Friday, April 21, 2006

Hot Curl


N WIND 20 TO 25 KT.
WIND WAVES 5 FT.
NW SWELL 7 FT AT 11 SECONDS.
TONIGHT N WIND 20 TO 25 KT...EASING TO 15 KT AFTER MIDNIGHT.
WIND WAVES 5 FT.
NW SWELL 6 FT AT 10 SECONDS.

Hawaiians surfed flat, heavy, wide tailed planks early on...later, about circa 1937, innovators cut these cumbersome boards down into finless hot curl surfboards...later still evolving into Joe Quigg's single-finned pintail guns. A highly simplified description of the progression to say the least.

These early surfers were no longer content to pose, and ride the breakers straight in to shore. And angling these traditional kiko'o and olo boards in big surf caused them to "slide ass", or slip sideways. By cutting the board's tail down radically, sometimes with a pronounced "V" in the bottom, it allowed surfers to stay in the "hot curl"...the breaking part of the wave.

Hot Curl surfing was about angle and speed...following the curl, picking your line and racing across the face of the wave. "At its apex in the mid-1940s," wrote Craig Stecyk, "there were around thirty- five top flight practitioners of the art of hot curl surfing. Names which still inspire respect among the cognizant include: Mongo Kalahiki, Richard Kauo, Blackie Makahena, John Kelly, Jr., Rabbit Kekai, Smokey Lew, Hyah Aki, Louis Hemma, Squirrely, Fran Heath, Jonah Hemma, Snookie Whaley, George Downing, Black Dan, Eugene Kaupiko, Blackout Whaley, Wally Froiseth, Small Sam, Woody Brown, Dickie Cross... The complete absence of any surf media during the hot curl period was further compounded by the Island's remoteness and World War II, all of which served to make the movement invisible to a greater audience. Furthermore the hot curl aficionados favored restricted entry (i.e. clan controlled) surf spots and often frequented the juicier breaks which were located farther out."

The above shot is of Blackout Whaley...as mentioned, another prominent hot curl surfer was early hotdogger Rabbit Kekai. "Rabbit really started this style that they call hotdogging," said Californian Joe Quigg, who moved to the islands a little after the war. "In the summer, Queen's would get overhead and Rabbit would be inside of the tube hanging five with no fin and his back arched. All you would see was this flying green blur visible through the lip of the wave. He'd do it over and over again, always with precision."

From Tom Wegener's website:

"I saw several of the ancient Alaia boards when I visited the archives of the Bishop Museum in Honolulu. They were beautifully shaped and clearly made for a specific style of surfing. A year after seeing them, I began to ride the ancient shapes and quickly became addicted to them. They open whole new worlds of surfing stoke. They are fast; they tube-ride really well and make small waves really fun. They are also a real challenge to master. When I saw them in the museum I wondered how anyone could possibly surf them but I am surfing them better with every session. Getting an understanding of how they are ridden just takes time and patience. Don't let anybody tell you surfing in the ancient times was primitive! The thin Alaia is made for tube riding."
~Tom Wegener

Going backward to continue forward. Progress? Advancement? Or just a continuing circle? "...The wooden boards and knowledge of the ancients long ago rotted and passed into oblivion. The sophistication of construction of the few remaining examples of original style pre-contact wave sliding boards are extremely revealing. Exact tolerances are consistently held despite the fact that these papa hehe nalu were crafted by hand using stone tools. Their sophisticated parabolic contours are proof of the ancient's advancement. Clearly the Kanaka Maoli Kupuna knew things about the riding of waves that we don't know now. After all, their surfing history dated back for at least a couple of thousand years while our modern period, since production foam/fiberglass, is about thirty-five years old. The level of surfing today is different but not necessarily better. Advancment is in the eye of the beholder..."

...from "Hot Curl: Surfboard History by Craig Stecyk - The Surfer's Journal, Summer 1994 - Volume 3, No. 2

0 comments: