SUNDAY JOINT, 1-6-2019: WAS GREG NOLL’S “THE LAST BIG WAVE” OUR FIRST GREAT HOAX?

Hey All,

I just now typed “2019” for the first time, up there in the Sunday Joint subject field, and it hit me that I got my first surfboard 50 years ago. Hmmm. What happens when I compare my surfing life up to a bottle of ’69 Glenlivet? Google search and . . . “Mature and elegant, superb balance, flavors in abundance, with a long and luxuriously sweet finish.” Well, how about that. Identical! Happy New Year and cheers to you, Uncle Dan, for dropping off that fire-engine-red cutdown 7’4″ pintail just after my ninth birthday. It rode like a door, but I loved it from the moment it fell into my soft little hands, and didn’t it just catapult me into an ongoing lifelong adventure.

After posting “The Last Big Wave,” the latest History of Surfing chapter, I jumped into a long rabbit hole having to do with the Swell of 1969, and Greg Noll’s famous Makaha wave, and how that story has been thrilling and bamboozling people for decades now. “Greg Noll’s 1969 Makaha Wave Has Thrashed Us All” is the main piece I wrote, but there’s a lot of other stuff folded in there as well, including Rick Grigg’s article on the ’69 swell, a piece from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin written the day after Noll’s ride (“Storm Wave Wipes Out Champ Surfer”), an excerpt from Noll’s autobiography, and a dozen or so pix from that still-talked-about event.

Some of you will think I’m a bitch for calling it out, but I agree with Aussie writer Kirk Owers that Noll’s famous and supposedly unrecorded Makaha wave was in fact photographed and published before it was “disappeared” in favor of the ever-growing ride of legend. I’m now furiously working on a new Greg Noll video, to show that I don’t care if his wave was one-third smaller than we were all led to believe. I’ll tell you something about Noll. He learned from the best—Velzy and Dora—that you can be a bullshitter and a legend at the same time. It doesn’t matter if his Makaha wave was 20 feet or 60 feet. Greg Noll’s place in Big-Wave Valhalla is booked.

Thanks, everybody, and see you next week.

Matt