“Back when Surfing Naked was called ‘Streaking’”
Nudity, to me, has got to be the best weapon any prankster can have. It’s shocking, funny, and a tidy backhand shot at Puritan ethics. That’s why I was eager to play a part in the ‘70’s “streaking” craze.
It was during those few weeks in the spring of 1974 that the Academy Awards were flashed, meetings were interrupted, and naked students sprinted across college campuses while Ray Stevens shouted from the radio, “Ethel,…put yer clothes on!”. The media had a field day. (My personal favorite was the story about a naked guy who was arrested inside the Honolulu capital building claiming he was “the Streaker of the House”.)
Even so, a naked surfer in Honolulu would have gone almost unnoticed, as there aren’t many good vantage points — not much of an audience a half-mile out on the reef. But the break at Kewalo Basin – scene of the crime – peels within a convenient moon-shot of one very commercial harbor entrance.
I’ve never been impressed with the spot. In surfer lingo, the wave is usually one of those jack n’ run takeoffs followed by a bunch of cutbacks. We called it Kewalo’s Lefts, or The Point (it’s not a point at all). As a kid, my mother once took me on one of the small boat tours, and they called the place Shark Hole. I remember the actual spiel; “Our surfers don’t bother our sharks, and our sharks don’t bother our surfers.” Very Zen.
Sherwood graduated from Roosevelt High School with the rest of us, and got a captain’s apprenticeship position on one of those big tour boats. His new gig gave him the captain’s eye view of the Kewalos Left, and on any given pass, he could name everyone in the line-up: Tommy, Lance, Pee-Wee, Brian, Kaui, Oshiro…
On this day though, the place was deserted. You could smell the salt air and the tuna cannery all the way up Ward Avenue. “Agh,…get Kona winds,” Jerry mumbled with a disappointed gaze out my car window. We rolled into the empty parking lot and watched a sloppy two foot set getting shoved over the reef with the onshore wind.
From his usual slouch in the back seat, Fai chimed in, “Well,… nothing else to do, eh?” So we unloaded the longboards (we called ’em tankers) and walked out to the jetty. After clearing the Man-o-War and other flotsam around the rocks, we jumped in and paddled out.
There were no other surfers to impress, so we kept busy clowning for each other with spinners and headstands. Except Fai; he never strayed much from his karate pose. Jerry and I laughed and taunted him from the shoulder with Bruce Lee chicken-squawks. The rest of the time Jerry was singing that ‘Tootsie-roll soul and little white shoes’ thing in his loudest falsetto.
Jerry and Fai caught a wave together and lost their boards trying to do a jump switch. I sat alone outside, taking in diesel exhaust from the passing tuna boats. It was then that I noticed the big Adventure V tour cruiser approaching from outside and making its turn toward the harbor. This ship was the queen of the fleet. There were four hundred fifty people packed onto its two decks, and they were having a dreadful, rainy, kona weather Hawaiian vacation. Perhaps this moment was tied to my fate, or maybe it was something we’d smoked in the parking lot, but I knew just what they needed. I quickly slipped off of my board, yanked off my baggies, and pulled them over my head around my neck.
Then, like a true showman, I waited. I waited for the wave that ran right along next to this baby. I spun around and paddled for it.
I jumped to my feet and grabbed the rail around the first section, thinking how stupid I’d look if I blew the takeoff. I cut back, straightened off a bit so that I was bare-butt to the crowd, and arched my skinny frame into a Greek god pose. Now I could hear growing hoots and hollers coming from the ship. I switched stance to face the crowd, strategically covering the jewels with my hands, and switched back for another full shot of my white ‘okole, then started striking every goofy pose that popped into my head: the Olga Korbut, mighty Atlas, and the ever-popular stinkbug.
Jerry and Fai were paddling out hooting and laughing. Jerry got right into the spirit, pulled his shorts off and stood up on his board, giving the crowd the Hawaiian full-monty.
Now the ship was really going nuts. They were screaming and whistling, flashcubes were going off. (I was told later that the group was like ninety percent women, and the captain had to counter-steer because everyone ran to one side of the boat).
As my wave petered out on the inside, I finished my routine with a one legged Quasimoto and a belly-flop, costing me a few points on the dismount, but it’s shallow in there and I sure didn’t need a crotch full of wana. When I came up, the hollering and applause was louder than ever. The ship was blowing it’s horn.
These people had seen two weeks of streaking stories from all over the country, all over the news, and now there we were – like spotting BigFoot.
As I paddled back out, my embarrassment was starting to sink in. All I could do was wave and smile like an idiot. Fai was laughing and shaking his head, saying, “You guys nuts, brah!”
It was about that moment, according to Sherwood, as the ship faded into the harbor, and as tourists glanced down to see how many pictures were left on their Instamatics, that the captain turned with a sly smile and asked, “Hey ‘Woods’, ..were those friends of yours?” “Uhhh,…nooooo sir.”
About the author – Jaz Kaner (aka Jim Shawhan) grew up surfing in Honolulu and worked as a professional comedian. This event stands as his best exposure to date.