Rough Justice

Drop into the coral reef at Pipeline and you'll probably get hurt. Drop in on a member of Hawaii's locals-only Wolf Pack and you're just asking for trouble. Here, Kala Alexander—surfer, actor, businessman, and the North Shore's most notorious enforcer—opens up about localism in the lineup, how to earn his respect, and his hopes for a m

Brad Melekian

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I DON’T KNOW HOW MANY FIGHTS I’ve been in. I don’t even think about that kind of stuff. I’m just trying to stay out of fights now. But, yeah, there’s one I’m most known for.

It was at Pipeline in 2002. Typical December day there—solid six-foot swell, hundreds of people on the beach, and too many guys in the water. I was on the beach when I saw this guy cut Braden Dias off. He could have killed him. Braden and I are good friends, both Hawaiians. I didn’t even wait for the guy to come in before I started running down the beach. I just kind of lost it. He didn’t want to fight. He kept saying, “No, no, no.” But I hit him three times. I didn’t know the guy. I heard that he was some kind of fighter from Brazil. He was bigger than me. But it wasn’t really a fight. You can see that in the video—it’s online somewhere.

I really regret the whole thing. Immediately afterward, though, my thinking was, If this makes people hesitate before they drop in and put someone’s life in danger, then some good can come of it. Pipeline was just out of control.

I don’t remember the first time we used the name Wolf Pack—probably around 1995. People just started calling us a pack of wolves. Originally it was just us Kauai boys—Kai Garcia, Chava Greenlee, Andy and Bruce Irons, Reef McIntosh, Danny Fuller, Dustin Barca, Dino Hawelu, and my half brother, Kamalei. We just brought the mentality that we grew up with all our lives to Oahu: You respect your elders, you respect the locals, you don’t drop in, and you don’t endanger other people. Our goal was simply for the place to be safe and for us to get some respect.

It’s not in a lifeguard’s job description to remove people from the water if they’re not skilled enough to be out there. So we did it. We would tell people to go in if we thought they were going to hurt somebody. And if they stayed out there and put someone else in danger … Hey, we don’t have any rules that say, “If this guys drops in on you, you’ve got to fight him.” But that’s a life-threatening situation, very emotional. I have no control over what anybody who gets dropped in on is going to do.

The problem is that it’s not that hard to paddle out at Pipeline. So the uneducated walk out and the water’s blue, it’s sunny, there are chicks on the beach, everyone looks healthy. But more people have died in the water there than at any other wave. It breaks with a 20-foot face in four feet of water, with a reef right below. The wave moves really quickly, and if you get bounced off that reef, you’re in trouble. Flesh gets ripped off. Limbs get broken. Malik Joyeux, one of the best big-wave surfers in the world, died out there. It’s a really unforgiving place. We were trying to make it safer.

Looking back, yes, I could have just talked to the guy who cut Braden off. He was already scared when he saw me, and I think he regretted what he’d done, so I didn’t need to take it that far. I wish it had never happened at all. And thank God I didn’t hurt him that bad. But look, I wouldn’t just paddle out at Huntington Beach and take all the waves from the guys who live there. There’s localism everywhere. Australia, Brazil … You fuck with the Balinese, they’ll chase you with machetes. I beat up that guy, but I wasn’t swinging a machete at him.

WHEN I WAS GROWING UP on Kauai, the pecking order was always really well defined. If you dropped in on one of the older guys, you’d get your head slapped, no ifs, ands, or buts. It wasn’t like there was any one guy who was the enforcer. It was a way of life. You have to respect the locals, the guys who were born and raised there or who have lived there long enough that they’ve paid their dues and become members of the community. You drop in on someone at his home break, and he’s been working all week and just wants to surf—you have a fight on your hands, sometimes even if you were a local.

I was born on the North Shore of Oahu, March 20, 1969. But my dad left my mom when she was pregnant, and she took me to Kauai when I was 11 months old. My dad was Hawaiian and Filipino, and my mom was Irish, German, and Scottish, from Detroit. People would ask whose kid I was because I was so brown and she was blond with blue eyes.

We had no money. We lived on the beach for a few years, hitchhiked around. My mom had to work two, three jobs. And I had to learn about the Hawaiian culture from other people, because I didn’t meet my dad until a family friend named Eddie Rothman took me to meet him when I was six. Hawaii’s a lot mellower now than when I was a kid. Back then, if you were white, you’d get your ass kicked.

I’m proud of all my heritage, though. I’m not just a Hawaiian or just a haole. I’m Hawaiian, Filipino, Irish, German, and Scottish. People misconstrue things and think I have something against white people or people from the mainland. No. I just have a problem with idiots.

When it came time to go to high school, I scored in the top 5 percent on statewide tests and got an academic scholarship to go to the Kamehameha Schools in Oahu. They’re private, but you can get a scholarship if you’re native Hawaiian. They don’t really advertise, but I’d say they’re probably one of the best high schools in the country.

On Oahu, I lived at Eddie Rothman’s for a while, then with my dad and at the dorms, and I rebelled the whole time. I got kicked out at the end of my sophomore year for smoking pot and insubordination. After that, I went back to Kauai and graduated there.

I had a landscaping business for a while. Then I got my real estate license and started selling timeshares. I also worked on the tourist boats going down the Na Pali Coast. I was really good at talking to tourists. But in 1992, just after my son was born, I went to prison.

Hurricane Iniki hit Kauai that year, and I lost the roof to my house. Then my mom was hurt in floods after a rainstorm, and she died from her injuries. I watched her die right in front of me in the hospital. So it was already a rough time. Then my half brother’s father had another baby, a girl, and she was raped and murdered. She was four years old. I lost my mind. It was the most painful, hurtful year I’ve had in my whole life, and I was at my wits’ end.

There was a guy in town doing construction work after the hurricane. He was speeding down my street and ran over my dog and killed him. I just snapped. I chased him down and beat him up pretty bad. I got arrested and was sentenced to five years in prison. I got out after nine months for good behavior, but I ended up going back in for another 16 months because my wife was caught over at my halfway house, which violated the conditions of my parole.

That was the worst period of my life, and I became really bitter. It didn’t seem like God or the world cared about me, so I didn’t care much about other people. Then my wife and I decided to divorce, and since there are so many more job opportunities on Oahu, I decided to get away. I moved to the North Shore in 2001.

THE SCENE AT PIPELINE when I got there was stupid. It was so dangerous that the Wolf Pack mentality became a necessity. The circumstances dictated it. It wasn’t about terrorizing people. It was that, the way we grew up, dropping in was unacceptable.

Hawaii’s being exploited as sure as a shark shits in the ocean. The Hawaiian people were taken over at gunpoint and forced to sign their country over. Locals are getting priced out of their neighborhoods. And in a lot of people’s minds, these rich surfers that come over here represent that exploitation. As long as Hawaii is one of the most desirable places in the world to live and has some ofthe best waves, I don’t think any of that is going to stop.

So it may take more of an effort to become our friend. But if you do, you get the most loyal friends in the world. The Wolf Pack is absolutely not a gang. We’re a family. I consider every local in Hawaii to be a member. We look out for each other. Yes, it gets violent sometimes, unfortunately. But if we’ve succeeded in making things safer, then some good came out of it. I’m not saying there won’t ever be fights again. They happen every year—but probably 90 percent of them don’t involve us at all.

Personally, I haven’t been in any fights for a few years. But people will look me up on the Internet and see the fight videos, see the arrests, and I hate how they will judge me for all that. They have no idea what kind of life I had. I grew up with no guidance at all. I’m lucky I’m not dead or in jail. People who didn’t grow up like that can’t understand it.

But I can’t dwell on it anymore. I’m almost 40, and I feel like I’ve finally been able to process everything that’s happened to me and be thankful for what I’ve got. I have four beautiful kids, I’m healthy, and I live in Hawaii. I’ve got a zillion projects going. I’m acting. I had a role in Blue Crush. It was a referral—somebody mentioned my name, and I got the part. Then I was in Forgetting Sarah Marshall last year, and I’ve been doing commercials and stunt work. I produced a TV show about our life here called The 808—that’s our area code—that I’m shopping to networks. I’ve also got Wolfpak, a clothing line we started a couple of years ago. And I’m helping Eddie Rothman with his clothing line, Da Hui, which is named after a locals’ crew that was kind of the Wolf Pack of the seventies.

When I meet people for the first time now, I say, “Hello, how are you doing? Nice to meet you.” To get respect from people because you respect them is real respect. Nobody’s priority should be to be a hard-ass and beat up everybody they don’t get along with. I used to be pretty bitter over some shit that happened in my life, but it wasn’t anybody else’s fault. I’m not trying to make excuses, and I regret some things I’ve done. But all those things happened, and I can’t change them. I’ve got to be happy for what I have. Just do my own thing and go out and surf.