Island Native: Greg Pavao

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greg pavao canoe OC-1

One of Waterman Greg Pavao’s first surfing memories is of the shore break at Lahi Lahi in Makaha, at the age of eight. Growing up in the ocean on the west side of Oahu, he recalls his initiation into surfing. “I remember my dad bought one of those foam boards from Cornets Store across the street.” Pavao has been in the water ever since! The last name of “Pavao” is reminiscent of another legend, this one in music field. Greg’s first cousin (their dads are brothers), was the late Dennis Pavao. With musical talent running in his ohana, we wondered if Greg could also sing and play music? He jokes “I can belt out a song or two, after a few beers!”

This “keiki o kā āina,” when not in the water, remarked, “I love spending time with my wife Verlene. It’s important to me. When I’m not surfing, shaping, or glassing, then you can find me relaxing at home with my wife. I’m so thankful for her being so patient with me, especially when I spend so much time in the ocean and perfecting my craft.”

“I also have a grown son and daughter, and more recently, a grandson! I love to spend time with them whenever they are around.” This is when he isn’t in the water working as a Subject Matter Expert for C4 Waterman in Kaka’ako.

greg pavao washing board

If a sport has any connection with the water, Pavao has likely been a participant. From surfing, kayak surfing, Stand Up Paddling, and canoe paddling to sailing, deep sea div-ing, and fishing, he has done it.

The latest challenge for Pavao is hand-shaping surfboards. Inspired by Dave Parmenter, particularly his “retro” shapes, and Kimo Kauiho, who have been friends for over thirty years, he has learned a great deal. He remarked, “Just by listening to them talk about rockers, concaves, and ‘V’s’, it made me understand the whole concept of shaping and glassing.”

“I shaped my first board about three years ago. Once I was done with that, I was totally hooked! I got to see the board through every stage from the beginning, as just a foam block, all the way through glassing and its final buffing.”

By watching and learning, he explains, “I’ve also had the honor of being present in their shaping and glassing rooms while watching them create their masterpieces. “

His most recent endeavor is the creation of smaller SUP’s. He remarked, “Some are as small as eight footers, and one even seven and a half feet!” His shapes are clean, and for being a relative newcomer and just shaping for few years, his knowledge and experience based on all his time in the ocean, have influenced his shapes. “With the prototype I am working on, I’m hoping that it will be added to the C4Waterman line in 2017.”

With all of his water-knowledge, this respected Westsider did the pro-contest scene when he was twenty-three, but remains a “soul-surfer,” and has kept his “old school” roots.

As for crossing the Kaiwi Channel (between Molokai and Oahu), Pavao has made the trek over twenty five times. He has made the voyage on different crafts including six-man canoe, one-man canoe, and stand up paddle, and explained, “I have always felt honored by the prestige and privilege of being part of this great Hawaiian tradition.”

greg pavao

Inspiring watermen

This Hawaiian surfer grew up surfing alongside some Hawaiian greats. “The late Marvin Foster, Bird Mahelona, and Derek Kealoha, to name a few, as well as most of the legendary Westside ohana, DeSotos, Keaulana, and even Craig Wilson. As a youth, I looked up to Larry Bertleman and Dane Kealoha. They were always my favorites to watch. With the new school younger generation, it’s got to be Mason Ho and Ezekiel Lau. They remind me of the power surfers from the west side, like Sunny Garcia and Johnny Boy Gomes.”

In discussing paddling, he explained that his ex-father-in-law, Rona Kaaekuahiwi, taught him how to steer. “I hold him in the highest regard when it comes to paddling. He’s the one who inspired me the most in paddling. Nappy Napoleon is also an-other legend that I look up to, who still makes the annual Molokai to Oahu crossings.”

Surfing at Keawaula Bay has been his favorite surf area, and home to one of his more memorable sessions, “Surfing a perfect eight to ten-foot third-dip with Tony Moniz, Shaun Tomson, and Michael and Derek Ho. It was an epic surf session that will stay with me forever.”

Pavao has been known to catch a lot of waves during each session, most of the time on the “Dawn Patrol.” When asked whether there was a strategy, he jokingly replied, “No strategy, just skill!”

When reflecting on his many experiences in the water, Pavao reminisces, “In canoe paddling, my most challenging race was in the Molokai Hoe (the six-man Molokai to Oahu) crossing. It’s always a challenge, as forty-two miles is a long race with six different paddlers, doing one thing.”

The true waterman, Pavao balances his life on land with family and work, or else he is in the water. “That’s all I do, and I do what I love.”