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LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Marilyn Cristofori

 

For 24 years, Marilyn Cristofori headed the Hawai‘i Arts Alliance, a statewide nonprofit that champions the arts through advocacy and education. Upon Cristofori’s retirement, the very nonprofit she headed selected her as its 2017 Alfred Preis Honoree for her lifetime support and leadership in the arts. In this conversation, she recounts her experiences as a dancer, a university educator and a nonprofit leader.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, July 8, at 4:00 pm and 11:30 pm.

 

Marilyn Cristofori Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

Once upon a time, arts was considered a basic part of life.

 

M-hm.

 

A formal piece of education.

 

And it still is. Because what we do at the Arts Alliance is … the big picture. But if you want to be a ballet dancer, you’ve got to get your body to a ballet studio and stand at the ballet barre, and learn … that particular discipline. If you want to be an opera singer, you’re not gonna do it … in a school classroom.

 

M-hm.

 

I mean, you can be exposed to it, you can learn about it, you can … the history and the composers, and so on, and so forth. But if you want to be a performer or a creator of that discipline … gotta go there. There is no other choice.

 

Marilyn Cristofori headed the Hawai‘i Arts Alliance for twenty-four years. Upon her retirement, she was selected as the 2017 Alfred Preis Honoree. That was a prestigious acknowledgement of her lifetime support and leadership in the arts. She joins fellow Preis Honorees next, on Long Story Short.

 

One-on-one engaging conversations with some of Hawai‘i’s most intriguing

people: Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox.

 

Aloha mai kākou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Marilyn Cristofori always knew she’d have at least two careers, because she started out as a dancer, a calling prone to injuries and other physical wear and tear. Next, Cristofori became a university dance teacher. And then, she enjoyed a long third career heading a nonprofit organization advocating for arts. Upon retirement, she was named 2017’s Preis Honoree for her arts achievements by the very organization she headed, Hawai‘i Arts Alliance. She joined a long line of distinguished honorees, many of whom she helped to select. We’ll revisit some of these arts champions during the half hour, and get to know Marilyn Cristofori. As a child, she spent summers and many other times away from her family home in Sacramento because her mother was often ill. Young Marilyn would stay with her grandmother in the Bay Area.

 

I loved my grandmother. It made me identify with the things that were part of that life. And I loved it. San Francisco.

 

Italian?

 

Italian. She loved the opera, I loved the opera. I can’t sing, but she loved the opera; she always played opera in the house.

 

And you were the only child in the house?

 

The only; yeah. She had three children, my mother being one of them, but they were all grown up. I was the only young child. My grandmother did not intend to raise another child; that was one of those … it happened.

 

And you felt at home at school, and at your grandmother’s house?

 

I felt very at home at my grandmother’s house, and I adjusted to my other home.

 

Was your grandmother your most formative influence, then, as a child?

 

I consider her that; m-hm. Yeah.

 

Did she give you any explicit advice about the future?

 

Oh, god. She was … a woman of her era. And I think the year she got married, the women’s vote was finally put in, and she was determined I was gonna get an education.

 

Did she know how she would pay for it, or anyone would pay for it?

 

Oh, no. I just had to get good grades and earn a scholarship.

 

So, you knew that from an early age?

 

M-hm.

 

That you were gonna go to college through a scholarship, and you were gonna make the grade to do it.

 

Yeah.

 

Did you know what you wanted to do?

 

When I was raised, Leslie, there was the idea that as a woman, you did nursing or teaching, or mothering, or sometimes a secretary, and occasionally you might have another profession. But those were the main ones. So, I thought I was gonna be a teacher.

 

M-hm. And you did get a BA in education.

 

I did.

 

From a very good college.

 

I did.

 

You got into Stanford.

 

Yeah.

 

On scholarship?

 

Yeah.

 

Wow.

 

At that point in time, it was kind of fun, because women were still new to Stanford, so the ratio was about four to one. So, it was a great experience.

 

Lots of men. And did—

 

And I was young, so …

 

Did you feel younger than eighteen?

 

I was twenty when I graduated.

 

Oh; how did you get into college so early?

 

Well, when I was much younger, and all that shuffling back and forth to my grandmother’s and so on, they skipped me a full grade in school.

 

Wow. So, you graduated from Stanford University at age twenty.

 

Yeah.

 

As a … teacher.

 

Teacher. Yeah. And then, we had an opportunity to take a trip to Europe. And … I thought, that would be fun.

 

We, meaning you and …

 

And some … Stanford colleagues.

 

M-hm.

 

And a professor was doing the trip, and it was like a big deal. We had to go to New York and change planes, and fly over Iceland, and go to London. That was my first time out of California.

 

And you actually—

 

I didn’t come back for five and a half years.

 

Is that right?

 

I discovered dancing, which I had been doing all my life, but I didn’t know that I really wanted to do it.

 

What kind of dancing were you doing?

 

I was doing ballet at that time. So, then, I wanted to be a dancer, but I had gotten a full scholarship to what was then Radcliff at Harvard Business School. Why did I apply to Harvard Business School? Because the guy that I had a crush on applied to Harvard Business School. I thought it would be fun to go. And I went to Europe, and I decided I really didn’t want to go, and I knew that I could always go to business school, but I couldn’t always dance. So, I stayed in Europe.

 

And where did you dance?

 

I danced in Rome, and I danced in London, mainly. Those were the two.

 

And what was it about your experience in Europe that caused—you left the boyfriend behind too; right?

 

Yeah. But another one came along.

 

And is that part of the reason for staying in Europe, or was it—

 

Yeah.

 

–sheer dance, or a combination?

 

Well, part of it. Because he decided to go to London School of Economics, so we got married. I was working in a contemporary company. And I went to ballet classes, and I went to the Royal Ballet. I was not working as a professional ballet dancer in London. I experienced a lot of it, and that was what I knew. So, when I came back to San Francisco, I then was with San Francisco Ballet, San Francisco Opera Ballet, Pacific Ballet, and Lathrop Contemporary Company. So then, I worked as a professional dancer. And because I was still young enough, since I had graduated so young, I was able to do it, and have … a fairly decent career.

 

What other types of dancing did you do?

 

Then, I did contemporary.

 

Which was freeform …

 

Well, modern dance. And that’s why I got involved until I … I needed to get a job, and became a professor and academic, and you’re supposed to write a book. And what did I do instead? I didn’t want to write a book; I made … documentaries for PBS about famous dancers. And so, I got very involved with that part of things.

 

And you felt passionate about a number of things, it sounds like.

 

Yeah; yeah. Well, I loved dancing. That’s definitely my first love. But every dancer needs at least two careers.

 

And you know that, going in.

 

Well, because you can’t dance beyond a certain age … adequately. I got to be a professor, I got to teach. And then, I went to business … eventually.

 

Because that’s what you were going to do years before. You know, it’s not a natural jump, it doesn’t sound like, to go from dancing to professor of dance, to an MBA at University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.

 

At least in my day, it was more natural to go from a professional dance career, or to parallel with teaching, and to move into academia.

 

You were a professor, and then, you left California and came here. Why?

 

Because I married … Gregg Lizenbery, my husband, and he got offered the position to be director of dance at UH Mānoa. So, I had taken an early retirement, and then it just so happened he got offered that position. And then, we moved here. That was almost three decades ago. I did not look for my career with the Arts Alliance. But after we moved here, we realized that the cost of living was a little bit different than we were used to.

 

M-hm.

 

And so, I had thought: Oh, I’m retired, I’ll just … but that didn’t work. So, I needed to find a position. That’s what I did. So, for a while, I worked part-time for the Arts Alliance, and part-time for Early Childhood, and made them partners. And then, when I was into the position at Arts Alliance, I realized that I would hit a ceiling if I didn’t get a new skillset. Which is why I went to business school.

 

After receiving her executive master of business degree from the Shidler College of Business at the University of Hawai‘i, Marilyn Cristofori felt she had all the tools necessary to grow the Hawai‘i Arts Alliance.

 

How do you get funding for the arts?

 

Oh … so many ways. One of the biggest, biggest … important things that people don’t always get. I find when I say to somebody “arts”, the shade comes down, and what they see is a painting on a wall in a museum.

 

M-hm.

 

Or they remember, because there used to be arts in the school curriculum, when they were in school as a child; they had a music class and they had a drawing class, and they had maybe sometimes a dance class, and they could be in their … high school production, theater production. And they remember those things, and they don’t know that it’s not there anymore.

 

Mm.

 

So, you have to tell them … No, it’s not been there for quite a while.

 

Do public schools have virtually no arts classes? Is that what you’re saying?

 

Not exactly. It’s heading upwards, but mostly, one of the things the Arts Alliance does now, partners with the State arts agency to run what we call Artists in the Schools.

 

M-hm.

 

And that’s … funded by public monies for public schools.

 

But how do you argue the case when lawmakers or charitable organizations are saying: Look, I mean, we need to support the basics; reading, writing, and arithmetic, and computer technology. We can’t do art; that’s something you’ve gotta get on your own.

 

One of the biggest convincing arguments has to do with brain research. And they’ve done a lot of research to find out—one of my favorite studies was done, a longevity study. And they followed kids in high school who were either in like boy scouts or girl scouts, or some other community service organization, and where there school arts event in some way, whether it was after school or in school, or if they were in sports. And then, they followed them for … ten years, and how did they do ten years later, by which time they were usually married with some kids, and in a career of some kind. The ones that were happiest, most successful, had come from the arts. So, then they looked further back into that, and they examined what happens when you have those … experiences as a child.

 

M-hm.

 

That it shapes your brain differently. You have those connections, neuropathways. And if they aren’t formed by a certain age, usually puberty, they kind of wither and die on the vine.

 

It’s a key to happiness.

 

A key to happiness and success in life. So, that’s why back in ancient days now … arts were considered to part of the curriculum. So, the big deal is to get it during the formative years. So, right now, the way our Hawaii school system is built, by the time … children go into high school … there are art teachers, and music teachers, and band, and there are options, after school performing arts centers, all of which work very, very well. But a lot of the times, the kids that want to do those things didn’t have them when they were young, and so, they don’t have competitive skills to be involved. We teach about the arts and how the arts can enrich an experience and change your life.

 

How big is the Hawai‘i Arts Alliance? How many staffers?

 

Well, we’re all the way up to seven.

 

Seven staffers; and what’s your budget?

 

I took over in ’94.

 

’94; okay.

 

Yeah. So … it was thirty thousand. And I said: That won’t do. And then, we got up to … it’s varied, depending on what comes … from national, mostly. Not two million; just under two million. But that was a good jump. It needs to now double again. I feel really good about … we have a base that’s established in the education part. And there’s something to work with, and expand, and go to, and staying with education is essential.

 

You mentioned three careers, and it’s a very long work record. I don’t know what seventy-seven looks like, but to me, you don’t look like you’re seventy-seven years old.

 

I really am. And a half.

 

Do you feel it?

 

Starting to happen.

 

Marilyn Cristofori was the thirty-seventh recipient of the Alfred Preis Honors for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts. In the past, we’ve featured other Preis Honorees on Long Story Short. We look back now at three recent recipients, and their contributions.

 

Sarah Richards was the 2015 Preis Honoree. As president of the Hawai‘i Theatre Center for a quarter of a century, she spearheaded an historic restoration, transforming the once dilapidated theater into a national award-winning performance center. A former college dean of students, Sarah Richards switched careers and actually succeeded the legendary architect Alfred Preis himself as chief of the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts.

 

You succeeded a man who has got a lot of aura around him in history.

 

Yes.

 

Alfred Preis.

 

Right.

 

As head of the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts.

 

Right.

 

In 1980?

 

1980; m-hm.

 

What was he like? Did you know him before you took over?

 

I got to know him. He was a wonderful man. He was a Prussian architect. And so, he was very Prussian in character, in modus operandi. And he was the one who really initiated the Art in Public Places program, really, on a European model. He was a lovely man, with a great vision.

 

And when it was time for him to step down, the foundation looked for somebody who was a good administrator, and who could handle the strong voices in the arts community.

 

Yes.

 

And they selected you to do that.

 

They did; they did.

 

What kind of strong voices?

 

Oh, well, the arts, as you know, because the State Foundation dealt with all the arts, whether it was visual arts, performing arts, literary arts. And so, there was a lot of variety of art groups we were dealing with. And of course, since we were the granting agency, we had a lot of very personal contacts with how much money grants were gonna be given to what groups.

 

Right; and projects are like babies.

 

Oh, yes; oh, yes.

 

You give money to one, and it’s my baby.

 

That’s right.

 

You know, it seems like a dream job to have all this money that you can give to wonderful art projects. But you probably are under criticism, no matter what you do.

 

Oh, yes. Giving away money is not just a piece of cake. You need to be clear on what your mission is, what you want to accomplish, and then also who makes decisions and who are qualified to make decisions. It wasn’t just sort of, Here’s some money. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or in the eye of the creator. But there are certain standards that the art community has, and that’s why you ask a group of knowledgeable people to review and make a judgment. We were proud we were number one in the nation in per capita state support. So, we did a fair amount of lobbying the State Legislature, and also getting money from the federal government.

 

You’re a very determined person, aren’t you?

 

I am determined.

 

You’re very goal-oriented.

 

I was very goal-oriented; yes, I was. Yes.

 

And you’re a missioned person.

 

Yeah.

 

Here’s 2016 Preis Honoree, Michael Titterton, former president and general manager of Hawaii Public Radio. Under his leadership, HPR expanded its broadcast reach across the State.

 

You got your master’s degree in public speaking and rhetoric.

 

Rhetoric; yes.

 

Why did you choose that?

 

Bear in mind, this is the very, very early 70s. It’s 1971, actually. And … coming into ’72, and I knew the U.S. was … I mean, this was … social mobility was here, and that’s what I was really after. I didn’t know it at that time, ‘cause I didn’t know the words. But social mobility. And meritocracy. You know, if you work hard, you can get places. And that’s really what everybody dreams about, when they dream about America, when they’re not from here. If I was going to understand this place, the quickest way to do it might be to study the media, because that seemed to be the bottleneck through which everything passed. And it was a very busy bottleneck at that point. Watergate, for example, Vietnam War, all the unrest on college campuses. Glorious time. And all of it was being fed through a media, which was under suspicion, as much of it is now. And so, I specialized in that.

 

And you’d already had experienced storytelling, because you had stories to tell along the way.

 

Well, everybody does. Yeah. Just because of the basic courses that I had to then take as part of being in the rhetoric program, I began to learn something about the mechanics of storytelling, if you like, the idea of a narrative arc. And I was very quickly drafted into teaching public speaking. So yeah, that was … I hadn’t really thought about it, actually, as being part of the whole storytelling business, but I seem to keep coming back to that. But that’s what it is, that’s what life is; it’s the stories we get to tell.

 

And sometimes, you do things without having a name for it; right? And then, you find out—

 

Oh, yes; most of the time, actually.

 

Your real self keeps popping up in the form of what you do.

 

Yes; that is true. That is true. But storytelling … I guess that’s a lot of the attraction that I have, or that radio has for me, because it’s a storytelling medium, and storytelling is … there’s very few human behaviors that that go back further than storytelling. It’s the quintessential social act. It’s a wonderful vehicle for healing, for illumination, for understanding, for being civilized.

 

And radio has that intimate quality.

 

Mm. It’s a one-to-one medium, and it’s frighteningly intimate. And the best radio is indistinguishable from pillow talk. It’s that intimate. And that’s what I love about it. I mean, what’s not to love?

 

Henry Akina, who retired from the Hawaii Opera Theater, was the 2014 Preis Honoree. Born and raised in Honolulu, Henry Akina spent much of his adult life directing opera in prestigious opera houses around the world. He even founded an opera company in Berlin, before moving back home to Hawai‘i. Under the guidance of its first ever Hawai‘i-born artistic director, the Hawaii Opera Theater became known for vibrant, creative productions, sometimes incorporating modern updates and collaborations with top international artists.

 

I love that approach, in a sense modernizing with Harajuku costumes.

 

You’re referring to The Mikado, then.

 

Yeah, Mikado.

 

Right; yeah.

 

And you feel free to do that. You don’t take the same opera and present it again. You add new touches. You’ve had Anne Namba’s designs, you’ve had Dean Shibuya change things up.

 

We have a resident designer at HOT, Peter Dean Beck, who’s resident in New York, but who’s nonetheless been seminal for design here.

 

How do audiences feel about those changes?

 

I’m not sure. You know, people say nice things to me, so I’m assuming that they’re honest about those things. But I think that the audiences in Hawaii respond well to good stories, and we try and make good stories wherever we are, from wherever we are.

 

Do you look for ways to take a classic story and localize it or modernize it?

 

Well, modernize it, perhaps. Localize it, not so much. But modernize it, perhaps. And in the case of Mikado, for instance, we knew that we couldn’t go backwards; we had to go forwards. And we had to look at the Japan of today, which was a lot different than the first time we did Mikado, which was ten years ago.

 

So, in ten years, it changed.

 

In ten years, life has changed. Yeah.

 

Did audiences know Harajuku girls? Because that was the play.

 

I think that we tried to let the audience know that we were doing the style. But you’ll have to ask Anne about the Harajuku things, because it was based on one of Anne’s trips to Japan. But I think that in contemporary life, we would be someplace else in ten years.

 

Right. I think she reimagined those characters as hip shoppers out for retail therapy.

 

She did; she did. And using cell phones every five minutes. Right. And using an iPad; things like that. So, whatever we’re using in ten years will be reflected in the staging.

 

You’ve already been announced, I believe, as the 2014 Preis Honoree in Arts, which is a tremendous honor, probably the largest honor we have in Hawai‘i in arts.

 

Well, I knew Alfred Preis, and I think that that’s … I was saying that, you know, people who know me well don’t expect this honor. And I didn’t expect it, either.

 

Why? Why didn’t you expect it? I wasn’t surprised to hear that you were named.

 

Well, I was, in a weird way. And I went to a board member, Jean Rolles, who had been honored herself. And she said: You will do it for this organization. And since then, I have decided that I will do it for the organization.

 

Congratulations to 2017 Preis Honoree Marilyn Cristofori of Hawai‘i Kai. And mahalo to all of the recipients of this award over the years for the work you’ve done to advance the arts and keep them vibrant in Hawai‘i. For PBS Hawai‘i and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha nui.

 

The key thing, whatever you’re doing … is to support creativity in our society as a whole. Keep your passion about creativity, and moving forward with what is right … what is just, and what helps everybody. ‘Cause if we don’t preserve our creativity … the rest of it doesn’t matter.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie

Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org. To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with

Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to contribute so far to education. We’ve been able to create and move forward significantly with Arts First and get admirable, high quality arts back in the schools, particularly elementary schools. So, I’m really feeling good about that.

 

 

AMERICAN MASTERS
Billie Jean King

 

This biographical profile first aired in 2013 to commemorate the 40th anniversaries of the famous Billie Jean King v. Bobby Riggs “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match and the launch of the Women’s Tennis Association. King presents her own story, with perspective from Serena and Venus Williams, Hillary Clinton, Sir Elton John, Maria Sharapova, Gloria Steinem, Chris Evert and Bobby Riggs’ son Larry.

 

Where Everyone Knows Your Name

 

CEO Message

Where Everyone Knows Your Name
A Surprise for Our Board Chair


Where Everyone Knows Your Name: A Surprise for Our Board Chair

Left: PBS Hawai‘i outgoing Board Chair Robbie Alm and PBS Hawai‘i President and CEO Leslie Wilcox. Right: The newly named Robbie Alm Board Room

 

It’s not my practice to keep secrets from my outgoing Board Chair, Robbie Alm. I’m doing it this once, because it’s a one-of-a-kind secret that really should be a surprise.

 

By the time you read this, the cat will be out of the bag and Robbie will have retired from the Board following a long and successful tenure. Among his many achievements as leader: diversifying our revenues, investing in revolutionary tech advancements, founding the nation’s first statewide student news network, and building a new $30 million home on time and on budget.

 

Even before he was a Board member, Robbie was a champion of public broadcasting. He’s been involved in supporting this station, in one way or another, for more than 30 years.

 

So, of course, Board and Staff are having a party for him. We’ll give him lei and an engraved keepsake, and there’ll be a special song from former Board member, Hoku Award-winning performer/composer Kawika Kahiapo. Robbie also will have to endure a few speeches.

 

And – here’s our secret. PBS Hawai‘i’s handsome Board Room, which doubles as a second TV/video studio and has a view of our large studio below, will be named after him.

 

Robbie displayed both battle-hardened confidence and quiet humility in getting our new home built. He likes the results so much, that he’s known to stop by when he could simply make a phone call. He enjoys the natural light, the openness of the floor plan, the cheerful colors, the way the space accommodates work flow.

 

And now his name will be on the room where he presided over high-level governance decisions. We hope he continues to stop by and enjoy – without any worry.

 

In next month’s guide, I’ll write about PBS Hawai‘i’s incoming Board Chair. We’re proud to have our first ever Chair from a Neighbor Island: Jason Fujimoto of Hilo, an accomplished executive whose family-founded, employee-owned business is nearly a century old.

 

A hui hou – until next time,
Leslie signature

 

Arnold Knows Me:
The Tommy Kono Story

 

The late Tommy Kono inspired generations of body builders, including one of the world’s biggest movie stars. This film tells the inspirational story of the most decorated American in the history of weightlifting. A Sacramento, CA native, Tommy won two Olympic gold medals, an Olympic silver medal, and six World Championship titles between 1952 and 1960.

 

AMERICA’S BALLROOM CHALLENGE
Part 2 of 3

America's Ballroom Challenge Part 2 of 3

 

This three-part series, hosted by former U.S dance champions Mary Murphy and Tony Meredith, features all four major styles of competitive ballroom dancing: American Smooth, American Rhythm, International Standard and International Latin. In addition to 25 world-class couples competing to be named “America’s Best,” the series includes backstage footage of the couples preparing for competition; exhibitions featuring other top couples in each style of dance, from children to Pro-Am champions; and behind-the-scenes looks at different aspects of the world of ballroom dancing, from music to hairstyles.

 

Part 2 of 3
In the second hour, couples take the floor in the International Standard division, full of flowing ball gowns and graceful waltzes, and then the sizzling International Latin style, with its flamboyant costumes and seductive steps.

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Clyde Aikau

 

Part 1

 

Original air date: Tues., May 5, 2009

 

 

Part 2

 

Big Wave Surfing Champion

 

Leslie Wilcox talks with Clyde Aikau, big wave surfing champion, former North Shore life guard and younger brother of the late Eddie Aikau (of “Eddie Would Go” fame).

 

In part one of the conversation, Clyde talks about growing up in Chinese graveyard in Pauoa valley, surfing giant North Shore waves while approaching age 60, and his 15 year old son Ha’a’s approach to the sport.

 

In the concluding episode, Clyde speaks in-depth about the now-famous incident in which his older brother Eddie Aikau was lost at sea while trying to find help for the crew of the capsized Hokule’a in 1978. He also delivers a conciliatory message to the family of the late David Lyman, who was the captain of that ill-fated Hokule’a voyage, and speaks with pride about “living in the shadow” of his older brother Eddie.

 

Clyde Aikau Audio

 

Download the

 

Transcript

 

Next, meet a surfing legend. He’s a man who grew up in a Chinese cemetery, won big time surfing contests, sailed on the Polynesian voyaging canoe Hokulea, and saved lives as a Waimea Bay lifeguard. He’s a surfing legend. He’s Clyde Aikau, Eddie Aikau’s younger brother.

 

Aloha mai kakou, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Welcome to the first edition of a special two part series of “Long Story Short.” Many know of Eddie Aikau, a waterman who was the first lifeguard at Waimea Bay, a big wave surfer who was lost at sea while attempting to save the crew of the Hokulea in 1978. But in the world of surfing, his brother Clyde Aikau is also renowned. He has won at Makaha, at the old Duke event on the North Shore, and the Eddie Aikau at Waimea. The Duke Kahanamoku Foundation named him a “Waikiki surfing legend.” In the Spring of 2009, Clyde is 59, and he’s not slowing down. He stopped long enough to talk with me about big waves, family and living at the graveyard in Pauoa.

 

When we um, first had the opportunity to um, have a house in the—in the graveyard, um, the deal was that we have to clean … clean the graveyard and cut the grass, and maintain the entire um, graveyard. And um, in 1959, we had to cut the grass with sickles it’s kinda like a wooden handle so far, with a— with a—with a half-moon blade. And we had to cut five acres, all of us six kids, with the sickle, by hand. But, you know, us kids growing up, um, during—doing all of our chores, which included washing the car and doing the housework, and cleaning the graveyard, was always first. You know, if we wanted to go surfing, we had to do all of the chores first.

 

—when your family took the job, and the home, did they have second thoughts about um …

 

Well—

 

—what it was, any spooky thoughts, or any thoughts about, you know, how do we properly revere this land?

 

… my dad um … has always been a very spiritual person. You know. he’s always had that spiritual uh … connection with uh, things that you can’t explain. And um, us kids, knowing that, you know, we felt very comfortable from the very beginning that, you know, if there was so-called spirits or so-called ghosts, um, we would be okay, because Pops was so strong he was sitting down um, in our house, i—in—in the graveyard at night, when all of a sudden, a big wind came from up on the street, blew right through the graveyard, blew the door open, and there was a loud crying of a baby, just crying out loud. And at that moment, my father went to the um, phone and called the hospital. And they told him, How did you know your son’s child just gave birth?

 

And there are plenty of other stories like that?

 

Oh; yeah—

 

—you’re family was actually fr—from Maui originally, right?

 

Yes; yes. Um, I have uncles and aunties who live in Hana. If you drive by, you’ll—you’ll see their last name there, Aikau. So our roots actually go back to um, to Hana, where my grandfather was the sheriff of Hana.

 

So does that mean the family was very, very good?

 

—well, my uncle uh, was chief of police, and my cousins were all policemen too.

 

There you go.

 

We always uh, tried to do the right thing. But you know, we come from a family uh, that was really bred old school. You know. And from—with our family, it was um, if one of us did something wrong, all of us would get spanking. And the spanking was, bend over, drop your pants, and big belt or a big paddle would come and hit you.

 

Everybody got the same thing?

 

Everybody got the same thing. And it’s amazing when I tell this story, that five brothers and one sister, we never laid one hand on each other. And of course, I was the youngest of the family. Um … we never touched one another physically. We would say words that wasn’t so nice, but we never physically touched each other. Because they way we were brought up was, you know, take care of each other, watch for each other, and that when—when someone uh, was gonna do something wrong, we’d all kinda like, you know, go to his aid and, No, no, no, don’t—don’t do that, ‘cause it’s trouble. But you know, with—with our family, you know, with—with Pops, you know, uh, just his look would really uh, really back you up about ten feet. You know, he—he didn’t really have to say anything, but just his look and his—you know, his stare would just send chills uh, on—on your back.

 

Well, let’s—you know, when people say they visited your family home in the cemetery, they say they were just uh, enveloped in aloha, and they felt accepted, and they felt a sense of belonging.

 

Well, you know, my—my dad, my mom, uh, we always was brought up to—you know, you—you meet people and try to be—uh, try to um … bring them in, in the family, make them comfortable. Um, you know, if you have food, always share your food with them, you know, talk story. Uh, if you have knowledge that they can use, always—always share that. You know. And I think when people come down to the … you know, the graveyard, which is our—our home, um, uh, it’s—it’s—it’s the same way, although my mom and dad is not here anymore. Uh, my sister Myra, my brother Solomon, and me, always try to keep that going for the family.

 

What if they came over, and you didn’t have enough food? How’d you handle that?

 

Uh … we’d just give them our love and aloha. You know, and—and that uh, um … that was … more than enough for ninety-nine percent of the people who came down. You know, we used to go to the North Shore, and my mom and dad used to always bring a lot of food, you know. And at that time, there was a lot of surfers who … who was also from poor families, but they were great surfers, and you know, they were hungry. You know. So we had food, and we had extra food, so you know, help out.

 

And your family often jumped into that gray utility truck you folks used to have, and went to the North Shore all together.

 

Well, you know, we had this truck that was uh, encased. And uh, believe it or not, all six of us would—would fit ourselves in the back of that truck, and Mom, Pop, and my sister would be in the front, and all five brothers would be in the back. But—but it didn’t matter for us, because we had all our surfboards on top of the truck, and we know that—we knew that we were going surfing. So that’s all that mattered.

 

I’ve heard that when your family got together and they were singing, it was in these wonderful harmonies—

 

Well, you know, harmony for us was always um … it was always important. You know, because it—it just … it just sounds good. [chuckle] It just sounds good.

 

And you could do it.

 

I had a high pitch, and Eddie had kinda like a medium to low pitch. But uh, his expertise was playing slack key music, Hawaiian slack key. I mean, if he was alive today, he would be probably one of the great masters of slack key. Because back in um … the mid-60s and the late 60s, he was already really, really uh, really accomplished at playing slack key music. —and my mom had a real high, high, high pitch, and Gerald, my brother, had um … uh, his voice was higher than mine. So you had a super high pitch, and then uh, next to that, and next to that, and it all blends together. And you know, we—we used to enjoy um, you know, the luaus at the graveyard, and Pops used to make uh, Hawaiian swipe, which was called uh … hekapu, uh, in Hawaiian. And he used to make it out of … pineapple juice, brown sugar, yeast, put it into a wooden barrel, and have it ferment for like seventeen days.

 

And it was lethal.

 

It was—

 

Practically. [chuckle]

 

It was lethal; it was very lethal. And um, in fact, um, when—when we had luaus, Leslie, uh, everybody had their jobs, you know. Um, uh, Solomon was to go and dig the hole, and Gerald was to go find the rocks, and Eddie was to go find the uh, you know, the leaves to put in there. And … and uh—

 

What did you do?

 

My job was to take our truck, go down to Waikiki, and go find all the girls, and come back up to the luau. So—

 

Which you were very good at, I heard.

 

That was—that was—that—that was my job. And um, you know, we—we—we— I—I used to … bring them up to the graveyard, you know, truckloads. And uh, so we—we—you know, we used to make ‘em comfortable, and give em our swipe have a nice night.

 

[chuckle] And I understand that if folks had to stay over because that swipe was—

 

Oh, boy.

 

–rough—

 

Well, you know, the stuff uh, when you drink it, it’s like um … it just feels like strawberry juice. You know. But after—after two cups, that’s it, you know.

 

[chuckle]

 

You know, it—it really hits you really hard. But yeah, yeah; we—we used to take all the keys away from everybody. Um, this was, you know, thirty, forty years ago. You know, ‘cause we didn’t want any—anybody to get hurt. But you know, uh, we used to do crazy things, where if you fall asleep early, you get drunk and you fall asleep early, we used to pick that person up and— we used to put him in the mausoleum …

 

[INDISTINCT]

 

—when he wakes up, we’d hear a big scream, you know. But it—it was all in fun, and he survived, and uh, you know, it—it was just fun.

 

So everybody was comfortable with a lot of other people around did that mean you grew up very social, and didn’t maybe like to be alone that much

 

Well, actually, for me personally, um, I was uh, I was a very shy guy, uh, growing up. Because uh, growing up, I had a s—stuttering problem, which I do sometimes. And uh, I used to be real inhibited. You know, I used to just kinda hide, you know, because I—I—I … I just had a real difficulty talking. You know.

 

How did you overcome the stutter?

 

I guess just try to relax more, I guess.. but then I realized that even the President of the United States stutters too sometimes. I mean, may—maybe not this one, but others have. And I kinda realized that, you know … very important people in—in—in higher places also stutter. So then I kinda think it’s not all that bad, you know, and just got better. So throughout the whole high school, um, I was a real shy guy. My brother Solomon was like the clown of Roosevelt High School, … the whole school laughing continuously. My brother Gerald was —like the handsome one, and the—and the singer. And I was kinda like the real shy guy. But in high school, um, I was into my surfing with Eddie, and that was all, you know.

 

So … your whole life was dominated by water, surf.

 

Yes.

 

And music, and family.

 

Yes.

 

And you went onto higher education, as well.

 

Yes. I uh, g—graduated in 1973 uh, with a bachelor of arts soc—in sociology, psychology, went to uh, a couple years of law school.

 

Where’d you go to law school?

 

Uh, right here; UH. And even my grades there was pretty darn good too.

 

What made you decide you wouldn’t finish?

 

… I had an opportunity to go into business, and uh … you know, I—I took off for a while and just went to go make money. You know. ‘Cause you know, we— we … I come from a real poor family, and you know, it was difficult to find money for my family. So I just felt that, you know, I had an opportunity in business to go ba—make money, so I did that for the last twenty-five years or so

 

AND CLYDE AIKAU DID VERY WELL FOR THOSE 25 YEARS, OPERATING A WAIKIKI BEACH RENT A SURFBOARD, UMBRELLA, SAILBOAT CONCESSION. NOW HIS PASSION FOR THE OCEAN CONTINUES WITH HIS CURRENT BUSINESS.

 

[chuckle] Yeah. Yeah; I have a surf school at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Uh, you want to learn how to ride waves, come down with Uncle Clyde. And we also have a s—s—standup paddling lessons. Uh, we do it in the um, pond at the Hilton, the newly uh, refurbished lagoon, uh, which is real safe to learn. Come down, learn that from Uncle Clyde too.

 

You personally, do the teaching?

 

Um, I—uh, uh, sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. But I train all of my guys personally. You know, the first thing to do is to, you know, just be nice to people, you know, give them the aloha, you know, the true aloha. Um … and I just uh, recently got a—got a part-time job with the Department of Education, where I will be a uh, a person in the middle of uh, making sure that the homeless child um, gets to go into the classroom, uh, and I’m in the middle that brings the uh, homeless child and the State together, uh, making sure that he has the transportation and the—and the lunch uh, that—that he needs. And uh …

 

That sounds rewarding.

 

Yeah. Uh, it’s—it’s—you know, it’s real funny, because in ’73, when I graduated, that’s exactly what I wanted to do. You know, I—

 

Sociology.

 

I wanted to do social work, and you know, help the kids out. And you know, forty years later, uh, I’m doing that. So I’m—I’m very humbled to have the opportunity to work uh, with the homeless, um, especially at this time, where you know, people are losing jobs and everything. So I’m very humbled, and uh, I’m—I’m set to go.

 

You were uh, Eddie’s best friend; n—not just his brother.

 

Yeah; me and Eddie, we did everything together. Uh, like you know, Eddie was the first lifeguard on the North Shore in 1967. We—we were the first in the water at Sunset Beach for twenty years. And we were the last to leave. And then we’d work at the lifeguarding at the bay. And um … we used to ride the bay on gigantic days where it was overcast, no cameras on the beach, and he— me and Eddie used to ride uh, you know, the big waves. Uh, he rode the biggest waves uh, in the world in 1967, November 19th, Wednesday. That’s what I like to say it. Other people say it was a Tuesday, I say it’s November 19th, a Wednesday, 1967. Because there’s certain days in your life that you just don’t forget, ‘cause it’s just so monumental. You know, things that probably won’t happen again. And in 1967, I was in high school; Eddie uh … rode the bay for the first time. And uh, it was massive, his wave is forty feet. His surfboard is twelve feet; it goes four times up the face of the wave. It’s a paddle-in wave, it’s not a tow-in wave. Uh, that wave was forty feet. And I’ve ridden … um, almost every big wave that pulled into the North Shore since 1967, and um … that day is still the biggest day ever ridden at Waimea Bay.

 

M-hm. How do you do that? —do you just get more and more comfortable with bigger, bigger, bigger waves, and at some point you’re taking off on a thirty-footer?

 

Um … well, you know … a wave of that magnitude and that size only comes in maybe once in, like, five years. Like we haven’t had the Eddie Aikau Quicksilver big event since 2004. And 2004, it got up to about thirty feet. And um, I want to let you know that after the first round … I was in second place. And these guys who were surfing are really the best in the world.

 

Absolutely.

 

You know, Kelly Slater, Bruce Irons, Andy Irons, uh—

 

But you’re—you’re the—you’re the oldest in the field, aren’t you?

 

I am the absolute oldest in the field. Um, next uh, I will be riding again, and I’ll be sixty years old.

 

And you can still handle those big waves?

 

Um, I caught every giant swell that pulled in um, on the North Shore this year, and felt very comfortable. Uh, but I think it’s because of my son; he’s fifteen years old, and he’s given me um … new excitement, new enthusiasm about riding waves. Um, I had a conversation with my son about surfing big waves. And he—he—he goes, oh, yeah, I want to surf a big wave so I can get on the front—uh, front cover of the Surfer Magazine. And I—and I kinda scolded him, because you know, riding uh, these big waves, you know, if you’re—if you’re gonna do that for that reason, I feel that’s—that’s a really wrong reason to put your life on the—on the line. You know. Um … putting your life on the line, um… at that extreme level should be one that you have a personal uh, personal spirit, uh, a personal thing that you want to do for yourself. And uh, trying to do it to be famous, I think, is gonna get you in trouble. Because when you get into trouble … and it’s all said and done, and you’re under there, twenty, thirty feet, and there’s no way to come up, no way to come up, the only way that you’re going to make it through is to—is to dig deep inside, you know … where your spirit is, and that’s what is gonna pull you through. You know. When you—when you think about, oh, man, I guess I’m—I am gonna make the front cover, but I won’t be around; you know, that’s uh … not a good thing, I—I feel.

 

Does he have a style like yours on the waves?

 

—I don’t think he has my style. Uh, uh … I think when you see him surf, uh, you will see a surfer th—that is all power. Uh, he’s a hundred sixty-five pounds, and fifteen years old. Uh, he’s bigger than most of his buddies, and uh, he has a lot of power in his surfing. He’s real fun to watch.

 

You’re probably more fluid.

 

Oh, ye—yeah; I would say that. I would say that. I am a lot more fluid than he is.

 

M-hm.

 

Because uh, in their kind of surfing, uh, quickness and uh, straight-ups, and just demolishing the lip, and flying in the sky is what surfing is for them.

 

But you became part of the wave, I think. It was—that was—

 

Yeah.

 

—a different—

 

Exactly.

 

—way of doing it.

 

Exactly; exactly. Eddie and I was more part of the wave, and more flowing with the wave. Because um, you know, taking off at the bay on a big wave, uh, you need to kinda find your way down, ‘cause there’s a lot of chops in the face of the wave. And um … I would like to—uh, you know, even at sixty years old, I—I still have goals that I—that I want to do. And—and you know, uh, one of my goals uh, at sixty years old, is to go over to Maui and uh, master uh, this place called … called Peahi, or Jaws.

 

Right. Wow; that’s—

 

I know; crazy, but—

 

It is monster.

 

Yeah.

 

And that’s all tow-in.

 

Yeah.

 

Uh, can you even paddle into that wave? It—it breaks too big and too fast, doesn’t it?

 

Uh, when the waves are fifteen to twenty feet at uh, Jaws, you ca—you—you can probably paddle in. When it hits the twenty-five to thirty feet, to forty feet, uh, I don’t think you can—you can paddle in.

 

How do you train for these big just um, to be su—super shape, and just to waves at age sixty?

 

Um, I used to run in the back roads a lot. And—but my knees and my ankles really take a beating on the hard pavement. So now, I have a jogging machine, a running machine that elevates and everything. So I—I wo—work out on—work out on that about a hour a day. But I do a lot of stretches too; lot of stretches. Um … I do a lot of biking; lot of biking. You know, I do things that aren’t so hard on my body—

I notice there was a time on the North Shore, looking back decades, where surfers used to be just partiers and drinkers, and tokers. And then there came at time when people said, whoa, these waves are serious, they can really kill you; and they started getting to be—getting to be on organic diets, and really taking care of themselves. Did you go through—

 

Well—

 

—something like that?

 

Well, you know … you know … back in the 60s and the 70s, you know, um…riding big waves, lifeguarding, saving lives, and uh … chasing the Haole girls was in order. And um … but then, you’re—you’re nineteen years old, eighteen years old, twenty years old. I mean, everybody on the North Shore used to party hard and surf hard in—in the—in the—in the daytime. But you know, now I’m sixty, and you’re trying to look back on how it was then. Uh, it’s incredible on how we actually pulled it off. You know. I mean, I wouldn’t recommend it today. But you know, we actually pulled it off. I mean, did some crazy things at night, and rode the biggest waves in the world during the daytime. So—and looking back now, you know, I’d—uh, I don’t see how we did it, but you know, it—we did it. But um, you know, as you get older, you—you—you realize uh, that you know, you need to take care of your body a lot—a lot more, if you want to continue to ride. I mean, I’m sixty years old almost, and um … um …

 

When you look around—

 

—I’m still riding.

 

—on the big waves, how many sixty-year-olds do you see? Or even fifty-year- olds.

 

Well, you know, for me, ‘cause I’m the old dog out there, um … you know, it’s kinda sad, ‘cause there’s only one or two guys from the—from the old school. You know. Um … but then, it’s fun to surf with the young guys. You know, they’re all gung-ho and you know, very excited about surfing. And—and uh … you know, uh, and it’s—and it’s always nice that, you know, the—the young guys can come up to you and recognize who you are, and you know, Howzit, Clyde, you know, Uncle Clyde, you know. And uh, you know, it makes you feel—feel good to—to be recognized.

 

Clyde Aikau won the Makaha International Surfing Championship in the 60s and the Duke Surfing Championship in 1973, won the first Quicksilver Eddie Aikau Big Wave Contest in 1986 and has been named a “Waikiki surfing legend” by the Duke Kahanamoku foundation. Clyde Aikau, waterman and gentleman…still riding the big ones. On our next “Long Story Short.” Clyde returns to talk about the Hokulea, spiritual experiences and the legacy of his brother Eddie Aikau. Please join us then. For PBS Hawaii, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Ahui hou ka kou.

 

So do you believe in old school childrearing?

 

Ooh, boy. I uh, I tell you. You know, like I just told you, um, my son uh, fifteen years old, and um, you know, I’m not gonna uh, lie to anyone. I mean, um, it’s tough. And I’m talking to a lot of the other parents—‘cause he had a whole bunch of kids that they all ride Velzy Land, Rocky Point, Ehukai, Pipeline, Velzy Land, Rock—you know.

 

M-hm.

 

Every single day. And all of the other parents o—on the North Shore are having the same problems, you know. Um, you know, they—they don’t listen, and you know, you gotta do your schoolwork, and you know, they get lazy, you know. And um, and um, you know, sometimes it’s tough, you know. I mean, it’s tough, you know. But you—not matter, you—you love ‘em larger than life, you know.

 

GUEST: CLYDE AIKAU 2

 

LSS 222 (LENGTH: 26:16) FIRST AIR DATE: 5/19/09

 

… I’ll just kinda cruise, you know. I’ll—I’ll go out and probably still surf, but not catch the biggest wave that pulls through. Uh, no matter what happens, I’ll—I’ll be surfing all the way ‘til I’m a hundred years old.

 

I’m Leslie Wilcox and tonight the conclusion of a special two part “Long Story Short”. Our conversation with Clyde Aikau is about saving lives, sailing on the Hokulea, and the legacy of Eddie Aikau.

 

Aloha mai kakou, I’m Leslie Wilcox. On this edition of “Long Story Short”, we continue our conversation with waterman Clyde Aikau, brother of Eddie Aikau. Clyde sends a personal message to the family of the late David Lyman, captain of the 1978 Hokulea voyage at the time Eddie was lost at sea. We’ll learn more about the challenges, heartbreak and regrets of the ill-fated voyage. Clyde also talks about saving lives at Waimea bay and shares a very personal life lesson with us. We start with this thought:

 

Look at what you’ve accomplished in your life. You—you—you went on to win pretty much the same surf classics that your brother won, and here you’ve—then you got your degree, and you’ve continued to surf big waves, and operate a business. Sometimes I wonder if—if you’ve gotten your due.

 

Well, you know, I’ve always looked up to Eddie as um, larger than life. You know. Um, because as we were growing up, Eddie was always in the forefront.

 

And your older brother, right?

 

Yeah.

 

The leader.

 

He was—he was always the fast runner as kids, he was always fast to pick up music. Uh, he was the hardest kid to catch. Uh, in sports, he—he always had the knack to—to take it forward really quick. You know, so Eddie was the first lifeguard on the North Shore, um … I mean, to go out to the bay, Waimea Bay, and master Waimea Bay on the first time ever; I mean, thirty, forty feet is—is—is not a easy thing to do. So I’ve—I looked up to Eddie. And then—and then of course, the Hokulea, you know, his um, bravery and everything. Yeah; I—you know, I have—I have no … problem taking … number two slot to Eddie, you know, ‘cause to me … he’s just um … you know, a hero, Hawaiian hero. You know, and I’m just fine to be … right behind him.

 

One of the things that he set out to do, that you then went and did, was um, voyage on the Hokulea. Wasn’t that hard for your family to let you go on, after Eddie had disappeared when he set out on the Hokulea?

 

Well, the 1995 voyage coming back up from Nukuhiwa uh … for the family, it was more like a trying to close the circle kinda thing. Eddie left in um … ’78, uh, did not make it. Um, I was supposed to uh, join the Hokulea. Uh, it’s not like my family uh, forced me to do it or anything; I just want make that straight. You know, I personally wanted to do it myself, because I—I believed in closing the circle, um, of a—a voyage.

 

And this was almost twenty years later, ’95.

 

’95; Eddie got lost at sea in ’78. So you know, um … going down to Nukuhiwa and um … um, sailing back up was uh, was—was okay for me. I felt very comfortable uh, being on the voyage, and training. Now, you have to train to be i—invited on this voyage, because you know, you—you need to uh, be able to um, handle the rigorous uh, um, sailing voyage, and you gotta know what to do on the Hokulea and so forth. But I felt comfortable, because I windsurf, I sail, I drive boats, I surf, you know, dive, everything, so I felt real comfortable. Uh, we were at sea for twenty-nine days, uh, coming back up from Nukuhiwa to Hawaii. It was exciting for me when it got … heavy storms. You know, heavy storms, take the sail down, Hokulea is going up and down.

 

You didn’t have disturbing thoughts about Eddie on that voyage?

 

Oh, uh … um, no. I had—everything was great. But um, a real quick … uh, this island that we were on was called Nukihiwa. And it’s like a—uh, it’s about the size of Waikiki Beach from the Natatorium to the Hilton Hawaiian Village. And this was a place where there’s only about a hundred people there. And uh, when it comes about five o’clock, it’s lights out. Well, on the last night that we were there, uh, we had to go to bed and sleep, uh, uh, because we had a long voyage to go the next day. So anyway, I was sleeping, in this ten-by-ten room. I was on one side—uh, I was one side of the room, and my partner was on the— on the other side of the room. She woke up three times that night; three times that night, and she looked over to where I was sleeping. And she saw someone sitting down in a chair, leaning over me with a headband on.

 

Was that Eddie, looking out for you?

 

No doubt; no doubt.

 

Have you felt that before?

 

Um … yes, in 1986, when I won the Eddie Aikau first Quiksilver surfing event. Waves were twenty to twenty-five feet, thirty feet, and it was breaking on a—on a—on a wind day where we had a west wind. And a west wind would—would give you kinda like a onshore uh, break of the wave. It would break here, it would break here. And it’s a real scary wave to ride the bay. But I—I feel comfortable in riding on days like that. Anyway, I was paddling out for my—for my heat, and as I was paddling out, there were two turtles there. And as I was coming closer and closer, these turtles popped up and looked at me, and they—it was like … Bradda Clyde, follow me. So I looked at these two turtles, and I followed them. And this is where everybody sits down, all five guys, and I would follow the turtles past them, and go deeper than all of them, about a hundred feet out. And as soon as I got to that point, the biggest wave of the day would just pull right in, and I’d jump right on it. And just rip it up, come all the way in, and I’d paddle out, and the turtles would be there again. And I’d follow these turtles, uh, again.

 

Who were the two turtles?

 

Um, I’m looking at it as Eddie was one of ‘em, and Jose Angel, one of—one of the other big wave pioneer surfers—

 

Who also died—too young.

 

Yeah. So … you know, like I said, our family is very spiritual, and uh, you know, it’s things that you can’t um, explain. But I really believe that my wind that day was um … with the help of uh, the turtles.

 

Have you ever wanted to explain something about your family or your life, or the publicity about Eddie that um, you haven’t had a chance to explain before?

 

Eddie was a very shy guy. You know. And he was mostly a guy where he would mind his own business. But um … if it got to a point where somebody needed help for anything, he would um, always be—be the first guy there. And I just wanted to make mention that there was a—there was a lot of—a lot of blame that went around when uh, Eddie got lost at sea in ’78. And a lot of the blame went onto, you—you know, the captain of the Hokulea, uh, Lyman, David Lyman. You know, David Lyman had passed away, and I went to his funeral. You know, the whole family was there, the entire Honolulu was there, and … and uh … and I wanted to go up and … and express to the family that … it wasn’t David Lyman’s fault that Eddie got lost at sea, and that … because I never had a chance to sit down with David L—Lyman, and just talk story, you know, and let him know how I felt and how the family felt. And that uh … that at his funeral, I wanted to get up there …and tell his family, especially, um … and … the whole Honolulu, that it wasn’t David Lyman’s fault, and that I personally and—an—and the family feels the same way. And that um … no matter what David Lyman did to Eddie, even if he tied Eddie down, uh, that wouldn’t have prevented him from grabbing the surfboard and go and get help. And uh … anyway, um, I just wanted to … let the—uh, you know, the family know that.

 

Because I’m sure Captain Lyman carried that with him, even if it wasn’t … I mean, no captain wants to lose anybody on his watch.

 

I know; I know. And I feel bad that I didn’t have a chance to express that to him when he was living. But anyway, I just wanted to let the family know that.

 

That’s wonderful. You know, um …it’s just so hard to believe that um, a waterman with those wonderful skills can die in the water. But what could ha ve happened to Eddie, do you think?

 

People forget that … in the Molokai Channel that night, the waves were twenty to thirty feet. And you’re talking twenty to thirty feet, Hawaiian, coming every direction … every five seconds. I mean, Eddie was one of the greatest guys in the water and stuff, saved thousands of guys; but you know, um … putting yourself in a situation like that is, I think, pretty difficult.

 

Do you think he knew he was going into that?

 

Well, you know, some people say that Eddie knew that it was gonna happen, and this and that. But … you know, who knows? You know, I just think—you know, because Eddie was the kinda guy where he was always prepared for the worst. You know, he would take—he would go to the country, and he’d take three different sets of clothes, all the time, on a Friday night. ‘Cause he never knew where he was gonna go, but wherever he was gonna go, he wanted to be prepared. And prior to him going on the voyage, he did the same thing. He did—you know, he had a letter for the family that said, Clyde gets all the boards, and this and that. You know. An—an—and a lot of people look at that as, you know, him—him knowing that he wasn’t gonna come back. But it was just his nature. I like to say, Eddie’s lost at sea, and he’s off on some island, and got hooked up with some Polynesian girl, and has twenty kids and can’t remember where he’s from. That’s what I like to do.

 

Yeah. I wonder if he might have thought, even if the odds were against him, that somebody had to try.

 

Well, you know, uh, it was very uh, extreme that night. I mean, they were floating in the water o—over twenty hours, there was no food, there was no communication. Um, people were going into a frozen state, ‘cause it was so cold. There was women onboard—I think two ladies were onboard; uh, I’m not sure, but at least one. Uh, everybody was scared, because they were drifting outside of the airplane route or something, where uh, the planes won’t be able to see ‘em anymore. So everybody was frightened, and Eddie could see that. And uh … just being the guy uh, who he was, um, went to go get help, you know. But I—I go around to different schools, and I make presentations on the Hokulea, and Eddie, and what he was all about, and I always like to say that um, you know, no matter um … what you do, you know, uh, you might not have to give your life to save someone, but to help someone uh, in any way you can is what his life was all about, and what his spirit is all about. And also, um, no matter what you do in the ocean, let it be riding a boogie board in Waikiki, or riding the biggest wave on the North Shore, orriding Jaws, or just swimming, just—just making sure that you’re comfortable in where you are, and you’re enjoying the water at that moment is what is important.

 

The Aikau brothers certainly cut loose in the ocean but only after their lifeguarding duties were done. And what terrific lifeguards they were. During the time they worked together at Waimea bay, they had a most remarkable record.

 

We never lost one person in ten years, almost ten years. And in those years, we had no jet skis; we had no helicopters; we had no boats. All we had was a twelve-foot surfboard, big fins, and a—and a lifebuoy. I mean, we saved … obviously, hundreds of people, but—but on a regular day, uh, we’d save three people that are not breathing at the same time. One day, we were in the tower, and three people—one on the right, one in the middle, and one at the rocks were all face-down.

 

How did you do that? How did you drag people out and do—

 

We—I—

 

You were only two of you.

 

I know. I—we—we—we ran, and got the first one in. I revived him. Eddie went to go for the middle one, got that one back. He pulled the other one back, I got that one back, giving him the CPR. And then we—we both went for the— for the third person. But uh, you know, the facts are that in ten years, we never lost one person. And you know, um, that’s uh … that’s—that’s it.

 

And um, there were people who went in repeatedly, after you told them not to go, right?

 

Well … in 1967, 69, 70, it was the height of the war in Vietnam; Vietnam War. And Schofield was the rest and recuperation site for the Vietnam soldiers. You know. They would—they would go in Vietnam, fight, and come and have a break in Schofield. And they’d have a break for maybe a month; but guess what? They’d have to go back to Vietnam. So all of the GIs from Schofield would come to, guess where? Waimea Bay. And they’d come down like there was no tomorrow. They’d come down with five, six coolers and—and food, and all of their buddies. And—and they just wouldn’t listen to us. You know, we’d tell ‘em, Stay out of the water, it’s dangerous; and they wouldn’t listen to us. So the—so the same person, we’d actually save about three or four times.

 

And did you almost lose your life in the process of saving another?

 

As long as we had our fins, I felt like we could—we could—we could go through almost anything.

 

M-m.

 

You know, and that was our attitude. You know, as long as we had our fins. Because no matter how big the wave is, and the impact, it’s only for maybe fifteen seconds or twenty seconds. And I know, and Eddie knew that he can— he can hold on for that long. And then it subsides. And by that time, you’re al—already pulled in closer to the shoreline, uh, where it’s not so, you know, turbulent. Uh, so basically for he and I, we—we knew the currents, we knew where to go, we knew where not to go. Uh, and as long as we had our fins, we felt very comfortable.

 

You know, um, when—when Eddie vanished, it—it seems to me—I mean, he was your best friend and your brother, and you had so much time together; uh, real quality time together in the water, at home, uh, you know. How—it must have been really hard for you not to have that person—

 

You know—

 

–who knew you so well.

 

In ’78, when we lost Eddie … no doubt, I was all bust up. I mean, totally bust up. I mean … I mean, I couldn’t go the North Shore for a couple years. I didn’t ride any big waves for a couple years. You know, it was just—uh, everybody moved back to the graveyard. My brother Solomon was in Haleiwa, I was um … on the outside of Haleiwa when I met your husband Jeff many years ago. We—we all left our houses on the North Shore, and moved back to the graveyard to try to stay close to the family, and try to recoup. You know, try to—try to … try to get through it. Um … for me, personally, what saved me … was this sport called windsurfing. In ’79, I got captivated by windsurfing. And … at that time, windsurfing was the sport of the—of the—of the world. Uh, and I got captivated, and I totally threw my whole body, soul, spirit into windsurfing, into learning the sport, into mastering the sport, and uh, I—I literally sailed every day, for one year, and I used to follow the world’s best windsurfer, Mr. Naish. Robby Naish; uh, I would chase him every day. ‘Cause he was the best in the world, and—an— and I wanted to—to learn the sport. So for one whole year, I just uh, threw my whole self into windsurfing. I actually … um … forgot my wife, and … you know, forgot almost everything, and just threw myself into that. And—and as I mastered the—the sport … and then I got back into the big wave riding again, and then I went back to the North Shore. And then everything slowly was okay. But very difficult, yeah? Very difficult.

 

And—and you’ve lost other family members too, so it’s—it’s—you have—

 

Yeah.

 

–all these joys, and—and these losses too.

 

Well, you know, our family, as a lot of people know, has been through a lot of tragedies. My brother, in 1973, Gerald, uh, went to my—went to my graduation… party, um, University of Hawaii graduate. On the way home, he got into a car crash, and um, he died. You know, obviously, I felt really terrible about that. But you know, every family goes through a lot of tragedies, and you know, you just gotta look around you at—at you know, the loved ones who are here today, especially the young ones, and just put your head down, and just forge—forge forward. You know. You just gotta shake it off some—somehow. But very difficult.

 

For the men in your family, there’s a danger gene; and I think your son has it too. The—the thrill of big waves.

 

Well, you know, he keeps telling me, Ho, Dad, I like ride big waves. But you know, the fact of the matter is … the real money in surfing is surfing small waves. You know, small—doing all the fancy moves and the aerial um, flying in the sky trip. You know, that’s the—that’s where the big money is. And you know, surfing big waves, yeah, there’s some money, but when you go big wave versus small waves, you know, the guys who ride the small waves um, make a lot more money. And it’s—uh, you know, the risk is not as uh, high as surfing big waves. So you know, I keep telling him, Son … y—you don’t need to ride big waves, it’s okay; you know, just keep on doing what you’re doing. But yes, he’s—he’s got that urge to—to ride some big waves. But I don’t force him to go out; I just let him go at his own pace. You know, just go easy, easy.

 

How do you think your life’s gonna play out? How long will you continue big wave—wave surfing?

 

I think serious big wave riding …uh, serious big wave riding, I think another year or two. I think another year or two, and then uh … I’ll just kinda cruise, you know. I’ll—I’ll go out and probably still surf, but not catch the biggest wave that pulls through. Uh, no matter what happens, I’ll—I’ll be surfing all the way ‘til I’m a hundred years old. You know, ‘cause there’s always Waikiki to go cruise with, and it’s always fun to ride Waikiki, you know, even on a one-feet wave. You know, it’s always fun just to get in the water.

 

Now that you have almost six decades of life behind you, any life lessons to share with people?

 

I think life lessons is um … I think life lessons is … just try to be nice to people, the best you can. You know. Uh, traffic, people screaming at you all the time; it’s tough, you know. Every street you turn, there’s a … there’s a road being breaked up, and people yelling at you. You know, you just need to try and take a couple deep breaths, and … just try to keep as calm as you can. Because you know, life is so short. That’s … the life lesson right there. Um … you know, a lot of guys have a lot of macho, you know, uh, character and so forth. You know, and it’s—and it’s hard for a lot of people. I mean, it was hard for me. I mean, it wasn’t until thirty years, that—that I reached thirty years old, that I could say to my dad, look him in the eye, Pops, I really love you. And uh, I think—I think the lesson that I want to um … say to everybody is that … you know, you never know when it’s going to be … your time to check out. Nobody knows that. You know. And it’s really, really, really important to express the love that you have for your family, especially, and for anyone, you know, at that moment. You know. Um, because you never know what’s gonna—gonna happen. I love you, Pops.

 

What did he say?

 

Uh … what did he say. Um … I love you too, Clyde. You know.

 

We had this one fella…big big Samoan guy or Hawaiian guy or Polynesian guy came down. He was about six feet five and he comes walking down and the waves are huge. And we tell him it it will bust you up bra. It will bust you up. He jus came out of prison, you know, been in prison for twenty years, just got out. And there’s nobody gonna tell this guy what to do. So he goes to the shore break. Sure enough in about two minuets, he gets nailed. He gets nailed. I mean just totally nailed. So we dove in there, brought him back up, dragged him up up the beach, and he was ok so we left him. He sat there for about two, three hours and just looked down on the sand and when he finished, he walked up, got up, walked up to the tower and um came up and thanked us and said he was sorry.

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Viswanathan Anand

 

Original air date: Tues., Oct. 30, 2012

 

Leslie Wilcox talks with Viswanathan “Vishy” Anand, five-time reigning world chess champion. Anand’s mother introduced him to the game when he was six years old. At age 18, he became India’s first chess grandmaster. Now in his forties, an age considered past a chess player’s prime, Anand talks about the challenges age presents and how he overcomes them. Also, a story Anand tells about traveling to a chess championship reveals how in life, like in chess, there is more than one way to win.

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

So when you’re playing chess, how many moves ahead are you thinking?

 

Depends on the position. We usually compare it to a tree. So, if there’s a straight tree, very few branches or no branches, then you can go very, very far. So, essentially, if I have one move, you have one response, I have one response there, you have one response there, I can calculate fifty or seventy moves. It doesn’t really matter. But where it gets tricky is when I have four possibilities, you have six responses, then I have another five, and you know, that’s when the tree becomes very dense, like a thicket. And there, it’s difficult to see very far.

 

When you think of a champion, who comes to mind? What if it were a world champion, an Olympian? How about an Olympian of the mind, like world chess champion Viswanathan Anand?

 

Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawaii’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.

 

Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Have you ever wanted to play the piano? I mean, really master it, to do something more with those black and white keys than stumble through Chopsticks. Playing chess is kind of like playing the piano. Most of us know what the individual pieces can do, but the strategy, the visualization of every move before it even happens, and what that will do, that takes a special skill. Viswanathan Anand, born and raised in India, is the chess grand master, and as I speak in 2012, he’s the reigning world chess champion for the fifth time. Thanks to Halekulani Corporation, which brought Viswanathan to Honolulu for a series of special events, we had an opportunity to sit and talk with him in Halekulani’s Royal Suite to find out what it takes to play a complex game at his level, and sustain that level of performance.

 

Chess seems to attract prodigies. I think I would compare it to a language. It’s something that you just pick up. It’s much easier to pick up languages when you’re young, in the same way I think it’s easier to pick up chess when you’re young. And you can get very good at it, very fast.

 

Well, let’s talk about when you were a little boy. Let’s go back to your childhood, if you would. Tell me about your growing up days, your early life with your family.

 

Okay; so I was the youngest of three children. My brother was thirteen years older, my sister is eleven years old. So, I’m by far the youngest.

 

Were you spoiled?

 

Pretty much. I mean, I had two sets of parents, like. [CHUCKLE] So, my older brother and sister practically also used to pamper me a lot. Then, my father used to work in the railways. So one of the advantages is that we got to travel a lot. So then, my father would go on inspections, tours along … well, basically the geographical region he covered. And my mother was the one who taught me how to play chess; so her family used to play chess. Some of my uncles played chess in university, were university champions and things like that. And I learned it from Mom when I was six. Then I started to go to a chess club, played a little bit. And then, when I was eight, my father got posted to Manila on a project for the Asian [INDISTINCT], so we went to live there for a year. And at that point, the Philippines was, I would say, a sort of hotspot for chess. They even had a chess program on TV, one hour every day, but it was from one to two. So, I was at school, of course, at that point. So my mother would write down everything, the game they showed, and the puzzle they gave at the end. So, my mother would write down the puzzle, then when I came back from school after I’d done my homework, we would go over the material. And then, we’d solve the puzzle together and send the answer to the TV station.

 

And your mom really enjoyed chess too, right? ‘Cause she was actively playing with you.

 

Well, that’s too strong. The thing is, she was very, very busy raising a family, so she didn’t get a lot of chances to practice her chess. And in chess, it’s important to keep practicing and playing often. And my mother never had time to go and play in a chess club, so it’s something she did at home. So, I would say, in fact, she was not able to take her chess as far as it could have gone. But she was very involved in my career; she was traveling with me for many, many years.

 

She identified that you really enjoyed it and had skill in it, and helped you move along.

 

Exactly; basically. And so, in the Philippines, when we finished these puzzles, we’d send them in. And then, one day the TV station—and you could go to the TV station, they’d announce the winner, and then you could pick up a free book. So one day, they took me in the library and said, Help yourself, but don’t send any more entries.

 

Because you were winning every time. [CHUCKLE]

 

I was winning quite often. And they said, Well, it looks like you’re the only guy taking part.

 

[CHUCKLE] Now, were you interested in chess to the exclusion of other things in childhood?

 

No, not at all. When I was young, I used to play tennis, table tennis, badminton, I used to go swimming. So, I was doing a lot of other sports as well. But, chess was the one that kept taking more and more of my time, and that I really focused on. So it’s the only thing I really did competitively.

 

Tell me more about your father’s influence on you.

 

Well, he didn’t play chess, so I think his role was more supportive. But my mother could actually sort of teach me how to play and could help me play. I think he was very open-minded, because in those days in India, parents were very conservative. They were worried about their kids playing sports, because they thought, Well, but you need to study well and get a good job. That was the obsession. So, I don’t know, tiger dad or whatever. But my parents were very open to the idea of me playing chess, and even letting me play chess tournaments the nights before an exam. So they were really very flexible. And that’s important, because I think if you’re going to do well, then you need this feeling that people aren’t against you at home. And besides that, whenever my mother couldn’t accompany me, my father would come as well. But I think his influence was more general.

 

And he would just encourage you generally; he couldn’t give you feedback on what you were doing.

 

Not too much. One thing I remember him telling me was to not—because I used to play very fast when I was young, and many people would keep trying to tell me to slow down, and my father, I remember, was telling me very often, No, don’t bother, just be yourself. So, that’s one thing I remember he told me.

 

Well, that’s important advice.

 

Sure.

 

Vishy, as his friends, family, and fans call him, won the title of world chess champion in the years 2000, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2012. But it was back in 1988 that Vishy Anand became India’s first grand master of chess, a title one holds for life, at the age of eighteen, an age that he now considers to be too old.

 

And I’ve heard you say that if you’re not a grand master by the time you’re fourteen, then curtains, baby. I mean, you have to start young and achieve young to really make it in the sport.

 

I think so. Probably it’s too strong, to say it’s curtains, but the world record, I think maybe eight or nine years ago, was at twelve years to become a Grand Master. And then, it started dropping. But obviously, by months. So it was first twelve-year and nine months, and then it became seven months, and then I don’t know where it currently stands. But there’s already five or six people who have become Grand Masters at the age of twelve. So, you know, that’s the bar you have to beat these days.

 

There are those who don’t chess to be an athletic endeavor. But to hear Viswanathan Anand tell it, the game of chess is physically as well as mentally consuming. Just because chess players sit in chairs doesn’t mean they’re not active competitors.

 

How do you preserve your stamina? Is it brain food? Is it exercise? How do you do it?

 

Basically, it’s exercise. You try and get a lot of exercise in when you’re training. During tournaments, you don’t exercise very much, because you’ll be very fit, but you’ll be sleeping. So, during tournaments, you try to take long walks, things that calm you down and make you feel better. But when I’m not playing tournaments, then I try to pay some attention to my physical training.

 

When you’re in a tournament, you’re consumed days on end. What do you do between games?

 

Well, it depends when the game is. So, your day will revolve around that. So the game starts in the early afternoon, late afternoon, then you plan your schedule accordingly. But typically, in the evening, you’ll prepare a little bit for the next day’s game, do some preliminary work, then you might watch a TV show or something.

 

When you say preliminary work, are you mapping out your first moves, are you studying your opponent’s recent games?

 

Very much. You look at your opponent’s recent games, you think these are the things he’s done so I can target maybe these two areas. And then, you try to narrow it down to the final decision. But you may not want to work through the night. Some people do. I prefer to work ‘til about eleven, and then I might relax watching some TV, or you know, thinking of something else, whatever.

 

What kind of TV? Really mindless TV?

 

Mindless TV, or some other sporting event is nice to get your mind off chess. Or you may watch something on your computers, or play a game. Whatever. So, not a game of chess, obviously some other game, just to get your mind off the game, then go to sleep. And the next morning, you prepare in your bed.

 

Is it better when you have family near you when you’re playing at your world champion best, or you know, what do you prefer? Do you prefer to have people close to you, or do you like to go it alone?

 

Generally, I like to go it alone. My wife is very close to me. I mean, she used to travel basically since we got married. She was traveling to most tournaments with me, and she’s been very, very heavily involved in my career. So, she knows her way around me and during tournaments, and so on, so that’s different. But otherwise, generally during a tournament, you try to be left alone and focus on the game a little better. It’s difficult to explain. You’re not very social, you’re not able to make small talk, you’re just in a situation where you’re not … well, you’re simply not that social and you can’t handle those kinds of things. So, it’s difficult to have people … I’ll give an example. When you’re very tense, even someone saying, good luck, will kind of flip you out. And I can’t really explain why, but when you’re tense, you’re just tense.

 

What do you mean luck? Luck has nothing do with it. Is that the kind of thing you might think?

 

That or, I wish you hadn’t told me, because now I don’t know what to think. It’s that sort of thing. The worst sort of thing is, you’re going to play a guy, and then somebody comes and says, Oh, you’re going to crush him. And then, this freaks you out, because if you lose, then you feel even more stupid.

 

What about styles that aren’t chess styles? They’re personal intimidation or psychology of the game type. Moves or comments, our sounds that are meant to take you off course.

 

That’s the other problem, because you’re playing someone, and even the best behaved opponent is going to affect you in some way. I mean, if he or she is fidgeting, or there’s a certain nervousness which they cannot hide, or you hear their breathing, you know, they’re breathing a bit more loudly, anything like that gives you some information, some clues as to what they’re going through. So you’re affected at a very basic level, no matter what. But of course, there are opponents who try to drive you nuts. Some on purpose, and some succeed even without trying. And in those cases, you have to make an effort to think about it. So, it’s important for me to know that if I’m playing this player, that there are going to be some unpleasant things to deal with, and to know at a certain moment I’ll have to keep control of myself.

 

And I’ve heard that other chess champions really like playing you, because it ’s all about the game, it’s not about tactics of intimidation or playing with somebody.

 

Yeah. In general, I’ve felt that if I tried to do something to wind up my opponent, it will probably backfire. Because I like to play when, you know, it’s just all the action is happening on the chessboard, and kind of focus there. So, at the very least, it seemed to me just to be a good strategy to play like that, because I thought any other approach would backfire. I wouldn’t be comfortable with it.

 

Have you tried it before? Have you tried intimidation or being obnoxious or irritating?

 

No, but you can sometimes, if your opponent, for instance, is short of time, then you can get very excited by looking at his clock, and you can affect them even without meaning to do so. So, I’ve never consciously tried to upset anyone, but of course, when I’m nervous or irritated, then you can’t control yourself.

 

In April of 2010, a volcanic eruption in Iceland shut down airline traffic in Europe and nearly prevented Viswanathan Anand from competing for the world chess championship that year. But Vishy showed that in life, as in chess, there is more than one way to win.

 

You’ve gone through some real pressure to even arrive at a chess tournament. Could you tell us about that time that the Icelandic volcano was going off, and it resulted in your flight being canceled? And so, what did you do?

 

Yeah. This was funny, because we had arranged it so that I was leaving on the 14th of April. On the 15th, I arrived in Frankfurt. On the 15th, I arrived in Frankfurt, and then I thought on the 16th, I’ll catch the Frankfurt-Sofia flight.

 

Because the championship was in Bulgaria.

 

Yeah; the championship was in Bulgaria, and it was due to start on the 23rd of April. So typically, you get there a week in advance to acclimatize and get settled in, and so on. So, we all planned to leave on the 16th. On the 15th night, we started to get a bit worried, because one of my Danish trainers called me and said, Actually, all flights from Denmark have been cancelled. And he said, But I’m going to take a night train to Hamburg, and then I’ll catch a flight to Frankfurt and join you. Then a bit later, he called me and said, The cloud has moved over Northern Germany, so Hamburg Airport is closed. And then, we knew we were in a crisis. So we waited, the 16th, then the 17th, and waiting for this cloud to pass so that we could start flying again. And this was really annoying, because you go out, and you look up at the sky, and it’s the most beautiful sky you can imagine. Apparently, these particles are very, very high up, but they had the effect of clearing clouds, so it was just a glorious day, but we couldn’t move. But on the 18th, we decided we couldn’t wait any longer, so 18th around noon, we just hired a van and went. And there were horror stories, as you can imagine. The whole of Europe was shut down, trains were booked from weeks and months. I mean, even taxis were overbooked.

 

And did anyone consider postponing the chess tournament because of this?

 

Well, we asked for a postponement. We said, give us three days, that’s reasonable, since we’ve arrived four days late, you can … but the Bulgarians refused.

 

Is that because they wanted just the Eastern Europeans to be there?

 

Well, my opponent was Bulgarian, and his attitude was, Well, so you walk, I mean, what’s the big deal. Not very sympathetic. But then we finally mentioned the rules. There is a clause called force majeure, something beyond your control, and we told them, Well, we’re really going to insist. And we settled for a one-day postponement.

 

How much time did that give you time to acclimate?

 

Well, that it would give me about four days to get ready. So we actually got into our hotel on the 20th at 4:00 a.m. We left on the 18th at noon. And this was a fun ride because—

 

And were you practicing on a computer during the bus ride, the van ride?

 

We started out, I mean, we pretended we were serious, we put a chessboard and, and we tried to analyze. And then, we realized this was ridiculous. While you’re going in a bus to do some serious work, nobody’s able to concentrate. You aren’t able to get any real work done, so we’re just working so you don’t feel guilty.

 

Did you feel like this was gonna hurt you, because you really couldn’t prepare in the way you normally do?

 

Well, it is what it is. I mean, by that point, it’s better to just accept that we’re going to get there on the 20th, and probably not by 20th evening, we’re not going to be able to do any real work. But that’s life, and at some point, you have to accept it. So anyway, we started out by watching Dr. House. And after we had enough of diseases, we put on Lord of the Rings. And then, we watched the full extended version. And finally, when we got to Sofia, I mean, people had started to report on it a lot, there was a lot on the news. But in the bus, we actually had a good time. It just felt like one of these school picnics. And the thing is, you’re not really in control. I mean, I can worry about the match, but it’s not going to improve my chances any. So we decided to stop worrying, and just make a trip out of it.

 

And did the Bulgarian opponent smell victory because you’d been knocked off your normal routine?

 

Well, I think he genuinely was not very sympathetic to my plight. He just thought, Well, you could have taken a line on the 16th. So, I don’t know how much advantage he thought he was getting. I think his point was simply, I’m going to stand for the rules, and I don’t want any bending. One day helped me a little bit. Though, when I lost the very first game, and by forgetting what I was supposed to play, then you start to think. But very quickly, the very next day I equalized, and then, well, the match took over. So I don’t think it had any consequences by that strategy.

 

And who won?

 

I won.

 

For Viswanathan Anand, is life truly like a game of chess? Does he anticipate the twists and turns that life takes, and predict the consequences of e ach move? And if he can plan two, or fifteen, or fifty moves ahead, what does he foresee for the life of his young son? And in your non-chess life, how many moves ahead are you? Are you always calculating variables, and if this, then that, if that, then this, if that, then this?

 

I think it does influence your thinking at some point. For instance, I have the strong feeling, and I think many chess players do, that doing something has consequences down the line. This is something you learn in chess. So we tend to think, Well, if I do this today, then you know, somebody else—not my opponent, I was about to say my opponent, but okay. Some other person might then react to that in this way, and then how would I react to that, and you tend to think along those lines. But, I would say that we are good at doing this in chess, because it’s a very controlled game. There are rules, all the action is happening on the chessboard, and so on. In life, this sort of planning is more hit and miss.

 

I’m thinking, you have a young son, and if you start to think about variables and factors, and what happens here, and what happens there, I mean, you would drive yourself crazy.

 

Well, he’s obviously keeping me very, very busy, so both of us have to watch him all the time. He’s sixteen months now, so that’s the particular age when they seem to have a sort of death wish. I mean, he goes around trying to eat everything, put anything into his mouth, and he has no sense of danger. But he’s figured out now that if he jumps from a chair, it’s going to be painful, so he tries to measure the height or the depth, and so on, before getting off. But in some other things, it’s just insane the kind of risks he takes. So, you have to kind of watch him, and so on.

 

And do you find yourself extrapolating into his future as you plan for your son?

 

Not yet. I mean, I also feel that some things will just happen. I mean, I’m waiting to see what he’s interested in. I mean, one of my plans is, maybe like in a year or two, to leave a chessboard and pieces near him and see how he reacts to that. So, you know, if he has some interest in chess, then I could take that further. But in general, I think I’ll just try to expose him to lots of different stuff. I mean, chess is also pretty serendipitous. You start a game, it looks very logical and, you know, I do this, he does that, but very often, these sort of chains of logic are broken, and unexpected things happen. Actually, I think it’s pretty similar in life.

 

During his visit to Hawaii, Viswanathan Anand paid a visit to Washington Middle School in Makiki, where elementary, middle, and high school students were competing in the 2012 Summer Scholastic Chess Tournament. Where Vishy could walk the streets of Waikiki in relative anonymity, at Washingt on Middle School, he was a super celebrity.

 

You were at Washington Middle School yesterday in Honolulu, and those kids treated you like a rock star. And you’ve been treated like that many times before. What is that like?

 

Well, it’s very enjoyable. First of all, I like going to these events, because I remember playing in these school competitions myself. And I mean, the atmosphere is the same. You have these kids who are all worried about their game, and the results, and then you have their parents who are worrying there, but they can’t play even. And it brought back memories of my own tournaments, at that stage. But it was nice. It was nice that they were very excited about it, and it’s nice that there’s a good chess scene happening here in Hawaii.

 

Clearly, chess is not Olympic sport, possibly because it’s not as visual as the others. But in your field, you are an Olympian. You must run into people who just go crazy about you, and then other people have no idea who you are.

 

Yeah. I mean, you have people who know a lot about chess, you have people who might know that you’re a chess player, but they don’t know what that entails, and you know, people more removed from the game. Yeah. But that’s life. One of the things I’m trying to do is to get it into more and more schools, because we’ve found that chess playing improves your academic skills as well.

In moderation, obviously. But at school level, you know, students who play chess tend to do better in studies as well. So, I try to get it in a lot of schools.

Inevitably, I think that way, you’re growing the sport, because if you have a whole generation of people who learned chess in school, well, they’re going to

be able to follow the game at a much higher level and enjoy it. So hopefully, that way, we can keep the game going along. 

 

On this program, we often talk to people about turning points, when they ’ve had to make big decisions. Maybe they didn’t seem like a big decision at the time, but in retrospect, you say, Wow, if I’d chosen this way, I would never have done this. Did you have one of those turning points in your life?

 

The biggest turning point for a chess player is the decision to actually play chess for a living. There’ll always come a point where you think, Am I going to be able to make it as a chess player, and is it the lifestyle I want, or should I go for some other kind of job? I was lucky at those turning points because when I was in school, I had just become a Grand Master right after I left school. And that’s a good sign, because when you’re about to take decision like that, it helps to have some nice proof that you might actually do it. So not just make the decision, I think I could make it in chess, but you know, based on hope, whereas I could actually say, Well, I became a Grand Master, so I can’t be that bad. So that was helpful. And then, by the time I finished my university, I had a degree in commerce. But when I finished, I had just played the candidates for the World Championship cycle, and I was in the top ten. So again, a nice confirmation when I knew that I’m going to stop studying now and just focus on chess. So those two milestones made it very easy for me at those turning points.

 

And I mean, it seems like you’ve just had this long arc. Does it feel like a smooth ride to you?

 

I would say basically, yes. I mean, there have been bad years, and things to overcome, and so on. But again, I didn’t have moments when I actually had to question my chess. Not a moment when I suddenly thought, Oh, my god, have I taken the wrong decision? Nothing like that. And I always had the confidence—well, I mean, it looks bad, but I think with some work, I can solve it. So, in terms of a career, I would say it’s fairly smooth. Yes.

 

You obviously have such a passion for this game, beyond it being your livelihood. What if you hadn’t found it? What if there were no chess; then what?

What do you think your life would be like?

 

I don’t know. Well, my father and older brother were engineers, so I might have done something along those lines. But really, there’s no telling. I mean, one of the things I’ve discovered that I enjoy is, I enjoy traveling a lot, but I wouldn’t have known that if it hadn’t been for the chess. So it’s kind of circular. I like astronomy, I like scientific fields; I could have easily gone into something like that. They’re similar, in a way, to chess.

 

Do you think you’d feel the same passion for it?

 

That’s unanswerable, in a way. But at some point, I also think, Well, when I stop playing as much chess as I’m doing now, then I’ll have time for all my interests, and it’ll be interesting to try lots of different things. But, I don’t see some other field which will occupy the same space in my life that chess did.

 

This conversation in 2012 took place in the Royal Suite at Halekulani in Waikiki, where world chess champion Viswanathan Anand was vacationing. He makes a very good living playing the game of chess. The way he plays is physical, as well as mental, and he’s a repeat champion, which many athletes will tell you is the most difficult thing to accomplish. It turns out that the trash talk in chess is just as brutal as it is in any sport. Yet, Vishy Anand, competing on a global scale, remains highly focused and motivated to meet all comers. And he ’s still entranced with the game. Mahalo for joining us on this episode of Long Story Short on PBS Hawaii. I’m Leslie Wilcox. A hui hou kakou.

 

For audio and written transcripts of this program, and all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit pbshawaii.org.

 

Well, superstition, it’s a thing that can grow on you, and if you don’t get a grip on it, it can sort of swallow your whole day. I’ve noticed that there were tournaments where I felt that if I didn’t get out of bed at eight fifty-three, get breakfast by nine, and have exactly these things at breakfast. I mean, if you get that superstitious, then your whole day, you’re just trying to follow some plan. It starts to eat your whole day, and it can eat you alive.