Thursday, February 16, 2012

On Mel Kinney by Len Barrow

Remembering Mel Kinney, photo SNN

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.

Auwe, Auwe, Auwe 

If you knew Mel, please add your comments below.  Aloha.


  1. I met Mel while working together on a tv show. I first surfed with Mel at Maile Point. It was September and a very big south was running. I was amazed at how deep he'd take off, how is style was so natural and easy. I remember him getting angry at someone for not taking off on a big wave, but then Mel paddled up to the guy later and apologized with a big smile. After a few sets we realized the guy wasn't very good and was a little afraid to scratch into the big ones. Mel started encouraging him and yelling, "Go! Go!" We'd laugh and cheer when the guy would get into one. Mel told him he just didn't want anyone to miss a single wave! We laughed about that session many times later. Coming from California I didn't know much about Oahu, but Mel showed me a few spots in town he called his home breaks. He was such a kind person with a true spirit. Miss you Mel.

    1. I worked on that show too... and a lot of other shows and films with Mel in the last 7 years. There is a new show gearing up at the DH studio today, and I was talking with one of the boys about Mel. He was the best thing about working on the set- Mr. Aloha. I have a lot more to say about Mel, but those of us who know him, know what a legend he is. Bummed and sad. Lost a good friend. I hope to see him in heaven.

  2. Len, Just saw this post you wrote. Right on that you got to know Mel. My days with him go way back. Sunset, Lani's, days when Dan Nakasone used to build boards and we'd all surf Sunset at whatever size it broke. Those days were all about fun at any size.

    When I got busy on the biz side of surfing, he pursued bigger waves. In fact couple guys did. Mel, Darrick Doerner and a bunch of other guys I can't remember. But over the years Mel always showed up surfing a lot of the same spots I did and I always knew it was him because of that orange LB he had a quiver of.

    One day I was at Lighthouse and he surfed two spots over towards the corner at a spot I don;t even know but it was roping on a huge west swell and he was getting some long nose rides on overhead surf.

    And Cliffs, on the bigger days we always just looked at each other because nobody could get out like, "are you kidding me?".

    I'll miss Mel, such a fun guy to surf with until Lance Hookano paddled out. Lol, kidding, Lance is my angry brother.

    Reid Inouye

  3. Met Mel one day this past year surfing at Tonngs, he paddled up to me and gave me some tips on surfing and let me have the next few waves while cheering me on. Never met the guy before..
    Much aloha!!

  4. great post, my uncle Mel would be so proud. He loved to surround himself with good people, and if you found yourself in his presence than that says a lot about the type of person you were. He lived for the waves and was quoted once as saying "it is important to find balance in your life and to do the things you treasure the most, I never stay away from the ocean more than 3 days...." He loved surfing, he breathed it, and he was doing the thing he loved the most when he had his heart attack. I will miss his laugh the most and he was a burly scary intimidating guy until he talked to you, smiled or laughed, than he was just a big ole teddy bear with a heart of gold.

    1. Thanks for the comment. You uncle will be missed. Your right. He lived with the ocean so much that he kind off meshed with it.... A great balanced person.

      Mahalo Len

  5. Aloha Reid,

    Its nice to see people sharing there experiences about Mel. He was just filled with Aloha! Wow...Dan Nakasone surfboards. Thats old school. Right on Reid. Thanks for the comment. See you in the water.

    Your friend Len

  6. Mahalo for this... It speaks to a very real and kind human being. A friend, and fellow crew member...

  7. Big Mel - I just found out this past Sunday about your passing and Im stunned...such a great person and a great waterman. The Big Brown's and Outside Diamond Head sessions will be forever in your memory. I remember great sessions with you then followed by seeing you at Rainbow Drive Inn with my family and you giving me that great big grin of yours...The Browns/Diamond Head camaraderie was the best because of you and will continue on with your spirit into the future. God Bless you and your family!

  8. Went to high school with Mel. He was always cracking jokes, and loved surfing. Went with him a couple of times to Diamond Head. I went to the ceremony yesterday and was very touched by the wide variety of people there, from the St. Louis guys to the surfers ( including lots of Da Hui guys)' the paddlers and the TV people. Mel touched a lot of lives in a very positive way. Aloha Os Mel, we will all miss you.

  9. Aloha Oe, Mel Kinney, you were PONO and truly a waterman and filled with aloha, many are talking of you and missing you, and this surfergirl remembers when learning to surf so many many years ago how you would come up to me, encourage, be stoked, and excited when a great wave was caught.. you added so much to my life as a surfer, and the water has lost a true spirit of the ocean, i remember many a paddle out when you would appear by my side, big swell at Cliff's or Brown's, and direct me to the proper place for my size, and ability, you looked out for so many, and your stories when you would catch me running or walking up on the lookouts would stop me for too long, though i am grateful for those long talks and the sunset behind us when your captivating stories would have to wait for the next time.. this surfergirl will grieve the loss of your aloha spirit and your smile and laughter in the ocean and the land.. look after us Brother Mel, as you always have before.. Aloha Oe, Auwe, Auwe....... Roxanne aka Rocki!!!..

    1. Mahalo Roxanne,

      Mel was a walking encyclopedia on Polynesia and anything water related. Thanks for the post.


  10. Mel and I were best friends since we were in the 7th grade at Kaimuki Intermediate School . We worked together at Budget Rent A Car for 15 yrs,surfed,and played music together. I was his best man when he got married and we still hung out when we had the chance. I miss him big time and think about him a lot . Love you Mel RIP Lad , Aloha and God bless !!!


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