Mark’s Masterpiece Part 2

Gary Kewley
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Friday - July 15, 2005
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Howzit, surfers?!

It’s barely believable that we are halfway through the Summer of 2005. That’s the bad news. The good news is that it’s been a grrrrreat one for surfers in terms of consistency of south swells. June delivered 13 days of 3-5 “Hawaii scale feet” and we haven’t seen this in over 15 years! These are the good ol’ days — be stoked!

Mark Cunningham — immersed in liquid grace
for more than 30 years

Last week I had the honor of interviewing the world’s best bodysurfer over the past three decades — Mr. Mark Cunningham. He’s now retired from lifeguarding the North Shore, mostly at Pipeline. He’s filled with contagious gratitude and waves of sweet memories. Yet, Mark’s not even done … not at 49 … no way! He can still give anyone a “swim” for their money at the Pipe — any size. We weren’t done with our interview, either …

GQ: Mark, pick a few of your favorite surfer(s)?

MC: Mike Stewart, a dear friend and just one of the best. Mike has spent more time in the tube than anyone on the planet … I’ll also have to go with a family member, Jock Sutherland — he’s married to my sister, and my nephew Gavin is an aerial specialist. Let’s also say Rabbit Kekai … just for being Rabbit … for playing the game for so long … for being so dignified. I feel lucky to call him a friend.

GQ: I’ve gotta ask you more of the basics. Your favorite food(s)?

MC: I’m partial to poke, sashimi, sushi … I like healthy and clean.

GQ: Your favorite drink(s)?

MC: I’ve been surviving off smoothies in the mornings, so that’s it these days … after water, of course.

GQ:Your favorite surf movie?

MC: I’ve always said my favorite surf movie is Surfers of Fortune by Quiksilver. I’m sure Endless Summer is another flick that sent me on my way …

GQ: Your favorite music?

MC: I’m into death metal.

GQ: You’re kidding?

MC:Yeah, I’m kidding … my CD collection just goes all over the place … Of course, Jack Johnson’s in there … Sublime … Jimmy Buffett … Hawaiian music … ambient house music … As far as local talent, I’m a new fan of Makana … And, here is another one of my favorites — Willie K, he’s just brilliant, funny, versatile , an amazing artist. I can’t believe he has not made it huge nationally …

GQ: How do you go so fast and so far on a wave?

MC: I don’t know … I just react. It’s just all body English … kind of a dance … using your body as a rail … all of it by feel. Sometimes you feel you can do it with your eyes closed. It’s just so second nature now. I love it so much.

GQ: I always knew you were hardcore — a purist — but just hearing you say it the way you do, the gratitude flows out.

MC: The ocean … I still need it. It’s always going to be a part of my life — I’m addicted to it.

GQ: What are you planning to do to support your retirement income?

MC: I’m negotiating with Quiksilver right now and hoping to create a marketing position where they are selling to lifeguard agencies across the country.

GQ: Looking back, what do you see?

MC: I’ve just always felt so honored to be a Hawaii lifeguard, Gary — and now that I can look back and say I was one. I kind of look back on it wistfully … I’ve just always been so stoked and so proud. I can say I’m a Hawaiian lifeguard and then I realize … Oh my god … I was a “Pipeline Lifeguard” for 18 years.

GQ: Oh my god!

MC: Yeah, I know. I feel like Forrest Gump in that I just happened to be at the right place at the right time.

GQ:You’re a classic. Thank you, Mark. How ’bout one more for the kids? One more for our youth?

MC: Follow your dreams. Do the hard work, no matter what stage you’re at … school, work … give it 100 percent. Do your best. If you want the big payday, put in the big hours.

Hawaii’s Melanie Bartel just won
the last World Tour event in Africa

Great advice from a great champion, Mark Cunningham, and I’ll bet that Hawaii’s own Melanie Bartel from the “West Side” understands firsthand! She just won the last World Tour event in South Africa by an easy margin. Congrats, Melanie. You keep following your dreams, girl!

Now “the boys” began their holding period last Tuesday July 12 for the Fosters ASP event No. 6 — the Billabong Pro at J Bay South Africa. All of the pros know what it’s like to put in the big hours for the big payday … I’ll keep you posted who gets it — right here next weekend!

Thanks again, Mark Cunningham, and to you reading this now: Stay wet … stay stoked!

I’m GQ dropping in 4 U!

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