• RANDY LAINE, PROFILE OF A LEGEND By Ross Champion | Pro Rider Watercraft Magazine
    blah

    RANDY LAINE, PROFILE OF A LEGEND By Ross Champion
    Dec201316

    Very nice piece on legend Randy Laine written by Ross Champion.
    Ross-Champion.com

    Picture

    This is quite honestly the hardest pieces that I’ve ever tried to write. And it’s certainly not for lack of content as the footnotes to RL’s life could fill an encyclopedia volume. Rather, it’s been so difficult for me because of how important I feel it is to tell his story correctly.

     
     

    Picture

    Randy Laine, 2001 Hawaii
    Randy was there at the beginning of professional surfing and traveled the world as a pro. He was there for the birth of the jet ski in the Carlsbad lagoon and went on to be one of the guys to define Freeride as we know it today. He has ridden waves on his ski larger than anyone else on the planet, and he is a member of the IJSBA hall of fame. He and his brother were the first guys to tow in to waves with a jet ski, and he was there the first time Cortez bank was ridden. Through all of this, some how he found time to help bring surfing culture to the main stream through his work at Oakley, film movies with John Travolta, and raise a beautiful daughter.

     

    Picture

    Randy Laine, his life, career, and influence on the action sports world can’t be summed up in a few pages worth of text and pictures, so I’m not even going to attempt to do that. But what we can do is give you a little glimpse into the life of a guy who truly is an icon. Someone who went out and unabashedly blazed his own trail where none had been in the past. He laid a great wake for so many others to follow.

     

    Picture

    This is quite honestly the hardest pieces that I’ve ever tried to write. And it’s certainly not for lack of content as the footnotes to RL’s life could fill an encyclopedia volume. Rather, it’s been so difficult for me because of how important I feel it is to tell his story correctly.

    In this first installment of our profile on RL we are going to focus on the early days of his career on personal watercraft. Starting at the very beginning with the birth of what we now know as the stand up Jet Ski in 1972, and ending with some of RL’s crazy antics on the North Shore in the mid to late eighties. Let’s take a step back in time, to the birth of our sport, and relax as RL tells us about what it was like in the beginning.

     

    Picture

    “It started out, I was just a surf bum hanging out watching the guys tests,” Randy tells me in his typical slightly self deprecating manner, as we sit on the porch of his house overlooking the Carlsbad lagoon. It was in this very same lagoon, some 40 years ago, that RL first got a shot at riding some of the original Jet Skis that Kawasaki was durability testing here in 1972, prior to their release to the public. When the test riders went on break, often times RL was able to bum a ride. “A couple times when I first started doing it…I’d end up full throttle up on the cement.” Which… in all fairness, is pretty typical for how most of RL’s test sessions with Kawi ended up throughout his entire career. He then went on to say of his first ride, “I immediately started day dreaming about how this was going to interact with Surfing.” And there you have it, the seed for what was to become Freeride, was planted. But it was still going to be some years before RL really began to explore the limits of the Jet Ski in the surf.

    Randy moved to California from Va Beach in the summer of 69 in search of better waves, and to build a life and name for himself in the burgeoning So Cal surf scene. That “surf bum,” as Randy called himself, quickly became one of Southern California’s top pros and most influential figures.

    Randy’s competitive surfing career peaked from 1977 to 1979 when he competed on the IPS (International Professional Surfers) world tour, which was the precursor to today’s ASP (Association of Surfing Professionals).

     

    Picture

    Picture from “Images of America, Carlsbad” by Jeannie Spragure-Bentley
    While RL was focused more on surfing than anything else in his life, he did find time for a little motorized fun. Throughout most of the 70’s when Randy was not surfing, he was racing motocross or bumming rides from friends with Jet Skis. Starting in 73 he began venturing out of the lagoon and into the surf at Tamarack, but it wouldn’t be until 1979 that RL finally got fed up with breaking bones in the dirt and eventually bought himself a 440.

     

    Picture

    Top: Surfing 1973 Bottom: 1974 behind Carlsbad Raceway on a ’74 CZ250
    At the same time I was on (the IPS) tour, I’d come home and fool around on the Jet Skis. I started realizing that I like(ed) having a motor…it was kind of like motocross on water…the jet ski had the speed and excitement of a motocross bike, but I could ride it on the waves like a surfboard.” “Really…it was motocross and surfing that lead me to choose jet ski Freeriding.” But at the time, “there was no category for jet ski Freeriding, I was a loner…I was the cult rider.”
    Those early days as the cult rider were pretty rough, recalls Randy. “I was doing it by myself. There were times when I would get home at 10:00 at night because I had to swim my ski for miles” after the inevitable break downs that happen riding in the surf. But RL wasn’t deterred, and before long he was in good company.

     

    Picture

    Randy riding outside of the Carlsbad Lagoon at Tamarak Beach in 1979, when this was legal.
    One of his first mentors early on was Doug Silverstein. Doug was a test rider for Kawasaki and won the first jet ski race ever held in Mission Bay, San Diego in 1977. He would go on to be the first National Champion in 1978 and he successfully defended his crown in ’79 and ’80 as well. Doug “taught me quite a bit about how to ride properly…using technique and precision” remembers Randy.

     

    Picture

    RL and Doug Silverstein, 1985 San Clemente Ocean Festival Show
    In 1983 Randy and one of his band mates (yea..of course RL was in bands also) and riding buddies, Tony Milikan, coined the name WaveBusters for the tight knit group of riders who were just starting to go big in the surf. Randy recalls that the group was made up of “mostly R&D riders for Kawi. Vello Lippand, Norm Bigelow, Doug Silverstein.” Pretty soon, the WaveBusters were getting hired by coastal cities all over Southern California to perform at ocean festivals. The biggest event the WaveBusters performed at annually was the OP Pro surfing contest starting in 1983.  Even as that event evolved into the US Open of Surfing, Randy still performed demos into the early 90’s.

     

    Picture

    Randy Laine 1984 at the OP Pro in Huntington Beach
    Like most professional surfers, Randy made the yearly pilgrimage from the mainland to Hawaii every winter starting in 1972, but it wasn’t until 1985 that he began to ship a ski over. “It was a major logistical exercise” to pull off, but RL sent a ski over every season from ’85-’90 until he finally figured out it was easier to “just leave the damn ski there.” Those early days in Hawaii (up to about 1990), were when he was able to ride “Rocky point, sunset, pipeline, off the wall, backdoor.” These are the absolute most famous waves in the world. But because of who he was, who he knew in Hawaii, and the fact that he was still sort of the “cult rider” (meaning he was more or less on his own with Herbie and a few others), he was able to pull it off.

     

    Picture

    Those days in Hawaii, for RL to be able to do what he was doing, it wasn’t just who he knew it was “Da Hui” he knew that enabled his North Shore antics from the mid eighties on. RL describes Da Hui as “a group of guys known to kind of…um…keep things under control.” Suffice to say those guys ran the lineups and there was no way that any of what RL was up to on his waterscooter would have been tolerated without their blessing. One thing that needs to be understood is that by the time RL first shipped a ski to Hawaii in 1985, he already had 12 season of being on the North Shore as a very well respected surfer. Because of his time and experience there, he was friends with some core Da Hui. So, that first season when he sent a boat out, guys like Squiddy Sanchez, Frank Ramos, and Brian Surrat took RL “under their wing” and wound up becoming Freeriders themselves.

     

    Picture

    Squiddy Sanchez second from right.
    Even still, who Randy was and who he knew were not the only reasons he was able to ride these incredibly famous waves. Keeping peace in the water at these places or anywhere else is about respect and etiquette. When asked how it was that RL was able to ride these incredible places, he responded by saying, “I’d go out on big days, and I would go out in between crowds, or on an outer reef day. And because I surfed, I knew to stay away from the crowds.” That approach of minimizing his impact on the surfers, coupled with the relative novelty on the Jet Ski and his friends, are what enabled Randy, and a very select few others, to ride places that no Freerider will ever ride again. At least not the way these guys were able to. That was an incredibly special time in the history of our sport.

     

    Picture

    There are so many mind blowing stories from this time in RL’s life. There is one in particular that is just so far outside the realm of possibility today, that it is laughable. “One of the coolest things I did…is I rode pipe on a gigantic day during the Pipe Masters.” “It was one of the last years that it was still legal to ride, or they hadn’t come up with rules [against riding.] And what was happening was Pipe was gigantic, it was so big that Off The Wall was closing out. Everyone was on the beach watching the Pipe Masters, I wish I could remember what year it was, it was mid eighties. Well, I was sitting out about 50 yards over from the pack, or the heat. And when a set would come I would take off and I would go right. So I would ride these closeout rights Backdoor in to Off The Wall. I was out there probably close to two hours.” And when he was done, he pulled the ski up on the beach and watched his brother Wes Laine surf his heat in the Pipe Masters.

     

    Picture

    Randy’s high profile in the personal watercraft world and his great connections led to him doing “a bunch of odd jobs for Kawasaki” from 1984-1990. But the same wild-man attitude that drove him to do crazy things in huge surf might have hindered his testing career with Kawasaki just a little bit. “They sent me to Tokyo…and we ended up going to Saipan and Okinawa…I got in trouble though because I ran the X2 up the beach into the jungle by accident. I was trying to spray these Japanese guys. They had these big wigs from Japan over there watching, and it was the first year the had X2 come out. And so without checking the ski out, I just took it and went blazing out into the surf. And as I came back in I was going full speed at the beach. I was going to do a turn and spray all the Japanese guys…what happened is the steering cable popped off. So I hit the beach, at like however fast the x2 goes, and literally the Japanese guys had to dive out of the way or they would have been killed. And I went flying so fast up the beach, I went all the way across the beach into the jungle…they thought I was trying to kill them…so they were pretty upset that I sanded down their boat and I almost killed them.”  Without missing a beat, RL goes on to say “but that was kind of the story of my career at Kawi testing, because every time I would do testing, I got in trouble.”
    Randy is a wild man and a trailblazer. These early years of riding were an incredible time in the history of our sport and RL’s contributions to Freeride during these years were unmatched. But the best Freeriding of his life was yet to come. We will explore those years and RL’s history with tow surfing in future installments.

    Ross-Champion.com
     
     


     
     

    Leave a Comment