Living the Aloha with Loch Eggers
“I’m what you call a blue collar SUPer,” says Maui’s Loch Eggers.
We’re standing in the uppermost parking lot at Kanaha Beach Park on Maui’s north shore. As usual, Eggers is in good standup company: John Smalley, SUP filmmaker Mike Waltz and Eggers’ girlfriend, Sonni Hönscheid, a 12-time German surf champion and the country’s current SUP champion.
We’re lining up a Maliko run and for once, Eggers isn’t going. A head cold has him driving shuttle. But even when he’s down, he’s still up for helping other people paddle.
A landscaper by trade, Eggers, 45, was born and raised on Oahu’s south shore, growing up in Waikiki’s Outrigger Canoe Club. His parents, Bill and Hilary, made sure their sons, including brothers Hunter and Billy, were watermen from the start, whether it was surfing or canoeing (Hilary was a member of the first female Molokai-crossing crew). When it came to the single blade, Eggers rose through the ranks like a solid swell, winning every state championship division from freshman through senior men’s, as well as the third annual Duke Kahanamoku one-man race in 1989.
After living in Hanalei for 10 years, he moved to Maui in 1998, making a name for himself surfing Peahi. Then, in 2003 he saw Laird Hamilton with a couple of giant longboards and canoe paddles in the back of his truck. “I said to myself, ‘What the heck’s that board and paddle?’” A week later he saw Hamilton paddling down the coast. That’s all it took. The next day he parked himself inside Hamilton’s truck at the local coffee shop and when Hamilton came out, Eggers simply said, “Let’s go.”
The trendsetters shuttled up to Dave Kalama’s dad’s place at Baldwin Beach and took off, first breaking out through the surf and then heading down the coast. “I came out of the water completely out of breath and shaky,” he recalls. “But I’d canoe paddled and surfed for 30 years so it was the perfect marriage between the two. I felt like I was seven and learning to surf again.”
He took to it as quickly as Hamilton, placing second and third in a couple of local Maliko races (even though he admits, “I’m not really much of a results guy”). Then he SUPed Jaws with Hamilton in 2005. “When we saw the footage of that, we were all blown away,” says Smalley. “He’s the real deal, and one of the most talented, down-to-earth people you’ll ever meet—a quiet pioneer without the ego.”
Two days after our session, head cold cleared, Eggers is back out on Spartan’s Reef with Smalley and sponsor Robby Naish on what he calls one of the “days of all days for SUP surfing.” A direct north swell produces 15- to 20-foot glassy waves with not a soul around. True to form, Eggers, sitting off on his own 50 yards beyond anyone, catches what Smalley calls, “one of the best waves ever caught on a standup board.”
“Jaws gets all the attention, but it’s littered with unexpected landmines,” Eggers downplays afterwards. “The waves at Spartan’s can get truly legendary.”
Almost as legendary as Eggers himself, who gets as excited sharing a coast run with a first-timer as surfing epic outer reef waves. A month later the sport’s most ardent ambassador is teaching 2012 Giro d’Italia Cup winner Ryder Hesjedal how to standup paddle, relating the balance of bicycling to SUP. Hesjedal picks it up quickly and the sport gains another convert.
“I love getting people on a board,” says Eggers. “To me that’s the most rewarding thing about it. After all, that’s what life is: sharing the Aloha experience with people.” — Eugene Buchanan