Dexter Green
From the ghetto to paradise

by Dave Sweedler
photos: Aeder

Over the past century, countless dreamers have journeyed to this island oasis in search of a taste of the good life. Having appreciation and respect of the land and sea is truly the only way one can tap into the potential of what this magic place has to offer. Dexter Green’s road to Maui began in the jungles of the inner city of Los Angeles, the concrete madness that sucks the soul out of human existence. As one of the best African-American surfers in the world, Dexter has beaten the odds to make it out of the ghetto and into paradise.

Dexter exemplifies a true wave warrior, and has created a lifestyle from a far away vision. “I was born in the heart of L.A., in a very bad neighborhood where I lived until I was nine. Both my parents are very hard workers and through their strong work ethic and desire to make a better life for their kids we were very fortunate to move to the coast.” Dexter moved to the beach town of Santa Monica at a time when skateboarding was just starting to blow up. “I grew up in Dog Town in Venice Beach, hanging out with Tony Alva and Jay Adams, two boardriders who helped set the course of the sport. As a kid, my life was all about skating and surfing. I was one of the first black surfers in California or anywhere else I guess. I began surfing contests and really getting into the sport.”

At seventeen, Dexter had the opportunity to come to Maui, and soon after made it his home. “This was 1978, I came out here to surf and enjoy the lifestyle. When I first got here I began hanging out with Brad Lewis. I was very lucky that he took me under his wing and showed me the ropes. Brad is a legend and was one of the best wave riders to ever surf Maui, he was an inspiration to a lot of people in my generation, with his go-for-it, don’t-hair-out attitude. I will always contribute the success I have had in surfing the island to him.”

Fortunate to ride for Lopez surfboards in the eighties, Dexter has always been in the company of Hawaii’s greatest watermen. He had the very unique opportunity to travel to Indonesia with Gerry, Laird and a few other Maui boys in 1989, sampling one of the worlds best left handers with a very elite tube riding crew. “I was lucky I had the chance to go to Bali before the invasion of traveling surfers, this was one of the first years the camp at G-Land was open and the waves fired the entire trip. Back then, everything was really really cheap and the waves were uncrowded. It has changed a lot over the years. During that particular trip, I scored some of the best waves of my life and learned a lot about riding in the tube from watching and studying Gerry’s technique.”

Maui is well known for holding a cast of characters who personify our surfing culture and give it the positive image we have. Windmills powerhouse Brutus has this to add: “Dexter is classic Maui, and represents an era of a very happening time of Maui life. His surfing has always been at an excelled level since he came onto the scene.”

Dexter rides the waves on all sides of the island, satisfying his appetite for salt water nuggets. He holds special regards for all his friends throughout the isle, and has endless respect for the way the Maui surfers are now representing themselves to the surfing world. He has logged in countless hours at Ho`okipa over the years, and is always a standout when middles delivers the goods. Island wave magnet Eric Totah has this to say about his good friend: “Dex is a legend; when we were groms he was always out there charging. He will always be known for his trademark ten mile cut back.” He has worked as a food server at the Hyatt’s Swan Court for the past seventeen years, and has recently purchased a condo on the West Side. “I have a great job, I work nites so I can surf every swell. I feel like at 39, I am still surfing with the same charge I had as a kid. I may be getting older, but my surfing is still changing with the times. You won’t see me riding a long board or golfing any time soon.”

With a life filled with travel and countless waves, Dexter Green has proudly fulfilled the surfing dreams he had as a grom. On a recent trip to California he had the chance to see what his life could have been. “I took my family to Disneyland last summer and spent a little time checking out my old stomping grounds in L.A. I really have gained a strong appreciation for what I have in life. I am really lucky to have my mom living out here now and have a beautiful wife and kids. Life is good in paradise”

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