Except for his rather large collection of blues records, there were not, in a material sense, a lot of other things Buddy Dumphy considered important or worthy of much thought. Even his surfboards were considered transient – tools to be used and sometimes abused – only stepping-stones to the next board.
We first met as teenagers at Ala Moana, where surfing was our life. Before we were old enough to drive, Buddy with his younger brother Michael, and me with my younger brother Victor, would get dropped off in the parking lot at the Ala Wai Boat Harbor. There we would spend the long summer days riding the waves and watching the action.
The surf was the reason we gave our parents for being there, but the main attraction was really the scene and the other surfers. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Ala Mo’s was the spot, the epicenter of progressive surfing during Hawai’i’s summertime surf season. The top island surfers would invariably gather on any hint of a south swell to match their wave riding skills with the challenging walls. The long, fast and hollow surf produced the best surfing, and everyone knew it. Only the most talented or dedicated – and perhaps young aspiring surfers like us – would dare to show face at Ala Moana. The rest would ride the lesser breaks of Rockpiles, Kaisers or the Park until they developed their confidence and abilities. Our own skills were much less than our bravado, but by keeping our heads down and our mouths shut, we were tolerated by the older crew.
Buddy was a Harbour guy when I met him. By that I mean he rode a board made by Rich Harbour of Seal Beach, California, one of the prominent surfboard builders of the time. At first, Buddy owned a beautiful, three-stringer Trestle Special, one of Harbour’s most popular models. Mine was a Ramsey Jay Savage Special, built in Newport Beach to the design of Stanley “Savage” Parks, a terrific surfer from Nanakuli whose surfing impressed both Buddy and I.
We would often compare the shapes of our boards as they were similar, and in doing so, we became interested in surfboard design. Later, around the mid-1960s when noseriding became the new rage, Buddy got one of the Harbour specialized noseriders. I was away in California going to college for the school year but when I returned, I brought back a Ramsey Jay noserider called the Sea Slug. Again Buddy and I compared our boards to better understand the finer nuances of shape and design as they related to performance.
At the time, the best young surfers in Hawai’i were riding Bing’s Pipeliner models shaped by Dick Brewer. The top guy in our little world was Jackie Eberle, but other skillful surfers like Roy Mesker, Jock Sutherland, Jeff Hakman, Jimmy Lucas, Kiki Spangler, Michael McPherson, and Reno Abellira, were all Brewer team riders. The Pipeliner was the most advanced shape of the period and in retrospect, probably the high point of that era of longboard design.
Brewer, known by his friends as RB, was an innovative shaper who made good use of his young team rider’s feedback to keep his surfboards on a constant evolutionary climb. Jock Sutherland was the ascending star of the moment, having just placed a close 2nd behind Nat Young at the World Surfing Championships held in San Diego the previous year. He owned two boards, both Bing Pipeliners but totally dissimilar in shape. The 9’5” Jock rode in the World Contest was a modified noserider design and his favorite. The other was a more standard Pipeliner shape, a smaller and sleeker 9’4”.
As summer came to an end and early fall swells began to roll onto Oahu’s north and west shores, our attention turned to the Country. Jock lived with his mother, two sisters and a brother on the shoreline between Laniakea and Chun’s Reef. He was only 19 years old, but already had a surf spot directly in front of his house named after himself. To this day the break is still known as Jocko’s.
Buddy and I would drive out there from town in my ’58 VW bug when 50 cents worth of gas would be sufficient for the whole round trip and then some. Our noseriders had already proved themselves practically useless in the crisp and critical Country waves so eventually we stopped bringing them. What we would do was stop by Jock’s place where he would kindly lend us his 9’4” to use for the day. Then we would find the best breaking spot and take turns riding Jock’s Pipeliner. It was the finest board we had ever used and our surfing improved greatly. This was a grand arrangement for Buddy and I, but when I think back of how regularly we showed up to borrow Jock’s board, it was certainly a one sided affair.
Of course, surfboards back then were built much stronger than the lightweight modern boards. The lack of crowds offered wide-open wave arenas without the obstacles of other surfers or their boards. We never would ride Rocky Point with its rocky shoreline. Everywhere we surfed had a sandy beach for a lost board to wash ashore. Each evening when we returned Jock’s board, it would be in exactly the same condition as when we took it.