There are few surfers who embodied the spirit of surfing in the 1970s like Buttons Kaluhiokalani. Buttons grew up on both shores of Oahu, and by the early 70s was one of the most progressive surfers in the world. Right behind the likes of Larry Bertleman, Buttons embraced the shortboard revolution, carving 360s in the pocket, riding switch, and pushing his tail – years before the rest of the world caught on. In 1973, he placed second at the US Championships in California, won the Pro Class Trials at Sunset in 1974 and and in 1979, he aced the Sunkist Open at Malibu. He went on to add wins in Japan and Peru. He also had that Hawaiian confidence in big waves.
To add to the excitement of this year’s Belmar Masters Pro, the 36+ pro division with a $3,000 purse limited to just 25 competitors, a cadre of legendary Hawaiians will be making the trip to Belmar. That will include Reno Albillero, Mark Lidell and the most colorful of all – Buttons.
This is not Buttons’ first trip to New Jersey. He came out in the height of his pro career in 1977 to surf the Grog’s Seaside Pro with Reno and Lidell. He certainly had some good times, although he was tossed from the Rainbow Rapids waterslides for standing up on his matt!
“They told us not to stand up on the matts. We broke all the rules in the first hour,” laughs Buttons, “But the owner guy was pretty cool. “It was hot and humid. The waves were only two-foot, but we had fun the whole time”
Today, Buttons runs a surf school for waveriders of all levels on the North Shore.
This week, Buttons told us he is most excited about bringing his family to Belmar and seeing how much things have changed since the 70s. It will definitely be exciting to have him out.