Doc’s Lifetime Of Surfing And Health

The patriarch of the First Family of Surfing vows to live out the rest of his life on Oahu, where at age 18 he got hooked on the sport that gave him “thrills” from head to toe each time he caught a wave in Waikiki. Now in his golden age of 93, we pay tribute to Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz, a legendary surfer who gained worldwide notoriety for his nomadic lifestyle when he dropped out of mainstream America in the ’50s to raise his eight boys and one daughter on the road. The family motored coast to coast in their 24-foot camper to surf and travel full time.


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‘Parade Paniolo’ Duke Kahanamoku with Jonathan Paskowitz

Doc graduated from Stanford University School of Medicine in 1946 but gave up a lucrative medical career for a 14-year adventure on wheels and waves. The veteran surfer has no regrets that he abandoned his medical profession, pulled the kids out of traditional education and started his own school of hard knocks he called, “The International School of Surfing.” His philosophy is, “If you live with difficulty, hardships and deprivations, they strengthen us to become stronger individuals.”

In January, Paskowitz moved to Hawaii to bunk with his son, Moses II, and grandson, Moses III, in their two-bedroom Honolulu apartment.

“He is back in Hawaiian waters swimming daily (when weather permits) in his favorite spot off Queen’s Surf Beach,” said Moses.

As we turn back the hands of time, Queen’s in Waikiki is a special spot where he often paddled alongside the father of modern surfing, the great Duke Kahanamoku.

“When I got to Hawaii in 1939, I couldn’t believe I could actually shake his hand, let alone surf with Duke. I got to know him as a true royal. He was a real ali’i among Hawaiians, and I did everything in my power to relate myself to him,” says Paskowitz.

One day, he got a tip that Kahanamoku would travel to Kaunakakai, Molokai, at the stroke of midnight in a small power boat all by himself.

“So I hooked a ride with him,” Paskowitz recalls. “The two of us went on that boat alone, what a thrill! I loved him so dearly because he stood as the master of all the things that I loved as much as life itself, such as surfing, gentleness, manhood and beauty. I adored him. Through his examples, I knew he was listening to me and embracing my words.”

Moses believes Kahanamoku’s gentleness and aloha for the Hawaiian people have apparently rubbed off on his father.

“I’ve seen him give the shirts off his back so many times, and Dad is so like Mother Teresa, Ghandi and Dr. Martin Luther King all wrapped into one. No matter what your bank account or political status is, he makes everyone feel like kings and queens,” says Moses.

Doc’s most prized possession is a photo he took of cowboy Duke and his second son Jonathan during a parade on Oahu. Paskowitz also made sure the iconic figure held his babies at birth. “Every new child, my wife Juliette and I had at Kapiolani Hospital, (Jonathan, Abraham, Israel, Moses, Adam and Salvador Daniel) was taken to the arms of Duke Kahanamoku. I would say, ‘Duke, please give the baby some of your mana.’ He would be a little embarrassed, but he graciously cradled each boy for a while before he handed the baby back,” says Paskowitz. As a result, with Duke’s mana, the surfing physician’s second son Jonathan grew up to become a United States surf champion. His fourth boy Israel became a longboarding world champ.

With the re-release of his book Surfing and Health this year, Doc will be hitting the talk story circuits and local cafes as a health guru. His book covers his early surf days and the five pillars of health: 1) Diet, 2) Exercise, 3) Rest, 4) Recreation, and 5) Attitudes of Mind.

Another health secret: “He teaches us to eat like a king for breakfast, eat like a princess for lunch and eat like a pauper for dinner,” says Moses, who makes a fresh blend of frozen berry smoothie for his father daily.

Paskowitz still practices medicine today and considers himself a medical missionary, tending to those who cannot afford services. He treats injured surfers and takes people’s blood pressure on the beaches with no payment – a far cry from when he first practiced on Kalakaua Avenue in the early ’50s

Paskowitz no longer rides roaring monstrous swells that take his breath away like the good ‘ole days. With his thinner physique and photographic memory during the sunset of his life, he heeds the words of Duke Kahanamoku echoing through Waikiki: “Just take your time – wave comes, let the other guys go, catch another one.”

These days, he settles for calmer waters but reminisces about the bigger waves he often surfed in his lifetime.