Intro and photos by Keoki
The lines of 4-5 foot sets march into A-frame peaks, grabbing your attention quickly. You mind surf each wave until it fizzles, dissipating into a dream.
Uncrowded, winds are offshore, and the countless drawings of flawless waves you’ve doodled so often in your notebook is coming to life before your eyes. You snap back to reality when you see a boardless body flowing effortlessly amongst the funneling waves: Point Panic.
The wave is a dream for surfers, but to a body surfer, it serves as one of the world’s finest playgrounds. For 61-year-old waterman and bodysurfing legend Mark Cunningham, with his quiet and humble apprentice, Kaneali`i Wilcox, age 24, Point Panic is the proving grounds for Hawai`i’s bodysurfers and the go-to spot for summer Town swells.
“Back in the day at Point Panic, you could pull your truck up to the water’s edge and it would be breaking right there in front of you,” said Cunningham. “It’s a fun, machine like quality wave that peels into the channel and has the trades grooming it.”
“It’s a sanctuary of sorts,” said Cunningham. “The waves are so fun, and it’s nice to not be out there dodging boogie boards, SUPs, quads, fishes, and don’t forget Costco boards. In late 70s, early 80s the City Council the state authorities legally made it only for bodysurfing, with no board surfing allowed.”
“There’s freedom of not being attached to a piece of equipment and being totally immersed in mother ocean,” said Cunningham. “It humbles you. It is not as easy as other board riding sports, because you’re not going to go as far or fast, or get tubed or do radical cutbacks. It’s nice to go back to basics and keep it simple.”
“Kaneali’i Wilcox is a great kid, he graduated from Kamehameha schools and is doing crazy belly rolls and forward somersaults, things I’ve never seen before,” said Cunningham. “His body surfing speaks for him. He has a big future ahead.”
“The guys at Point Panic fought hard to keep it what it is. It’s a piece of bodysurfing history, a one of kind,” said Wilcox. “It barrels slow and is the perfect speed for bodyboarding. It’s still the same hardcore guys that barbeque there when it’s flat, and the same core group of guys when the waves are there. It’s great to always see the same guys.”
“I’m beyond honored to have done this session with Mark,” said Wilcox. “Growing up my whole childhood, he was my idol. I’ve watched him and learned that you have to put your time in, it’s what has gotten him to where he’s at. The fact that I get to be a part of something like this and be passed the torch, it’s mind blowing. It’s a huge chapter that I wanted fulfilled in my life.”