Laura Blears
 Surfer to Hostess with the Mostest

SHE WAS THE FIRST WOMAN in the world to win money in a surfing contest. She posed for Playboy, leaving little to the imagination. Her illustrious father, Lord James Blears (his real name, not a title), advised her to “go for it.”

She was a Smirnof vodka girl, posing in a white swimsuit on a surfboard for a promotional poster sent to every bar in the islands. She went on ABC’s Wide World of Sports, Challenge of the Sexes, as well as its Superstars version, competing with the likes of NFL football star Dick Butkus and others.

She appeared on What’s My Line, a popular network show in the eighties, whose panel members had to guess the profession of guests.

Nobody figured out she was a world-class surfer. She is Lahaina’s Laura Blears, formerly Laura Blears Chin and Laura Blears Cohn, who has been the “hostess with the mostest” at Kimo’s on Front Street for the last 12 of her 31 years there.

“We were trained that you go out with your hands full to tables on the way out of the kitchen and in with your hands full back in,” she explained. e years there have own by because she loves it so much, she said. Eventually, her wrists gave out with carpal tunnel. By now, she believes, she would have been in management if she had not damaged her wrists. “Managers work very hard. They bus tables, bring out dinners, and carry the ice buckets, along with their management duties,” she added.

Though Laura completed half of a 100-point training program, she gave it up knowing that her wrists would not handle the strain.

About a decade ago, she put away her server outfit and was named by then-General Manager Ron LaClergue as “Miss Aloha,” assigned to rove around tables and chat with diners. She was so good she was moved to the hostess stand, where she has been ever since.

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Despite the fact that she is over 60, once a surfer, almost always a surfer. “When I was growing up in Waikiki, it was a magical place,” she noted. “As a little girl, I used to surf against the boys, because there were no girl surfers.”

When not on boards, Laura, before she was 10, paddled in canoes and rode on catamarans. “My dad brought us over here in the early ftifies. We lived right next to Duke’s statue on Waikiki Beach on Kalakaua Avenue—now a tony shop- ping area with a beach (it used to be a beach with some shop- ping). “It was a two-way street. We were in the old Judge Steiner building.

“It had the very first surf shop in Hawaiifi. Its owner was a friend and moviemaker. He made Slippery When Wet, one of the rst surf movies,” Laura said.

“We started surfing when we were little kids. All the beach boys took us out. A few years later, I took my son, Dylan, on a surfboard before he was a year old. The beach boys would take up surfing all the way out to the break. We would stand up with them—even did tandem surfing on top of their shoulders while the man is surfing on the wave. I competed in that when I was 14 years old.

She surfed in competitions. We all surfed in competitions; it was just a way of life.” My dad would say, ‘You feel like doing something and it is fun, let’s go to do it!’”

Encouraged to surf by her father, Lord James Blears, known to beach boys as Tally Ho, Laura entered her first competition at 12. She lost. To seek comfort, she remembers running to a beach towel shack and crying.e famous seamstress there was named Take (pronounced Ta-Kay). She used to make all the surfers’ shorts. No other surf company made them to order.

Thirty two years ago, surfng in Waikiki, “I ended up being asked by surfing legend Fred Hemmings to enter my very first contest for money. My brother was a finalist in that very first pro contest,” she recalled. Laura was an alternate, but the next year she was a real competitor.

“It was billed as ‘325 men and Laura.’ in the advertising. I beat one guy in my heat, but I never advanced. And I never ended up on the circuit,” she said.

Against women, however, she had at least 10 wins mostly gave way to parenting, working and     surfing on Maui after she moved here with her first husband, Bonn Chin.

Laura’s surfing today is more limited. She still surfs when she can between hosting at Kimo’s and teaching water aerobics.