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Memories of Butch

Just a little background on Dick Brewer’s Surfboards Hawaii contest at Haleiwa....
        Dick Brewer (affectionately known as RB to those who know him) started shaping surfboards in Haleiwa in about ‘61 or ‘62 under the name Surfboards Hawaii. With his background in aeronautical design from building remote-control balsawood airplanes in California, he translated that design knowledge to hydrodynamics and quickly became the “man” for getting great surfboards for the North Shore’s challenging conditions. I was blessed with the opportunity to be on his Surfboards Hawaii surf team starting in the winter of ‘63-‘64, along with Jeff Hakman and Freddy Hemmings, fellow Punahou classmates as well. RB came up with the idea to hold a surfing contest to generate even greater interest in his boards, and he stipulated that you had to ride one of his Surfboards Hawaii boards in order to enter. This wasn’t a problem for anyone, as in the early 60’s the North Shore surfing community was a lot smaller and friendlier scene compared to what it became in the decades that followed. All you had to do was borrow a board from a friend to use in your heat.  For judges, he got Jose Angel, Kealoha Kaio, and I think Peter Cole, three already legendary big wave surfers themselves. This contest was the first one RB held, although Gary Chapman’s website mistakenly has a picture of the finalists in one that was a year or two later. (By the way, Gary Chapman became one of the hottest surfers in Hawaii during Brewer’s “pocket-rocket” era in the late 60’s and lived with Jock and Jeff in a house right inside backdoor Pipeline. His brother Owl seemed to get all the press, but Gary was the one who really had talent!) The surf at Haleiwa Beach Park that day was big (8 to 10 foot Hawaiian scale) but unfortunately had an onshore wind that made the waves extra challenging.           
    Now, about Butch......I don’t have to tell you that alcohol was Butch’s “drug” of choice.  Whereas for a lot of young surfers, pakalolo and psychedelics were the experience preferred both in and out of the water, at least starting a few years later. Butch was an just an old-fashioned drinker (and brawler). Stories about him drinking at the Seaview Inn (drinking with friends, brawling with them, make up and drink some more!) were almost as legendary as his surfing. There was a time in the 70’s when we would stop by his Ehukai lifeguard tower to “talk stories” with him when he mentioned he was on the wagon. We all loved Butch (everybody loved Butch!) and hoped it would last....unfortunately it didn’t. Anyway, the day of the Surfboards Hawaii contest, Butch was “relaxing” in a car in the parking area (dirt and scrub brush in those days) with Harold Bloomfield (as gnarly a character as you could ever find!) and fellow competitor Alton Tavares. “Relaxing” being drinking pineapple “swipe” (they told us it was seasoned with a bit of gasoline!) and chasing it with bottles of Primo. When we were called to paddle out for the Final, Butch had to drag his board by the nose, using the tail dragging in the sand as a “keel” to keep himself walking in a straight line.......and Butch did what Butch always did...surfed great!...and won the contest (and got “Best Wipeout”, no surprise). Butch never seemed to worry about his image or what people thought about him. He lived his life on the edge, devil-may-care, he was who he was, and our surfing world is somewhat less for his absence. I hope I haven’t droned on here too much, but I guess it’s what happens when you get an old-timer reminiscing.
        Kiki Spangler (Eric) (written in a message to Butch's sister, Annette Lucas)



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February 2, 2012 at 2:25 PM  

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