Those who leave too soon...
We Say Good-Bye to Rabbit Kekai, One of the Last of the Original Beach Boys.
Kekai was born (1920) and raised in Waikiki, began surfing at age five, and was later given informal instruction by pioneering surfer and gold medal swimmer Duke Kahanamoku. Kekai earned the nickname "Rabbit" as one the island's fastest runners, and he's said to have run a 10-second 100 yard dash in high school.
According to Kekai, the invention of high-performance surfing—turning up and down the wave face instead of just holding an angle—came about in the mid-'30s, as he and his friends began dodging the rocks at a Waikiki surf break called Publics. Kekai was one of Waikiki's best canoe steersmen as a teenager, and sometimes competed in canoe races against the aging but still formidable Kahanamoku. He was also a Waikiki beachboy—a beachfront concession-stand worker who gave surf and canoe lessons to tourists, lounged on the sand, played the ukulele, traded stories, romanced the endless stream of vacationing women, and frequently engaged in small-time hustles and scams. A black-and-white photograph from the late '40s shows Kekai riding a small wave alongside actor David Niven, his student for the day. He also gave surf lessons or canoe rides to Red Skelton, Dorothy Lamour, Kirk Douglas, Gregory Peck, Sandy Koufax, and Gary Cooper.
Meanwhile, Kekai's active wave-riding style had a big influence on the coming generation of surfers, including Californians Matt Kivlin, Joe Quigg, and Phil Edwards and Hawaii's Conrad Canha and Donald Takayama. "He was light-years ahead of anybody," Kivlin once said, recalling the first time he saw Kekai surf in 1947, also noting that the forthcoming "Malibu" style of riding was based on Kekai's high-performance technique. Kekai is sometimes also credited as the surfer who invented noseriding. Never shy about his own accomplishments, Kekai told Liquid Salt magazine in 2010 that he was "the best around." An early motivation for his style, Kekai went on to say, was to distinguish himself from "the 'society-type' surfer—the guys who just stand there. I used to whip my board up the wave and come back down. Everybody copied me; I was so far ahead. I used to do spinners and guys would say 'What the hell you doing?' They never did see anything like that." (Excerpt from Matt Warshaw's Encyclopedia of Surfing)
Aloha & RIP Lord James "Tally Ho" Blears
Handsome, funny, a brilliant wit, a master story teller, a champion sportsman, and a truly exceptional human being, Lord James “Tally Ho” Blears has passed away at age 93 on his home island of Oahu Hawaii.
Born in Manchester, England, Lord Blears survived a torpedo attack that sunk his ship mid ocean, and after capture by the enemy and surviving being adrift at sea he somehow returned in one piece to his native England, where he reunited with being a legitimate champion wrestler.
Soon he was traveling the globe and using his athletic skills performing with notorious television wrestler Gorgeous George, who encouraged Lord Blears to excel in the theatrical side of popular modern wrestling.
When a wrestling tour led Tally Ho to Hawaii he fell in love with the amazing beauty of the islands.
Like many travelers who’ve been touched by the magic of Hawaii, Lord Blears vowed to return. He loved the people, the weather, and the ocean, and when he did finally return he went on to become one of Hawaii’s most well known and most loved public figures, living much of his life in the Makaha area of Westside Oahu.
Lord Blears learned to surf, and went on to raise a family that was an integral part of post war Hawaiian beach culture, and as all of his native friends knew, truly embodied the Spirit of Aloha.
Both his son (Jimmy) and his daughter (Laura) became world surfing champions, and Lord Blears was a fixture during the early days of champion surfing as the announcer at all of the major surf contests on the North Shore. (photo: Dan Merkel/A-Frame Photo)
It’s with a heavy heart that we report the passing of North Shore surfer Brock Little, who died on February 18, at the age of 48. Little announced via social media last month that he was battling advanced cancer.
Born in 1967 in Napa, California, Little’s family moved to Haleiwa when he was three years old and he began surfing at age seven. As a teenager, Little was considered to be one of the most talented and hardest-charging surfers of his era and was a stalwart figure at Waimea and Mavericks. In 1986, at only 19 years old, he finished fourth in the Eddie event, solidifying his reputation as being utterly fearless. Just a few years later, in 1990, he finished second in the prestigious contest, amid some of the most harrowing conditions ever seen in the competition.
“Although Little was runner-up to Hawaiian surfer Keone Downing in the 1990 Quiksilver contest, held in spectacular 25 to 30-foot Waimea surf, he stole the show with a gladiatorial wipeout on the biggest wave of the day, and followed up by pulling into the tube on a 20-footer—a rarity in big-wave surfing at the time—and nearly making it out,” wrote Matt Warshaw in the Encyclopedia of Surfing.
While he would continue his search for massive surf in the coming decades, Little also began a career as a stuntman, appearing in numerous Hollywood films including Tropic Thunder, Training Days, and Transformers, just to name a few.
He was also a prolific contributor to both SURFER and Surfing magazines, penning more than 30 articles.
When he first announced that he was battling cancer via his Instagram account nearly a month ago, the surf world rallied around the icon. When news broke today that Little had passed, Kelly Slater wrote that Little was “Larger than life to me. The world I know will never be the same. I love you, man. Thank you…”
Even as Little’s health deteriorated, he still kept in high spirits and was very open about his condition. A few weeks ago, he gave his final interview with SURFER, where he discussed a life spent chasing heavy waves and his thoughts on his legacy in the surf world.
In Little’s last public statement, which appeared on his Instagram account yesterday, he wrote that he was “Lucky to be surrounded by love.”
Little was a true legend in the sport and will be greatly missed.
The last original member of the Palos Verdes Surf Club, Fenton Scholes passed away on Thursday, October 1, 2015. One of the first and most enduring mainland surfing clubs in the U.S., the Palos Verdes Surfing Club began in the mid-1930s, in either 1934 or 1935 depending on the account, by Hermosa Beach dentist John Heath “Doc” Ball and Adolph “Adie” Bayer. It held its regular meetings in a back room at Ball’s dentist office on Vermont Avenue in Los Angeles and included Fenton, John "Doc" Ball, Richard "Mo" Meine, Adolph “Adie” Bayer, LeRoy Grannis, Lewis Earl “Hoppy” Swartz, E. Calvin “Tulie” Clark, Cliff Tucker and others. The Palos Verdes Surf Club had its own distinctive green club jackets. Smoking was forbidden during meetings, and the group had its own creed, in which members swore to “at all times strive to conduct myself as a club member and a gentleman.” In addition to its own activities, the PVSC organized and conducted surfing contests and popular paddleboard race events between themselves and other clubs that had begun to spring up along the Southern California coast in Santa Monica, Venice, San Onofre and Del Mar.
Brian "the Sparrow" Test. Please click on the images above to read about this legend, and to see more, visit his website here: http://sparrowsnestsurf.wix.com/brian
Kathleen grew up in San Marino. When she was twenty years old, she graduated Phi Beta Kappa from University of California at Berkeley and went on to do research at the U.C.L.A Brain Research Institute.
When South Laguna began the process of annexation to the City of Laguna Beach, Kathleen became involved in planning efforts, the beginning of a long record of public service. Following this successful annexation, she served on the City of Laguna Beach Planning Commission. Later, she was elected to two terms on the City Council and also served two terms as Mayor of the City. During her tenure the Orange County Bankruptcy and the City fires presented major challenges. In particular, her term as Mayor during the Millennium was something she considered an honor.
Ricardo Dos Santos, Brazilian tube-riding specialist and big wave charger, was gunned down and later died from his injuries, in his hometown of Guarda do Embau in the state of Santa Catarina, Brazil. Dos Santos appeared in several (CT) events in recent years including the 2012 Billabong Pro Teahupo'o, during which he received the Andy Irons Most Committed award (beating Jordy Smith, Taj Burrow and Kelly Slater in the main event) and in 2012, he won the "Wave of the Winter" with a tube at Pipeline. Tragically, Ricardo was only 24 at the time of his passing.
Shelley Merrick, 50s female surfing pioneer, passed away. A contemporary of Marge Calhoun and Linda Benson, Shelley was a competitive surfer and learned to surf from people like Matt Kivlin and John Larronde. She was active in Surfrider for many years and competed well into her 50s and was a one-time Dewey Weber team member. She was also featured in Andrea Gabbard's Girl In The Curl, a book on female surfers; the California Surf Museum Women On Waves exhibit; and Don Wolf's 1965 film, Always Another Wave. Here's an article on Shelley from 2008 and a facebook page created for memories of Shelley.
East Coast Hall of Famer, Mike Tabeling (pictured on the left) passed away on December 20, after a year-long battle with cancer. Mike was able to make the transition from long to shortboards and inspired a generation of Right Coast surfers with his smooth stye and effortless radical maneuvers. Mike was featured in John Severson's final film, "Pacific Vibrations", riding the board seen here with artwork done by Mike himself (that's former longboard world champ, Taylor Jensen on the right). Mike spent his last year with his wife, Nancy, traveling around the US and Mexico, crossing off items on his bucket list. He and Nancy even had their wedding at SHACC a few years back. A true friend of Surfing Heritage and one of the nicest guys around (with a great sense of humor to boot), Mike will be greatly missed. You can read about some of Mike's adventures in the recent Surfer's Journal, number 23, volume 6, and for more on Mike, check out these postings on The Encyclopedia of Surfing and on Surfline.
Ricky Grigg, supremely confident regularfooter from Honolulu, Hawaii; winner of the 1966 Duke Kahanamoku Invitational, and sometimes referred to as the first big-wave hotdogger. Grigg was born (1937) in Los Angeles, raised in Santa Monica, began surfing at age nine, and by the early ’50s was one of the hottest young surfers at Malibu. In 1955 Grigg won the first annual Catalina-to-Manhattan Beach paddleboard race, a 32-miler that would come to stand as paddleboarding’s supreme test.
Surfing Heritage & Culture Center – Hobie Alter Scholarship Fund
Of all the legends we've recently lost, this one hit closest to home, especially since our own Dick Metz was such a close friend and associate of Hobie's. We all are truly saddened by the passing of this gentle man, and modern creator of so many sports innovations.
Hobart “Hobie” Alter, who started out shaping surfboards, and ended up shaping a culture, passed away peacefully at his Palm Desert home on March 29 surrounded by his loving family. Born on October 31, 1933 in Ontario, California, he was 80 at the time of his passing.
The recently published biography “Hobie: Master of Water, Wind and Waves” reveals the story of this true Renaissance man. The son of a second-generation orange farmer, Hobie flourished spending time at his family’s Laguna Beach summer home. And it was here in the family’s garage back in 1950 where he began his somewhat accidental career by combining his two loves, wood shop and water, crafting handmade 9 foot balsawood surfboards for his friends. Business was good, and his father had grown tired of the sawdust, so in 1954 Hobie would open the area’s first surf shop in Dana Point. But as demand continued to grow, balsawood was becoming scarce, and even with Hobie’s creative assembly line, the wooden board building process was cumbersome. This is where Hobie’s extraordinary gift for self-taught, “outside the box” engineering rose to the challenge. Through a top-secret trial and error process, and along with friend and employee Gordon “Grubby” Clark, Hobie pioneered the development of the foam surfboard. With the lighter and more responsive boards, and his gift for design and commitment to uncompromising quality, Hobie quickly became the number one surfboard brand in the world. The list of legendary surfers and shapers that worked or rode for Hobie is a virtual Hall of Fame and his success is widely considered the launching point for California’s iconic surf industry. Hobie himself was a top surfing competitor.
In the late 1960’s having achieved great success with surfing, Hobie turned his attention to another of his water-based passions. And after much on-the-water R&D, he unveiled his namesake “Hobie Cat” catamaran. This fun, lightweight and affordable craft is credited with bringing high-performance sailing from the yacht club to the masses. “The Cat that Can Fly” could be launched off any beach and soon became one of the world’s top selling sailboats. But his curious mind and constant tinkering didn’t stop there. A few of his other inventions include creating the “Hobie Hawk” a high-performance remote controlled glider (another of his lifetime passions). He also designed the hugely successful Hobie Super Surfer skateboard, sculpted a revolutionary 33-foot mono-hull sailboat, pioneered a “Float Cat” for fly-fishing and built the “Katie Sue” (named for his mother Katie and his wife Susan), an awe-inspiring 60-foot power catamaran from scratch.
As the result of this serial innovation, the name Hobie has come to mean a great deal to the world. But it is the integrity of the person behind the name that has meant so much more to family and friends. A humble man of incomparable character, he made it clear that the one thing of which he was most proud, was his family. His sister recently recalled that their father taught Hobie early on to always tell the truth, no matter the consequence, and that any deal worth doing could be done with a handshake. It was a lesson that Hobie incorporated into every aspect of his personal and professional life, and one that he passed on to his own children as well as those that interacted with him in his various enterprises. He was incredibly giving of his love, his time, his resources and his expertise. Always the first to do whatever was necessary to help those in need. Yet he never wanted any accolades or recognition. His kindness, sage counsel and generosity literally transformed countless lives. But as he was quick to say, “A lot of people helped me along the way, I’m just trying to return the favor”.
In discussing the future with friends as a young man Hobie declared that he wanted to make a living without having to wear hard-soled shoes or work east of California’s Pacific Coast Highway. By “Making people a toy and giving them a game to play with it” he was able to realize this dream. And in the process, he introduced an active outdoor lifestyle and collection of products that made the world just a bit more fun. Hobie’s passing will leave an incredible void in the world of surfing, sailing and watersports. But as with any great author, actor or artist, the legacy of his work, and the strong wake of his innovations will live on forever. And for his family and friends, the lessons he taught, the quiet, moral and ethical example he set and the lingering warmth of his abiding love will comfort them as long as they live.
With his loving wife Susan at his side, Hobie lived life as an adventure spending years on the lakes and ski slopes of McCall, Idaho, navigating the Katie Sue through the channels near their home in Orcas Island, Washington and hitting the links at Ironwood Country Club in Palm Desert, California. In addition to Susan, he is survived by his sisters Carolyn and Lillian, his daughter Paula and her partner Ian, son Hobie Jr. and his wife Stephanie, son Jeff and his wife Laurie, grandchildren Cortnie and her husband Dylan, Brittany, Scotty, Cody, Ashlyn, Tyler, Noelle and Justin, great-granddaughter Serena, and many close friends that were always made to feel like they were immediate family.
Dick “Mo” Meine, a Manhattan Beach home builder, was an original member of the Palos Verdes Surf Club and began surfing redwood boards at Bluffs Cove in the mid 1930s. In the mid ‘60s, Meine started “The International Surfing Magazine” out of Hermosa Beach with photographer and fellow Palos Verdes Surf Club member and Hermosa Beach Surf Walk of Fame inductee Leroy Grannis, editor Dick Graham, and surf filmmaker Bud Browne. The magazine evolved into “Surfing Magazine.” Meine continued to surf Bluffs Cove through his late 70s.
Matt Kivlin's Californian and Hawaiian peers respected him as the best California surfer of the postwar '40s into the 1950s. Many point to him as the originator of the classical California point style: riding small, perfectly peeling waves with knees and ankles together and slightly flexed, torso upright, arms gracefully spread low and balanced, slotted deep, in perfect trim and control."
"Kivlin built boards for that type of surfing, thin-railed blades with speedy pointed outlines-boards foam impresario Gordon Clark regards as being closely related to the modern equipment of today, but over fifty years ago! All surfing that followed Kivlin was either directly or indirectly influenced by his approach."–Steve Pezman
The surfing world lost a genuine legend, Kivlin passed away from complications from pneumonia on Sunday, March 9. Photo: Joe Quigg, Matt Kivlin, and Tom Zahn, returning from Hawaii on the Lurline. March 1948. Photo: Joe Quigg collection
Natalie Kotsch never surfed, but she was one of surfing's biggest supporters. She and co-founder, Ann Beasley both shared a love for the ocean and for their home town of Huntington Beach. They opened the International Surfing Museum in 1987. The ISM has played host to a number of first-class exhibits as well as establishing "Surfin' Sundays," a series of free concerts that featured top artists such as Dick Dale. In recognition of her work, Huntington Beach named Natalie Citizen of the Year in 1991 and in 1998 she was inducted into the Surfing Walk of Fame. Then, in 2013, Huntington Beach gave Natalie its highest honor, a Key to City. Natalie passed away on February 20, 2014, after a long bout with cancer. She was 75.
Top photo of Bruce is from the Shapers Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Bottom photo: December, 1965, Rocky Point. Both photos: Leo Hetzel
Here's Bruce's website: http://www.brucejones.com/history.htm
There will be a memorial and paddleout on Saturday November 9, 11:30am-3pm in Malibu, at Surfrider beach. Celebrate the life of Buttons Kaluhiokalani and support his wife Hiriata Hart and family.
Shaper Bruce Grant, passed away quite unexpectedly on October 29. We had just seen Bruce at our hosting of the Longboard Collectors Club meeting at the SHACC just a few days earlier. There will be a paddle out on Nov. 16 at 3pm at Torrance Beach, just down the ramp of the parking lot. Here's a nice piece Surfline.com did on Bruce. RIP Bruce Grant
He initially seemed in good spirits after the unwitnessed accident, but lapsed into unconsciousness soon after being taken to hospital and had since suffered bleeding and swelling on the brain.
Wife Jane and their three sons, along with brother Ian, were at his side.
Al was renowned for his mastery of the complex six-channel concave surfboard design, which blew minds under numerous surfers' feet in the late 1970s and 1980s and continues to be sought after by clients both high-profile and hardcore.
He was also a complete tube pig whose second place at the 1981 Pipe Masters was just one highlight in a life spent getting barrelled in Indonesia, Hawaii and on the magical Gold Coast points, where he made his home from 1975.
It is understood AB shrugged off ill-health in order to get a crack at Padang's pits with only three other people in the water -- a typical move for a surfer who celebrated his 60th birthday with a tow-in session at 20-foot-plus Phantom Reef in Hawaii.
Social media has been lit up with messages of hope from around the surfing world since news of the accident broke this week. However, Al's condition took a turn for the worse this morning and he passed away quietly a few hours ago. (Posted on Surfline.com on August 8, 2013. Photo: Andrew Kidman)
In 1946, fame was in the future for several new Santa Monica lifeguards/interview of Dave Heisen in 2008: http://www.latimes.com/features/la-ig-lookback20-2008jul20,0,686351.story
Longtime supporter and good friend of Surfing Heritage, Tom “TJ” Johnston passed away in the hospital from complications due to pneumonia. TJ started coming by for a visit about the same time Surfing Heritage opened its doors here in San Clemente back in 2005. Always cheerful, he’d invariably ask, “So how’s the Old Fart doing?” referring to his longtime friend and Surfing Heritage Founder, Dick Metz. TJ had a knack of just missing Dick by 10 minutes on nearly every visit but that didn’t deter him from taking a little time to chat with each of us or to introduce himself to those he hadn’t met yet. And I might be wrong but–every time we saw him, he was getting shorter and shorter and his socks were getting higher and higher–at some point he was going to become a baseball cap and a pair of socks! We’re going to really miss his visits.
Esther Williams, whose experiences as a young swimming champion led to a career of Hollywood “aqua-musicals” designed just for her, died on Thursday, June 6, 2013, in Beverly Hills, California, at the age of 91. Williams was one of the biggest box-office stars of the 1940s and 1950s. She was known as “Hollywood's Mermaid” and “The Queen of the Surf.” At her peak, the woman with the wide smile and bright eyes was second in earnings only to Betty Grable and often in the top 10 box-office draws.
Sally Yater passed away today, May 1, 2013. Sally owned the Bikini Factory in Summerland, CA, but most will recognize the Yater name from (Reynold) Yater Surfboards of Santa Barbara. Sally was Renny's longtime wife and mother of Lauren Yater. Not only was Sally a seamstress, she was also a cook and author. You can read some of her recipes HERE. On the rare occasion, she would accompany Renny on his trips down the coast, stopping by the Surfing Heritage on their way to the various shops that carried the Yater label. She was always a sweetheart, very polite, and you just knew she and Renny were a great couple. Our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to Renny and the Yater family, she will be greatly missed.
Buzz Sutfin passes away
Hello, Everyone, Our hearts are breaking as we are writing this to tell you that our wonderful Buzz, husband, father, and friend to all, passed away peacefully Sunday afternoon. We are reeling because it was so sudden, but after speaking with his doctors, we now understand that the suddenness was a gift to him and to us, because the decline would have taken months but would have been inevitable.
From the Memorial coordinator, Mary Simpson:
Good evening everyone.
Daryl "Doggie" Diamond (1946-2013)
To view photos taken at the Oceanside Pier ceremony held on November 10, you can click Here.