Sheldon Paishon Caught Goats With His Bare Hands To Survive — Now He’s Paid To Surf
A story of poverty, drugs, homelessness and pro surfing.
Pro surfers from Oahu’s westside are typically brutal and unpolished. Case in point, Johnny Boy Gomes and 1999 World Champ Sunny Garcia – two Hawaiian power surfers who dominated CT events on home turf and also count a non-trivial number of run-ins with the law.
Bordered by steep lava-ridged valleys and mountains to the east, Makaha (Hawaiian for “fierce”) offers some of the state’s most consistent and variegated breaks. Thirty miles northwest of Honolulu, it is widely considered to be the birthplace of big-wave surfing; famed for hosting the world’s first international surf competition in 1954, the Makaha International Surfing Championships.
In 1969, it’s where California bruiser Greg Noll paddled out at Point Surf and caught the biggest wave ever ridden up that time — a 35-foot closeout that he was lucky to survive.
For a city so rich in surf heritage, the reality of living in Makaha involves a lot of struggle.
USA Today reports: “Makaha is the worst city to live in in Hawaii and among the five worst in the country. Makaha ranks poorly largely because of its high cost of living and low affordability. Goods and services are 61.4 percent more expensive in the city than they are on average nationwide. Housing is particularly unaffordable. The typical home in Makaha is worth nearly $564,000 – about eight times the median annual household income in the city of $51,833.”
This is the prickly backdrop and birthplace of pro surfer, Sheldon Paishon, who stars in the Alani Bros film (which is currently playing on Stab Premium) Through The Doggy Door. The film details Sheldon’s rise from homeless beach-dweller to QS-winning pro (watch it here), and it will almost certainly dampen your tear ducts.
Below, we catch up with Sheldon to see how life’s been since post-glow up.
Stab: You’ve screened this film a handful of times — how has the response been so far?
Sheldon: Everybody relates to the story, especially where I’m from. It’s just really tough to make it back home. If you don’t have a strong mind and a good family to back you, you’re not going nowhere. You’re just going to go to the dark side. I just lost my friend the other day, actually. He hung himself… one of my best friends. I know he was coming down, he was on a bad trip and I don’t know what happened. Just was over life. I put the GoFundMe on my Instagram actually. I didn’t want to, fuck, I felt bad. I wanted to pump up this thing going on Stab. That’s what I wanted, but then it’s like, my brother just died, so I got a post about him and put his thing up for now.
I’m so sorry to hear that
It’s okay. But hey, I just want to thank you guys so much. I’m so stoked for you guys giving me this opportunity. Thank you.
What’s it been like sharing something so personal?
To tell you the truth, I’ve been in a dark place for a while, but I’ve been good lately. I’ve been sober for almost three months now and I’m stoked that it’s going on your website. But yeah, it was hard just watching it over again and over again. All the people that’s seen it so far, for sure, they respect me. That’s all the people that grew up with me – they know the story, and they know the truth because they’ve seen it personally.
You’ve got Sunny and Derek in there — how long were you guys filming for?
It was supposed to come out 2018, but then it got help up, and then Covid hit. We didn’t realize how big it was at first. We were just going to put it out as a normal clip on YouTube, but then people started watching it. All the Rip Curl managers seen it and they’re just like, “Whoa, this is actually really mind blowing. People really trip out on this.” So they kind of took it seriously.
At the time, Mace was trying to help me get exposure and I was like, “Fuck, I don’t have nothing. I surf really good, but nobody’s seeing me.” So I was like, fuck, let’s just do it. I’ll tell my story. I know it’s a sad story and all, but it’s like, fuck, maybe that’s just my gift from God to share my story. My biggest goal is to see if I can just touch any person’s life around the world, and show them that anything is possible if you follow your dreams.
You had a lot of people offer support outside your family. Why do you think that is?
All the people I grew up around on the beach took care of me when I was little. I was just this little kid running around clueless, no parents, swearing and surfing all day. I was cheeky, yah? But they seen potential in me. They thought I could be the next Sunny. They didn’t want to see me go astray and end up being washed up and drugged out on the streets. They actually cared. So I feel like they just wanted to guide me as much as they could. I think they did a pretty good job.
What was it like getting out of Hawaii and going traveling and seeing other cultures and places?
That was crazy. I thought I had it bad, but once I went around the world and seen Indo and all how the people live and it’s like, bro, we got it made in Hawaii. We got beaches and we got somewhere to sleep. So I got to respect and appreciate it. Sometimes I just get weirded out when I come home now. I don’t want to surf over here anymore. I just want to go travel.
You’ve got two regional QS’ at Sunset and Hale’iwa coming up. What do you want to do with your surf career?
I want to go free surfing and travel with Mason, just surf all these mental waves and make videos. But I also want to qualify. That’s been the dream since I was a kid. My goal now is to get on the Challengers again and try to qualify again for at least one or two more years. If that doesn’t work out, then just I’m going to start going all out on my YouTube and try to copy what Mase is doing kinda.
Plenty of Hawaiians seem to be making that model work
YouTube is where it’s at nowadays. I see all these people that barely can surf doing it, so it can’t be that hard.
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