The bonds you create in the water can last a lifetime. When I was 10 years old, Rabbit Kekai pushed me into my very first wave. Fifty years later, we’re still connected and work on the Triple Crown together.
There are always two sides to every story. I’ve dealt with a lot of drama in organized surfing through the Triple Crown. I’ve learned that you’ve got to give a little to get a little. Most people—and there are always going to be a few exceptions—are pretty reasonable. You just have to learn to see both sides of the situation.
Being different is tough. My parents didn’t have a lot of money growing up, I didn’t go to a private school, and wasn’t a member of the country club. I went to public school and I was one of only a handful of haole kids. I learned a lot from that. I learned what it was like to be different.
“Kill Haole Day” was a real thing in Hawaii when I was growing up. Trust me, I remember it.
It’s important to always keep an open mind. We saw it happen in ’67 when Bob McTavish brought a 9-foot board to Hawaii when we were all riding 10-foot boards. The guys that didn’t embrace the new equipment were left behind. All I’m saying is to be open to change.
There aren’t any free handouts in life. If you want something, you have to go out and get it.
Wars will make people do crazy things. You ever see the movie Big Wednesday? There’s a scene about the lengths that surfers were going to get out of the Vietnam draft. It was insane. But let me tell you: I lived that at Fort DeRussy in Honolulu trying to get out of the draft. It was a crazy time all around. But I think we’ll need about three beers before I get into the details of those stories.
One small decision can have a huge impact on your life. In the early ’70s, I was offered a free trip to South Africa to compete in a contest. That trip really changed my life and set my passion for traveling ablaze. I went on to surf in 30 different countries. If I hadn’t gone on that initial trip, who knows how different my life would have been.
It’s important to be persistent. In 1975, I made up my mind that I was gonna live at Sunset Beach. I literally went knocking door to door on all the houses on the point to see if anyone had any rooms to rent. Finally, I came to a house where a guy answered the door and said that he was planning on moving out. Ten days later I moved in and I’ve been in the same house ever since. I love that house and wouldn’t be in it today if I hadn’t set my mind to it.
You have to know where you’ve been to know where you’re going.
I’ve traveled all over the world, but you know what I took away from all that? Hawaii is still the best place in the world to be a surfer.