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PBS Hawaiʻi features Randy Rarick

Randy Rarick: Hawaii's Most Iconic Surfer

Randy Rarick has dedicated over 60 years of his life to the sport of surfing. From competing as a young surfer in amateur competitions in the 1960s to helping launch the professional surfing tour in the 1970s, Rarick has played a pivotal role in shaping surf culture in Hawaii and around the world.

In a recent interview with PBS Hawai'i at Ali'i Beach Park on Oahu's North Shore, Rarick recounted his lifelong passion for surfing and his many contributions to the sport.

Early Days of Surfing in Hawaii

Randy Rarick first learned to surf at age 10 in Waikiki, where he caught his first wave with help from legendary Hawaiian beach boy Rabbit Kekai. "I rode that wave for about 20, 30 yards and the wave faded out. It was probably a little one foot wave," Rarick recalled. "I looked back and I went, Wow, that's amazing."

He quickly became hooked on the feeling of propelling himself through the ocean under the power of a wave. In the 1960s, the development of lighter foam surfboards helped popularize the sport, leading to an explosion of interest in surfing among Rarick and his peers.

Randy Rarick Master Shaper

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At just 12 years old, Rarick began repairing surfboards for kids in his Niu Valley neighborhood to pay for materials. By 14, he landed his first job at a local surf shop. His dedication to surfing led him to ditch Boy Scout meetings to watch surf films when they passed through town. "That's when I said, I'm going to be a surfer for the rest of my life" Rarick said.

How Randy launched Professional Surfing

In the 1960s, amateur surf competitions began offering small amounts of prize money, planting the seed for professional surfing. Rarick excelled in local contests, winning the Hawaii State Junior Surfing Championship in 1967.

By the early 1970s, Rarick recognized that professional surfing was poised to take off. He teamed up with Fred Hemmings in 1976 to launch the International Professional Surfers tour, the first organized world tour for professional surfing.

"It legitimized professional surfing," Rarick explained. "Prior to that surfing was just basically considered a lifestyle sport. And it wasn't really considered a professional or competitive sport."

After resigning as tour director in 1983, Rarick focused his efforts on promoting surfing in Hawaii. Alongside Hemmings, he created the iconic Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, linking Hawaii's three major surf events - the Hawaiian Pro, World Cup of Surfing, and Pipeline Masters.

The Triple Crown quickly became known as one of the most prestigious titles in surfing after the World Title. Rarick served as director of the Triple Crown events for nearly 40 years until retiring in the mid-2010s.

Hawaii the birthplace of Surfing

Throughout his career organizing surf events, Rarick made it his mission to showcase Hawaii's world-class waves.

"My heart was always to promote Hawaii as the birthplace of surfing...the place where surfing deserves to be recognized the most," Rarick said. "Surfing is Hawaii's gift to the world of sport...It's crazy how this little sport that started in Hawaii has blossomed around the world."

Randy Rarick at Hawaiian South Shore

Rarick believes Hawaii offers the best waves in the world and wanted the surf competitions here to reflect that. In doing so, he helped establish Hawaii and the North Shore as the epicenter of professional surfing.

Wisdom from Duke Kahanamoku

One formative experience that stuck with Rarick was wisdom passed down from Hawaiian surfing icon Duke Kahanamoku when Rarick was a teenager.

"He says, I want to tell you something. Whatever you put back, you will get 10 times over. So do as much as you can for surfing and you will enjoy the fruits of your efforts," Rarick recalled. "That was sort of my mantra - that I am going to be whatever I can do for surfing, particularly Hawaii, to promote it in the best way I possibly can."

Full Circle Back to Surfboards

After retiring from event organizing, Randy Rarick has come full circle in his passion for surfboards. He now specializes in restoring and refurbishing vintage surfboards back to their original glory.

The restoration process involves meticulously sanding down old boards, repairing dings and damage, and re-glassing and painting them to match their retro styles.

"It's an art because basically what you're doing [is] similar to a car restoration," Rarick explained.

For Randy Rarick, this craft keeps him connected to the early days of his surfing journey. And at nearly 75 years old, his lifelong "stoke" for surfing burns as bright as ever.

Randy Rarick Shaping boards

Legacy of a Legend

With over six decades dedicated to surfing and showcasing Hawaii's natural gifts to the world, Randy Rarick has cemented himself as an icon of surf culture in the islands. Through competing, board-shaping, event organizing, and now surfboard restoration, Rarick has shared his aloha for surfing near and far.

Randy Rarick Surfing

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At an age when many have long retired, Rarick's passion for riding waves remains strong. And the surf world is better for all he has given to the sport he fell in love with on a small Waikiki wave back in 1955. Randy Rarick is truly Hawaii's ambassador of surfing.