Welcome to the 4th episode of the sixth series of our “Legends” series! Today with us, from Peru, former 1965 world champion Felipe Pomar.
We discussed with him about his amazing history, surfing till 100 program, surfing a tsunami and much more!.
You can find the episode on all major podcast platforms or read the transcribed version on our website.
TTOS: Aloha Mr. Pomar, welcome to the show…..where are you today?
Aloha I'm on the island of Kauai, I think it's about three o'clock it's a sunny day and the surf was very nice this morning.
TTOS: Today, we're gonna talk about surf, we're gonna talk about your amazing career. The first question that I have for you is, in your opinion, what is the most important thing in surfing?
Well, in my opinion, I can only speak about myself at a different points in my life, different things have been the most important about surfing. At one point it was the adventure and the challenge, and now it's probably more the fun and the health…. to be able to, to keep going out there and to have fun.
TTOS: I agree with you, you know, it changes like in with the, with the time of our life, but I guess there is the fun component that is always there, right?
In my case, I just figured it out the other day, I've been surfing for either 63 or 64 years, that's a long time and so things do change over time.
TTOS: Today, I divided the interview in different sections. The first one is talking about the, you as a surfer. Going back to the days and talking about your first proper surfboard, do you remember it? By any chance, do you still have it?
I'm sorry to say that I do not have it, but I remember it, well, it was shaped by a person that took me surfing and at some point he asked me, would you like me to shape you a surfboard? I said, yes, of course. He shaped me a board out of balsa wood and it was my first board. And I remember it very well, but I don't know how long I kept it because the foam boards showed up pretty soon after that maybe within a year or two and foam was a new thing and it was lighter and it was more advanced, when foam became available, I gave up the board.
TTOS: in your opinion, what would you consider the defining moment of your career?
Well, I was think thinking about that earlier and it's very difficult to pick one because a very important one was when I won the world championships, that was, you know, very important. It has changed many things in my life, but another very important one was when I surfed a tsunami with the same friend who built me the board, my first board. and a third one is when I had a near death experience under the water. All of those three, it is very difficult to pick which one was the most important.
TTOS: We actually gonna talk about all of them today…. if we start from the 1965 world title, in your opinion, what has changed compared to today?
The amount of money that you make has changed.
TTOS: Of course, but the rest remained the same?
It's also different…. back then, they normally held a world championship every two years and it was only one event. And now there are many events held over the year and they add up the points…that would be another big difference.
TTOS: We can say that winning back then, first of all, you are double champion because you are champion for two years and then the second thing is that it was like “the winner takes it all”, you had one chance…
In some way more difficult, but some people would say today is more fair because you winning once is different than winning many times.
TTOS: We can conclude that it is different, but you know, being a world champion is still something super important, right?
Thank you. I agree.
TTOS: It projects you to the legend status, once you're there, nobody can steal it away from you. In your life you met a lot of surfers of any kind, some of them were famous, some of them were just normal surfers. Was there a meeting that was particularly meaningful for you?
Probably meeting who's considered the father of modern day surfing, the Duke, that was a very special event in my life.
TTOS: Tell us more about that meeting, how did it happen?
Well, I actually got to meet Duke maybe half a dozen times, but the one that I remember, because I have a picture of it is at the first Duke invitational championships, which were held at sunset beach. I have a picture shaking Duke hand, that is a special picture, I see it frequently because it comes up on Facebook and other places, that reminds me of Duke, who was a very special person, he embodied the Aloha spirit, which is so much a part of Hawaii.
TTOS: Reading about you today, I was reading about “surf till 100” , my attention got catch by this old Chinese saying that if you want to cross the mountain you must ask first to somebody that is coming back from it…… What is the key learning that you had so far?
Probably health, is more than the absence of disease. You know, you can be healthy or you can be very healthy or you can be extremely healthy, there are many levels of health…..if you want to a long time and enjoy life for a long time, you have to pursue developing your health. It's not just enough to feel okay, you have to learn about health and you have to live it every day, a good way of thinking about it is that there is a health bank and every decision you make every day is either adding health or taking health away from your health bank and, if you live long enough, you're gonna need every little bit of health that you were able to deposit in your health bank.
TTOS: Definitely, I see what you mean and of course, you know, it is very difficult to think about the future, but if we don't do that, we might risk. Being healthy and having healthy lifestyle is super important.
By the way, I would like to give credit to Dr. Dorian Paskowitz, he was a doctor who developed his health and surfed until a very advanced age. He had a very interesting life and he wrote a book where he talks about the things that I have just mentioned.
TTOS: The legendary “Doc”, I've seen like a lot of footage of him surfing, like every day in Hawaii…
Going back to surf till 100, you are organizing also expeditions right? The next one, if I well understood, is in Peru, right?
Well, it was supposed to happen last year in may, but because of COVID, it was an not possible to travel. We're hoping that things will get better and we can do it this year may, but it's still a little bit up in the air because the COVID things change all the time.
TTOS: what people should expect of when they travel with you?
Well, number one, Peru has surf every single day.
Number two is that we will share (I say, we, because it's not only me, I have two partners. One is Jeff Hackman and one is Tom Woods) many of the important things that people can do to stay healthy and to extend their surfing life. Number three, Peru has 5,000 years of surf history, we will be visiting many archeological sites and places like the temple of the moon and a number of other locations where people that were surfing 5,000 years ago lived and have their art and their buildings still available for us to to see and appreciate.
TTOS: Fantastic, it looks like a very, very interesting trip, it makes me want to join!
Talking about Peru I had opportunity to interview for the Olympic games Lucca Mesinas, he was representing Peru at the Olympic games in Tokyo….. in your opinion how Peru surf and surfers are evolving in all these years?
Peru has some great surfers, but the surfing industry is considerably smaller than in places like Australia and Brazil, the problem in Peru is getting sponsorships.
Peruvian surfers don't have the type of sponsorships, allow them to travel around the world to compete comfortably or maybe one or two might, but most of them don't, that makes it difficult for them.
Is that what we were saying before about being world champion or being on the tour today.
TTOS: Today the pay it's bigger, but also the costs, I guess, are much, much bigger… in order to be there, you have to participate to so many events and travel the whole world….
Well, that's true, but, for example, the world championship that I won was the first of official world championship organized by the international surfing Federation and what I won was a trophy.
You know, trophies are very nice, but you can't buy anything with a trophy.
TTOS: It gives you the opportunity to be recognized as a world champion and then maybe make some business, you know, because of that….
Correct, actually, I got an unusual opportunity by winning that world championship, I got an interview in Hollywood with Metro Golden Mayer, they offered me an opportunity to move to Hollywood and to learn how to act.
I turned them down because I had never wanted to be an actor, so I figured I probably would not be a very good actor since I was not interested in that. I wanted to go back to Hawaii where I loved the big waves and I wanted to continue doing that.
I'm very happy that I did not get sidetracked because that was quite tempting offer,
TTOS: Let’s talk about waves, surfing the tsunami and that experience were you almost lost your life….
Well, just like today, there was a handful of us who wanted to ride the biggest waves in the world, you know, it's happening today and it was happening back then as well. My friend PT, the same one who built me, the balsa board, and I, we were training to ride the biggest waves in the world. What I mean by training is that we were getting up at five of o'clock in the morning and we were running and doing exercise and getting into the best possible physical condition so that when the waves came, we could go out and survive, riding the biggest waves in the world, that's what we were training for. One morning there was an earthquake that lasted about a minute and 48 seconds or a minute and 52 seconds. It was about eight or 8.2 on the mercalli scale. All of a sudden we had the opportunity to paddle out and surf, try to ride the waves generated by that for earthquake, which was extremely powerful and lasted for such a long time. We didn't have a lot of time to think about it, you know, we either had to go out or not go out. I told him “let's go surfing, let's go surf the tsunami” he said, okay and so we went.
We were paddling out to see if we could ride the biggest way in the world even if It worked out different than I had imagined. We got sucked out to sea, we thought we were going to die and it was very scary. Eventually we were able to ride some big waves and we made it back to the beach and we were very, very, very happy to be alive.
TTOS: Let's say we can definitely give an advice, not to go to for tsunami waves, unless you are like super prepared and healthy and fit.
I think that is good advice.
TTOS: Talking about other waves that of course characterized your life as surfer, there is this story about a wave, a life/death experience, I would like you to share with us what happened on that moment.
Sure. I'll summarize it a little bit because it's a long story.
I was surfing by myself and I was inside the barrel of a big wave and I looked up and I realized that it was going to collapse and break on me.I jumped off and then, all of a sudden, I felt like I was in a different place and I did not know where I was, but I saw this amazing light that was moving in slow motion towards me. This light was very, very beautiful, it had my attention, but out of the corner of my eye, I saw a body that was very far away, maybe 40 feet away, or maybe 50 feet away, there was a body, but I was interested in the light and I kept looking at the light and I saw the light do these amazing things and then I got curious and I had a thought and the thought was “I wonder whose body that is”.
When I had that thought, I turned away from the light and I looked at the body, which was motionless very far away. Once I focused on the body, it started moving, at first it moved very slowly and then it did and moved very fast. In an instant, it came right up to me. I could have touched it, but I didn't, but it came at me backwards. All I could see was the back of somebody and the back of somebody's head…. when it came right up to me, I thought, I wonder whose face that body has….then the body turned around and it had my face.
That was a very scary moment because I did not understand what was happening, but I understood that it was very serious. I had this very intense feeling in the pit of my stomach and then the next thing I knew I was underwater and I was stroking for the surface. I remember giving about two or three strokes and then, on the fourth stroke, thinking I have very little air left, I need to breathe. I gave another stroke and I decided I only had one more stroke in me. And so I gave that last stroke and I took in a breath and I was up on the surface.
A friend of mine who was an oceanographer, had a different opinion, he said, that is just your brain working because you were still alive and so, you know, whether it's whether the light was coming to take me somewhere else or whether it was just the brain making connections, I guess I will not know until I die.
Another interesting thing is that it was a beautiful experience, the light that was coming to me was amazing and the colors I was seeing were incredible, I've never seen such bright colors.
It probably affected my life in many ways that I don't even quite understand.
TTOS: As of now I guess the, the listener have understood that you are very, very busy person and you keep yourself busy. Is that something that you are working on, particularly that you want to share with us?
Yes, like I mentioned before, Peru has a surfing history that goes back 5,000 years, and most surfers have never heard about it. They know nothing about it. So we're putting together a documentary which took us 30 years to make,
We're gonna be showing this presentation and the documentary so that people understand that surfing has in my much longer history than they realize,
TTOS: Wow. That's gonna be so important….. when you're gonna release the documentary?
Well, in a perfect world, we would've already released it, but we want to do as good a job as we can and make sure that it's all presented well and well organized. I hope that it will be not more than 30 or 60 days when it is available.
TTOS: That's fantastic. Looking forward to see it….
The only people that will see the premier showing are people who sign up to our “Surf till 100” website for our newsletter, because we will be inviting the people that sign up. So if you want to see it, please go to surf till 100 website and sign up for our newsletter, that way we will invite you when it is ready to be seen.
TTOS: We are gonna finish our interview with a short question and answer, please answer the first thing that comes up to your mind?
The best surfboard that you ever ridden….
Right now I am doing stand up surfing, but if we're talking about surfing surfboard, it was probably a board made by Dick Brewer.
Right now I'm doing standup so it is probably a standup board made by Terry Chung.
TTOS: How is the transition between surfboard and sup?
Well, in my case, I was surfing a very, very big day and I had my biggest board and I only caught one wave in three hours and Laird Hamilton was on his stand up and he got many, many waves. That's the day that I decided I had to learn how to stand up.
TTOS: The best shaper of all time, in your opinion,
I would probably go to Dick Brewer again.
TTOS: Personal question, your favorite song.
Well, of course that is a hard one, but my favorite recent song, it's called “ghost town” by the rolling stones.
TTOS: your favorite surf spot,
TTOS: Favorite surfer of full time.
That again is very, very difficult. I would probably choose the Duke.
he was definitely influential in making modern day surfing popular. If it had not been for him, I probably would have never surfed.
TTOS: the last question is a little bit unusual, has nothing to do with surf surfing, stand up pad or whatever. I want to know your best relationship advice….
My best relationship advice was recent told to me by my fiancé who said “be the person you want your partner to be”.