Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Miguel Plaza.

Having decided to put my energy into writing a Surfing Guide to Peru it only seemed reasonable to talk to the oldest surf club in Peru, The Waikiki Surf Club. The notion of paying 15 000 dollars to join a club on a busy road opposite a fairly average break by Peruvian standards was always going to be strange.

 The club itself I will have to leave for now, but Miguel Plaza was an honoury member I'm afraid I was unaware of his fame and feel much happier for having met his acquaintance

It was obvious from the first picture showing himself plunging down Pico Alto's face for the first time that Miguel was a man with history and responsibility for shaping a legacy for all peruvian tablista's. Peru was new to surfing when Miguel popped up in the 60's, with Carlos Dogny bringing back the first surfboard to Peru in 1940 (he would later take surfing to France too) and it was the likes of Miguel who took surfing from fun and cool for the wealthy and changed it to charging and being super healthy.

He's racked up in the region of 20 visits to Hawaii and holds a membership at the Duke's Outrigger Club in Waikiki, why wouldn't he, they were friends! His visits started on the south shore, but quickly developed to Makaha and the North Shore where he rented a house at Sunset with his then wife.

Miguel may have needed no prompting to talk about his involvement in surfing and is a very cheerful man but two subjects seemed to not sit well with him. The first was the military government's involvement in the plans of The Waikiki Surf  Club and the second was the drug scene in the 1960's and 1970's in Hawaii, I guess when you have counted people like Butch Van Artsdalen as your friends somethings aren't for public consumption.

Meanwhile back in Peru with his new found abilities and tutelage from the likes of  Duke Kahanamoku, George Downing, Fred Hemmings, Greg Noll, Paul Strauch and Ben Aipa, Miguel was the man setting the standard. "Surfing the long lefts at Kontiki on a clean 10 to 12 foot swell with just 3 or 4 friends" was how many a day was spent.. The Club actually bought the section of the beach between Punta Rocas and Punta Hermosa. He wanted more and although Pico Alto had been ridden, never at size, "The hollow waves of Hawaii, with waves rising up from deep were so exciting for us, Pico Alto has that." It wasn't long before board developments meant that Punta Rocas was being ridden too.

Miguel was a welcomed visitor all over the Hawaiin islands even if they did feed him dog at a luau on the then leper colony of Molokai. Noll, Aipa and Strauch made his boards and when they were gone he used to borrow Buffalo Keaulana's.....he was free to catch which ever waves he wanted and knew all the boys.

He obviously still loves the islands as he's always there. But he noticed changes, "the North Shore was thick with LSD and Marijuana through the 60's which only escalated in the 70's", the place was "heavy with drug dealers" as he adopted a facial expression that signalled it was time to move on. Soon though he recalls attitudes changed on the strip, "The Bronzed Aussies" arrived by 1975, Shaun Tomson, Mark Richards, Ian Cairns, Townend, Rabbit and a few others had "Busted down the door." . Then the money and  fluorescent neoprene crept in. Miguel had his crew and his spots by then and free diving and paddling were always on the cards as well, he observed this neither approvingly or disapprovingly.

Together with his friends, they used to bring Straung, Hemming etc back to Peru. The Hawaiian guys were treated like royalty and dined on silver crockery served by the hired help. Miguel recalls how shocked the visitors were that the servants not only waxed and carried their boards but also fished them out of the pools at Punta Rocas when they lost them in the time before leashes. I can't think why?

My favourite yarn was of staying with the Aikau family at the Chinese Cemetery where Soloman Aikau (Eddie's dad) worked and lived. Listening to ukulele's and fat guys on stools having an extended family shin dig in amongst the dead.

 He attended the Surfing World Championships in Peru in 1965, Ocean beach, USA 1966 and 1968 in Puerta Rico. He's entertained Nat Young and  Rodney Sumptor (Go GB!!), he gets in when he can at Waikiki and is in and out before the wind gets on it, early. Looking at his peruvian interviewin the link further down, he seems to have one a lot of trophies all over.

 Miguel was a complete gentleman and I know that as a group we have some wonderfully brilliant people but it did make we wonder why the surfers at the top of the tree today aren't as humble, honest and engaging as Miguel.

 I'm in touch with Miguel over his photo collection including pictures by Leroy Grannis, but checkout his interview at http://www.peruazul.com/desdeorilla/ent-plaza01.html  to see him scoring big Sunset with Jock Sutherland riding the wave in front and plenty more.

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