Wayne Cochran reflects on his five decades in West Maui
WEST MAUI – If there was ever a surfer’s dreamscape, Maui’s Wayne Cochran has certainly lived it in his five decades on the West Side of the Valley Isle.
After arriving here in Lahaina amidst the wave of surfers/hippies that traversed the Pacific from California, “Wayno” quickly and naturally immersed himself in the aloha lifestyle of the islands of the late 1960s.
Growing up in Orange County, he caught his first waves as a youngster at Dana Point, and that intimate encounter has blossomed into a lifelong relationship of joy and satisfaction with the ocean and the unique community he has called home for over 50 years.
In those early years, Cochran – a jovial and kind personality at his core – blended smoothly with the West Side community on the verge of the visitor industry explosion that was about to occur. His father was an engineer who raised his son with a deep appreciation and curiosity for “how things worked and how to build things,” Wayno explained. He uses the term “McGyver” often.
So, while indeed savoring the pristine surf conditions of the West Maui shoreline, he found various employment avenues to supplement a surfer’s life in the last quarter of the 20th century. He found his calling in 1966 when a group of like-minded colleagues formed Maui Surfboards in the old Lahaina Cannery building at the north end of Front Street.
Under the entrepreneurship of Cochran, Maui Surfboards became the model sustainable outlet for custom crafted boards. It continues today as the Valley Isle’s oldest surf shop.
After the cannery was torn down to become Lahaina Cannery Mall, Maui Surfboards moved northward to its current location across from North Beach in Kaanapali along Honoapiilani Highway.
Guided and influenced by surf industry legends such as Dick Brewer, Mike Diffenderfer, Terry McCabe, Bob “Ole” Olson and John Severson, Wayno immersed himself in the idyllic life off the grid in his valley homestead north of what is now Kapalua.
His friends and family formed a cast of Maui characters named Opelu, Snake, Dabo, Armadillo, B-Ray and many, many more, and became his comfort zone. Most especially, though, he met and married the lady of his life, Elle, in 1994.
The couple enjoyed the boom years of tourism with Maui Surfboards and the banner years of perfection at Mala Wharf and north to Honolua Bay.
Maui Surfboards also supports all of the local surf contests.
They met a crossroads after the turn of the century. Speculative interests targeted Lipoa Point at Honolua as a possible development. Shockwaves trembled the surfing community around the world.
But here came Wayno and Elle (who would later work as West Maui’s County Councilwoman) to help form and lead the Save Honolua Coalition.
Government representatives were alerted, and the movement was successful in saving the natural setting of Honolua Bay and Lipoa Point.
Wayno’s contributions spread to the Lahaina community with his involvement with the martial art of Taekwondo.
For some 20, years he practiced the traditional martial art under the guidance of Casco’s Taekwondo founder and chief instructor, Randy Casco. He earned black belt ranking and became a valued assistant in the program at the Lahaina Civic Center.
“Wayne Cochran was a dedicated member of our program,” said Chief Instructor Casco. “He was a valuable assistant who helped us out in many, many ways. We will always remember and appreciate his contributions to the program.”
Now 70 years old, physical limitations have begun to affect Wayno’s life. The barrels at Honolua and perfection of performance waves at Mala are now a treasured memory for him.
The COVID-19 pandemic has all but squelched surf and ocean activity equipment, as well as ukulele rentals and sales, at the surf shop.
So now Wayno sits on the bench fronting the shop with trusty hound dog Tucker at his feet. The grin we all know him by never subsides – the jovial banter doesn’t end.
As the Maui Surfboards storefront brightens the highway, despite the necessity to sell the stock of the business to stay afloat, we will continue to smile in the memory of West Maui life that Wayne Cochran helped form as we drive by and flash a shaka their way.