Iconic surfer Phil Edwards smiles as he walks past a statue in his honor unveiled at Waterman’s Plaza in Dana Point on Friday, June 7, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)
“I never charged Pipeline, I just survived it,” Edwards said when the San Clemente Times asked him about his experience at the famed Hawaiian surf spot.
In 1961, Edwards became the first person to successfully ride Pipeline when he finally decided to break the seal and paddle out. Filmmaker and friend Bruce Brown was on hand to document the moment.
“Once I made up my mind to do it, I didn’t wait around too much,” Phil said, laughing. “I’d been watching it enough that I knew what wave I wanted, what swell direction and all that. It’s a little touchy on which way they come at it, but I was pretty good at figuring out which one I wanted. Anyway, Bruce later tells me that he didn’t know I was going to take off that fast. He was still walking down the beach with his camera. That’s why if you look at the footage, it’s a little shaky, because he did this hand-held thing and didn’t have time to set up the tripod.
On June 7, Edwards’ contributions to the sport, culture and lifestyle of surfing will be celebrated with the unveiling of a new bronze sculpture in Dana Point. The Edwards sculpture will sit alongside the Hobie Alter sculpture honoring one of his lifelong friends. The unveiling ceremony will be followed by the second annual Hobie Vintage Surfboard Festival at La Plaza Park on Sunday, June 9.
“I really love how it turned out; it’s really an honor,” Phil said. “Every detail is so accurate and realistic. I can’t believe I’m getting a bronze sculpture for going surfing every day.”
(Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)
In 1963, he won Surfer Magazine’s inaugural Surfer Poll Awards, and Hobie released the Phil Edwards Model, the first signature surfboard model.
In 1966, he was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, making him one of the most recognizable surfers in the world at the time.
By the end of the ’60s, the Shortboard Revolution had taken over the sport, and Edwards’ interests shifted to sailing, building boats and working with Alter on the Hobie Cat. In 1988, as longboard surfing came back into vogue, Hobie Surfboards relaunched the Phil Edwards model, a design still going strong today.
For all his fame and influence, Edwards has been characteristically reluctant to stand in the spotlight. But after all of these years and all he’s done for surfing, it’s time to celebrate a true surfing legend.