Behind the board – Joel Tudor

[title text=”Behind the board with Joel Tudor” link=”” link_text=””]

So Joel what have you been up to lately? I’m getting ready to add a 3 car garage with guest quarters on my property in Del Mar as well as getting ready to do the H-Pac in Hawaii.

Have you been competing much? Not really, but the season is just beginning to kick off. I thought I was going to be able to make the Noosa event this year but it conflicts with Puerto. I‚ll be doing the Puerto event in mid March right after the H-Pac. And I‚m considering doing the longboard tour this year since most takes place in Europe, but that can always change.

How about travel, any good trips lately? I didn’t really travel that much last year other than the usual. Hawaii, Costa Rica, Japan, and I almost forgot I went to China to hook up with my girl while she worked over there. Really an interesting place. But no real surf travels to speak of. I plan on this year being different.

I understand you just returned from Hawaii, how was it? I have been hearing of some of the best waves in years. Unbelievably good surf! I was there from the beginning of November through the beginning of Christmas. I got some really good days and then returned home to great surf. I was stoked. It’s been one of the best winters in years here. I’m not complaining!

Tell me about the new board company, is everything taking off well? We are just so grateful to the retail community and the consumers who are buying our boards. It‚s doing really well. I think there is room for new guys like myself and the old established companies as well. I/m just having such a good time working with my shapers on new board designs that I truly will work and be fun. That’s my goal, to have boards that make your surf session fun not frustrating. Not everyone is trying to be the surf pro and there is certainly nothing wrong with that. So we create boards that are user friendly, at least that‚s our objective.

Have you had a lot of good feedback? Yes it’s been nothing but positive. We hear most of the time “I had so much fun on that board”. I couldn‚t ask for anything more. At the beginning I had my fair share of critics, but that can also serve you well if you don’t take it personal and listen to what is being said and maybe learn from it. It’s all good. The best lessons in life come with a price, it shouldn’t be a cake walk. It’s been some hard work but as a whole I’ve received nothing but support from everyone.

So what made you decide to go out on your own and stop riding for Donald (Takayama)? That’s a hard question as there were many deciding factors involved. Without going into detail I just think I was ready to try new ideas and I think some of what I wanted to experiment with in the mid-length and retro shortboards wasn’t going to work with Donald. And I respectfully understand Donald‚s position. My relationship with him was incredible. He was my hero growing up and was my mentor or “Grandpa” thru all my years with him from grom into adulthood. He‚s the standard of excellence for ma and always will be. And I’ll keep that standard with me for life. I will always be grateful for what he helped me achieve. I had a great experience riding for him, but I think without either of us realizing it, it was time for us to move on and go into different directions. And that‚s what we did. As I’ve said, it’s all good.

Are you developing and sponsoring a team? I’m sponsoring some kids at the moment. I have 2 young boys named Christian and Carson Wach. I‚m hoping to bring Christian to the Margaritaville event there in Florida and have him compete in the Pro division. He‚s only 13 but he is amazing with natural talent. I think it will be good for him to go a few rounds with the big boys. His brother is 12 and really good as well. They are just great kids with a great family and major support. You’ll be hearing from both of them in the future. I’m also sponsoring two 15 year old girls, their names are Schuyler (pronounced Skylar)McFerran and a girl named Stephanie. Of course when you decide to sponsor people you expect them to perform well, but not necessarily winning all the time. You want all around good sportsmanship. You want someone who can take defeats with honor as well as wins with humility. I want people with personality and drive. Just as an example, little Carson Wach is only 12 and knows how to Crochet and is making beanies with a buddy and selling them to earn money for themselves. How cool is that! I am definitely into the kids being creative and artistic, it’s not always just about the win. I just want good competitors. Someone who can be a leader and have the ability to influence others. I‚m not looking to grow a huge team, just keeping it tight and small.

Here on the east coast a lot of the guys are really stoked on you boards and really starting to experiment with the midlengths, any suggestions or path to focus on? Just keep your mind open to old ideas made fresh and new ideas that are unconventional. It might just open up a whole new world to your surf experience. I’m not advocating getting rid of your thrusters long or short, I still ride both when the condition calls for it. I just don‚t want to be limited by what waves I can surf because I am limited by my equipment. It has just opened up a whole new world for me surf wise. Each board with its size and shape is a different experience. It’s limitless and fun! The ocean is a place where I go to rid my mind of everyday hassles of life and just for those moments have a good time. My boards create that for me. I‚m not trying to do anything really new but just give options that are fun.

So what designs would you recommend for our local surf? Probably for a shortboard the Good Karma or the JT Fish. For a Longboard the Diamond T or the Papa Joe.

I notice one of the new designs you are offering is a ‚80s inspired thruster, this doesn’t mean you are trading in your single fins does it? No of course not, but like I said earlier it‚s just one more design that helps me to surf according to the conditions.

Are you working on any other projects such as clothing lines etc? I do have a gentleman in Japan and he and I are working on a wetsuit called Amsterdam and will try to have it available sometime this year to retail shops. It is available in Japan but not here at the moment. I’d like to do some clothing but keep it simple with not a lot in the line. I ride for 55 DSLwhich is a part of Diesel and I am currently working with them to have signature pieces of mine in their line. I‚m excited about that. At the moment for my surfboard company we are doing t’s, long and short, and some sweatshirts that the retail stores can purchase. Hopefully we can develop more as the year goes on.

You were just in Orlando for the Surf Expo, did you get a chance to paddle out while you were over? No I didn’t, but I stayed with Parks who is an amazing wakeboarder and wakeboarded for the first time.

What did you think of it? I loved it and will be back to try it again.

Have you had the opportunity to do much surfing here in Florida? No not really. I’ve only seen your surf spots when at a contest. Mainly Cocoa Beach. I‚d like to explore it and see some different areas though.

What do you think of our local east coast guys and surf scene? There are some good guys, the vibe is mellow and I enjoy the east coast when I have the opportunity to travel and surf it. I think there are a lot of unexplored areas for me to surf. And I am looking forward to a time when maybe I can get to surf them.

There are quite a few guys from Florida out there trying to make an impact on the tour, have you developed friendships with any of them? One of them is Stephen Slater, what do you think of his style? I know Stephen from when I was still riding for Donald. He and I have hung out and traveled to different places around the world. I consider him a good friend. I respect what Stephen is doing with his surfing, I do believe we have different styles and maybe a different approach and obviously there is room for both. And of course I know many of the guys who have come from Florida and consider them friends.

You have been referred to by many as one of the best surfers today, maybe the greatest longboarder ever, how do you feel about all the recognition and credit you receive? Humbled and extremely grateful. Sometimes it‚s hard to live up to everything people say or write about you. But honestly when all is said and done I’m just an ordinary guy who was blessed with an ability and given the opportunity to display what I could do. I’ve had a good life and God has blessed me. I’m thankful.

In your own words how would you like to be remembered in the surfing history books? That’s another tough question, but as I think about it I can truthfully say I would want to be known as one who remained true to his passion without compromising his ethics. Where my longboard skills are concerned that I remained true to the essence of what my heart believes concerning style and that I didn‚t compromise what I believe to be good longboarding. That in some way I brought dignity to this part of our sport, and that in some small way I made a difference. That I’m not just a longboard surfer, but a all around good waterman. I want to be remembered for doing it all with style. And that I didn’t back down from what I believed to be the truth.

Any last words of wisdom? Know that all things are possible, don’t let the negative opinions in this world keep you from going after the things you believe in. Try to keep a grateful attitude. Remember that the important things in life aren’t always about materialism. Faith, family, friends, these are the things that determine a persons true wealth.

Unfavorable days gallery thanks so much Joel for taking the time to talk with me. We have a single fin contest coming up in March and would love to have you come down if you can swing it. If not then just let me know when you want to come over and do some of that Florida exploring, I am sure we could find a few volunteer surf guides to show you around. Good luck with everything, and I‚’ll see you soon.

Behind the board – Paul Strauch

When did you start surfing? My father started me surfing at Waikiki when I was four years old. He grew up two blocks off Kuhio Beach and spent most of his youth surfing and fishing along the coastline from Diamond Head to the Ala Wai Harbor. He knew all the surfing reefs in the area and all the Waikiki beach boys. It was a childhood fantasy for meÄ Being pushed into that first wave on his redwood plank, quietly skimming through the water and watching all the fish and beautiful coral reef pass by underneath the board was magical. I’ll never forget my first wave at Baby Queens. It was so exciting I thought my heart would burst right through my chest… And it’s been that way for me ever since then!

What was it that first got you into the water? As a child my lungs were underdeveloped and I had trouble breathing. My parents took me to the ocean to increase my physical strength and endurance. They felt the ocean activity would increase my appetite and build me up. I started out with a small paipo board in the shore break and slowly progressed to a surf mat, redwood plank, hollow board and finally at 12 years old I got a balsa board with a swallow tail. My Dad contracted Tom Blake to shape two balsa boards in our garage, a 10’6″ square-tail for himself and an 8’6″ swallow-tail for me. Tom helped us pick out the balsa from the local lumberyard. He diagonally cut the first 3-1/2 feet of each separate length and then took the cut pieces and glued them to the top of each length to fashion the scoop or nose rocker. Then all the pieces were glued together lengthwise, the outline cut, the board shaped with a drawknife, planer, sandpaper, and then fiberglassed all by hand without the use of any power tools. And, he did everything in our own garage! Tom had even made a fin mold, which he used to make fiberglass fins. They looked like the vertical tail from a B-52 bomber. He added pigment to the resin so our fins were bright red. I remember carefully watching him through each step of the entire process. He was quiet, reserved and very humble… Extremely meticulous and patient, and health conscious. I remember he only ate raw vegetables, fresh fruit, whole grain cereal and fresh fruit. It took him three weeks to finish both surfboards. We took them to Waikiki and baptized them with a Hawaiian ritual before entering the ocean. My 8’6″ Tom Blake balsa was so light and maneuverable by comparison to my 8′ finless hollow board. Now I could really put my weight on each rail and reverse my direction with ease. It was like night and day. What a remarkable difference from the redwood and hollow boards I had been riding up to that point.

Who were some of your early influences and mentors? My father, Tom Blake and George Downing were guiding lights in my surfing. Their knowledge of the ocean, currents, winds, wave intervals, reefs, bottom topography, hydrodynamics, surfboard design and fundamental elements in the sport were unparalleled to me. I learned so much from each one and thank them for their patience and many gifts to me. There were others at Waikiki whose style and talent I admired because they really stood out from the rest in the crowd. These surfers exuded so much confidence and poise, they were like super heroes to meÄ Richard Kauo, Blackie Makalena, Blackout, Squirlie Carvalho, Rabbit Kekai, George Downing, Dingo, Dickie-Boy Abbey, Maurice Ikeda, Alan Gomes, Conrad Canha, to mention just a few. They were my heroes in the surf and they commanded respect. There was always a hierarchy and you quickly learned to respect your mentors and elders in surfing. In Hawaii, you learned from your eldersÄ Those who had more experience, better equipment, respect, style, patience, humility, and dignity. It was personal. No team thing, just you and your mentors. There was etiquette and courtesy. It required great personal effort and commitment to progress. You learned about the sea, and its many different moods. You discovered how to flow in harmony with the movement. Personal pride and accomplishment were yours. You shared the experience with others. You became the mentor. This is surfing in Hawaii.

What built your interest in big wave riding and was there any particular day or event you remember as being particularly significant to you? I started going to Makaha when I was about 14 years old. I entered the Makaha International Surfing Championships in 1958 and placed second and won the division the following year. In 1958 I got my first foam board, a 9’8″ yellow Hobie pintail, through George Downing. It was this board that made the second major impact on my surfing. It was much lighter than my Blake balsa and extremely responsive. It paddled faster, turned on a dime and would scoot forward under sections of the wave when you shifted your body weight forward and back and from rail to rail. The Hobie worked great in surf up to about six feet. However, when the surf rose over six to eight feet, the width in the tail section caused the board to skip over the surface chop and you lost both speed and control. At 15 my Dad and I went to meet with Bob Shepherd and Joe Daniels at the surfboard shop called Swim Boats in Kakaako, just south of downtown Honolulu. Bob was a fireman and master shaper, and Joe did all the glass work. Bob shaped a beautiful 10’4″ balsa gun for me. I christened this board at Sunset Beach with George Downing. It was my first time there and George and I sat on the beach for over an hour as he showed me the lineup doe the west peak and the north point rides. He explained how all the water rushed straight in, over the reef to shore, and turned into a strong rip tide which ran parallel to the beach and then went back out the sandy channel. We timed the sets and wave intervals, watched people swim in for their boards and go right back out the channel riptide when they swam out of the incoming whitewater line. George really knew his stuff in big surf. He was the Man, the main Guru for big waves without any question! Following our beachside observation, I paddled out with George and surfed all morning for over three hours without incident. I clearly remember the surf was in the 8 to 10 with occasional 12-foot sets rolling through, super clean with clear skies and a mild offshore blowing. My new Shepherd balsa gun was super fast and would come off the bottom with no drag and keep accelerating from the speed of drop and easily make the wave. It was exhilarating to go so fast. I watched everyone else and they all seemed to take off on an angle rather than drop straight down. Most of the time their take offs were so late that they would bounce down the face and couldn’t hold the tail of their boards in the wave, loose control and spin out. If I timed it right, I could go drive my board almost straight down the face, shift my position and weight to the tail section of the board, bank hard off the bottom, take two steps forward with my weight on the inside rail, level the board while in a crouch and then rocket forward from all the follow through and speed. This take off sequence worked really well at Sunset. In fact, I found that I could get so much speed out of my boad from a well-timed bottom turn that the board seemed to almost squirt out ahead. My Shepherd gun worked like a dream! Later after lunch, Hobie Alter, who was out in the morning, offered me his 10’6″ gun to try. I took it out and paddled into my first wave with all the confidence I gained in my morning run and just got clobbered. His board was longer, thicker and heavier and didn’t turn like mine. I lost control right after I dropped in and was held down so long with no air left that I began to see stars. I thought it was all over. Somehow I managed to get back to the surface, and slowly worked my way to the beach. It as vivid wake up call for me, very humbling indeed. A wipeout I’ll never forget. After that first day at Sunset I used to day dream constantly about riding big surf using the same techniques and “hot-dogging” style as in smaller waves. But, I learned in order to do surf this way, you had to have the right equipment. Board design made all the difference in riding large surf. You needed experience and coordination, timing, good judgment, physical conditioning. But without the right equipment, a properly designed board, it was impossible. You were doomed!

Are you still active in surfing today, and what types of boards do you use on a regular basis? I am very active in surfing now. I surf about four to five times a week. Living in San Clemente where there are nine breaks within five minutes of each other and very consistent all year round. Although the surf in this area only breaks over 8′ a few times a year, you can find surf at least 300 days of the year. I use about five different boards on a regular basis; two 10′ small wave longboards, a 8’8″ semi-gun, 10’6″ gun and 11’2″ fun board. I prefer to ride a longboard here in California due to the smaller surf. I love to noseride and the thin, glassy morning surf here offer a premium ride for that purpose. I spend a lot of time at the Point at San Onofre where the surf is very consistent, mellow and family oriented with predominately longboarders. There’s no real contention in the water, and everyone has a good time. I’m the current president of the Hawaiian Surf Club of San Onofre, a 12-year old surf club designed to perpetuate surfing and Hawaii’s culture, and we meet every Sunday for a relaxing day at the beach. We host an annual Polynesian festival and luau in San Clemente over the Memorial Day Holiday to share and perpetuate Hawaii’s culture and the Aloha spirit with everyone here in southern California. It’s become a very popular event over the years. In addition, our club makes an annual trip to Hawaii every year to surf and relax on the north shore of Oahu. It’s become like one large extended family. Check it out on the web at and be sure to click on the “Talk Story” section. There are some hilarious stories to enjoy there.

There has been a major resurgence in longboards during the 90’s and now especially with the 70’s-style, heavy weight, noseriders with volan cloth and single fins. Why do think this board design has become so popular now? In the 60’s and 70’s, one of the most important aspects in surfing was style. If you wanted to improve your surfing, you had to demonstrate your experience and control by looking smooth. Casually turning, walking to the nose to trim and then back to the tail before cutting back and then repeating the process. As your surfing progressed you would ride each wave as if it were like a choreographed dance. The best surfers always rode with the smoothest style and repertoire. They stood out from the crowd with their casual elegance and always looked so poised and in control. You would carefully studied your surfing idols and try to mimic all of their moves and developed your own style. You practiced the same maneuvers over and over again until you could perform the entire dance without hesitation or jerky movements. You learned how to pull out over the top of the wave and glide slowly to a stop while reversing the direction of your board so it pointed back to the lineup as you casually dropped down to the prone position to paddle back out to the takeoff area. You would slowly develop your own personal surfing style by combining all the best maneuvers from all the surfers you admired. All the good surfers did this. It was just part of the flow in surfing. If you watch Joel Tudor, currently one of the best longboarders in the world, you will see elegant Longboard surfing at its finest. Joel Tudor has spent years developing his own surfing choreography into a precise, flowing wavedance. His super-smooth, graceful style has developed a huge following among longboarders everywhere, and you can see young surfers trying to emulate his technique, coordination and style. Joel has been one of the leading proponents to usher back the 60’s style mastery and has helped put real soul back into surfing.

What is your opinion on tow-in surfing in search for larger waves? Tow-in surfing has opened up an entirely new horizon in riding big waves without question. It has magnified the requirements for being fully prepared to ride the outer reefs. It takes an intense commitment to physical training, special equipment and boards, partner relationship, and a vast expanse of knowledge that can only come from first hand experience. In 1996 I was hired to scout the top big wave riders in Hawaii for a feature film, called In God’s Hands. I helped to arrange a session at Jaws with Maui hellmen Laird Hamilton, Derrick Doerner, Dave Kalama, Rush Randle, Buzzy Kerbox and Pete Cabrinha. I flew over from Honolulu to Maui with Brian Keaulana, Brock Little, Mike Stewart and a cameraman and we drove out to Peahi. We stood on the edge of the cliffs watching these guys tow-in to perfect 18 – 25-foot Jaws for over an hour. Neither Brian, Brock nor Mike had ever surfed there and they paid close attention to the whole set up. Then we drove back to the launch area and met the Maui crew there for their lunch break. Laird and Derrick were extremely serious about surfing Jaws and reviewed all the safety procedures to be followed with all of us. They emphasized Jaws was a real life and death situation and didn’t want any showboating going on out there. I can’t over-emphasize their seriousness about tow-in surfing Jaws, and I respect them for it. After lunch they all headed out the small boat harbor on jet skis and several auxiliary boats for Jaws. I drove back to help set up the cameras with our crew. For next two hours someone in the group rode every wave that came through Jaws. One of the teeth-clinching moments came when Mike Stewart was towed into his first wave, a giant 20-footer on his boogie board. Everyone on the cliff held their breath as he left go of the tow rope and bounced three times to the bottom of the wave, and then got completely tubed before popping out on to the shoulder. It was an awesome wave. Another chilling ride came when both Brian and Brock were both towed into a 25- foot monster. Brian was on the shoulder and Brock on the inside. Brock faded too deep into the pocket and as he made his bottom turn he knew there was no way he could make it out. So, he just pulled up high right into the pocket as the whole thing buried him and he was snuffed like a rag doll. He was held down and dragged for nearly 60 underwater and finally surfaced. He was picked up by Billy, one of the jet ski drivers and towed out into the channel while his board was trashed on the rocky shoreline. Watching the entire wipeout from the cliff, I wasn’t sure Brock would be able to pull through all that punishment, but thank God he did. From Brock’s mishap I learned how important your ski-driving partner is to setting the takeoff up and your survival. If he drives too deep, you’re history! On the north shore when the outer reefs are breaking, sometimes an outside set will break a hundred yards farther out than the last one. You’ve got to be prepared for this to happen all the time when the surf gets super-big. It takes a great deal of practice, area familiarity and seamanship. It’s dead serious stuff. Your survival depends on it. I worry over the growing probability for accidents as more surfers venture out into the realm of extreme surfing due to a number of reasons like inexperience, faulty equipment and a disregard for safety precautions. It seems the fantasy challenge for big wave hunters to tow into bigger and bigger waves will continue as will the personal liability factor. The raw natural power behind waves with 60 to 70-foot faces leaves very little room for error to survive.

Your life as a surfer has covered several decades. When do you feel was the best decade to be a surfer? That’s very difficult to answer. I think every surfer has an indelible mental and emotional imprint etched into his or her memory bank of his or her very first wave. For me Waikiki will always have a special place in my heart and memory. There’s so much history there and it’s so beautiful sitting out in the ocean and looking back at lush Manoa valley and seeing the brilliant colors of the rainbows against the glistening sun…What a majestic sight that is! For anyone asked this question, it becomes very personal regardless of the particular time frame they choose. Surfing is very personal. That’s exactly what separates surfing from all the other sports. It’s all up to you as an individual. There’s no team or other players to always consider. It’s you, your board and the ocean and no one can take that personal aspect away from you. For me it was back in the early 50’s riding a redwood plank across the inside reef at Baby Queens in Waikiki and watching the fish swim by as I walked on water. I’ll own that moment forever.

You have been praised by many for the influence and contributions you have made to the art of riding waves. How does it make you feel to be so well recognized? What do you feel has been your greatest contribution? The Paul Strauch Cheater Five? I haven’t the faintest clue on how to answer this question. Having surfed through the surfboard evolution from redwood planks, hollow boards, balsa, foam and new super light composites and all the design improvements, I can say it’s been personally fulfilling in every respect. Learning to smile while using body weight displacement and physical coordination to functionally maneuver a long, heavy object to stay in the critical part of the wave while trying to appear in complete control has been my objective since a child. I guess that’s my answer. Surf with a smile. Yes, if I can be remembered for one thing it would be my smile. You can’t have fun without smiling, can you?

Who do you feel is the most influential surfer today? There are so many surfers who are considered leaders of the sport today. I admire all of them for their incredible skills, dedication and raw talent in all types of surf. Right now without question, one of these surfing icons has to be Kelly Slater. He’s super-human when it comes to surfing skills. His dexterity, timing and talent is truly awesome. Now he’s also venturing into the extreme realm of super large surf, too. He’s definitely capable of taking small wave performance surfing to an entirely new level in big surf. Just watch him. He’s already there!

Do you have any advice for today’s surfers? Yes I do. Remember the thrill of your first wave. It’s the essence of surfing. Find that feeling every time you ride a wave so you can laugh out loud because you’re doing what you love. and Smile! It’s contagious!

Behind the board – DAVID NUUHIWA

[title text=”BEHIND THE BOARD WITH MIKE BROCK AND DAVID NUUHIWA” link=”” link_text=””]

[row ]

[col span=”1/3″ ]
[team_member name=”David Nuuhiwa” title=”Longboard Designer”  img=””]
Team member description

[col span=”2/3″ ]
Introduction: David Nuuhiwa reached a level of fame few surfers can imagine. Whether it was his smooth styling in the waters of Waikiki in the 50’s, his mastery of noseriding in the 60s, or his aggressive transition to the new shortboard in the 70’s one thing is certain he was always leading the pack and taking the rest of us along for the ride. The 80’s and 90’s saw the rebirth of longboarding and again out in front was David Nuuhiwa developing new designs in longboards and winning contests showing us how it is done with style and grace. His career and life as a surfer has covered a broad range of development and changes but he has always stayed close to the soul side of surfing and shared this sense of aloha openly. Recently I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to chat with Mr. Nuuhiwa and get the views and concerns of one of surfings greats.


When did you start surfing? I was six when I did my first contest, in Hawaii.

What was it that first got you into the water? “Paipo” boarding (like a skim board made by Hawaiians) motivated me to get on a longer board.

Who were some of your early influences and mentors? Early influences were the beach boys of Hawaii and here is a list of some guys I thought were sooo cool; Nappy Napoleon, Bobby Achoy, Raymond Marie, Donald Takayama, and B.K. Of all the places you have traveled to and surfed, what is your favorite whether for the waves, people, etc? Tavarua, Fiji goes back in time at least 100yrs. The waves and people are awesome!

What motivated you to start shaping and designing surfboards? The only motivation to shape was to make me board quick! I was practicing for a contest at Huntington Beach Pier and the lifeguard kept throwing me out cuz of blackball (method used at HB to keep surfers out of water, so the swimmers wouldn’t get hit by the boards. But they allowed skimboards and boogie boards). I said what’s the dimensions I can ride? I went home and shaped the shortest twin fin fish, ever! I ran into the same lifeguard at a dealership, where I got my truck! I only help with the designs, leave the shape to the masters, such as Steve Walden is happening!

In your entire quiver of boards what is your favorite to ride? Favorite board is the oldest! A Bing/Nuuhiwa Noserider, or a Nuuhiwa Noserider “Comp” Model, and I am going to try out my new design, called the “Ray” this weekend at Waldens.

With the growing popularity of Longboarding and the “retro” movement a lot of people are starting to explore the midlength single fin designs of the late 60’s early 70’s. What do you think of the rediscovery of these mid-size shapes? FUN!

Your surfing has covered several decades of our sports history. What do you feel was the best decade to be a surfer? Why? Best decade to be a surfer was the 60s-70s, Soulful!

It must have been quite a challenge on the equipment of the time to start riding that size surf. Luckily we were able to gradually work up to riding bigger and bigger waves so it wasn‚t the shock of just paddling out in giant surf. We had everything from fun 6‚ waves to 18‚ to 20‚. When your sitting outside at Makaha on a big day it‚s pretty awesome. First of all you‚re a long way out and these giant walls are coming at you and you have no idea when you take off if your going to make it all the way to the bowl at the end of the wave. If you do you had to ride high on the wave then drop through the bowl when it sucks out. This was all before leash‚s so when we didn‚t make a wave we had to straighten out and try to prone it out which is pretty hairy on large waves. we all got in really great shape and became pretty good swimmers.

You reached a level of popularity few surfers even dream of . You have been considered by many one of the greatest “soul men” surfing has ever seen and have influenced countless numbers of surfers. What do you think of being considered so influential in surfings history? I guess, I don’t think about it, doesn’t make me any money, haha, but has got me in a lot of doors. (My wife gets bummed when a groupie showed up at the backdoor!)

Who do you feel is the most influential surfer out there today? Most influential surfer is probably Joel Tudor and Kelly Slater, oh and Donald Takayama, he helps promote so many guys. He’s too cool!

In your life and career as a surfer what do you feel has been the biggest challenge you have faced? New goals and challenges and bad water, I want to clear!

Where would you like to see surfing a few years from now? A much different level. I want to see surfing respected #1! I want to see the contests giving money to charities and not think of themselves so much. I would like to see the competitors getting higher purses and us “old dudes” put on a tour like the golfers. For surfers to remember God made all this water, and us!

Tell me your favorite surf story or memory , I am sure you have tons of them. My favorite memory was making Rainbow Bridge, with Jimi Hendrix. I never surfed better, it was awesome to surf and be filmed and in the same movie with him and his music! Sit around and talk with him, what a gas!

What advise would you like to pass on to today’s surfers? My advice to new surfers is not to take it so seriously, have fun! Respect longboarders as well as short and become one with it, instead of splitting it up! It makes me sad when Hawaiians or Polynesians started surfing, and then to hear some young guy yell “longboarder!” we are all on the same team and someday they will enjoy the art of longboarding. If you are a contestant, not to make a big scene if a judge has a poor ruling, our children are watching. And, oh, I wish I would have practiced what I preach!

After this interview concluded Jan (David’s wife) offered this favorite story:One of David’s favorite stories happened in Florida. We were on a trip with Donald Takayama, Sid (his wife), Dale Dobson, and a few others. We all had a ball, DT rented a “disco” looking van all lit up with tiny lights. We all looked like Cheech and Chong everywhere we went. We went to Mike Tabeling’s house saw his cannons and dablooms he collected from the sea, ate one dozen blue crabs each. But the best part was David had gone into a magic shop and got cigarette “loads”. Waiting for the perfect moment, Donald asked for a cigarette ,David had placed it perfectly in the pack. Kaboom!, right in the Daytona Speedway. There must have been 20 people with us, all eyes on Donald, we about fell out of the grandstand! David put about 5 loads in and it almost blew off DT’s eyebrows, but to see the blown cig hanging from his lips was priceless! David continued through the next week catching Donald again, and any unsuspecting surfer. He blasted Sid in an elegant restaurant.

Behind the board – Bing Copeland


[row ]

[col span=”1/3″ ]
[team_member name=”Bing Copeland” title=”Master Shaper”  img=””]

[col span=”2/3″ ]
Introduction: I first had the opportunity to meet Bing Copeland a couple of years ago when I was still shaping. Over the past few years I have learned a lot from him and his experiences. Master shaper, big wave pioneer, successful business man, and much more. Its easy to get lost in his long line of accomplishments, yet he still stays open to “talk story”, and share all of his wisdom to anyone willing to ask. Bing now splits his time between his homes in Baja and Idaho, and at 66yrs old proves to be a great resource for us all to learn a little more about surfings history from.


Thanks again for granting this interview. Mind if we talk about the old days of big wave pioneering? Sure, but you have to remember it‚s been over 45 years since my time of big wave surfing.

That‚s no problem. So when did you first go to Hawaii? In October of 1955 six of us flew to the islands. It was before jet planes were used for commercial flights so from Los Angeles it was about a ten hour flight. We were all between 18 and 19 years old.

Who did you travel over with? The six of us were, myself, Rick Stoner, Sonny Vardeman, Steve Voorhees, Mike Bright and George Kapoo.

Any others already over there at the time? Some of the other guys we surfed with were, Buzzy Trent Walt Hoffman, Peter Cole, Rcky Grigg, George Downing, Fred Van Dyke and Greg Noll when he came over from the states.

Any of the local guys kind of help coach you on the waves? George Downing was a big help teaching us the line ups and how to get in when we lost our boards in big waves.

How was the travel over? This was before board bags so we all used our sleeping bags to ship our boards in. We all were riding Velzy balsa boards.

Where did you stay? The first night we slept on the floor at George Kapoo‚s sister‚s house. She owned “Lilly‚s Lei Stand” in Waikiki. Then the second day we rented a little one room place about a block from the beach and surfed “Queens” every day for two weeks. We all chipped in and bought an old car for $60. and moved out to the country where we rented a quonset hut just off of the point at Makaha.

It must have been quite a challenge on the equipment of the time to start riding that size surf. Luckily we were able to gradually work up to riding bigger and bigger waves so it wasn‚t the shock of just paddling out in giant surf. We had everything from fun 6‚ waves to 18‚ to 20‚. When your sitting outside at Makaha on a big day it‚s pretty awesome. First of all you‚re a long way out and these giant walls are coming at you and you have no idea when you take off if your going to make it all the way to the bowl at the end of the wave. If you do you had to ride high on the wave then drop through the bowl when it sucks out. This was all before leash‚s so when we didn‚t make a wave we had to straighten out and try to prone it out which is pretty hairy on large waves. we all got in really great shape and became pretty good swimmers.

How long did you focus on Makaha? We stayed at Makaha for two months and were running out of money. At that point rick stoner and I were in the Coast Guard reserves and found out we could go active and be able to stay in the islands for two more years.

How long after this did you start thinking of Waimea? On the week ends or when we had vacation time we would head out to Haleiwa where we could stay at the beach park and surf the whole North Shore. Every day we would drive from Haleiwa to sunset beach which at the time was our favorite wave to surf. When you go from Haleiwa to sunset you went past Waimea Bay, we always looked at it and wondered if we could ride it. But Sunset was so good, and never crowded. I remember getting pretty cocky at Sunset and had the feeling I could ride anything it could throw at me until one wave (and not a very big one) pounded me good and when I finally reached the beach I decided that I had better have a lot more respect for the ocean. From then on I started to use my head and make better wave selection. I think then, at twenty years old, is when I really grew up.

Ok so you know I have to ask, tell me about the first day. One day in early november 1957, sunset closed out, and we went to look at Waimea. There was a bunch of us watching the waves when greg noll said he was going out. When your that young it’s kind of like i”ll go if you go. so we went out and rode it and it really wasn’t that big a deal.

I’m not too sure about that. Well the waves were big, about 20‚, but if you didn’t wipe out on the take off you would just shoot out into the channel.

Still pretty impressive being able to claim being one of the first. Did any of you imagine the impact that day would have? I honestly don’t know if it was the first day it was ridden or not. We really were not thinking about firsts, just surfing.

Exactly who else was there? If my memory is right some of the others besides Greg and myself that went out that day, was Pat Curren, Mike Stang, Mickey Munoz and Del Cannon.

Were you still riding the Velzy balsa? Well, the board I took with me was a 9‚4″ Velzy balsa. After the first year it was pretty wasted so I sold it and found Joe Quigg on diamond head and had him shape me a 9‚ balsa that was a little more appropriate for the island waves. I glassed the board myself on board the Coast Guard ship that I was on.

You make it all sound like just another day surfing. I always pictured it as a lot more intimidating. Remember this took place 36 years ago and memories have a tendency to fade. Yes even though we were used to riding big waves it is always hairy and intense when you paddle out into large waves and especially when it‚s an area that you have never surfed. You don‚t know what the bottom is like, how the rip‚s run, how and where the waves will break. And mostly you have no line ups which are critical being in position. I do remember that it wasn‚t really bumpy the real challenge was where to sit and where to take off. And, you are right the shore break at waimea always was difficult to time and punch out through. Once through the shore break it was a pretty clear paddle out, unless it was closing out. And if Waimea is closing out you don‚t want any part of it.

So what’s one off your fondest memories of early Hawaii? When Rick and I were in the Coast Guard we bought an old Plymouth station wagon and painted the back side windows out then made a bunk on one side with two boxes under it for each of our clothes and for the next two years, when we were not on duty we lived in our woody. We had a key to the showers at the Ala Moana Yacht Harbor where we surfed great lefts in the channel..

I’ll let you get going now. thanks again for the memories.