Bonga Perkins on the tip: starting out, getting good
Bonga Perkins is probably the best-known and respected of todayís Hawaiian longboard greats. His combination of style, power-moves, management of speed, poise and control in critical situations, plus his fearless approach to big moves in big waves puts him miles ahead of most any surfer. Widely known for the control and the power of his big wave surfing, he is also an excellent noserider. Bonga excels at noseriding in any size surf: small, medium, big, or Godzilla-size waves (See accompanying article ďBongaís New NoserideĒ on this Website.)
Bonga is also one of Hawaii ís foremost ambassadors of goodwill and the Aloha spirit. He is at once thoughtful, articulate and good natured. He is unhurried and genuine and--by his mentor Cippy Cibato's example--humble. He's big enough to let his surfing speak for itself, but not too big--just plenty damn good.
Haleiwa , Hawaii
Hawaiian Ambassador of Aloha
World Longboard Champion 1997
When noseriding.com caught up with Bonga, on a hot day last July, he was practicing at Ohau's Kewalos break for a contest and surfing with his son Keoni and big-wave pal Joey Sogonini.
nr.com: Why noseride?
Bonga: Noseriding is essential. Without noseriding all youíre doing is riding a bigger shortboard. If you are going to longboard, noseriding is pretty much a must. Itís kind of like fish being in water but not being able to swim or breathe.
Noseriding is part of the whole longboard experience. You do it because you know you get good by doing it. It is a skill and not everyone can do it. There are not too many who get really good at it, and even when youíre good, it is still difficult.
Nr.com: is noseriding more difficult for bigger guys?
Bonga: When youíre bigger and have more weight compared to your friends thatís where finesse comes in, as well as knowing how to walk up there and the timing. It is a combination of all these things on one wave.
To really put it up there with style and finesse, takes knowledge--and Body English is huge. If youíre holding your arms the wrong way, you nosedive or lose the wave. Too forward or your stance too wide and you canít control the board. You need Body English to shimmy a board into a better position on the wave. Body English equals style too. Body English is style and is included into style.
nr.com: Letís talk more about Body English, since it is so huge.
Bonga: Without Body English we wouldnít be as balanced. Then chop can bounce you off the nose. Noseriding works as long as your arms, hips, knees and even your head are positioned right. This is Body English and itís something you learn. Itís one of the most essential parts of noseriding.
Body English gives balance and trim and the ability to handle chop on a wave or handle a double up or one wave merging into another wave in front of it. Body English also offers a way of steering the board without using just your feet or legs to steer around sections or up or down the wave. Body English is crucial. Your use and understanding of it defines your style.
nr.com: How do you teach noseriding to a friend?
Bonga: Number one, I would take them to a break that is good to learn on. I wouldnít take them to Kewalos, but some break like Queens . Where the wave is a little fatter, a little softer, where the face stays vertical and keeps coming up. Second, I would tell them that theyíre not going to learn in one day. It is inch by inch. You work your way up inch by inch, and foot by foot.
I would get them started by telling them to keep to the middle or higher on the wave so the nose wonít pearl. Then, when comfortable about walking to and fro, get to where the front foot is gripping the top of the tip, doing cheater fives to start.
Once that foot is up there comfortably, regularly, it is just a matter of pulling the other right up for the ďTen.Ē Just slide your second foot right up there. But in the beginning, it is inch by inch, foot by foot until you get the confidence in going up and back without pearling or falling.
is hard to teach. It is an awkward feeling at first. The first thing you feel
is the nose going down in a pearl. Expect to pearl about every other wave, if
not every wave, in the early stages. Thatís when you know how hard it is. Not
something you can easily teach verbally.
You have to be trying every time. You learn to crawl before you walk; most people do it that way. A few go right to walking, and in the case of surfing these would be the gifted noseriders. Most people are not going to get up and noseride right away. It takes time. It is a lifetime of improvements.
Itís like you would never expect to bust air because you saw it on TV, especially when Mother Nature is always throwing you a different wave. They are not from a machine.
nr.com: How do you go beyond the beginning stages?
Bonga : After five is ten! It's is just a matter of time. For the ten, you need to master the parallel stance. It is hard to get back off the nose, because of the parallel stance. You tend to step off the nose with your strong foot and this can create unbalance.
Again this is just practice. So you can expect that going in. More weight on that back foot can also shoot the board out ahead. The same when leaning back to start getting off the nose from the hang ten. So, that strong foot and leaning back can create an unbalanced position. You have to be ready to control the board, to keep your balance and control.
When you get to ten, youíre figuring it out. Itís just trial and error. Itís time in the water, noseriding until the comfort is there. Then if you can hold the ten for a second, then for two seconds, and more, then youíve figured placement for the ten.
Even if itís touch and go youíre pretty much there. Youíve got the nose down, youíre not dying on the wave. Then youíre getting longer and longer rides and you are at the point of incorporating body English. Youíve developed quite a bit of style by now.
nr.com: After Ten whatís next?
Bonga: Next is learning how to ride in the hook, rather than the shoulder. Then itís where and when to do what on a wave, and what kind of board to use. After that comes reading the wave, or understanding, knowing what the wave is going to do. Itís lots of hours in the ocean.
When noseriding becomes second nature on a longboard, itís going to be pretty much skill and thrill then. Itís not natural so, again, it isnít something youíre going to pick up the first day. Itís something that takes a little time and effort. When you see a longboarder noseride well you know that person has put in the time.
nr.com: Who are some of the really good, up-and-coming noseriders?
Bonga: There really arenít any. (laughs) If they are good, they arenít up and coming. They are already there. But a couple of younger guys that I like come to mind like: Noah Shimabukuro from Hawaii , Mike DeTemple from the East coast, and a guy named Joel something, (not Tudor) whose name escapes me now. But there are many others I could name.
nr.com: Is backside noseriding harder?
Bonga: Backside is harder, especially when the wave washes out. It is trickier and harder when the wave is tubey and the tail tends to slide out. Front side is easier because you can drag your hand in the wave to control speed and balance. Backside foot placement is critical.
nr.com: Backside foot placement? Well, weíll save that for next time. So, okay guys, better get busy on this other stuff first!
-- email@example.com, July 2004
(first published Oct. 6, 2004)