Windsurfing from Hawaii to California
1983, Kauai, Hawaii

On January 15, 1983, at 12 noon, Hawaii's most famous windsurfer, J.J. Skaggs (a.k.a. Joey Skaggs) set out to become the world's most famous windsurfer. His objective was to become the first person to cross the Pacific Ocean on a sailboard. A huge crowd had gathered at the Hanalei Bay Pavillion on the beautiful island of Kauai. Rock bands played. Hawaiian blessings were given. And food was served. In the crowd were several reporters and three video crews, invited to witness the launch.

The crowd bade him a fond farewell as he jumped onto his board and broke over a crashing wave to begin his 2,397 mile voyage (as the albatross flies) into the deep blue sea and into the history books.

Just one problem, J.J. or Jay J. or James J. (all these names showed up in press articles later) was not who he said he was. Nor, for that matter, were many of the 200 members of the crowd on the beach. The windsurfer was actually a Joey Skaggs look-a-like who's name really is J.J. who had his hair and mustache cut to match Skaggs' and who was indeed a world class wind surfer. (This was a good thing, because in actuality, Skaggs not only doesn't know how to use a sail board, he can't even swim!). And the crowd was made of many locals and tourists who were there to help launch the hoax. Just about the only people who were who they said they were, were the representatives of the press.

J.J. wore a backpack in which he carried water, some tiger milk bars, a couple of cans of Dinty Moore Beef Stew, a compass, a fishing pole, a radio and some navigation charts. Not a whole lot for such a long and dangerous trip, estimated to take over 30 days in seas with over 40 foot waves. The decal on his board sail said CAL OR BUST.

The crowd cheered as J.J. sailed out to sea. A video crew in a zodiac boat followed him as he sailed out of the bay into the ocean on the way to California. Once he was out of sight, the reporters left. By that time, unbeknownst to them, he had successfully rounded the point and made his way to a local bar to rendezvous with friends.

The story hit the UPI wire service and was picked up all over the country. Various television news stations from Honolulu to Denver covered the event. For about a week, local folks talked about that crazy windsurfer. No one had heard from him or about him. After a while, the Coast Guard became concerned and it was said they were considering sending out a rescue mission. So Skaggs decided it was time to let it be known that it was a hoax.

The national news acted like it had never covered the story in the first place. UPI and the television news networks never ran retractions. But local reporters who had fallen for the story reported that the stunt had been a hoax.

© 1997 Joey Skaggs