"...there was a dark cloud that hung over the “Seven Mile Miracle” in the ‘40s and ‘50s."
There’s the North Shore that we see each winter during the Triple Crown—the team houses and the Foodlands and the food trucks. Then there’s that other North Shore, the one that laid the foundations for what goes on today. That one started in 1938, when Wally Froiseth, John Kelly, Gene Smith, and Lorrin Harrison drove from Honolulu out to Sunset Beach to ride big, heavy waves on big, heavy boards. Others joined them—George Downing pioneered Laniakea; Walter Hoffman, Henry Preece, and Buzzy Trent streaked right at Haleiwa. Waimea Bay was ridden for the first time in 1957 by Greg Noll, Mickey Muñoz, and Pat Curren. Phil Edwards broke the ice at Pipeline in 1961. The rural North Shore soon became a surf destination.
But there was a dark cloud that hung over the “Seven Mile Miracle” in the ‘40s and ‘50s.
On December 22, 1943, Dickie Cross and Woody Brown paddled out at Sunset Beach. The waves were eight-foot and rising. It was late afternoon.
A succession of big sets came in, each larger than the one before. Cross and Brown had to paddle out, out, out to avoid wearing the wrath of the Pacific on the head. They found themselves in what seemed like the middle of the ocean, mountainous swells looming all around them.
The infamous Sunset rip tide was too strong to fight. They elected to paddle the two-and-a-half miles down to Waimea in the hopes of an easy way to shore. By the time they got there it was closing out. Brown managed to sneak between clean up sets and washed to shore, unconscious. He would survive. Cross was not so fortunate. He bolted to shore hastily, got caught by a giant closeout set, and was never seen again.
Greg Noll referred to it as the “Waimea taboo”—that miasma of fear that kept surfers away from riding the break until 1957.
---Jamie Brisick is a writer, photographer, and director. He surfed on the ASP world tour from 1986 to 1991. He has since documented surf culture extensively. His books include Becoming Westerly: Surf Champion Peter Drouyn’s Transformation into Westerly Windina, Roman & Williams: Things We Made, We Approach Our Martinis With Such High Expectations, Have Board, Will Travel: The Definitive History of Surf, Skate, and Snow, and The Eighties at Echo Beach. His writings and photographs have appeared in The Surfer’s Journal, The New York Times, and The Guardian. He was the editor of Surfing magazine from 1998-2000, and is presently the global editor of Huck. In 2008 he was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship. He lives in Los Angeles. For more of his work check out jamiebrisick.com & @jamiebrisick