Sad to lose this surfing Institution
By Corky Carroll
woke up this morning to the sad news that SURFER Magazine was shutting down after an amazing 60 years in business. Another one of those things that I had thought was “forever,” until it wasn’t. Way too many of those things these days and I don’t like it. This is coming from a dude who has gone far beyond his expiration date and is only showing faint signs of decay and premature decomposition.
I grew up with SURFER magazine. When the first issue came out in 1960, I was a fully stoked surf gremlin attending seventh grade at J.H. McGaw Intermediate School in Seal Beach. One day a pal of mine showed up at school with a copy. He said that Robert August was selling them out of his house and had a few more copies. After school I begged my mom for some money and rode the mile from our house in Surfside Colony to Robert’s in Seal Beach to buy my copy. The price was $1.50, but Robert gave me the “bro” deal of only $5.00. It was well worth it. I read and reread that thing until the pages were faded from being over read. I cut out my favorite photos and pasted them on my bedroom walls, the same walls that soon would be totally covered with surf photos and posters.
The first issue was an “Annual.” The second year it went to a “Quarterly,” and eventually “Bimonthly.” The publisher was a great artist and surfer named John Severson who had gained recognition for making 16mm surf movies. His 1958 “Surf Safari” was the first surf movie that I ever saw. I am pretty sure the first issue of SURFER was originally meant to be a program for his second movie, “Surf Fever.” But it was so good and complete that he decided to put it out as a magazine instead.
By the early to mid 1960’s I was starting to win surfing events and would become pals with John Severson. He is the one who recommended me to Jantzen Swimwear for a surfing endorsement. This led to an almost 10-year sponsorship and being on the back cover of SURFER of every issue during that run. By the later 1960’s John would occasionally hire me to write stories for the magazine, usually technical stuff about surfing technique.
In 1976 then Ad Director Don Kremmers hired me to assist him in the Advertising Department as Ad Manager. Shortly after that Don left SURFER to pursue other interests and Steve Pezman, who was publisher at that time, promoted me to Ad Director. I worked there from Oct 1, 1976 to Oct 1, 1986. It was a great job that I loved, and we had an incredible staff there at that time. SURFER Publishing also put out POWDER magazine (Skiing), SKATEBOARDER Magazine and for a short time ROLLER SKATING Magazine. During my stay there we took the magazine to being a “Monthly.” Some of my favorite times were during those years working there. I left because an opportunity came up to do my own clothing and surfboard line and this gave me a great income without having to be committed to any type of working schedule. I really missed working at SURFER though. Along with working in the Ad Department I also wrote the occasional surf comedy column and had a comedy spot called “Corkys' Corner” on the SURFER MAGAZINE T.V. show that was on ESPN back then. It was a great ten years in my life. Just the impromptu staff interactions in the coffee room were more than priceless. Working with people like Denise Bashem, Michele Jenson, Bob Bailey, Jim Kempton and all the others was so much fun.
Through the years I still read the magazine and have remained friends with a lot of the staff from those days. Steve Pezman and his wife Debbee went on to publish SURFERS JOURNAL, which is still going strong. My great graphic artist in the Ad Department, Mark Samuels, now has his own MultimediaGraphics Business in Capistrano Beach called SDA Creative Inc. He has done a couple of my album covers. All of the great surf photographers are well known as the best in the field. Art Brewer, Jeff Devine, Tom Servais, Guy Motil, Warren Bolster, Bernie Baker and so on.
SURFER was known as “the Bible of Surfing.” Really sad to hear that it’s done and over with, happy that I had a part in its history and going to toast John Severson tonight for launching that wonderful publication. RIP SURFER MAGAZINE…you rocked.
Corky and Purpus telling classic Dale Velzy stories
by Corky Carroll
The other day I was fortunate enough to have lunch with a couple of my favorite people, the legendary Mike Purpus and Blue Mango Surf CEO, Joel Saltzman. For those who don’t know, Mike Purpus is one of the great surfers from my era and a super charismatic and funny dude. He loves to tell surf stories and dig up historical stuff that is just classic. The name Dale Velzy came into the conversation, the “Hawk” as he was known by. Velzy was one of the surfboard building pioneers and bigger than life character. He was like surfings John Wayne. Both Mike and I had a great Velzy story to toss out. I will start with his.
In the later 1950’s when surfboards had just gone from balsawood to foam Velzy was partnered with the great Hap Jacobs and they made “Velzy and Jacobs” surfboards. Hap’s mom didn’t like Velzy much because he always tried to get Hap to ditch school to go surfing when they were in high school. In the early days of building foam surfboards the builder would have to cut the foam blank in half, vertically, and glue in the wood “stringer” that would be put down the middle for strength. Some boards had more than one stringer and the cutting and gluing process was super important to the outcome of boards in those days. As Mike (who surfed for Jacobs Surfboards for decades) tells the story, one time those guys had a bunch of orders for boards but had run out of wood to make the stringers out of. Hap was kinda worried about getting the boards out on time, but the Hawk told him not to worry because he knew where they could get good wood. He told Hap to be ready to go out for wood that night at 11 P.M. Hap thought that was kinda late to be going shopping for wood, but then the Hawk was never the normal kinda dude about anything, so he was ready to go at 11 P.M.
Turns out that the next morning every stop sign in Palos Verdes had been cut down, and Velzy and Jacobs had plenty of wood to make stringers out of. Palos Verdes, being a very upscale neighborhood, actually had redwood stop signs in those days.
Typical Velzy, totally cracked me up. As this was over 60 years ago and Velzy is now living in surf heaven I don’t think telling this is gonna get him in much trouble.
Corky's "Not Done Yet" book and Mike's Assembly DVD have lots of great stories and nostalgic moments..
My Velzy story took place one day in his shop in San Clemente in about 1959. In those days when a person ordered a board the guy building it would promise it in like two weeks. It was NEVER two weeks, more like two months. On one such order a guy called up and asked if his board was done as it was going on three months and it turns out it was finished and in the showroom ready for pick up. Velzy told the guy to come on down and get it. It was a 9’2” and clear (no color). The guy was all stoked and said he would be there in an hour. About 15 minutes later another guy walks into the shop and tells Velzy he wants to buy a new 9’6” and wanted it clear, asking if he might have one in stock. So, Velzy being Velzy, pulls out the finished order that was waiting to be picked up, cleverly pulling the order card off as he did so, and lays it down on the floor. The guys is stoked but wonders if it is 9’6”. Velzy being Velzy, hands the guy the end of his measuring tape and tells him to hold it by the nose as he stretches it out to the tail. Velzy looks closely at the tape and says, “yep, 9’6” exactly.” The sale is made and they guy pays and drives off with the new board. Velzy is happy and jumps in his Gull Wing Mercedes and peels out down Pacific Coast Highway. When the original owner of the board shows up there is a “Sorry, gone surfing” note on the door.
Ah, the golden years of surf shops and surfboard building. It was a great lunch and I am looking forward to seeing those dudes again for more food and more stories. Stay tuned.
Surfer Concussion Protocol
by Corky Carroll
I recently got an email telling me how the Pepperdine Surf Team was working with a new ap called HitCheck to monitor concussions while surfing. This interested me because, as a long-time surfing coach, I can attest to the amount of times people get hit in the head with their boards. The first thing we tell beginners is that when they fall off they should stay under water for a couple of extra beats and then come up protecting their heads with their hands and arms. But do they listen? Most of the time not. Until they get smacked on the melon with a flying board. Then they go, “oh yeah, I see what you mean.” So I decided to investigate what this was all about.
You‘ve probably heard about concussions often in contact sports like football, hockey, basketball, boxing and more. In man against man competition, they are a constant reality. But in surfing it’s kinda more about man against nature, nobody is getting punched or rammed into by somebody else. The danger here is getting nailed with a flying surfboard or getting smashed into a rock or coral reef, even the occasional pier that might get in the way.
The Surfer’s Medical Association states, “Concussions can have deadly consequences for surfers because of the increased risk of drowning during a period of time where the surfer may be confused, disoriented or unconscious. In fact, 8% resulted in near-drowning episodes.”
According to the CDC, 50,000 Americans die from traumatic brain related injuries each day. One in five athletes will endure a brain injury, bringing the yearly total to an estimated at least 1.6-3.8 million. Most can heal if treated properly, but half of these cases remain undetected due to lack of knowledge and education of symptoms. Known as “the invisible injury,” concussions can lead to lifelong ailments such as increased dementia (and like I need an “increase”?), Alzheimer’s, depression and more, as well as changes in brain function if left untreated.
Many athletes hold the mindset of getting back into the competition no matter what they’ve endured. This can be especially true for a surfer who may have traveled across the world to and spent a lot of dinero to ride some perfect waves in some remote location. Studies have shown an average of 55% of athletes neglect to notify their coach of a potential head injury. This would be higher for surfers as very few travel or go surfing with coaches or trainers like in other sports. It’s more like you with a pal or two and that’s it. “Hey Larry, my board nailed me in the head and I am seeing stars.” The normal reaction would be, “hahahaha, do you see Pluto?” Or the more typical surfer, “Ahhh man, you didn’t ding your board did you?” Surfers aren’t the best care givers, trust me.
So now they have this HitCheck, a mobile app that baselines and monitors a persons cognitive abilities. The technology is well received in the worlds of football, boxing and a long list of mainstream sports. In a remote sport like surfing I am thinking it can be a particularly useful tool to have on hand. According to the Director of Campus Recreation at Pepperdine University, Robb Bolton, “It’s a great tool to have out at the beach for our surf team. It’s not as simple for them to access medical care like other teams since they compete remotely in the water.” Pepperdine’s surf team has earned the title of National Champions the last few years and uses HitCheck to keep track of its athletes.
Founded alongside decades of medical research, HitCheck allows clinicians, coaches, parents and trainers to baseline players anytime from anywhere in less than 10 minutes.
The Surfer’s Medical Association reports the most common of head injuries in surfing is direct contact from a surfboard, second to contact with rock or reef. Helmets exist to protect surfers, but you’ll rarely find someone wearing one.
Surfing heavyweights Shawn Dollar, Courtney Conlogue, Mercedes Maidana, Owen Wright, Harley Taich and more have experienced concussions throughout their career.
Santa Cruz big wave charger Shawn Dollar experienced a catastrophic, life-changing accident during Labor Day weekend 2015 off the coast of Big Sur. After hitting the crown of his skull on a submerged rock, he broke his neck in four places and suffered a massive concussion. “My brain looked like I had endured thousands of concussions. I started surfing as a child and you’re constantly getting thrown around in the water and you’re getting little concussions. On top of that, I’ve had about 10 major concussions in my career. Surfing is a contact sport,” said Dollar.
One of the most important lessons an athlete can learn is to be up-to-speed on what a concussion can look like. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms include ringing in the ears, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, blurry vision, confusion, amnesia and dizziness.
Technologies like HitCheck used at Pepperdine in coordination with brain injury education is bringing changes to remote sports like surfing where an Athletic Trainer or Doctor might not always be around. I would think this is certainly worth looking into for all surf coaches, surf schools and anybody going surfing on a regular basis.
Thanks to Tae Owen at Kafka Media Group for helping me with fact checking this stuff. For more info on HitCheck you can contact them.
What's your most memorable surfing experience?
by Joel "Salty" Saltzman
Corky is the professional writer and I'm just the IT dude, but had an idea that I'm hoping Corky runs with called "Best Surf Stories". Anyone who has been surfing regularly for decades, surely has had some memorable oceanic experiences. I have had a whale's tale nearly knock me off my board. I have seen bails of weed floating by me in the surf. One of my buddies, now known as "Dolphin Danny" was injured after I saw a dolphin jump and land on his back while he was laying on his board. None of that stuff even comes close to my most mind numbing dolphin experience though. I thought this story had been long lost but SwellMagnet Mike just dug it up from his archives. This is a 100% unembellished, true story with witnesses. My regret is that it happened well before all the cameras showed up at the beach. Enjoy, and please share any amazing experiences you may have also had. We love this stuff...
Almost every longtime El Porto local has "met" the friendly Manhattan Beach dolphin pod at one time or another. Perhaps they chose to surface within arms reach or if you were really lucky, shared a wave with you. This is my true story of an event that I will never forget for the rest of my life.
On a warm summer morning nearly two decades ago I decided it was too nice a day not to paddle, even though it was only waist-high at best. The sun was out and the water was so clear I could even see the bottom. All of my friends had already surfed and left the parking lot. I lazily paddled my longboard over and joined a pack of 5 other guys I did not recognize in front of 40th street. It was very inconsistent and mushy except for the very occasional set wave. After 20 minutes of nothing, I had the great fortune of being the only one in the group to spot the best set of the day in time. After paddling out an extra 30 yards beyond the pack, I picked off a 3 foot glassy roller that barely broke. As I approached the pack riding straight towards the beach I was stunned to notice a dolphin was directly underneath me with another 2 flanked on each side of my rail within 1 inch. Initially I was sure that I would hit them but they remained in perfect formation with me in the center. After sharing the wave for about 20 yards with them, I decided to do soft "S" turns only to realize that these dolphins seemed to know exactly what I was going to do before I did. It seemed like they were playing a game to see how close they could come to my board without actually touching it. I surfed with them all the way to the sand without them touching my rails or bottom despite being within 1/2" away the whole time.
Once I reached the shore, I stepped off my board and quickly turned around just in time to see them all do an 180 turn in unison seaward about 5 yards off the beach. Like a golfer hitting a hole in one, I quickly looked all around me to see if someone else had the good fortune of seeing this but no one was hanging around on the beach or in the parking lot. Even though I had decided this was going to be my last wave, I paddled out again just to ask the group if they had seen what I had just experienced. The first guy I encountered responded with "that looked bitchin, dude". Not knowing whether he saw the dolphins or was just commenting on the wave, I said "But did you see those three dolphins". He looked at me and said, "three dolphins? I saw three dolphins on each side of your board with one underneath all the way to the beach for a total of seven". We watched them all surf with you to the shore. At this point two of the other surfers acknowledged that they too had seen this and I wasn't hallucinating. It happened!
Later that morning I told my friends, family, employees and anyone else who would listen about this strange ride. Most of them looked at me like I had been held under water too long. At about 5:00pm the same day, I realized I had no wax for the following morning. I stopped by Beckers Hermosa Beach Surfshop to purchase a few bars. As I approached the counter with the wax, I saw the "that looked bitchin, dude" guy in an animated discussion with the Becker sales manager behind the counter. He spotted me, his jaw dropped like he saw a ghost, and he pointed in my direction shouting "hey, hey, thats the dolphin dude!" We spoke for several minutes about this amazing event regretting that no one had gotten it on film or tape. Anyway, after this experience, I came away feeling that the dolphins were the real El Porto locals. Fortunately for us, they seem much less territorial than we are and obviously enjoy sharing their waves.
Over the years since, I have seen what may be the same pod with an enormous male who I would swear looks and gives me a nod when they pass by as if he recognizes and old friend.
Corky on Skid Row Surfers
by Corky Carroll
I was recently asked to write an advice piece to younger up and coming surf stars on how to avoid the disasters of the big financial fall off when the glory and limelight years of their surfing years come to an end and the prize money and sponsorships dry up. And they will. Kelly Slater may have an argument to this, but that dude is far from the norm and you can’t count on being on the pro tour into your eighties like he seems to be aiming for. Surfing is a young person’s sport for the most part.
With the big wave tour now happening it does open up the door for people being able to compete and draw sponsorships at older ages than before. But still, no matter how great you are at some point it’s going to taper off and come to an end, trust me on this. It was pointed out to me that there are some fairly well-known surfers who are for the most part penniless and living on the streets. “Skid Row surfers,” if you will. So, how to avoid that kind of thing is the question for the day.
Surfing is just like any other sport, so this holds true no matter which one we are talking about. Your big money producing years range from the late teens through mid-thirties, if you are lucky to have a long and successful career. And during those years, especially the middle of them when you are at your peak, it is really easy to think that this kind of income is going to last forever. When you are 25 it seems impossible that you will ever be 45. You are superhuman and life is wide open. This is when you need to also be super smart and realize that, even though you don’t think it’s gonna happen, one day this income is gonna be gone. And what are ya gonna do? It can come as a huge shock too. It can come early in the event of a bad injury or something of that sort. And it is a fact that the big surf companies only want to use the hottest young talent in their ads. Their big market is teenagers, so they advertise to that demographic. As an example, when I was in my 40’s I was still a very well-known surfer. I was in a number of national television commercials, including a series of them for Miller Lite Beer. One day I was out reading for a part in something and I ran into a guy who told me that his son was a pro surfer. I had not heard of this guy and it turns out he was like number sixty something in the rankings. He had a $600,000 a year sponsorship from one of the big surf companies. At that time I was lucky to get a free bar of wax, and I was infinitely more well known than that guy. The key thing was, and is, they want YOUNG people, not some old geezer in his 40’s. I am pretty sure the surf industry has come down a bit in the big money deals for pro surfers too, so if you are fortunate enough to get where you can pull down some big bucks these words are for you. Put a large amount of what you are making now towards ensuring you will be able to survive after the party is over and the lights go out. Buy a home, and if you can pay it off even better. Having a home and no house payment is huge. I can’t tell you where or how to invest, but that is exactly what you should do. My mom always told me to stay away from fast cars and fast women, advice I totally ignored. But, looking back, that is really good advice. I really did NOT need those Porsches and Jaguars that I wasted a ton of money on. You don’t either. If you don’t know where to put your money then find somebody trustworthy who does know and get some help. But don’t just spend it all in a blaze of glory and think it’s still gonna be there tomorrow.
Now, to those who are in the surfing game but not at the level to be pulling in the big bucks. If you plan on staying in surfing after your competitive years then it’s time for you to think of exactly how you are going to be able to do that. This is not easy either. Good jobs in the surfing industry and not as bountiful as they might have been in years past. You need skills of some sort. Can you sell? There is always work for people who can sell stuff. In surfing or anywhere else. During one lull in my life I sold cars for a while. Or another way is to come up with a business that is successful and be your own boss. Don Craig, amazing surfer and cool dude, is a great example of this. For years he was a sales rep for a number of surf companies. Through this he saw and opening in the market that he would plug into, the highly neglected geezer demographic. So he started making “Old Guys Rule,” t-shirts. They went so well it became a super successful company and his years of being a sales rep were over. There are other stories of this same kind out there. Find something you can do and take it from there.
The key thing is just don’t do nothing and think you will be ok later because you are ok now. Prepare now and be happy later. The “Golden Years” are closer than you think and they are NOT at all what they are cracked up
My first leash experience
by Corky Carroll
One of the questions I get asked a lot is about surf leashes. There are many longboarders who do not use them due to the fact that the cord always wants to get tangled around your legs and feet when you walk the nose. But there are also many people who think that everybody should use them for the safety of everybody else. It’s a good discussion and I have talked about it here before, and probably will again. But today I wanted to share with you a story of what happened to me one day surfing the Huntington Beach Pier and how the surf leash came into play.
This was back in the 1990’s and there had just been a couple of lawsuits against surf leash companies because they had got tangled around one thing or another and a guy drowned because of one of those instances. The claim was that they were too hard to get off underwater, especially when getting churned by a wave at the same time. So, they came out with a safety release pin surf leash. It had a little pin with a ring on it that you could pull and it would release the leash from your leg. A friend of mine who owned one of the big leash companies came to me when he had a prototype and asked me to give it a try and see how I thought it worked.
So I used it for about a week and never had a situation come up to try it out. But then one day I paddled out at the Pier in Huntington Beach when a big south swell was running. Big lefts were coming up the beach on the south side and raging through the pier full bore. I had ridden a couple waves successfully and was on one of the bigger ones and entered the pier with the plan to make it out the other side without having to go around any pilings. To do this you have to enter just inside the first piling and have a ton of speed. IF you play it just right you can get out the other side in the same gap between the lines of pilings. But it didn’t go that way. As I was tucked into the wave and fully committed to blasting out the other side, in the same line, I realized that I was not going to make it and it was too late to straighten out to go around the piling that was right in front of me, looming large and full of razor sharp barnacles. So, doing the wise thing, I dove off into the face of the wave. Thankfully I got washed out the other side without hitting anything. And my board did too. The bad part was that my board had gone around that last piling and now it was hung up by the surf leash.
A huge wave was coming and I was getting drug away from the pier by the current, but my board was struck hanging from the piling, the leash stuck on the top of the barnacles as the water sucked out for the oncoming wave. In short, I was in a jam. But then I remembered I had on the pin release and I reached down and pulled it. Voila, it came free and my board dropped from the piling. As it did the nose hit the water first and sprung the board directly at me, the fin making it turn sideways just as it got to me. This made it perfect for me to climb on and paddle as fast as I could to just make it over the upcoming crusher wave that was about to cream me.
As I got over the wave and let out a happy “whew,” there was a guy sitting there on his board that had seen this whole thing happen. He looked at me and commented admirably, “Wow, you REALLY know what you are doing!!!”
All I could do was laugh and say, “Yeah, that stuff happens to me all the time.”
The dude paddled away and I think he thought that I was being serious.
Corky's Time Machine
by Corky Carroll
I get asked often to talk about certain people, events or periods in my surfing life that have stood out to me as meaningful. With that in mind I thought that today I will do a little visit back to the summer of 1963 when I went to Hawaii for the first time and spent a couple of months surfing Ala Moana, on Oahu’s south shore. This was a very meaningful time for me as it changed my approach to surfing and had a lot to do with teaching me how to keep my mouth shut when it did not need to be yapping like it normally did.
Ala Moana is a great surf break, screaming fast left hander with a big bowl section at the end when it’s bigger. I love that spot. Here is a paragraph from my new book, “Not Done Yet.”
“It was on my first day out there that I met two of my all-time surfing idols, even to this day. George Downing and Paul Strauch. The waves were big, bigger than I was used to anyway. And they had the Hawaiian power and speed which was much more powerful and faster than California waves. I had taken off on a big set wave and was screaming down the line going as fast as I could go. All of a sudden I was deep in a very dark tunnel and the wave was roaring over my head like a freight train. I panicked and jumped off, in the process I think I let out a very girlish like scream. George and Paul had been paddling out and saw, and heard, the whole thing. When I came up they were both rolling off their boards laughing. Geeze, how freaking embarrassing was that. Two of the biggest surf stars on the planet having witnessed THAT. Argh! But, to my amazement, when I finished swimming all the way in to get my board, and had paddled back out to the lineup, both of them were super friendly and offered kindish words of encouragement. It was a humbling afternoon to say the least. “
That summer I got to witness first-hand the surfing of some of the greatest riders in the world, ones that I had only seen in the surf movies up to that point. One of them that really impressed me was Conrad Canha. He was known for being able to keep standing through the heaviest sections and whitewaters. He was a kinda bow legged and thick dude and was in his mid-thirties and slightly balding. But it was his “tube riding” that stood out to me. This guy was getting deeper in that bowl section than anybody that I saw for many years surfing there. In a 1967 interview in SURFING magazine Conrad said, “There is a bowl section there, and if your timing is right, you can get locked in. I mean, completely locked in. People can’t see you from shore. When I’m making a ride like that, there is a feeling there that I’m all alone, just me and the wave, and nobody around me. All you can see is just a little hole in front of you. It’s fantastic!” He was kind of a prequel to Gerry Lopez.
Then there was a whole crew of guys who were amazing that you never heard of. Buzzy Knubell and Ivan Vanetta stand out in my memory banks as two of the best young surfers I had ever seen, not sure what became of them but at that time they were A list Ala Moana flyers. Jackie Gonzales too. “Gonzie,” also was a musician and I still remember he had a cool song called “Temple of Colors” that he showed me many years later on the North Shore.
Sometimes Freddy Hemmings would come out, he was close to the same age as me and was already riding big waves out at Makaha. Jeff Hakman too. So many great surfers that it made me realize that I wasn’t as good as I had thought I was before going there. I needed to be quiet and try to stay under the radar, they did not take to loud mouthed California “haoles” who thought they were hot. One day when I was first there a good local guy named Roland Toku aimed a spear at me, this more than less made the point very clear.
So, that summer was a lesson in surfing more powerful waves and going fast which definitely changed my style and approach to surfing. I came home and won the United States Championship in the Junior Mens division shortly after. It also gave me a big dose of learning how to shut up. Of course I still had a big mouth, no mistake about that, just not as big.
Corky on East Coast Legend Balsa Bill Yerkes
by Corky Carroll
This is the story of my pal “Balsa Bill” Yerkes. Bill is as laid back a hard-core surfer as you are gonna find anywhere and has seen all sides of the surfing industry with over 50 years in the business. He is currently 72 years old. Here is how he got there.
Originally born in Mount Holly, New Jersey. He would learn to surf at Malibu when his parents made a brief move to California in 1960, at which time he fell in love with the sport and the lifestyle that went along with it. He went back to the East Coast and became one of the better surfers there at that time, riding boards made by the great Charlie Bunger. Bill also had a knack for photography and started making surf films of East Coast surfing and surfers. He made “How the East was Won” in 1967 and “A Way of Life” in 1968. Many years later he would put together another one, “Summer of ’67.” In 1968 Bill received a degree in film from Ithaca College in New York.
In the seventies Bill relocated to central Florida and became the licensee for SUNDEK, a company known for its bright colored shirts and surfwear. Within a short amount of time he built it into one of the biggest and most sought after brands in the world.
This is where I enter the story. I had met Bill back in the 60’s at some of the surfing events on the East Coast and we had become friends. When I was running the Advertising Department at SURFER magazine from 1976 to 1986 we worked together on the advertising campaign for SUNDEK, and became closer friends. This led to me leaving SURFER and working with Bill for a few years doing “CORKY” clothing and surfboards under the SUNDEK umbrella. We had an office in Capistrano Beach.
I love Bill, he is like a stoked surf gremlin and he is my age. As he downsized with the shrinking of the surf industry at the end of the 1980’s he kept a line of great surf trunks alive under his own name and made screened t shirts for a number of companies in Florida.
He eventually opened a great little surf shop, “Balsa Bills,” in Satellite Beach, Florida where he makes and sells custom made Balsawood Surfboards. He is a master balsawood surfboard craftsman. He is also a great musician, plays the heck of the ukulele, piano and guitar. He worked with the Beach Boys putting together the great coffee table book, “Surfboards, Stratocasters and Striped Shirts.”
If you go into his shop he will most likely be kicked back playing some vintage Hawaiian song on his Uke. He also sells ukes and will be happy to teach you how to play one if you have the time. He goes surfing on his personally crafted wood boards out behind his shop regularly and also makes it to Waikiki every year to hang and surf with the heaviest of the local beach boy crew. Bills vibe and attitude is all positive and all about surf history and respect. He is an astute surf historian, especially on East Coast surfing. A close pal with Murph the Surf, Dick Catri, Gary Propper and the Slater family. Bill gave Kelly Slater his first sponsorship and Kelly’s mom a job working for SUNDEK. I met Kelly for the first time when I was the MC for the “Sundek Classic” surfing event in Florida. He was maybe 10 at the time and winning the “boys” division of the contest. I clearly remember saying on the microphone, “this kid is going to be World Champion one day.” I was right, he did it eleven times.
Balsa Bill Yerkes is a “real surfer,” to the bones. Never won a major championship but has none the less has been a major player and huge influence on the surfing world over the past 50 years. And I am proud to say is my close friend. Not sure why it has taken me th
Lot's of Surf options in the OC
by Corky Carroll
This morning I was sitting here thinking about how Orange County has so many great surf spots to choose from. No matter what time of year it is there is always somewhere to go to catch the swell as we have places that are good on just about any direction of swell. As I was pondering this it also came to me how each of our different areas seems to have its very own personality, or “vibe” as you might want to call it in the hipper vernacular. North county and south county are like the north and south pole, with the other spots like a sandwich in the middle.
Let’s start at the far north end and work our way down. The Seal Beach, Surfside and Sunset Beach area is a little world all onto itself. The surf spots there tend to be frequented by locals and those coming down from nearby Long Beach. As the freeway takes most people going south right past those spots, with the promise of maybe better waves farther along most don’t choose that exit and keep going. You get a definite hard-core small-town surfing vibe there. Locals are fine with you not stopping and happy in their own cocoon. It blows out there earlier than anywhere else too.
Then the greater Huntington Beach world surf center. Make no mistake, this is one of the world’s foremost surfing areas and the vibe tends to be an unusual blend of global and the hardest of core locals you can imagine. The main spot is, of course, the Huntington Beach Pier. Some of the best surfing on the planet takes place each and every day on both sides of that thing. Unknown kids that are groundbreakers are abundant. It’s also one of the hardest places to get a wave you can find. Very aggressive out there. Inked and pierced meanies with red glowing eyes and forked tongues slashing lips like Wearing blenders. I swear I have seen dudes out there with actual horns on their heads, chicks too. It’s a world class stage.
Then you get to Newport Beach, another “off the freeway” and even “off the highway” spot. A ton of great surfers there and a very tight knit surf community. Not hostile, yet “locals” none the less. Surf is fickle, can be great or can be junk. Most that surf there live there or just like that salty beach town feeling. Again, most pass by five miles inland on the 405.
Laguna Beach is in its own totally different world. It is a beach town yes, but not in the traditional sense. It’s more of an art town, combined with great musicians, interesting characters and has surfing and surfers tossed into the mix to add color and spice to the stew. Lots of rocky coves and a few intersecting surf spots, not easy to ride and mostly only by those who are dedicated to riding them on a daily basis. I love Laguna Beach, not for the surfing as much as it just has its own culture.
Then you have the Dana Point area. Not sure how to describe this. It was once the focal point of the surfing world back in the glory days of Hobie, SURFER magazine, Clark Foam and Bruce Brown Films. Very good surf spots that ranged from Salt Creek, Killer Dana (the cove) and Doheny State Park. A lot has changed since then with the addition of the Harbor and all the hotels etc. When it was just Pacific Coast Highway as the main up and down the coast route this was a popular area to stop and surf. Lot’s of great and colorful surfing people lived there. Now it’s kind of one more “off the freeway” area that seems to still get surfed but there is not the hard-core surfing vibe that you would feel farther north, or farther south. A lot of “boat” people there.
Then lastly we come to what I like to generalize as “south county.” San Clemente to San Onofre Surf Beach. Some of the best surf in the world, and certainly on the West Coast, gets ridden along these beaches. San Clemente itself is a lot like Newport Beach in the fact that mostly only those who live there surf it’s beaches. Very beach town. But at the south end you have the great reefs at the “Trestles” and San Onofre spots. The points at “Trestles” will feature the best surfers and best surfing all the time. It’s a showcase for that. Very aggressive, yet with the fact that there are people from all over out there, going for it, there isn’t as much of a “local” vibe as a “top talent” vibe. The good guys rule, period.
And San Onofre is still the good old family surf beach even after all of these years of State Parkage change and all of that. It still has the same vibe as back when I first started hanging out there in the late 1950’s, even many of the same people. A lot of those people were already old back then. Family beach, don’t take offense if everybody rides the same wave. Lots of history there.
And there you have my off the top of my head vibe trip thru O.C. surf areas. I only touched on the main areas, there are other pockets of action
Corky's Annual Tips
by Corky Carroll
Yes kiddies, this is my annual tips column on how to survive going to the beach this summer. This has absolutely nothing to do with Covid 19, by the way. As always, this is aimed at newbies and other non-beach-oriented people who might be a tad clueless when it comes to the hazards to your health from what would seem to be a fun day at the beach. For those of you who have read these in years past, and yes I pretty much say the exact same things every year, I suggest you stick with me and read this one too, just as a refresher in case you forgot any of this helpful information.
First off, and probably most importantly, that big ol' summer sun is not in any way your friend. Yeah, you are looking to put on a nice glorious golden tan and look all cool and weathered in your summer outfits. That’s all good and fine, but you need to do this without getting sunburned, and that is the issue that most people either overlook or are not aware of. Sunblock is your friend, your very very good friend. You will still get plenty tan no matter how much you use, and you should use plenty of it. Put it on at least twenty minutes before you go into the sun and reapply it fairly often. Yeah, it says it lasts all day and is water resistant and all that, but it lies. You need to keep using it, especially if you go into the water. I know that there are some of you with the opinion that you can hang out for a little while, getting “color,” before you apply any protection. This is a really bad opinion because you will burn. I cannot impress on you how important this is. Todays sunburn is skin cancer twenty years from now, trust me on that because I know all about it. Besides that, sunburn hurts. Wear a hat too.
The next thing that is super important at the beach is having a good pair of polarized sunglasses. All those pretty sparkles on the ocean are a zillion tiny mirrors reflecting sunlight directly into your eyes, and yes kids….your eyes can get burned too. And they do. The sand is also highly reflective, just like snow. Sunburned eyes can lead to growths that your eyes form to protect themselves, I know all about that too. I have had the surgery to remove them and I can tell you right now that it is no fun at all. Well, unless you think having somebody cutting on your eyes while you are awake is fun. I, for one, am not into that kind of thing.
In short, the sun that you seek can really ruin your day if you do not know how to protect yourself from its little not so hidden hazards. Another one of these is that as the day progresses the sand gets hotter and hotter. People head down by the water and get a nice spot all set up for the day when it’s still cool. But then later in the afternoon when they pick up their gear and attempt to walk back to the car, or whatever, that stretch of beach between you and it has turned red hot. The famous “burning sands,” called that because they are actually just that, freaking BURNING sands. If you don’t have something to put on your feet you are in for a world of hurt. First you will start to hop, then run, then run as fast as you can while screaming as your feet blister right under you. This, once again, is no fun. And the total idea of going to the beach is to have fun. Getting burned is a bad thing.
Another very bad thing is dehydration. You need to take along water or some sort of electrolyte beverage. Cokes, coffee, beer and everything like that are all dehydrators. If you get dehydrated you will feel exactly the same as if you have food poisoning or what people call “the revenge.” The thing is more times than not when people think they have something like that it is actually dehydration. It is dangerous too as it can cause you to have a stroke, something you really do not want to have happen to you.
So, the quick version is protect yourself from the sun and drink a lot of water. Use sunblock, wear a hat and sunglasses and take along something to wear on your feet for when the sand gets hot.