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. A full transcript of the video may be found below.
November 11, 2021
By Danny Alvarez
DA: Today is Thursday, November 11, 2021. We are in the Board Room of the Outrigger Canoe Club. I’m Danny Alvarez (DA), Chair of the Outrigger Volleyball Committee. Today it’s my pleasure to be talking to one of our most accomplished volleyball players, Peter Balding Jr. (PB Jr.). Good morning, Peter.
PB Jr: Morning, Danny. Thanks for that introduction. I’m not sure that I would agree with it, but thank you anyway.
DA: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself? A little background for our viewers and listeners.
PB Jr: I’m Peter Balding Jr. I was born in Honolulu (6/11/1959), raised in Honolulu. I actually have the distinction of being born and raised at the Outrigger back when it was in Waikiki. I remember when we moved here (Diamond Head site). I was about five years of age. I still remember some things back down there: the beach courts, the grass surrounding the Hau Terrace and the surf spots out there. I had my first surfboard and went surfing with my dad out there. So there’s still some memories that exist of that area. So this is pretty special. And then I grew up here once we moved here (1964). I spent most of my formative years here on this site.
DA: Tell us a little bit about family? Mom and dad.
PB Jr: My mom (May Balding) and dad (Peter Balding) are both still living. My dad’s coming up on his 87th birthday. He’s a former president of the Club. He served two years as its president. And my mom was an avid paddler when I was growing up. Both of them are very outgoing and athletic. The Club suits their lifestyle and has provided them with a place of refuge and camaraderie. And is kind of an extended family in sharing in athletic endeavors and social endeavors, just a place to have a good time.
DA: You talked a little bit about the old Club. Now let’s think about your first volleyball memory, maybe at Outrigger here or down in Waikiki. Do you have something that stands out?
PB Jr: As far as down there (Waikiki), I was still too young for any kind of a participatory type of experience. I remember being on the sand as a little kid playing with my toys. My early remembrances of the volleyball court was learning to cut my teeth on the Baby Court. And in what that meant. It was the neighborhood experience, being one of the younger people at the time. Learning to mind your P’s and Q’s, how you then evolved to be the guy. But I remember being the gremmy, sitting around for a couple of hours and not even getting to play and then having my time to play.
DA: You’re on the smaller side. Did that ever make you feel like you had to give a little more effort or prove yourself a little bit more? Or were you always kind of feisty anyway?
PB Jr: Never. In the circles that we grew up in, size was never an issue. And even to this day, I don’t. It’s just not in me to think of that. Nowadays it’s a way to place a limit on somebody and I just have never felt like somebody ever placed any limits on me. That’s just kind of the way I was raised.
DA: So awesome. We just had Tri Bourne doing an oral history and he was talking about how he got all the small people skills. Did you feel like I’m hitting? I’m blocking? I’m everything. All that Baby Court taught?
PB Jr: Absolutely. You know at that time, you could adjust the net, so we would. When we got the smaller guys. we’d say, let’s lower the net and we can do this. Or there were times when the net sagged and we’d say, set me in the middle, because there was a sag in the middle, and so you ran things to kind of challenge yourself, to be successful. And you learned to make shots when the net was higher, and so it was.
DA: Do you have some individuals that were peers and maybe some individuals that were a little ahead of you that you looked up to or wanted to beat and some guys that you wanted to play with or loved beating that were peers?
PB Jr: I remember the first guy. He was the guy, the man on the Baby Court and that was Mark Rocklen. He went by Mark Alika Rocklen. He wasn’t the oldest of the Rocklen family. His parents were Dave and Keanuenue Rocklen of Surfline. His younger brother was Pua and he had a sister Nohea. But he was the guy that transitioned from being a surfer who also played volleyball when there was no surf, to being a volleyball player who also surfed. And I remember he hit the ball harder than everybody else. He played defense, his ball control was the first one that I remember. He played in one of the open tournaments with Chris Crabb one year but he got good enough that he was one of our guys. I can still remember when he was on the court, It was like he gets set. I can remember there being an element of, OK, pay attention. There are those guys even to this day, it’s like, pay attention, don’t look away. It’s like don’t turn your back on the ocean, that type of thing, make sure you’re watching.
DA: So when you’re on the Baby Court, could you remember looking over at the big court and looking at the guys who are the guys on the big court that you’re like, that’s who I want to be someday or that’s who I want to play with, or that’s all on a beat some day.
PB Jr: Oh, absolutely. There was (Tom) “Daddy” Haine. He was the guy that had the aura, that had the presence. He was there and you had guys like Paul McLaughlin and Pete Velasco and Jon Stanley. And when they came from the mainland guys like John Alstrom, Jon Haneberg and Randy Shaw and Bobby and Tommy Arnott. And you know, Tommy Conner, was a great volleyball player as I remember him before he was a paddler, and Hal Burchard. You had these guys that were kind of, you know, there were so many of them. And some were older. And some of that next step. And then there was us, and it was a lot different than it is today. There was a tournament every weekend. It was the thing. And it wasn’t, well, let’s have an A tournament or let’s have a doubles. It’s like, no, there’s a tournament this weekend and everybody was welcome. And everybody played. It was part of the culture down here. To me as a young kid it seemed like a lot, and I’m going to guess that there were close to 20 teams every weekend. And it was a knockdown, drag out, double elimination, turn the lights on on Sunday evening type of thing.
DA: And do you remember your first step from the Baby Court over there? You mentioned Rochlen, do you remember your step over there?
PB Jr: It wasn’t until I was somewhere in high school and Peter Ehrman was the guy in our group that was looking at conversing with the Randy Shaws, the Jim Iams, Charlie Jenkins, Dave Shoji. He was better, a step above the rest of us in his skill, in his commitment and devotion to the game. So he was kind of already starting. He’d say, hey, come on, let’s go play. And I remember thinking that there wasn’t a whole lot of success for me over there. I could have more success on the Baby Court. Maybe it was because I couldn’t hit at that time, there were a lot of shots or whatnot so it was like haltingly that I was over there between my sophomore and junior summers. And somewhere between summer in my junior year and in the summer of my senior year, I played a lot more over there and felt like I had a little bit more of a presence. Or I guess maybe you could say confidence. But he (Ehrman) was always, come on, let’s play over here, this place. All right, you know.
DA: Well, let’s talk a little bit about indoor (volleyball) for you, as we’re talking about the beach. You had a crew of guys, were you representing Outrigger Canoe Club on the mainland as an indoor team also during that time?
PB Jr: No, there was no club volleyball presence when we were kids growing up. None. Between my sophomore and junior years, no, it was the summer of my sophomore year Dave Shoji formed this team that became a Hawaii team in the Pacific Rim Championships that was played in Vancouver, Canada. There was a team from the U.S. that was throw together, a team from Japan, a team from Korea, a Canadian team. There was maybe six, seven teams and we represented Hawaii. I remember we had these makeshift tank tops, you know, totally junk uniforms. Every one of the guys, his tank top ripped in the middle of the game. You looked like Tarzan and had to tape it up or wear the other color. We had a white and a red. But that was the first.
The only other club experience was when we graduated as seniors (Punahou 1977). Tony Crabb took a group of us, and we played in the Junior Olympics at Illinois Benedictine College in Chicago, and then we went on and played in a tournament in Canada, in Toronto. Then we traveled with a Pacific Rim team from Canada. We traveled about 500 miles, staying in houses and playing this team for about six nights. But that was it. There was no club experience per se.
It was barely started when I came back from college six years later. It was a fellow by the name of (Richard) “Longy” Okamoto, who started a volleyball club called Kamalii Volleyball Club and that became the club for a lot of the girls and boys. There was not these factions, and I think that it was a good thing, because the majority of the kids from Oahu and even Hawaii were there and they were competing against one another. It’s the place where Robyn Ah Mow cut her teeth. Her background kind of speaks for itself (UH star player and now head coach of the Wahine volleyball team).
DA: I remember that.
PB Jr: There was no club presence. There was a lot of beach volleyball and a lot of surfing. Indoor volleyball was something that those of us who wanted to play football but didn’t really have the size, became we didn’t want to get hurt, said let’s play volleyball or you could play water polo. But it was like, let’s play volleyball, let’s try the volleyball thing. So we played indoor volleyball and some of us played basketball. Or soccer, and then we surfed.
DA: Then hit the beach. So you and a bunch of other Outrigger members went off to Pepperdine after high school. Talk about that experience. How many of you guys went over? I know there was a national championship there. If there wasn’t a lot of club volleyball was that recruitment through Punahou?
PB Jr: It was through Punahou and word of mouth. There was the next generation of guys were still young enough and had a presence within the college game with the coaches. The coaches at that time were all the same demographic as Randy Shaw, Jim Iams, Chris McLachlin, Dave Shoji, Tom Madison and so there was a lot of word of mouth that they got out. It it was kind of more of that, and so on. Mark Rigg and Jay Anderson were the leaders that got recruited at Pepperdine and they went to Pepperdine. Scott Rigg followed them. I followed them after that. A fellow that I grew up with, Kilo Baird, was there. But then there were two other Hawaiians. one from Kamehameha and one from Kalani High School, a guy by the name of John Zabriskie who was an Outrigger member who as I remember was coached by Jon Stanley and I think he came up through some U.S. A. development programs that existed. But he was also there. So there were seven that were at Pepperdine on that team that when I was a freshman, we were able to win (the NCAA Championship) in 1978.
DA: Wow. How much pride was there? Just the way Hawaii people play volleyball, there is obviously a thread of Outrigger with most of those guys. How much pride did you guys take in that amount of Hawai’i people? Hawaii volleyball and Outrigger volleyball on that team?
PB Jr: At the time, I don’t think that there was a palpable kind of, yeah, we’re from Hawaii type thing. We knew each other, we were friends. We played UCLA in the finals and Peter Ehrman and Scott Rolles (also Outrigger members), who were some of our best friends growing up, were also on that team. So there were nine of us out of the 24 that were from Hawaii. It was kind of a normal thing. I don’t ever remember talking about where we were from Hawaii. It was a Hawaii-type thing. I think that came afterwards in more of a Junior Olympic type thing whether it was a Hawaii team and a California team when we were all kind of mixed together, it may have been a joking thing, as people do. But it wasn’t something that we looked at or talked about as we’re better, we’re from Hawaii, even though we may have internally thought that.
DA: We talked about this on the Baby Court. Do you see the difference between a Hawaii player and a Southern California player as a coach? Did you know Rigg Gadison, he plays like a Hawaii guy. Can you spot that? Or was it, you know, pretty similar to the Southern California kid and the Hawaii kid?
PB Jr: Absolutely. I think that and I don’t see it quite as much anymore, and I don’t have an answer as to why that is. But I think that style of play was something that evolved through the ages. I think it was present when we were growing up, but I think that Dave Shoji with his development of the UH Wahine, even when they were in their infancy, that was a hallmark of who they were. That there was this undersized scratch, claw. you couldn’t get a ball past them, that they were good on the floor. Their fundamentals were polished.
Sometimes they were undersized, they weren’t always undersized, but the undersized ones had a tenacity to them that just wouldn’t go away. I’m thinking of people like Mahina Eleneki, even Tita Ahuna (1987 NCAA Championship Rainbow Wahine Volleyball team members), was that way. Diana Jessie it’s like they may not have been recruited and they weren’t the tallest and the most. They didn’t look like these stand out, you know, kind of what you see today, volleyball players. But they were hands down the best in the nation at a given time because of the way they conducted themselves on a day in, day out basis. That was a hallmark that he (Shoji) developed.
He coached us when we were at Punahou, and so it was something that I understand from that presence, that’s who David is, and it was nurtured and kind of coddled and it was just kind of that way in those individuals like the Mahinas and the Titas who were on national championship teams on the national stage were phenomenal, at the highest level in the national championships Mahina was unbelievable. And if you look at her and I mean, she’s under six feet, jumps real well, very fundamentally sound and she played a great role and was a great teammate.
DA: I think one of my best memories of you, and I think we talked about this on the podcast about the Baby Court, was you playing against a women’s Olympic team at Punahou Gym. And I think it was three guys and three girls mixed together on your side against the women’s team. I think Allen Allen was one of them. I think you were there.
PB Jr: And Pedro Velasco.
DA: I didn’t remember. I was young. I just loved volleyball. It was a packed house. But I remember you in the back court and I was like, who is this guy? And you’re the embodiment probably of what Dave was looking for. Just that scrappiness, that passing, the tenacity going side to side. Can you tell us about that experience now? That, to me, was an amazing, amazing exhibition.
PB Jr: Ironically, I don’t remember too much about that match. I actually was friends with some of the the women who were on the other side. I remember being a little bit nervous and unsettled about the dynamics of the whole thing. Allen Allen was put on our team in the last couple of hours and looking back on it, I think that our team was probably not going to be very competitive and it wasn’t going to put on a show. And I remember him doing just that and being great. And so it did make it a competitive show, so to speak, because we had a Terminator. At the time, he was playing on the men’s national team. I don’t remember what limitations they placed on him or whatnot, but I remember it being fun. I don’t have any clue as to who won or what the outcome was.
I remember one play and one play only, and that was a long rally. We dug a ball and I was on the left front and I knew it was going to get a high set. And I knew the who was on the other side blocking was huge. It was bigger than any men’s team block I’d ever seen. And all I could think of was just jump as high as I could, reach as high as I could and hit it for the deepest part of the back corner. And I remember hitting it. I don’t remember if I closed my eyes, but I never saw the ball land because the block was so big. And I just remembered seeing the ref indicating that it was in and I was like, okay, I found the corner, but I had no clue where it ended up. I never saw it. I look back and think it was kind of weird, but it was fun.
DA: I remember you and I had a great experience. I don’t know if this was the mid-nineties or late-nineties. You, myself and Mike Kantor at the Wahine camp in the arena. The three of us versus the Wahine. And it was wild. There is maybe 500 to 600 campers. And it was just so much fun.
PB Jr: Well, and that was their studly team, too. That was Lily (Kahumoku).Who played opposite her? I want to say Teee (Williams), but it wasn’t Teee it was.
DA: Was it (Jamie) Houston?
PB Jr: It was before her. I remember thinking I was on the older side of things. I made sure that you and (Mike) Kantor hit most of the balls and stuff. I remember being out of breath and just trying to survive and not embarrass myself. The kids had fun and we had fun. I just I remember that was a great day.
DA: I was talking to Alan (Lau) before I came in and I told him I was interviewing Alika (Williams) today and Peter, he goes, oh, you know, Peter’s perfect. He knows the past. You’ve seen the past and you mentioned a lot of those guys, and he said, he also coached, and he knows kind of that next generation. Lets talk a little bit about when you came back from college. I know when I was playing at University High you were coaching at Punahou. Why don’t you talk about the next generation of Outrigger guys? Now we’re talking about having a little bit of a club here now. Yeah, a boys club, maybe talking about those guys. Are we talking about (Lee) LeGrand and (Stevie) Li? Talk about that.
PB Jr: So when I came back (from college–1984), I was coaching with Chris McLachlin at Punahou, and I had not kept in touch with the younger guys coming up. I knew both Matt Rigg and Doug Rigg because I was close with the family because of being here and I had actually coached at Pepperdine with Marv (Dunphy) and the men’s team, and Matt was one of the recruits. I took Matt around. We surfed at Point Dume which is just north of Malibu on his visit. And when I came back, Dougie was a senior that year and so I coached him. So he had Dougie and David Look and the McInerny brothers, Danny, McInerny and then eventually Tony McInerny and David Porteous. David Stackhouse was a part of those groups. And at that time there still was no club thing. I said, Hey Chris (McLachlin), we’re going to do a club team. And so I took over and kind of spearheaded the Outrigger program.
DA: So what year was that when they formalized that.
PB Jr: It would have been like the summer of 1984. We started with David Stackhouse and Danny Mc (Inerny) and Tony McInerny and David Porteus. Stevie Li was the younger side, and Kanoa Ostrem, those guys were kind of coming out a couple of years younger.
DA: Did you have a couple of teams or just one team like an 18 or 16?
PB Jr: It was only one team. It was just the eighteens at that time. It was the older group and there were more guys that fell into that category. The Junior Olympics were not so segmented as they are now. Now they’ve got a 12, 13, 14. At the time I believe it was 12, 14, 16 to 18, right?
DA: It skipped a year.
PB Jr: Now it’s huge. They (Junior Olympics) have one in every in every age group. So it was more of the 18s less of the 16s. Early on we didn’t have too many kids that were not Punahou kids. And so it was kind of a self-serving type of a situation. As the years progressed, we got people like Laya Clarke, who played at Iolani, Kanoe Winchester also played at Iolani and there was another kid, Allen Pang. Brad Stewart University High. And then there was one other who came with Brad. Maybe it was Brad and Kanoe Winchester were about the same age.
Those guys came in and started to offer a different kind of flavor here that was more of kind of an indoor flavor. It was less of the beach, and it was nothing against those guys. It was where they learned the game of volleyball. They were predominantly basketball players that learned to play volleyball in preparation for their basketball and that’s how some of the Punahou guys were too. They started as basketball guys and became volleyball because volleyball was played at the time in the fall and basketball then followed it.
And so Kevin Wong was the recipient of that. Even Mike Lambert was more of a basketball guy first and then start playing the indoor games so we did the club thing. We were mediocre. We did OK. We were kind of the top six, I think. You know, here and there and the better that Kamalii got, then they started having a presence as well. Larsen Villiama was one of the the the guys that helped them become better in the 18s open who then went on and played at UH and whatnot. It became a pretty good program in the club level. I think what was different then was that “Longy” was very much in tune with, and I think he was a champion of this, providing for people to play.
Even us here, I don’t think that we reached out to others in a way that we could have. And I think that it was because we had enough. We had more than enough. We didn’t need more bodies. We knew that it was difficult to get members in. There wasn’t the special athletic membership at the time that has kind of eased that or sped up the membership process, so we were a little bit self-serving. I think that “Longy” was very good at being a place where the community could learn the game and could play the game and it wasn’t about him doing it as a profession and in making ends meet for his family, so to speak. He did it because he loved the game. And he wanted other people to love the game. And I heard after the fact, that a lot of those kids say they couldn’t even pay the dues and that didn’t matter to him. You know, if you wanted to play and you loved the game, he provided a place for you and we don’t have that now. And I think that’s a bummer, that something that was lost with him.
DA: Yeah, well, he was incredible when I was at University High. I think Kelly Baker, Rohyn Ah Mow, there was just an incredible. . .
PB Jr: Kelly Baker was quite frankly, she was one of the best volleyball players. I mean, she had put her in the category of one of the best volleyball players that I ever saw.
DA: Yeah, I agree.
PB Jr: That’s people like Pete Velasco, Daddy Haine, Karch Kiraly, Misty May. To me, Kelly Baker, just raw volleyball talent was phenomenal.
DA: She was she was amazing. If we kind of fast forward a little bit we can include some people that are contemporaries to the time period we’re talking about. But how does it make you feel when you see Stein (Metzger) going to the Olympics and then now like the the current crop of people where it’s Kawika (Shoji), Erik (Shoji), we have Tri (Bourne) and Taylor (Crabb), I mean, how does that make you feel? You started before there was even an indoor, even formalized volleyball here at Outrigger and now producing people on the world stage that are thriving.
PB Jr: I feel proud. You asked me about the Hawaii connection. I feel proud that those guys are from Hawaii, that they grew up here at the Outrigger. That they carry themselves in a way that is exemplary. They’re carrying the torch that was handed down from Daddy Haine, Dave Shoji. I think that they’ll continue to represent Outrigger, Hawaii volleyball, their families, everything that they stand for. They’re doing it on a stage that is, in some cases, I mean, you look at Erik Shoji is the best in the world at his position. The others are Taylor Crabb, Tri Bourns, Trevor Crabb. You know, they’re in the conversation of best in the world based on how they perform at a tournament.
I can’t help but feel proud of them and the opportunities that were there, that they took advantage of and made themselves better. I don’t see it as because of me. I was just another one along the journey that did what I was supposed to do so that they can perform to the best of their abilities, and hopefully there’s another group of individuals that will see and respond to the opportunities that they have and be the next ones along the line. That’s how I look at it.
I couldn’t be happier for those guys, you know, especially when you look at a guy like Tri Bourne who as a senior from AOP (Academy of Pacific) was not allowed to play in the state tournament because of some sort of rule of you couldn’t have more than or you had to have only kids from one school. It was a ridiculous rule. And yet? He was as sweaty and as much of a participant on the bench. I remember watching him, the trials and tribulations that he went on to endure to be an Olympian this past year.
You know, to me, that’s the kind of thing that goes back to the Mahina Elenekis and that thing that Dave Shoji, that I talk about a Hawaii player having. You asked me about that was so can you see it. It’s like, yeah, I can see it, you know, Tri Bourne’s an example of that. Kawika Shoji is an example of that. You know, Erik Shoji, Taylor Crabb, Trevor Crabb. People want to talk about Trevor Crabb. Here’s a guy that was a basketball player, he decided not to play volleyball in high school. He didn’t play indoors and he dabbled in the outdoors with his buddies, with Brad Lawson and Tri and the Baby Court. Played basketball in college and then in the fall of his Freshman year decided I’m going to go play college volleyball. And transfers and goes and plays on their collegiate team. I don’t know how good he was but that can’t happen from a guy not from Hawaii. Not exposed to these. And now he’s one of the best in the world. You know, so. It is amazing. You know, it is amazing.
DA: One million people live on this island and you know five of the Olympians from men’s Olympics where we’re from the Club.
PB Jr: Yeah.
DA: It’s amazing. So I think the members want to know what Outrigger volleyball means to you? What does it mean to Peter Balding?
PB Jr: I think it was a place to play. I’m thinking about the courts. You know, from the infancy of the of the three beach courts up there that it was my playground. It was all of our playground. You know that in the ocean up front, it was where people think of playgrounds now as structures. We competed up there. We learned to grovel up there, we learned to get sandy, so to speak.
I think in life you have to be willing to get sandy, and yes, that’s a beach volleyball metaphor. But I think that if you haven’t gotten sandy, then you haven’t played it in the way it’s supposed to be played. That you haven’t committed to making sure that the ball didn’t hit the sand and I think that there is a metaphor for that, that I learned to adapt to. What my mom and dad were teaching me.
And it was a place that you could fail and still be OK. It was a place that you could try new things and it was still OK. It was a place that we could play without our parents. And it was safe and it was nurturing and we could play with our buddies. Or not. And it provided me with an with an opportunity to travel to countries in the world. I went to college. I was able to come back and teach because of it. And it basically started me in and provided a life for me and my family.
I’m not sure many people have that in their life today. And I think it’s a bummer. We are so focused on what things are not and the negative side of things. And we operate in fear of a lot of things in our society. The volleyball courts were the antithesis of that for me. I think that it helped me to be who I am and what I value. I just hope and pray that other kids today have someplace like that that they can look back on favorably and say, that’s the reason that I have a job. That’s the reason that I have the friends that I have. That I married my wife (Mary) and the two kids (Elizabeth Balding and Peter Balding III, “Trey”) that I have. I can look back on everything in that regard and the mentors that I had. It’s a very special place and I’m so grateful for the place, but also the time and era that I grew up in because it provided my playground.
DA: I don’t know if we could end it any better. That was awesome. Thank you, Peter.
PB Jr: You’re welcome.
Service to the Outrigger Canoe Club
Admissions and Membership Committee
1984 OCC Boys 18
1985 OCC Boys 18
1986 OCC Boys 18
1987 4th Place, OCC Boys, USAV Junior National Championships
1988 9th Place, OCC Junior Boys, USAV Junior National Championships
1989 7th Place, OCC Junior Men, USAV Junior National Championships
2001 2nd Place, OCC Boys 18, USAV Junior National Championships
1976 1st Place, OCC Junior-Senior 2-Man Tournament with Randy Shaw
1977 3rd Place, OCC Boys, USAV Junior National Championships
1977 1st Place, OCC Club Championships, Men’s B Doubles with Marc Haine
1979 2nd Place, OCC Open Men, USAV National Championships
1984 2nd Place, OCC Open Men, USAV National Championships
1985 1st Place, OCC Open Men, Haili Volleyball Tournament, All-Tournament
2005 2nd Place, OCC Masters Men 45, USAV National Championships, All-American
1972 1st Place, OCC Boys 12B, Kaupiko Regatta
1978 1st Place, OCC Boys 18, OHCRA Championships
1984 1st Place, OCC Freshmen Men, Pop Waialeale Regatta
2005 1st Place, OCC Men Novice A, Waimanalo Regatta