Monday, March 9, 2009

"Memories of the North Shore", by Bill Powers, LACo S.O.L., Ret.

(Photo above shows Bill Powers, center of frame, taking "The Drop" at Sunset in 1970 on his then 8' mini gun; Photo Courtesy of Bill Powers; Photo by Les Clark; Reproduction of this photo without consent is strictly prohibited)

(Photo above shows Legendary North Shore Big Wave Surfer, Jeff Hakman;
Photo source:

(Photo above shows North Shore Surfing Legend, Eddie Aikau;
Photo source:

Memories of the North Shore

It was 1969,
I was right in the middle of messing up an All American Swimming Career. By having a grade point average so low, I think it set some records. I was living out on Sunset point on the North Shore of Oahu (aka, 'the country'). I lived so close to the water that when the surf got big, it would wash up under the house and soak the sand floor in our garage, leaving my '52 Chrysler in the wet sand and unable to drive it until the sand dried. The neighborhood consisted of some of the best surfers and watermen in the world like Eddie Aikau and his younger brother, Clyde, Buzzy Trent, Ricky Grigg (Ricky Grigg was a Santa Monica City Beach lifeguard in the 60's) and others. You would see them in magazines, at the post office, the store, and in the line up at Sunset. The guy that lived next door, Jeff Hakman, won the "Duke Kahanamoku Invitational Surfing Championship", which is only held in Very Large Surf, two years back to back (in '71 and '72). We were good friends. I would always watch his timing and positioning as it saved me some big swims. Jeff took me out on my first day at Pipeline and it was Huge ! I got three waves that day and called it quits. Jeff, meanwhile, would take off on one of every five waves, it seemed.

(Photo below: Velzyland; Photo source:;

There were some great surf spots, all within about 10 miles from V-Land (aka, Velzyland) and Haleiwa. But when you live at Sunset, it's the first place you check. Sunset to me was the "Classic" Surf spot. Coming from the mainland anything head high or so was a Big Day. Sunset in 1969 would completely blow your mind. On the larger days when the trade winds blew into the face of the waves, it would stand them up another third bigger and make the top almost transparent. It was like a two-story building going by at 20 mph. When the trade winds would get strong, it would blow spray over 50 yards behind the waves with just the Biggest Drops you ever saw as you paddled out in the channel close to the break. You would take off on a wave and make the Big Drop, make your turn at the bottom, go back up the wave whereupon the wave would then engulf you and then the wind out of the barrel would almost blast you off the front of your board from behind. To avoid this occurring, you had to lean back into the wind out of the barrel.

The sound of these waves
was like nothing I had ever heard... it would make your heart pound. If you were paddling out in the impact area and punched through the top of a wave the three things that you would do is: hyperventilate, paddle as hard as you could, and try to see the next wave. The next wave could be 100 yards away and the spray from the wave you just punched through would be landing all around you to the point where you could not see the nose of your board, let alone the next wave. The sound of the Big Drops landing all around you as you paddle as hard as you could was part of the Magic of the North Shore.


Bill Powers,
March 2009
Mammoth Lakes, Calif.
Copyright Bill Powers 2009. All Rights Reserved. Used here with permission.
(Photo above: Bill Powers, the man, the lifeguard, the surfer. Photo by Will Maguire.)

Transcription, Editorial and Illustrative Photo Selection services provided by
County Recurrent News


The Companion "County Recurrent" Bibliography-Extra Credit Reading and Resource material for the surf starved county recurrent:

1. Jeff Hakman

(Photo above shows Jeff Hakman today;
Photo source:

2. Velzyland

3. Buzzy Trent

(Photo above shows Buzzy Trent; Photo by Leroy Grannis;
Photo source: )

4. Eddie Aikau

5. Clyde Aikau

6. Ricky Grigg

note: County Recurrent featured a blog post this past Jan. '09 that was authored by former Santa Monica City and LACo Recurrent Beach Lifeguard, Jim Graham, who was a contemporary of Ricky Grigg, also a Santa Monica City beach lifeguard, as mentioned by Jim in his article entitled, "A Rogue's Gallery" posted online at:


Ricky Grigg: Insane Big Wave Surfing 1966 Sunset Beach

7. Duke Kahanamoku Invitational Surfing Championship

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