SHAUN TOMSON DROPPING IN AT PIPELINE ON HIS ZIGZAG HAWAIIAN GUN. PHOTOGRAPH BY JAMES CASSIMUS, 1983;
RIGHT: REPLICA OF THAT BOARD NOW ON AUCTION
Recently on eBay was a one of a kind replica of legendary surfer Shaun Tomson’s 7’7” 1983 Zigzag Hawaiian Gun. The proceeds of the auction went to benefit the Santa Barbara Boys & Girls Club for which the surfboard was created by Tomson, who lives in Santa Barbara, Ca. and serves on its board of directors. The theme of the auction was “Back To The 80′s”, and Tomson collaborated with Hawaiian shaping master Bill Barnfield, who originally shaped this and many more of his boards, to reproduce this iconic 80′s classic. The board was painstakingly recreated from recently discovered design templates by Barnfield, and featured an airbrushed design by the original artist Suzi Gillette. The neon colors and slash graphics represented the quintessential look of the surfboards from that era.
Shaun Tomson is recognized as one of the greatest surfers in the history of the sport. Born in South Africa, he came to Hawaii in the mid-70’s and made his presence known on the waves before surfing was a professional sport and you were paid to surf. “Bustin’ Down The Door”, a large format photography book and documentary he wrote and produced tells the story of his arrival on the North Shore of Oahu in the winter of 1975 with Australian legends Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew, Mark Richards and Ian Cairns, surfing the waves of Pipeline, Sunset, and Off the Wall. They proved their skills and prowess with a radical new approach, brazen attitude and unique style that garnered much attention, and were the pioneers of modern day surf style, culture and industry.
SHAUN’S TUBE RIDING ON SMALLER SWELLS, LOW IN STANCE AND DEEP IN THE BARREL, DEFINED HIS STYLE, AS DID HIS GOOD LOOKS. PHOTOGRAPHS ABOVE AND BELOW BY DAN MERKEL
I had the opportunity to speak with Tomson earlier this week about his involvement with The Boys and Girls Club, and the board he and Barnfield created for this year’s event. The board was originally designed specifically for surfing the famed wave, Pipeline. I asked him what is it about this wave that makes it so notorious.
“Pipeline is deadliest and most challenging wave in the world,” he told me. “There certainly are waves that are bigger, but no wave has killed more people than Pipeline and no wave is a greater test of a surfers courage, reflexes and abilities. The reason it’s so challenging is you have a swell that’s coming in from about a 3000 ft. depth hitting shallow coral reef that’s about 4-6 ft. deep. The wave just stands up absolutely vertical. You have a hard northeast tradewind ripping up the face of the wave creating these corrugations and chops in the face that you have to navigate as you’re dropping down. And even before you take off, you have this wind in your face that temporarily blinds you as you’re paddling in. There is a fear barrier that one has to break through and you’re just going over the edge on pure commitment and adrenaline. The best surfers in the world have also been the best surfers at Pipeline. I think it’s the absolute true test.”
Tomson then went on to quote a William Butler Yeats poem…
‘I balanced all, brought all to mind,
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.’
He made the comparison that on that wave, “You are balanced on a razors edge between life and death. Because of that risk, when you make a wave at Pipeline the reward is just sublime.”
He did indeed make the drop and the wave in that first image up top in which all the things Tomson describes about Pipeline are clearly visible. “Photographer James Cassimus captured a moment in time that is frozen forever in my memory”, said Tomson. “I looked over the edge on that beast of a wave and thought I was going to die, but went anyway. It was one of the most radical drops of my life.”
SHAUN AND “RABBIT” BARTHOLOMEW