Pine Nuts: Surfing the perfect wave in Tokyo

McAvoy Layne
Pine Nuts
McAvoy Layne

In this long life of mine, nothing looms larger in my memory than riding the perfect wave, well, almost nothing.

I could have been a Nick Beck if I hadn’t fallen off my board. I used to watch Nick and Joey Cabell surf Cannons off the north shore of Kauai, and wish I could surf like that. Cannons by the way, is where a young Bethany Hamilton lost her arm to a shark back in 2003, then went on to become a national surfing champion. In all candor, if I had my arm taken off by a shark I would never even take a bath again.

Hamilton, Beck and Cabell could have won medals in the Olympics had surfing been an Olympic sport back then. But guess what? Surfing is going to be an Olympic sport in the Tokyo Summer Games of 2020! Bet you didn’t know that … I sure didn’t.

So you might want to ask, where in tarnation are they going to surf in Tokyo? Good question. My first guess was they would manufacture waves, but no, they are going to compete in the ocean, off Shidashita Beach to be exact, about 40 miles from Tokyo. I only wish I could be there to watch.

In all candor, if I had my arm taken off by a shark I would never even take a bath again.

I did get to see the Olympics in Tokyo, way back in 1964. I lived in the Ginza for two weeks and never had so much fun. Not having enough money to buy tickets to the events I wanted to see, I created a press pass with a rising sun and my picture, laminated it, and was not only welcomed into various venues, but was greeted with a low bow. I never felt so important. I saved so much money with my self-important press pass I went on to Hong Kong after the Games, and got a job teaching at St. Joseph’s College. I didn’t have a teaching credential, but told the headmaster one would be forthcoming … he’s still waiting.

With a checkered history like that you might suppose I should have gone into politics, but no, I’m still working in the schools 56 years later.

The sport I cared about seeing the most in ’64 was springboard diving. I had competed in the Olympic trials in Ft. Worth and failed to make the team, but I still had my trunks. So I pulled on my diving trunks, threw a towel over my shoulder, and with my new nifty-thrifty homemade pass, marched straight into the diving facility, again with a bow from the gate-keeper. And I remember with great delight how Ken Sitzberger did America proud with his grace and agility. Then Lesley Bush did the same from the 10-meter tower. I shall toast them both today at five o’clock.

Surfing, however, still holds the warmest spot in my heart, and I’m betting good money on the old guy, Kelly Slater, 48, to medal for the men, and Hawaiian wahine, Tatiana Weston-Web to medal for the women, even though she’s competing under the Brazilian flag.

So, Citius, Altius, Fortius — Swifter, Higher, Stronger. And let us try to remember, the most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part. Go USA!

Learn more about McAvoy Layne at

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