Sharing the memories of Butch Van Artsdalen, one of the first greats – Orange County Register

I just received my copy of “Remembering Butch” from Amazon.

This is a new book about the life and times of legendary surfer and colorful character Butch Van Artsdalen, set up and written by Douglas Cavanaugh.

I’ve been wanting to read it for a while, so as soon as it arrived, I immersed myself in it. I love this book. He takes the very cool approach of being told mostly through quotes from friends and other famous surfers who knew Butch and witnessed his life from the early years at Windansea Beach in La Jolla, to become the one of the world’s greatest surfers and ultimately one of the premier lifeguards on Oahu’s intense North Shore.

The back cover of the book sums it up very well: “Surfer, Lover, Fighter, Lifesaver… Butch Van Artsdalen was all of these things and more in his too short but exciting life here with us. Everyone who frequented the surf scene from the 1950s to the 1970s has a “Butch Story,” many of which have been compiled in this oral history of his life and time. “

This book is just full of stories and quotes from many surf legends and hardcore surfers, not only telling the story of Butch himself, but also giving a very cool and colorful take on the world of surfing as it has developed into a sport and a lifestyle.

I first met Butch at the Hobie Surf Shop in Dana Point around 1963. He had been in all surf movies surfing the Pipeline on the North Coast the previous winter and was a huge surf star.

He worked in the dent repair shop in a small shed in the back. I had seen him at surfing competitions, but other than that I didn’t really know him. I liked him a lot, the guy had a huge personality and was very friendly and fun to be around.

Hobie made me work in the store as a salesperson and we quickly became friends, because I think that was the normal deal with Butch. People loved him and respected his approach to surfing at full speed.

Over the years I have surfed a lot with Butch in Hawaii. He was a very talented big wave surfer, one of the best of his time along with Mike Doyle and Eddie Aikau. I had a lot of great sessions with him at Waimea Bay and Sunset Beach, the guy was fearless.

I always liked being with him because his “excitement” helped alleviate the fact that we were often in extremely dangerous conditions. Butch hooted, swayed and fell in a very late takeoff on a 25ft monster like it was a 3ft shore break at La Jolla Shores.

This book tells so many great stories from Butch’s life – a must read for any surf historian or fan of the surfing tradition.

He was one of the greats from the early years of the surf boom and this book gives you a very detailed look at his life and the surf culture at the time.


Q. I have a somewhat bizarre question that you would probably be the best person to give an informed opinion on. Why do longboards tend to have beautiful, colorful paint jobs while shortboards are more often plain and colorless? I’ve always wondered this and today I was in a surf shop and really noticed the difference.

– Steve Hoxeng, Newport Beach

A. Wow, a question I’ve never had before. Congratulations.

Even though I really hadn’t given it much thought, I can see you are correct in that observation. Why? Well, most of today’s shortboards are extremely light and streamlined for performance and are ridden by people who care a lot more about how they perform than how they look.

Longboards are more relaxed and leisurely. Shortboarders wear beanies and drab clothes, much like skateboarders. Longboarders tend to wear Hawaiian shirts and more colorful clothing.

The surf and lifestyle approach come into play here.

Of course, this is a huge “generalization”. And you realize you are asking a guy whose boards are colored with a white and black “cow” print. What the hell does that say about me? Mooing? Hmm !!!

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