At Makaha Beach on the west coast of Oahu (Hawaii) on December 4th 1969, board rider Greg Noll (Da Bull) was said to have caught the biggest wave ever ridden. Controversy surrounds the visual records and the height of the wave: there was no film footage and it was estimated at 35 foot upwards. Legendary filmmaker Alby Falzon spent the day in an apartment overlooking the beach and claims he photographed it, but others say it doesn’t look big enough. Or have recreated the event (from interviewing Greg).
Greg’s build, riding stance and favourite prison-striped board shorts make him easy to identify in all the old photos and footage of 70s big wave riding at the North Shore beaches of Waimea and beyond. Last Monday he died at the age of 84 at home in Crescent City, Northern California.
Back in November 2018, for a change from the Kookynie surf, JJ and I flew to Hawaii. And then straight to Makaha for a body surf in the holy waters. The outside break was at least half a kilometre out to sea, so jet-lagged and shark-conscious self was content to play in the shore break. That side of Oahu is very Hawaiian, struggletown, melancholic, with a rugged volcanic backdrop along its stretch of blue Pacific, sandy beaches. Cool āina!
Vale Greg: aloha, a hui hou. One day, at the big-wave beach in the sky.