I learned this morning that I just had a friend pass away. His name was Mel Kinney. If there were ever a waterman it was he. Eddie Aikau would call him “The Kid” as he was the only 16 year old charging huge Waimea Bay in the early 70’s.
I met Mel when I was only 14. He must have been 30 or so. He looked like a gnarly Hawaiian guy, and at first I was quite intimidated by him. The older guys at the surf-break Daimond Head Lighthouse in the early days would sometimes bully us young kids around. Out of his good heart, Mel made sure that everything was cool with all and protected us. He did not need to do this but he did. Mel adopted us young kids and took care of us. We felt safe when he was around him.
My most vivid memories of him were at Laniakea and Light-house surfing. He would nose-ride barreling waves and go vertical on his longboard at Daimondhead. At Laniakea, he would glide into Hawaiian 10 footers with ease. His surfing style reminded me of an Ali’i Nui (King) of old. His noble behavior also justified my belief that he was indeed modern day royalty in the best sense.
Mel would do really cool things. One of our mutual surfer friends was having a long stay in the hospital in the states. Mel came to the beach with a black pen (the expensive kind) and a few brand new surf mags. He passed the magazines to everyone at Diamond Head and had them sign them as a type of “surfer get well card” too are hospitalized friend. There was a huge amount of signatures. I learned something that day. I thought to myself: “that’s the kind of friend I want to have”. To this day, I surround myself with kind, heartfelt people and I am happy. Good Karma people. Thanks Mel.
He never talked stink about anyone, cared for all, yet knew when to demand his dignity. This is another thing I learned from Mel: That to be respected requires you to give respect first.
One day Mel told me that ” he could not wait to see me jump off shortboards and go to longboards”. I thought the comment was a bit odd but the rest is history. Mel was one reason that I longboard today. He encouraged me to go to the new craft. Besides he looked like he was having so much fun on his longboard. I had to do it.
The first time I surfed 8’ foot Hawaiian style waves was with Mel. Oddly enough the wave was in town not the North Shore. We met up at a spot called Browns, arguably one of the heaviest waves on the South Shore, a favorite of Mel’s. When we pulled up, it was unusually big for the South Shore. I was scared. There were a lot of broken boards and the only spot surf-able on this huge swell was Bowls and the break we were at. Mel was stoked and wanted to rush out yet he took the time to show me the channel, how the break worked and the exact line up points. He even taught me how to bail my board! Mel and I had a blast that day.
Mel had a big Hawaiian smile. I loved his humor, his dignity and his willingness to help all. In short he was one of the last people that I knew that still “payed attention” through kindness, education and friendship.
They just don’t build them like that anymore.
I will miss you Mel, yet your energies are carried on by your influence with all.