MEMORIAL - Paddle out to Celebrate Derek Ho
North Shore (Oahu)
With Derek I have a couple great stories, one of them is from 1984 when I first met him:
Memorial Paddle Out
to Celebrate Derek Ho.
I was sponsored by Victory Wetsuits and so was Derek and Mike Ho at that time. For me it was the first trip of many to Japan for the ASP world tour, a bit of a deja vu as the waves were very similar to yesterday’s Olympic surfing debut. Anyway, I remember that aside from the official contest there was a side contest that took place between the semi’s and final. It awarded money for the best “off the lip”. My hero Richard Cram was in it and to my surprise I won! During this time I stayed with the Victory Wetsuits team and got to know Derek and Mike by making them laugh with my impressions of other surfers, namely Occy and Shaun Tomson.
For context we stayed at a traditional Japanese hotel: tatami mats, futons, and virtually no furniture to sit on. All I can remember is both Mike and Derek in tears of laughter rolling around on the floor encouraging me to do more. Afterwards Derek invited me to come and stay with him at his family’s house in Waimanalo and that we would surf all of these fun waves and hang out. Sounded great so I took him up on the offer and flew to Hawaii from Japan without going home. On the first day we drove to Sandy Beach and I was introduced to all the local surfers.
Some were cool others a bit stoic, like ...who is haole?
Even though I don’t have a physical photo of Derek and me like this, I do have a very clear picture in my head of Derek’s beautiful face in full laughter looking right at me, head tilt and all. I can hear his laugh and even feel the back of his hand hit me on my arm every time a good point was made haha.
We paddled out to a spot called Half Point without much advice from Derek on what to look out for haha. It appeared to be a right and a left to me. This was my first surf since Japan, with the waves at the end of that trip being 1-2 foot dribble. As soon as we get out there, a wave comes through and looks like a good right, I look to Derek to see if its cool I go and he casually says ...‘go for it grom’ (even though he’s only a year older than me he calls me grom). I then frantically paddle into it and just as I stand up the whole bottom drops out. All I can see is razor sharp looking coral in what looks like less than a foot of water. I am literally thinking 'oh f#ck ...I am going to get smoked here'… Somehow I make the drop without bogging and pull into the tube as I am bottom turning. The thing just keeps pitching over me as I manoeuvre inside it until it finally lets me out. I am so stoked I didn’t fall on the drop or in the tube, that I lay into the biggest gouge my 18 year old body can muster then kick-out completely adrenalised and stoked!
After that moment I felt a shift in the vibe, all the guys I had met were stoked and some even hooted! I felt good that I didn’t let Derek down and that I passed a test or something. When I paddled back out I could feel from Derek that he was impressed and stoked. It was a great way to start off a super fun week of surfing and going out in town to meet girls. We drove out to the North Shore one day to surf with his super star brother Mike and even Potts (Martin Potter) was there. All four of us surfing super fun V-land together with both Mike and Derek yelling at Potts and me to 'go' on waves in front of other locals. I will never forget the look and feeling Potts and I shared that was like: “I ain’t falling for that trick man” hahaha.
After a week it was time for me to go home, I was stoked and felt lucky to have some new friends and unique experiences. Little did I know that the next time I’d be surfing Sandy Beach would be for the '86 Gotcha pro where a not so friendly Derek and me would square off in the semi final.
Such good memories, thank you Derek.
Love you brother.
RIP Derek Ho - Aloha