‘How Fo’ Surf’ Just Got Bettah

Ron Mizutani
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Wednesday - December 15, 2010
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Patrick Ching (left) and Jeff Pagay at a book signing Dec. 5 at Borders Ward Centre

Local artists Patrick Ching and Jeff Pagay got their start like many other kolohe (mischievous) kids growing up in Hawaii: They drew cartoon characters on their school desks.

Ching recalls the good old days back at Moanalua High School when their desks were perfect canvases.

So in 1995, he and Pagay decided to combine their artistic talents and have a little fun at the same time. The longtime pen partners and best friends came up with the idea of writing a children’s book on one of their passions: surfing.

The end result was the hilarious How Fo’ Surf, a comical guide to surfing which became a best-seller in Hawaii.

“The idea to do How Fo’ Surf was given to me by the late family court judge Barry Rubin,” says Ching, who adds with a laugh, “The original manuscript was lost to the world when our high school teacher at Moanalua, Mrs. Kanagawa, made us wash it off our desks. A few years later it emerged in a book that we self-published.”

The book was hosted by “Palaka Joe,” a cartoon character Ching started drawing in the second grade. It was filled with artwork by both men with a special local flavor. Ching called it, “soft-core Pidgin English, real easy reading where the characters talk just like we talk.”

The kolohe kids are now world-class artists. Today, Ching is a well-respected wildlife painter and owns Naturally Hawaiian, an art gallery in Waimanalo. Pagay also is a professional artist and considered one of the best airbrushers around. His murals can be seen across Oahu. The best friends spend much time teaching art to Hawaii’s children, offering free classes at Ching’s Waimanalo gallery and at local elementary schools.

“I travel internationally, painting and teaching realistic painting workshops, and Jeff does airbrushing, book illustrations and student-involved mural projects,” says the humble and witty Ching, who also is one of Hawaii’s top rodeo clowns. “Aside from learning art from two professional artists, the students are often treated to spontaneous outbursts of Tahitian dancing, rodeo clown stunts and Elvis impersonations.”

Ching, Pagay and Palaka Joe are back. The artists have released a revised version of the original How Fo’ Surf called How Fo’ Surf Bettah.

“The original book had a color cover and black-and-white inside,” says Ching after a recent book signing. “Because of its long-lived success, publisher Island Heritage decided to republish it with full-color pages and the latest surf trends like kite surfing, stand-up paddle surfing and tow-in surfing.”

Ching says the revised book also includes more surf lingo and surf history, and is already making people laugh.

“We had our 1 millionth customer recently at our Borders Ward book-signing event, probably way less, but we celebrated anyway,” he jokes. “Actually we’re having so much fun. People come up and say we laughed so hard because the kooks (strange characters) in the book looked just like us!”

And like the original version, Ching hopes this book will inspire children to dive into their passion, especially if it’s art.

“I have a simple message when I start all my classes: ‘Tell me what you love to do,’” says Ching. “I listen to each kid tell me, and I watch their eyes light up and their body chemistry change from skepticism to excitement. Then I tell them, ‘Imagine if your job in life was doing what you love to do. It could be anything from playing video games to catching frogs. If you love doing it, you’ll be stoked about going to work. Look at me, I color for a living!’”

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