It felt like I needed permission somehow to make this little Latin-flavored throwaway video, set in fabled old Club Waikiki, on the beachfront of Lima, Peru, during the 1965 World Surfing Championships. Club Waikiki, when it finds its way into the better, more righteous area of my head, makes me squirm. A surfing country club, for God’s sake. The one-percent of the one-percent. I have no idea what it costs now to join, but Club Waikiki membership in the mid-’60s was a cool $25,000. Which of course was nothing to the Lima gentry. Trip on a table leg on the way to the marble-floored bathroom, and you’d spill your drink on an shipping magnate, or a Formula One champion, or the Presidente himself.
The first photo I remember seeing of Club Waikiki showed a white-coated valet standing in the dirt parking lot at the club’s entrance in 1955, head inclined
Oh you big hypocrite, Mike Doyle! “We drank huge pitchers of pisco sours and had a great time,” Doyle writes a paragraph or two later, describing in detail how they then smashed up a local restaurant (a Club member dropped a stack of bills on the table to pay for the damage), then stuffed themselves into somebody’s Jag XKE before hot-rodding out to a colonial mansion for some high-end whoring.
And oh you equally big hypocrite, Matt Warshaw! Fifteen years ago my wife and I gladly accepted an all-expense-paid 10-day trip to Lima—word was out that I was contracted to write a big surf history book; the Peruvians wanted to improve my knowledge of local surf history—and of course we ended up having a long, boozy, very pleasant lunch in the main dining room of Club Waikiki, with servants and white linen and zero chance of me having to open my wallet.
I love that surfing has done it’s small part in social leveling. I love that the sport is filled with people from flat broke beginnings who clawed their way to the top of the lineup, who stole donuts and wax, who learned on garage-sale boards and sailed right past all the rich surf-dabblers who never bothered to put the time in. Tom Blake, David Nuuhiwa, Adriano de Souza—take a bow. There is a special place in Surfing Valhalla for those who start with nothing.
But I also love, or at least take full advantage of, all the things that have been handed to me. Family money. A breadwinning wife. Peruvian swells who wire me plane tickets and book my hotel and usher me to the best table at Club Waikiki.
Ah well. I’m not going to square that circle this morning. Or ever.
The permission I needed to make this clip begins at 1:45. The tall guy in the white dress shirt and black tie, tearing it the dance floor—that’s Joel de Rosnay, French surf champ, the pride of Biarritz, and recent graduated of the University of Paris with a degree in Organic Chemistry. University of Paris. French intellectual. Connect those dots and you get . . . Socialist!
If de Rosnay can set aside his better self and take full guilt-free advantage of Club Waikiki, so can I.
Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité, Watusi!