Hawaii Surfers Surfing Past 60

Silver Surfers: Meet five surf legends who, in their 60s and 70s, still hit the beach.


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While Jock Sutherland still paddles out in North Shore conditions that would keep many surfers on the beach, he has grown more circumspect with age. “You’re more cautious once you get over 60,” he says. “You’re using your brains rather than your brawn.

Sutherland is one of the rare North Shore surf stars of the 1960s who is not only still around, but who is holding his own on 15-foot days. He has no intention of backing off any time soon. “I could probably surf for another 15 years or so,” he says.

For inspiration, he looks to some of the surfing legends from an earlier generation, such as Rabbit Kekai and Woody Brown, who surfed into their 90s. He also thinks of fitness guru Jack LaLanne, who celebrated his 70th birthday by swimming a mile while handcuffed, shackled and towing 70 boats filled with people.

Sutherland won all sorts of surfing titles in his day, but his most enduring honor has to be the surf spot that’s named for him—Jocko’s. It’s the freight-train left that breaks directly in front of the house in Haleiwa where he grew up and still lives. The proximity makes it hard for Sutherland to miss a good swell there, even during the work week. He can wake up at 6:30 a.m., catch several waves, and still be pounding nails at 8 a.m. “It’s a nice way to start the day,” he says. “And end the day, too.”

In his youth, Sutherland had a reputation for fearlessness that could cross the line into recklessness. Age, thankfully, has tempered that. “There’s not so much impetuousness now,” he says. “I don’t blithely paddle out at 20-foot Waimea anymore.”

In fact, he concedes, he doesn’t surf monster-size Waimea Bay at all anymore, then adds, “Unless it’s early morning and there’s no crowd—but that’s a long shot.”

Pipeline is a different story. Sutherland was one of the first surfers to ride the tube at that treacherous break, and he still makes appearances there now and then. It helps that a lot of the elder statesmen in Pipeline’s famously competitive lineup—older surfers in their 40s and 50s—know Sutherland and hoot and holler supportively when he paddles for a takeoff.

“They’ll shout me into a wave, and when the younger guys see the older guys encouraging me, they go, ‘Maybe the old man knows what he’s doing,’” Sutherland says. “Basically, there’s nobody my age out there.”

Joey Cabell

The Encyclopedia of Surfing describes Joey Cabell as “arguably the finest all-around surfer of the ’60s, and certainly the decade’s best in international competition.” In his day, Cabell was known as an ultra-serious competitor, an athlete who would push himself to extremes, and a speed demon.

“I was really driven all through the ’60s, entering every contest, dominating the world,” says Cabell, who turns 73 this month and still runs The Chart House, the steak and seafood joint he opened at the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor in 1968.

He still surfs, too, but his impulse toward world domination has long since given way to simply finding convenient and uncrowded waves. These days he’s more likely to paddle out at Number Threes in Waikiki than make the long drive to the North Shore. Not that he isn’t game for a long-distance surf safari when the opportunity arises.

He spent a good part of the 1970s sailing around the South Pacific in the 43-foot ocean racing catamaran he built, surfing empty reef breaks right off the boat. He made one such trip a few summers ago, sailing 1,210 miles to Fanning Island, half way between Honolulu and Tahiti, to spend a month with his son and a friend fishing, diving and surfing. “There’s a really nice left there in our summer, which is their winter,” he says.

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Honolulu Magazine November 2018
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