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.
An Interview by J. Ward Russell
July 1, 1996
JWR: This is July 1, 1996, I am Ward Russell (JWR), a member of the Outrigger Canoe Club’s Historical Committee. Our committee, for some time now, has been conducting a program of oral histories of the prominent members of our Club. Today I have the privilege and pleasure of interviewing Ron Sorrell (RGS), who was President of the Club in 1979-1980. We are in the Club’s Boardroom on a very beautiful summer morning. Good morning, Ron.
RGS: Good morning, it is my pleasure to be here with you, Ward.
JWR: Nice to have you.
RGS: I feel I should be interviewing you, you are the legend.
JWR: (Laugh) Thank you, thank you. We are getting off to a good start, aren’t we? I’d like to take just a few minutes to briefly review your personal background – your educational background, your business and professional career, and then if time permits we might talk a little about the Outrigger Canoe Club.
RGS: I don’t know how we can avoid it, since my life involves the Outrigger Canoe Club.
JWR: OK. Where were you born?
RGS: I was born in Vancouver, Washington, and I remember obviously nothing about it because I came here at an early age. My mother and father had separated, divorced, oh, a couple of years after I was born, and I spent some time in a system, very much like the Kamehameha Schools, in Portland, Oregon. I had a little brother who came along and my mother could only take care of one baby, and my father was working in Portland. We had American Indian blood, so there was a children’s home, like Kamehameha Schools if you have so much blood the government paid part of the tab, so I grew up in that home for a while – a couple of years…
JWR: What was the quantum blood? You and Jack Eagle are our two part-Indian members.
RGS: We really don’t know. I remember growing up my aunt being called a half-breed, which she didn’t like. In those days, and maybe still so in some parts of the country the Indian blood was a no-no. In fact, the reason we had trouble defining the amount of blood from my mother’s side is, she was a Canadian born citizen – her sister was the aunt I heard called half-breed, destroyed all of the records that showed that she had Indian blood, because of the embarrassment of it, I presume, so I came here about the age of six or seven just before the War broke out. In fact, it is somewhat interesting, Billy Fink and I spent the morning of December 7 (1941) on Waikiki Beach in front of what is now the Halekulani. Billy lived on Beach Walk and I lived on Beach Walk, we both spent the morning there after the fact, and all we saw was black smoke. We were checking out the surf, that is what we were doing. Anyway, Billy had already lost his arm and we had comic books and a yo-yo.
Anyway, I spent some time in a children’s home, basically an orphanage, but because of the blood line, which apparently somebody proved, I understand most of the tab was picked up. Since then, of course, I have tried to check the line – the blood line – and found that we are registered. I am registered on the BIA – Bureau of Indian Affairs – on my father’s side, both my mother and father were biologically Sioux. My father was Mdewakanton, he was actually born in Minnesota, and on my mother’s side we find she was Hunkpapa Sioux, which was Sitting Bull when he went up to Canada; so we’ve got those two tribes, same Nation, but we don’t know the depth of my mother’s side, because I hired some Mormons who were very big in genealogy to try and trace it when I was up skiing at Salt Lake for a couple of years, and they got stonewalled up in Canada, because Canada does not have a census every ten years like we do. So they couldn’t penetrate it on the Indian side, so we don’t know how much is there — blood line wise.
JWR: That is interesting. You’ve got the bluest eyes of anyone I have ever seen.
RGS: I know. I used to go to our meetings – tribal meetings here – and about 80% of the people here were blue-eyed.
JWR: That’s interesting.
RGS: There were a few brown eyes, two ladies still spoke their native tongue, which is Cherokee, but a lot of blue eyes.
JWR: What did your father do?
RGS: Dad came over here in the thirties as an importer-exporter, which was an ideal location at the time. He did a lot of work with Southeast Asia and Japan – Japan was making junk and he was bringing that in and during the War he switched to floor wax. He was a good PR man and he would wine and dine all the admirals and generals. We had a house on Kahala Avenue, and he would bring those guys out there and he’d get orders from them, thousands of barrels of floor wax they didn’t need. They waxed the hangers, they waxed everything (Laugh) to make use of it. He did well on that, then he got really buried in the 1949 shipping strike.
JWR: When did you say?
RGS: It was in the thirties, about ’37-’38, I showed up in ’39.
JWR: Were you with him?
RGS: Yeah, with him here in ’39. We lived out on Kahala Avenue in 1944 where I grew up. 4476 Kahala Avenue. We had a good group on Hunakai and Aukai and Kahala Avenue.
JWR: Where did you go to school?
RGS: I went to Punahou. I was in Punalou from seventh grade on. Graduated in ’51, and then wasn’t sure where I was going to go, but ended up at Purdue University at LaFayette, Indiana – they had a special course. SMU, Texas and Purdue offered finance courses, they started new courses and they were just a couple of years old, so I went to Purdue University, graduated in ’55 and a half, actually, because I was a February graduate. I had a GI Bill at that time and came home and worked for an insurance company as their estate planner. I found I was doing pretty well in the financial area advising people what to do within their estate planning, a lot of them had portfolios. I was making some recommendations and somebody said I should be doing something along that line – apparently I was luckier than their broker, so I went to join a firm called Schwabacher which was out of San Francisco, and that was the third New York firm here; there was Walston, Dean Witter and Schwabacher. Then I went back and got trained on Wall Street, attended the New York Institute of Finance. I started off in college in pre-law until I got drafted and I changed when I came out; since I had an interest in taxes, I attended the Research and Review tax school in Chicago, and then came back home working for Schwabacher and made a couple of moves after that – spent ten years I think at Schwabacher – and went on to work at Walston & Company, and subsequently had managed a couple of brokerage firms, and that’s been my background; finance and financial estate planning.
JWR: You mentioned your service career. How long were you in the service?
RGS: Two years to the day.
JWR: What branch?
RGS: Army. They got me right between my college transfer, so you get an exemption, but they caught me right between one semester and another at the University of Hawaii. I thought I was going to go on but they said, ‘No, come on in’ – December, 1952.
JWR: You had the benefit of the GI Bill, then.
RGS: Yeah, $110; it was a life-saver, too. It took a while to kick in, but then it was just wonderful.
JWR: Did you have any brothers or sisters?
RGS: I had a full brother, who was raised by mother and still lives on the Mainland. He came here for one year that was it. So, it was just myself and the brother who … we were not very close because I never see him.
JWR: You mentioned Punahou Class of ’51.
JWR: When you were at Punahou did you participate in any athletic activities?
RGS: I did everything until the surf came up. I think I lettered in one or two sports and I got kicked off more teams than anybody I know because the surf was calling. I’d go to football practice in the summer, but the surf was up, so I’d just barely make the team. I always played end. I had good hands and could catch anything within ten or 20 yards in my area, but surf came first.
JWR: Now, you mention surf, were you a member of the Outrigger Canoe Club at that time.
RGS: Yes. Actually, my Dad joined in the late thirties. I remember him bringing me into the Outrigger Canoe Club from Beach Walk, we walked down the Wall there and came to the Outrigger Canoe Club in 1939. He said would you like to join this Club? Well, I had no idea what I was looking at, we came from the makai side, I said, “Sure”. So I joined in late 1939 or 1940, and then, of course, we lost all the records so the records now reflect that I joined in ’45, like many of us.
JWR: We lost quite a number of the records when we moved from the old place to here.
RGS: So, officially, it is 1945, but I remember telling my Dad in 1939 or ’40 before the War, “Yeah, I’d like to join” and I remember going down there and surfing.
JWR: You started surfing in ’39.
JWR: Had you surfed before on the Mainland or any other place? You started right here?
RGS: Started right here. I remember it clearly. I’ll never forget, the first time I made a board turn, that I wanted to turn on – you know when you start learning, you go where the board wants to go. I remember how excited I was, I was with Bobby Cooper, who lived out on Aukai near my house, he was on a hollow and I was on my plank and I remember yelling, “I turned, I turned”. That was the first great hook.
JWR: Did you have that surprise face when you first stood up?
RGS: Oh, yeah. Well, it was, stand up, fall down, stand up, fall down and swim for the plank.
JWR: What kind of board were you surfing on then?
RGS: I was borrowing a redwood plank at the time. Well, I didn’t have a surfing locker and so I remember borrowing Chuck Schrader’s plank, Bobby Witham’s plank, occasionally Charlie Martin’s plank and then I graduated to hollows. Of course the progress was from hollows to the balsa redwoods and so on.
JWR: Did you have the big hollow boards?
RGS: Oh, yeah. I had them. I had one, I had two my Dad had bought me – and stupidly, absolutely stupidly – I left them in our surfboard lockers when we moved from the Club site to here. They were getting old, and they were getting passé, they were made of mahogany. They were beautiful. One said “Splash” on it, but it wasn’t named after Splash Lyons. It was an 18-foot hollow, of course they both had the plugs, and I had a 14-foot hollow that was lighter and I remember surfing Makaha on both those hollows and of course you unscrewed the plug to let the water out and when you went over a wave you had to turn sideways on a hollow so it wouldn’t crack. Those things would be priceless today.
JWR: I remember my hollow board. When I put it in the water it weighed 100 pounds, when I’d take it out it weighed 200 pounds!
RGS: Full of little pukas?
RGS: Carry it out on your shoulders.
JWR: Yeah. Where else did you surf? You mentioned Haleiwa……
RGS: I surfed Makaha quite often, back in the late forties – that was with the hollow. And then I had a fellow Punahou buddy of mine, Bill Goodheart, who is now a doctor and, of course, a member. We used to go out there on Friday night, spend the weekend surfing out there and just put our hollow boards up to block the trade winds and sleep on the makai side and lived through it – nobody bothered us.
JWR: Where did you get your boards from, did you….?
RGS: I didn’t select the first boards. I didn’t start making my own selections until after the holidays….
JWR: You made your own boards?
RGS: Well, no, my dad had bought them. My dad was buddies with all the beach boys, in fact the beach boys virtually grew up at our house in Kahala. During the War when my dad was entertaining the admirals and generals, wining and dining them, he would bring all the beach boys down to entertain them. The outcome was they would fall sleep in bed, passed out! Anyway, he would buy boards through their connections, these hollows, and then when the balsa-redwood came in it was like the Ferrari of surfing. It was fantastic to get something that light that you could put on your shoulder and carry it out. Then the balsa came in and then I really got into, er, I don’t design them, but I had some California friends who got them for me – California was big in designing.
JWR: I built a number of boards. I had four or five boards. I started off with balsa, then came the foam blanks which I shaped and fiber-glassed.
RGS: Oh, yeah?
JWR: I built them in the garage at the Pacific Club; I lived there for 16 years.
RGS: You built them there?
RGS: Good for you.
JWR: That was …..
RGS: That was the balsa? I never shaped them, Fred Noa and I used to ….. Somebody would shape and glass it, and we would wet-dry it down and then simonize it so it just looked like mirrors. A lot of fun.
JWR: What was your favorite surfing spot?
RGS: It has always probably been Canoes, and to this day, you know, Waikiki at the old Club site is still the best surf site. Unfortunately, down here we trade off – we don’t have the lumber yard they have in Waikiki, but we have surf and that is almost as good as Waikiki. Another favorite place, you know how surfing sites are named, was called Threes, Number Threes, and it was called Threes because it was the third break down from Populars.
JWR: OK, now, for the record, you mentioned surfing sites, Cunha was where?
RGS: Cunha was between Publics and Queen’s.
JWR: And where was Publics?
RGS: It would be off the wall, to the back left of Kapahulu Wall, and behind that is Castles, and then of course we come into Old Man’s and No Place and Tonggs going toward Diamond Head.
JWR: The one right in front of the Club is….?
RGS: Old Man’s and No Place.
RGS: OK, there are two, on the right of the channel is called No Place – nice name – and to the left is Old Man’s.
JWR: On the right is called ….?
RGS: No Place, it’s rocky and is called No Place…
JWR: The reason I am asking you these questions is this, in the past I have conducted many interviews where I assumed that everybody knew where these places were, and I was criticized for not asking the interviewees to describe them. So now, going towards Diamond Head we have …..
RGS: We have a place behind – OK to the left of the channel we have Old Man’s, to the back of Old Man’s is a place called Rice Bowl, and then you go into a bunch of Tonggs (in front of Rudy Tongg’s residence), different types of Tonggs surfing areas. I don’t know the names – the kids have names that go along right to the Diamond Head surfing area.
JWR: When I was surfing, we didn’t have all those names. There are some really good spots beyond Diamond Head.
RGS: Yeah, Diamond Head itself is great. It is consistent. Beyond Diamond Head you’ve got Kaiko, which is good, and from Kaiko you get to Black Point and then of course there is Kahala from that point on.
JWR: Then from the Club on the Ewa side ….
RGS: OK, on the Ewa side, first you’ve got No Place, and back of No Place when there is a good south swell is Castles, and then Castles ties into Publics, and Publics will connect with Cunha’s which only breaks in a big south well, opposite to the Kapahulu Wall, and then you go on to Queens, Canoes and back outside, off the Royal is Populars and then, they now have two names there, but we call it Number Three, it was the third break down and then you get to Hawaiian Village and they’ve got a couple of surfs down there which have subsequently been named, before you get to Ala Moana bowl and the garbage chute and that sort of stuff. Number Threes was good, it was a fabulous ride, it was like Queens, except it did not have as many people in it. It didn’t have as long an arm as Queens on the right slide, but it was fast – we spent a lot of time there.
JWR: You missed one!
RGS: I’m sure I did.
JWR: (Laugh) What about right out in front of the old Club – Blowhole.
RGS: Oh, Blowhole. Big days, yeah. Blowhole and Steamer Lane…..
JWR: Oh, yeah.
RGS: Which unfortunately has gone.
JWR: First Break.
RGS: First Break – you don’t see that any more, unfortunately. Those were beautiful.
JWR: Who were some of the principal surfers you surfed with?
RGS: When I was a youngster I surfed with Bobby Cooper a lot, and then at Punahou we’d get up before school and surf at 5:30 and I had Archie Kaaua, Bill Goodheart and myself. We’d get up at five, go surfing at 5:30 and then after about 7:15 we’d take a hot shower, go to Stewart’s Pharmacy across the street for French toast and we’d get to Punahou on time at five to eight. By twenty after eight we’d go to the nurses room (Laugh) and say we were sick, and sleep. After all when the surf got kind of chilly out there, the trade winds were blowing, with a beautiful big surf, and you are all alone, and then a hot shower and a big meal, it was hard to keep from falling asleep!
JWR: Did this affect your scholastic grades…..
RGS: No, not at all.
JWR: Did you participate in other sports at the Club?
RGS: I did everything. I started paddling canoes when I was 14, 14 or 13, and paddled every seat and every age group, from the first age group, then the junior fours, seniors, senior masters, and all that, so I paddled around – I want to guess – 25 years….
JWR: 25 years!
RGS: Volleyball for …. damned near 35 years.
JWR: Oh, my!
RGS: These were the two big sports we had – surfing and sand volleyball, which later grew into hard court volleyball. So those are just natural things, you didn’t train for them, you did them because they were there and they were fun.
JWR: You are a walking encyclopedia regarding all the people who played volleyball!
RGS: Oh god, yeah, I can remember them all. Yeah, we had – in fact there were five or six haole guys who grew up on the beach that the beach boys – not the Chick Daniels, Panama and Sally Hale group – but the beach boys down at Kuhio who usually gave outsiders a rough time and all that kind of stuff. They allowed five or six haole guys to surf right next to them and we never felt uncomfortable and we were friends; that was myself, Peter Balding, Tommy Schroeder, Paul Dolan, Charley Martin, and Bobby Witham who went back to the Mainland in 1949. We were good, and weren’t hogs and we knew how to surf.
JWR: Were you ever a steersman?
RGS: Only a couple of races, this was as a back-up.
JWR: How about canoe surfing?
RGS: Oh, yeah – yeah. I still take the four-man out every now and then. Tourists come in or something like that. I’ll take them to Tonggs….
JWR: I remember David Kahanamoku used to go out all the time to Tonggs….
RGS: Yeah, yeah, surf fishing.
JWR: He’d go out and fish all day long. He and I used to go out together once in a while.
RGS: Just go out and anchor the canoe off somewhere?
RGS: I see somebody is doing it now – oh, Henry, Henry Ayau. He goes out a lot. I understand he lost a canoe there recently too. It blew away!
RGS: It blew away. I’d hate to see his bill this month!
JWR: Tell me about the beach boys that you remember.
RGS: They became – they were part of the family, the wining and dining my father did, every weekend. These guys would be out dancing, drinking. You see my dad provided the booze that was the attraction. Right? Then the admirals and generals came out to experience Hawaiiana, big deal; they’d never been wined and dined like this in somebody’s residence. They really enjoyed the beach boys dancing the hula and playing music all night.
JWR: Where exactly was your home?
RGS: It was Kahala Avenue on the corner of Kala. In those days Aukai almost ended behind us. Aukai ended in that area. Now, of course it extends all the way through but at that time you would take a left on Kahala at Kala to get to the start of Aukai Avenue, if you wanted to go down Aukai heading towards Kokohead.
JWR: What did you do during the War as far as surfing was concerned?
RGS: Surfing was out, because after ’42, like many people they sent me back to the Mainland to live with my mother. So I stayed there in Portland from ’42 to ’45.
JWR: Oh, I see.
RGS: Days after the War stopped I was back home. Bingo! Those were three years I spent there.
JWR: What was your impression of the Club when you first joined?
RGS: The Club was not as important as the people who were in it. The friends I made were instantaneous and the beach boys were just part of the scenery. I still kick myself for never having had a picture taken with Duke. We frequently would swim together; we’d tease each other about the way you could make a loud noise, or a pop in the water with your hand, and we would challenge each other. His hands were so much bigger and he would always clean my whistles. One day when we were doing this Cline Mann listened to Duke and then me and then made a pop with his hand – it was just the people you grew up with you didn’t think of them as famous people, who subsequently went on to become legends – so the Club was just, er, it was home. I was very fortunate to have that as my home because after school, I was there. Every day after school, every weekend I was there. In fact there was one year in the fifties that I kept a surfing diary. At that time I was thinking that if the surf is up today, a year from now it would be up on that day again, so I arranged my work schedule so I could go surfing. Right? That was my logic. Bohemian as it is, and of course, most times July Fourth was always up. I could always count on July Fourth with a big swell, which we can’t now. So I kept this diary when the surf was up, where it was up, and I discovered that I had surfed about 300 days in that year. I was in the water at least that many times – it was mostly surfing. Of course, canoe racing took part of the time, but canoe racing events were not all over the State like they are now. It’s a good sport.
JWR: Any anecdotes that you can remember about Club members, experiences surfing…
RGS: There’s the Hau Terrace. We all looked forward to that age when we could go up to the bar at the top of the Hau Terrace, legally. I will always remember Panama Dave going up the stairs to the bar from the back of the Hau Terrace. It was on a weekend, I don’t know what the occasion was, but a bunch of us guys were there – Billy Cross, myself, Pat Wyman, and Panama came up the stairs and yelled, “What I drink, everybody drinks”. (Laugh) I thought, Hey, coming from Panama this is something and then he took one more step, and he said, “When I pay, everybody pays”. (Laugh)
JWR: I remember that.
RGS: Clear as a bell. I remember that short little guy going up there and getting our attention.
JWR: I’d forgotten all about it. (Laugh)
RGS: I got close to all those guys, of course, they were all fun. In fact I can remember running into them in California when California would have Trader Vic’s and Polynesian places when I was going to college in California. A bunch of us local guys would go out occasionally, we got homesick. I would run into Turkey Love and some of those guys because some lady gave them a ticket and said, “Come on over” you know the story that goes with those guys, so, I’d run into them occasionally….
JWR: We had some characters working for the Club during that period. Do you remember any of those?
RGS: Oh, Richard. Richard and Claire at the Snack Bar, they are legend. We grew up with them and they grew up with us. (Laugh) Richard claimed to be, what is now called gay. He wasn’t. But he used to scare the hell out of us saying he was gay. And then, there was Claire, who used to take a verbal beating from all of us kids, she had a nice manner. But Richard, for my age group, will always be a legend. We became pretty close because he used to have a couple of us come to his home on New Year’s Day – big Japanese meal. Invite us up, and there was Choy, who could hardly speak English, and of course Sally Hale and all the group on the beach. Anzai, of course. Famous Anzai (the bartender).
JWR: Anzai’s banzaisl (A very potent three-rum and fruit juice concoction).
RGS: Yes. We used to spend a lot of time on the terrace, I don’t know all the waiters in that part of the Club, but I sure remember the famous rice and gravy. That was super.
JWR: Remember Del?
RGS: Sure thing, Del.
JWR: Sometimes we’d call him ‘Admiral‘ or ‘Nimitz’!
RGS: Nimitz. Used to work for the Admiral, right?
RGS: Little short, nice pleasant guy.
JWR: I remember when I used to order a Rob Roy, he would go to the bartender and say, “One Lob Loy”. (Laugh)
RGS: He had a nice accent – he was just over five feet tall. I remember Del – that’s a good name. In those days, of course, our lives revolved around the snack bar – not the bar, the terrace or the dining room. So we’d see the beach boys at the snack bar, people we were closest to…..
JWR: What about the managers that we had.
RGS: You know Gay Harris threw me out once because Ralph McGookin threw me a football and it went way above my head and it broke the window of the Manager’s office – that’s the only time I’ve been expelled, when Ralph McGookin threw that football through the window, Gay came out and expelled me for a week.
RGS: Then there was (Ted) McGill. He was manager on two occasions…..
JWR: What are your recollections of Pop Ford?
RGS: Very little. I just recall him vaguely. I was very young…..
JWR: What about Charlie Amalu?
RGS: Yes, Charlie. Went to Charlie’s house down at Diamond Head. We used to surf off Diamond Head – we’d get into a car and go down to Diamond Head and we’d go down around the corner, down by Charlie Amalu’s house, we’d hit Magoon’s property, hit Santos down there and Charlie’s place – and Charlie would let us use his yard to rinse off after we got through surfing. Yes, Charlie was a good old boy. He was pleasant.
JWR: He was quite an institution. What do you recall of the management of the Club? Did you serve on any committees?
RGS: I started off … I went right to Club Captain.
JWR: You were Club Captain?
RGS: Yes, Club Captain for quite a few years, because I remember the annual meetings upstairs in the dining room, and the paranoia I had at that time having to stand in front of a crowd and give my report. That became routine, but yeah, I was Club Captain for quite a few years … We, as junior members, used to get thrown off the volleyball courts by the senior members because they felt they were entitled to that, and the junior members were getting pretty good. We had some pretty good junior volleyball players and we used to look forward to playing the senior members but usually they’d rather not play with us. However, the Dolan brothers wanted to play, Arnott and all those guys, so we had the other court. So when I was Club Captain I initiated, with Board approval, a thing called ‘Working associate’ for junior members and associate members and others who qualified. If you were working in the summer and couldn’t get down to the Club until four or five, that classification entitled you to some volleyball status – sign up for the senior court and play on the senior court. So I initiated the ‘Working associate’ so the senior members couldn’t throw us off.
JWR: I never heard of that.
RGS: You didn’t? It worked. It gave us guys, associates which we became after age 18, a chance to play on the senior court against the senior members. If you were not a working associate, just associate, you had to play on the other court, which, if you recall somebody could yell ‘big game’ and you’re dead.
JWR: Is it like that now?
RGS: No. No.
JWR: No question they had to. They had two courts didn’t they, and a baby court?
RGS: The baby court was dominated by Brother Chase – one against one.
JWR: Do you remember – oh, what was his name? – the manager at the time of the wishing well …… Jake Tudor?
RGS: Tudor. Yes, I remember Jake, in fact when I got married in 1959 Jake loaned us his Cadillac – got married at Central Union Church and used his Cadillac to get from the Church to the Outrigger where we had the reception.
JWR: The one who really taught me a lot about the Club itself was Charles Hee.
RGS: Charles, yeah. He was family. Like a lot of us, he grew up in the Club; like Auntie Eva and Charles Hee. I remember – I am going to jump ahead to the Outrigger now, when I was President I once asked Charles, “Why don’t we have computers here, Charlie?” he laughed. He thought that was the funniest thing. I said, “Why Charlie?” He said every president comes into the office and wonders why we don’t have computers and wants to have them installed. I said, “How come we don’t have them?” He said, “Because you don’t have enough time, in one year”. I accepted that as a challenge, and my solution was, because I was not computer
literate, was to ….. remember the World War pictures of Uncle Sam with his hat and his finger pointing at you, ‘Uncle Sam wants you’…. I would call people who were members of the Club who were good with computers and say, ‘the Outrigger Canoe Club wants you’, and a couple with the big accounting firms were thrilled. So I formed an ad hoc committee of computer literate people, and we got going – I just cut through red tape, whatever they wanted, I cut through – in that year, we’ve had computers ever since. I remember that of Charlie before he retired.
JWR: I am glad we got into that, but before we go further about your presidency, what other committees did you serve on?
RGS: Club Captain was the longest, then I served on – not by choice – people would suddenly say, “Ron you are on the Entertainment Committee now”. At the old Club it was the Entertainment Committee, PR, and of course, always the Athletic Committee, it was really a non-functional committee. Once we moved here to the new Club site, then I pretty much served on just about everything.
JWR: When did you run for the Board?
RGS: I ran twice, I can’t remember the first time, I do remember we had six openings and I came in seventh, that was shortly after we moved down her in the sixties. And then I ran a second time in 1974 and was elected for my first two-year term. Came in number six. Two years later I was re-elected. I was in the middle of the pack. In the election of my last two-year term I was first in the pack and was elected president by the Board in 1979-1980. (Laugh) I slowly worked my way up – name recognition. I guess, came in to play.
JWR: You did an excellent job.
RGS: That was fun, I enjoyed that. We got a lot of thing accomplished that year.
JWR: Tell me, what were some of the highlights of your presidency?
RGS: Well, one was moving Ray Ludwig in.
JWR: Tell me about that.
RGS: We had, I think since I grew up with the Club — I have been very employee related – they were ohana – and when I was on the Board I kept getting a lot of negative feedback about the then manager. I worked with him, I liked him, but the employees were saying that improper things were going on. Bill Eggers was President of the Club at that time, and a good tough attorney, so he and I proceeded on doing an investigation by interviewing various employees. I took down notes, and interviewed a lot of them. Then we had a Board meeting off campus – we went to the Waikiki Library, we had a Special Board Meeting where we proceeded to inform the Board of our findings. There was a lot of unhappiness, things were missing around the Club, and so on, so actually the manager quit as the pressure became pretty strong, things were being found out. We did this in a normal procedure, we formed an ad hoc committee to look for somebody else to hire from all over the country.
JWR: Who was Chairman of the ad hoc committee?
RGS: I think Nick McDaniel, the Vice President at the time. So I had Nick chair, and then I had people from the Board and other members of the Club who had human resource personnel background to do the interviewing, and had them just bring us the finalists. And (Laugh) I talked to Ray Ludwig who was just a little flunkey downstairs in the Club, keeping track of inventory, and I interviewed him about some of the manager’s escapades that I had heard about, and I asked him questions, and he was stuck between a rock and a hard place because he wasn’t sure if he told me the truth that he’d be canned because they guy upstairs might not be canned, so he told me everything I wanted to know by his body language. He fidgeted and he fussed in his chair, and turned sideways and turned colors telling me, so I knew exactly what was going on in inventory. I asked him if he had ever considered running for the …. applying for the manager’s position to relax him. This was kind of a hot seat, but made him feel positive, and he said, “Oh, no, no, he wouldn’t do that”. Then two or three days later he came back and said, “I talked with my wife, and I think I’d like to put my name in”. I said “Well, that’s fine”. The ad hoc committee was going full blast just send in a memo, a resume, whatever – anyway he ended up being the choice because of his localism, that’s how that manager came along.
JWR: Were there other candidates for the job at the time?
RGS: Yeah, we got swamped, and there was one from Florida and two from California that we flew in to be interviewed. That’s when the Board got involved. We interviewed the three of them, two Mainland people. They were professionals, and the ad hoc recommendation was not the two Mainland people, because they had no local experience other than a trip or two here, and that was the deciding factor for the decision we made.
JWR: I was talking to Ben Cassiday the other day about the amalgamation of the Outrigger Foundation with the Duke Kahanamoku, were you involved in that?
RGS: The Outrigger Foundation was my baby. I spent twenty years trying to put that puppy together. It started at the old Club, when as volleyball players we would need funds to get to the Mainland, and as I said earlier, I had a tax background, but I couldn’t find a section of the law that would allow people to make contributions to the volleyball trips and deduct it. So we had to beg, borrow and steal, sell sweetbread and Portuguese sausage and all that. We had to sell something in order to get the money and there was no deductibility. And we moved the Club down here and that had always bothered me and one day I was talking with Jeff Kissel, and Jeff – I have to give him credit – he gave me section of the law. It was so obvious, it was right in front of my face. It’s 501(c)3 and the reason I kicked myself so hard is that at the time I was the financial consultant for Bishop Estate, the Trustees, and they are 501(c)3, I said, I’ll be darned! So, in 1968 with that I started to get serious again, then I talked to – first started with Bill Eggers, who is a lawyer, and we didn’t have any budget because nobody believed in the concept, and I was biased at the time. My purpose was to put together a fund raiser on a tax deductible basis to benefit the Outrigger Canoe Club. Period. And, so Bill and I worked on this for a long time – we had various names and so forth and so on – and then Bill got disinterested and had to do other things, so I talked to Denny O’Connor, he said, “Oh, sure, I’d be glad to help you”. W-e-l-l Dennis was not as helpful as he said he was going to be.
JWR: Involved in politics. (Laugh)
RGS: Yeah, and other things. He had big cases most times, and so I worked on it, and worked on it, and finally I noticed on the …. somebody mentioned a name who specialized in that part of the tax code…. I have forgotten the name – Art someone, worked with Dennis, was a partner with Dennis …. Oh, Art Reinwald! He had applied for Club membership and he was way down the list, because we had a long two or three year waiting list at the time. Anyway, I asked him, I said, “I will get Board approval, and get you a special membership so you can come into the Club now, but your name will remain where it is and work its way up the list and you will still have to go through the interviews, and the Board will post it. The Board can authorize this special membership, in exchange for you helping us form this Outrigger Foundation”. So he agreed. So now he started moving. He was good. We started doing IRS filings and the paper work and so on and along the way he pointed out that in order to get deductibility for the foundation it would have to provide funds to benefit the public. We had to benefit the general public, so I reluctantly had to give in on this because I needed the deductibility that section of the Code gave. So, OK, we will give funds to the public also, and my compromise was easy because we, as a Club, sponsored a lot of public things. For example, this Thursday we have July Fourth. The Walter Mac (Macfarlane) Regatta is a public one, and that might cost $5,000 – $10,000. We could have the Foundation and then give funds to the Walter Mac which is a public event and the Outrigger could save that amount within its budget. My hope was, let us say we got $5,000 from the Outrigger Foundation and that would give the Outrigger Club a savings of $5,000, and it could refunnel that back into the Club’s athletic program. That was my concept. And then, we got a proposal from the Duke Kahanamoku Foundation suggesting the merger as there was a similarity in our two philosophies. Ours was predominately athletics and theirs was educational scholarships. At the outset I favored the idea as we had only $64,000. We were cash poor. After a number of meetings and further study I recommended, and the Board approved a motion to merge the two and we became the Outrigger-Duke Kahanamoku Foundation. One of the problems was getting the Board members of the Duke Kahanamoku Foundation to realize that you can give money to the Outrigger Canoe Club; a section of the law says you can give 20% of the money direct into the hands of the Outrigger Canoe Club and not jeopardize your IRS standing. But they were so paranoid that the IRS wouldn’t approve giving anything to Outrigger. They felt it had to be to individuals. Even to this day, they could be giving more to the Outrigger than they do because of the paranoia of the service, which is not a legitimate fear. One of the things I always remember is sitting in this Board Room at the table licking stamps for two or three days – I remember Bill Capp came in and helped me, nobody who walked by the open door was called in to do the first mailing – the first mailing to the membership asking for contributions to the Outrigger Foundation at the time. I can remember doing that……
JWR: Let me ask you a question. When I interviewed Ben, he talked about the merger of two foundations but we never discussed all the details, but he paid many compliments to you for having put the Outrigger Foundation together and assisting with the merger. Am I correct?
RGS: That’s like him……
JWR: The reason I asked, I was one of the founding trustees of the DKF, and Tom Lalakea, who was our President, called me one day and said, “What about merging the two clubs?” and I said that sounds like a heck of a good idea. Ben was Club President at the time, and I called him and set up a meeting between Tom Lalakea, Ben, Cline Mann and myself and then they carried the ball.
RGS: Yeah, I was on the committee that pursued it initially, there was Cline, and myself, Monsignor Kekumanu and Ben and Tom and a couple of others.
JWR: Were there any other things of interest that happened during you time on the Board?
RGS: When I was Treasurer, I had a thing called ‘comeback’, in other words for the athletic teams if they submitted a budget to travel you had to come back at the end of the season and show us your track record, because I found that some teams said, “Oh, we’ve got a budget so we are going to travel”. So they wouldn’t practice. This thing called ‘comeback’ is still in use today apparently in the Board Language. Another thing involved the paddles that directors now get after serving on the Board. I noticed that everybody was getting only a nice Outrigger bronze plaque, so I thought since some people served two years, some four, some six, they should be honored accordingly, so I made a motion that passed and it is still in use today, that if you serve two years, you get a paddle with a big bronze logo on it; you serve four years, you get the silver one; and you serve all six, you get the gold. So that is why there are different colors…….
JWR: Oh, I never knew about that. You learn something new every interview. Getting back to the subject of managers, were you in on the selection of the change from Ray to our new manager?
RGS: No. That was Wendell Brooks. I had spoken to Wendell, just in confidence, that since I had been responsible for Ray’s hiring, maybe it was time for him to take care of any change and he was already in the process….. I just wanted to let Wendell know that he had my full support.
JWR: The time had come, I think.
RGS: Yes, it was a natural process.
JWR: And I think it was beneficial to Ray, he had that tremendous background experience in managing this Club and good recommendations for the next. It would serve him well, I think.
RGS: It broadened his experience. He lasted longer than anybody.
JWR: He was the longest manager we ever had.
RGS: One person I brought in as a special member also was Nick Klotz. Nick was the manager of the Third Floor, you recall the fancy restaurant. I noticed his name as on the Club’s waiting list, and – oh, this is a cute story, coming out of a Board meeting one night, walking into dinner with the Board members, Neal Ifversen said, “I don’t understand, how could the dining room be losing money?” And that struck me as kind of interesting – how the hell could that happen? I sat at Board meetings when management would say, well we only lost $62,000 in the dining room this year and people would applaud him. That’s a good point, so I started, and we did some accounting changes, and it was Neal Ifversen’s innocent remark, “How come we are losing money there?” So what I did, I offered the same program to Nick Klotz; I know you are on the waiting list, you will still stay there, but come on in and help us with our dining room problem. Help us set up, help us structure it, and he did. Very diligently, the cost of goods and so forth and so on, and he kind of changed the dining room balance sheet around to where we had it break even. That was our request. Don’t make a big profit off it, we want a fair price – at least break even. So that started changing the accounting system, the way we kept the books on the bar and the dining room.
JWR: Can you think of anything else under your presidency?
RGS: I’ll think of it at two o’clock in the morning! Nothing immediately comes to mind.
JWR: We can always have another ….. an addendum……
JWR: Of course, you had that wonderful experience at the old Club. Were you involved in any committee work during the move from the old Club to the new Club?
RGS: Oh, yeah. I was the one-man committee to design and reproduce the volleyball courts. We have the only sand courts in the country and on the second deck. It might change that now that sand volleyball is so popular, so I was a one-man committee to reproduce the courts. It was a struggle off and on because – I know you were one of the big granddaddies of that. I remember Cline was my immediate contact. They initially gave me enough space for one large court and a small court. I couldn’t duplicate two large courts and a small. So I battled – no, we have to have a small. I’ll give you the big one and we’ll have a small court, and was asked “Why a small one?” I said it goes back to where it all starts. That baby court was where we all learned to play. We’d go out there and we’d destroy each other. We’d call each other names and we’d hit, and that’s where the game started. If you can live through baby court spirit-wise, then you go up to the bigger court – you are going to be a great volleyball player. So I said I’ll give you one big one but I have to have a small one. Long story. I finally got two big courts, they gave me some parking stalls and then I got the small one, and I reversed the order – at the old Club the baby court was on the mauka side, this time it was on the makai side and then …….
JWR: It worked beautifully.
RGS: Yeah, it worked out nice. We had to pick the sand…. the sand was a difficult problem. It is designed so it is 21” at its deepest point and it has to be structured so the water seeps through the sand and comes down to drain. The Molokai sand was…. Molokai and Waianae was coarse sand, so I ended up trying all these different grades of sand. Cline Mann and I both worked in the Dillingham building at the time, I was with Schwabacher and he had his Dad’s practice upstairs, and I’d get together with him for lunch. We’d get these various little samples of sand, we’d put it on the paper and we’d rub it together, so I had to specially pick the sand because the coarse sand would look and feel like sandpaper between the toes. The Molokai sand was so light and powdery, it would retain the heat and it was hotter than hell. So I had to mix all these different sands from around the island to create the sand volleyball court. Then my battle was spectator seating. The original design had a bench going where it is now, just one bench and everybody could sit along the sidelines and watch the games. This was long before we knew the sun was killing us. Now we needed something else with shade. So there was a little battle going on and they gave me four parking stalls, which is now where the spectator seating is, but covered, except in the late afternoon, it still get hot there. And the other problem I had was the fence. I had a 20-foot high, I think 15 feet – 18 feet, it wasn’t high enough. Some of these kids were hitting the ball so damned hard it was going over the top, so we had to raise it another five feet and then bring it in five feet, and that’s where it is today. So there were adjustments along the way there – there was just me. Pat Wyman had weight room – he was a one-man committee and I had the sand courts. It was kind of fun.
JWR: You know this is the first time there has been a detailed description of how the courts came into being. That raises a question, what do we do now if we have to replace the sand?
RGS: We do. In fact, tomorrow night we have a party – Wednesday night – to level the sand, because it builds up mounds. I saw a notice that Wednesday from five to nine or something, we’ll have a party to level the sand. We bring in the sand. At the same time we get City & County permission to replace some of our sand out on the beach. We bring a truck up top there and we roll the sand out. Where they are getting the sand from I don’t know, that would be the Volleyball Committee’s selection.
JWR: Of course that was a very important program and we were darned lucky to have somebody who devoted as much attention to that as you did.
RGS: You were the principal behind giving us the space. You people and Ossipoff. You gave us the space, you could have just cut that out, but you were generous enough to give us the space.
JWR: I remember!
RGS: You were one of the principals, you are to be thanked. We got the sand up there, and designed the courts. One thing I changed was at the old Club, you remember, the referee’s chair was solid steel and when that sun hit that steel, it was hot pants, so I changed three seats to Ford motor truck seats, and they are still up there and special high tech lighting instead of the big, big lights we had – it’s kind of high intensity type light but smaller in size, and we are still using the same anchors and everything we had before.
JWR: There were so many problems we had to solve.
RGS: Yeah, you guys were amazing.
JWR: I was so fortunate, I had such wonderful committee chairmen, and people like you who devoted so much time. I can remember during the construction period. Cline was chairman of the new Club Building Committee. Originally, he was on the Planning Committee and then I put him on the new Building Committee – the names that are on the plaque – that was the Building Committee….
JWR: …..We met every week for the entire construction period of the Club, sometimes two times a week with the contractor, with the architects, the inspectors to monitor the progress on the construction. We’d retire to the Colony Surf after our meetings for “light refreshment”.
RGS: It shows. It shows.
JWR: A lot of planning.
RGS: I knew the Club was going to be OK, because the fathers, we called you guys, were working…..
JWR: Cline was wonderful. He did a beautiful job. Well, now, let’s see, what else can you comment on?
RGS: Speaking of Cline, I remember – I asked Cline to design the court for the direction of the wind. I always teased Cline about this. He showed me how many days a year the wind was north by northeast, and so forth and so on, and that helped me set up some of the court structure, but what we didn’t know, and he didn’t know, is that when the wind hits the Colony Surf it becomes topographical which means that it comes straight down the volleyball courts, so at times when you are setting a volleyball, two things you have to….. One was the topographical wind, the ball goes real slow when you are setting it and then it hits that wind and goes straight down like a rock so you have to adjust for that timing we didn’t know about, and of course sometimes one court will blow back away from the net, and then the other court has a tendency to go over the net. So you have to learn the court structure for setting, on the court you have to set further back because the wind is going to carry it to the net, so the wind was a challenge. We never……
JWR: It’s a consideration when you change sides.
RGS: Yes, that’s what we had to do. It used to be we’d change at eight, and then they changed it to change at five, except tournaments. So everybody had a fair shot at it. so the wind was the one thing that we didn’t have control of.
JWR: Nobody ever mentioned that………
RGS: You’d have to be a player to really know that.
JWR: ……and nobody ever mentioned anything about the background of the Outrigger Foundation, and the merger between the two foundations until I interviewed Ben (Cassiday) and you.
RGS: Is that right?
JWR: He talked about the work you did in establishing the Outrigger Foundation and I wanted to get it on tape, so we’d have a good record of that.
RGS: One thing I have done, going back to the Foundation, as I said, I had to give up more than I wanted to give up to get the 501(c)3 deduction, I didn’t really want the Duke Foundation, but we needed money and it provided me with the public aspect. But it always hurt me that I hadn’t accomplished what I set out to do, which was to create a source of funding for the Outrigger athletic program that would always be there, so they wouldn’t have to beg, borrow and steal. Fortunately the Board has seen the light and made sure part of our budget goes towards that, so what I have done, and the members of the Foundation had talked to me about this, they didn’t like it, is that as a private member I have talked to a handful of wealthy individuals – I called them on the phone, and I said you don’t have to give me any response to this at all, but if, in reviewing your will or your trust in the future, would you please consider bequeathing some money to the Outrigger Canoe Club. It is not a deduction, it is a downright bequest, it does not change the Outrigger Canoe Club posture, and it doesn’t change our tax status as a Club. They can come right in, regardless how much it is; put this on your life insurance policy, it could be an outright donation, it could be an asset we could convert into cash, and I always said, “Don’t give me any answers, just please give it some thought”. So, I’ve got two out of those who said, “That’s a good idea, I hadn’t thought of it, I’ll talk to my wife about that”. I don’t know if they have done it, I don’t ask them to give me any answers.
JWR: We had reached a point on the Duke Kahanamoku Foundation where all of us trustees were getting on in years, we were not too enthusiastic and not too successful in soliciting contributions for the Duke Foundation. With the merger successful they could go out and solicit for both, and it would grow, and I think it has – I know it has. The merger has been a stimulus to our membership. I am very happy that it did.
RGS: Yeah, both of us, you know contribute something. But, I am still biased toward the Outrigger. Even at the Winged “O” meetings here, I announced that I am biased toward the Outrigger.
JWR: One final question, what was your reaction to the Club’s move?
RGS: At the time I heard it I was disappointed, but I guess like everybody else – to move was like moving house, and that was my home. It literally was my home.
JWR: It was your playground.
RGS: Yeah – everything. I actually grew up in that sand and so it was a major disappointment moving, but it didn’t take long, you know knowing that the Queen Emma Foundation was asking a lot of money and so on. It was a major disappointment to me until we moved down here, then I remember looking at the blue prints you guys had come up with to have a condo above – all the effort you guys made to keep us there – various ideas and this and that, da-de-da, and then we moved down here – now look down there and it didn’t take long to realize that was one hell of a smart move. It would have been disastrous to have been down there, we wouldn’t have a Club. There’d be the general public coming in and out and there’d be high security, et cetera, et cetera, so it was the greatest move that we could have ever done. We are still in Waikiki, still within walking distance.
JWR: And it is a family Club.
JWR: It would never have been down there, towards the end these families wouldn’t let their kids come down to the Club, particularly the younger kids, everybody was coming in off the beach.
RGS: …..Easily accessible, people walk through that tunnel – I remember that very well. We’d have had to have private security and so on, and in hind-sight this was a tremendous move. I have rented a room for the July Fourth at out old club-site at the Outrigger Hotel. Richard Kelly was a classmate of mine at Punahou, so he gave me a pretty good price, so I rented a room for the July Fourth date to watch the canoe races from a makai room of the hotel. I told Cline to come down if he wanted to take a look. You look down there from here with binoculars and it is just wall-to-wall bodies – even when you drive through Kalakaua, it is like an overcrowded cocktail party. We are lucky to have this site, it is so beautiful and the parking is reasonably ample.
JWR: The challenge now is to resolve the situation between the Elks Club and the Outrigger Canoe Club.
RGS: It’s always a challenge. It is something the Board of Directors should address. It’s hard to understand the Elks Club’s position. I know their financial problems, and hope that someday a generation will come along and realize that getting $30,000 a year is not as good as getting $5 million at five percent.
JWR: (Laugh) I can never understand why the Elks have rejected our offers. Fortunately I don’t have to worry about that any more.
RGS: Well, I hope somebody does.
JWR: Me too!
RGS: What have we done? What have we done? Oh, I took the, er, in the last sixties, early seventies, I took the amateur sport surfing to professionalism, wrote the first professional surfing charter. I spent weeks writing it. Wide World of Sport was coming down once a year to do the Duke Kahanamoku surfing contest, and they were very frustrated because obviously the surf would not cooperate, and they were on a tight schedule. ABC Wide World of Sports had to go back and do football, and if the surf was not up they were really panicked. So, Roone Arledge, who was then the President of Wide World, later President of ABC, and said you guys should take this thing professional. I think Van Dyke was the first one I talked to – Van Dyke was a teacher at Punahou – and I had a business and entrepreneur background, I became the first commissioner of the International Professional Surfing Association. We wrote the charter and the surfers had to be checked because in those days the surfer image was bad. Everybody thought we smoked dope and all this kind of stuff, so I made a real tight charter. I copied a lot of it from the PGA, Professional Golf Association, because they had the strictest rules, along with others I found in the library downtown. Wrote the charter, sold it to Smirnoff, which was a front line corporation, and they put up the first money and ran it the first winter. We had Fred Hemmings, who was the beach captain, in charge of running the beach, and I think Freddie took over in year three. I had Outrigger members – I had myself as the commissioner, I had Bob Wilson, unbeknownst to the general membership who had moved here from Sacramento – he was an owner of television stations – so I brought Bob abroad to help me in negotiating the TV contract; Ron Haworth, a member of many years, was writing for the Advertiser – he followed us around and wrote all the articles on it. So I had those three Outrigger members assisting me in their areas of expertise, and Freddie running the beach, so forth and so on. And so we got a couple of good years out of the Smirnoff contract. Freddie added his thoughts when he took over, and then Randy Roark added his thoughts when he took over, and today it is a major television sport. It all started with the fact that I convinced Smirnoff that we had clean cut kids – Tommy Connors was on the Police Force at the time, and I had Tommy do some computer work for me, so every surfer who wanted to become a professional had to fill out my application. I ran it through the computer, got a police record, or the lack of a police record, and proved to the sponsor that every participant was OK. If there was a police record it was “for your eyes only”.
JWR: I had no idea that you……
RGS: Yeah, and it flew with that kicker – the only problem I had was with Jeff Hackman, fantastic kid, probably one of the best at that time, who had been busted for trying to smuggle in some grass from Australia and some stereo sets, so I had to kick Jeff off, which hurt me. I didn’t know the kid well, I knew he was great, and his attorney called and was going to threaten suit and I said, “OK, I’ll go along with you because I want Jeff in but I’ve got to keep him off the first years”, which I did, and then South Africa contacted me in 1970, they wanted to sponsor the first world surfing championship. They invited me down and asked me to bring three surfers that I chose – no two surfers – and there were a lot of problems with the apartheid system. People protested, were writing letters to the editor, “Don’t let Sorrell go down” and all this sort of stuff. I wasn’t going to pass this up – a free trip, all paid for – so I took my wife at the time, Carol, I took Billy Hamilton and Jeff Hackman. We went to Florida, then we went to Rio de Janeiro, and then to Johannesburg where we toured the stock exchange where gold was $35 an ounce; and we surfed from Cape Town up to Durban – took us almost a month, surfing all the locations as guests of Winston, the cigarette company that was our sponsor. They paid for everything – our hotel, food, drivers, cars, did all the political work to get us into hotels. I threw them a curve when I pulled out the visa which said, Nationality: ‘English/American Indian’. Billy and Jeff got their visas within six or seven days and mine took three weeks. It drove me crazy……
RGS: ……and, then, of course, the story within that story, there was a movie called the “Longest Wave” which took place in South Africa at Cape St. Francis, so we spent a lot of time down there because the surf was not really great while we were there, so we waited a while, and during that process I was invited to a couple of cocktail parties. After the cocktail parties I’d run into various celebrities and diplomats and didn’t know at the time I was talking to somebody about surfing and it was an obvious thing because we were invited to this party because we were surfers. I can’t recall exactly what I said but we had a conversation, and he called me back a day or two later – this was just as I was packing up to leave St. Francis to go up to the next surfing site and he wanted to know Hawaiians. What kind of people and so on, I said they were laid back and so forth and so on. At that time with the apartheid system, if you are not white you are black. If you were Hindu Indian, or if you were Hawaiian or if you were American Indian or if you were Chinese or Japanese, you were black. You are not white, you are black. So Hawaiian was a black in their opinion. So a deal was cut somewhere along the way that I could bring in Hawaiians – now this is the black. Arthur Ashe, Bellafonte, all famous singers, Nat King Cole, were never allowed in South Africa because they were black. Now I was talking about Hawaiians, who were black in their opinion, so I got to a meeting or two, and what they were going to do is allow me to bring in one Hawaiian but he could not stay at a five-star hotel like we could. He could stay at a four-star, get a driver and a car, everything would be paid for, and the trouble was they were going to put it all over the newspapers, so by the time we got to Durban they would have this big huge surfing contest and this Hawaiian was going to be in it. They covered the black issue by the fact that he was Hawaiian, Hawaiian, Hawaiian, Hawaiian, so I called Eddie Aikau and I walked to his mother. Anyway I brought one of the brothers in. I met him at the airplane; instead of meeting him at the gate I went right to the gangplank, I put my arm around him and I said, “Look bro, this is a different world than you have ever been in, everything is free including booze, but, don’t punch anybody out. Promise me you won’t punch anybody out. You’ve got a visa for 21 days. Our visas were extended but we have to leave, we can spend only a week with you, “So we introduced him to everybody and saw to it that this Hawaiian was in place. Within a week we had to leave, because our visa extension expired, so we all left and came home, and the kid stayed there for another two weeks. I thought he must be having a grand time, and he showed up in Hawaii – I remember the day he arrived. That night the Star Bulletin – the kid had held a press conference – published what he had said. He was really a bright kid, but he talked about how his surfing buddies had abandoned him, left him in this world of racial prejudice, et cetera. The kid had been treated like a king, he’d never been out of the Islands, and he lambasted the whole thing. Well, the door shut on the World Championship, and I was going to give it to him because he deserved it, they had worked hard and had great plans to have the surfing contest, and this kid just slammed the door, and with all this progress, he was the first black – I want you to understand he was Hawaiian, but still black – and he just ruined the whole damned thing by lipping off. He had probably been coached by somebody, and I have an idea who he was coached by, somebody a little smarter, but still a radical.
JWR: They took advantage of him.
RGS: Yeah, this kid was – he was racial, he didn’t like haoles, but then that’s the way kids grew up, and in 1974, I think it was, I got a thing from the University of Cambridge, “Outstanding Achievement Award for 1973”. The University of Cambridge had given me an award for breaking the Apartheid System. It made the London Times. A Hawaiian had entered South Africa, surfed in a contest, unheard of because he was black – in their opinion – and they gave me the credit for pulling this thing off. I didn’t do a thing other than shoot the breeze with some diplomat (I didn’t know he was a diplomat at the time) about how laid back the Hawaiians are, they are a beautiful race and da-de-da, and surfing is the greatest thing – all this story on surfing, and I get this thing in the mail. I couldn’t figure it out, and I showed it to some people and the cover letter wasn’t quite clear other than Apartheid; was able to break Apartheid back in 1973 for doing that. I thought, that’s kind of interesting…..
JWR: I never knew about this until today!
RGS: …….and the kid went on to die, out at sea. It was a sad story there. I think what he was doing, you recall Tommy Holmes had taken a surfboard during one of the Hokulea trail runs and paddled to Kauai to get help…..
JWR: Went to get help…..
RGS: …..The Sea Flight picked him up; I think this kid was going to do the same damn thing – ‘If Tommy Holmes can do it, I can do it’ – and he disappeared.
JWR: He designed and built boards, didn’t he, because I had…..
RGS: His brother did. There were two brothers……
JWR: The last board I ever bought was an Aikau, no, it was the second to the last one. It has a scoop at the bow.
RGS: Spoon bow. They were life guards at Waimea, there’s a big race contest named after the kid.
JWR: Do you still surf, by the way?
RGS: I haven’t since I came up with a physical problem, though I still have my surfboard locker. I have a boogie in the back of my truck, and I am waiting. I’ll go out sometime during the south swell.
JWR: I had my surfboard locker until about a year ago, and then I had three boards there and they sat there for a long time – I can’t surf because of my back. I just gave them to George Downing. He’d done me a lot of favors; when I had visitors here he’d take them out surfing and he helped a lot with records on canoes for the HCRA.
RGS: I really feel embarrassed for rambling so on much about myself, you know.
JWR: Oh, it has been wonderful.
RGS: I still think I should be interviewing you.
JWR: You know I’ve been told never to conduct an interview in excess of one hour. We’ve been well over an hour.
JWR: I’ll tell you what, let’s call it quits for today, and if you have anything to add….
RGS: That’s pretty much it. I’ve enjoyed …..
JWR: ……We can always have another session. Many, many thanks.
RGS: I told somebody, it is a little early in my life to be interviewed, it is usually the shakers and movers, like you and Cline.
JWR: Well, I think we’ll conclude it on that complimentary note, and again, many many thanks. It has been a most enjoyable and interesting interview.
RGS: Thank you. Mahalo to you.