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I was a junior in high school when I first met Wally. He just finished a tour in Viet Nam. The first thing noticed about Wally was his size. He was a hulking of a human being, well over six feet-four inches about two hundred seventy pounds and not a ounce of fat on him. He had the most wonderful, warm personality. The one thing that impressed you the most was his love for his family. He was very proud of his heritage and the traditions of his family.

We were in a time when all young men our age began bonding together. We spend a lot of time playing basketball, volleyball, and football. The one thing everyone expected you to do well, if you were born and raised in Hawaii is surfing. Well, I am here to say not all of us that were born and raised in the islands learn to surf. Most of the time I went to the beach because all the wahines were there. Now Wally love to surf. He spent a lot of time at the beach. He was there almost every weekend. Since we lived in the city we went to places like Diamond Head, Kewalo Basin, Waikiki and most of the South Shore. Wally was from Hilo, Hawaii and he never surfed the north shore. Now my hometown is Wahiawa so I was familiar with the beaches on the north end of Oahu.

Metata had this 1927 model-T woody wagon that we packed our boards in and headed for the North Shore. Oh yes, we were playing the role. We were big time surfers with a woody wagon going to conquer the waves at the Pipeline. Now we all know Wally could surf and Kuipo was average. As for Metata and myself we were novices. We checked out Haleiwa and it was flat. We headed to the Pipeline and it was dead there too. We stopped at Waimea Bay and nothing was happening there. Then we headed to Pupukea and could not believe what we were seeing. The waves were breaking 12 to 15 feet with a slight off shore breeze. I have never surfed in any thing bigger than 8-foot waves. I was a little apprehensive as I looked out over the sets of waves coming in. Wally couldn't wait to get out there and he was the first to hit the water.

Kuipo, Metata and me hit the water at the same time. We managed to get through the white wash and approached the first wave. That's when I knew I was wrong, you see, these were not 12 to15 foot waves, they were 20 footers. The wave was already breaking and I flipped my board to dive under it. That's when felt the power of the wave. It picked me up and now I was headed toward shore. My board was ripped from my arms. There was nothing I could do except ride the white wash hoping I had enough air in my lungs. The wave pulled me in every direction as it tossed me around like a piece of cloth in a washing machine. I finally felt the bottom and kicked up to get air only to get knock down and thrown up on the beach. As I was getting up I looked to my left to see Kuipo spitting sand and water from his mouth. I turned to my right and saw Metata dragging only half his board up the beach.

I've heard many times about surf like this and you never know what it is like until you get caught in one. I had a little taste of how powerful Kanaloa "god of the ocean" can be and I didn't want to make him madder then he already was!

The question now was: Where was Wally? He was not on the beach. We looked out over the water. The waves were getting bigger and the wind also picked up. It was blowing hard enough to create a heavy mist above the waves. The sets of waves seem to go all the way to the horizon. The ocean looked ugly and angry. This was the beginning of a storm rolling in. The waves started to pound the shore so hard the sound was deafening. You could see as each wave hit the shore it took out tons of sands. I look out to the west and the sun was sitting on top of the mountain range. The sky was getting darker and grayer. It had been much clearer when we first got there. This whole scene was getting weird. I started to get worried because we still couldn't find Wally.

Then I saw him, a lone dark figure in a right hand stance with his arms way out from his sides. His hair stood straight back from the wind blowing across the wave. Now you could see how big the waves were by using Wally as a scale, they were 25 footers plus!

As I watched Wally work his way down and across this huge wave, I knew he was doing what most surfers only dream about. If I could take that moment in time and put it on canvas the caption would read: "The ancient gods welcoming home one of their sons"

Wally caught three more waves before he came in. He didn't jump up and down or did high fives or rambled about what he just did. He just said, "That was too tough for me." The expression on his face, however, said it all.

I have seen many things in my life and I have been to places where not many people have a chance to go to. I have had my fair share of fulfillment in what life has to offer. That day has been burned in my memory forever. I will always remember Wally as "The Biggest Kanaka I Ever Met In My Life".


About Author

Ronny Esperas' hometown is Wahiawa, Oahu.  He attended Stevenson Intermediate and Graduated from Roosevelt '66. He left the Islands in 1968. Eventually settling in Everett, Washington where he now lives. He makes it a point to go home every couple of years. "... soon I will come home for good" he says.

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