Chris Marseilles Rides On
by Corky Carroll
Today is one of those days that I dread, telling about a great surfer and friend who just passed away. On May 10 we lost the legendary Chris “the Gremmie” Marseilles after an eighteen-month battle with cancer, he was 74. This is a guy who most of you have not really heard of, he was not a famous professional surfer or known much at all by the general public. But if you were at all tuned into surfing in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s you will know that he was one of the best surfers ever to come out of Orange County and was highly regarded as a world class talent. In the era when myself, David Nuuhiwa, Mark Martinson and Danny Lenahan were the top up and coming young surfers on the West Coast it was a fact that Chris Marseilles was better than the rest of us.
I first started hearing his name when I was just starting to get a little bit known as a kid with some potential. I would hang around the fire rings at Seal Beach and Huntington Beach pier and listen to the stories the older guys would tell about this that and the other thing. Surf heros and chicks were always the main topics. They would tell about a kid they called “the Gremmie,” who was blowing people away at “Lower Trestles.” He was known for great noseriding skills, they said he could “hang ten” all day long. I distinctly remember hanging out in the CROW surfboards shop behind Kanvas by Katin one afternoon listening to the Crow rave on about having seen this kid the day before and telling me that I was good, but not nearly as good as the Gremmie. I was naturally boiling over with jealousy.
But then I met Chris one day at a school event in Huntington Beach, we were both still in elementary school at the time. He went to Huntington and I went to J.H. McGaugh in Seal Beach. We hit it off right off the bat. He was really a cool dude and had a huge smile and was fun to be around. Not long after that I met up with him at Huntington Beach pier and got to surf together for the first time, super fun experience where we were both just going for it and hooting each other on. I could see how good he was and the whole kid jealousy thing totally vanished. I liked him and was stoked that he was so good. Soon after that he moved to Newport Beach, where his reputation grew.
The day that I truly realized just how great he really was came one afternoon at Lower Trestles. I had gotten a ride down there with one of the Long Beach guys, Roy Crump or might have been Steve Pezman. The surf was really good and I was paddling out all amped up and ready to rock. Just as I was getting almost to the lineup I saw Chris Marseilles take off on a big perfect, maybe six to eight-foot, peak. He paddled into the wave fading to the left and stayed laying down all the way almost to the bottom of the wave. Then he smoothly slid to his feet and cranked a huge bottom turn to the right and quickly walked all the way up to the nose as he was climbing the face of the wave. He hung all ten toes over the nose and just perched there with this sly grin on his face and the most perfect style I had ever seen. In my head I just went, “WOW.” I implanted that scene into my little brain right then and there because I knew that I wanted to do THAT.
I think I heard him tell that it was Denny Buell that game him the nickname “Gremmie,” and it stuck. Chris was small framed and not all that tall, and with his quickness and sly grin he was just the perfect, well, gremmie. It was him.
When he was sixteen he took off for Hawaii. There were tales of him at Sunset Beach riding huge days alone of with only a handful of others out. And then later he spent a lot of time on the Island of Kauai, where two of his four sons still live to this day. The last half of his life was spent back in Newport Beach with his 30 plus year love Susan Hoyle. His son Beau has been a pal of mine on Facebook for a number of years and tells great stories of growing up and surfing with his dad. He was a member of the Blackies Surf Club and a part of the beach where he normally surfed has been dubbed “Marseilles” for years.
Everybody loved Chris, a guy known as “a small man with a huge heart.” And even though most of the world would not have heard of him, those of us who did are all saddened by his leaving us, but very glad that we knew him and knew of him. Chris Marseilles was one of the best surfers to ever paddle out.
Ride on Gremmie.
Corky Tries the North Shore
by Corky Carroll
In order to avoid having to talk about the virus, as I am not an expert nor do I have any valid opinion on that subject, I have started a little series on “Surf Safaris” that I have taken over the years, starting with the early ones. Today I am going to talk about my first trip to the infamous “North Shore,” on the island of Oahu.
The first time I had gone to Hawaii was actually the summer before this, the year was 1963 and I was a 15-year-old loud mouthed up and comer. A couple of months surfing at Ala Moana, on the “South Shore,” went a long way towards shutting me up and teaching me some respect. I was pretty good, but not nearly as good as I had thought I was when I got there. By December I was ready to just keep my mouth shut and go and see what it was like to ride the big stuff on the North Shore and if I had the guts to do it or not.
I was lucky to get to go over with a crew of great surfers and proven big wave riders. Mike Doyle, Mickey Munoz, Joey Cabell and Chuck Linnen. We all met up at Mike’s moms house, about a half a mile from Los Angeles International Airport late one winter afternoon and got ready for our flight to Honolulu. In those days you just checked your board in as baggage, no board bags or any protection. Most of the time they came out with dings and broken off fins, but that was just the way it was. I took one board with me, a 10-foot speed board Phil Edwards had made me. I was lucky to only have some scratches on it when it got there. I had an 11-foot big wave board already there at the Hobie shop waiting for me. It was red and made it into a famous big wave photo of a bunch of guys taking off at Waimea Bay and a big red board going up the face with a foot sticking out of the water just behind it. It was my foot. I was paddling out and jumped off going up the face before I got sucked over the falls by this big monster wave.
I hung with Mike Doyle on that trip and was glad I did. Mike was without a doubt one of the best big wave riders of all time, and he was pretty good at looking out after me. We wound up staying with a huge crew from the mainland that had rented an old Quonset hut out by a place called “Velzyland.” There were 15 guys, 2 girls and a dog.
On our first day there we caught Sunset Beach about fifteen feet. I was scared but managed to catch a good-sized wave right off the bat. A really good California surfer named Kemp Aaberg was in front of me and I just watched where he was going and followed as closely as I could. We both made the wave and I was totally wide eyed and blown away. Kemp smiled at me and said, “So, you like this big stuff huh?” After that the fear factor turned down a notch and I was able to get a bunch of rides.
The very next day the swell jumped up in size and Waimea Bay was going off. This was the premier big wave spot on the planet at that time. I had survived the first day at Sunset Beach so when Mike grabbed his board to paddle out I grabbed mine too. He looked at me and said, “Are you sure?” I didn’t answer, I just went. And no, I was not sure at all. This turned out to be a whole nother deal all together. I was in shock as to just how big those waves were when you actually got out there in the middle of all that power. They were not only tall, but as thick as a shopping mall and moving really fast. The sheer energy and sound made me feel very insignificant. When I was sitting in the lineup debating about if I was going to try to take one or not I saw the great big wave surfer George Downing looking at me. He asked me if I was afraid. I wanted to say no, that I was fine and this was totally cool. But a tiny “yes” is what came out. He smiled and said, “Good, then you will be o.k.” This made me feel better. I got three rides that day and was lucky to not have fallen off on any of them. I remember on the first one when I stood up at the top of this monster wall of water. I was thinking, “Twenty feet? Hell no, this thing is more like three hundred feet…. I’m gonna diiiiiiieeeeee.”
The highlight of that first trip to the North Shore was getting to surf the “Pipeline” for the first time. This is the spot that I really fell in love with. Being right foot forward, “Goofy-foot”, this was perfect for me. A big powerful left. I loved that spot and had some of my best surfing days there. The last time I rode it was on my 50th birthday. It was so crowded by then that I couldn’t get a wave without at least two guys dropping in on me. But back during that first winter for me there would only be a few people out there at a time and it was just surf dog heaven for me. I was lucky to spend a lot of time in Hawaii over the years and got a ton of super good surf. But that first winter always stood out as a special, and totally eye opening, experience for me.
Corky's First Surf Trip
by Corky Carroll
I got a lot of positive response from last weeks story about a surf adventure (“surf safari” in surf lingo) I took in the late 1960’s, so this week I thought I would continue in a little series on memorable surf treks I have made through the years. The best place to start is with the first one. This took place way back in the year 1958 when I was a ten-year-old gremmie just learning to surf in front of our home in Surfside, Ca., a tiny beach colony on the north end of Orange County.
On our beach there were about ten surfers in the late 1950’s. Among them were the DeChevroux brothers, Mike, Marc and Morgan. Both Mike and Marc were close to me in age and got boards at the same time as I did, Morgan was much younger and wasn’t surfing yet. We spent a lot of time surfing together before and after school, on weekends and all summer. Their mother, Ruth, was a rabid Bullfight fanatic. She loved going to Mexico for the Bullfights on Sundays. She had a big ol’ Buick station wagon. The first surf movie I ever saw is when Ruth loaded up all of us surf kids and took us to a little art theater in Hollywood to see “Surf Safari,” a surfing film by John Severson. Not long after that she got the idea to take us on our own surf safari. Loaded up Marc, Mike and me in her old Buick wagon and we set off to surf the historic surf spots in southern Orange County. In those days this was a trip down Highway 101. We were stoked to the max.
Our first spot was Dana Point, the legendary “Killer Dana.” There was a big south swell running that day and it was going off. The rocky point and beach made Ruth nervous, we were all pretty young. So we left there and went to the HOBIE surf shop to get advice on where we should surf. The guy there, I am thinking it was Jim Gilloon, said, “Windansea for experts, San Onofre for intermediates and Doheny for beginners.” So, Doheny it was.
The waves were really good. And it was my first experience at surfing over a rocky bottom. Scared me at first too. We had a great session; the highlight memory was seeing the great Lorin Harrison ride a big set wave in an outrigger canoe. After we were done we loaded up to head home. But Ruth surprised us and said we should go check out San Onofre, it was not that much farther away and we should know what it looked like for future safaris.
Pulling up to the guard gate at Camp Pendleton Marine Base we were told that San Onofre Surf Club members were the only ones allowed on the base to surf. The beach was on Marine property. This is when I found a whole new world of respect for Ruth DeChevroux. As we were leaving she saw a little spot where there was a hole in the fence and a dirt road on the other side. Shockingly she said, “Well, that might lead to the surf. Let’s give it a shot.” So she drives El Buicko through the hole in the fence and sets out down the dirt road to see if we can find our way to San Onofre Surf Club. And we do. But there is a gate with a chain and a lock. Not being one to give up easily, she got out and checked the lock. Voila! It had been left open. We were in. To our total glee she pulled up and parked right in the middle of all the camper trucks and surf mobiles parked at the main break, like we were supposed to be there or something. Nobody seemed to notice. The surf was big and breaking really far out. At first we were just gonna watch for a while, but then I got the urge and decided to paddle out. Guys on giant boards where taking off on what seemed like the horizon. I got a couple of really long and exciting rides. I was riding my first board, the 8’7” balsawood pintail made for me by Dick Barrymore, and it was suited to these waves perfectly. But then I fell off and it was a very long swim to the beach. After that I was done, satisfied for sure, but done.
We headed home a crew of worn out and extremely stoked surf kids. Our first surf safari had been an over the top success. Just the beginning. Get my latest book, Not Done Yet, for more great surf stories.
Stuck on meeting Doc Ball and Tom Blake
by Corky Carroll
Doing my very best to stay off any kind of controversy with the current social situation, I thought today I would tell you the story of a very cool encounter I had many years ago with the legendary Tom Blake. For those of you who don’t know who that is let me catch you up. This dude gets a huge amount of credit for the development of surfboard design back in the days of the big heavy redwood beasts that weighed in more than an elephant and were longer than some trains. He is said to have been the first to attach a fin to the bottom, that alone is monumental. His influence on the surfing culture went deep, his casual style being adopted and still in effect today in surfing wardrobe choices. Tom was born in 1902 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a fact that any Great Lake surfer will never let you forget. By the time I came along he was up there in years and not involved in day to day surfing anymore. I knew of him, of course, but really thought I would never meet the dude in person. Then one day that changed.
In the mid thru late 1960’s I liked to take an annual trip far up into the Pacific Northwest. There is a certain point break up there that I was very fond of. My normal program was to drive one direction along the coast, maybe grabbing a wave or two along the way if a swell was working. Then the other way I would take the much faster inland route on the freeway. I am thinking it was the fall of 1968 when my first wife Cheryl and I were heading up Highway 101 in Northern California and pulled into Garberville. I had no idea that this was the home of “murder mountain” at that time, but I did know that my old pal Doc Ball was the town dentist. Doc Ball put out the very first surf photo book in the 1940’s called “California Surfriders.” He was a high energy old surf gremmie, having been born in 1907 himself. No spring chicken, but younger than Blake.
We decided to make what was meant to be a quick stop to say hi. When I walked into the dentist office the girl behind the desk just smiled and told me to go right back. So I did, thinking that Doc wasn’t busy. But he had a guy in the chair and was drilling away on his teeth. He looked up and saw me and pulled back with a big smile. I told him I could wait until he was done with his patient, thinking I was intruding on some poor dudes’ appointment. Doc just swung the chair around and says, “Hey, you know Tom Blake don’t ya?” I was in shock. Tom, mouth full of dental stuff, lights up and sort of mouths something that sounded like, “Hey, good to see ya.”
The result of this was that we wound up spending the night. Doc had all the local surfers over and he showed a ton of his old movies from before I was born. I got to talk to Tom over dinner and it was very cool. He reminded me a lot of Phil Edwards, same kind of mannerisms and the way he talked. Great experience. He would have been 67, Doc 62 and me 20.
We hung out until after lunch the next day and then headed back up the highway on our surf safari. I could leave it at that, but there is a bit more to this little stop off that is kind of funny. Somewhere between Garberville and Eureka there is a “drive thru tree.” You have to turn off the highway and go down a little dirt road to get to it. So we thought it would be fun to check it out, and we did. When we got to it I was sort of amazed that it really didn’t look all that big of a tunnel in the tree. My wife said she didn’t think our van would fit through it. This being the brand new HOBIE SURF TEAM van that was on loan to me. Being me, at that time, I naturally said that it must be big enough otherwise they wouldn’t have it. So, I drove right in. I should say about halfway in. That is where we came to a screeching metal gouging mirror breaking off stop. Oops. O.K., this was not good. I went to back out but it was a dirt road and the tires just spun. If the rear doors were locked you could not open them from inside. Yes kids, we were stuck in the drive thru tree. Nobody around, about 3 in the afternoon. Close to dark a car finally came and starting honking at us. I was in the back window yelling for help, “WE ARE STUCK.” A lot of honking and yelling later they finally figured it out and went for a tow truck to pull is out.
Just some of the little things that can happen when on a surf safari. Meet a legend and get stuck in a tree.
Remembering the Good Old Days
by Corky Carroll
With all the news almost exclusively being centered around COVID 19 these days I thought I would, instead of adding just more fuel to the fire, take a long journey back in surf time to talk about the early days of surf clubs here in Southern California. I was going to get into the debate about trying to go surfing during this time of beach closures and people getting arrested and fined for surfing, but my honest opinion is just flat out DON’T DO IT. No debate. So, with that issue dealt with, let’s go back to the late 1950’s, well before most of you were born.
As many of you know I grew up in Surfside Colony, on the Northern edge of Orange County and just to the south of Seal Beach. There were only a handful of surfers who lived in Surfside at that time and we all pretty much hung out and surfed together on a daily basis. Seal Beach, on the other hand, had a whole slew of surfers. Of course it did, it was a much bigger town. Seal Beach had a surf club, the “Seal Beach Surfers.” The membership included a number of big name, or soon to be big name, riders. This would include Robert August, Mike Haley, Jack Haley, Denny Buell, Bill Fury, Richard Chew, Pete Kobzev and the list goes on. One day after surfing somebody, I think it was either Ron Rowe or Jerry Motes, came up with the idea that we should have our own club. We could be the “Surfside Surfers.” So the plan was hatched to order some club sweatshirts from a place up in Belmont Shores.
They were white with black “Old English” lettering on the backs and our names on the front. We never had a club meeting or anything like that, but we had those sweatshirts and we thought we were pretty darn cool wearing them. The members were Jerry Motes, Ron and Steve Rowe, Mike and Marc DeCheveroux, Greg Wojack, John Murphy, Larry Conroy, Joe Johnson and me. This would have been summer of 1958; I would have been 10.
There were other surf clubs already going such as the Palos Verdes Surf Club and, of course, the legendary San Onofre Surf Club. San Onofre had the huge benefit of having a private surf beach exclusive to members only which was located on the Camp Pendleton Marine Base, just south of San Clemente. There was a membership limit and a long waiting list to get in. I remember putting my name on the list about three years before I would be old enough to get my driver’s license just so I might come up for membership by the time I would have a car to put the window decal on, giving me entry to the San Onofre Surf Beach.
During the early 1960’s, when with the help of “Gidget,” and a whole river of cheap Hollywood beach movies, surfing exploded and all of a sudden everybody surfed. Surf Clubs sprung up all up and down the coast. Competitions between the clubs were very popular. The most prestigious of them all was the “Malibu Invitational.” Held at Malibu’s acclaimed Surfrider Beach this was THE contest that you wanted to be in. No matter if you liked to surf in contests or not. Because being in this one gave you at least one 20-minute heat in the water at Malibu with only five other surfers. This was like surf gold. If you won the heat you would go on and get another one. The final was 30 minutes. People would join a club just to get on the team for this event. For that matter one of the most famous surf clubs of all time, the Windansea Surf Club from San Diego, was formed for no other reason than to field a team for the Malibu Invitational. They rented a bus with a band and kegs of beer for the drive from Windansea in La Jolla to Malibu the morning of the contest. And they won. This looked like the club to belong to right about then.
As the shortboard revolution came along, and then the 70’s when California surfing more than less went into the shadows, the glory years of surf clubs sort of died out. Some kept going and are still going today, but the real limelight years for surf clubs in this part of the world would have been the 60’s. Thinking back on the day when we loaded up in Steve Rowes old Ford woody to pick up our sweatshirts I can’t help but think of what came out of all of our mouths at the same time. “Surfside Surfers Rule!!!!”
by Corky Carroll
It is hard to really even comprehend what has happened in our world over the past couple of weeks. This horrible virus thing has come on so fast and so dramatically that it has left most of us with our heads spinning in disbelief. What? We gotta stay in the house? What? No surfing, going to the movies, out to eat, hangin’ at the bar for happy hour? For many it’s also no work, no income, no things that are way more important than no going to the movies or out to eat. It’s landed on my life just like all of yours. I had heart surgery scheduled for April 1st, now it’s postponed until ???? Other stuff too, but I am sure many are in worse situations.
Yeah, these are crazy times and we are told to stay in the house and ride it out. I hope all of you are on board with this too, this is something we all need to buy into together. So, as surfers and used to paddling out and riding waves, screaming at kuks dropping in on us, checkin’ out the babes and being just the generally cool and bitchin’ people that surfers are, whaddawe gonna do shut up in the house for who knows how long? This goes against nature. But we gotta do it.
With this in mind I have been getting bombarded with questions on how to cope. Off the top of my head, here are a few ideas on ways to pass your non surfing hours in the house and away from other people. I am sure some of you have already thought of these, but if not I hope this helps. And, if you have any ideas of your own please pass them along.
Watch old surf videos. If you have a collection of vintage movies this is a great time to kick back and relive the rides of the great surfing yesteryears. Check out the boards and the styles and how surfing has evolved into what it looks like today. And, if you have a good collection it would be a nice gesture for you to offer to share them with pals who might not have anything on hand to watch.
Read those surfing books that have been laying around that somebody gave you but you have never really had time to actually read. You know the ones. You probably glanced through them and looked at the photos, but never have actually taken the time to read them. (Here comes my blatant plug). And, if you haven’t gotten it yet, this is the perfect time to get my new book “NOT DONE YET.” It is available in both paperback and download versions from CorkysNotDoneYet.com. Use the caps and small letters as shown.
For those of you who play music or create art, this is a great time to do both of those. And, for those of you who don’t do either or those but have wanted to and have never really taken the time to try, what a perfect time to learn how. Fill up those hours with things that might be fulfilling in the long run.
This is also a perfect chance to patch all those little dings on your board or boards that have been bugging you but are really too small to take the time out of the water to mess around with. For those of you who like to clean your wax, clean it. I have never been one of those, I have to admit. I let my wax build up to big bumps of dirty goo, probably adding tons of weight to my boards. But, in my defense, I don’t slip much. Most people like their boards to look all good and neat, and that is fine and dandy. Heck, I might have to break down and clean mine if I get THAT bored. The idea is to do stuff that adds up to something at the end of the day.
My list for today started with writing this column, taking tons of energy and brain working overtime kinda pressure. Next up is an adventure through the NETFLIX guide to see what’s on. That should take me right up to afternoon nap time. It’s important to be strong and well rested (ok, at least well rested). After that there is sunset watching, dinner, desert and then the grueling chore of working on tomorrows list of exciting indoor activities.
Topping the list is staying safe and helping others do the same. As I said, we are all in this together.
Icon George Draper passed away
by Corky Carroll
I was sad to wake up today and hear of the passing of long time Huntington Beach surf icon George Draper. George had been in a losing battle with cancer for some time and like when most people go down to that horrible thing it always makes ya think, “if they can put people on the moon why can’t they find a way to stop this?” But anyway, it is what it is and it got our pal George this time and “Surf City” is a little bit darker today for it.
George Draper was one of the infamous Huntington Beach Georges. The first was George Farquhar. That George ran the local newspaper and was a regular in the lineup at the pier in the 1960’s. You would always see him at just about any and every thing that went on in town, camera in hand and notebook in his back pocket, the perfect newspaper guy that also happened to be a local surfer at the same time.
The next George was “Little George” Patton. He was the original George that opened Georges Surf Center. He got the nickname “Little George” because, yeah you guessed it, he was little. He was a stoked dude who loved to surf and used his baby son in all of his advertisements in the surfing publications. I still hear from him often; he lives in Thailand now and has a young and pretty wife. He is always trying to out “young and pretty wife” me, but he can’t. Mine is younger and prettier, hahaha George. Cool dude.
Then came George Draper, the first “Mayor of Main Street.” Draper bought Georges Surf Center from Patton. This worked out really conveniently as being that they were both named George there was no need to change the name of the store. It was still Georges, just a different George. One of the cool, and really smart, changes to the store was the addition of “Jan’s Juice Bar” in the back. A beautiful young surf chick named Jan Gaffney ran it and the extra people that came to get smoothies and cookies added to the sale of surfboards and the success of the business. George was a single dude and loved to hang out in front of the store enjoying the ebb and flow of beautiful surf girls passing by, cherry picking the best looking ones for maybe a phone number or at least a name. He was kinda the local surf Don Juan of the 70’s. George was also a pal of Jack Murphy, a.k.a. “Murph the Surf.” Murph told me one time that George didn’t ‘t trust banks and had all his money buried somewhere or stuffed into mattresses. Treasure map anybody?
Then came the Lambert Georges. The older one being a very popular local surfer who was the father of the younger one who became the next “Mayor of Main Street,” after George Draper. George Lambert was first the shop gremmie and then manager of the Robert August Surf Shop. Also a super good surfer and Huntington Beach High School Surf Team star. He went on to manage the longboard room at Huntington Surf ‘n Sport, along with me for a few years, and eventually has become one of the top real estate agents in town working with Bob “the Greek” Bolan at Huntington Beach Realty. Wanna buy or sell a house, George is your dude. I loved the time we worked together at HSS, two surf shop dinosaurs in a 21st century surf super store. I liked to think we added a little “soul” to the place. They could fold t-shirts there so tight and perfectly that you could cut fish with the edges, an art I never could master. George’s son, Max, is now one of the hottest up and coming surfers in town. My real name is Charles and my dad and his dad and as far back as is known were all named that. I named my first son Clint and the second one Tanner. So I can understand why George broke the chain. The big question is who is gonna be the next “Mayor of Main Street,” and will it be a George?
So here is a big Aloha to George Draper, a huge part of Huntington Beach and Orange County surf lore. May you ride the sea of tranquility and troll the streets of heaven for angel babes.
Corky Carroll: Recalling an early ’60s surf safari to Trestles
by Corky Carroll
The other day somebody asked me what it was like surfing in the O.C. back when I was a kid. When I get asked this kind of stuff all sorts of memories come to mind, and on this day, for some reason or another, the thought of early surf trips down the coast to Trestles came to mind.
Here is one in particular that stands out in my flickering one-cell memory bank.
It was the early 1960s, maybe ’61 or ’62. Mark Martinson and I were pals and from time to time would get rides from my house in Surfside, which is in the far north end of the county, to go surf Trestles, which is just south of San Clemente in the far south end of the county.
On this particular day we got a ride from Roy Crump and Steve Pezman in one of their old coups. They crammed Mark and me into the trunk with the boards — our job was to hold onto the boards so they didn’t fall out the back. The gas fumes coulda killed us, but who knew?
My mom had tossed in a dollar for gas, which was about what it took to do that round-trip in those days, gas being about 25 cents a gallon. This was before the freeway. The route was straight down Pacific Coast Highway. There would be the stop to check out the Huntington Beach Pier, the stop to check out Brooks Street in Laguna Beach and the stop to check out Killer Dana from the little lookout gazebo on the top of the bluff overlooking the cove in Dana Point.
From there it was onward past the Hobie shop and then the Velzy and Jacobs shop and finally to the edge of Camp Pendleton. At that point there was always some sort of way to sneak onto the base and into the jungle that was between the highway and the beach.
On this day, we found a place in the jungle to stash the car and made it to the beach through the bushes and a lagoon. Once we got there we were rewarded with a sizable south swell and some decent long peeling rights coming down the point. There were a few guys there that we knew, including Huntington Beach legend Chuck Linnen. I was talking to Chuck on the beach while I was waxing my board and finding a spot to bury the paper bag containing the sandwich my mom had made for me that morning. Then off to surf.
We had a great session. Mark is a year older than me and was really starting to come into his own as a surfer about then. He was really tearing the place apart. He would win the Oceanside Invitational and then the United States Championship a few years later — great surfer.
It was an excellent day of surfing for us as we were used to the sand bar beach breaks in front of my house and getting to surf a reef-based point break was a real treat. I think we stayed in the water about five hours that day.
But when I got back to the beach and went to dig up my lunch it was gone. Just an empty bag.
Chuck had been sitting there so I asked him if he saw anybody snag my sandwich. With crumbs and mayonnaise on his face he looked me right in the eyes and said, “What sandwich?” I later found out he was known for this sort of thing, a fact that he will not deny and only smile about when confronted with to this day.
On the way home, we stopped at La Paz Mexican Restaurant in Laguna Beach where you could go to the back door and get a paper plate lunch of rice and beans for 35 cents. Thankfully, Mark’s mom had given him a dollar to eat on and he was able to buy us both a plate along with a large Coke to share.
When we got home we were sunburned to a crisp, totally loopy from the exhaust fumes we inhaled in the trunk and as happy as two clams at high tide. We had just had a totally awesome surf safari to Trestles.
This was the kinda stuff we lived for back then.
How I Got Started Surfing
by Corky Carroll
I get a lot of questions about surfing and my life as it has unfolded as more than less a lifetime pro surfer. One of them that I get fairly often is, “….so what made you decide to take up surfing in the first place?”
Normally I will answer this with my standard reply, “Our house was right on the beach, so it was just a natural thing to learn to surf. Like if you lived across the street from tennis courts you would probably learn to play tennis.” This is the easy answer as that is basically the fact. I could not look out the window without seeing the surf. I could not do anything without hearing it, we were so close that it was always there in our ears. In fact there was also always the smell of the salt air. There was no getting away from it. It was so close to the surf that even the name of our town was SURFSIDE. Wham, done deal. How could I not learn to surf?
But, let me regress and tell you a little history of my pre surfboard days and what led up to my first ride on one. When I was really little we lived in Alhambra. One of the things my mom liked to do was ride the bus down to Long Beach and hang out at the “Pike,” a huge amusement park that used to be on the beach there. One day she took me with her and we went to the beach right next to the Rainbow Pier. I got to get in the water, just in the really shallow part right next to the beach. I found myself sort of letting the ebb and flow of the tiny, not even waves but surges, push me in and pull be back out right next to the sand. Kinda like kinder-bodysurfing. First wave memory.
The next was when I was sent to Kilgores Kiddie Camp in the Malibu mountains for a couple of weeks one summer. One day they took us to the beach just north of Santa Monica. I waded into the water and stood still as a wave broke right over my head. I heard the sound of the tube just before it creamed me. That second memory stuck with me always.
Then we moved to Surfside. I met a couple of brothers who lived down the street, Marc and Mike DeCheveroux. They had canvas air matts that they used to ride the waves with. I talked my dad into getting me one too. It was one of those heavy-duty rental type things that was blue and green and would sand the skin right off of you by laying on it more than about ten seconds. I found out right off the bat that wearing a t-shirt was the only way to go when riding that particular type of air matt.
We would ride those things in everything that came through at Surfside. I liked riding on my knees and could at times actually stand on mine as it was the heavy-duty kind and when filled very full of air it was really stable. At least for a kid of about six years old. Along with the air matts we would ride anything that would float. Old pieces of plywood sometimes. It was just the joy of riding waves.
I tried to ride an old 100-pound redwood board that a kid up the street had found buried in his yard one day, almost killed myself when it came close to hitting me in the head. Then the day when I snuck my neighbors board out of his yard and rode my first wave.
So there is a little recap of “what made me decide to take up surfing in the first place.” To get the rest of the story from then on grab a copy of my new book, “Not Done Yet.” It is available at CorkysNotDoneYet.com. (Yeah I know that was a shameless plug, but what the heck, an old surf dog has to eat.)
An Impromptu lesson from Jolting Joe
by Corky Carroll
After years and years of toiling away at my autobiography I have, at last, just about finished it. I sort of thought I had it done, but then remembered that I forgot to put in the story about the night I got a batting lesson from the great Joe “Joltin’ Joe” DiMaggio, the Yankee Clipper. I wrote about this a zillion years back, I think I did anyway, but thought it would be fun to revisit it as people always like this little tale. And I can use this for that part in the book and kill two birds with one bazooka. OK, calm down … no birds were killed or hurt in the writing of this column — you gotta watch what you say these days.
During the years between my retirement from the pro surfing circuit in 1972 and the late 1990s, when I damaged my Achilles tendon, I spent an enormous amount of time playing tennis. I worked my way up in classifications and eventually became a teaching pro. One of my favorite things in my tennis career was that I was invited to play in many celebrity tournaments for charities all around the country. It was at one of these events, in the friendly town of Billings, Mont., that this little interaction took place.
In this April 10, 1998 photo New York Yankees great Joe DiMaggio waves to the crowd before the start of New York’s first home game of the season between the Yankees and the Oakland Athletics at Yankee Stadium in New York. (Photo by Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)This particular event involved both a tennis and golf tournament and included a huge list of celebrities. On the Friday night before the tennis and golf events started they held a big softball game between the Hollywood All-Stars and the local softball team.
I thought it was gonna just be a little fun event, but no. Turns out they sold out a 10,000-seat Minor League Baseball stadium for this, and it was on local television. I see this and am thinking, seeing as how there are dozens of bigger names here for this than me, I doubt I will have to play.
So, I am sitting in the dugout, trying to look invisible, when Rod Dedeaux comes rolling in. Rod was the baseball coach at USC for years and was also my neighbor when I was growing up in Surfside. He is coaching the Hollywood All-Stars. He sees me and goes, “Coorrrky, I heard you were here. Great. You will be my lead-off hitter.”
Oh no, this is not good. I am watching this dude warming up on the mound tossing up these 14- to 16-foot-high pitches that are twisting and doing all this stuff and landing right on the plate every time, it was that kind of softball. I go into semi panic mode and am thinking of how bad it would look if I boogied on outta there right then.
But, as fate would have it, in strolls Joe DiMaggio. Mr. Coffee himself, right there in front of me. So, I seized the opportunity and innocently said, “Hey Joe, I need your help. I am just a dumb surfer/tennis player and I have never seen, nor tried to hit, a pitch like that. How do you hit that?”
On that note the entire dugout stops dead. Everybody is waiting to hear what Joe has to say. And there were some huge sports guys in there such as Ahmad Rashad, Kenny Anderson and Rick Barry. Joe pauses and looks down at me sitting there, considering his words carefully. And very direct and sincerely he says, “Corky, I am gonna tell you how to hit that pitch. But I am going to tell you this one time and one time only, so listen carefully.”
I am listening super carefully and so is everybody else in there. I can’t believe I am actually getting a batting tip from Joe DiMaggio. This would be like some novice surfer from Pasadena getting a surf tip from Duke Kahanamoku. After a short pause, for effect I think, he slowly and firmly tells me, “KEEP…YOUR EYE … ON … THE BALL!”