By Corky Carroll
It’s interesting how in surfing people get sort of “categorized” in one way or another. Some due to their personality. This would be the standard “cool guy (or chick)”, “colorful character,” “stuck up,” “jerk,” “nerd, dweeb, goon, geek,” or “kuk.” But this is just the way it is in life in general, so why would it be any different with surfers?
But I am not talking about personality stuff here. I and talking about surfing “styles.” There are surfers who are known for being smooth for instance. Like Billy Hamilton, Skip Frye, David Nuuhiwa and Don Craig. There are those who are typed as “small wave specialists,” Gary Proper comes to mind. That dude could rip a one-foot wave better than anybody. And, of course, “big wave riders.” Greg Noll, Mike Doyle, Eddie Aikau, George Downing, Pat Curran and others. There have been “all around water-men,” like Doyle, Laird Hamilton and Kai Lenny. Some surf “pretty” and others “flamboyant.”
Today I would like to toss out some love for some of the great “Power Surfers” I have known. These are surfers who might or might not fit into one or more of the other “types,” but their overall vibe is that of surfing with sheer power.
The first that comes to mind is the great Barry Kanaiaupuni. Man, this dude could out and out “shred” a wave. His bottom turns at places like Sunset Beach, on the North Shore of Oahu, were state of the art and amazing to watch. Sheer flat-out speed and style to boot.
Another stand out in the power zone was the first “Mr. Pipeline,” Butch Van Artsdalen. Butch grew up surfing the reef breaks around La Jolla and took to the big surf in Hawaii like a dog to a steak bone. His early exploits in big waves at the Pipeline, Sunset Beach and Waimea Bay are legendary. Just guts up going for it to the max all the time. That was sort of the way he was in life too.
Australian Nat Young could be tossed into the mix on this one too. He was just so ultra-aggressive in the water and was one of those “never give an inch” kinda dudes all the way around. His surfing was very powerful. He would just ride over, around and through anybody and everybody. I give him credit for starting the short board revolution.
Another Aussie that was known for his super power attack was Ian Cairns. Ian came from the more juicy waves in Western Oz and Hawaii was just what his surfing needed to really kick in.
In more recent years there have been a couple of guys who have stood out in this area too. One would have to be the amazing Laird Hamilton. He was really the first person to ride extra giant waves with aggression and “projection.” Instead of just riding for his life, which was what most everybody else was doing in the early days of the “tow in,” and extra big wave riding. Laird was popping “airs” and driving deep fade turns and going for the barrel. Power surfing to the big wave max.
Kai Lenny is now sort of taking up where Laird went. Riding any and all equipment and as big of waves as he can find. No fear, velocity beyond what was thought possible and with composure and style.
Also coming to my mind in this discussion would be Dane Reynolds from Oxnard and John John Florence in Hawaii. Both of those guys exude speed and power in their surfing far beyond the average top surfers. You could include Kelly Slater in this discussion, but that guy has just been so great at all aspects of surfing that it’s impossible to pigeonhole him into any one facet.
I like to see surfers who go fast and have some sort of grace and style doing it. Did I mention Joey Cabel? Him too. Anyway, that is my ranting for today. Cowabunga kids.