Yesterday I got to see one of my good friends, Duane DeSoto, win his first ASP world title at the Oxbow Wavesliders World Longboard Championship, which was held at Duane’s homebreak: Makaha Beach.
The soundtrack to DeSoto’s victory came from Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwaole. Before DeSoto paddled out for the final heat against France’s Antoine Delpero, he asked his uncle to play IZ’s “Living In A Sovereign Land.” Like DeSoto, IZ is from the rough and gnarly West Side of Oahu, and while Kamakawiwaole has passed away his lyrics were still very poignant to DeSoto yesterday.
“‘You can take the land, you can take the man, but you can’t take the truth away,’ and that was constantly running through my head,” said DeSoto about the pre-final psyche up song. “With all the things that happened in here in Hawaii, and I want to be someone that reveals the truth and move forward with our nation here.”
The DeSoto name carries a lot of weight in surfing, but more in Hawaiian politics. Duane’s grandmother, Frenchy DeSoto, was one of the first trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Duane’s uncle, John DeSoto, is the original “Flyin’ Hawaiian,” and was an internationally recognized motocross racer before becoming a councilman in 1986. John served the maximum four terms in office.
Duane gives back to his community with a non-profit organization called Na Kama Kai, which puts on free waterman clinics for children. Furthermore, the NPO is a way for Duane to continue the legacy of his elders and perpetuate the culture of his ancestors.
“I’m so proud to bring it back to this beach,”said Duane about his world title and homebreak. “It’s kind of awkward trying to help Oxbow come to Makaha and bring this event here. There is so many good reasons to bring Oxbow here. The spirit of Makaha is awesome. Everybody opened their arms and embraced all of the visitors. There’s a rich, professional surfing history here that goes back about 50 to 60 years, and then you got the traditions and ancestors here that were surfing here hundreds and thousands of years ago. This was very popular beach for surfing before (Western) contact.”
I have much Aloha for Makaha as well. In high school, the first time I drove to the beach on O‘ahu was Makaha. I frequently cut classes my freshmen year at UH Manoa to score uncrowded, mid day Makaha. When I worked for FreeSurf, Makaha was my fave-getaway–from–the–North–shore wave.
The Oxbow Wavesliders World Longboard Championship was a special contest for me because I got to watch a close friend actualize a dream, and also because Oxbow named their event after a poem I wrote.
Congratulations, Duane! E Ola. Living in a sovereign land.