The Individualist

A mid-1960s study of David Nuuhiwa.

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David came from the Islands as a teenager and surfed around Huntington. There were a lot of really good surfers at the Pier then—Herbie, Baxter, Fury. But when David arrived, everything changed. He was graceful. Spiderman. Ballet on a board.

Like John Peck, another individualist, David didn’t copy anybody. He was so flexible. He could drop his butt, bowlegged, to the deck and stand back up like it was nothing. He was the best guy in the water. He was the Kelly Slater of his time.

But of course no one made any money surfing back then. He’d get boards and clothes, but no real income. Bill Fury says he sees him eating breakfast sometimes down at George’s in Sunset Beach. He’s an Uber driver. I don’t think Kelly will ever be an Uber driver. —L.H.

All photos by Leo Hetzel