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A young Florida surfer went to Hawaii on a US Army enlistment contract, only to go AWOL and later become a staple of the California wave scene.

John Smith roams the shores of Huntington Beach, a city known for beautiful beaches, as well as being the birthplace of bands such as The Offspring and Avenged Sevenfold.

Known as “Johnny AWOL,” the surfer is somewhat of a legend in locales across the Pacific Ocean, from the California coast to the islands of Hawaii.

“Back in Florida I considered Bible college, but that fell through,” he said. “I tried to put surfing away for a while but it kept coming back. I moved in with my mom again even though I hadn’t lived with her for years. Then someone told me that there were military bases all over the Islands: Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines. Pensacola is a big Navy town and I wasn’t into that.”

Smith had surfed in California and Hawaii prior to enlistment, and his motivations were clear- he wanted to go back to Hawaii, and his motivation for enlisting came down to getting back to the islands.

“I told the recruiters I really want to join the Air Force, but that I wouldn’t join unless they could guarantee I would go to Hawaii,” he told Surfer. “I could see that this wasn’t going to be a practical request, so I walked out of there. A few doors down, there were a couple of Army recruiters smoking cigarettes and talking story. They asked me where I was going. I told them I’d just walked out of the Air Force office because they couldn’t give me Hawaii. And right there on the sidewalk, they said, ‘We can guarantee you Hawaii.’ I didn’t care what it was, I was going to get out there.”