#47 Jock Sutherland

Surfer Celebrates The 50 Greatest Surfers of All Time

| posted on July 22, 2010
Sunset Beach, 1968. Photo: Ron Stoner

Sunset Beach, 1968. Photo: Ron Stoner

It’s gonna be a long night, but for all the right reasons. It’s been a while since I’ve felt like this. People have that effect on me. Especially the ones you share incredibly mind-blowing experiences with. I am a devout believer that there is good in everybody. I’m also a firm believer that there are some people who are not only good, but f-cking great.

As a 14-year-old surfer living and growing up next door to Jock Sutherland, I had no idea about the greatness I was going to witness. It still blows my mind. Jocko had no boundaries on a wave. He had no clue if he was goofyfoot or regularfoot—he just was. Jock had this uncanny knack for knowing where to be on a wave and how to be there. Impromptu, spontaneous, absolutely brilliant. Like an imagination gone wild. In the water, he was fearlessly aloof, yet extremely calculated. Always in the power spot: left, right, big, small, hat on, hat off.

To this day I’ve never, ever seen Jock fall off a surfboard. Ladders yes, roofs yes, balconies yes. But never a surfboard. Jock was one of the most creative forces in the evolution of surfing. He was a tremendous tutor, but he did set me up for some mean lickings in the lineup—especially if I’d broken one of his boards recently. Hey, it made me smarter and wiser and humbled the shit out of me.

Like the first time I surfed Ala Moana with Jock. This one guy kept stuffin’ me until I figured out he was a friend of Jock’s and he was actually trying to show me that I was taking off at the wrong spot and was going to continually eat shit regardless of whether somebody dropped in on me or not. But boy could this guy noseride, with style. So now I’m in the right take off spot when Jock paddles on the inside of me, whips around to catch the wave and calls me off. I went anyway. Jock flew by and I ate shit. They laughed and I swam. The next wave, I’m in the perfect spot, but Jock’s friend, Gerry Lopez, paddles inside of me, swings around to catch the wave, and calls me off. Like before, I went. Gerry flew by with style and I ate shit. They laughed and I swam again.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I’ve got to be the envy of every surfer who ever lived to have had two of the greatest surfers of all time as mentors, tutors, teachers, and above all else, dear friends. But they didn’t exactly wrap me in swaddling cloth and adorn me with frankincense and myrrh. Dues have to be paid. And I wouldn’t change it for the world. —Rory Russell

Previous #48 Layne Beachley | Next #46 Michael Ho

  • randy johnson

    Rory, u most likely don’t remember me -used to live in the old wood military baracks tween Loniakia and Chungs behind Jocko and u back in the late 60’s and early 70’s -then lived in last house on left befor Waimea on beach side acros fro Lopez-last saw you in person on Clearwater Beach FL. ran into u doing a promo at a friends furf shop-anyway hope this gets to u – wondering if you can help me with getting any info. on my brother Rick Johnson he passed away a long time ago now and lost all his surfing past – surfed with Jocko, Nuuhewa, umaybe and others-he was 10 years my senior (I’m 57 now) – just trying to find andy opics or people with memories of him-he did surf in the Makaha meets and think was team captain and shaper for hap Jacob from ’67-’78?-u may remember me by the fact that I was the only crazy Haoulie the Eikau’s would let go body surf Waimea when closed out and would do same on big Pipeline (Eukai) Beach days – though surfed always oprefered body surfing when got over 12-15 feet-any help w/bras past or a note of aloha is appreciated-

  • Doug Walker

    When did Jock go into the Army? Just trying to date some classic surfing sessions at Pipeline with Jeff and Jock. I graduated from Punahou and left for college in the fall of ’66.

  • Steve Morris

    Jock and I were stationed together at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California while we were in the US Army . .. This was at Command Headquarters. Jock offered to give me my first “surfing lessons”, even though I had served years before in Huntington Beach, California .. I recall telling him that I didn’t think the surf there in Montery Bay would be high enough and he laughed and said all he needed was just a little height. Even an inch would do!! A great guy and I miss the daily routine of telling him we had to get that lesson in .. Sadly it never happened.

  • Patrick Rohrbach

    Is this the same Jock Sutherland I went to Waialua High & Intermediate with in the 60s. Just wondering, The Jock I knew lived at Chuns reef, Haliewa side with his Mother, sister, and little brother. Not sure of little Bro. Been many a year since then. It was he, Brian Livingston, Earl Dahlin who introduced me to REAL surfing. The Jock I knew was one of a kind. It was Jock, Brian, Earl, George, and me would sit on a bench accross from the cafeteria and wait until the line was gone so we could EAT as much as the ladies would give us EVEN seconds. Wow what memories

  • Michael Clark

    Jock was one hell of a fin guy to surf with. I learned to really have fun. I am a kneeboarder who loves the barrel. Watching Jock taking of at Moss Landing , going through the backdoor and poping out of the tube sitting on his board laughing the whole way is on of my favorites. Big Sur River mouth inside left ,hollow as can , be headhigh and seeing Jock sideslip down into the tube with his “finger English” great fun.
    Jock , hope your OK.
    Mike aka Farkle