Before there was $50,000 awarded for a single drop, before anyone won a Big Wave World Championship, and before high school freshmen started towing in at Jaws, there were the pioneers. They were big wave surfers who used new apparatus to see just how big they could go.
That crew included the likes of Darrick Doerner, Buzzy Kerbox, the infamous Laird Hamilton and his tow partner, Dave Kalama. Kalama comes from a family of Hawaiian legends -- watermen who excelled at several pursuits and in any conditions. He and his crew represented a hairball, yet calculated part of surfing that reached well into mainstream interest. Recently, Kalama was touring the Mainland US, doing Kalama Clinics and promoting Naish paddle gear. I had a chance to ask him a few questions about the state of big wave surfing at Island Surf and Sail.
ESPN: You were an absolute pioneer at Jaws. Are you still out at Jaws these days, or has it just become too much of a zoo?
Dave Kalama: You know, it's become too much of a zoo. I've been doing it for a good 20 years now. It's still a lot of fun on those big days. But I'm so into the stand up now, and I've never been a real social surfer, so I really enjoy getting away from the pack and trying to get some waves by myself. And so, stand up is allowing me to go to the outer reefs where there are a lot less people out and get that same feeling of exploration that I did in the beginning of tow surfing. It's creating a lot of the same feelings, excitement, and enjoyment. It's just a different way of riding the wave now.
Have you followed the guys who are coming up and following in your footsteps right now. Have you seen anyone who really impresses you?
No, I don't follow them too close, but I have been working with a couple of them -- helping them get in shape and prepare themselves for it. I've taken Kai Lenny towing to get him into some good waves. So I'm aware of it, but I don't really follow it.
Are you at least aware of the paddle surfing that went on at Jaws this year?
I saw one photo of Kai and one photo of Shane (Dorian) paddling into one. It's serious. It was very impressive.
How about the fact that there is a Big Wave World Championship? What are your thoughts on that -- the fact that there are guys making a living doing something that you fully pioneered?
I think it's cool. If anyone is a poster child for non-competitive professional surfing, it would be me. So, to see guys have an opportunity to make a living at what they love to do, without having to be on the ASP Tour, I'm stoked for them, supportive, and I understand how valuable that is, that you know, you don't have to be Kelly or Taj Burrow to make a living at surfing. And you actually get to surf. They are opportunities I hope these guys appreciate. If I had to give them any advice, I'd just say make the most of it, because man, it goes by fast.