Tuesday, September 8, 2009


note: edited to include year of brad's death.

This is for the one or two of my readers (including my sisters) who might have been in high school with me on Maui, back in the 1970s.

I've been working my way through a book called Surf is Where You Find It, by Gerry Lopez. It's been a blast to read, especially because Lopez spent so much time on Maui in the 1980s, and his memories are frequently of places that are at least familiar to me, though I was always more of a body surfer than a board surfer.

It's hard for me to imagine that anyone growing up in the islands back then could not know about "Mr. Pipeline," Gerry Lopez. All those photos of of a guy with a shag haircut on a lightning bolt board standing in the tube looking like he didn't have a care in the world? That's Lopez.

Well, he's written this book, and it turns out that he's as good a writer as he is a surfer. His stories are full of self-effacing humor and a zen-like insight into the world, and I'd highly recommend the book to anyone with the slightest bit of interest either in surfing or in Hawaii in the 1970s and 80s.

But back to you folks from high school. If I asked who were the best of the surfers in the class of 1975, I suspect most of you would answer Gary Austin, Brad Lewis and Ian Greene. I don't know what Ian is up to these days, but for years he lived a couple of houses away from my mom in Kuau. Gary died far far too young (19?), a year after graduating (1976? 77?). Brad died young as well, but 10 or more years after Gary (1992). All three were in my older sister's class.

In his book, Lopez writes mentions Brad in a piece about surfing Makena called "Incident at Eke moku" during which Lopez got held held under for 3 consecutive waves, the 2nd of which broke Brad's board in half. Brad was apparently part of a regular crew that included Lopez and went out to surf Makena during south swells.

"Brad was one of the best surfers on the island and a long-time partner of Victor's (Lopez' brother) and mine in our pioneer adventures in big outer-reef waves on Maui's north shores."

He also says that they called Brad "Butt Jammer because of his unique surfing style." That made me laugh because I could picture it immediately, Brad sticking his okole out as he worked down the line. He skateboarded like that too! (Gary, in contrast, surfed and skated with a beautiful smooth approach.) It also made me remember that, at least back in high school, Brad wore Butt Cut brand trunks. I have no idea why that sticks in my mind....

Brad isn't the main focus of the story, but he's a key piece of it, and it's fun to read about him from Lopez's perspective, especially with my memory of Brad's reaction to Pipeline after a North shore surfing interim with John Geyer. I have the impression that that interim was Brad's first opportunity to surf some of the hardcore north shore spots on Oahu, and when someone at school asked what Pipeline was like Brad just said "Hairballs, man, hairballs." Which is as good an ending to this as anything else I can think of.


kainoa said...

You definitely have a connection with Gerry. Notice his reference to "Surf Realization" in his stories? Check out the mission statement he wrote for SRF (Surf Realization fellowship) at www.srfhawaii.com .... chicken skin brah.

Anonymous said...

I've always wondered where that phrase came from because I remember you using it on occasion! Now I know. Thanks for the memories.

karol said...

That takes me back. Way back.

Anonymous said...

Do you still respond to this blog? Was at the same school in 1973. We knew or knew of the same people. Searching for Brad Lewis for years and found your site now. He's mentioned in passing by people of note in their books, but didn't know what happened to him till reading here. Thanks