Interview with Peter Cole: Part 6

Interview with Peter Cole:  Part 6
Me: When you started, was big wave surfing popular?

Peter Cole: Well, see that’s the thing. I surfed a lot of big waves in California before I came over here in 58 and the first year they surfed Waimea was the year before, 57-58. And it was a big thing because nobody had seen waves that big, so in the late 50’s early 60’s more footage was shot at big Waimea than just about anywhere. They had a lot of Sunset, too, in those days. But then the evolution onto the smaller surfboard, the maneuvering, the Malibu, the Gidget, Miki Dora, the walk the nose; the trend in movies became more interested in hot dogging, performance and long rides. So in 64-65 very few people were interested in Waimea. The only time they ever shot it was in late November, that one month period when the cameramen would all come over and get their pictures. Interest was more in Pipeline because of the way it curls and it’s right near the beach, and guys get tubed and it’s dangerous because it’s such a shallow reef. But we had a bunch of purists out there, people who loved it (Waimea) and really rode it well. And that’s when Eddie surfed it, during that period when it wasn’t a big thing. To me, from 65 until 79-80 was the best Waimea, best ridden and the least focused. Then you had these guys with big egos that tried to make a big deal out of riding Waimea, they’d write articles about themselves, so the emphasis started coming back. They had the Eddie Would Go contest, the Quicksilver contest, and they had the Smirnoff contest in 74 which was big Waimea, and that was a big thing. But then we were so upset at the fact that it was the best surf in a long time and they closed it off to us that wanted to surf it. So we lobbied against having contests in Waimea and succeeded! We put pressure on the city and county. It really annoyed us because we were out there. We paddled out to be lifeguards, and we were watching beautiful waves go unridden by these guys that were invited in the Smirnoff. So we were kind of turned off of it all. But the best riding was when the least emphasis was on it. Then in 1982, it was an exceptionally big winter, so at that time the emphasis started coming back to riding Waimea. Then they started riding the outer reefs, Phantoms, Avalanche and Himalayas. And then Mavericks came into the scene, Todos Santos, and big waves became a big thing. So it’s sort of coming back around.

Me: How do you feel about all the sponsorships that all the kids are just…?

PC: I think it’s not healthy. Let me say I’m Billabong. I would sponsor a kid to go to contests when there is no school, like summertime or Christmastime, when there is a break. But they sponsor these kids to go to contests and go on trips when there is school! They are encouraging parents to have home school, which is a joke. The parents can’t read or write, how are they going to teach their kids? So there is this emphasis, “well my kid’s a real good surfer so I’m gonna make money on my kid”. And what happens is these kids are really good when they are15-25, but they start going over the hill by the time they are 30. So you end up with a very limited number of people that are going to be able to make money surfing beyond a certain age. So what do these guys do? They can’t read, they can’t write. To me, the sponsors should give scholarships to college. Do you see Quicksilver giving a scholarship? Do you see Billabong giving a scholarship? No! Instead they get a kid to go on a trip with a video camera during school. I have always been very much academically oriented. It’s not right. What are these guys thinking about, these kids aren’t supposed to get an education?

Me: Can I ask you about Punahou?

PC: Ya, sure!

Me: One of my friends was a student of yours and says you were a very inspirational teacher.

PC: That’s good to hear.

Me: Do you remember assigning watching the TV show Batman as homework?

PC: Ya that was when Batman was a big thing. It was a funny show it was so ridiculous.

Me: Was Fred Van Dyke a teacher there also?

PC: Ya. He taught eighth grade science and eighth grade English.

Me: And you taught math?

PC: I taught math. They have a junior school and the academy and I was in the academy. I taught 9-12th grade. First year algebra, second year algebra, geometry, advanced math, and I coached swimming. My college coach at Stanford was a very good coach. He developed me into being a pretty good swimmer and he became a very good friend of mine. He was getting tired of having to recruit to compete in NCAA college swimming, so I talked him into coming to Punahou to coach. I was at Punahou 8 years and he was there for 6 of my 8 and I assisted him. I assisted the guy that was there before he came. I would’ve had to be the head coach if I hadn’t talked Tom into coming. I would never have surfed if I was that.

Me: Did you play hooky so you could go surfing?

PC: No, never. That was exaggerated! (both laugh) These students keep thinking that but...I taught courses the same as 3 other teachers and Curtis, the principal, made it nice so that I didn’t have to commute in. I was commuting from the north shore during heavy traffic, so I had a free period for first period. Which worked out well. But if the surf was really big, I would come in early and teach somebody else’s class so they could teach my later classes, and I would talk Tom into not having me go to practice. So I would always be covered. But these students tend to think, “oh the surf must be good”!

Next: In the last of my 7 part interview with Peter Cole, he explains his staying power; how he is still riding the big waves, and he reflects on his contemporaries and his life in general.
A pretty nice life at that.
Please visit www.surfrider.

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