Dreams come true for North Shore surfers
|||Legendary surfer recalled by those who knew him best|
|||Map: Top spots on the North Shore|
By Tanya Bricking
Advertiser Staff Writer
Myles Padaca makes the life sound easy as he holds court at a surf party, autographing posters for fans.
Today, the defending champ of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing has earned enough money to build his own place on the North Shore. He's a star, along with six other surfers, in an "MTV Real World"-style house being filmed for a reality TV show.
He is living the life regular that other surfers only read about.
"I don't know if you ever think you made it," said 31-year-old Padaca, who looks like one of those idealized lifeguards on "Baywatch Hawaii" and is engaged to a former "Baywatch" extra.
"I bought a house. I'm starting a family. I'm living the American dream."
The average pro surfer at Padaca's level makes more than $130,000 a year. But there are maybe 50 people in the world in that echelon.
When Dave Riddle, team coach for the Volcom sportswear company, was a North Shore surfer in the pre-sponsored days of 1966, he paid $50 a month in rent and never had to fight traffic or wave hogs. Those days are gone as surf companies with big bucks compete for prime rentals. This is how the other half lives.
"We don't have to worry so much," said Chaney Attaway, Padaca's 27-year-old fiancée, the body double for Kate Beckinsale in "Pearl Harbor" and who looks like a supermodel even pregnant.
They used some of Padaca's Triple Crown earnings (this year's surfers compete for $750,000) to build a two-story house across from Sunset Beach. But Padaca said he had fond memories of his days roughing it on the North Shore.
"A bunch of people sleeping in a small house," he said. "You really develop a sense of camaraderie."
Living to surf
The three-bedroom apartment has a dining room furnished with 14 surfboards in homemade racks rather than table and chairs. Just about every room has surf magazine pictures tacked to the walls. It's more quiet and secluded than the beachfront party houses.
"The nightlife is pretty much a six-pack and a barbecue at someone's house," said Paul O'Dwyer, 28, a former firefighter from England who quit his job, took a vacation to Hawai'i two years ago and never left.
Their rent is $1,800 a month, and the only way they can afford it is communal living.
It's a typical afternoon. Aaron Tsuda, a 21-year-old Brigham Young University senior, is in the living room playing video games with two friends. The entertainment center has two TVs, possibly every surfing video game ever made, and lots of surf films starring the same guys who live in ritzier houses down the road.
Tsuda, from Sacramento, Calif., is at BYU-Hawai'i on a soccer scholarship, and his parents help him pay the bills. That included his share of the $2,000 rent when he lived in the Volcom house last spring, rented by amateur surfers off season.
Rusty surf-wear company hired Holly Beck when she was 15, "more as a model than a surfer," said the new 22-year-old cast member of the WB network's reality series.
Unless, perhaps, he goes to graduate school, which he's considering. Tsuda wants to be a physician's assistant, but he also wants to surf as much as possible.
"I've never surfed so much in my life," said Tsuda, who surfs at least every other day.
His roommate, Cody Shumway, the only housemate with a full-time job, has mastered time management to let him surf more than that. He's in the water four or five times a day.
The 25-year-old math teacher at Kahuku Intermediate also is a California transplant who fell in love with the North Shore.
"I don't surf to live," he said, "because I'm not pro. But I live to surf."
Surfing to live
Here the WB network is filming a reality series documenting the adventures of seven pro surfers, including five-time Vans Triple Crown champ Sunny Garcia and defending champ Myles Padaca.
The house looks just as you'd expect Hollywood to think a Hawai'i surf house should look: lots of aloha print pillows and furniture, beachy koa-framed artwork, '70s-style bamboo bead curtains, a back yard with a dozen tiki torches, at least 50 surfboards, a perfect view of the surf spot known as Gas Chambers, and two security guards to keep out riffraff.
It's 3 p.m., and producers are standing outside taking notes as cameras follow bikini-clad girls returning from skateboarding in Hawai'i Kai. Holly Beck, a 22-year-old from Palos Verdes, Calif., is one of them.
"This is very much the plushest place I've ever stayed, and probably the plushest place I ever will stay," said Beck, who began surfing at 14 and was sponsored a year later by Rusty, the world's biggest surfboard maker. The model-turned-surfer has been featured everywhere from Teen People to Rolling Stone. She has a psychology degree, but she's getting paid to wear shoes, watches, clothes and jewelry.
Tenants in the WB house are not allowed to watch TV or listen to music, but there's plenty of hanging out with surfers who are used to having it all.
"Since I was 10, everything has been free, from my clothes to everything I need," said roommate Danny Fuller, 20, from Kaua'i, who has been surfing since he was 5 and sponsored since he was 10.
"I ask myself every day, 'Why?'" he said. "I just try to hang out with my friends and not really think too much about it."
Pet pigs and Volcom men
Leather couches are propped up on concrete blocks on the back deck to offer a better perspective on the stunning view of Pipeline.
Chava Greenlee, 30, wearing a "Kauai Surfers Bureau" T-shirt, stands out front with a bag of Pedigree puppy food feeding the pet pigs a little pink one named Spam and a pot-bellied one called Bacon.
The Volcom house is the one everyone talks about when they talk about surfer houses on the North Shore. It's the one with the reputation for fraternity house-style parties full of pro surfers with time and money and scantily clad girls on their hands.
"This house is like a surfer's dream," said Greenlee, who is opening a 40-ouncer as the daily gathering begins to hang out and watch the sunset.
"Living for free, getting paid to surf. I've been here, paid my dues. There's a lot of young kids who come here and get big-headed. But Pipeline will take care of that. Pipe humbles everyone."
And there are a lot of personalities to humble at the Volcom house.
There's Bruce Irons, the 23-year-old Kaua'i surfing protegé the Volcom team coach calls "the reason for the season" because he won the Pipe Masters last year, beating out older brother Andy Irons, who lives five houses down in the Red Bull house.
There's Greenlee's brother, Kai Garcia, who acts as sergeant-at-arms, with authority to blacklist unwanted visitors.
And there's Kala Alexander, 33, the much-tattooed and muscle-pumped surfer who played the bad local guy in the summer surf hit "Blue Crush." He says living at the Volcom house is like being at the top of the food chain, where "We're the predators."
What's it like to live there? "Just use your imagination and times it by three," Alexander deadpans. "The nights are even worse."
When the pros left the house last year, they hung a sign outside thanking everyone for their aloha, especially the girls, for, shall we say, performing certain favors.
"We're trying to keep it mellower than last year," Greenlee said. "You'd come home and there'd be people you didn't even know."
On any given night there are at least 20 people on the back deck, grilling at sunset, playing foosball, lifting weights and drinking beer beneath the rafters stocked with surfboards.
"They have the life," said Kai Hammond, a 19-year-old Kapi'olani Community College student from Nu'uanu, whose boyfriend lives there. "I wish I could live here and surf every day."
Phoebe Grindle, 18, a University of Hawai'i student from Kailua, has visited enough to have her caricature painted on the mural that spans one wall. She envies the lifestyle of her surfer friends, but takes heat for being one of the female regulars.
"It's definitely a stereotype," she said. "You tell people you're coming out here and there's a raised eyebrow."
Yes, there are pigs at the house, and yes, there are chauvinist ones.
"Just tell all the females they can come in," Greenlee laughs. "They don't need a pass."
Hammond says the house is not as bad as its reputation.
"Girls wouldn't come over here if they didn't know what they were getting into," she said.
Riddle, the Volcom team's 55-year-old mentor, who surfs every day himself, is quick with a spin of reasons why only good things should be written about the Volcom house.
It's full of talented athletes who wake before dawn to run laps and train, he said, and win.
"When we party, we have reason to party."
Their own kind of party
The sun sets behind two of the roommates, Shumway and O'Dwyer, who have been in the water since late afternoon.
It's a full moon night, but too early, just before 7 p.m., for the moon to cast a glow on the sea. It's dark enough for sharks, but the guys don't seem to notice. The only sound besides the waves lapping is enthusiastic cries from the roommates when big sets roll in and they catch good rides.
When it's time to go home, Shumway has papers to grade. Tsuda has an indoor soccer game to go to. O'Dwyer assumes the role of chef, making fish burritos in a kitchen where even the cabinets are painted with images of surfers.
The roommates watch a little television, popping in the 1999 video "Loose Change," a surfing comedy that mostly shows off action footage of pro surfers such as Kelly Slater. But perhaps the roommates have seen it too many times. "Everybody Loves Raymond" wins out as the evening's entertainment.
By 10 p.m., Shumway and O'Dwyer turn in for the night. An hour later, Tsuda is back from winning a soccer game, and he and his friends crash, too.
At 6 a.m., an alarm goes off in the townhouse, and by 6:15, Shumway is waxing surfboards.
Fifteen minutes later, Shumway and O'Dwyer are paddling out in Waimea Bay, early enough to beat the sunrise but too late to be first in the water. Four other surfers are already out competing for waves.
These guys live for surfing as much as the pros, but the WB house will never be their reality.
The amateur guys don't aspire to be pros. They're plenty happy with the way life is.
And the spring will be sweet.
The pros will be gone, and they'll have the waves all to themselves.
Reach Tanya Bricking at firstname.lastname@example.org or 525-8026.