Read an intro to ‘Paradise of Youth’ by legendary surf photographer Jeff Devine below. Pick up the magazine here to see the whole story.
My Grannie, a horticulturalist, artist and loving presence rarely got angry. Her architectural home was surrounded with 200 varieties of plants and trees all designed to artfully co habitate with colors and varieties with different growth patterns. There were rare begonias, African tulips, a koi pond and other rare trees and yes, she knew all of the latin names for the plants. I was of an age where I had just entered into a paid by the hour wage structure from the prior free labor younger kid era. Once I had been directed to tear out certain plants but innocently took out the wrong ones. Her plants were like her children and when she noticed the damage to her favorites she basically began to cry. The area of the beautiful perennials was now a scorched earth.
Part of my lack of attention and focus to detail could have been from being chronically surfed out. Soon after the plant destruction tragedy, entered Ken Mitsuda into my Grannie’s world. She knew a responsible personality when she encountered one and soon, there was Ken, hose in hand having taken over the garden duties. He was ensconced in the downstairs house area with surf photos tacked onto the walls, a large living room with fireplace and within three blocks of the beach at La Jolla Shores. Grannie loved Ken. His lineage was Honolulu born and raised, off to California to college at Cal Western in San Diego, and then bailing even further from the California Hawai‘i culture to the mateship, hippy world of Australia. Over the years his visits to family in Hawai‘i are met with horror at the intensity and development of the island. He basically refuses to visit California for that reason. Once you’ve tasted The Outback, the 5/405 corridor and a visit to Disneyland aren’t going to be on your agenda. After 40 years or so in Australia I’d imagine there is not a hint of pidgin or California twang in his accent.
Ken’s enculturation into the secret surf society of Sunset Cliffs in the 70s made him keep his mouth shut about good surf spots. As the years went by and we talked on the phone he would be vague about where he and his wife Wiggy had traveled to but would pile on descriptions of perfect waves and lifestyle. I could usually figure out where he had traveled to but many times I was stumped. Usually you can prod a friend and in a weak moment they will spill the beans. Not Ken. But you could narrow the guessing to where the best lefts in the world are. His world seemed to be a paradise.
Grannie allowed us to vis quine off an area to make garage boards. Ken had shaped his own beautiful hybrid and then proceeded to color it Chocolate. We were abhorred but Grannie loved it. Do your own thing, go with the flow, we are all one, mother ocean, the pulse of the swells, we lived it to the maximum. It was paradise. By late 70s Ken had bailed to Australia’s Noosa area that was like California in the 1930s. Meanwhile he had left us in a world where thousands per month were moving to our area. It quickly became way more dense and intense than we could ever have imagined. The California paradise of our youth was gone. Ken bailed at the perfect time.