Big Wave Riders Through The 1960s…
At one point during the early 1960s, Paul Strauch was considered one of the best, if not the best surfers on the planet. He is legendary, and one of the most celebrated surfers during the 60s. Gerry Lopez, aka “Mr. Pipeline,” a highly respected surfer, shaper and actor called Paul “the most stylish surfer ever”.
Recently, I had the good fortune to be introduced to Paul by Chad Waters, a recent acquaintance, friend of Paul’s, and Honolulu based real estate developer. Chad is a partner for the proposed ‘Endless Summer’ Surf Resort on Oahu, Hawaii.
Paul Strauch is half Hawaiian. His Hawaiian name is Kalakimau, meaning “The Lucky One.” He was born and raised in Honolulu, and began surfing at the age of 4. He graduated from Punahou High School, and later from the University of Hawaii.
Paul’s father helped him develop a genuine “feel of the ocean,” and an understanding of the currents and waves. But it was George Downing, one of the best, and most knowledgeable big wave surfers of that era, who became Paul’s mentor.
The “Strauch crouch” – his signature maneuver….
Paul said, “We were riding boards during the 60s that were about 11 feet long, bulky, and weighed from 30 to 50 pounds…“ He had to be aggressive riding the bigger waves, but believed in his capabilities, and that provided him with an edge. Did you know that the “Strauch crouch” is still the only surfing maneuver to bear a person’s name?
The Duke Kahanamoku Surf Team….
Duke Kahanamoku – (1890 -1968) The celebrated father of modern surfing, an Olympic gold medal swimmer, actor and Hawaii’s treasured ambassador of Aloha to the world.
Paul recalls that one of the most memorable experiences of his early years was sitting on the beach at Waikiki and watching Duke Kahanamoku surf. Years later, he would have the privilege to know Duke on a personal level – travel with him – become his aikane (friend), and embrace his Aloha!
The Duke Kahanamoku Surf Team was formed in 1965. Kimo McVay, Duke’s manager, was the inspiration behind this concept to promote surfing and Duke’s amazing accomplishments in both surfing and swimming and also the creation of the Duke surfing brand.
Kimo wanted four of the hottest surfers of that era, and all of them have gone on to legendary status since then. All four members of the Duke Team – Paul Strauch, Fred Hemmings, Joey Cabell and Butch Van Artsdalen greatly appreciated the opportunity they had to travel with Duke on numerous promotional tours throughout the United States.
They were ambassadors of good will and fondly recall their personal stories and cherished memories traveling with Duke during his later years in life.
A way of life….
SHACC – The Surfing Heritage and Culture Center….
ESPN refers to SHACC as the “Smithsonian of Surfing.”
This is where I first met Paul Strauch. He is currently the Executive Director and Surfing Heritage Board Member for this San Clemente, CA. based non-profit organization dedicated to preserving, presenting and promoting the surfing heritage.
SHACC has acquired The Endless Summer Collection of original artifacts from Bruce Brown’s iconic film, released in 1964 in 16mm and shown and narrated personally by Bruce before its 1966 theatrical release in 35mm. This film, acknowledged to be the world’s most watched film documentary of all time, was made with a budget of only Fifty thousand dollars and a 16mm camera. It follows surfers Robert August and Mike Hynson on an around-the-world surfing adventure searching for the “perfect wave.”
Bruce Brown’s dry and witty narration – the guitar driven soundtrack by The Sandals over silent film footage is now 50 years old and hasn’t aged a minute.