An Exorcism at Waimea

Noll and Munoz, first day at Waimea
Waimea Bay. Photo: Warren Bolster
Munoz (left) and Stange, first day at Waimea. Photo: Don James

Pat Curren was the insider’s pick as the consummate North Shore big-wave surfer, but Greg Noll wanted to carry the banner, and nobody got in his way. Not only was Noll the biggest, loudest surfer on the block, he was also more focused than anybody on turning the sport into a vocation; by 1957 he was producing surf movies and running Greg Noll Surfboards, and he’d soon be publishing a surf magazine. Meanwhile, Noll was obsessed with riding huge waves—and nearly as obsessed with the idea of get...

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That first day, Mike Stange and Mickey Munoz turned their bearded faces to the wind and began shouting passages from Hamlet. They shook their fists at the heavens and plunged imaginary daggers into their chests, and their actions implied that big-wave riding would from now on be equal parts drama and melodrama. The audience was watching. Play it up.