Spot on Spot – A Revisionist Glance at Historic Surfing Locales: Ala Moana
AKA: Ala Moana, Bowls, Ala Mo’
Rich in surfing history, Ala Moana has had its share of legendary locals. A few of the big names include: Gerry Lopez, Sammy Lee, Donald Takayama, Ben Aipa, and Montgomery “Buttons” Kaluhiokalani, but none of these guys hold a candle to Bowls’ real notorious local – Bali Joe Kupsnell. If he’s not dropping in on little girls then you can find this East Coast transplant selling Indonesian clothes out of the trunk of his car in the parking lot. “Yeah, I burned you…but you sure you don’t need an extra pair of shorts? Twenty bucks. Eight…alright five – but now you’re burning me.” – Anonymous North Shore local.
While all spots have a local who rises to the occasion for big swells, in critical surf Ala Moana seems to consistently revolve around any one of the five or six guys who paddle out there each day. South Shore guru, Bernie Baker, comments, “Every generation has its bulls who have either been greedy or protective, and they come and go and with each new decade, then there’s somebody else. Bowls could be worse. There have been uglier decades than today; some of the kindest surfers there are the oldest surfers there. Get to know them; understand etiquette, protocol, and respect – and always ask if they’re going…”
Significant Moment(s) in History:
Many accredit Ala Moana as the birthplace of modern tube riding. Its fast bowling sections seemed almost unmakeable until the early 1960’s when Sammy Lee and Conrad Cahna debunked that myth by flying through pits nastier than Mr. T’s after a sweaty day with the A Team. Thank you very much Sammy and Conrad.
Bowls served as the focal point for Larry Bertleman’s fins-free bottom turns and progressive hot dog surfing. Some of the tricks he pulled off are considered crazy even by today’s standards. Prevailing sentiment questions, “You can pull it off, but can you pull it off at Bowls?” It’s the standard by which all the other South Shore spots are judged.
The 1975 SURFER Photo Annual pictured legendary surf photographer and former photo editor Jeff Divine hanging five at Bowls.
In 1976 Citty Cibato won the US Surfing Championships at Ala Moana in pure style by riding a twelve foot tandem board in bowling Ala Mo’.
Ala Moana has hosted numerous state surfing championships as well as the US Surfing Championships in ‘76, ‘92, and ’96.
Ben Aipa celebrated his 50th birthday by surfing 6ft Ala Moana in 1997.