Interview with Surfing Legend Peter Cole: Part 4
Peter Cole: No that was actually a really good surfing session. I rode a lot of waves that day and I don’t remember any particular wave. A lot of times your photographs are a function of angle and luck, but the biggest waves I ever rode, they didn’t have any photographs so that makes it kind of phony in a way. (both laugh) “I rode a really big wave but there are no photographs, there was nobody there!”
Me: Ya sure! Where were they? And when?
PC: Probably the biggest wave I ever rode was at Waimea and that was in October of 69. It was early in the year and it was just a freak swell. It started off really small in the morning and it just jumped real fast and then it closed out at sunset. Jock Sutherland and somebody else got stuck outside. Jock made it in no problem but this other guy was yelling for help and a helicopter came in and picked him up. That was the biggest wave I’ve ever ridden by a long shot but there were no photographs. It just felt bigger, it was really impressive. And then I had a big outside Laniakea wave one day on a real big day. But generally, I’ve had a lot of waves over the years so they all kind of merge into one.
Me: What about bad wipeouts? Any stories?
PC: In 1980 when I was 50. The worst wipeouts at Waimea aren’t the big waves. If you look at some of these shots of Waimea you’ll see a boil on the bottom of the wave, and what that means is you ride over the reef. You are in relatively shallow water. And I took off on the inside of this guy and a wave broke on me and it took me down. I was pressed against the bottom and when I started to come up the next wave came and took me back down.
Me: Before you could catch your breath?
PC: Ya. I was held under for 2 ½ waves. So that was probably the worst wipeout. But other than that, I’ve never really had too many bad wipeouts. That wipeout was not death threatening in any way. I was kind of glad to get air but at the same time it wasn’t really bad. I’ve seen some pretty bad ones. This guy from Mavericks had a terrible wipeout during the Eddie about 3 or 4 years ago. And the irony of the whole thing is these guys from Mavericks are always underplaying Waimea, they are saying Waimea is overrated and Mavericks is the big wave. The thing about Waimea is you can have waves that you ride and then all of a sudden you’ll have this giant wave. Sometimes when it’s too big you don’t really ride it because you are trying to survive.
If it’s in the 18-20, occasionally a big rogue wave will come in at 25 and those will be the waves that you ride that will be the biggest. Because you’ll ride best when it’s a set wave. I’ve watched Waimea over the years and a lot of times those set waves will go unridden because people are not in the right spot. But this was funny because they had always underplayed Waimea and that guy who got this wipeout, his board broke and his jockey got him another board and he didn’t want to have anything to do with it. It was probably the worst wipeout he had ever had. I’ve heard a lot of these guys saying how Waimea is overrated but their worst wipeouts have been out there. At Jaws it’s real big. The wave breaks in the deep water. It carries you away but it doesn’t take you to the bottom. The worst wipeouts are when you are taken into the bottom and you are pressed against the reef and you can’t get up. And that’s what Waimea does. But that was kind of ironic. I don’t think he ever called it overrated again. (laughs)
Me: No! You mentioned Eddie. You surfed with Eddie a lot.
PC: Ya, a lot with Eddie.
Me: Could you tell me about him?
PC: Oh, he was a real Hawaiian. Real aloha and really a good surfer. And the thing that I really liked about him is that he loved doing it, you know? It was such a pleasure for him. He always had a smile on his face and he would just go out for hours…stay out for 6 hours or so. And I surfed a lot with him because his favorite spots were both Sunset and Waimea and at that time that was what I was doing. Got to know him and Clyde and the Aikau family. They were real Hawaiians. Real aloha. The mother was great and the father was a real aloha character. That was a good family but they had a lot of hardships. The oldest was Freddy and he died of cancer. The second oldest was Eddie and right after Eddie was Jerry. Jerry came back from Vietnam and they were driving and somebody fell asleep in the car. They got in car accident and he died. And shortly after that, Eddie went down in the Hokule’a. And now there’s Sol, Maya, and Clyde. They are the only ones left in the family. So they’ve had their hardships. But he was a great surfer.
There’s more to come!
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