This oral history interview is a project of the Historical Committee of the Outrigger Canoe Club. The legal rights of this material remain with the Outrigger Canoe Club. Anyone wishing to reproduce it or quote at length from it should contact the Historical Committee of the Outrigger Canoe Club. The reader should be aware that an oral history document portrays information as recalled by the interviewee. Because of the spontaneous nature of this kind of document, it may contain statements and impressions that are not factual.
(Edited from an interview)
By Don Machado
October 5, 1985
I was born on January 9, 1945 here in Honolulu at Kapiolani Maternity Hospital. It is my good fortune to have been raised in Honolulu. I have lived my entire life as a resident of the State of Hawaii. When I was a young boy, I lived in Kahala, then it was pig and flower farms, The only paved roads were Kahala, Aukai and Kealaolu Avenues. Farmers Road was just that, a farmers’ road. Our family lived at 4746 Farmers Road on a two-acre lot leased from Bishop Estate by my grandfather, Arthur Freitas. My mother’s maiden name was Lillian Bernice Freitas. She was fourth generation Portuguese in Hawaii.
My mother’s great grandmother came from Portugal in 1883 and soon after in 1887 my grandfather’s family came to Hawaii. They sailed on a long arduous journey around the Cape from the Madeira Islands of Portugal. So my Portuguese ancestry goes back to the 1880’s which makes me a fifth generation in Hawaii.
My father’s mother and rather came from New York City when my father was an eight year old boy, and my grandfather on my father’s side was with the Navy. He was in Hawaii with one or the first airplane squadrons stationed at Pearl Harbor. My father’s family history goes back to New York. He is predominantly English and Irish with a little bit of French and Indian ancestry. He arrived in the Islands with his father and mother and sister in 1924. My father attended Roosevelt High School and played football there and went on to attend the University of Hawaii, and my mother, of course, as with many young Portuguese ladies was a graduate of Sacred Hearts Academy.
My school career began at Star of the Sea School in the Kahala area. Back then the church was an old wooden barn-like structure. It was near the junction of what is now Kilauea and Waialae. Star of the Sea eventually moved to the new facilities where they are now. I went up to fifth grade at Star of the Sea and then I went to Punahou. I graduated from Punahou in 1965. I attended a semester at the University of Hawaii and then decided to go into business.
I spent the days of my youth on the beach at Waikiki. It was natural to become involved as a very young boy in both canoe paddling and surfing. At Punahou I also played football. In high school I played on the varsity football team for Punahou. I am very proud of the fact that in 1984 we had a team that won the ILH football championship. It was lucky enough to be on one of the league championship football teams from Punahou, in the “old” ILH League.
On defense I played linebacker and on offense I played center. I centered the ball to who I consider one of Hawaii’s all-time greatest football players, a young man named Charlie Wedemeyer. He was our quarterback. Charlie Wedemeyer, Stuart Wolfe, and I were co-captains of the team. We played at the old stadium at Isenberg and King Streets. That’s a very fond memory for me I’ll never forget on Turkey Day in 1964 we ran into the stadium with 25,000 spectators. Punahou played Kamehameha School for the ILH championship, we beat them 20-6. Good memories to last a life time.
I do have very vivid memories of growing up in Hawaii. I can remember the koa beach canoes; I can remember the Outrigger Canoe Club, at the original site. My dad, as a young boy lived down by the Hawaiian Village, in those days a residential area.
My dad joined the Outrigger in 1927 when he was 12 years old. He surfed and paddled. He has pictures of himself on the Junior Men’s Territorial Championship team, He still has a paddle that they used when they raced in Hilo Bay back in the thirties.
My dad always worried about all of his kids’ safety in the water. He made me a safety vest, a little plastic floater. It was like a football that tied around my waist. It was really embarrassing. I guess I was four or five years old. When I was eight years old I used to play in the surf down by what they called then Baby’s, which is in front of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Also when I was eight years old my father finally got me my first surfboard which was an old hollow board. Because he was always worried about us in the ocean he painted it orange. He figured he could spot me better. That was in 1964.
I grew up surfing. I was restricted to Baby surf when I was eight, but I’d sneak out to the Canoe surf. There was a real pecking order in the surf. The old-timers used to sit outside on the big long boards. They’d catch a wave and come sliding in the Blow Hole area and yell “coming down”, if the kids didn’t get out of the way, they’d get run over and disciplined. Looking back on it now I find it was refreshing that there was a more orderly disciplined environment in the surf. Things get pretty hectic now with people running all over each other. There doesn’t seem to be any respect for the older surfers who have more or less paid their dues.
I first competed in the Makaha International Surfing championship in 1968 – I was 12 years old. Eventually I won the Makaha event a few times. In 1963, at age 17, I won the Junior Championship and followed it up the next year at age 15 by winning the Senior event. It was my good fortune that my surfing career blossomed. I competed as an amateur representing the Outrigger. My career culminated in 1968 by winning the World Surfing Championship. There was no professional surfing then so I never competed professionally.
The World Championship wee in Puerto Rico. During my surfing career I had the opportunity to travel to Tahiti, California, Texas, the East Coast, and made frequent trips to Peru. I made very strong friendships in Peru which still endure to this day.
Incidentally, Peru is a fascinating place. Club Waikiki in Peru is actually patterned after the Outrigger Canoe Club. Carlos Dogny founded Club Waikiki in 1941 after visiting the Outrigger. Club Waikiki is on the coast of Lima in a neighborhood called Miraflores. He introduced surfing in Peru.
I first went to Peru in my junior year in high school and subsequently returned five times. There are some very wonderful people there. There is a very strong bond amongst the people who travel between our clubs. Surfing is a common tie between us.
Club Waikiki is very much a Peruvian club. Club members are mostly the aristocracy and are the more affluent business people of the country. Club Waikiki is their beach club. They spend their time in afternoons playing polette, which is a net ball game, they paddle, and they surf. Club Waikiki is very much a dining and social club also.
Peru has some absolutely exquisite surfing sites. The club’s location in Lima is at the bottom of cliffs similar to the Santa Monica cliffs in California. The land falls off maybe 100 feet. The club house is at the bottom of these cliffs like the Santa Monica Beach Club, but rather than having a beach they have an imu-size stone type of beach, the water washes on the stones. I’ll never forget when first in Peru as a 17-year-old, I was very taken by the poverty. You don’t see the overt poverty in the United States that you see there – you do see some poor people nowadays, but you don’t see thousands of people living in cardboard shacks. I’ll never forget that they had beach boys at Club Waikiki in Lima that when the surfers went out they just went up and down to catch the surfer’s boards and take them back out to them, and I thought, gee, how extravagant having beachboys take the boards back out. It was like having “surf caddies”. It was really amazing, kind of makes sense and saves a lot of repair work.
In 1964 I went to Peru to compete in their international events. I was a guest of Club Waikiki and represented the Outrigger. Cline Mann was President of the Outrigger. He took me to the airport, shook my hand and sent me on my way. Of course, back then we were travelling with ten- and eleven-foot long surfboards. I took two surfboards, one for the real big waves and a second for what we call hot-dog surfing on the smaller waves. I was greeted in Lima by the Club Waikiki members and hosted to a week of just a wonderful time. There was a series of surfing contests. They had two at Club Waikiki where the small surf is. We also travelled for about a 40-minute ride out of Lima in a southerly direction to another coastal town. Club Waikiki has an auxiliary club called Kon Tiki. The surf is also named Kon Tiki. The waves ranged up to about 10-11 feet. Kon Tiki is on a little beach near a quaint town in the bay. When I went back to Peru in 1955 for the World Surfing Championships they had found another surf that they called Punta Rocas (Rocky Print) That’s where the bigger waves are. Surfing is flourishing in Peru. Peruvian surfing history traces its roots right back to the Outrigger Canoe Club through Carlos Dogny.
I am quite proud of the Outrigger Canoe Club’s support of our special relationship with Club Waikiki. It goes beyond just a reciprocal relationship. Every time we have a guest from Peru here we go out of our way to host a little get-together. Anytime someone from the Outrigger is in Peru if they go to Club Waikiki I will guarantee they would be warmly welcomed and hosted.
As early as 1951 or 1952 when I was five or six years old I can remember vividly the Outrigger Canoe Club – the old Club. At the front desk was Malia, and of course, Eva Pomroy was there. Charles Hee and the business office was on the right side of the lobby, right behind the reception desk was the manager’s little office. You’d get your locker key there at the telephone switchboard that Eva or Malia would be manning. Right outside the lobby the Club would open up to a large area where there was a grass sitting area, They eventually built a little hut in back of it – a grass area for all the kids to hang around. I guess they figured they’d keep the kids out of the way by keeping them in the hut which was a little canvas covered structure. The volleyball courts, of course, were very prominent in the old Club. I remember the very “exotic” Richard Ota was more or less the king of the old snack bar, he had a “crush” on Mike Lemes. The old wooden surfboard lockers were on the side of the Club with a clear pass to the ocean. Looking back in retrospect, I would give quite a lot to have some of the boards at the old Club. There was real history in the lockers as far as surfboards go.
The upstairs was the dining area and the kitchen. The Outrigger back then, looking back on it now, was extremely functional in its design. It had the dining area on the second floor and the Hau Terrace was off in the corner of the Club. Under the dining area and right on the beach was where the canoes were stored. The Club was very functionally designed in the sense of the word that all the athletic and watersports equipment were on the beach. The beach frontage was devoted to the water sports.
The design in the new Club is not quite as functional. The beach frontage now is all social, drinking and dining, and it seems ironic that the surfboards and the canoes are kept out by the street and you have to walk through the social area to get the water sports equipment to the water. It inconveniences the social people and it certainly is difficult for the sportsmen and women. It could be changed. I think over the years we can make the adjustments at this site to improve the situation. Nevertheless, I have fond memories of the old Outrigger, the old site before we moved in 1964.
As kids we also used to hang around right outside the Club where most of the Hui Nalu Gang was. There was a hau tree and we used to sit out there and talk about surfing. When I was ten years old my grandmother, Tutu Bessie, my father’s mother, as a birthday present paid for my membership. She paid for my initiation which was BIG. I was so proud that I had my little card that said I was a member of the Outrigger Canoe Club. January 1955 was when I became a member, so I am in my 30th year of membership at the Outrigger.
I was always extremely impressed by some of the more Hawaiian members of the Outrigger. I am terribly fascinated with Hawaiian history and Hawaiiana. Hawaiian antiquity is intriguing. I’ve read many Hawaiian history books. As a young boy I was very fascinated by Duke Kahanamoku – the regal way he carried himself, his sense of dignity and his sense of self-worth and confidence. I sure wish that the modern Hawaiian kids we sometimes hear about in these troubled areas would have some of the self-confidence and dignity of Duke. I’ll never forget too, when I was a young boy there was a man who used to come out once or twice a week to surf. We kids always had the “in” surfing trunks. This man would come up in more or less tank trunks, which were very brief and they were always black, which to us seemed corny. The gentleman was the Reverend Abraham Akaka. He’d surf all the time too.
It is gratifying to have known all these old classic beachboys. They were an epic part of Waikiki’s history: Panama, Chick, Turkey, Sally Hale, and all the gentlemen who worked at the Outrigger beach service. They were characters beyond description. Their lives and their role in the Outrigger and Waikiki history is major. I can also remember some of the older dignitaries of the Outrigger, the Board of Directors and community leaders.
People I remember – R. Q. Smith, Lorrin Thurston, Gay Harris, James Mann and others. Back then Cline Mann was younger. I remember the Club hired a man by the name of Ted Magill as manager. Ted Magill was always bossing the kids around – the kids always had the impression of the manager being like a teacher, you know, always ordering us around. There were “older” athletes like Ronnie Sorrell, Billy Cross, Pat Wyman and Tommy Haine, all were top notch volleyball players and surfers. I never was much of a volleyball player, but I remember they were some of the athletic heroes at the Club. We had the whole surfing gang; and a great number of surfers were also prominent athletes in school.
As a youth I lived in Kahala and eventually the family moved to Kuliouou and then Kaimuki. I spent a good portion of my weekends at the Club. My parents were fairly strict so during the week we weren’t allowed to go to the beach. We’d come home from school and do yard work or play.
I come from a big family and my older brother and sister were also canoe paddlers and surfers. I have five brothers and sisters. My older sister is Cynthia and she was a champion surfer at Makaha. My older brother, Mark, likewise was a very successful surfer and canoe paddler. And then my younger sister, Maria, did a little bit of surfing and she also did some canoe paddling. My younger brother, Aka, is very active. He is more the adventurer of the family. He has ridden some 20-foot waves on the North Shore in a canoe. I have a younger sister, Heidi, who has also been a paddler and surfer, so we all have surfing and canoe paddling background. For instance, my brother and I have seven Molokai Canoe Race victories for the Outrigger, and as a family we have had a fortune.
I parlayed my participation in surfing into business interests by developing professional surfing. My company packages surfing events that are covered by television. At one time we had events on all three networks.
I have many pleasant memories of the “old days” in surfing. One special place was a surf site called “Number Threes” which is outside the Reef Hotel. It was kind of the Outrigger’s break. We all paddled out there and very seldom, because things weren’t so crowded back then, would we see surfers from anywhere else. It was a territorial thing. I spent countless hours surfing in the spot called Number Threes – it is a classic break.
I can also remember as young boys we would tell our parents we were going to spend the night at a friend’s house and we used to sneak down and sleep under the canoes at the Outrigger. We would get up early and go surfing before the sun came up. My mother was always a very staunch Catholic and so on Sundays I would have to go to church and occasionally I would drag some of my non-Catholic friends to church before we went surfing I never did convert them. I was worried they would convert me to their heathen lifestyles, surfing before church.
I also remember all the koa canoes. Back then I never realized how priceless they were. All the canoes in front of the Outrigger, because it was before fiberglass, were koa. Now, of course, a koa canoe is very special. They belong to history now.
The Outrigger Canoe Club is a lifestyle I think. For the members of the Club it is a very treasured lifestyle. It affords us a family and sporting environment. A lot of the paddlers have young kids and the men go out of their way to take care of each other’s kids. So it is a very healthy family environment. It’s also an extremely healthy life-style physically. I am forty-one years old and pretty active in business and politics, but I think I owe my physical health to this lifestyle at the Outrigger – jogging, surfing. I don’t board surf that much anymore, but I paddle.
I think the men who founded the Club in 1908 were interested in the beach lifestyle. They wanted a place to perpetuate that lifestyle. The men and women of the Outrigger to this day are still enjoying a way of life that is offered to us by the beach, the sun, and the sea.
I had the honor of going on numerous goodwill tours with Duke Kahanamoku. Back in the 1960s, Kimo McVay had Duke Kahanamoku’s night club. He was working with Duke promotionally and he started the Duke Kahanamoku Surf Club. We were brought on board as young surfers, Joey Caball, Paul Strauch, Jr. – Alex Castro’s son-in-law – also a young man named Butch Van Arsdalen. The four of us became Duke’s surf team. Paul and I eventually travelled with Duke on promotional tours. We went to Southern California and other areas to promote Hawaii. Back then Don Ho was just starting his career at Duke Kahanamoku’s night club under the management of Kimo McVay, so the Duke and Duke’s surf team travelled with Don Ho to his opening engagement at the Coconut Grove at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Those were very exciting times for young people like myself. We were in Hollywood and travelling with Duke. I have some very, very fond memories of Duke. Duke was always a sportsman and a young man at heart, and he had a really great sense of values. You know so many people get caught up with the Yuppie syndrome and personal advancement through the acquisition of possessions and money. That had a certain amount of merit in that we all need financial security, but there has to be a balance. Duke had a beautiful balance – Duke’s wealth was his health and his ability to swim and play in the ocean and be with his friends.
I think that the great lesson I learned from Duke was to consider the broader picture of life. We used to have great times together.
Hawaiians are famous sleepers. I don’t care what anybody says, there are ethnic stereotypes and there are certain things that are natural to certain cultures that are known. We Portuguese are extremely articulate, which is another way of saying we talk too much.
Anyway, I think many old-style Hawaiians are so relaxed that they are great sleepers. I have Hawaiian friends who can sleep anywhere, anytime. What happened was we’d go to some meeting or to a banquet or some kind of event where Duke would have to ho’omalimali. I was always sitting next to him because he was getting old. We’d sit down to eat and he’d get excited because he’d see all the younger guys, especially myself, ordering a lot and he’d order a lot. I’d always get the part of the steak he couldn’t finish. Then he’d be sitting at this table. I’d be sitting next to him, night or day he’d put on his sun glasses and just nod off and go right to sleep – at the table! I used to admire that. I’d say, ‘Here’s a guy who knows what life’s really about.’ You know these guys would be sitting around talking about all this high falutin’ big deal stuff and Duke would be at the end of the table sleeping.
Those years with Duke are filled with real, real fond memories and the wisdom of the man. Duke was not what you would call a scholar or scholastically intelligent. He had a great grasp for life, a great understanding, a great natural wisdom. I saw evidence of that all the time. Much in the way his ancient Hawaiian forebears had a functional relationship with the environment and nature.
One time Duke and I were talking, and I was very interested in surfing and I knew that in modern Hawaii it would be virtually impossible to get a surfboard ride from Castle Surf to the foot of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, like the Duke did. Duke did do it. I said, “Duke, how did you make that ride? Is it possible?” He said, “Hey, Freddie, no trouble. You know nowadays the bottom has all changed, back then the bottom was different, now they have closed the streams off and the whole sand bars are moved.” So, he had a very reasonable explanation – a very logical, in some ways, very scientific explanation. The explanation of why you can’t get that ride nowadays is because the bottom of the bay has changed – the contour of the land under the water has changed.
Dignity is missing in some of these young kids nowadays. It is what I think is causing some of our problems. Their own sense of self worth has somehow been diminished.
I don’t think people realize it, but we have a very delicate balance in the Outrigger Canoe Club between the social activities, the money-generating activities, and the sports environment. The sports environment is a money-consuming activity and it is supported quite extensively by the Board of Directors, many of whom still are sports people. I hope we never lose this balance. That’s what makes the Outrigger Canoe Club special. I might add, it’s quite unique.
In my travels through most of the cities of the United States, I do get to New York, Denver, Chicago, Los Angeles and D.C., in those cities there are clubs that are social clubs, and then there are clubs that are very athletic, like the New York Athletic Club. You know, the women aren’t even allowed in certain areas.
The Outrigger is a very, very pleasant blend of social and athletic activities, and that, I think is an aspect of this Club that is so great. We are able to pass our Hawaiian sports heritage on from generation to generation. My father has passed it on to me. I’ve been proud to actively participate in the Club as a member, an athlete, on committees, as a member of the Board of Directors, at cetera. My son and daughters are now part of the Club’s athletic lifestyle. My wife, Suzy, is an outstanding Club athlete. She has paddled on several of the Club’s winning women’s Molokai crews. Heath, my son, is a great surfer and just recently went on a trip on behalf of the Outrigger to compete in competition in California. He is also a top canoe steersman. My daughter, Kaui, started paddling and Meaghan will start next year I think it is really important that we never lose sight of the purpose of the Outrigger Canoe Club.
Regardless of what people outside of the Outrigger Canoe Club in the community may think, our Club has provided the state of Hawaii with some wonderful history and contributed substantially to its sports endeavors. Most importantly, the Outrigger has served to preserve some ancient Hawaiian cultural activities, such as canoeing and surfing. It has served as a club to nourish and as a repository for technique and the historical aspects of traditional Hawaiian sport. The Outrigger has provided the state with legendary sports figures. The Outrigger is, in fact, one of the greatest sports clubs in this country. Our volleyball players are nationally ranked and our ocean water sportsmen are world class. In the past and to this day we have some of the greatest surfers in the world, and certainly we have some of the greatest canoe paddlers.
Partially through the Club’s help, canoe racing is fast becoming an international sport. So the Club is quite a unique place. I think that the Board has done a good job and hopefully it will continue.
My athletic career has centered around the Outrigger Canoe Club and a six-year sojourn with Hui Nalu. On the competitive side of athletics, the major activities I’ve enjoyed are canoe paddling and surfing. I began canoe peddling in 1956. We used to practice back then – there were no fiberglass canoes – in the Kakina and the Leilani. Also, believe it or not, I’ll never forget training in the Ka Moi, which is the big old surf canoe. It probably weighed 800 pounds. I learned how to steer a canoe back then. You know, when you go through life your mind can bring up a vision. I’ll never forget that when I was ten years old, I was learning how to steer. We paddled out past Canoe Surf where I’d never been before, as I was restricted to Canoes, Queen’s and Baby surf in front of the Royal. We took this big canoe out and turned left and started heading towards Publics, and it was low tide, and I was ten years old. I remember how awesome I thought it was to be paddling a canoe way out past the surf and down to Publics, We paddled right near the reef at “Public Bath” and I thought, ‘My gosh, what an adventure this is. We were coming so perilously close to the reef in a canoe and being out to sea.
Incidentally, Public Bath was the name of the surf break. It’s important to know that all the surf sites have names. The names can be ancient Hawaiian names or they might be contemporary names. The name Public Bath is attributed to an area outside of what we now call Queen’s Surf area, where they used to have public baths, and the public could go down to the beach and bathe after swimming. The surf there became known as Public Baths.
Good surfers and good watermen aren’t just people who excel in physical ability. They are people who develop awareness, a sixth sense or a true feeling for what their sport is. With canoe paddlers and surfers, the real good ones, the ones who endure, the ones who become the great leaders of the sport, develop a sixth sense – develop a kinship with the ocean. Greet surfers and canoe paddlers develop this great intimate relationship with the ocean.
In the case of surfers, good surfers know their surfing spots. If you talk to a good surfer, especially an old-time surfer in the Waikiki area, he’ll know every spot from Diamond Head all the way down to past Kewalo Basin, and each little spot and each little break.
A special surf is Castles, which is, of course, the big surf that only breaks on a large south swell. In ancient Hawaiian it was called Kalehuawehe. We have a place called Old Man’s. Now, Old Man’s only became Old Man’s when Outrigger moved up to the foot of Diamond Head and a lot of the old guys would go out in front of the Club. The kids started calling the break Old Man’s Surf.
At Kalua Hole Beach near the foot of Diamond Head, the old Tongg Family had a home. When I was a kid a lot of Diamond Head kids would surf up there and they’d go to Tongg’s home, so the surf became known as Tongg’s.
Near Tongg’s a barge went aground years ago and there is a winch sticking up, that little break is called Winch. If you go through Waikiki every one of the individual breaks has a name, some of them very ancient.
Queen’s Surf is named for Queen Kapiolani. Canoe Surf has been called Canoe Surf for a very long time. You can work your way through Waikiki and each little break has a history and a name that’s indicative of where it is/
I have to mention that we had a group of kids that grew up together. Johnny Sutherland, Gary Blaich, Mike Pietsch, Bill Jackson, Bruce Clifford, all my contemporaries started paddling at a very young age together. We began on the 13-and-under crew and we went up to Boy’s 18-and-under and we really had one of those great groups of guys that paddled together and we were extremely successful. I’ll never forget our last year together when some of us were going to college and we realized that our last year of paddling together would be the 18-and-under boys race at the State Championships at Hilo. We won the race in a very fast time for the mile. Our whole crew moved up to the Junior Men’s race and we placed second. We have very fond memories of paddling and that group of guys – some of them are still very active in athletics – grew up as a paddling crew at the Club.
In 1965 I first tried out, at 19 years of age, for the Men’s Molokai race as a steersman. I was doing some travelling with Duke then, and I had to go away for two or three weeks and did not make the team. I did come across the channel for the first time in 1965 as a helper. My brother, Mark, was paddling on the crew and the Outrigger won the Molokai to Oahu canoe race. The following year, 1966, was probably the most epic of the Molokai to Oahu canoe races. First of all you have to understand something about the Molokai to Oahu canoe race. It was founded in 1952 by Club member ‘Toots’ Minvielle. Toots Minvielle was a man of vision. He really has done much to promulgate canoe paddling. He introduced it and made it popular in California, helped introduce it in Australia, he took a canoe to Europe several years ago. Toots is considered the patriarch of the Molokai canoe race, he founded it, he’s nourished it all these years. The Molokai race is the ultimate challenge in the sport, first because it has tradition, and secondly, it brings together fascinating elements of competition. The elements of teamwork combined with the fact there are changes, open ocean changes. There are six people in a canoe at any one time, but you have nine members on the crew so you are constantly rotating paddlers. There are currents, tides, wind, and so the race becomes a race of many variables and more often than not the winner of the race is not only the team that can paddle the canoe the fastest, but the team that is most capable of intelligently handling the variables. It’s a very strategic race for that reason. What you do and how you maneuver on the course during the five-and-a-half or six hours it takes to complete the race becomes very important. Now the race has become very sophisticated. The Molokai race is often times won or lost by a minute or two between first and second. It is a very intense race.
I’ve been active in the Molokai race since 1965, but I have only actually paddled or steered in nine races. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been in four winning boats and in two second place boats. In 1966 though we failed to finish the race.
Looking back on 1966 now, there would be a good chance that nowadays the race would be cancelled. It was an epic day with a huge ground swell running across the channel, combined with near gale-force winds. I’d say the winds were 40 knots, and it was very perilous. About mid-channel we were definitely in contention for the lead – it was so hard to tell back then. North of us was Waikiki Surf Club, we were battling mid-channel for first place. Prior to that point one of the fellows in our crew was just basically scared of the ocean. When it came time for him to make a change, in his haste to get out of the boat, he jumped out without adequately pulling the zipper down off the canvas around his waist. That tore the canvas. What happened was water was pouring into the boat when the big waves broke on us. We were doing a lot of bailing. This fellow got on the guide boat and he was told, “Look, you can’t do this again, we’re in terrible trouble now, we are taking water, the next time you make sure you unzip all the way.” They put him back in the boat and after his second period of paddling they told him it was time for a change and this time he took the zipper and ripped it right off the track. So, we had two of the six seats not adequately covered by the canvas. We swamped mid-channel. I’ll never forget that day, because it’s one of those struggles where you slowly lose all your energy. We drifted into a nightmare of exhaustion. We were all in kind of suspended animation. Everything was rather hazy. We were in the middle of the channel with waves breaking all over the place and finally came to realize that there was no way we were going to continue the race. After hours of trying to bail the boat and doing everything possible, we took a knife and we cut the rigging off the boat. We had a big escort boat called the Hula Kai, Tommy Arnott was driving a Boston whaler. We took the ama and the iakos and put them in the Hula Kai, We figured that the only way we were going to get our boat, the Leilani, back was to try to get it into the Hula Kai. In the huge seas we managed to swim the Leilani to the back of the Hula Kai. At the right moment when the water lifted the Leilani up to the back of the transom, the crew grabbed the nose of the Leilani and pulled the canoe slowly up to the back of the Hula Kai. The canoe, of course, received tremendous damage, the gunnels were ripped off, but we did get the canoe back. We arrived in Honolulu at dusk. That’s the story of the 1966 race.
We came back in 1967 and it was the smoothest ocean ever. There was not a swell, it was perfect glass. There was not even a wind chop, it was one of those Kona days when there was absolutely no wind. I’ll never forget, the challenge then was, of course, the heat. We got heat exhaustion. We won the race – just straight paddling, hot and exhausting paddling.
This is what is great about sports. When you get to the highest level of competition, I feel what really separates the true champions from the field is their mental abilities. I’ve oftentimes seen people overcome what would be considered physical handicaps by mental toughness. In the Molokai race, or any canoe race, it becomes such a sophisticated effort, you ultimately get your body to a certain amount of conditioning where you are not going to get in much better shape. You reach kind of a plateau physically. The really great paddlers or great athletes in any field of endeavor are the ones who have developed a sixth sense with the sport and have honed their mental skills.
In paddling, as with most endeavors, concentration becomes a real big element. The fitness of your stroke, the ability to sustain your power to the water, and to be able to concentrate your energies are paramount. You have to remember back in the sixties when we were racing we were averaging 42-44 strokes a minute. We were using larger big-blade Hawaiian paddles. Nowadays we are using narrow blade paddles and the stroke count is up to 65 or 70 strokes a minute. When you are paddling at that vicious pace you are doing 65 strokes a minute, you are doing about 3,600 an hour. So it becomes a pretty intense situation and every stroke counts. Your ability to concentrate and be keenly aware and understand what you are doing is important. Mental discipline is key element.
Sports are advancing so rapidly that we are constantly finding out new concepts about muscle structure and conditioning. Incidentally, in 1965 I was a helper and my brother Mark paddled on the team and the Outrigger won the race. In 1966 we went down. In 1967 we paddled the Molokai race in absolutely glass conditions and we won the race. 1968 was another stormy day and it was very rough and we turned over mid-channel, got the boat righted, came back and still won the race.
My other brother, Aka, was paddling with me then. I’ve always steered and paddled. In 1967 I steered the whole way without a stop. In 1968 I steered and paddled. Good fun!
And then in 1969 we placed second. Since then I’ve been involved with other activities, so I’ve been off and on with paddling, helping, or coaching. The Molokai race is an epic athletic event and I think you are going to see as years go on, that the race becomes a major international sports event. It is considered the world championship of the sport of canoe paddling and canoe paddling is growing rapidly. Australians are taking it up. They are very ccmpetitive people. Of course, the 1985 winner of the canoe race, the Illinois Brigade, are actually whitewater kayak marathon paddlers from the Midwest. The sport is going to take off. I am quite proud of it. I contend that Hawaii is the sports capital of the world, and this is just another event that I think proves it.
Outrigger can be very proud of its role in canoe paddling, because not only is it a leading source of championship teams and efforts, it also is a major contributor to the betterment of the sport. The Outrigger, through the wisdom of its Board of Directors and through the assistance of its many athletes, has done much to help the sport. We host clubs, we lend our equipment out, and we sponsor races. I have worked with Walter Guild, Tommy Holmes, and several other members conducting clinics for paddlers. The Outrigger has been a real asset to the sport of Hawaiian canoe racing.
There’s a good chance that the sport of canoe paddling will go to the Olympics, The surfing situation is a little different.
In the sixties the sport of surfing was going through some rough times, It was very chic back then – there was LSD, and drugs were in vogue, and as with many youths all over the world, surfing got caught up in it All the guys were wearing Nehru jackets and had beads on Mysticism, LSD, marijuana and anti-American were an “in”. It was all this whole mental aberration that some youths were going through and surfing really got caught up in it. Well, I was just the opposite. When I went to Puerto Rico for the world championship, I didn’t fit the mentality of the sport then. I was very much a rebel with my peers, I was short-haired and very straight, very pro-American and anti-drugs. I went to Puerto Rico representing Hawaii and the Outrigger Canoe. Club. The Outrigger gave me a bright blue blazer with the Outrigger Canoe Club emblem on it, and I was very proud of that. I wore the blazer and a tie to every official function. I felt like an IBM salesman at a Cheech and Chong convention amongst all these gurued-out surfers. I was a conservative rebel amongst these surfers and I went out and I used tactics of just good aggressive athletic competition. To prepare for the competition I didn’t drink, I didn’t smoke, I ran on the beach every morning. I paddled, I got myself in good physical shape. I wanted to win the event. Before I went into the finals I looked at the judges – I thought to myself, “Now, what do these people want to see? How do they surf? They are all surfers, what will they appreciate?” I made a very explicit point of analyzing how they felt. I went out and was fortunate to win the event.
It set the surfing world on its ear because all the favored guru in crowd, the glamor boys of the sport, had been beaten. It was kind of an interesting situation.
Really, the most vivid and nicest memories I have of surfing go back to being a very young boy surfing in the Makaha International Surfing Championships. The event was produced and managed and directed by one of our sister canoe clubs, Waikiki Surf Club. But that was really something very special because it was like a week or two weeks. Every day something was happening during Christmas vacation. It was like a water sports carnival.
We are talking about the late 50’s and early 60’s, The Makaha Surfing Championships by Waikiki Surf Club was the premier international surfing event and there was no other major surfing event in Hawaii. They had body surfing, paddleboard races, tandem surfing, women’s surfing, junior men’s and senior men’s competitions. There were two-, three-, four thousand people on the beach and they’d decide in the morning, according to the surf, what event they would hold.
I later began my business of developing and promoting sports and surfing competitions. Here in Hawaii we created and produced the first major professional surfing competitions. We negotiated contracts with both ABC and NBC to cover some of these competitions. The sport has matured considerably. I am very proud to say that most of the top surfers today, because of the development of professional surfing, are pretty responsible, well-trained, and well-motivated athletes. The cult image has faded.
Now that we’re getting into general philosophy, one of the things that I despise most is someone who does something that is injurious to themselves and says, “Well, that is my right and I’m hurting nobody.” When you live in a structured organized society you have a responsibility to yourself and to society to try and be a constructive member of society. When an individual does something to injure himself, or abuse himself, ultimately they abuse society. They ultimately abuse the people who love them, the people who care in many instances in the case of drug abusers, you ultimately become a ward of society. Too many of the people that I knew in the late sixties and seventies who indulged in drugs – some of them were members of the Club, ultimately died of drug abuse, and others are now not totally functioning people in our society. They’ve become problems.
Back on a positive note I was very honored as a young man to be elected to the Board of Directors of the Outrigger Canoe Club, first in 1971 at 26 years of age. In 1979 I became Club captain and I think that the Club has done much to promulgate and develop great sports champions, but also to provide an opportunity for people to participate in sports. There are two basic types of sports people. There are sports observers and there are sports participants. I am very happy that the Outrigger is a club of sports participators. I think sports and recreation are a very healthy part of our lifestyle here in Hawaii. I like to measure my wealth, not simply in dollars and cents and financial equity, but in experience and the ability to do things.
I like to run in the mountains and in the areas of Hawaii that are not quite developed and you get a feel for and see many of the ancient parts of Hawaii that you don’t see nowadays.
As Club captain in 1975 my purpose was not only to help manage the existing sports of volleyball and canoe paddling, but to also set out to try to broaden the base of sports activities in the Club. At that time Wakie (Wakefield) Mist was president of the Club. It was one of the healthiest and most successful years in Outrigger sports history. We won the Molokai race, we were the state paddling champions, we had volleyball successes. Just as importantly we also in that year developed new sports activities. Cline Mann helped reinaugurate the surfboard paddling sport. It had been very popular in the sixties and the late fifties, but had fallen off. Nobody was having surfboard races, so we made a very simple rule that all boards had to be 12 feet or under and 20 pounds and over. This made racing surfboards accessible to everybody. So Outrigger reinstituted interest in paddleboard racing. Now, ten years later, paddleboard racing has become a real big sport locally and in Southern California.
This is a funny athletic story. The long and short of it is, in 1974 I was sitting on the Hau Terrace on a Friday evening with a comrade of mine, Bruce Ames. This was before jogging and marathon running became popular. Bruce and I were drinking a Heineken beer, nine o’clock at night. We actually drank several Heinekens and we were feeling very happy about life. You have to understand that Bruce and I have always been very competitive. Bruce said, “Say, I read in the paper they are going to have one of these things called a marathon race Sunday morning.” And I said, “Yeah.” He says, “Yeah, it’s this race and you run 25-26 miles, it’s crazy,” I said, “Yeah, Bruce, I bet I could beat you in one of those things.” And Bruce said, “No, you couldn’t.” I’ll never forget, I said, “Well, okay, let’s race it then.” And he said okay, so we went down and entered the race and we went Sunday morning to the Second Honolulu Marathon. Nobody I knew had ever run a marathon before. I didn’t even know what a marathon was.
It was the Second Honolulu Marathon, and I remember saying to myself while driving down there, “Gee, maybe we did the wrong thing. It’s a pretty long way. If I saw the entry blank correctly we have to run to Hawaii Kai and back to Kapiolani Park. These guys are crazy.” But, I thought I’d know what would happen. Bruce would get tired, concede, and we’d just end up at the Outrigger Sunday morning for breakfast and I’d win the bet. So we got out of the car down at the Aloha Tower where the race started. I remember there were only about 300 people in the race. I thought that was a lot of people. Of course, back then, in the running community there were all these long skinny guys. There Bruce Ames and I were with Heineken spirits still on our breaths, and we were at the starting line, and the darned race started. We began running down Ala Moana Boulevard. I was hoping that Bruce would give up and we’d go to the Outrigger. The next thing I knew we were at Hawaii Kai and by that time we’d run more than half the race – about 13 miles. I’d opened up a large gap on Bruce and his girlfriend drives up in the car, and she said, “Fred, do you want to give up and get in the car and we’ll go back and pick Bruce up? This is crazy, you guys shouldn’t continue.” I knew that Bruce, being the clever lawyer that he is, was just trying to bait me into giving up so he could claim that he had won the race. I said, “I think that’s a great idea. You go pick Bruce up, have him stop the race and give up and then you pick me up and we’ll go.” She never came back. I never forget I limped across the finish line. I took four-and-a-half hours and it took Bruce six-and-a-half hours. That was our first marathon. Well, as you know now, ten years later, marathon running is a big sport at the Outrigger.
In 1975, the Outrigger developed a marathon team. We even had a canoe surfing contest. Believe it or not, we found a trophy here at the Outrigger from a canoe surfing contest they had in 1910 and we reinstituted e canoe surfing contest. I hope that we can get that going again as e sport.
We reinstituted the Castle Swim. When I was a kid they had a Castle swim in front of the old Club. The swimming community would come down and participate. The swim was from the Castle home to the old Outrigger Canoe Club. So what we did when we reinstituted the Castle Swim, we started at the old Outrigger in Waikiki and we swam up to the new Club, which is the site of the old Castle home. Those were four activities we helped rekindle interest in.
The Club has been a Club of participation as well as fine athletic performances. Everybody in this Club is not afraid to participate – win, lose, or draw – everybody’s in there participating and enjoying what has to be offered.
Personally, I enjoy big waves, I enjoy marathon paddling, I enjoy running in the mountains. Just the other day Tommy Holmes and I were drawing up an agreement to make a bet and we are going to call it “Death Dual 2020”. In the year 2020 both Tommy Holmes and I, God willing, will, be 75 years old and we are making a bet on three different athletic events for the year 2020. They’ll all happen here at the Outrigger, one will be a one-mile canoe paddle, a one-mile swim, a one-mile jog. We are going to set up a trust fund, and we are each going to put a minimum of $100 a year into it. We hope to have a large fund. We will set up an athletic scholarship at Punahou School which will be endowed by this bet. Who-ever wins this bet in 2020, the scholarship will be named in his honor. If either Tommy or I – just so you will know the bet – if either Tommy or I happen to have an accident and don’t make it to 2020, the other person automatically wins. It’s a fun bet. The competition in athletics is something to be enjoyed and carried throughout your life and I hope. when I am 65 years old to be jogging, and I hope to be paddling canoes, and canoe surfing, and on and on.
We here, the Outrigger, single-handedly, I can say this – are preserving and developing the art of canoe surfing, because our young canoe steersmen are very proficient at riding waves in canoes and it is something that is a lost art, as far as I am concerned. Other than the beachboys who take commercial canoes out in Waikiki, there is no place in the world where canoe surfing is going on. So, as far as the Outrigger history goes, we are not only a team of performers and competitors, we are also a great source of recreational sports development.
I only wish the State of Hawaii would direct more attention to cur sports heritage. For some reason we are trying so hard to be something that we naturally aren’t. I can say this because I am in government now. While trying to have a big-time collegiate football team at the University of Hawaii, we should also have the best swimming team in the country. Contemporary great swimmers are more in Southern California or Indiana. You know we have an $8 million baseball stadium at the University and yet we have the nation’s greatest women’s volleyball team with little effort. I think we should balance our athletic picture at the state level a little bit better. For instance, we no longer have Olympic caliber swimmers.
You’ll see more Olympic training programs here. We just recently learned that the America’s Cup team is going to train in Hawaii; Olympic bicyclers will train here; we have three major pro golf tournaments in the state, and I think the Outrigger can participate in this athletic renaissance.
I am in the state legislature. I think we are going through a period of transition politically in this state. Our opportunities are boundless and I really believe that great times are ahead. I think through the political process, the electoral process, the people of Hawaii will make the changes necessary to bring about the things we need: economic diverity, opportunity, getting rid of some of the internal problems of the management of government. I hope to participate in bringing about constructive reform.
There can be a complimentary and nourishing relationship between the economic realities of modern Hawaii and the preservation of the natural beauty of old Hawaii. Those two concepts do not have to compete against each other. It does take intelligent planning and development. My feeling is that although Waikiki is the hub of our tourist industry, there are some serious mistakes that were made there.
They are not making those mistakes on the coastline of Kona. They are preserving antiquity; they are preserving the beauty; they have reasonable architecture that is not blighting the landscape; they have sought out and preserved, for their own betterment, the archaeological sites. The commercial aspects of the tourist industry are feeding off the natural elements of Hawaii, and then the natural elements are being preserved and protected. There is a very profitable relationship for both, and that’s the type of thing we can, and should, do in this state. There is a wonderful opportunity for the economic diversity. Right now most of the economic eggs are in the tourist basket, but there is untold potential for other activities. And I have to say, being in government, that probably is the biggest problem with some of these things happening right now in government.
Suzy and I plan on living the rest of our lives in Hawaii. I plan on continuing to work in a productive manner to supply my family with enough financial resources to pay bills and to have economic freedom. My wife and I plan on continuing to live a very active and outdoor lifestyle. I also want to pursue a public career. I am very optimistic about Hawaii and I want to participate in developing a positive future. I also get a lot of personal pleasure out of certain activities. For instance every summer I paddle the north side of Molokai; hike into and swim and paddle into Wailau Valley. I cherish time with my wife, Suzy, and our children.
Pat Bowlen, who is a very dear friend of mine, lives here part of the time and in Denver and Canada. He and his wife are very close to us. We often go on outer island adventures. We’ve run Haleakala; we’ve gone to the top of Mauna Kea; and we’ve run the King’s Trail on the Kona coast. There are still quite a number of adventures and great times to experience in these islands. I want to get to know and experience Hawaii more intimately as every year goes by.
I would like to share some thoughts. I was on the Board of Directors and I am keenly interested in the Club, its function, and its long-term plans I think we have one of the greatest sites for a private club in the world. In that regard, I think that consideration should be given to utilization of space, more efficiently.
We talked earlier about the beach frontage. The beach frontage now is used predominately for social activities. The athletic equipment is stored out near the street. I think the Board of Directors should develop a long-term site improvement plan for this particular site. I have some very specific ideas about it. I think even in just a small isolated situation like the planter box next to the Colony Surf behind the beach stand – it is approximately ten feet wide – that could be reduced in size by moving the trees closer to the Colony Surf Hotel to maybe four feet wide, and that would recover six feet times the length of it. It would recover maybe 500-600 square feet of space, and you would not lose the aesthetic effect of the planting. You’d just compress the plants into a smaller area and you’d still have the same foliage. Little things like that could be done.
We should all think about the larger picture. I’d like to see a way that eventually the dining room would move to a second story when the bottom area could be opened up to more athletic activities, and the terrace area could be moved partially up to where the dining area is now. I think the Club has an opportunity to make some dramatic changes here to utilize the space and become more functional for both social and sports interests. I think a second story dining facility would actually increase the view plane. Likewise, the bottom portion could open up to more athletics, and moving the bar and the terrace area up to where the dining room is now would help.
So there are some dramatic things that could be done at this site to vastly improve it. By doing that you could actually move some of the problems in the garage to other areas. It’s going to take a more comprehensive plan rather than a piecemeal solution. Also the Club I know is very financially liquid now, and they actually have a problem of making too much money. Sometimes we are going out and spending huge sums of money on certain things that maybe, when considered in the larger picture, would not have to be done.
Secondly, I think work should continue an acquiring the site in fee or acquiring at a very reasonable price, some other site in fee. Just as a side note to illustrate that. When I was on the Board of Directors in 1973, I strongly advocated buying, for $700,000, a three-plus-acre parcel of land across from Holy Nativity Church in Aina Haina. That site has become the Kahala Hilton’s tennis club. If you go look at that facility, it could have been the Outrigger’s and we would have equity at a second site which we would have owned entirely. We would have protected this Club for generations to come. I think these things should be talked about and considered.
The Outrigger is probably one of the finest, most efficiently run clubs in the country. The Outrigger certainly is one of the best private clubs in the country. The dining is renowned, the conveniences, the parking, the showers, the locker rooms, the athletic facilities, the canoes – there’s no better place in the world for active athletes and for those who are interested in a nice place to dine and socialize.