Spending most of his time on either a ladder or a roof, the last person you would expect, to see surfing a rocky cove, dropping in on big waves, is someone who is seventy years old. In my interview with John “Jock” Sutherland he says " ... one way to always feel alive, is to incorporate nature into your life. ... It keeps you on your toes, ... " Jock went on to say, how his life is a part, of many lives coming together. Everyone from his Scottish ancestors, to his mentors, like Greg Noll, Rabbit Kekai and Woody Brown, to his parents and his students. A community of people dedicated to courage and perseverance.
John “Jock” Sutherland took home his golden "Duke" statue, bravely participating in the Duke Kahanamoku Invitational Surfing Championship and was crowned "Winner of the 1967 contest"6 Jock accomplished this feat, on a board given to him by Greg Noll. A remarkable apex of the interwoven structure in Hawaiian surf culture and its relationship with a man, who shook, the awe-inspiring hands of Duke Kahanamoku himself.7
"To this day I've never, ever seen Jock fall off a surfboard. Ladders yes, roofs yes, balconies yes. But never a surfboard. Jock was one of the most creative forces in the evolution of surfing. He was a tremendous tutor, ..." - Rory Russell5
John Sutherland, more commonly known as "Jock", has earned his place among the fifty, Greatest Surfers of All Time.6 A man of Scottish ancestry who, in 1954, when he was only six years old, moved to Haleiwa, Hawai’i. Jock began surfing in 1956, he spent his youth, in the water next to a specific cove that at the time, was called Noll's reef. Big wave and rock filled, the water of Noll's reef is respected for its unforgiving, perilous and board crushing surf. This was however, the early morning sight, of a young man, whose parents spent most of their lives, in, on or near the ocean. Jock Sutherland's mother, was a Red Cross lifeguard and his father, a member of the U.S. coast guard as well as a commercial fisherman. Jock acknowledges that he is one-quarter Scottish and that his family line immigrated to America, during the Highland Potato Famine. Jock quotes that his parents gave him "early instruction" when it came to swimming and encouraged his time in the water. Jock went on to say that surfing was a "... character builder, outlet and pleasure."
In the 1960's-70's surfboard leashes were nonexistent. Without a strap holding the board to you, one slip in big swells, would mean a frustrating evening looking for your board and at Noll's reef, it meant never seeing it again. A young man that was willing to charge on, no matter how many people shied away from the challenge, who woke up every morning watching the challenge's swells come and go. Looking back, one could say there is bravery in the blood of the Scottish.
Scotland with a population of 4.8 million in 1911, sent 690,000 men to war in WWI3 and in 1892, St Andrews pioneered the admission of women to Scottish universities.2 Carrying this torch of pioneering, Jock Sutherland rode Noll's reef, every morning, learning it by heart, he rode the break so early, so long and so well that before long, he was surfing at a beach named after him, a beach known as Jocko's.
“People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity,
no matter how impressive their other talents” – Andrew Carnegie (1835 – 1919)4
Jock Sutherland and other Scottish pioneers before him, looked at adversity differently than we do now. Where we see opportunity for disaster, a pioneer sees a challenge. It is known by many that great delight, is found within the accomplishment of difficult endeavors. While it is known by very few, why. It is important to always see the dangers first and that is why we must master the skills required to accomplish the challenges that lay ahead of us. William Wallace (Guardian of Scotland) accomplished so many remarkable things because he knew, what he couldn’t do, he could recognize a battle or opponent that he or his armies were not ready to fight. Ultimately William Wallace was defeated, in the Battle of Falkirk in July of 19288, when Scotland was invaded by England. A battle of 12,000 Scotts and 30,000 English with the English utilizing nearly 11,000 longbow equipped men.9,10 William Wallace and his brave brothers in arms, never turned their back on the impossible. We must judge a performance not by its length, but by its content and sheer resolve. Give admiration to the character that lives without yield to hardship, for they still stand, immortal inspiration, against the winds of time they are immovable, as they were, so as they are. The humble Jock Sutherland who spends his days sharing surf, laughter and his life experiences with the world, his devotion to an idea and his contribution to Hawaiian surf culture will be remembered in this essay.
1E. Richards, Britannia's Children: Emigration from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland
since 1600 (Continuum, 2004), p. 79.
2M. F. Rayner-Canham and G. Rayner-Canham, Chemistry was Their Life: Pioneering British
Women Chemists, 1880-1949 (Imperial College Press, 2008), p. 264.
3I. F. W. Beckett and K. R. Simpson, eds. A Nation in Arms: a Social Study of the British Army
in the First World War (Manchester University Press, 1985) p. 11. 4Murphy, Sean. “Great Scottish Quotes on Life.” The Scotsman, The Scotsman, 26 May 2017,
5Russel, Rory. “#47 Jock Sutherland.” SURFER Magazine, SURFER Magazine, 26 Mar 2014,
6Cisco, Dan. “Duke Kahanamoku Invitational Surfing Championship.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia
Foundation, 5 Apr. 2018,
7All uncited quotes derived from a personal interview between John "Jock" Sutherland and
myself, Zen Kamalani. 4 March 2018
8BBC. “History - William Wallace.” British Broadcasting Company, BBC, 3 Sept. 2011,
9BoB. “Battle of Falkirk – First Scottish War of Independence.” Battlefields of Britain, 1 Mar.
10Fletcher, Craig, and Christopher Jones. “Battle of Falkirk.” UK Battlefields Resource Centre ,
22, May 2001, www.battlefieldstrust.com/resource-