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SURFING

Jim Blears, Old Man of the Waves, Waxes Nostalgic

November 10, 1994|Rockin' Fig & Dave | Rockin' Fig is Rick Fignetti, a Huntington Beach surfer/shop owner. Times staff writer David Reyes has reported on U.S. surf teams competing in Indonesia and Brazil. and

Scene: Hawaii, the U.S. Bud Tour surfing championships.

Announcers: Rockin' Fig and, ahem, Lord (Tally Ho) Jim Blears, a 71-year-old fixture in Hawaii after a pro wrestling career on the mainland. He's also a former senior men's surfing champion in Hawaii and still hits the waves. He spent the whole contest salting Fig's brain with old surf stories. The Tally Ho, by the way, stems from his trademark greeting.

During the Bud Tour's final contest, Oct. 24-29, Fig also checked in with some other top Hawaiian pro surfers, including Sunny Garcia (who won the contest), Johnny Boy Gomes and such older Hawaiian surfers as Dane Keoloha.

So, Fig, what did you think of Blears?

Oh , man, he had more stories than anybody. He told me that when he was growing up, he knew guys like Buffalo (Kealana, a living surf legend). He remembered that Buffalo used to live in a house right above Makaha. But a big hurricane washed the house out to sea , and now none of the earlier homes are on the beach there. It's just a parking lot now. But a long time ago, they had homes there.

Isn't Blears the patriarch of a famous surfing clan?

Right. His sons surf. And Buffalo's son, Rusty Kealana, is the defending two-time world long - board surfing champion.

I hear Chris Brown of Santa Barbara got waxed early in the contest but managed to become the overall Bud Tour champion anyway because he had so many points going into the last contest.

Yup. The pressure was pretty much off him, and he was guaranteed the championship because of the points he had racked up going into the last contest. But it didn't slow Jeff Deffenbaugh of Huntington Beach, who finished second on the tour. "J.D." made it to the finals in Hawaii, which can be tough because of that Hawaiian strategy.

What do you mean?

They flooded the early trials of the contest with , like , a million hot Hawaiians, guys who were used to surfing out on the reef when it's good-sized surf. It was head-high to a couple feet overhead.

Did they dog surfers in the water in the heats? Like, surf so close, they annoy competitors, especially in four-man heats when one Hawaiian is ahead on points and the second Hawaiian in the heat bird-dogs non-Hawaiians so they don't advance?

Yup.

Well, although Brown took the tour title with Deffenbaugh second, Richie Collins of Newport Beach took third. I take it Garcia was surfing pretty well.

Sunny was just in a league of his own. He grew up surfing there, on the western side of the island. The Hawaiians were dominating out there and getting help with some coaching from local legend Ben Aipa.

Figgy, I've heard a lot about Oahu's notorious "Westside." Tell me about it.

It's kind of like the hard - core side. You don't see too many tourists. It's mostly Hawaiians. And it's a lot sunnier and drier because the clouds come over the north shore, where they generally dump the rain before going over the mountains. A lot of times, the north shore has these big, outta-control storm swells, and they wrap around the island and bring waves on the Westside that are a lot cleaner.

And Sunny is like The Man. He's like the biggest thing that ever happened on the Westside, and all the brothers over there are pulling for him. All the boys respect him and protect him. At Makaha, he had his wife and kids at the beach and had set up two trucks together like a mobile camp. When he went into the water, they all cheered for him. It's just his place.

He also entered the long - boarding contest, and I saw him do a "straight up," like totally vertical. I've never seen anybody do that on a long board.

I hear he's making good money, too.

Right, I heard he makes, like, $10,000 a month from a wet suit/clothing company and other sponsors. And that's his base.

Did you see Johnny Boy?

Yeah, I stopped by Johnny Boy Gomes' home and spent about three hours with him. His knee is still screwed up. He said he tore some ligaments surfing. But he's weight training and said he wants to come back next month for Hawaii's Triple Crown. We call him the Power Master!

Fig also saw Dane Keoloha, another famous Hawaiian surfer, who owns a surf shop called the Boardriders Club. Fig says Dane has mellowed a bit, now that he has to deal with retail sales!

I also saw Bird Mahalona. He's the guy who used to do barrel rolls inside a wave while surfing. He would go off the lip, grab the board with his hands, and do a barrel roll in the air!

Fig said Mahalona is older now but was still getting the set waves at Makaha, where it was rumored that the Fig was seen taking some late takeoffs.

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Kudos: Top junior amateur Kalani Robb of Hawaii plucked another honor when he was selected the Bud Tour's Rookie of the Year. Making it even more special is that this award normally goes to a pro.

*

Hold the Kudos: For reasons yet unclear, pro surfers Vince de La Pena of Laguna Niguel and Shane Stoneman of San Juan Capistrano, after traveling to Hawaii in a quest for ratings points and money, failed to show up for their heats in the islands. Ooooops.

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