By Rex Dubiel –
North Shore lifeguard, Rick Williams, has been surfing since he was six years old. At seven he got is first board shaped by local surf shop owner and legendary wave rider, Greg Noll. Rick caught waves all summer and after school at his neighborhood break, 30th Street, a short walk from his home in Hermosa Beach, California. Rick’s mom, Marge chauffeured him and his brother, Roddy, from surf spot to surf spot in their old Ford Maverick. The boys rode waves in Huntington, San Clemente, and Malibu. In the Sixties the surf industry was just starting to explode and Rick was in the center of it all! At twelve, he worked in Hermosa at Petrillo’s Surf Shop and had a spot out back fixing dings. Surfing became Rick’s life! In the summer of 1973, Rick took his first trip to Hawaii and fell in love with the islands. He spent three weeks at a surf camp on Kauai, then returned to Hawaii the next year, and, at 15, stayed for good.
Being an avid surfer, Rick made the North Shore his home and graduated from Waialua High School in 1975. Rick has been a North Shore lifeguard since 1981. He loves his job and his job loves him; he was named City and County employee of the Year in 1998. I asked him what qualities a good lifeguard must have and Rick asserted, “First of all, he or she must be a good swimmer, like people, be compassionate and quick thinking. The ocean environment is always changing, always moving, so a lifeguard must be alert and pay attention. Being a lifeguard is a team effort. I want to set a good example for the younger guards by being a vigilant, good partner.” Rick was mentored by legendary watermen, Mark Cunningham, Jimmy Blears, Terry Ahui, and Sean Ross. Over the past 30 years, Rick has rescued over 600 people and is a hero to many, many visitors and local residents.
Rick has some water safety tips for newcomers and see what he has to say in this poster. Rick designed the poster, wrote the text, made the drawings, and North Shore artist, John Bain, did the layout. Take his advice to heart and never turn your back on the ocean. Rick is a founding member of the North Shore lifeguard Association; a 501-c3 non-profit organization which was established in 1998 to promote ocean safety education for the community, support the Junior lifeguard Program, and host community bodysurfing events and paddleboard races. Rick just coordinated his 8th NSlA Bodysurfing Contest at Pipeline in March. He also wrote an Annenberg grant for which the NSlA was awarded $100,000. With a portion of that money, he produced the Junior lifeguard Movie. This clever, animated 20-minute film by Drew Toonz (Andrew Miller) teaches ocean safety and CPR. Go to: NorthShore-lifeguards.com to learn more about this worthy, volunteer organization. Rick has heros. His first was Bob Johnson, also called “Surf King”, a next door neighbor in Hermosa who took him surfing in Malibu. Rick looked up to another, older surfer, his boss at Petrillo’s, Gary Klarberg, who took him surfing too. Today his hero is the legendary shaper, Owl Chapman. Owl is designing a board for Rick from a balsa wood tree that Rick grew in his backyard. Now that’s a serious surfer!
“There are so many good waves out there,” Rick replied when I asked him about a favorite surf spot. He’s ridden perfect waves all around the world —- Mexico, Fiji, Costa Rica, Australia, and South Africa. He takes at least one “Surf Safari” each year. Seems like Mr. Williams is leading the surfer’s perfect life! Rick has hobbies other than surfing, the foremost being a gardener on his mountaintop farm in Pupukea above many North Shore surf spots. He has a small nursery and sells grafted fruit trees. “I was taught all I know from the late Herbert Reposa of the UH experimental Farm in Waialua.”
Rick espouses “Green”. He’s almost a vegetarian, raises worms, makes compost, recycles everything and declares, “Don’t send green waste away, everything goes back to soil”! Rick is also a devoted husband to his wife of 30 years, Nancy. He stated, “Being married is a stabilizing factor in my life”. Smart thinking, Mr. Williams. The long range goals for this famous North Shore lifeguard are few — grow more food, live simply, and set a good example for others”. Rick Williams does set a good example for others, and, I am sure, he will continue.