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July 07 2015

Lao Trip 11.1 - Ken Thao

My 11th trip to Lao, in early June 2015, began unusually poorly. On the bus from Nong Bua Lamphuto Muang Loei, the bus attendant insisted I hadn’t paid the first time, so I paid him twice. I’m sure it was a rip-off. At first I thought it might be that he was just too hung-over from the night before, cuz he looked the part. But, throughout the trip, I saw that he kept on looking back at me, so I think if he was thinking about it that much, he would have remembered the first time I gave him the fare. Way around this, in the future, of course, is just to buy a ticket, but sometimes you’re on the run and don’t have the time.

In cases like this, you just have to let it go. However, through most of the ride, I felt resentful and taken advantage of. At one point I thought I might report him, but then I settled down. The fare only amounted to about three bucks, so it just wasn’t worth it. Even so, mentally I had to challenge myself not to dwell on it. Instead, I forced myself to think of the roads ahead.

So, I’ve complained before about how much I have to pay for private transport to Pak Lai once I’m at Ken Thao, in Lao. This time, I decided to deal with this problem. So, once in Ken Thao, I got a room at a guesthouse close to the market and bus station, deciding to take the regularly scheduled sawngthaew to Pak Lai the next morning.

This approach cost me time, but I got to see a little of Ken Thao and the lifestyle of the Ken Thao drivers, plus do a little shopping and have a good dinner. Most importantly, it saved me a little bit of money. The private transport from Ken Thao to Pak Lay can cost as much as $46 USD (same price as a month’s visa!). Totalling all my expenses staying a night in Ken Thao, I only spent $20 USD and had a new pair of sandals, too.

(Ken Thao market)

I spent about an two hours in the market, due to a rainstorm that came in and locked us all down, then spent another two hours over at the “bus station,” hanging out with the drivers that charge so much (not just private sawngthaew transport, but local tuk-tuk fares, as well), watching them play petanquewhile I drank Beer Lao with ice. As I might have mentioned before, I am sure I know where a good portion of those high price transit fees go: bets on the petanque court!

(Ken Thao transit center)

A dinner at the guesthouse with another Beer Lao ended the day.

July 05 2015

Lao Trip 11.0 - Trip Preparations

Like it used to be when I hiked and camped in the Los Padres National Forest, in the Ojai and Santa Barbara areas in the United States, I find myself preparing for my trips to Lao in similar ways.

For instance, I clip my nails on my feet and hands. The clipping on the hands is pretty much pro forma, with the objective being more cosmetic than anything else – gotta look my best! The feet nails are absolutely necessary to trim. The last thing you want to happen on a hike or a trip to a foreign country is for your feet to be in discomfort and not having the tools (i.e. clippers) along to deal with it. Of course, you could always bring these along, but at my age, my nail clipping tools have grown in number, sizes and weight and, well, I try to keep the weight down; everything adds up.

Other similarities include clearing queues and checking-off checklists. Newly added to these are making sure my cellphone minutes are topped off, I have my Lao simcard, and have left enough household money behind so my wife doesn’t come up short while I’m gone.

July 03 2015

John Kelly (1919-2007)

Welcome to this chapter in the LEGENDARY SURFERS series, on John Kelly!

For more about John, please view the montage Glenn Hening put together about John's life and work:

(John Kelly, 1930s)

In early 1937,<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[1]<!--[endif]-->John Kelly, then a 17 year-old surfer from Black Point, made surfing history. As surf writer Matt Warshaw wrote, it was “a raw, satisfying, hugely important moment in surfboard design history” when he cut down the first Hot Curl.<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[2]<!--[endif]-->

Kelly was born on March 3, 1919. “My folks and I sailed out of San FranciscoBayin 1923, on a ship called the Matsonia, when I was four. As we approached Honolulu Harbor, I think it was six or seven days later, the first thing I saw were a lot a trees, pine trees, on what is now known as Sand Island. From a distance the trees seemed to be growing out of the ocean.”<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[3]<!--[endif]-->

Kelly’s father was a Bay Area artist when he accepted a one-year job to create promotional illustrations for a housing development in Lani-kai, on the windward side of O‘ahu.<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[4]<!--[endif]-->His mother was also an artist and, shortly after their arrival on the island, promptly had an etching of the newly-opened Royal Hawaiian Hotel published in the local paper. “My parents weren’t really political,” Kelly, politically active himself at age 75 said in 1994. “They were artists, plain and simple. They loved people, and they loved freedom. They certainly had no problem, later on, with me getting involved with radical politics.”<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[5]<!--[endif]-->John’s father, John Melville Kelly, earned acclaim for his etchings of Islanders and for his designs on the menu covers of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. His mother, Katherine Harland, was a noted sculptor.<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[6]<!--[endif]-->

The Kellys soon moved a few miles east of Waikiki, to the Kahala section of Honolulu, building a shingled cottage at Black Point that overlooked the ocean. In the mid-1920s, after his mother gave him an old ironing board to mess around with, Kelly – aged five or six – first tasted the reef surf of Kahala. It wasn’t until he was nine that Kelly got his first real surfboard. It was a custom 7-foot redwood board shaped by David Kahanamoku, one of Duke’s brothers.<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[7]<!--[endif]-->Kelly’s dad drew “Keone” (“John” in Hawaiian) on the deck and John engraved the letters into the wood, himself.<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[8]<!--[endif]-->

An old Hawaiian fisherman who lived in a cave near the Kelly home became John’s adopted grandfather and mentor, teaching the young surfer how to make both cotton and linen nets, and how to catch moi and parrot fish.<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[9]<!--[endif]-->

“The Makakoa family had a lot of kids,” John said of some other Hawaiians who made a difference in his life, “and a lot of aunties and uncles, and they were very close to me and my parents. We pretty much lived together, all of us. We ate together and played together, and I remember a lot of music and dancing.”<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[10]<!--[endif]-->

From the Hawaiians and a group of Filipinos who had walked off the sugar fields, Kelly learned how to live comfortably around the ocean; useful things like diving to catch lobsters and picking tidewater limpets off the rocks.<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[11]<!--[endif]-->

Kelly went on to not only cut down the first Hot Curl surfboard and venture out into bigger surf, but also became a decorated sailor who witnessed the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, even helping to pull people from the water. In 1944, Kelly, a skilled free diver, earned a Navy and Marine Corps medal of heroism for voluntarily retrieving submerged torpedoes off Kaho‘olawe with just his goggles and a gulp of air. He told a reporter at the Chicago Daily News War Service that “any Islander could have done it.”<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[12]<!--[endif]-->

After the war he regrouped with his Hot Curl buddies and graduated from RooseveltHigh School, earning a bachelor’s degree in music from the prestigious JuilliardSchoolin 1950.

For years he conducted symphonies and choral groups and served as the director of the music school at Palama Settlement.

“Our parents gave us so many opportunities to experience different kinds of art and music,” said his daughter, Kathleen Kelly. “I remember being a little girl, half-awake at these late rehearsals and watching him get these people to sing... He was used to getting people to work together, to connect.”<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[13]<!--[endif]-->

John Kelly went on to not only conduct symphonies, but write books and speak out against nuclear weapons, founding Save Our Surf, a grass-roots environmental group responsible for saving 140 surf sites on O‘ahu from development.<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[14]<!--[endif]-->

“He was probably the greatest humanitarian I’ve ever met in my life, and I’ve looked around,” said longtime friend and fellow surfer George Downing. “You couldn’t buy John, you know what I mean? And people tried. You just couldn’t budge him.”

Founded in 1961, Save Our Surf fought to prevent offshore development around the Islands that would have destroyed reefs, surf sites and other ocean resources.

“I can’t imagine what this place (Hawai‘i) would be without him,” Downing added.<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[15]<!--[endif]-->

At its peak, the group — which consisted of dozens of surfers, ocean-users and environmentalists — staged protests, organized beach cleanups and spread the word using posters and leaflets about development projects that would impact the environment.

These activists helped thwart the state’s plans for a proposed reef runway from Wai‘alae to Hawai‘i Kai, a beach-widening project in Waikiki and evictions of families on MokaueaIsland, which later became a historic site.

“He was a pain in the neck sometimes, but I had to admire the guy because he was a leader in protecting and preserving the greatest natural resource we have here,” said Bill Paty, 86, chairman of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources from 1987 to 1992 and longtime surfer. “He was willing to go to the mat with anybody. ... I tip my hat to him. He kept us on the right track.”<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[16]<!--[endif]-->

In 1963, Kelly came up with a board that, while it never caught on, demonstrated his continued drive to experiment with wave riding vehicles. His “hydroplane surfboard” was a strange design, meant to combine the speed of a longboard and the maneuverability of a shortboard in its slightly raised tail section.

“It was a crazy board,” surf champion and Hawaiian legislator Fred Hemmings recalled, laughing. “But it showed some real innovation. Even though it wasn’t functional and it never caught on, in a curious way it was illustrative of his character. He was an out-of-the-box thinker, an innovator.”<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[17]<!--[endif]-->

John Kelly also wrote books, most notable Surf and Sea, 304 pages covering nearly every aspect of the sport, published in 1965.

He also did a lot of self-printing; usually of fliers, posters and leaflets for Save Our Surf on an antiquated printing press in his basement that would run all hours of the night. “I used to sleep in the room above (the basement),” his daughter Kathleen remembered. “And it would be running until 3 or 4 a.m. Clickety-clack, all night long.”<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[18]<!--[endif]-->

Kelly’s speaking out against nuclear weapons and organizing others in the same pusuit allegedly cost him his job at Palama Settlement.

In 1959 he served as a delegate to the Fifth World Conference Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs in Hiroshima. He considered it a “privilege and a duty as an ordinary American citizen.”

“Good for him that he spoke against that racism, that arrogance, that insanity,” said Kathleen Kelly, who inherited her parents’ activism and was arrested at a Vietnam protest in 1967.

When she called home from jail, her parents responded, “Good for you,” Kathleen said, laughing.

“That’s the kind of parents they were.”<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[19]<!--[endif]-->

In 2004, the Hawaiian Collection of Hamilton Library received a $3,075 grant from the University of Hawai’i-Manoa Diversity and Equity Initiative to digitize posters, fliers and other ephemera from Save Our Surf to preserve the history of this social and environmental movement. The collection is currently available online.<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[20]<!--[endif]-->

“He knew that if you stick together and educate the public about what’s really going on and speak out, you can have victories,” Kathleen Kelly said. “You can win these things that make a difference.”<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[21]<!--[endif]-->

Kelly continued surfing and later, swimming.

“I remember seeing John surfing at the point at Makaha,” said Fred Hemmings who was a kid in the early 1950s, but later became a world surfing champion and a state senator. “There weren’t many people surfing out there then... And as with most surfers in those days, (Kelly) was iconoclastic. He was a man who definitely did his own thing.”<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[22]<!--[endif]-->

For decades, he would jump off Kupikipikio Point, surfboard in tow, and catch waves at Black Point or Browns. As he got older, bodyboards replaced surfboards until he eventually ditched them both. Instead, he would climb down the cliffs, glide into the ocean and swim all the way to Ka‘alawaiBeach. His wife, Marion, would walk from their home to the beach with his slippers and a towel. Then they would walk back to Black Point together.

“This guy once told me he went for a swim with John, just on his regular swim,” George Downing said. “And he told me, ‘I thought I was going to die. But John didn’t blink an eye.’ He was special.”<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[23]<!--[endif]-->

About 20 years before his death, Kelly was struck on the head by his own surfboard, leading to a decline in his mental capacity. Also, soon after the accident, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. On top of that, in 1995, he found out he had bladder cancer.

Just a few months before his passing, John Kelly, who was still lanky and nimble, would swim back and forth in the saltwater pool near his home at Black Point. He passed away quietly and peacefully, on his 64th wedding anniversary, at the age of 88.<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[24]<!--[endif]-->

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [1] <!--[endif]--> Warshaw has this as the Summer of 1934 and Kelly age 15, based on Kelly’s recalled year, but both Fran and Wally place it in late 1936/easrly 1937, after Fran’s semi-hollow board arrived from Pacific Homes. “It was later than ‘34,” Wally told me when I called him up about this on July 4,1996. “I was in high school, at the time, that’s why I know the date’s pretty accurate.”

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [2] <!--[endif]--> Warshaw, Matt. “20th-Century Radical,” The Surfer’s Journal, Volume 4, Number 1, Spring 1995, p. 29.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [3] <!--[endif]--> Warshaw, “20th-Century Radical, The Surfer’s Journal, Spring 1995, p. 30. John Kelly quoted.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [4] <!--[endif]--> Lani-kai, in the Mo-kapu quadrant. Development began here in 1924. The name was changed from Ka-’ohao to Lani-kai, in the belief that it meant ‘heavenly sea’ (Honolulu Advertiser, August 15, 1948). However, this was an English word order (in Hawaiian, the qualifier usually follows the noun). Lani-kai actually means “sea heaven, marine heaven” (Pukui, Elbert & Mookini, Place Names of Hawaii).

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [5] <!--[endif]--> Warshaw, “20th-Century Radical, The Surfer’s Journal, Spring 1995, p. 30. John Kelly quoted.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [7] <!--[endif]--> Browne, Bud. “Surfing the 50’s,” videotape of the best of his movies of the 1950s, ©1994.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [8] <!--[endif]--> Warshaw, “20th-Century Radical, The Surfer’s Journal, Spring 1995, p. 30. See picture of Kelly and his board, “Keoni,” at Waikiki on page 29.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [9] <!--[endif]--> Warshaw, “20th-Century Radical, The Surfer’s Journal, Spring 1995, p. 31.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [10] <!--[endif]--> Warshaw, “20th-Century Radical, The Surfer’s Journal, Spring 1995, p. 31. John Kelly quoted.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [11] <!--[endif]--> Toth, Catherine E. “Hawaii surf activist John Kelly dies,” Honolulu Advertiser Windward, 2007.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [12] <!--[endif]--> Toth, Catherine E. “Hawaii surf activist John Kelly dies,” Honolulu Advertiser Windward, 2007. Kathleen Kelly quo ted.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [13] <!--[endif]--> Toth, Catherine E. “Hawaii surf activist John Kelly dies,” Honolulu Advertiser Windward, 2007.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [14] <!--[endif]--> Toth, Catherine E. “Hawaii surf activist John Kelly dies,” Honolulu Advertiser Windward, 2007.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [16] <!--[endif]--> Toth, Catherine E. “Hawaii surf activist John Kelly dies,” Honolulu Advertiser Windward, 2007. Bill Paty quoted.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [17] <!--[endif]--> Toth, Catherine E. “Hawaii surf activist John Kelly dies,” Honolulu Advertiser Windward, 2007. Fred Hemmings quoted.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [18] <!--[endif]--> Toth, Catherine E. “Hawaii surf activist John Kelly dies,” Honolulu Advertiser Windward, 2007. Kathleen Kelly quoted.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [19] <!--[endif]--> Toth, Catherine E. “Hawaii surf activist John Kelly dies,” Honolulu Advertiser Windward, 2007. Kathleen Kelly quoted.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [20] <!--[endif]--> Toth, Catherine E. “Hawaii surf activist John Kelly dies,” Honolulu Advertiser Windward, 2007.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [21] <!--[endif]--> Toth, Catherine E. “Hawaii surf activist John Kelly dies,” Honolulu Advertiser Windward, 2007. Kathleen Kelly quoted.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [22] <!--[endif]--> Toth, Catherine E. “Hawaii surf activist John Kelly dies,” Honolulu Advertiser Windward, 2007.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [23] <!--[endif]--> Toth, Catherine E. “Hawaii surf activist John Kelly dies,” Honolulu Advertiser Windward, 2007. George Downing quoted.

Hot Season Celebrations

While the wall support and outside walls were being worked on at Bann Nah, three main celebrations took place, as they do each year during Thailand’s “hot season” (springtime in the USA):

I wrote about Boon Pak Whet (aka “Boon Pakwet”) in the early months of my first year retired in the Thai countryside, in 2012, and also shot some video. This village-specific celebration has Buddhist undertones, but is largely secular and is considered by many a village male as warm-up to Songkrahn.

In 2014, I wrote a little about Songkrahn (aka “Songkran”), the beginning of the Thai New Year. It also is not a Buddhist celebration but contains Buddhist ceremonies mostly specific to family.

I haven’t written about Boon Buak Bahn before, although I may have mentioned it in passing. It also is not strictly a Buddhist celebration but contains Buddhist undertones and I believe it comes from a time somewhere between the introduction of Buddhism to Thailand and the invention of string – I’m not kidding.

String is strung through the main road in the village and the two roads leading into it. People tie their own string to the main string and bring their string – elevated, not touching the ground – into their homes and wrap it around their homes’ Budda statues. The main string is terminated at the village’s community center and tied up around the village’s Buddha statues. So, all important Buddha castings in the village are tied together. For three days, villagers pray and chant here, with the assistance of local monks. The main purpose of this celebration appears to be to safeguard the village from evil or malignant forces that may try to strike it during the year.

Unlike the other two celebrations, the drinking of alcohol does not play a role in Boon Buak Bahn.

June 26 2015

Bann Nah 22 - Gotta Watch These Guys!

I grew up in New Englandand the North Shore of Long Island, New York. Nearly every wooden surface was painted. Only exceptions were the school’s gymnasium floor and our elementary school desks which, when I got to junior and senior high, were replaced with metal.

The first new church my father helped design and oversaw the building of had a lot of stained wood in it and I think this is my first memory of how beautiful wood gain is and what a shame it is to point over it, most of the time.

As I grew older and was exposed to many more and different buildings, my appreciation for stained wood only grew. So, it is only logical that given the chance to design my own home, I lay strong emphasis on being able to view natural wood grain. At Bann Nah, there is not a painted surface on the building except for the smartboard under the eaves.

It does not come easily, however. I have stained most every surface at our country home, so far. The ceiling and inside wall teak alone have taken months to do – you know, not an 8-hour/day job, but several hours most days.

The time it has taken me to stain could have been cut in half, but my wife talked me into a gloss coat when I would have preferred a flat – or matte – coat. She wanted glossy because all Thais feel that if something is shiny, it looks new.

In my mind, a non-glossy coat for inside teak walls and ceiling is better because the surface shine (actually, the lack thereof) looks uniform. To get a uniform shine with a glossy coat, where some sections of the wood soak the stain in differently, requires you to brush the stain in twice, in two separate sessions; sometimes more.

The Thai tendency to highly value “shiny” got me one day at Bann Nah.

Our workers had completed putting up the outside imitation wood planks and, I guess, were excited about that. I had visited the job site in the morning, just as they were finishing up. It was looking good! When I returned in the late afternoon, Lott and Naht proudly pointed to their finished, “shiny” job. They had polyurethaned the imitation wood to make it look more “new.”

I looked sideways at them and, while Thip translated, I asked if they’d ever done this before?

Oh, sure, many hi-so homes in Bangkok that they had worked on (and probably never saw again).

I told them that the polyurethane was made as a protectorant for wood, not fiber cement (which is what the Shera wood planks mostly consist of).

They assured me that this way, the “new” look of the Shera would last longer and protect it from the sun.

What if it starts peeling? I asked them.

Oh, it won’t peel, they said.

I immediately thought about Bann Nah’s wooden posts; how they had been polyurethaned before they had had a chance to dry and already the polyurethane was peeling off; and that’s with a protectorant designed to work for wood.

OK, I said with a laugh. If it starts peeling, I know where you guys live.

Oh, it won’t peel, they assured me again.

Thankfully, our workers had applied the polyurethane on the eastside of the building, facing the klong, which is the least visible side of the structure.

(east wall on right)

Later, I reminded myself that this is yet another example of why I couldn’t leave, this year, for my trip back to the USA to visit family:

You gotta watch these guys!

June 21 2015

Bann Nah 21 - Outside Walls

Shera imitation wood planks are fibre cement composites of natural fibres, bonded in a silicate structure. The sidings are autoclaved wood-grain.

I discovered – quite by chance – that there are packs of the autoclaved wood-grain patterns that, if you have all the packs in your color/style, you can apply so that the simulated grain seems to transition from one plank to another, without a break in the design. I don’t think most builders in the Isaan know this. I tried to find special markings for each wrapped pack of planks, designating them, but could not find anything. Of course, I can’t read Thai, so that is probably why. But, I was looking for numbers more than anything, which would have been the easiest way to designate one type of pack from another.

The only reason I found out about this was because, after I explicity showed our workers how it was not good to put the same packet design next to each other, or ontop or below each other (because it would be too repetitive), they inadvertently put two planks close together that were from two different packs, which which were designed to go with each other perfectly.

The standard application, of course, was to apply the pieces randomly and this is how our workers did it.

Eastside completely finished, 'cept for the windows

If I had had the time and inclination and it was that important to me, I would have sat with them for the two weeks they took to put up the outside walls, but random was OK for me and easiest for them.

June 18 2015


Click on the book cover, below, to buy this Portable Document Format (PDF) collection of all postings at the LEGENDARY SURFERS website over the past eleven years marks my continued move toward more digitized publication. It is notable in several respects:

  • This “ebook” is completely portable on electronic devices, in a format compatible for reading on any ebook reader. Unlike the content on the website, the content in the ebook is not dependent on a connection to the Internet. You can even take it to the beach!
  • The 1,172 pages (6.25 MB) contain text, images, and internal and external hyperlinks. The internal links function on their own and are particularly helpful when selecting posts in the Contents or following Footnotes to source references. To use the ebook’s external links, yes, you’ll need to be connected to the Internet.
  • Because the ebook is basically an electronic file, it can be easily shared with friends and family. I have not set any restrictions on its replication as long as normal copyright rules are respected. This ebook makes a great gift from you to other surfers you know who appreciate a more detailed look into the history of surfing.

June 14 2015

THE ISAAN: 2012-2013

"THE ISAAN: 2012-2013" chronicles my first year retired in Northeastern Thailand. Told from the perspective of a Californian in his mid-60s, the focus is on every day life in our Thai-Lao village, but also includes travelogues in Lao (Laos) and Cambodia. It is a free download in PDF, viewable on any computer, smart phone or e-reader; contains internal and external links. To get it, click on the book cover or link, below:

Bann Nah 20 - Imitation Wood

As far as materials and over-all look of Bann Nah, we have tried to use natural wood (stained, not painted) wherever possible and practical – some of it we’ve even harvested from our other properties.

Exceptions, in chronological order, have been the cement and rebar column footers and posts; the main aluminium roofand lancah noi; smartboard under the eaves; and, lastly, Shera imitation wood exterior walls.

After I returned from my tenth trip to Lao, the push was on to get the exterior walls put up – all of which were drilled and screwed-in, not nailed.

We opted for imitation wood exterior walls for three reasons: price, imperviance to termites and appearance. We had had decent results with the imitation wood put in when we had a new roof put in, in our village home, back in the rainy season of 2013. As with most building supplies, there are grades of quality and cost. We had gone with a brown wood texture pattern imitation wood that was a little more expensive, but also looked a lot like real wood – especially from a distance.

We followed the same approach with our country home, picking a higher grade of Shera imitation wood; this time choosing more of a walnut color that is seldom seen in these parts – probably because it doesn’t look “new”. It flows well with the building posts and other woods used in the construction of our “cabin on stilts”; maintaining a certain look I have wanted to maintain – that is, an overall “light” natural color to the structure.

June 12 2015

Wallace "Wally" Froiseth

Welcome to this chapter in the LEGENDARY SURFERS series, on Wallace "Wally" Froiseth!

This is an updated version to the original chapter that remains online at:  http://files.legendarysurfers.com/surf/legends/ls10.shtml

(Wally on paipo style body board)

Wallace Froiseth was born in Los Angeleson December 21, 1919. His family came to the Islandsin 1925. “Summertime, back in the ‘20s,” Wally told me, “my father would drop us off down Waikiki and, you know, we’d be around the beach all day; surf and what not. Then, he’d come home from work, pick us up in the evening and bring us back to where we lived in Kahala.

“I had three brothers. One real brother and two, you know, step brothers that were my father’s from a previous marriage. So, there were four of us boys in the family at that time.” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [1] <!--[endif]-->

The Froiseths surfed with other kids living in and near Kahala; including Fran Heath and John Kelly. “Around the time we were in high school,” Wally recalled, “we used to paddle from John’s house at Black Point all the way around Diamond Head to Waikiki. Sometimes, after surfing, we’d paddle back. Sometimes we’d leave our boards on the beach and get home however we could, and have our parents pick ‘em up later.” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [2] <!--[endif]-->

Speaking of the surfers he hung with and his group being outside both the Outrigger Canoe Club and Hui Nalu groups of surfers, Wally recalled to Australian champion surfer Nat Young that, “We were what was known as the ‘Tavern Boys’ or the ‘Empty Lot Boys’ really. We started right next to Prince Kuhio’s beach home on Waikiki; they had a big empty lot with this big Banyon tree there... and we used to keep our boards stored inside the tree roots when we went home. Next day we’d come down, go surfing all day, and put our boards back there. We were kind of on the lower end of the beach [hierarchy], so to speak. At that time we knew about every board on the island and everybody that surfed. There were just the beach boys, a few others.” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [3] <!--[endif]-->

Competition was not a major focus; “people would just surf. Fellows like Hawkshaw and the Big Rock and Duke would do crazy stunts, you know, sit on a board with a chair and play ukulele, standing on their heads, that kind of old-time thing. When I was a kid these beach boys would take us out to surf tandem, when the waves got big; those of us who were not afraid. So of course I got kind of enthused about big surf, larger and larger waves for more of a challenge, because in those days you just caught the wave and slid a little angle, you couldn’t do what you can with a modern board.” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [4] <!--[endif]-->

“When I was real small,” Wally said, “Akamine, Ernest Enos and those guys – they’d take me out tandem, you know. They’d take me out First Break, eh? Small, little guy – probably before I did much surfing of my own. I never was the kind of guy to scream and holler and all that kind of stuff. I was too goddamned scared... they used to pick me all the time.” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [5] <!--[endif]-->

“As we grew up, we used to rent boards from the old Tavern; 50 cents-a-day, 25 cents-a-day kind of thing. And, then we finally got some boards of our own. We were able to buy or somebody gave us some.

“My first one I got given to me by a fella by the name of Allan Wilcox. He lived in Kahala and was a good friend of my family’s. He had a son and the son brought somebody down from the Coast; a school buddy. One of the fellas that started the Hui Nalu <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [6] <!--[endif]--> club had made two boards for he and his friend. When the boy went back to the Coast, Allan Wilcox saw that I was really into big surfing. So, he gave me that board. After that, we surfed all around Kahala, Diamond Head, Black Point and Waikiki. Every place.” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [7] <!--[endif]-->

“What age were you?”

“Eight, 9 or 10; something like that.

“I don’t know. I seemed to take to it real heavy. Even my brothers – my real brother and I, we progressed up to Castle, but my other brothers weren’t that interested in it for some reason. They surfed all right; Queens, around that area. But, my brother and I weren’t satisfied with that. Rocky’s, Cunha’s – you know – bigger surf like Public Baths and then Castle.

“I was surfing Castle when I was, like, 11 years-old. I remember my brother kind of scolding me, because I went a little faster [further sooner] than he did. He was always mad because he was scared for my safety.

“What happened with me – I went out Castle to look at it. That’s how I started going out there. I went out to look at the waves and it’s so big, it fascinated me. You know what I mean? And so, then, what happened is – I can remember it real vividly – I got caught on a couple of sets; just pounded. And, then I was sitting out there after I got my board and everything and I figured, ‘Well, if I can take the pounding, why can’t I ride ‘em?’ So, I started riding ‘em. And I was so jazzed when I came home. My brother was all mad at me. So, then he started coming out, too...

One of the most influential surfers in Wally’s life was Tom Blake.

“Tom Blake – he and I were really good friends; my brother and him, especially.” Wally spoke fondly of surfing’s first great innovator; inventor of the hollow board, the skeg, sailboard and more. “In fact, he gave me one of those – he made 3 aluminum skegs down at the old Honolulu Ironworks down there. He gave one to Gene Smith – ‘Tarzan,’ they used to call him – one to me and kept one for himself.” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [8] <!--[endif]-->

At this point Wally looked at me kinda funny and then started talking about an article I had written on Tom Blake and his development of the hollow board. Without coming down on me, Wally wanted me to know a very important point about Blake’s early hollow boards:

“Tom Blake didn’t actually make those hollow boards down there [before they were manufactured in the early 1930s]. This guy Abel Gomes made the boards. He was a woodworker. Tom wasn’t that much of a woodworker. But, he had the ideas, you know. He knew what he wanted.

“Abel Gomes worked for a place they called Honolulu Sash and Door and they made all this kind of stuff. He was an expert carpenter and woodworker. He made the boards for Tom Blake – of course, to Tom Blake’s calculations – maybe all of them weren’t framed [chambered].” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [9] <!--[endif]-->

Getting back to Blake, Wally added:

“And he put the first sail on a surfboard... Somebody in Germany tried to patent that. The lawyers came down here and they’re asking me if I know anything and I told ‘em, ‘Yeah, I got pictures. I’ll show ya the first board with a sail on it. This guy wasn’t the first; Tom Blake was.’

“Turns out –” Wally’s voice rises when he talks of his friends “— look at these jet skis, man! That’s a takeoff on Tom Blake’s concept of a motorized surfboard, which he predicted would be the wave of the future. The only thing was, they just didn’t have the jet deal perfected back then.” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [10] <!--[endif]-->

“What about other surfers you looked up to?” I asked him.

“Oh, ah... a guy by the name of Ernest Enos. Like I say, we had nicknames. His was ‘Snot.’ Everybody called him Snot.” Wally caught my eye and added, not entirely convincingly, “I don’t know why...

“Another was a fellow by the name of Ox Keaulana – big guy. Of course, the Wili Wili brothers and, you know, Duke and all his brothers – they were all big on the scene; Akong Pang, Joe Pang’s uncle. Blue Makua was in our group. Steamboat Makuaha, senior: I kind of looked up to him... those guys ruled the beach.

Blue and I and all of us kids – when they had that jetty going out, you know, that walkway from Moana – we used to – wise kids and all – we’d go surf in between the piles and all that kind of stuff. Steamboat come along: ‘I told you kids, get outta dere,’ slap us in the head. You know, he was afraid we’d get hurt, cuz there were barnacles on the pilings. You couldget hurt. Young kids, though, would do it.

“Those guys really took care of us. A Japanese guy, one of the few Japanese guys at that time – probably the only one who surfed – was a guy by the name of Akamine. He used to spin the solid board around, you know; 3-60. No skeg, flat bottom. It was easy to do, but, we [young kids] couldn’t do it.” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [11] <!--[endif]-->

“What about DadCenter?”  I asked him.

“I got beautiful pictures of him.” Wally pulled aside an older-than-the-rest photo album. 

“He was one of the guys who started the Outrigger Canoe Club, you know. That was before my time, but Dudie and the others... Dudie Miller and those guys got the canoe clubs going. Hui Nalu was more the local Hawaiian group. It was started to give the Outrigger some competition. Outrigger was more the haolegroup...” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [12] <!--[endif]-->

“Another guy, Buddy Adolphsen. He made our team pretty famous later on for patrolling the NorthShore. We went to school together and all that kind of stuff. He went into the police department. When he retired, he wouldn’t quit patrolling the NorthShoreand rescuing guys, just like he had when he was younger. <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [13] <!--[endif]-->

“Joe Pang was another guy who surfed with us and there was another kid who was kind of in the group – Henry Best... He lived down Kahala...” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [14] <!--[endif]-->

“When did ‘The Empty Lot’ gang start?”

“Well, when we were living down Kahala. See, Fran lived right next door to us – small kid time. John Kelly lived at Black Point.

“You know how kids are – you know every body in the neighborhood. You know where there’s any other kids around. You look for ‘em... and we went to school together...

“At that time, every surfer knew every other surfer. And, not only every other surfer, they knew every other surfboard. They knew exactly who owned the board. There were boards with initials and names and all kinds a crazy stuff and everybody had their own design.

“If they didn’t know you by your birth name, they knew you by your nickname. Everybody had a nickname. A lot of people knew somebody only by their nickname. For many, many years – and to this day, even – some people never really knew that my brother was my brother. Just thought he was my pal, because we went every place together. He and I were kind of an odd brother thing. We liked each other a lot. Most brothers, you know, they don’t...” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [15] <!--[endif]-->

Wally had earlier mentioned the brotherhood that existed amongst the Empty Lot Boys and I asked him to elaborate on that.

“Like I say, you knew you’d do anything to help the guys. We were really close. It was sort of a – it wasn’t a closed group. I mean, guys would come in, but it was a closed group in the sense that everybody who was tight in that group was really devoted to surfing. Surfing was practically their whole life.

“I mean, we talked about it, slept about it, dreamt about it, ate it – everything!

“We used to call it ‘surf drunk.’ There was not that many guys who were surf drunk, but we were. Guys came in – some of ‘em got to ride on big surf; like, Russ Takaki, you know; good friend... He’s one of the guys over here –” Wally pointed to a picture taken in the ‘40s. “— he surfed Castle too. He was one of the group. We clicked.

“In those days – not only us, but everybody else, too – we had kind of a code, you know; code of ethics, if you want to call it that. Where – like I say, if a guy loses his board and you’re in or around – anywhere’s near it – you’d pick it up for him. Like, one time, I tandemed Tom Blake from Castle into the edge of the reef at Public Baths on my solid board!

“That was one thing about the hollow boards [which Blake rode]; they kept going! Once caught by whitewater, it was gone!” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [16] <!--[endif]-->

I mentioned to Wally that I’d read that there had been some trouble between the Waikiki surfers in the Outrigger Canoe Club and the new Hot Curl surfers who had been known as the “Empty Lot Boys” and later were associated with the Waikiki Tavern when they got older.

“All the kids from the Outrigger used to tell all the girls our age, ‘Don’t fool around with those guys down at the Tavern. They’re bums and they’re, you know, not at your same level.’” Wally got slightly hot, recalling this. “That was the whole scene while I grew up.

“Even wahines, later on, when I was maybe out of high school – senior or something like that – wahines used to come and tell me, ‘Hey, you’re a nice guy! You’re all right.’ I’d say, ‘What do you mean?’

“‘These guys were telling me you guys were all ‘this and that’ and you’d do ‘this or that’ and all kind of stuff.

“We were a... I don’t think you could say lower club, but, we were, like, The Empty Lot Boys. Then there was The Tavern People, then Hui Nalu and then Outrigger. So, I guess the further down the beach, you got lower!

“As we got more into surfing, you know, we got better and got friends with The Tavern People. I never graduated from the Tavern area. That’s QueenBeacharea, now. I was always there because all my friends were there. I grew up there. Everybody there was just a tight group. The only times you might mix with guys from Hui Nalu and some of the guys from the Outrigger, was night-time.

“The Tavern was a gathering spot. At night, guys would drink. Us young kids, though, we didn’t drink much. We’d just hang around. Guys would play music. We’d go follow them around at night. You know, like how they used to do in the old days. They’d take their instruments and walk down the street. If you’d hear a party, why, you’d go outside and play music and people would come out and everybody would be drinking and having a good time. That’s the way it was done...” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [17] <!--[endif]-->

“You think the guys at Outrigger were making those comments about you guys out of jealousy?”

“I always thought so, because we were progressing. We were doing things those other guys couldn’t do! We were the only guys that came out to bigger surf! You know, the word gets around in school. We’re talking about, ‘Hey, surfing Castle, big Public’s and Cunha’s, First Break...’ The rest of the kids, you know, they didn’t go outthere. Very few went out in bigger surf. The bigger surf you go, the less guys go.

“So, without you doing anything, somebody’s talkin’ about you; you’re getting a reputation – deserved or not! That kind of thing. You don’t have to blow your own horn; somebody else is gonna blow it louder’n you can!” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [18] <!--[endif]-->

“Everybody used to be mad at us in Waikiki, cuz, you know, we’d pass them! Even Duke! We’d pass behind him, you know! And even Tom Blake, for awhile. I mean, the hollow board was all right, but then you put the fin on and it’s OK...” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [19] <!--[endif]-->

“Tell me about those big days in the ‘30s...”

“A couple of times, they had HonoluluHarbor closed,” Wally almost laughed. “We used to surf in front of SandIsland, too, you know. We were the only guys who surfed that area. I don’t know. The only guys we knew. But, with our Hot Curl boards, we could do a lot more – more challenge and we’d go lookin’ for it.

“There were days when HonoluluHarbor was total white water across; wave after wave. Waikiki– John Kelly and I were out one day. The biggest day I’ve ever seen Waikiki. We were out. We went out about 5 o’clock in the morning. It was real – you know, not quite light. The night before, we just talked all about this big storm comin’ and all kinda stuff. So, we got together. He and I went out and got out there... After we got out Castle – I mean, big Castle – waves just got bigger and bigger... We were lucky to get out. Every wave broke around Diamond Head as far as we could see to the harbor. Whew! Lot bigger than these –” Wally referred to the picture Blake had given him of a big day offshore from Waikiki. “He and I, we didn’t catch for about two hours! We just sat there; never picked up a wave, eh? We just – ‘Wow!’ You know; awed by the size.

“I gotta tell ya this story – Kelly comes up to me. ‘Wallace,’ he said, ‘let’s make a pact.’

“‘Whaddya mean?’

“‘Let’s make a pact and shake hands on it. The next wave comes – no matter what it is, we’re gonna take it.’ I said, ‘Oh, no!’

“I was scared enough as it was. But, knowing Kelly... I know if he goes inside and I don’t do this, he’s gonna say I was chicken. He’ll tell everybody. So, I can’t have that! So, I said, ‘OK.’ He and I shook hands; next wave came, we started on it.

“Kelly’s board hit a chop and he didn’t get down. But, my board – oh! Well, it was probably the smallest wave of the day, you know what I mean? I just went down, proned out and just – God! The white water about like as big as this room; can’t even breathe, sometimes, the white water was so massive. You just can’t breathe. You try’n keep your head up. So, I proned out and, by-and-by, it picked up again and going through Publics, I had it good – I mean, I had it great! At Cunha’s, I had to cut off, because, I mean – I could go on to shore. I could have made it all the way in, like everybody says Duke did, but who wants to go in there? I’d never get out again! And I was worried about Kelly.

“So, then I cut off when the whole thing broke and I stayed over there about an hour – just trying to paddle out. A big one would come and I’d get knocked in again and I kept doing that. Finally, I got out and I saw Kelly. And then we both lost our boards and that was about it. I don’t know of any wave he caught – neither one of us – outside of that one.” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [20] <!--[endif]-->

“Woody [Brown] told me they used to break bigger back then...”

“Yeah. I have a log –” Wally went over and found a small spiral bound note pad in his bureau. “— this is 1936... this is ‘39. This is the one I want to show you... This is the surf: Waikiki, ‘39. The first day, I was working – I’d just gotten out of high school and I was working downtown.” Wally stopped abruptly and placed the log book down. “I’ll tell you the whole story...

“At work, they told me, in January [‘39], ‘Take your vacation. You got a month’s vacation.’ So, I says, ‘OK, I’m going to take it in May.’ I figure, the surf in this area starts then.

“But, just as it happens, the month of May... all these dates, here... The first week of vacation: nothin’. I thought, ‘Oh, God, I took the wrong –’ You know, you can’t calculate and know when surf’s gonna come up that far in advance. Then, on the 17th, the waves got large. I mean, large. And then they got BIG and then they got huge and they got MONSTROUS! And, then it dropped down to huge, then it got big, then large and large and then big, then large, then big, then huge! It’s all one continuous storm! I haven’t seen anything like that before or since.” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [21] <!--[endif]-->

Wally described his log book rating scale: “M is monstrous, like August 25th of 1935... July 1928 and ‘29...” The scale went down from there; to huge, big, large and good. <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [22] <!--[endif]-->

“At that time, the concept was a little different, you know. We wouldn’t do all these maneuvers that they do, today...  That wasn’t being done... The guy that did that kind of surfing [cut backs, etc.], if any, was my brother. We had a name for it... I forget what it was... It slowly developed into hot dogging. My brother Gene could stand way back and fool around like that more than any of the rest of ‘em.

“But, most of the time, Fran and all the rest of us – we wanted to get across.” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [23] <!--[endif]-->

And, they wanted to share.

“You see, in the old days, part of the enjoyment with uswas watching other people surf. Like, at Castle. After you catch a wave and you’re paddling back out and see somebody catch a wave and come across, we used to just sit up and just enjoy him enjoying that wave or making it, getting caught or whatever it was.

“A lot of things like... people surfing together, there, in those days – somebody lose his board, you’d always go and tow it out to him and, you know, there was always companionship, camaraderie or whatever you want to call it. It was just great...

“Tom Blake, sitting outside, waiting for a set, talking all kinds – all these ideas... He and I used to see who could come up with the craziest idea. He used to say, put a big raft over there, have everybody just sit around and drink coffee or whatever, have a guy watching and then when a big set comes, everybody throw their board in the water and go catch the wave.

“There’s another guy. Rick Steere. He was from the Outrigger. But... he was of the haole group, but he wasn’t, really – he was different. When I first met him, we were sitting out Castle, you know. It was big. My brother and maybe Oscar were out there and also John... And so, I see this guy. He was puttin’ his head down, coming from first break, solid redwood board; just doggin’ it [paddling hard]. And he paddled over and he got into the goddamn lineup. But, he was maybe 200 feet outside of us. And then this big set came... That was a real Bluebird. He picked up this wave and I’m telling you... that thing; easy 20-foot.

“And so, I told those guys, ‘Who the hell is this guy? Where’d he come from?’ I’d never seen him before, you know. So then, what happened was, he got caught, naturally. He was outside of us before he got caught.

“So, when the white water got to us, we went down. When I came up, I was looking around. ‘Where’s that guy?’ We were looking out to sea. Then, he came up inside of us. Inside of us. Hoses Christ! So... we all swam for our boards; got separated and I guess he went back and I didn’t see him anymore – that day, anyway.

“So, I went down [to the Outrigger Canoe Club] – I wanted to know who this guy was. He was fabulous! So, I went down Outrigger and finally saw him and asked one of the guys, 

‘Hey, who’s that guy?’

“‘Rick Steere.’ He was a great surfer; talk about guts...” [24]

“Lorrin Thurston was around then, too, wasn’t he? He’s credited somewhere with having the first balsa board.”

“He and somebody else imported...” Wally replied. “I can’t say who was the first guy, but, he had a balsa board and there was a guy – a real rich guy came from the Coast – and he had heard about this stuff. So, he had ordered one; ordered this balsa from Peru and they shipped it down and one of the beach boys over Waikiki made him a balsa board out of it.

“I don’t know... I couldn’t say which came first. The first one I was associated with was the rich guy who had this balsa board made, shaped by the beach boys; my area. When the guy left and went back to the Coast, you know, he gave it to the beach boys.

“So, I got to try it out. Boy, what a difference! Oh, the balsa board was fast!

My only problem with it, at that time, was the wide tail, see. But, the buoyancy, paddling speed and all that kind of stuff – hold you up out of the water somuch better than the solid redwood boards, you know. No comparison. And, catching the waves – so easy! Catch ‘em a little further out and all that kind of stuff.

“But, sliding, you could only get a certain angle and that was it. You go any more and it’d slide out, cuz it neither had the V nor a skeg.” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [25] <!--[endif]-->

“Oh,” Wally continued recalling other surfers around at the time, “another guy we used to surf with – Oscar Teller…  He wasn’t in the Hot Curl group. He was a Waikiki surfer, a good surfer; surfed Castle all the time. He and Gene Smith were really tight buddies. He and I were close, too, because he and I surfed more together than most anybody around.” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [26] <!--[endif]-->

“Gene Smith was with us early on; went between allthe islands [paddling]. Last one, he got picked-up because there was no place to land, but he made it! I used to keep his boards at my house, because he had no place to store them.”

I asked him about Tarzan being the first haole beach boy.

“Gene Smith, in order to make money and get a business, he was down by the Royal Hawaiian. He joined that group there – Sally Hale and all those guys. They took tourists out in canoes; more the tourist deal, where with us it was strictly local guys... Gene Smith later disappeared. Tommy Zahn told me he walked into the desert and never saw him again. Tom Zahn really helped him out; a couple of times.” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [27] <!--[endif]-->

“In the lifestyle you guys lived, were there other aspects of Hawaiian culture you incorporated?” I asked.

“Canoeing,” Wally answered without a pause. “We were all heavily into canoeing; most all of us... Then, there was a group that only liked paddling – canoe paddling. We had some surfboard races in the mid-’30s, before the war.

“I was always angered... The Kahanamoku group and Outrigger group had this big deal; whoever wins the surfing contest – they had teams. Duke and his brothers all had a team and we had our scavenger group down here. But, you know, we were surfin’ 8-9 hours a day and we were in top shape and we’d catch any thing in the water, you know what I mean? Frank Kennedy was with us. He, my brother, Gene Smith and myself made up a team, see. And we wiped ‘em out. We came first in almost every event.

“Why I say I get angry, cuz the deal was, the team that wins is supposed to get a free trip to Australia – go over there and surf and all that kind of stuff. They thought they had it all sewn up, see. The Kahanamoku brothers were the big boys on the beach. Well, they were older guys that we looked up to, but, you know, we were feeling our oats – 18, 19, then. ‘They gotta showus they can beat us!’ That kind of thing.

“So, when we won, of course, we never got the trip...” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [28] <!--[endif]-->

I asked Wally about his first memories of Duke.

“To be honest with you,” Wally said, “he and I were great guys surfing together...” But, I got the impression that elsewhere was sometimes a different story. “In other words, he was one of the few guys’d come out to Castle, you know, from the Outrigger side. There was not that many who did. So, we had a lot of experiences together. I even dinged his big long board one time; put a big ding in it. He apologized to me, because I was on the inside of him. He was on the outside. With his big board, he couldn’t swing it fast enough. I had to get out of the curl, so, I ran right into his board. He and I had to swim in.

“Besides that, we started racing with canoes. I was very upset with him, initially, cuz we had this race where – we were young kids and ignorant, see – he... put his canoe so that his ama <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [29] <!--[endif]--> touched our canoe and wouldn’t let our paddlers on that side paddle, so he just barely beat us and not in a fair manner.

“I was swearing – a young kid – ‘Hey, goddamn Duke, who the hell do you think you are?!’ Eric tells me, ‘Don’t talk like that. You know who that is, that’s Duke!’

“‘I don’t give a fuck who he is! He can’t do this to me!’

“So, he’s standing up there, receiving the prize, and I’m yelling and everybody’s going, ‘Who’s that guy?’

“‘He’s from the Tavern.’ So, that probably helped to get the reputation of Tavern guys being bad.

“Later on, when Woody and I and the rest made that trip across in the catamaran [1957], he sent me a note wishing me the best...” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [30] <!--[endif]-->

“Fran Heath was one of the best surfers around, during all that time,” Wally declared. “We used to go hunting for surf – the same group – John, my brother, Dougie Forbes and a couple of other guys. And Fran was one of the guys.

“I can remember times we went out to Mokapu, <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [31] <!--[endif]--> before they even had the Marine Corps Air Station, you know. It used to be private land, see; Big surf, Mokapu.

“We used to take my ‘36 Ford, put all the boards in and go around the island – check surf; because, winter time, you know, no surf here.

“The ‘36 Ford Phaeton – that was a classic, boy! I used to drag with guys like Plueger. We’d smoke ‘em! Guys would come back and smoke us. We had a lot of fun racing until the cops would catch us; you know, night time. Guys used to bet around town, go to a couple of kids that had really hot cars. Inever bet, but they used to bet, you know, we’d meet at some service station, make arrangements...” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [32] <!--[endif]-->

Here, Wally returned to the subject of Tom Blake’s first three aluminum skegs, one of which he had been given.

“I never did like the fin, at that time. That’s why I just put it [Blake’s skeg] away. I never did use it. Gene Smith used the fin. He put it on his board. And, Tom Blake had it on his board. When Tom had given that one to me, he said:

“‘Try it, Wallace.’

“But, my objection to it was I thought I’d run over somebody in a crowd or something and hurt somebody. So, I was scared of it.

“I never did use it, until later on, when I realized, ‘Well, it’s good, it doeshelp’ and you can maneuver a lot more; a lot faster...” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [33] <!--[endif]-->

Talk about skegs turned to tracking on the face of a wave and the difference between it and riding white water and Duke’s longest ride.

“I always laugh at the vision of Duke surfing from Castle to shore, though. You know, that big story [of Duke’s longest ride]. Impossible to make it without riding white water and, to us, riding white water is, you know – it’s no challenge...

“In those days, I was there [Castle]. I ran away from school so many times and I got kicked out of school [a number of times]. My old man would drop me off at the top of the hill. I’d look out there at the ocean. I had a way of judging it. If the white water was as high as the top of the trees, there was good surf; below the top of the trees or you’re barely able to see it – forget it. I’d go to school.

“The only thing that saved me from a half-assed education was when I transferred up to boarding school at Iolani. I boarded. I had to stay in. My mother was so happy to see me go there; they [my father & mother] paid...” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [34] <!--[endif]-->

“We used to sit on the beach, weekends, when there was just moderate surf; ask anybody on the beach; take ‘em tandem; Everybody. Any girl... We weren’t trying to make out or anything, we just wanted them to enjoy it. ‘Hey, wanna go out tandem?’ Some would, some wouldn’t.

“Fact is, that’s how I met my wife – my present wife [Alice, a.k.a. Moku]. This guy Oscar had her out surfing and I had some other wahineout, too. <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [35] <!--[endif]-->

“So, I was out and saw her with my buddy Oscar, eh? And I said, ‘Hey, let’s tandem and change partners.’ You know, I took a shine to her. ‘OK.’ So, we changed partners. I asked her for a date... When we first met was probably – that tandem thing happened probably mid-’40s. She was pretty young. At the time, she was really too young. As time went on, I saw her on and off and later married her.” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [36] <!--[endif]-->

Wally remained a force in surfing throughout the ‘50s, as he and the other Hot Curlers continued their love affair with Makaha and sometimes the NorthShore. During this period, also, Wally spent much of his time organizing the annual Makaha surf contest, which became one of the most successful contests in the world. <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [37] <!--[endif]--> In my questions to him, I gave the era short breadth, however, because I wanted to get to that 1957 catamaran voyage Woody had told me a little about.

It was a Hawai‘i-to-California trip they made in a catamaran Woody had designed and was the main builder of. The voyage was meant to qualify the craft in the TransPac. The Trans Pacific Yacht Race was a 2,225 mile sailing race from Long Beachto Honolulu. <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [38] <!--[endif]-->

“Boy, we were coming down some swells, I’m tellin’ ya!” Wally got animated, like Woody had. “Oh, jeez. One time, a goddamn wave broke. I was steering and Woody and I were on the same watch, eh? The damn wave broke in the back; slammed me and Woody right inside the cabin, filled the whole cabin with water!” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [39] <!--[endif]-->

I asked him about an argument Woody had with the Cat owner.

“That was going up the Coast. The owner wanted to eat breakfast and we said ‘No,’ because – I was on watch and showed Woody that the damn pressure was dropping. You could see the damn needle dropping! We knew we were in for a hell of a blow. So, we tried to get everything down. But, he wanted to eat breakfast and he tried to insist on it. He almost burned himself. So, he got pissed-off at Woody.” So pissed, he wouldn’t let Woody skipper the catamaran back to Hawai‘i in the TransPac race.” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [40] <!--[endif]-->

By 1960, Wally Froiseth had long since become one of the most respected surfers in the world. In a “who’s who,” written by Otto Patterson and published that year, Wally was described as having “always been more intimate with the young islanders of all races than with the more pretentious surfers. He is a modest and sincere man but we know of no one in the Waikiki area who has been so greatly admired by natives and haolesalike, over such a long period of years.” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [41] <!--[endif]-->

Here it was many years later – 1996 – and it was getting late in the afternoon. Wally and Alice had a meeting of the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS) to attend. Did I mention that Wally is one of the guys that helped revive Polynesian canoe voyaging, much in the same way as Duke Kahanamoku and others revived surfing at the beginning of this century? Open ocean voyaging in traditional double-hulled canoes had been a near extinct act. Now, thanks to Wally’s work and the work of many involved in the PVS over the past twenty years, open ocean canoeing is alive and well. More importantly, open ocean voyaging has stirred-up Polynesian pride in their recognition as the world’s greatest of navigating peoples. <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [42] <!--[endif]-->

My time with Wally was running short, so I had to gloss over the 1960s, <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [43] <!--[endif]--> ‘70’s and ‘80s and get to present day.

“We were talking about Fran and his board...” I prompted Wally about the first Hot Curl surfboard in later years.

“He met my brother in town one day,” Wally said, beginning the story of the restoration of the first Hot Curl surfboard, “and called me up. ‘Hey, Wallace, remember my surfboard?’

“‘Yeah!’ I told him. ‘I’d sure like to see it.’

“We hadn’t seen each other in a long time. ‘Yeah, I’d sure like to see it, cuz I have fond memories of you surfing that damn thing.’” Wally looked at me, explaining, “It being the original thing – all like that.

“So, I went over his house. He showed me the board. Aw, I was horrified. The thing was just termite-eaten, cracked – all those white stringers chewed-up. So, I asked him, ‘What happened?’ Turns out, he left it with his boy on the NorthShoreand he didn’t take care of it. Fran went out to see it one day, saw what a mess it was, and got angry with his boy; brought the thing back to his house. But, you know, it’s shot; never surf again with it.

“‘I tell you what – lemme take the board –’ I fool around with wood and everything. ‘— let me take the board and I’ll try’n fix it up. It’ll take some time, but I’ll try’n fix it up. It won’t cost you anything, cuz I got wood and all that stuff already.’ He let me take it.

“I was all anxious. I wanted to put it back in top shape, you know, cuz, hey, I got a lot of aloha for the board, eh? And, it is significant.

“So, I brought it home and worked on it and it kind of inspired me to refinish my solid redwood board, you know. So, then I call him up, ‘It’s finished! Come pick it up or I’ll bring it out.’ He said, ‘No, just leave it there for awhile.’ He was moving from his house to an apartment and had no place to put it.

“So, I tell him, ‘OK, I’ll leave it here, but with the understanding that anytime you want it, you just come pick it up.’ You know, I got room downstairs on the racks. He talked it over with his wife and his wife said, ‘Why don’t you just give it to Wallace?’ I told him, ‘Naw, naw.’ I tell him, ‘I’ll accept it, but, if anything ever happens or if I get an offer from someone to buy it or something like that, I’ll let you know and you make the decision. It’s your board.’ So, I feel like it’s kinda his and mine.” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [44] <!--[endif]-->

I asked him about the boards in his cellar.

“I used to walk from Tusitala Street all the way down the beach,” Wally responded, “surf 8 hours and carry it back – my solid redwood board, downstairs, which weighs 68 pounds...

“That one there –”  Wally referred to the slot board with the V up on the deck; one of two that had really caught Fran Heath’s and my attention the day before. “— we made the tail thick and kinda sharp edgy for speed and, you know, with the slot and the fin. And then we started making the tails thinner, cuz, then you could sink it better. The thickness didn’t prove to be too good... we started to eliminate the Hot Curl round edges – you know, the calculated drag – with use of the fin.” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [45] <!--[endif]-->

I asked him about the other boards in his cellar, starting with the one that Fran and I had been particularly intrigued by.

“Solid koa board,” Wally declared. “We researched the boards at the BishopMuseum... We wanted to know the background. We were really interested. And so, when I found out, gee, they had olo boards made out of koa and things like that, I wanted to make a board out of koa and see how practical it would be, because I knowkoa was so heavy and that sort of thing.

“So, I made that board, but I made it in the Hot Curl shape, see. So, I figured, is this an advancement? Does it help, or hinder or what?

“But, I gotta admit. I used that solid koa board about three times and I used it out in good sized surf at Castle and what they call First Break Elks Club – you know, outside of Old Man’s... I used it three times and I don’t see how those – well, the wide tail would probably help for buoyancy, you know; like the old boards were. So, that would probably help. But, once you set it, it’s so heavy and so solid, you can set it in only one direction and then you gotta live with it. You gotta catch the wave at an angle to begin with, otherwise you’d never get around – you know, depending on where you catch it. That’s your course. Of course, you’d rather catch it when it’s pretty well hanging, otherwise it’s just a swell. But, it worked good! There’s no problem with it, except you just set a course and go from Castle right to Public Baths – no problem. I mean, the glide was fantastic. It was a whole different thing.

“Like, they [the olo riders of yore] wanted to just stand up and – like we always kid about – ‘take the Duke Kahanamoku Stance’ – you know, hands out, striking a pose.” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [46] <!--[endif]-->

Before we broke up, I asked Wally, “What advice would you give beginning surfers?”

“I’d say,” he said after some thought, “in the first place, that they would have to really love surfing, and not only really love surfing, but they would have to put their whole heart and soul in it. You know, just eat it, sleep it; like some of these kids in the professional thing. They doit; some of them for money, sure, but they enjoyit, you know. You gotta enjoy it with your whole heart and soul and if you do, you’re bound to get good at it. Nothing can stop you if you really want to do it – and enjoy it.” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [47] <!--[endif]-->

“What about us older surfers?”

“Enjoy it as much as you can; to the fullest you possibly can.

“I feel this way: I feel that any body that tries surfing will enjoy it. It doesn’t make any difference if you’re a world champion or whether you’re a weekend surfer. Some guys make fun of these guys that go around with the boards and get in the water once a week –  that’s OK! They’re enjoying it! They’re enjoying it as much as they want or as much as they can.

“And, if a guy is serious and wants to be a champion, he’s got to go all out. He’s got to put more into it. It’s like any thing. You can do most anything if you reallywant to.” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [48] <!--[endif]-->

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [1] <!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996. See also Gault-Williams, “Surf Drunk, The Wally Froiseth Story,” The Surfer’s Journal, Volume 6, Number 4, Winter 1997.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [2] <!--[endif]--> Warshaw, “20th-Century Radical, The Surfer’s Journal, Spring 1995, p. 31. Wally Froiseth quoted.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [3] <!--[endif]--> Young, 1983, p. 55. Wally Froiseth.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [4] <!--[endif]--> Young, 1983, p. 55. Wally Froiseth.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [5] <!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996. See also Gault-Williams, “Surf Drunk, The Wally Froiseth Story,” The Surfer’s Journal, Volume 6, Number 4, Winter 1997.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [7] <!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996. See also Gault-Williams, “Surf Drunk, The Wally Froiseth Story,” The Surfer’s Journal, Volume 6, Number 4, Winter 1997.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [8] <!--[endif]-->   Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996. Wally pronounced Gene’s nickname: “Tar-zahn.”

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [9] <!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996. Wally has a picture of cigar boards, Dickie Cross, Gene Froiseth, board made by Tommy Kukona.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [10] <!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996. Wally has pictures of Waikiki Tom Blake gave him, that Blake used in his book, “before he went back that first time.”

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [11] <!--[endif]-->   Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [12] <!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [13] <!--[endif]--> Froiseth, Wally. Notations/corrections to draft, May 25, 1996, p. 3.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [14] <!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [15] <!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [16] <!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [17] <!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [18] <!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [19] <!--[endif]-->   Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [20] <!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [21] <!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [22] <!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [23] <!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[24]<!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [25] <!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [26] <!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [27] <!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996. See Gault-Williams, LEGENDARY SURFERS Volume 3: The 1930s, ©2012, chapter on Tarzan.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [28] <!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [30] <!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [31] <!--[endif]--> Mo-kapu (Moo-kah-poo), Kai-lua, Oahu -- originally named Moku-kapu (sacred district) because Ka-Mehameha I met his chiefs here; it was “the sacred land of Ka-mehameha” (Sterling and Summers, 5:165). Lit., taboo district.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [32] <!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [33] <!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [34] <!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [35] <!--[endif]--> Froiseth, Wally. Notations/corrections to draft, May 25, 1996, p. 14.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [36] <!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996. Alice, aka Moku “everybody calls her. Don’t ask me for her Hawaiian name...”

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [38] <!--[endif]--> Ocean Life Magazine, Volume 11, Number 1, Fall 1995, P.O. Box 405, Davenport, CA 95017, p.8. The TransPac was in its 38th year in 1995.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [39] <!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [40] <!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [41] <!--[endif]--> Patterson, Otto B. Surf-Riding, Its Thrills and Techniques, C.E. Tuttle Company, Rutland, Vermont, ©1960, p. 108.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [42] <!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Ben Finney, April 1, 1996.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [43] <!--[endif]--> Notably, in the 1960s, Wally “put out a patent to make the paipo board before [the Boogie Board]. Those guys were businessmen. You know, we’re no businessmen.”

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [44] <!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [45] <!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[46]<!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996. Wally has a classic photo of Duke striking his patented pose.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [47] <!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [48] <!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.

June 10 2015

Lao Trip 10.5 - Another Visa

I was still reeling from the excitement of the night before, as I ventured forth on this fifth day in Lao. I had already covered so many kilometers and done so much!

Paying for a final night at Nongsoda, the attendant gave me an outside room with queen size bed for the same prices as my previous place back in the dungeons. It was a much better room, but I think that the next time I’m in Savan, I’ll be renting a room from that other place I checked out yesterday. I guess you could say that my standards are rising, but I’d say it’s mostly just to cover all contingencies.

I got on the internet, completed tasks there and also got in touch with Thip to find out how Bann Nah was going. We had to spring for an air compressor and nail gun, but that was about the most exciting thing going on there.

Making my way back to the Savan Khaim Khong, I made sure my bill from the night before was all paid (which it was) and then made it over to the riverside vendors for an early lunch and a Beer Lao.

Beggars came came by – one amazingly attractive young one (had her parents put her up to this, or?). Times like this are always a little awkward when I don’t have small change, so I gotta do a better job about that, going forward.

I met Bas, a local school teacher, and we are now friends on Facebook – the popular social media platform of these days. We talked about English language construction and then he offered to take me to the consulate to pick up my visa. I took him up on his kind offer.

At the new Thai Consulate in Savannakhet, I received my new one-year Thai visa, then rode back to the riverside. Actually, I got in a tuk-tukwith a group of Westerners who were going to the bridge crossing and the samlordriver hadn’t understood where I said I wanted to go; just assumed we were all together. So, he drove me back to Nongsoda after dropping the Falang off at the Friendship Bridge. I think the Westerners were a bit surprised I seemed so non-plussed about the detour and the time the ride had caused me. My attitude is: I’m retired and on vacation. There’s no rush.

I ate again at the riverside vendors, always trying to patronize a different one. Here I stayed for a couple of hours, admiring the Mekong and having a couple of Beer Lao’s. Then, I went back to Savan Khaim Khong as they were starting up for the evening. I knew I had no hope of repeating my success of the previous evening, so I just basked in the memory of Jittzy and her friends, enjoyed the karaoke, and slowly drank two more Beer Lao’s.

Calling it an early night, I retired to the Nongsoda. Next day, I stamped out of Lao as early as I could, entered Thailand with my new one-year visa, and rode the long bus ride home, making it before sundown.

(Another currently popular tune from Petch Saharat)

June 02 2015

Lao Trip 10.4b - Jittzy and Friends

Towards sundown, I checked out the area near where I had met Eric and then re-met him again, in search of barbeque. But, the street shops were mostly all pho, so I decided to try the Lao Derm Savan, which is a bit upscale for me, but on the river, which I always like.

Most of the supporting structure was formerly the vehicle ferry between Savan and Mukdahan, Thailand (directly across The Kong). This was before the Friendship Bridge made it obsolete in 2006. It’s the biggest floating restaurant I’ve ever been on and quite beautiful; most all natural materials; wood and bamboo. The grass thatch is massive and must have cost a small fortune all on its own.

Lao Derm Savan

Here I ate a small chicken dish prepared in the traditional Lao way and had two Beer Lao’s; befriended by the manager who made sure I was well attended to.

On the way back toward my guesthouse, I wondered whether I should check into the Savan Khaim Khong? What about that lost mojo? Despite my tentativenesss, the music drew me in and I set up at a better location than yesterday; a spot closer to the large screen so I could watch the videos better. I was still on the edge of the groups of tables, so I also had a good view of most all of them. This is important in a karaoke bar, because you want to see who’s singing. Sometimes, when someone does a good rendition or even is enthusiastically trying, you might want to lightly clap at the end of the performance and/or raise a glass. To do these things, you really need to know where to direct your recognitions.

After a while, I was drawn to a group of girls, two tables over who were having such a great time. The most beautiful among them occasionally caught my eye and we would smile to each other or raise a glass in the Lao equivalent of “cheers!” She was far too beautiful and young for me, so I didn’t think too much of it at first.

Later on, though, I fell in with these girls who were all quite different from one another and all in their early 20s. After a while, they invited me to go with them to another bar where there was live music. We went and had a great time, Jittzy being my companion and I helping fund the operation.

(popular at Savan Khaim Khong, March 2015)

As I wrote earlier, it was another one of those great moments in Lao. At age 66, it was so refreshing to be in with a group of Lao girls – Lao sao – more than 40 years younger than me. What they were doing with an old guy like me? The cynic would probably say they just wanted me to help them defray their party costs, but, I remember what my hero Woody Brownonce told me about age differences: “If they don’t mind, I don’t mind!”

May 31 2015

Play fullscreen
ผัวเก่า - ศร สินชัย 【OFFICIAL MV】

May 26 2015

Lao Trip 10.4a - Non-Immigrant "O" Visa

Fourth day of my tenth trip to Lao – and my second trip to obtain a one-year Thai visa at Savannakhet – turned out to be one of those great days (actually night) in my favorite country to travel in. Looking back on it, I rank the day up there with the afternoons I met Nuey in 2014 and Noutin 2012.

In the morning, after taking a tuk-tuk to the Thai Consulate, I submitted my required paperwork and application for a new Non-Immigrant “O” Visa, based on marriage to a Thai national. My packet included: application form, two recent passport size/style photos, 5k THB fee, my passport, photocopy of the passport page dated and signed by me, marriage certificate, copy of marriage certificate, copy of my wife’s Thai ID front and back signed by her, and a copy of her house book (tabian bann) dated and signed by her. I was given our marriage certificate back after the receiving official inspected it and compared it against the copy. I would get my passport back and, hopefully, a fresh new one-year visa the next day, in the afternoon.

(pages from my passport, circa 2013, showing what the visa looks like)

I went back to the riverside and checked out another guesthouse in the area. I just didn’t like where I was at, at Nongsoda. This other guesthouse was a nice place, but five dollars more and further away from the riverside vendors where I liked to hang. So, I didn’t follow thru with the place, but as it turns out, I should have and will probably stay here next time I’m in the area. I forgot to write down its name.

On the way back to Nongsoda, I met a guy about my age, Eric from Denmark, who likes to travel in SE Asia on his yearly vacations. He was en route to Vietnam. Oddly, I would by chance meet him again in the same exact spot, hours later.

Back at Nongsoda, I did laundry, showered and changed into clean clothes. Since the guesthouse WiFi didn’t reach into the dungeons where I was staying, I moved out into the common area, the main patio complex where the owners, their help, and visitors hung out. Here, using my “smart phone,” I got caught up on my communications which actually took a while.

May 22 2015

Lao Trip 10.3 - Savan

Day Three, I took the southbound bus from Pakxan to Tha Khaek, passing thru Pak Kading, where the Nam Kading hits the Mekong, and Hinboun, where the Nam Hinboundoes likewise; both very sizeable rivers.

This bus was better than yesterday’s. At least we had air-con for a while and we made better time, arriving at the Tha Khaek bus station – hey, I remember this place! – while the sun was still high. So, I decided to get on another bus southbound to my ultimate destination of Savannakhet– commonly called “Savan.”

My sense of timing was right on, for we made good time to Savan, despite a tire blow out toward the end of the ride. It wasn’t a puncture; it was an actual rubber blowout.

In Savan, I checked into Nongsoda guesthouse, where I had stayed last year. I got another dumpy room, just like last time; not out of choice, but that’s all that was available. The “inside” rooms are dark, with a window of little use, and often musty-smelling due to mold and mildew. The “outside” rooms are lots better and both the same price. Importantly, the outside rooms have big single beds and the inside rooms have two doubles.

The big plus about Nongsoda is its location. When the Thai Consulate was located riverside, it was just two blocks away. Even though the Thai consulate had moved since the last time I was here, the location of Nongsoda riverside, not far from the riverside vendors and the Savan Khaim Khong, still made it attractive for me to patronize.

After laundry and a shower, I walked out along the upper banks of the Nam Khong and was soon distressed to find that my favorite Savannakhet bar was now diserted and nearly gutted.

My spirits picked-up soon afterwards, however, when I walked past the new Savan Khaim Khong. Apparently, business was good and the family had built a new and bigger bar/restaurant.

Again, I was disheartened to note that the riverside vendors now quit their work early, with no after-dark activity at all. The larger outdoor sukiyaki operation was still functioning, so I had a beer here before moving onto the new Savan Khaim Khong.

The Savan Khaim Khong is a bar, restaurant and karaoke spot, not dissimilar from the floating ones in PL2; just bigger and obviously land-based. I had some good memories of the old Savan Khaim Khong and was curious to see how the new place would match up.

Although there’s not a view of the Mekongat the new establishment, it was nice again to be in an enclosure with so many young people having fun. I did find myself feeling my age. I saw one other Falang in the place, in the company of Thai friends, who looked very much out-of-place. I wondered if I did, too. Starting to doubt myself a little bit, I also wondered if I was now losing my mojo.

May 17 2015

Lao Trip 10.2 - To Pakxan

On my second day in Lao, the Thai government warned tropical storm was still nowhere in sight. After a continental breakfast at the Duang Deuane, I checked-out and looked for a tuk-tuk to the southern bus station. I’ve learned to negotiate prices for samlors. When I know I’m not offered a good price from one driver, I can usually find another who will.

The bus ride to Pakxanseemed a lot longer than it really was. I must have been on a third class bus; no air-con, only open windows. Unlike most everyone else, I kept mine wide open and my face on the recipient side of the wind. It was a little like being in a wind tunnel for 3-4 hours, but I enjoyed the scenery as I rode southeast of Vientiane, along the Mekong.

Pakxan has potential, but is hopelessly laid out for tourism. I did what I normally do, by locating myself within walking distance of sizeable water.

After checking into the BK Guesthouse, doing laundry, a shower and chillin’ in some air-conditioning, I walked down to the confluence of the Nam Xan and Mekong rivers.

This area would be the logical tourist center should the city decide to make one. The views are good and it’s far enough from Route 13 to seem pretty pastoral. I found a small eatery on the Nam Xan, with a lone teenage girl tending it, listening to some decent Thai pop. Not seening much in the way of food, I ordered a Beer Lao and ice. The girl apologized that she didn’t have any ice, then took off on her motosai and returned shortly afterwards with nam khong. I thanked her very much:

Kawp jai, la-lai.” (thank you, a lot)

After sundown, I walked back to the guesthouse in the hopes of finding a place serving food. Finding none, I went back to my room, availed myself of the WiFi and regretted not buying food from vendors who periodically came on the bus between Vientianeand Pakxan. A hungry lesson learned.

May 15 2015

Lao Trip 10.1b - Vientiane

After stamping out of Thailand, crossing the Mekong into Lao, and purchasing my one-month Lao visa ($45 USD), I was approached by the usual touts for a ride into Vientiane (about a 20-minute ride). Taxis I dismissed without a second thought, but one tuk-tuk driver – Mr. Yen – was so persistent, I gave into him after bargaining an 80k kip ride to 60k; basically ten dollars down to eight.

I checked into the place I’d stayed at a half a year ago – the Douang Deuane (doo-ang dee-wain), fifth floor top; nice room overlooking the center of riverside activity, with a slight view of the Kong.

After my usual freshening-up routine, I walked down the riverside road west to the
Bor Penyang and had a liter of draft Beer Lao while I overlooked the Mekong three flights up. Great views from here and I was early enough to miss the blaring speakers of the aerobic exercisers who set up by the river every late afternoon. I was, of course, too early to see any freelancers.

From the Bor Penyang, I took a samlor to the Sunset Bar, further west along the riverside. The bar/restaurant has a great write-up in the 2000 Lao edition of Lonely Planet, but surprised me a bit by being somewhat of a Falang meeting spot; expats working and married into Vientiane, mostly. They seemed friendly, but had their own group and I wasn’t in it.

I walked back toward the center of town, watched the sun drop over the Mekong and them moved on to another riverside bar/restaurant I hadn’t been in before. This one was most all Lao people and had two musicians playing a lot of Pongsittunes. It wasn’t long before I was invited over to a table of two Lao guys in their early 30s.

I couldn't help but contrast where I had been, at the Sunset, and wherever I was, now. I don’t mean to be judgmental, as when I’m travelling in a foreign country, the last thing I want to do is hang out with a bunch of Westerners. When I was on the two day slow boat trip down the Mekong two years ago, it couldn’t be avoided and that was OK. But, later, in Luang Prabang, when I would occasionally cross paths with young Falang I’d drank Beer Lao with for two days on the slowboat, they barely acknowledged me.

Westerners – myself included – are somewhat “stand-offish” compared to Thai and Lao people. I’m trying to work on this tendency on my part. Maybe this is why I notice it so much when I see it in others.

The two Lao guys worked at KP Lao and knew English moderately well, which always helps me. After a while, they suggested we go on to a karaoke bar and checked with me a couple of times to see if I was up for it. I indicated I was, feeling safe enough with these guys who had given me their cards, despite previous warnings from my wife not to get too friendly with strangers. They thought better of it and cancelled the karaoke plans and, instead, dropped me off at the Douang Deuane. I hadn’t eaten, so I went over to the Belgian Beer Bar for some food and the day’s last Beer Lao.

May 09 2015

Lao Trip 10.1a - To Nong Khai

All my trips out of Thailand (mostly to Lao) involve some preparation. This tenth trip to Lao required more than most.

For one thing, we were still in the middle of building Bann Nah. So, there were things like running out of #3 nails and having to get another box full; authorizing unexpected expenditures; transporting water (both use and drinking); updating the expenditures list; payment of labor; inspections; and, of course, a final end-of-day four 630ml bottle Leo beer drink with our workers.

Then, the other big preparation involved paperwork: getting my new Thai visa application packet together. Last year’s visa was about to expire, so this was to be somewhat of a business trip, just like the one a year ago. Because the packet requirements are less strict at the Thai Savannakhet consulate, I decided to return was in order. This time, I’d make my way a bit differently, via Vientiane, to mix the trip up a bit and see some more of the country I hadn’t seen before.

The day of my departure, I drove our monks to and from binta baht, as I do most every morning. Then, I dealt with some last minute problems with my gaming clan and finally I was off – Thip driving me to the Nong Bua Lamphu bawkasaw(bus station) on her Honda Wave 110i motosai.

We had timed it so that I picked up the bus to Nong Khai, Thailand, on the border not far from Vientiane, in Lao. In the past, I would just take the first bus to Udon Thani and then a bus from there to Nong Khai. This time, although we still ended-up stopping at Udon, being able to stay on the same bus and not having to wait around the Udon bus station was a definite improvement in my travel plans.

Outside Nong Khai, those of us going on to the border transferred to a tuk-tuk. On it, a rather foul-mouthed Canadian made me feel embarrassed to be a North American. He didn’t have a good word to say about anybody and wasn’t the first one of his kind that I had run into, in my travels. I’d characterize the type as unshaven, uncouth, a bar hound and a man of little respect – especially for others. I always hate to cross paths with guys like this. My Bangkokfriend Kevinsays this type of Expatruns away from problems in their own country, comes to Southeast Asia to escape them, and bring all their baggage along with them.

May 05 2015

Big Storm Blows In

It was a late afternoon, after “our workers” (aka “our special workers” – reference to them being on loan to us from our temple, as well as other reasons) had knocked off for the day and I had provided liquid refreshment in the form of Leo see kuat (four bottles of Leo beer).

I had been allowed back on the premises only after the anti-termite chemical had dried the day before. We sat on a grass mat that had seen better days. On it stood the four 630 ml beer bottles, a small ice chest with ice, ice thongs, glasses, and a coupld of small packs of small pork rinds – an Isaan favorite, especially with beer.

As Lott and Naht spoke together mostly about our “farm house,” I admired the structure at the same time as I gave it a critical eye. I was not alone in this, as I knew our head monk Lungpawalso regularly visited the site, checking the progress on the house and the quality of the work.

Our family and friends were highly critical of Lott and Naht taking so long building our “cabin on stilts.” But, my attitude was that I didn’t care how long it took, as long as it was well built and the workmanship of quality.

I had taken my cue from Lungpaw, actually, who once in a light hearted moment joked with Thipwhen she had mentioned to him that she wanted our workers to build Bann Nah as if they were building their own homes. Lungpaw corrected her, reminding her of what their homes looked like. No, he said, you want them to build it as if they were building another structure belonging to the wat (temple). And that’s pretty much what has happened.

With these thoughts running through my mind while I checked the house closely, drank my beer and served my friends – occasionally responding to one of their jokes – I kept noticing an area of dark gray/blue on the northwest horizon.

From Bann Nah, you can see out a quarter of a mile in three directions at ground level and many miles/kilometers in all directions, skywards. We’re out in the middle of 9 rai of rice paddies, after all, with many more rice paddies adjacent to ours. The views can be stupendous (like that night of the lunar eclipse the night of Ohpensa, last fall).

That patch of dark gray/blue kept slowly getting bigger, but there was no air being pushed our way from its direction, so I didn’t think much of it. Only later did I realize that big Isaan storms don’t push as much air our as much as it sucks it into its vortex – much like a tornado.

There was a point reached when it was obvious that whatever was out there was heading our way.

Fone toke (rain),” Lott said; Naht nodding, as we could now see the electrical storms lighting up the insides of the gray/blue.

We finished our beers – no rush or quick gulps, just steady pulls – then packed up what remained and moved out. Again, there were no quick movements or hurry. It was just understood that there was no more hanging around. Naht lead the way on his motosai, followed by Lott on his mechanical buffalo with cart attached, and me bringing up the rear in my samlor.

I had just reached our village home, about a mile from Bann Nah, when the storm struck with hard rain, fierce wind, thunder and lightning. It went on like that all night long; at one point making me think that our roof might even blow off.

Next morning, after the electricity and internet slowly came back on and the sky lightened up, there were many who thought that the storm surely would have blown Bann Nah’s roof off – it being out in the middle of the rice paddies with no protective covering around it.


May 01 2015

Fran Heath (1917-2006)


Fran Heath was the oldest of the Hot Curl surfers, but only by a couple of years. His family moved to O‘ahu when he was an infant. The Heaths lived in the Kahala section, a coastal strip just on the other side of Diamond Head crater from Waikiki. He would have been native born except for the fact that during a visit of his mother to relatives on the U.S. Mainland, the Matson steamship company refused to take her back on board for the return trip. Mrs. Heath was far along in her pregnancy and, in those days, the passenger ships between Hawai’iand the West Coast only averaged a speed of around 11 knots. The typical trip between Honolulu and San Francisco could take between 14 and 16 days. Thus, Francis R. Heath III was born in Oakland, July 13, 1917. <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [1] <!--[endif]-->

Fran started surfing around the age of 12, at the very start of the 1930s. He was a member of the Outrigger Canoe Club at an early age, beginning his surfing life on an 8-foot redwood board. Favorite spots to surf when he was first underway included the old pier in front of the Ala Moana Hotel, Sandy Beach and Black Point.

“The beach was there. The surf was there,” Fran said with a smile when I asked him what had originally attracted him to surfing. And he was not alone. Doug Forbes, Hershel “Herky” Best, Gene and Wally Froiseth, Frank Addison, Lex Brody and John Kelly were all surfers Fran first rode with. When I asked him who out of that group he surfed with the most, he answered:

“Probably Kelly. We lived close to one another and each of us grew out of tide pools right next to each other. His was at Black Point, on the Diamond Head side and mine was more over toward Koko Head. When you’re a kid, you get to checking out the neighborhood and you know where all the other kids are near you. Kelly was not only near, but he surfed, too.” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [2] <!--[endif]-->

Out of the half dozen or so guys he first started surfing with, all but Lex Brody would go on to ride Hot Curls.

“The average board was 8-to-10 feet long, before the Hot Curls,” Fran said. “Of course, Tom Blake’s hollow boards were quite a bit longer and they were rising in popularity at the time.” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [3] <!--[endif]--> But, Fran and his buddies “weren’t hot on” Blake’s hollow boards Fran said, “because they were too bouyant and – they were great, but – they had a habit of leaking.”

Although Fran and friends were not attracted to Blake’s hollows, partially-hollow boards were a different story. Fran was the first to have a semi-hollow, ordered from Pacific Coast Redi-Cut Homes, back on the Mainland. This board would later become the first Hot Curl surfboard. <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [4] <!--[endif]-->

Speaking of the surfers they hung with, Fran’s friend and fellow Wally Froiseth recalled, “We were what was known as... the ‘Empty Lot Boys’... You know where the big banyon tree is in KuhioPark? Well, that used to be a big empty lot. Prince Kuhio’s home was right next to it... That banyon tree was all jungle. The banyon tree’s hollow, so, if we didn’t have time to paddle the boards back, we’d just put our boards in there – put our boards in the middle of that tree. Nobody’d take ‘em in those days, anyway, but, you know, you can’t just leave ‘em on the beach. So, we’d get ‘em in there. No problem.” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [5] <!--[endif]-->

“Leaving the boards at the beach without fear of theft,” was just the way it was in those days, agreed Fran, but, “We didrun into a little problem on heavy tourist days when the Beach Boys’ supply of rental boards ran out. When we came for our boards we found they had been rented to some unsuspecting tourist. We then had to swim out, find our board and transport the tourist to the beach. There were some rather interesting confrontations as a result of this activity.” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [6] <!--[endif]-->

“DadCenter,” was Fran’s immediate response when I asked who his early influences had been. “He was interested in canoes a lot. We all were, but he actively promoted it.” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [7] <!--[endif]-->

Dad Centerhad been surfing Waikiki since surfing’s revival, prior to World War I. In fact, he was out surfing with Duke Kahanamoku the day Duke caught his now-famous half-mile ride in 1917 – the longest single ocean ride in recorded history. <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [8] <!--[endif]--> Dad later became the canoe coach for the Outrigger, coaching not only Fran, but others who would go on to make names for themselves in the surfing world – like Rabbit Kekai. Strategically, DadCenter owned a good deal of Waikiki at one point and was the main connection for redwood shipped over from the U.S. Mainland.

“Duke and I were very good friends,” Fran added, mentioning The Father of Modern Surfing as another key influence on him at the beginning of his surfing days. “We were both in the Outrigger together. Of course, he was very respected and I was just a kid, but that didn’t get in our way.”

“When we first began surfing in the early ‘30s,” Fran said of the Empty Lot Boys, “we were led to believe Waikiki was the only place waves could be surfed. When John Kelly, Herky Best and Dougie Forbes moved to Kahala and Black Point, it became obvious to us when walking home on
Diamond Head Road
, that there were some fabulous surfs both off Black Point and Diamond Head.

“Our best access to these surfs was from Kelly’s house where we would carry these boards – then weighing around eighty pounds – over our shoulders, down a steep trail to a ledge where we would launch and return... We soon found out these waves differed from Waikiki, especially Brown’s surf, as they were harder and steeper.” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [9] <!--[endif]-->

“Great surfer; great surfer,” friend Wally said of Fran. “I used to admire his style. He had a neat way of – I don’t know, there was just something about him; the way he surfed. He was one of those guys who wanted maximum speed across the wave and – try and make it as far as you could... Most of the time, Fran and all the rest of us – we wanted to get across...

“I don’t know, but unconsciously I probably tried to emulate him. You know, when you admire someone doing something – you want to improve however you can – so, you know, I’m not afraid to learn from somebody else.

“Fran – it was like he was part of the board. I always admired that. When you saw him on a wave or were with him on a wave... he just seemed to be part of that board; so much a part of it, it was just like one thing.

“He was just – smooth. You know, like the way you catch the wave and stand up...  It was just like fluid motion. Beautiful.

“I remember one time, Kelly, my brother, Fran and I went out to Mo-kapu. Big surf. At first, we threw our boards off the cliff, paddled out on the left side, and surfed over there all morning. Then we came in for lunch. About 1 O’clock, when we’re going back out on the right side, Fran went out first. So, John said, ‘Ah, let’s wait and see...’  Cuz, then we were gonna surf what they call Pyramid Rock. So, we wanted to surf on the right of Pyramid Rock, rather than the left side. ‘Let’s wait to see how Fran does.’

“So, we waited and Fran started catching waves – just so beautiful, you know.

“You see,” Wally emphasized, “in the old days, part of the enjoyment with us was watching other people surf. It was part of what we called the ‘Island Style.’” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [10] <!--[endif]-->

“In the early part of World War II,” Fran recalled, “John Kelly and I served aboard the U.S.S. Calcedony, a converted yacht. We were assigned to escort and patrol duty. The Island-born Captain permitted us to bring our boards along. We were then able to try out such virgin surfs as Midway, Palmyra, Christmas and CantonIslands. Midway was by far the best, with a long right slide on the eastern side of the island.” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [11] <!--[endif]-->

Toward the later part of the war, both Kelly and Fran were assigned to UDT duty. The Underwater Demolition Team was the predecessor of today’s Navy SEALS. Fran admitted that the swimming and diving was not a problem; it was the demolitions. “We had to learn all about explosives. I mean, we were handling explosives strong enough to blow up an entire building – in our case, powerful enough to sink a metal-hulled ship.

“We considered using surfboards for reconnaissance missions,” recalled Fran. “That was Kelly’s idea. But, boards are too easily spotted from low-flying aircraft and there’s no protection if you’re spotted, so that idea was scrapped.” They were some of the first to use the Lambertson Lung in underwater demolition. This “most primitive self-contained rig,” as Fran put it, “enabled you to swim underwater without leaving the telltale string of bubbles typical to the scuba.”

“After the war,” recalled Fran, “Gene – Wally’s brother – got a job working on a radio construction site there, at Makaha. He’d give us a call when it got big.” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [12] <!--[endif]-->

By this time, both Woody Brown and George Downing had joined the Hot Curler guys as full-fledged members. Woody had come over at the start of the war. “George started after the war,” recalled Fran. “He wanted to take some pictures of me at Koko Head... We got to be friends and he said... ‘What about Waimea?’

“We also were probably the first ones to consider surfing Kaena Point by tow-in with a motorized boat,” remembers Fran. “No one was willing to risk their boat for that and none of us was willing to sacrifice our boards... We did do tow-in’s at SharkBay.” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [13] <!--[endif]-->

In 1953, Honoluluphotographer Skip Tsuzuki took the famous Associated Press photo of Buzzy Trent, Woody and George Downing riding a 15-foot wave at Makaha that went world wide. “That’s the first big wave that was ever photographed that had world wide distribution,” Woody told me. “After that, of course, people started getting gung ho over big waves... Californiasurfers started coming over, after that picture... that drove everybody crazy... So, they all wanted to come out here and see for themselves.” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [14] <!--[endif]-->

“Our first experience with Californiasurfers,” recalled Fran, “was that they then were used to the softer, gentler Southern Californian beach breaks. Their initial experience with NorthShorewaves rapidly rising and closing out on them came as a very obvious shock. We had to talk quite a number of them back thru the white water to shore.”

As the Hot Curl guys grew older and were super ceded by younger surfers from both Hawai‘i and the U.S. Mainland, most all of them still continued to surf, stay close to the ocean, and carry on as tribal leaders in surfing’s development.

The exception was Fran Heath.

“What happened with him is, he surfed in the ‘30s and then about the time of the war, he started to shy away from it,” Wally recalled. “I don’t know exactly why. Maybe he was busy with his father’s insurance business... At one point, he told John Kelly and I that he got kind of boredwith surfing. Then, after the war, we tried to get him interested again, you know. But, he was sort of a loner, in a way. So, he did a lot of bodysurfing and, you know, an individual thing rather than a group thing. Through the years, he kind of moved away from Kelly and our group to some extent. He was there, but not as much as the rest of us.” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [15] <!--[endif]-->

“Well, I became interested in other things,” Fran explained. “I found my work took me away from the beach and my son was growing up, then. He didn’t take to the ocean like I had. I found myself wanting to do the things he wanted to do and these took me further away from riding the waves like I used to do.”

Fran continued bodysurfing, fishing and boating – both power and sail. His wife Juliette had praises for her husband’s ability to surf waves even with a Boston Whaler. From the glow in her eyes, telling of one particular instance, I got the impression Fran did this on big days as well as small.

Another Hot Curl surfer to get into boating was Woody Brown. He had brought the Polynesian double-hulled canoe design into the modern era by developing the catamaran in the 1940s. One catamaran he built was bought by Duke Kahanamoku. “In the latter years [of Duke’s life],” Fran said, “I crewed for him on his Woody Brown cat Nadu.” In speaking about his long friendship with Duke, Fran added that when Duke “became too ill to sail, I followed his wishes and continued to race the boat.” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [16] <!--[endif]-->

Continuing to bodysurf, Fran was one of the first to do so at Pipeline and Waimea.

“Buddy Adolphsen surfed with us when I was young. Later, after World War II, he became a sergeant in the police force. When he was stationed on the NorthShore, he devoted himself to lifesaving. A lot of people don’t know, but Buddy was responsible for many a save on the NorthShore before they had lifeguards there.

“Anyway, this one time I was bodysurfing Waimea when it was pretty big; no one else out... After a while, I noticed fire engines on shore and a lot of people congregated. I wondered what had happened, cuz I hadn’t seen anybody else out riding those waves that day.

“When I came in, swim fins in hand, Buddy met me on the sand, shaking his head; a little agitated, I’d say. ‘Goddammit, Fran, I should have known it was you!’ he said to me. ‘Please, in the future, before you go out alone like that, stop by the fire station and let us know.’ They’d all gotten worried about this lone body out in the big surf that day...” <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--> [17] <!--[endif]-->

At the end the day I spent with Fran, interviewing him, I went with Fran and his wife Juliette, over to Wally’s place to show me his Pacific Systems semi-hollow Hot Curl which Wally had recently refurbished. It’s a beautiful board; beautiful in materials and beautiful in shape. I was also struck with the heavy weight – at least by today’s standards. At one point, I was concerned about Fran.  I mean, the guy was an octogenarian by that point and walking around with a cane. How could he lift even half the weight? Well, that day he hefted his end of the board; no problem. Outside, under the Honolulu sun, he gave me directions on slinging it over my shoulder so we could take a picture of it.

At a certain point, Fran clearly got frustrated with my lack of expertise handling his board. “You don’t know how to carry a surfboard,” he said, almost scolding me while cradling the semi-hollow in his arms. Fran showed me how to sling it over my shoulder with one hand in a perpendicular fulcrum. It was then that I fully realized what it was like back in the days of the Hot Curls, when Fran, Wally, Kelly and them slung their boards on their shoulders on a daily basis. It was the only way you could carry a heavy redwood board.

Lost in time is not only this practice, but also the Hot Curl surfboard’s place in the rack as the grandfather of today’s big wave guns. Contemporary board design for what Buzzy Trent originally labeled the “Elephant Gun” still reflects many Hot Curl principles, including forward V, tail V and pulled-in gun plan shapes.

So it goes for the Hot Curl guys, themselves. Nearly forgotten or overlooked, it’s The Empty Lot Boys who were the first surfers in modern times to regularly ride the biggest waves the island of O‘ahu has to serve up. They rode all the island’s shores – including the NorthShore– at least a decade before the arrival of those who would later get the kudos for it.

[Note: this is a slightly updated chapter on Fran; more easily read on a mobile device. The original chapter, based on an article I wrote for LONGBOARD magazine in 1997 -- including some images from the Heath collection -- remains on-line at:  http://files.legendarysurfers.com/surf/legends/fran.shtml]

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[1]<!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams, Malcolm. Interview with Fran Heath, April 2, 1996. See alsoGault-Williams, “Fran Heath: The Forgotten Hot Curler,” Longboard, Volume 5, Number 1, March/April 1997.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[2]<!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Fran Heath, April 2, 1996. See also Gault-Williams, “Fran Heath: The Forgotten Hot Curler,” Longboard, Volume 5, Number 1, March/April 1997.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[3]<!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Fran Heath, April 2, 1996. See also Gault-Williams, “Fran Heath: The Forgotten Hot Curler,” Longboard, Volume 5, Number 1, March/April 1997.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[4]<!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Fran Heath, April 2, 1996. According to Fran’s recollection, he ordered the board in 1935 and it arrived in 1936. This is consistent with Wally’s recollection as this board being the first Hot Curl, which was cutdown around 1936-37.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[5]<!--[endif]-->Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[6]<!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Fran Heath, April 2, 1996. See also Gault-Williams, “Fran Heath: The Forgotten Hot Curler,” Longboard, Volume 5, Number 1, March/April 1997.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[7]<!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Fran Heath, April 2, 1996. See also Gault-Williams, “Fran Heath: The Forgotten Hot Curler,” Longboard, Volume 5, Number 1, March/April 1997.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[8]<!--[endif]--> Blake, Thomas E. Hawaiian Surfriders 1935, published by Mountain and Sea, Redondo Beach, ©1983. Originally titled Hawaiian Surfboard, published in 1935, by Paradise of the Pacific Press, Honolulu, Hawai’i, p. 55. See also Kahanamoku with Joe Brennan, World of Surfing, ©1968, Grosset & Dunlap, New York, pp. 73-80.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[9]<!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Fran Heath, April 2, 1996. See also Gault-Williams, “Fran Heath: The Forgotten Hot Curler,” Longboard, Volume 5, Number 1, March/April 1997.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[10]<!--[endif]-->Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[11]<!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Fran Heath, April 2, 1996. See also Gault-Williams, “Fran Heath: The Forgotten Hot Curler,” Longboard, Volume 5, Number 1, March/April 1997.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[12]<!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Fran Heath, April 2, 1996. See also Gault-Williams, “Fran Heath: The Forgotten Hot Curler,” Longboard, Volume 5, Number 1, March/April 1997.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[13]<!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Fran Heath, April 2, 1996. See also Gault-Williams, “Fran Heath: The Forgotten Hot Curler,” Longboard, Volume 5, Number 1, March/April 1997.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[14]<!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Woody Brown, Pa’ia, Maui, November 22, 1994.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[15]<!--[endif]-->Gault-Williams. Interview with Wally Froiseth, April 3, 1996.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[16]<!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Fran Heath, April 2, 1996. See also Gault-Williams, “Fran Heath: The Forgotten Hot Curler,” Longboard, Volume 5, Number 1, March/April 1997.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[17]<!--[endif]--> Gault-Williams. Interview with Fran Heath, April 2, 1996. See also Gault-Williams, “Fran Heath: The Forgotten Hot Curler,” Longboard, Volume 5, Number 1, March/April 1997.

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