This summer, our “Wavehogs” will celebrate 30 years of camping at San Clemente State Beach. It is incredible to me how this family tradition has grown to be so meaningful to my children, their cousins and friends who are now part of our “Wavehog” family.

The Wavehogs started 30 years ago when my brother Ralph (Big Foot) and his wife, Dora (Doheny Dora), and their children joined my wife, Susie (Shoppn’ Sue), my children and me (the Big Kahuna) for a few nights camping at San Clemente.

Beach names are given to you if you stay at least one night with the Wavehogs.

Over the next 30 years, the group would grow to include more than 80 Wavehogs who would camp at the group site on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

With that many people camping, we have to be organized. Menus and cooking schedules are prepared well in advance. Everyone takes turns helping. One morning it’s the teenagers cooking breakfast and washing dishes. In the evenings it could be the adult males who prepare dinner.

And no one eats until we say a group prayer.

The onus of preparing meals or cleaning has never fallen exclusively to Wavehog women. The young children and my then-80-year-old father-in-law, Boni (Grandpa Kahuna), have helped sweep the campsite and pick up trash. Everyone helps.

We also have a “Costco” tent, so named because it’s where all the Wavehog families store any food, supplies or camping items they want to share. Any Wavehog can walk into the “Costco” tent and use whatever he or she needs without replenishing or asking permission to use it.

Each day there is a special Wavehog activity. There was a mini-carnival for the Wavehog children that included ring toss, rubber duck fishing and observant Wavehog adults who I think had more fun watching the children play than the children did playing.

We also had a Mardi Gras night, which included face painting and our own Wavehog Mardi Gras parade throughout the campgrounds.

Each year, Big Foot organizes a deep sea fishing trip and charters a boat exclusively for the Wavehogs. Our mission is to come back with enough fish for dinner.

We only failed once. A quick stop at the local fish market fooled those at the campsite until they saw the Albertsons fish paper wrappings in the trash next to the fire pit.

Even with all the constant activity such as horseshoe tournaments, volleyball games and pizza night, we always make time for the beach. Body surfing is our specialty. It is a rite of passage for many Wavehog children who played on the beach near the water to eventually make it out to the deeper waters, each child catching his or her first wave with the help and watchful eye of a Wavehog adult.

My favorite time is sunset. Imagine kids throwing footballs and riding bikes, smoke from the campfire, a hundred conversations going on at one time. That is a Polaroid snapshot of our evening campsite.

It all comes to a slow stop at sunset. We all pause in silence and wait for the sun to dip into the ocean. It is an eerily quiet and solemn moment for the Wavehogs. At the end of each day, our silence shows respect and remembrance of Wavehogs and loved ones no longer with us.

Once the sun disappears, all mayhem returns.

Over the years we have taken our Wavehog camping organizational expertise and applied it to community causes that match our positive mojo of helping those in need. I asked my children, who are part of the original Wavehogs — Gnarly Nikki, Bodaciuos Brenna, Awesome Aaron and Chi Patrol Sean — why they believe the Wavehogs have become such an important part of our and many people’s lives.

Their answer is the same: “It’s not just about camping. It’s about family showing respect and love for one another.”

I couldn’t agree more. The Big Kahuna is proud of all my family members and friends who have embraced the spirit of our 30-year Wavehog tradition that reaches beyond any campfire. I am truly blessed to be a Wavehog. We hope to see you at the beach.

Email contributing columnist Steve Flores at His work appears here every third Monday; the views expressed are his own.

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