A big Bear of a tandem surfer

Gary Kewley
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Friday - January 23, 2009
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Bear Woznick gives his dog Kokomo a ride, but tandem is Bear’s first passion

Aloha, surfers and beachgoers! What a week it’s been ... what a weekend it will be!

First off, we now have our very first surfer-president (yes, body surfers are 100 percent legitimate surfers).

Second, we just had a very large swell hit Tuesday evening (even Mother Nature celebrated the Surfer-in-Chief,), then we get one more big swell this Friday evening into the weekend.After all this, the whopper wave factory finally shuts down.

Indeed, the last four swells in the series have been B-I-G , but the first few swells were bad (literally). The wave, wind and weather machine kept us in a stormy pattern each time they arrived - that’s because they came so close to Hawaii. Now the jet stream has broken up, and this won’t be conducive to steering the low pressures (storms) our way like before. This is good news for 99 percent of the surfing and beachgoing population - not just for kama’aina, but the entire planet. Most prefer sunny, smooth 4-6 feet over stormy, rainy 10-15 feet, and some prefer the Sandy Beach shore pound like President Barack Obama, while others enjoy sharing the ride ... literally.


Meet “Bear"Woznick ... the Molokai Bear in Waikiki. Like his name, Bear’s a big surf dude with muscles to back it up. He needs them - his No. 1 passion requires brute strength as well as finesse,leverage and skill. The art is tandem surfing, and Bear is truly an artist of the surf and sea. His necessary equipment is simply a big surf board, wax and a pair of trunks. The final requirement? A partner - a petite, athletic, female partner, preferably. Then this half-Norwegian Viking is ready to work his magic as he hoists his partner in the air and rides to shore on a fluid canvas. It’s liquid gymnastics, watery aerobics, a dance among four elements - a man and woman, a board and wave.

I had the honor of catching up with this world traveler and newlywed. Take one guess how he met his beautiful, athletic Swedish wife Talin? The thing he loves the most gave him the woman he loves the most.

Bear’s a busy guy and a singular force in the resurgence of tandem surfing.It’s been about 50 years since its first heyday. You can find Bear at 5 p.m. Sundays in front of Duke’s Waikiki teaching and inspiring folks. Bear also owns and operates the Hawaii Tandem Surf Association (HTSA).

For more on that, go to http://www.hawaiitandemsurf.com.

GQ: How’s tandem being received around the world?

Bear: Unreal ... huge.There were 15 pro events last year.

GQ: How many teams are entering?

Bear: It ranges from about eight up to over 30 for the big events like the Duke’s Oceanfest.

GQ: What age groups, and do you have to be pro to enter?

Bear: Teenagers are getting into it and older surfers, too. Most do it just for fun, but some are serious. All our events are sanctioned as pro events, but anyone can get seeded by showing up and doing well.

GQ: Cool.And where are these contests?

Bear: We have them in Australia, Costa Rica, Europe, and West and East coasts ... here, of course.

GQ: Would you say tandem has a unique draw?

Bear: Absolutely, people get it. Even regular people who don’t surf get it. Spectators love it. It communicates and it’s thrilling for all.

GQ: What’s the growth potential?

Bear: Huge, because of the spectator value and overall dynamics. Look at NASCAR, most don’t race cars but they draw huge audiences. Tandem takes talent, but you don’t need to have talent to enjoy the show.

GQ: I figure one has to be a good surfer to tandem, right?

Bear: Absolutely, being a great surfer helps.

GQ:And strong as Superman ...

Bear: It’s really more about leverage and body mechanics ... plus,your partner needs to be about half your body weight.So these factors make all the difference. It’s about timing and technique, too. If you depend on raw strength, you’ll get injured eventually.

Wow, look what happened,I ran out of space. Not to worry, this interview will continue next week.

GQ ... dropping in 4 U!

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