Me: I donít know if you are going to like this statement, but, are you the oldest surfer riding the big waves on Oahu?
Peter Cole: Well, I am the oldest surfer that surfs Sunset on a regular basis and certainly nobody my age is riding Waimea. I think the oldest surfer in Waimea might be in his late 50s or early 60s. I think Steve Moore still rides and he might be 59.
Me: Why do you think thatís the case?
PC: Well most of the people that are my age donít live on the beach, maybe they are not as obsessed, and they also donít like the deterioration of their surfing. They donít like the fact that they are getting worse. To me, the older you get the more of a kook you become. But I accept that. And Iíd rather be out there with the elements than sitting on the beach watching. And I keep in shape, I swim a lot, and I donít mind wipeouts. Wipeouts have never bothered me that bad so I just swim in, get my board and go back out. Itís no big deal. I do wimp out on waves a lot now, the waves look a little bit more critical so I chicken out more than I used to.
Me: But it doesnít bother you.
PC: It doesnít bother me because a lot of times when I am chickening out itís because there are other elements that are distracting me. But if I am sitting out there and thereís no one around me, and a perfect wave comes and I can get a really long rideÖthen I am as happy as I can get.
Me: Thatís pretty good.
PC: I guess thatís pretty true. Now Ricky Grigg is probably the second oldest and heís 7 years younger than I am. He had a cancer that kept him out of the water for a couple of years but now heís coming back. He hasnít had the cancer for quite a while so now heís back surfing and heís doing pretty well. He was out surfing Waimea a few times this winter and he did really well. He always gets more waves than I get! So heís out there and heís 69.
Me: Probably helps the recovery, too.
PC: Oh ya. Iíd say easily for the last 10 years he and I have always been the oldest ones out there. Because Sunsetís our favorite spot and we just love it; we feel comfortable out there. Weíve surfed together all these years. Probably the next oldest after that would be in his early 60s. And there are a few guys who are approaching 60. Joey Cabell surfed it a little but and heís 67. But then he had a bad wipeout and I donít think heís been out there since, but heís a really good surfer. Kimo Hollinger would be 66 now or 65. He surfs a lot but he quit surfing big waves when he almost drowned at Waimea on a big day. So you have a scattering of a few guys that are in their 60s. But not very many. None are in their 70s that I know of.
Me: Do you consider yourself a legend?
PC: Well, if legend means old!
Me: No! (laughs) Hero? Icon?
PC: Ya, I think just the fact that I am out there all the time, in the way. You know, they are probably wondering, ďwhen is this guy gonna get outta the waterĒ? And my board goes through the lineup and sheers off a few headsÖ
Me: (laughs) ďGet a leash!Ē
PC: Ya! (laughs) Theyíre always yelling, ďGet a leash!Ē and I say, ďNever!Ē
Me: Wow. You do what you love; you are living in the most perfect spot!
PC: Ya, weíve got a beautiful home. (we admire the surroundings and artwork)
Me: So, are you selling any art?
PC: No. When I did that one there in 1963, (points to one of his great drawings) I did a parallel painting. It was taken from a pier and it was of a surfer ducking under the whitewater. It was all palette knife and it was a nice painting. (That one) and this one were the only 2 oils that I liked. A friend of mine opened up a gallery and I think I asked $400 for it, I didnít think Iíd get it because in 1963 that was a lot of money, and it was the first painting that they sold! I was really surprised. But that was the only painting I ever sold...(shows more art)...
Me: Were you at the Haleiwa Art Festival?
PC: No I kind of stay clear of crowds.
Me: Too many autographs?
PC: When thereís a surf contest I stay away. Iím sort of becoming a recluse. When I surf I just grab my board, my wax and my trunks, and I just walk up to the lifeguard tower and I leave my sandals in the bushes. I surf out at Sunset then I walk home. I never put a board on a car except when I have to get it fixed. So I just surf Sunset and if itís really small maybe Iíll paddle down to down to Pupukea. And I love it. And I walk my dog. So, retirementís wonderful. I retired January 3rd 2004, so Iíve been retired now for over 2 years.
Me: Would you say your life is ideal?
PC: Ya, except my wife has a lot of things that she wants me to do that I never do, so... But I think itís a good life.
Me: YaÖ I think youíve got a great life...just look out the window!
Peter Cole is the real deal. A truer waterman and champion of keeping our ocean clean and surfable you will not find. His staying power is no accident. It is a testament to his love of the sport which seems to channel directly from his heart to his strong 75 year old legs. Getting old has halted many people in their desire to live as they used to because they do not accept the fact that time changes them; they do not adjust accordingly. Mr. Cole, on the other hand, accepts his age with grace and has in fact adjusted. He has gone from surfing 25 footers to merely surfing 12 footersÖand thatís 24 feet for all you wave face measurers. It was an honor and a pleasure, sir.
Please visit www.surfrider.