Who’s really riding famous Makaha wave?
Man, I hate it when readers are paying attention. It makes life so complicated. Some readers actually expect me to remember what I wrote five or 10 years ago. Or even three years ago. Don't they realize that I suffer from old-timer's disease? Three years ago? I can hardly remember what I wrote three days ago.
The latest consternation surrounds a famous surfing photo that has been mentioned in this space several times. It is the legendary "Makaha Photo," taken by Star-Bulletin photographer Scoop Tsuzuki in 1953 showing three men flying down the face of an enormous wave.
It appeared in many mainland newspapers more than 50 years ago and has been credited with launching the big-wave surfing craze that has only gotten bigger with the advent of tow-in surfing. As Stacy Peralta, producer of "Riding Giants," a movie about the history of big-wave surfing, put it, "This simple image sent shock waves through California's emerging surf culture, triggering the first migration of West Coast surfers to the Hawaiian Islands."
I wrote a big piece about it in 2005 and even had Scoop's 87-year-old brother, Francis, holding the original framed photo. In that column I quoted Ricky Grigg, University of Hawaii oceanographer and one of the original big-wave surfers, identifying the three surfers in the photo as Buzzy Trent, George Downing and Wally Froiseth.
When another legendary surfer -- Woody Brown -- died recently, I reported the three surfers as Brown, Downing and Trent. That came from Brown's followers.
Finicky reader Nate Warholic jumped on that discrepancy and wondered whose memory was correct: Ricky Grigg or those in the Woody Brown camp? (Obviously, my memory was worse than either because I only had to remember back three years, and they are having to think back a half a century.) The answer is that ... there is no answer. Yet. But I'm sure that some readers with a deep background in surfing history will solve the mystery of who are the three guys surfing in the "Makaha Photo."
To see the photo, go online to starbulletin.com. In the "search" box at the top of the Web site, type "1953 Makaha Photo." That will bring up the 2005 column "The Epic Shot." And you'll realize why it's not all that easy to tell who's riding that wave. They look like three generic surfers in silhouette on longboards.
Scoop obviously took the shot with a telephoto lens out on the point at Makaha. Photography's come a long way since then. Today the photographer would be in the water with the surfers or possibly even riding on one of their backs. And there'd be four helicopters overhead filming IMAX videos, 14 escort boats, 43 wave runners and a guy on a water tricycle lost out of Waikiki.
If you can solve this surfing history mystery, e-mail me at the address below and receive ... well, nothing but the undying admiration of a forgetful columnist.
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