In Hawaii during the late 1970s, after the last of the night’s parties and music and campfires had died down, Ballard Trent Edwards V would strap a massive longboard to the roof of his VW Fastback and drive to the beach. He’d park, climb into the back and grab a few hours of sleep before sunrise. Then he’d paddle out about a quarter of a mile, between the catamarans and trimarans, and slip in alongside the few dozen other surfers who got an early start every day.
Starting in the 1960s, Edwards, then just a teenager, began swimming competitively for Evander Childs in the Bronx, the city’s best team at the time. After college, he moved to L.A. to join the beach patrol at Venice Beach. He was the only person of color applying. But just before the swim test he came down with strep throat and had to drop out. After recovering he decided to take his savings, $2,000, and move farther west to Hawaii, where he spent the following five years “surfing, running into ladies and photographing”.
During this time he held down up to three jobs at a time. He was hired by the Sheraton to cliff dive off of Black Rock each day at sunset. He did water ballet and worked as a waiter. He did construction, anything from painting to landscaping to building. He sold photographs of Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks and Bob Marley and any other artists who came through Lahaina while they toured. He was a substitute teacher at Lahainaluna High School, the oldest high school west of the Mississippi. He went out to surf and live life and meet surf rats and beautiful women and anyone in between.
After 1979, Edwards returned to the mainland. He had ground his way through Hawaii for five years, but felt it was time to move on. Today he lives in an apartment overlooking the Hudson in Upper Manhattan. When I met with him recently, he wore socks and sandals and played jazz while we talked about his life. We’re proud to publish his photographs, shown here, which are almost all that remain of his time in Hawaii. “I had a great time”, he said. “That’s what I got from it. Memories and those photos.”