Aloha, old friend: Ormond, Palm Coast surfing pals reconnect after 44 years apart

David Hettel and Glenn Steinberg spent the late '70s in Hawaii catching waves and talking about art. Over four decades later, they got the chance to meet face to face once again.

Glenn Steinberg and David Hettel have reconnected after over four decades apart. Photo by Jarleene Almenas
Glenn Steinberg and David Hettel have reconnected after over four decades apart. Photo by Jarleene Almenas
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Glenn Steinberg went from booth to booth at Ormond Beach's Art in the Park festival in early May. 

"Do you know David Hettel?" he asked every artist and vendor. 

Steinberg had just moved to Palm Coast on April 30, and he was trying to find contact information for his friend, Hettel, who is an Ormond Beach artist and surfer. Steinberg said he hadn't been successful in finding him online at that time.

And he struck out at the festival.

But, one day soon thereafter, he found Hettel's website. Steinberg, who is also an artist himself, filled out an order form. 

Glenn Steinberg sells his paintings in Oahu in the late 1970s. Courtesy photo

Hettel said he was excited when he saw it.

"I thought, 'Oh somebody ordered something from my website,'" Hettel said. "And then I saw it was Glenn, and I'm like, 'What'?" 

The last time they saw each other in person was when they said goodbye in 1980 at the Honolulu airport. 

And here his friend was, reaching out 44 years later. Hettel called him immediately. 

"I was so happy to hear from him," he said. "It was such a kick."

David Hettel and Glenn Steinberg shortly after meeting in the late 1970s. Courtesy photo

Bonding through art

The late '70s in Hawaii for Hettel and Steinberg was full of lots of good waves, colorful art and cheap dinners at Sizzler.

Hettel moved to Hawaii in 1976 with the sole mission to surf. A friend of his, who was also a surfer, invited him to move to Oahu. His friend had just started a new beach concession business, and told Hettel he had a job and a place to stay if he moved. 

So Hettel moved and started selling Hawaiian Tropic on the shores of Waikiki Beach.

At the time, Steinberg frequently sold his art on Kalakaua Avenue, across Waikiki Beach. He moved to Oahu in 1975 after he was captivated by Hawaii's beauty. 

"I was traveling around the world and Hawaii was my last stop," Steinberg said. "I just fell in love with it."

Steinberg is a Vietnam War veteran, having served in the Army. When he got out, he said he wanted to do something positive for the world.

Glenn Steinberg surfs in Oahu in the late 1970s. Courtesy photo

Art became that something positive.

"It took me 15 years of being a terrible artist before I really started to find that I wanted to do, 'Colors and fun,'" he said.

His art is what Hettel's eye. He recalled that Steinberg had a painting depicting the inside of a bathroom in an old house with a checkerboard floor. It was whimsical and it was fun. 

The pair started talking and hit it off on the shores of Waikiki. They became fast friends in a short period of time, bonding over surfing, drinking beer on the beach, talking about art and goofing off.

And, "chasing wahines in bikinis on Oahu," Steinberg said. "Yahoo!"

Catching waves

When the pair starting hanging out in Oahu, Steinberg was a beginner surfer. Hettel, who grew up in the local area with its surfing legends and abundance of surf lesson opportunities, was a lot more experienced.

"Out of the kindness of his heart, he actually let me go surfing with him," Steinberg said.

David Hettel, of Ormond Beach, in Oahu in the late 1970s. Courtesy photo

Hettel took him out to Oahu's North Shore and let him borrow his roommate's board. Which, Steinberg broke.

"I snapped the nose off," he recalled.

That's not hard to do, Hettel said. But it is pretty unusual.

"Everything has to go just right in the wrong way," Hettel said.

Hettel and Steinberg didn't stay in contact for the 44 years they were apart. Once Facebook launched, they did connect on the social media website and exchange a few messages — they spoke about their marriages, children, about how Steinberg was living in Seattle (he moved away from Hawaii in 1994). 

"But when I knew we were moving to Palm Coast, I was so excited, because I knew he lived in Ormond Beach," Steinberg said.

When Hettel moved back home in 1980, he started taking art courses at Daytona Community College, now Daytona State University. He took on any job that related to the arts, from airbrushing surfboards to screen printing.

"Surfer, Punta Blanco" by David Hettel, is on display inside Gold Leaf Coffee. Photo by Jarleene Almenas

In the late '90s, when decorative faux painting became popular, he pursued that and started his own company, Primal Colors Paint & Design. 

He decided to focus on his own art around three to four years ago, and during the month of June, he was Frame of Mind's featured June 2024 ArtWalk artist, with his work on display inside Gold Leaf Coffee.

Restoring a connection

After reestablishing contact, Steinberg and Hettel went out to lunch in Palm Coast. Then, a couple days later, Steinberg drove down to Ormond and Hettel took him down to Ponce Inlet.

"We didn't stop talking for like two and a half hours," Hettel said.

Hettel is hoping to get Steinberg back on a surfboard. He also got Steinberg's 3-year-old grandson Archer a boogie board. 

"He's got me watching surfing stuff right now," Steinberg said.

Steinberg said he feels close to Hettel again, which he said is cool because not every friendship is like that.

"He was a great friend," Steinberg said. "He was a great guy to hang out with. ... We had a lot of fun."

To learn more about Hettel's art, visit To learn more about Steinberg art, contact [email protected] or call 425 275 6972.

"Birds of Paradise" by Glenn Steinberg. Courtesy photo


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