Reflecting on a moment in the Golden Age

The news media this week .has been filled with coverage of the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination.    It turns out it’s a 50th anniversary for me too.    To the day.    Nov. 22, 1963.    In so many ways, it seems like yesterday.     Isolated on the North Shore, hearing that shocking news on the radio.   And then driving from our house at Sunset, down to Laniakea, and seeing near glassy, 15 foot peeling freight train walls, 100 yards long.      What an experience!     I’ve ridden  many larger waves, over the years, but never a faster wave.   When it’s cooking, Laniakea is the best big wave on the North Shore.    Not just my opinion, but also the opinion of Buzzy Trent, and Fred Van Dyke, both of who made the comment to me in conversation many years ago.   I’ve ridden it at that size several other times, but never with that perfection.   Every wave was makable, if you had a board fast enough.    I did.    The surf, and conditions. stayed like that all day.  You’ve got to know that it was a special day of surf, since I’m still talking about it a half century later.    The surf would be remembered for its excellence alone.   The date is remembered because of the loss of JFK.

Under the right conditions every spot is the best on the North Shore.  And every spot different, Lani’s funnels on down the reef, and when it happens its amazing to see, because the wave looks the same but smaller from outside to inside.

That was simply not my experience.    For my first month on the North Shore, Velzyland was my favorite wave.     That is until, on a dead flat day, I went skindiving there.    The bottom was a horrifying forest of coral trees, some coming to within two feet of the surface.     I never surfed there again.     Two weeks after I made that decission, a 16 year old kid from Town, dove off his board into the top of one of those coral trees and died on the spot.     Over time I managed to experience ALL of the major breaks on the NS in optmum size and conditions.   That day at Laniakea, shines above them all, for me.   

I haven’t been around much comparitively, but Laniakea is by far and away the BEST wave I’ve ever surfed. I dearly love Sunset, but one day at Lani’s really stands out in memory. There had been about a week and a half of total flat spell when standing at Sunset pondering a swim or not, B. Baker walks up and says he had been counting the shore lap intervals from his place at Backyards. He said to be at Lani’s first thing next morning. Who am I to argue? Turns out it is me and two buddies and Bobby Owens on dawn patrol. I’m clueless and Bobby sees me riding a Mike Casey Shape and we begin to talk. He (takes pity I guess) and dials me in to the spot. It started out good and turned EPIC with the four of us out. It was turn and burn for as long as I could take. We must have been out for hours before the crowd shows (it seemed). After almost thirty years later it has remained a standout session. Plus I can’t say enough about Bobby Owens. His surfing and Aloha. One of the best.

Hey Tblank, Bobby Owens was and is the man.  I can tell you stories of me in the spot, and 50 yards back he was in the spot.  Phenomenal talent and all around good guy who let his surfing talk, and it did so loudly and clearly.  Arguably the best surfer of his time on the North Shore.

For length of ride, Laniakea and Sunset are the best spots when they are on. I’ve seen Sunset on days when you could make it from the outside all the way through, just epic. Puaena Pt can be a great wave when it’s lined up right. Long rights with a couple of bowls. Lani’s though was my favorite spot. When it’s good you will never forget that wave. Days when you take off outside the houses on the Chun’s Reef side and you end up outside the houses on the Haleiwa side are unforgettable. Turn and burn is the right description. Back in the day we parked on the beach side of the road, and the sand was filled in more. Today, the shore line has more rocks, and there are Honu along the waters edge. It’s become a major tourist stop, and traffic gets messed up there every day. I can only imagine how great it was in the 60’s. In the 70’s we still had many epic days with just a handful of guys out.

In th early 70’s the Owens family moved to Ewa Beach and Bobby and his brothers surfed at Shark Country and the other spots around our little community. Bobby is my brother’s age, and Chris is a year or so younger than me. Bobby took a liking to Swabby Land which is a North Shore like wave on the south west corner. You needed a military I.D to get there, or a boat. Bobby is a really nice guy, always quite, but if you talk to him he’ll respond. He was an influence on my brother to get boards from Iggy.

As good as Bobby was, there another guy we grew up looking up to who ruled Lani’s when it was on, Butch Perreira was our local hero. He ripped Sunset too. George Ku, another friend, ruled Lani’s at one time. George is a very good shaper, he owns Hawaiian Surf Designs.

Watever skills you’ve got, Sunset is going to give you a chance to put them to work.  And you better paddle REAL hard down the face when you decide it’s time to go, or you will find new meaning in pitched…

I was a 13 year old freshman in high school when JFK went down.  I will always remember the bewildered confusion at school when it was announced, a bunch of school kids trying to process the killing of an American president.

In many ways, it was the start of a fracturing in this country that it has never recovered from.  From the killing to Viet Nam, Watergate, Contragate, multiple wars serving only the profits of the elite, voter fraud in a presidential election, “Corporations Are People” Supreme Court decisions, the currently insanely polarized politics without a middle…it’s easy to think that more then JFK was killed on that day…

Hello G, Howzit? Yeah Bobby was a regular unassuming guy until he got in some good surf. Then it was, Whoa! This guy is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. You could see him walking down the aisle in Foodland and never know. He stood out alright, there were quite a few guys like that.

SharkC, I remember Butch P.He was pure power. He was your classic Hawaiian Warrior. That’s what he looked like in the water to me.

Mike Casey I think knew Diff from San Diego days. At that time I was around, Mike’s shack was about 300 yards from Diff’s.

Funny. I just watched The Lost and Found Collection the other night and there was a segment with Owens where he drove the filmmaker by the old family house near Sunset and talked about the Thanksgiving dinners his folks used to feed to visiting guys from all over.