wax, and stare at all the cool boards and skateboards that just came out with urethane wheels… I remember the surfboards were all so big as I was only 11 yrs old and only 4’ something tall. Then one day there it was… A 5’6" fat yellow single fin squash tail… It had a little picture of the caveman Ogg from Cocoa Crispies cereal… Remember that guy? Anyway, it was love at first sight! I never surfed before but that board was gonna get me learning… The problem was, no money and it was around 90 bucks which was a fair amount of money in 1975… I went to all the usual sources like Grandma, Dad, Mom but none were to enthusiastic about forking over dough for an expensive toy…

I’d go down to the shop and look at it everyday crossing my fingers it would still be there… Finally my Dad told me he would buy it and let me work it off at his Yacht Electronics business at the Ala Wai Harbor. The deal was 5 bucks a day and I couldn’t take the board till I was all paid up. Of course I jumped on it! Every weekend I took a 2 hour bus ride to town and I was there cleaning up, running errands whatever and staring at the board the whole time… A few months later, I was paid up and the board went straight to my cousins house who lived on the beach… FREAKING STOKED!!!

My cousin was a good surfer and I never paddled out before… My first session was spent cowering on the inside reef as he constantly called for me to come out… I was scared sh*tless! The waves were giant!! Well to me they were… After that I got really good at running and jumping on the board in the pool. Hahahaha!!! My cousin gave up on me after repeatedly trying to get me to go out with him. Then one day on a very high tide we went out to the inside to a place we named Greenland because the waves looked green… It was there that I stroked into a little reform wave, stood up and rode all the way till it died out… I was sooooo stoked!!! I paddled out and did it again and again! Although, I caught plenty waves bodysurfing or boogieboarding, that was the day I felt I became a Surfer… The board eventually got trashed from reef and the pool but it served its purpose… I learned to surf on it… I can still remember vividly Ogg smiling at me as I paddled out… I think he knew it was the beginning of something special… Aloha

The stuff I’ve always liked has usually turned out to be different from the mainstream, and I often sort of ridiculed the mainstream stuff and surfboard shapes and sizes are no exception. But one day in the mid-90s I had to borrow a surfboard from a friend because I hadn’t yet patched my twin finner from it’s latest battles with the crowds at Japan’s beaches. The board I had to paddle out on was a contest board a californian pro had left behind at the shop after the asp contest that year and was typical of the minimalistic slater-esque boards of the time. It was a good 3" narrower and 3/4" thinner than my twinny.

I paddled out and found myself next to a local surfshop owner and excellent surfer who had rumored to have been a Japanese pro until getting a little too into the herb and reggae. He knew my normal boards and the only thruster he’d ever seen me on was the semi-gun I broke out when the typhoon swells were really hitting. I told him the pro-board it was ridculous and that I’d have no chance of it working for me. He replied, “nah, of course you can surf that board.” Not a minute later I was into a shoulder-high left and the way that board just seemed to disappear under my feet and let me go wherever I wanted… I learned once and for all, that despite my skepticism, there was indeed something to the modern contest type shortboard, even for mere mortals like myself.

To this day, I keep one in my quiver. Haven’t ridden my current small short thruster in over a year. But everytime I start thinking how ridiculously under-volume it is and that it should be practically useless for a guy with my very modest talents…I remember that session on the pro board in Japan and keep the board.

I was still (and am) a beginner. I paddle out at *****, a nice point break. I wait by the main peak . . . people take off. I go for a wave, but pull back when someone guy stands up. I’m paddling out . . . and start of a nice set comes. I go full speed, and some shortboarder catches it, races down the line, and launches an air partly over me. Its some old guy and certainly isn’t no hodad (he had silvering hair). At that point, after one cheesy ride, I realize its skill not age …

2nd was storm surf. I had barely started to catch waves going backside. Paddling out was tought. The 9 foot surftech wouldn’t blast the 4-5 white water. I tried, so I just caught whitewater and wobbled around . . . Then I started noticing lulls in the white water (high tide). One instance, I’m scratching like mad, and barely make it. I turn turtle, but the wave picks up my board, flips me around. But its just one wave, so I make out to the line up.

I’m all happy, grinning. Then one by one, people catch the big waves (5 footers, and 6 footers) coming through. Except me. One of them rolls towards us, but no one budges, cuz its a left. So I go, and pig dog, spinning my longboard to the left, angling. Its slow motion, yet I even as I remember the waves, I never felt my hands let go, get out of pigdog, my body stand up, and my feet adjust to trim. I just remember pig dog the take off, then trimming . . . I hear the wave tearing behind me, into the dull white wash roar, and the green infront of me. I see the tips begin to whiten, and I race past them. I look back, and see my white trail race up the white face into the churning cauldron of white. Looking forward, the section in front of me closes out, and turn my board against the white wash as it explodes behind me, pushing me as I go straight to the shore.

I was stoked. Time to go home, but I could see all the guys and gals that couldn’t get out just staring at me in awe. We’d been catching white water, but for one of them to ride like the good surfers . . . As I walked out of the sea, I could see some of them paddling furiously to get beyond the white water . . .

3rd . . . . I’ll write it when I get my first shack.

Kalapana, 1984. 1000’ lava fountain blasting out of Pu’u O vent.

Hard to bottom turn with a show like that, could only see about 500’ or so, the rest hidden by coconut trees.

We would get caught inside a lot, just couldn’t take your eyes off of Pele’s juice.

No particular wave, just the whole experience. Talk about being put in place, feeling really insignificant and at the same time, in the flow…

correction: Pu’u O’o vent

Easter, 1973, at Lafitenia (a right point-break south of Guéthary). The weather was bad with low grey clouds but the waves were 6’ to 8’ and were choppy but rideable so out we went with my old friend Jean-Pierre. I remember I had a Weber Ski borrowed from a friend, which had been broken in half and repaired. I didn’t have a full wetsuit back then, just a O’Neill “LongJohn” (no arms). We had a few waves but I wasn’t feeling at ease, without knowing why. Maybe the dark color of the water or something. Anyway, it’s getting cold so we decide to go in, and, as we negociate the heavy shorebreak, we see all the people who were sitting on the cliff stand up and start shouting and waving arms and towels. They are quite far away, so we don’t understand what they say and we assume they are hooting at someone’s great ride. We slowly get to the cliff where we are met by some old friends who look very excited: “Hey man, we’ve been trying to warn you for half an hour: look out there!” They are pointing to the line-up where some ten surfers are still catching big hairy grey waves. Just outside, maybe twenty yards behind them, two large black dorsal fins pop up then disappear again. “What’s THAT?” I ask. “Orcas” they reply. “Big ones. Two of them here:” (they point to the north of the bay where the usual line-up is) “And two more over there:” (pointing south to the other break, a dangerous left that had not been ridden yet back then).

We look in awe as the huge things (4 to 5 meters long, easily, with vertical 3’ dorsal fins) casually swim through 8’+ waves as if they were 1’ beach-break… Both of us shivering in retrospect…

One after the other, all the guys came in. None of them had seen the fins while they were out… The four orcas kept playing through waves for a half hour, then headed south towards Spain. The following days, we watched much longer before going out…

A friend of ours was doing his compulsory national service on a navy, and was based a couple of hours away up the west coast of the Cape (ZA). We decided to treat him by taking him out for a surfing day trip.

This would have been the early to mid 80’s so well before internet surf and weather checks. There wasn’t too much swell from what we could see and the weather was starting to turn on the drive up, but we decided that he needed to surf with his mates and thats what we were going to do no matter what.

We picked him up and drove into a nearby national park looking for a beach to surf on. The rain had already started belting down, so when we found a small beach with semi-rideable windswell we suited up, walked to the water by leaning heavily into the sideshore wind and paddled out.

Within a short while, the rain had turned to white stinging horizontal streaks that felt like pellet shot on our faces and hands, and there was also a foot of opaque spray above the surface of the sea. At the same time it seemed like somebody had suddenly switched off the lights. Pretty scary. For awhile I couldn’t see or hear my friends, but eventually I’d catch a glimpse of one or the other as we bobbed on the waves.

Luckily we weren’t very far out as the waves were so small to start off with. I, being the youngster, was the first to paddle in and found shelter behind a rock. Incredibly, my older crazy nutter friends stayed out for another 10 minutes before admitting defeat.

Later on we found out that the generically bad weather had turned into a freak storm in the exact area we were in and hurricane force winds had been recorded during that time. So, without realising it or intending it, we had surfed in a hurricane!

It wasn’t much of a surf, but I’ll never forget it and I doubt they will either.

probably not life ALTERING as such , but I guess life / enjoyment of surfing enhancing …

any of the many surfs I’ve been fortunate enough to have had with



young kids on foamies


friendly people

…all those categories seem to know how to ENJOY surfing ,


put things in perspective .

Also , any surf totally alone …

just being out in the ocean by myself , no matter what the surf may or may not be , makes me thankful , and aware of the beauty of creation .


Not Life Altering either, but this memory for some reason stays in my head very clear:

I was stationed in the military right outside of Tokyo in the late 80s/early 90s. I used to regularly surf the Sagami river mouth, which has an inlet with like two rock jetties that serve as breakwaters. This was late winter/early spring - winters I recall around Tokyo were sunny and crisp. I drove down to sagami and there was a very small wave breaking inside the mouth of the inlet, over like a built-up sandbar just off the jetty. My wife came to watch from the jetty.

So I go in with a 5’10" McCoy Lazorzap 3-fin I picked up - ridiculously small for me - that and the fact that I was wearing this big thick clunker wetsuit. (member I’m from Panama - never had to even think about wetsuits- and the temps in Japan were pretty cold for me). There’s only 1 guy surfing too. Just before I got in I saw a fishing boat go out through the inlet, and i noticed that it was clocking along pretty fast. So once I get in, i catch a small wave, and as I’m paddling back I get back to the lineup, and the current just keeps me going. I try to paddle to get back in, but the small board, heavy tight wetsuit really make the paddle hard. so I just let the current take me, figuring it’ll slackup in a bit outside. well i guess the snows in the mts started to thaw, cuz the current took me pretty far out, far further than i thought, I just figured i’d paddle across the current and come in on the beach. (eventually I came in about a click or so to the west of the inlet. when I walked back out to the jetty where my wife was supposed to be watchin me surf, i come up behind her and she’s looking out to sea. She was pretty tripped.

so I was pretty far offshore, in pretty cold water, just slowly making my way in. And while i’m paddling, I really notice Mt Fuji there – just BEAUTIFUL. When you live around Tokyo, you kinda just get used to seeing that mountain, and don’t really think much of it. But during that paddle in I really saw her postcard perfect, towering over everything and with a cloudless blue sky… just the most beautiful snowcap. Iconic. being alone far out like that…well there wasn’t much noise (waves breaking, tokyo traffic and din)… made it all the more beautiful.

Too many to list…my next passage will be very life altering foresure.

Pezman asked me at the Velzy book kick-off to come at see him at the magazine’s office…I think I’ll do just that…times running out…

…To be perfectly honest…

…drowning doesn’t sound so bad,

…compared to what I’m about to face…the wave of my life!!!

Awesome guys… I’m very glad I started this thread… Funny, scary, inspirational… Stoked… Keep them coming!! Thanks for posting!!!

Not life altering either but a memory that will never forget. :slight_smile:

Fall of 1987 my gf (soon to become wife) best friend and his gf and one of his friends all drove up to Jalama on a Friday afternoon. It was one of those really warm 80 F. days with very light wind. ( A rareity for that area) Arrived at Jalama just before dark,and lucked out with a great camp site by the river and setup camp. A clean 4’ North swell was slowly filling in and we had ice cold beers and t-bone steaks. Life couldn’t get any better. Everyone was amped for the morning session and we kept talking smack about all the manouevers we we’re going to pull in the morning. Somehow we all managed to crawl off to bed before midnight. In the morning we were awakened by the steady rolling thunder of set waves breaking just off shore. We couldn’t believe our luck! Light offshores and clean glassy overhead waves. No time for coffee!!! Eat a banana, guzzle some juice and haul ass down to Tarantulas!!! We were the first ones in the water and had a good hour and a half of some of the cleanest, most perfect lefts I’ve ever surfed. After awhile Dan starts freaking out and yelling about what’s underneath us. I immediately headed for shore before realizing that he wasn’t going anywhere. He was just pointing straight below him yelling “check it out, check it out, check it out!!!” The water was crystal clear and you could see the bottom perfectly, and lo and behold, hundreds of crabs the size of grapefruits walking all over the place. I’d never seen anything like it in my life. I wouldn’t say it was life altering, but it is a lifelong memory. :slight_smile:

I’ve only read the first two posts by Carve and Onuela. Hawaii! I have a Hawaii story, but it’s about, like, surfing 2 foot… Hawaiian.

I was on my honeymoon on Maui. I paddled out at the reef inside/down the beach from Maalaea. It was shoulder high but little barrels and really offshore, mini Maalaea and, for a Cali guy like me …it was… Hawaii! I was on one wave that kept going. By the time I was on the inside it was only knee high but I was zipping along, going, “Wow, even a knee high wave in Hawaii is fast!” Then the reef dried out in front of me. Like I said, I was going fast. I tried to jump over the back and land as flat as possible, but I still got dragged on the reef.

The funny part was when I sent my wife into a drug store to get butterfly bandages. I’m waiting in the parking lot because I’m all bloody. Next thing I know she’s at the door waving at me to come. Seems she passed a counterfeit $20 bill. So I walk in with my shades still on, dripping blood all over my arm and leg, escorted by the police. Quite the scene.

My wife and I got our official honeymoon portrait taken by the Maui County Police as they were reading us our rights.

PS Obviously the $20 was not of our own making.

My life is altered a bit just about every time I go in the water…the biggies:

1955 Corona Del Mar - first wave body surfing

1956 Seal Beach - first wave on a board (Paipo)

1964 Pleasure Point - first standup wave

1965 Steamer Lane - first wave on a board I made.

1968 Steamer Lane - first wave on a flex spoon

1974 Luscombs Point - first wave on a Liddle

1986 Torrey Pines - pushed my daughter into her first standup.

2003 Kaanapali - first wave on a Neumatic.

2003 Plaskett Creek - That first morning session at the inaugural Sway’s meeting - jeeze that was magic.

2005 Steamer Lane - Biggest wave I can remember surfing (on a Mellor Gentleman’s Gun)

Let’s see. First time I stood up on a board in Cocoa Beach, Fl. La Jolla Shores, first time I took off on the swell and not the foamie. LB’s in Baja, two different surfs. Started off fun head high stuff. An hour and a half later it was approaching double overhead with lips as thick as I am tall. Scared shitless,but caught a couple of waves anyway. Second at LB’s first stand up tubes that were also my first backside tubes. It was perfect. Followed by a shot of gamma globulin cuz of the raw sewage. First time I rode a board I made with my own hands. mike

In order…

1st wave (6 yrs old, Seven Presidents Beach)

1st tube - even if it was tiny (Double Roads windslop)

Random session at a random Florida beachbreak where I first realized i was actually becoming a good surfer

Left pointbreak, Chile - first time i ever had perfect conditons all to myself. actually shared it with an otter. stunned by the beauty of the earth, and I knew what was important in life, what it was all about. savoring the instant. the next day i surfed it, but with others, bigger, colder, glassy. hesitation amounted to being pitched from the lip on a big one. put the fear of the ocean in me.