The Beschen residence, North Shore, Oahu. Friday 4th December, 13h30
There’s a work in progress. A group of men are attempting to start a car, coaxing it back into life with a series of pushes, some tinkering under the hood and intermittent kind words. One of the men, the owner of the car is Derek Ho, 1993 ASP World Champion, Hawaii’s first ever. Eventually the car splutters to life, and Uncle Derek is up and riding.
GB shows me around the garden, where a staggering array of produce is flourishing. ‘See that tall green stuff right here? I threw a pumpkin in there after Halloween, look at it now.’ The fierce voracity of growth here is shocking. A month later, the plants are chest high. Elsewhere in Gavin’s garden grow mango, passion fruit, starfruit, coconut, mountain apples, papaya, clementines, zuccini, tomatoes, peppers, brussels and all manner of greens and herbs. Behind Gavin’s wooden house stands that of his famous brother, Shane, beside which stands an impressively wide wooden mini. The driveway around the back is lipped into a concrete bank with coping. There’s even a handrail.
Gavin opens two ice cold beers in bottles, hands me one. It’s hot in the afternoon sun, the beer tastes delightful. We take refuge in a shadey area.
SE: How did your Hawaii story begin?
GB: I guess I was around 5 or 6. I’d come over and play with my cousins in Hawaii Kai. It wasn’t much about surfing then, we just had picnics in the park, visited family. I was boogieboarding a bit then, we’d go and spend time with our other family in Kauai. That was pretty much the basis of wanting to live on an island, live where the waves are good, where you can fish and live off the land. Where I grew up in San Clemente there was a really strong surfing culture, and friends from there really helped us connect to the surfing friends over here. Guys my brother’s age and older like Dino Andino and the McNulty’s were coming here way before us and helped us become a part of that surfing family.
Tell us about a typical day in paradise.
Everyday is a good day above ground, so they say. I wake up, give thanks, take my baby to the beach with my dogs, build her a swimming pool, throw the rocks for my dogs. Come back, work for a few hours in my garden. If the waves are good I’ll get a window to surf, if it’s small it’s my wife’s turn. If it’s too big to surf then you can fish right out front. Then in the afternoon if it’s not too hot or raining I’ll ride my skateboard, maybe have a bar-b-q, kick back, watch the sunset and drink some beers.
Where does your surfing style come from?
That would go back to my dad, he would let us do pretty much what we wanted. Granted, we had a lot of responsibility too. My dad built houses, so we grew up pouring cement or taking nails out of wood. So we had the options work 40-50 hour weeks banging nails, or surf. We pretty much owe everything to him, we were blessed to be a second generation growing up at the beach. That’s the way it was, everybody in our world was at the beach. The well known guys that influenced us would be like Dino, Matt Archbold, the Fletchers. Herbie Fletcher was a huge influence to everyone, for all that he did for surfing. For sure there was a pecking order and us kids were at the bottom. The path to gaining respect was a big part of it.
Tell us about Hawaiian surfing.
It’s a family tradition. It doesn’t matter how good or bad you are, it’s a passion. People I look up to are those who are young at heart, who want to surf whether it’s two foot or twenty. Like my brother (Shane and son run past with boards), passing it on to his 9-year-old son, that’s what it’s all about, sharing the joy of surfing. It doesn’t matter if a guy is a good surfer, if he has a bad attitude I don’t like that. Surfing in Hawaii for me is about sharing the aloha spirit, doing your best at that.
GB and castle. If Foodland and other markets on the island went out of business suddenly, you wouldn’t die of starvation if you knew where to look in this incredibly productive strip of land.
What are the ingredients of a good surfer?
Someone who’s the same in the water as they are on land. Someone who loves to surf, to share experiences with their friends without being too serious. Times change, but the ingredients stay the same; someone who’s in tune with the culture, roots and lifestyle that we’ve been blessed to be a part of. It’s a lot more than riding waves.
What is aloha?
It’s sharing what makes you happy. Kinda like the golden rule, do unto others as you would have them do to you, but here it’s more than that actually. Doing the right thing at the right time for the right reason. Aloha means a lot in Hawaii, and it’s hard to describe in words. It means love, and sharing that love and passing it on, that’s the good aloha.
How do you balance the fundamental fun element of surfing with waves like Pipe that can take your life?
It’s a fine line. It’s a lot easier living here, because we don’t have to cram all that big wave surfing into a week. If you live here you can wait it out and pick and chose your battles. That’s pretty much what it’s all about, being patient, knowing what the wave’s gonna do. But balancing the fear factor with the fun is always important; you wanna be afraid because that’s a form of respect but you also don’t want to take it too serious. If you miss one, hey, you get to walk up the beach and live one more day, that’s what it’s all about (laughs).
What advice would you offer visitors coming to Hawaii?
That the crowded waves aren’t always the most fun.It’s all about timing. If you look and it looks fun, jump in, don’t hesitate, conditions can change really fast. Just take a real positive attitude, don’t try to catch every wave. Put a smile on your face and someone will appreciate that. Go explore, explore the beauty and the culture. The more you do that, the more comfortable you’ll feel.
What about for surfers not coming here this winter, those at home in Europe’s harsh winter?
Stay positive, keep doing something that keeps you in tune, whether it’s doing yoga, skateboarding, grabbing that snowboard and hitting the mountain. Find other outlets if the surf isn’t an option, play music, do art. And when it is, get out there and enjoy it with all your rubber on, have a blast. We’re all blessed to live this lifestyle whether it be in Hawaii or wherever in the cold, just do your thing.