Country : Tower 25
Sunset Beach — The Paumalu Register (a work in progress)
Photo: John Bilderbeck (one the best eyes in/on Paumalu)
This is the Sunset Beach (Paumalu — “taken secretly/by surprise”) I found (stumbled upon) some 30 odd years ago (August 1988). At that time, there were a lot less people around. Roads were empty; absolutely zero traffic; parking was never an issue. It was quiet, rural: “Country.” Unspoiled: it was country (not so much these days). Halcyon.
There were no tourists (or very few). No street lights. No bike path even; that came 10 years or more later. Locals reigned supreme. V-Land was still a Ghetto; whereas now its a posh gated community of massive (mostly empty) trophy houses whose owners are among the most affluent in the world, ranging from hedge fund managers to doctors, lawyers, trust funded wannabe poseurs, and celebrities (i.e., Haolewood — Wait, is that Jeff Spicoli? Oh, I mean, Sean Penn? He doesn’t seem to like it when I call him Spicoli in line at Foodland — I guess I broke Hollywood etiquette. And the other guy, what’s its name from Nirvana, no the other band . . . Pearl Glam. Eddie Van Vedder or something . . . He surfs, sort of . . . “I want my MTV!”)
Once pristine, empty beaches are now glutted, crowded (I’d argue polluted) with throngs of tourists and all their detritus. It’s disgraceful. These clowns wander around like they’re in Disneyland, oblivious and entitled; rude, crude, and unapologetic for their unwanted, unwashed presence. Daily I see idiots gallivanting into traffic (a double-lined highway) — pushing a stroller with their superfluous progeny into a busy highway?!? simultaneously waving while also staring at their phone (in one hand) and spilling their $15 “coffee” from the “Sunrise Shack” (in the other), smirking like an autistic on crack??! — as if they’re impervious to the laws of physics, much less the laws of the road or basic common sense. I suppose they leave their brains back at home in the Ozarks or wherever it is they come from . . . That’s the real “pandemic” (here & now) — epidemic stupidity — their “methods are unsound”. . . My better self occasionally tries to explain to these catastrophically ignorant primates that they’re party crashers, cutting in line a little too eagerly with a soiled, leaky cup at the keg — (Him): “Hey bro!” (Me): “I’m not your ‘bro.’ And Nobody wants you here. You don’t have an invitation. You’re not even in line. Beat it. Aloha, as in goodbye.”
The “Committee of Safety” — Kamehameha Highway, Sunset Beach. Left to right: Eliot Moepono, HPD representative, Junior Moepono, & Alika Moepono. Kaunala’s First Family. One can see Freddy (Malone) them (e.g., Christian Lewis) in the tree behind the Boys.
Hawaiians were present and presided proudly over Paumalu and Kaunala; there was a sense of order - rank order - discipline, hierarchy, and respect, or at least extreme deference and discretion. The milieu was at once relaxed and tense — intense — an all-pervasive wave-field atmosphere of the threat or possibility of imminent violence (psychological & physical) was omnipresent. There were consequences, swift, immediate, painful, and humiliating for those that transgressed: violated the Kapu (the sacred, divine Law). Just keep your eyes downcast, focused on your slippers; and by all means, don’t look at anyone brown and say: “What?”
The ocean was still wild, raw. Dangerous. One was on one’s own. Better know how to swim (remember what that is?), paddle a surfboard, and take the drop like a man. There were no jetskiis, SUPs, foils, soft tops, “surf schools” (?!), or “flotation” (i.e., life vests); about 3 girls (women) on the entire North Shore surfed. Lifeguards had an eye on you; but they were in no rush to change anybody’s diaper. And there were no girls in the water (relentlessly hassling /hustling, back-paddling, vibing the lineup as today — thank God for Chuns . . . ) or, for that matter, on the North Shore itself (sum total = 11 or 15 depending on how/who you count). The rest (of the females) were Brazilian body boarders (no one complained) — many of them charged harder (and looked much better) than most guys.
Paumalu — One of my favorite sights: Kam Highway covered in sand from giant waves surging
Kammies (Market) was across the street and had everything one needed: cold(est) beer, food, rent a VHS, toilet paper, some Haagen Daz for dessert, all for less than $20 (put it on my tab please, Carl, thanks). Kammies Market actually had an excellent, rarified collection of both foreign films (Seventh Seal my favorite) and more than reasonably priced French wine (Medoc, Saint-Emilion, etc.). One wanted for nothing. Next door, Sunset Beach Surf Shop had wax for 50 cents (they actually sponsored me for a couple years, so I got free wax: thanks Karen & Marcelo). Leaf through the latest issue of Surfer while Gene Van Dyke regaled you with everything you “missed” since he got here (“it’s all done, it’s over, this place is a circus!”); and how it “doesn’t even get good until after 10 a.m. once the Trades kick in.” I lived on the sand at Kammieland in a log cabin with my dog (Barklay) and girlfriend (we got married there in 1996, right on the sand, immediately thereafter: I went surfing. You can guess where that marriage went . . . ).
In between surf sessions, my old place at Kammieland. Top Guns ready for go . . . .
I could always hear/smell/feel the ocean; the view from my kitchen was the ocean — looking directly into the barrel at Sunset from across the channel. Ingrained in my subconscious for eternity: The Cosmic Spiral — the “voice of the atom.”1
Science has proved that each atom, with its mass and energy system, is a complete unit of nature, with all the divine attributes, sustaining power and intelligence found in all substance, in all things. Thus, the atom may be usefully defined and thought of [as] a part of God; with the energy force of nature or God. Humanity reacts to this force. As man is but an aggregation of atoms in molecular form, the atom becomes man's ultimate identity: the order, rhythm, harmony and power of the atom are identified as man's rightful deeds. The voice of the atom tells us God is part of everything, everything, part of one God: one universal nature
Author applying the Mana’o he acquired from his elders . . . Mahalo Nui Loa!
The lineup was well established with Peter Cole at the top, he was the Patriarch of Paumalu. White T-shirt, red shorts, yellow single fin gun, no leash (i.e., “goon/kook cord”), big smile — only could see out of one eye (lost the other one when he swam into his surfboard racing with his childhood bud Ricky Grigg out at Sunset) — always on the peak; he’d swim to the beach two - three times, no problem. Peter still is (The Patriarch), although few realize, much less understand what that means or who he is. There was a pecking order. Seniority reigned supreme. Defer to your betters. Know your place. Stay out of the way; keep your mouth shut; don’t even look at the wrong guy on the right wave . . . And you might learn something. I surfed with the best; I learned from the best while most of them were sill in their prime.
The Best — Walter Eric Haas. Pit Stop : Full Forward Trim. Owl Chapman Underground.
Here’s a short list of who I’m referring to — The Paumalu Register (in no particular order, sort of): Peter Cole, Ricky Grigg, Flippy Hoffman, Dick Brewer, Jim Blateau, Mike Diffendefer, Jock Sutherland, Clyde Aikau, Jeff Johnson, Felipe Pomar, Jimmy Blears, Bill Sickler, Barry Kanaiaupuni, Randy Rarick, James “Booby” Jones, Gary, Ben Aipa, Jim Soutar, Butch Ukauka, the Lolly Bros., Jimmy Lucas, Jack Reeves, Owl Chapman, Sam Hawk, Roger Erickson, Eddie Rothman, Brian Surrat, Ted Laudermilk, Rick Williams, Ken Bradshaw, Charlie Walker, Steve Poor, Trevor Sifton (sometimes, only sometimes), Bones, LaRoy Dennis, Phil Hernandez, Chuck Vannetta, Darrick Doerner, David Kahanamoku, Mel Kinney, Chuck Andrus, Gary Speece, Cort Gion, Bobby Owens, Butch Perreira, Greg Bonner, Tom Hawk, Don “Hoey” Johnston, Jeff Johnston, Tom Nellis, Zook, Joe Golonka, Terry Ahue, Mike Ho, Derek Ho, Ronnie Burns, Davey Cantrell, the Willis Bros., Davey Miller, Tom Voit, Marty Hoffman, Marty Thomas, Marvin Foster, Alika Moepono, Ricardo Pomar, Dennis Pang, Mike Takahashi, Dan Nakasone, Mark Foo, Jim “Hell Ya!” Yarborough, Badger, Paul Lindo, Jim Turnbull, Twink, Mike Latronic, Fielding Benson, Dana Wolfe, Sam Knox, Jungle, Greg Russ, Eric Haas, Jason Majors, Edis Begovic, Phil Perry, Johnny Boy Gomes, Brock Little, Hans Hedeman, Junior (although he didn’t surf Sunset much; King Of V-Land), Pat Kelly, Clay Talton (C.A.T.), Richard Schmidt, Tony Moniz, Kolohe Blomfield, Noah Budroe, Jay Adams, Woody, Brendan Shea, Dave Yester, Garret MacNamara, Liam, Blake Reynolds, Perry Dane, Wayne Boy Victorino, Max Medieros, Dane Kealoha, Mike Kealoha, Allen Sarlo, Stormin’ Norman, Tim Russell, Dusty, Trent Johnson, Petey Johnson, Laird Hamilton, Johnny Angel, Todd Chesser, Paul Dunn, Python, Bruce Lenarud, Johnny Orr, Peter Davi, Sumi, Maeda, Nick Nozaki, Solomon Mamala, Matt Mondragon, Bradley (from Malibu via Hazards), Ayny Devine, Micky Duffus, Thierry Domenech, Vetea David, Allan Byrne, etc. . . . I don’t know how anyone even got waves with all these guys in the water. Shit, I even surfed with Kealoha Kaio (his grandson and great-grandson were my students at Kahuku High & Intermediate) and Tiger Espere. Real Hawaiians. Ali’i Nui (Tiger was Kahuna). I am so grateful for them/that . . . and more. Of course, the list goes on (don’t hold it against me if I got something/someone wrong).2
Sunset Point: “Backyards” circa 1974. I can see my house on Huelo Street. Home Sweet Home.
I shot this in 1989/90. Tower 25. Left to right on Tower stairs: Jimmy Blears (1972 World Champ and surfer/lifeguard/pharmacist extraordinaire); Darrik Doerner (Double D); Peter Cole. That’s Flippy Hoffman whispering (no, he didn’t whisper, he kind of grumbled & growled) into James “Booby” Jones’ ear . . . Sweet nothings: “Sweet dreams are made of these . . . Who am I to disagree?”
Flippy Hoffman — next door at Kammies — with his Rhino Chasers. We were neighbors. For years. On the beach at Kammieland. And equally suspicious of one another. It was, I guess, an instinctive or intuitive response; in us both. Flippy was the old guard, the ancien regime incarnate. I was something else. He knew it before I did.
Even the pros were cool: Simon Anderson, Tom Curren, Shaun Thompson, Occy, Rabbit, Vince Collier, Richard Schmidt, Martin Potter, Tom Carrol, Barton Lynch, Wayne Lynch, Michael Thomson, Ross Clark-Jones, Richard Cram, Munga Barry, Kong Elkerton, Cheyne Horan, Mark Richards, Joey Buran, Bud Llamas, etc. I surfed with all these guys a lot. They hassled me for waves. I ended up catching most of them . . . Then, again, there was an underground of local resident talent, the depth and breadth of which is like nothing today (see above). The groms of that time are the surf-stars of today (and yesterday): Sean Briley, Pancho, Love, Makua, Jamie (both of them: Sterling & O’Brien), Kalani (née Dale), Mason, Coco, Emi, Billy Kemper, Nathan, John John, etc. The community was composed of hardcore locals, Hawaiians, farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and surfers. Zero gentrification. No vacation rentals. Empty beaches. Cheap rent (house for $750).3 No stoplights even — closest one was in either Wahiawa or Kaneohe. No cops. North Shore (esp. Sunset Beach - V-Land) was a DMZ. Nobody had a phone; but there were pay-phones (remember them?) Hui o He’e Nalu = Blackshorts. Kapu. Watch your step . . . Aloha! (as in “goodbye”)
Huelo Hale Paumalu 2021
Tom Blake, Voice the Atom, chapter 2, paragraph 2.
I’m working on a project called “The Paumalu Register.” It will reflect the catalogue of surfers and epochs (or eras) from Ancient, pre-contact times (based on the Mo’olelo: mythology) up through the Modern and Late-Modern periods until the present.
The same modest 2 or 3 bedroom plantation-style, single-wall house that rented for $750 - $1000 in the late 1980s early 1990s would today rent for $4000-$5000 per month — if, that is, it was being rented long-term, which most aren’t (there’s no “inventory”) as they’re being exploited as illegal, short-term vacation rentals (average price: $350-$500 per night). It’s getting to the point now where very few can even afford to live here anymore; and what was once a residential community composed of low-pro, mostly lower-middle class homeowners and renters, has become a tourist trap (“haven”) haven for the rich, vain, and stupid.