John Peck And The Cosmic Now
Since the early 60s John Peck has materialised on the best days of surf anywhere between Malibu and Mexico’s Scorpion Bay, Sunset Beach and Hanalei Bay. Many surfers have spotted him flitting in and out of this third dimension while riding waves. John laid down the first photographed backside tuberide at the Pipeline in the 60s, became one of the leaders of the Hippie Revolution in California as a member of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, joined the list of top ten most wanted men by the CIA and FBI, was caught and then escaped prison, apparently merged with the sun and stopped breathing for 30 days, learnt the deepest teachings of surfing, yoga and pranayama, and has lived through it all to become a man devoted to helping others and surfing fearlessly into his 70s. Kinda makes him worth listening to if you ask us…
The Action Art… “Why I have always returned to surfing after expeditions into surfless zones of human experience is that without the waves to regularly remind me of who is really more powerful than me and keep me hydraulically massaged and limber, I can easily delude myself into thinking I am running my show. Until the days come that I can make the waves do what I tell them to, I will go to the ocean regularly to dance with the waves to help me stay in balance and rhythm with the greater power that is creating everything.
I define surfing as the action art of riding a wave of energy, leaving only a disappearing wake behind… a total now dance of harmony and union with the wave’s energy and its source. When I swim, or paddle out to catch an ocean wave, I am exercising my forgotten wings. When I wait for the right wave to come to carry me, I am meditating on natural reality and absorbing vital minerals from the mother of all biological life on this planet… the ocean. Patience, health, and wisdom naturally result.” *
Surfing Pipeline… “I was whisked, with my board, to the scene where Butch was already riding a wave. No one usually surfed there. Phil Edwards, Mike Hynson, and Dave Willingham had ridden it smaller two years before with little notice. The day Butch and I rode it the surf was larger with classic Hawaiian surf conditions. A clean west swell was hitting the Banzai reef perfectly. I paddled out. Butch and I proceeded to have our own private Pipeline contest. No one else was out. Several photographers were on the beach. Bud Brown was filming. His dentist, Dr. Don James, was taking still photos.
The famous Pipeline mural of me was photographed that day by Don. John Severson and Dale Davis also filmed. There were more photographers than surfers out riding. Butch caught one of the prettiest tube rides of the day and sat down to enjoy the end of it. I had one large wave righteous wipe-out early and quickly learned I had to angle side slide down the face on the take-off to make it. Ala Moana Bowl training paid off that day, enabling me to eventually get the place pretty wired; even getting some nose rides. The movies and photos taken that day sent a global shockwave through the world surf scene. The media hype made the Pipeline and us very well known. That was a great way to start the new year, for sure. I made the cover of Surfer Magazine and Butch got the title of “Mister Pipeline”. No one wanted to surf there until after that day because of the shallow jagged reef and potential consequence of a wipe-out. We got lucky and never hit the bottom on any of our wipe-outs. Trying to get a longboard down that concave tubing drop without pearling was no easy achievement. The wave at Pipe hits the reef jacking up fast, pitching out very hollow rapidly down the line. A surfer has to be in just the right place to get in and make the drop, angling with a longboard to keep the nose from going under.
New Year’s Day 1963 will remain in memory as the day Banzai Pipeline, Butch, and I really got famous. The next day was almost as good. There were more surfers out and photographers on the beach, but we had our choice of waves. I was glad Pipeline got so popular so fast because it took the focus and crowd off Sunset Beach which was my favourite wave and breaks best on the same swell directions. Like a later “Mister Pipeline” Gerry Lopez said, “Pipeline is a cake walk when you know how!” Now they surf every inch of that stretch of beach. That area is probably the most photographed wave zone in the world. I am grateful I got to surf it the way and when I did… free and easy. Quite a few surfers have died there, so use wisdom, manners, and respect in those breaks for the benefit of us all. Happy hollow ones to you!” *
* Excerpts from John’s forthcoming autobiography John Peck Penetrator