Surf check at Arma Hut (Rocky Point), circa 1969. From left to right: Chappy, Owl, unidentified, David Nuuhiwa, Richard Brewer — the Guru himself . . . eternal return
Gary Lee “Chappy” and Craig Elmer “Owl” Chapman are originally from Mackinaw Island, Michigan. These two brothers are the finest surfer-shapers and design innovators of all time. “The Finest Hand-Crafted Surfboards in the World.” No hyperbole there . . . Owl’s been at it, in the trenches and on the front lines of Hawaiian high performance big-wave riding and designs for five decades. Think about that. Yet nothing would have happened in the first place were it not for Chappy, who was probably the single most important and otherwise influential surfer between 1966 and 1969 (despite the fact that very few even know his name today). He was the catalyst. Just ask Brewer.
In short, Chappy and Dick Brewer (“RB”) collaborated together on the research, design, and development of the modern surfboard at Sunset Beach, Pipeline, Waimea Bay, and Honolula Bay - Maalaea (Maui). To be sure, the Chapman brothers’ story is a long, strange trip — yet to be told in full (I’m trying here), much less fully appreciated. Chappy and Owl are two true-grit Chippewa Indians who somehow found their way to the Southern California Coast (Newport & Huntington Beach, Orange County) in the early-mid 1960s and then to the Islands in 1965 (Chappy) and 1967 (Owl). Theirs is an American Dream surf story like no other. The rest is history, whether anyone knows it or not — these two brothers were at the epicenter and vanguard of the research and development of The Brewer Gun. Their roots go deep.
While Chappy faded from the surf scene in the mid ‘70s into the mists of relative obscurity, Owl continued over time to perfect the big wave gun. Big time: his boards are without parallel. Owl is in his own league as far as all that goes. Regardless of opinions or preferences about surfboard design, Owl is near the completion of 54 consecutive North Shore winters. He’s still on it: making boards and getting set-waves. How many other shapers have ridden the waves Owl has? The answer is: None of them have — and never will. He has seen and done things other guys haven’t even dreamed of . . .
Craig Elmer Chapman, Waimea Bay (circa 1989)
Owl — on the infamous “Surfsports” 12’ Gun at the Bay (circa 1985)
One good turn deserves another . . . Chappy & Owl — full layout synchronized surfing on the finest hand-crafted precision surfboards in the world. Honolua Bay (circa 1970) Jeff Divine photo
A word of deepest respect and gratitude must also go out to both Chappy and RB. Mahalo Nui Loa! Brewer and Chappy were the men. Nothing would have happened in terms of high-performance surfing in the most extreme, challenging Hawaiian conditions were it not for them. These two extraordinary men are dynamic creative geniuses when it comes to surfboard design and innovation. Working together in the mid to late 1960s, they made so much possible (SEE: Part III to follow). Brewer and Chappy should be recognized and given credit, therefore, for the creation and development of high-performance modern surfboards — both big wave guns and hot dog boards, which live on to this day in Owl’s shapes and designs. Their contributions to the art of He’e Nalu are unparalleled in the modern history of surfing. All that Ozzie “short-board revolution” nostalgia one reads in the mags and self-appointed “history” books and “Encyclopedia” (that which Chappy derides as the contemptible “Journalist” — see Part III to follow) is complete bullshit — or, at least, a massive distortion, in that nothing Bob McTavish or George Greenough shaped worked in Hawaii (they all spun-out). Truth. It was Brewer who made the best boards for the best guys like Chappy, Owl, David Nuuhiwa, Sammy Hawk, Lopez, Reno Abillira, Jeff Hakman, Buddy-Boy Kahoe and more. Many more. These are the guys who caught and rode the best waves at Sunset Beach, Waimea Bay, Pipeline, Honolua Bay, Maalaea Harbour . . . and beyond. (to be continued . . . )
From Huntington Pier to Paumalu: The Brotherhood of the Eternal Pintail — Sam Hawk, Owl, David Nuuhiwa, and the Guru himself: Richard Brewer (circa 1969)
Chappy blowin’ soul at Honolua — only guy in the water: “I had Honolua Bay to myself for years.She was mine.” (SEE: Part III — coming soon)
Huelo Hale, Paumalu 2021
 Originally shaped by Brewer for the equally notorious Alec “Ace Cool” Cooke in the mid 1980s. Ace ate it bad, on his first wave, on a giant 25’ closeout at Waimea Bay, on this board (there’s a classic photo of Ace sliding off that board in the book: “Surfing: The Ultimate Pleasure,” by Leonard Lueras ). It washed in to the beach; Ace swam in and said he wanted nothing more to do with it — but Owl did. He sure did. And he rode the shit out of that beast for the next few years at Waimea and Sunset (much to the chagrin of everyone else on boards literally half the size); but, again, that’s another story . . .
Where does Lighting Bolt fit into this riddle? Recently(re)x10 watched Busting Down the Door - it seemed like during that era Light Bolts were ridden by almost all the top guys on the North Shore. Are all these NS boards brain child’s of Dick Brewer? (Owl, Lopez, Jimbo).