3 Dec 2013

First Descents :: Barry Kanaiaupuni

Early on, Barry Kanaiaupuni took a unique approach to surfing that not only changed the way people rode waves but also shaped the future of board making.

There are very few people who can lay claim to new beginnings or witnessed first-hand the shift from old to new. Surfer, Barry Kanaiaupuni was an instrumental figure progressing the sport from bulkier boards and straight sliding to a whole new style signified by the ever-evolving shapes made in garages and in the back rooms of surf shops. He lived through a time where new frontiers were conquered redefining the way people rode waves and the industry that was built around it.

The "Red" - BK shaped his most memorable Bolt board for Lightning Bolt 2012 Collectors' Quiver

Looking to heroes like George Downing and Paul Strauch for inspiration, Barry paddled out for the first time at age eight. It was an easy time to be passionate about the sport living in Hawaii and benchmarking surf films as a standard from which to progress.

It wasn’t until he moved to California that things really began to explode. Barry surfed his way down the coast eventually ending up in the South Bay where he cut his teeth skinning blanks at Hobie’s in Dana Point ultimately linking up with guys like Butch Van Arsdale and Phil Edwards who helped him refine his craft. Both in and out of the water, Barry pushed boundaries earning the attention of Laurence Vincent, head of the Windansea surf club, who immediately recognized the talent of the young Hawaiian and signed him to the team.

Barry was known for doing things differently and his unorthodox way of shaping and surfing. In fact, it was he, Sam Hawk, Gary Chapman and a few others who were the first to go right at spots now known Gas Chambers and Off The Wall. “There were a lot of ground-breaking things that were going on at that time,” he adds. “No one was even surfing Backyards except us. I lived right there.” Skinnier, shorter boards made for better bottom turns and helped draw finer lines. If you ask him, he’ll tell his crew was doing it way before anybody where certain sessions at Makaha and Sunset completely redefined the sport.

BK caught by Jeff Divine back in the day

It was progression that Kanaiaupuni was best known for and the purest intentions are what drove him to turn his passion into his profession. Those who know him will likely say that back then he was in it for the right reasons and for the younger generation, hopefully they’ll read a story like this one and be inspired by one of the greatest surfers to ever evolve the sport.

Text: Dustin A. Beatty
Interview: Matt Wessen

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