by Corky Carroll
It seems like just the other day when my pal Terry Tracy passed away, but it was over eight years ago (August 2012). Known in the surfing world simply as “Tubesteak” the dude was just one of those great characters that loomed bigger than life and is a huge part of the history of the surfing culture. I get a lot of email with questions about this or that, mostly “I weigh 580 and am wondering if a 5’2” fish would be a good size for me to learn on?” kinda stuff. But this morning I got one asking if I knew anything about “some guy they called ‘Tubesteak’ up at Malibu.” So I thought it would be cool to remember him today, mostly for those who do not know about him and his place in surf lore. I had written a piece about Tube right after he passed away and went back and took the following tid bits out of that to offer up to you now, I don’t think I can say it better than I did then.
Tubesteak was like the King of Malibu in the 1950’s, or maybe more like the “Mayor of Malibu.” He was a very good surfer to be sure, but not the best. That would have been Mickey Dora, Dewey Weber, Doyle and Munoz. But Tubesteaks stature and presence was HUGE. He was like the main man on the point. At one time he built a little shack near the famous “pit” and lived in it during the summer. He is the guy who gave Gidget the nickname “Gidget.” As we all know her father wrote a book, which became the 1959 movie that started the whole surfing fad of the early 1960’s. In the movie Tubesteak was portrayed by a character called “Kahuna,” and played by Cliff Robertson. That one little Tubesteak spouting of “you’re not a girl, you’re a midget…. A girl midget. A Gidget,” was the spark that set the whole surfing world ablaze.
I loved the guy. I don’t remember when we became friends, but it was sometime in the early 1960’s. Mickey Munoz used to take me to Malibu with him sometimes. I got to meet the “in” dudes of that time through him. Munoz was as “in” as you could get. I remember the first time I met Miki Dora. He was coming out of the water and I went up and gushed over his surfing. He simply asked to use my towel, which I eagerly handed him. He blew his nose on it and handed it back to me with a very sincere sounding, “thanks kid.” I didn’t know if I should toss it or hang it on my wall.
Tubesteak was a wonderful guy. He had a way of making you feel like his best friend even if he hardly knew you. I think that I was probably one of his thousands of best friends over the years. We used to go to the racetrack together a lot. When we first went he offered to teach me the ropes on how to play the ponies. I had a sort of “study the racing forms and experts picks” method. He had a different one. It cracked him up that I won more than he did. He told me I was just lucky because I knew absolutely nothing about horse racing. He could chop you down and build you up at the same time. A rare gift in a person.
In his later years when his feet got bad and he couldn’t surf much anymore he still was a major light on the beach at San Onofre Surf Beach. He had a big chair and an umbrella and all day long people would stop by and be entertained by his words, views and just great sense of humor. Tubesteak held court. To be granted visitation next to his beach chair was an honor and privilege. There is a famous photo of Tube sleeping in that chair with a sign on his chest saying “wake me up when it’s lunch time.” Vintage Tubesteak Tracy.
The name “Tubesteak?” Hotdogging was big at the time in surfing and a hot dog was referred to as a “tube steak.” That is one version. He had another one that I am not gonna pass along. But it is a fact that Tubesteak was a lifetime hotdogger, both in surfing and in life. A legends legend.
Ah yes kids, another little stroll down surf memory lane. Stay tuned, ya never know what’s comin’ next.
by Corky Carroll
This is the time of year when people like to recap the past year, forecast what is to come going forward and just make general comments on the state of things at this moment when the calendar is flipping over to a new year. As we all know 2020 was so far far far from being a good year for most people, and the world as a whole, that to give it an honest recap would be a whole lot of negative stuff. So, thinking I might take the high road, maybe I should just go ahead and talk about all the great stuff that happened this past year. I sat down and turned on my laptop and pondered where to start. After a little while I had to just go…….. naaaaaaaaaaahhhh. Not enough material.
I do my best to stay away from politics and world events, it’s not my area of expertise. So, in an effort to not get zillions of pro or con emails, I will just say thank you to President Trump for the good things that he did and for also the entertainment value that he provided with all his unbelievable comments these past four years. I say “unbelievable” because they were just that, but darn funny. I am still laughing at the “border wall in San Antionio” one. And I would also like to welcome in our new President and wish him good luck and a safe journey through very challenging times. There, that’s my political message in a nutshell.
Now, the big story. Freaking Covid 19. My arena is surfing, beach lifestyle and culture. This horrible virus has changed all of our lives in so many ways and its effect on the surfing world has been severe. Although probably not as severe as in many other areas of life and the economy. Surfers just seem to find a way to keep on keepin’ on no matter what. World on shut down, everything closed, stay at home and lock your windows and doors order in full swing? Thirty people in the lineup like it was all good and fine, no problem. People found a way to surf through all of this, good or bad. Yes, sometimes this did cause a bit of a rift between those who were good citizens and went by the letter of the law, or wishes of the establishment so to speak, and those who have never done that and just went surfing anyway. Are these the same ones who see a No Trespassing sign and immediately figure there are good waves in there and find a way to sneak in?
I was one of those who tried to be good and did what I was told, totally going against my nature in the process. I would see all these dirty scoundrels out there catching great waves like it was safe of something and it would make me angry. But, as I thought about it I realized that it wasn’t so much anger as it was jealousy. I wanted to be out there too. But, I also wanted to live to ride another day. At my age and with my health issues it did not seem wise to take the chance.
My year was not the best health wise with heart issues and back issues and the knack for maintaining a full complement of baby fat. But, that said, it was also a great year as I got to spend almost all the time together with my beautiful wife Raquel. And I got to spend tons of time working on music when I would have been surfing those hours instead. Now, if only venues would open up again so I can get out and play some of this stuff.
The surfing year kinda ended with the running of the “Pipeline Masters” event on the North Shore. No spectators allowed on the beach. At least it wasn’t in a “bubble” like the NBA playoffs that my LAKERS won. The semi final heat between John John Florence and Kelly Slater was great to watch and a perfect social indicator. Florence was winning the heat and it was all but over, Kelly had no way to come back and win it in the final seconds. A small wave came along and Kelly went to take off and waved John John into it with him to go in on. This created an “interference” call on Slater. But it didn’t matter at all. None the less TONS of people started blowing up social media saying Slater burned Florence and all this blabbering about it. People take this stuff way to seriously. Those dudes are pals and it was a nothing thing at all. But to zillions it was a major issue. Folks, there are way more pressing “major” issues in play than that. How cool is it that a dude 48 years old is successfully competing at the top level of his sport?
So, to wrap up this babbling and that year, I just wanna say that I am hoping we all have a much better 2021. I hope at this time next year this virus thing is in the rear-view mirror and we are going out to eat, to sporting events, to hear live music (me I hope) and to be getting back to at least a cleaner version of B.V. (before virus). Here’s to “FUN IN 21.”
Back at ya...
by Corky Carroll
Today I thought I would share a little inside story with you that happened some years back. Surfers, in a way, are like chicks. They can be “catty.” This little episode started way back around the beginning of the 1960’s and involves some of my closest friends, Mark Martinson, Bill Fury and Robert August. Robert and I became very good friends as time went on but it wasn’t always that way. One day I was hanging out at “Water Tower” with Mark, surf was pretty good and there was a good-sized group sitting on the beach after surfing. Robert and Fury where there and Fury had a new board he had just got from Dewey Webber. I was about 12 at the time and was stoked to see them as they were already the “hot surfers” in the area and Mark and I were just up and coming gremmies. They would have been about 16. I remember Robert drove a cool light blue ’57 Ford station wagon. When they went out to surf both Mark and I watched them to try and pick up new moves or whatever.
When they got out of the water I asked Fury if I could try his new board and he handed it to me and said “sure.” He was always a very nice guy. I went out and rode a few waves and came in. His board was a lot longer than what I was riding and I had a hard time turning it. When I gave him the board back I said, “it feels like a great board but I am not used to one so long.” Then, right in front of the whole group gathered on the beach, Robert says, “Naw Carroll, you are just too crummy to ride it.” (note: he used a stronger word than crummy.). The whole group kinda went “whoa, Robert August just dumped on Corky.”
I was mortified. I walked the block up to my house in tears, Robert August had just crushed me in front of everybody. My mom saw my face and asked what had happened. I told her and she tried to comfort me, but I took it really hard. The old saying “childish cruelty cuts deep,” was in full swing here.
I was mortified. I walked the block up to my house in tears, Robert August had just crushed me in front of everybody. My mom saw my face and asked what had happened. I told her and she tried to comfort me, but I took it really hard. The old saying “childish cruelty cuts deep,” was in full swing here.
Robert and I were not pals at Huntington Beach High School, he was a senior and student body president when I was a freshman. He wore cashmere sweaters and had all the hot looking chicks; I was a surf rat. It wasn’t until many years went by that we grew to finally be friends, well after our respective surfing careers where in their later stages. Mark Martinson and I had always been close pals and hung out together a lot. One day we were sitting on his deck on the North Shore and that little incident back at Water Tower came up. We both had to laugh about it, but I mentioned that one day I would get even with Robert for the public humiliation he caused me as a kid.
That day came at a big surfing event that we all attended in Florida. Mark and I were both working with Robert August Surfboards at the time and the three of us along with Wingnut Weaver were back there for the event to promote Roberts boards. They had a big VIP tent set up and it was full of all kinds of, well, “VIPs.” I had gone out to catch a few waves on the morning of the finals and was in the tent with Mark when Robert came in and asked if he could take my board out for a couple of waves as he had left his back at the hotel. Of course I said sure. My board was a Robert August Corky Model but it had one of Bob “The Greek” Bolens new Turbo Tunnel fins on it. They are great for noseriding longboards.
So, Robert paddled out and got one of the best noserides I ever saw him get. Hung ten all the way across a long wall. When he came in he walked back into the tent and said, “Great board, not sure about that weird fin though.” PERFECT. So, I deadpanned, “Naw Robert, you are just too crummy to ride it.” (note: the word I used was stronger than crummy). The whole tent let out a gasp, DID YOU HEAR WHAT CORKY CARROLL JUST SAID TO ROBERT AUGUST? OMG!!! A moment of silence. Then Mark falls out of his chair laughing and I am bouncing around lifting my arms in glory. Robert is in total shock. But then he remembers and his jaw drops in disbelief. He gets a huge grin and admits, “you got me, you really got me.” We all laughed about it even though the group sitting there had no idea what that was all about. Just one of those little inside deals. We are all still great pals today.
Surfing's OG legends
by Corky Carroll
This morning I was cruising through posts on my Facebook page and saw one that showed my friend Lisa Peterson with some of her father’s old boards on display behind her. BAM, perfect idea for todays destruction of the English language also known as my column. A look back at one of the greatest legends in the surfing world, Preston “Pete” Peterson, also known as Lisas dad. Unless you are an older and very hard-core surfer you might not know of Pete Peterson, but let me assure you that he was one of the BIGGEST surf stars of all time, and most of it was in the time before there were actual surf stars.
Let’s go back to the beginning. In the 1930’s there was an annual competition held known at that time as the PACIFIC COAST SURFING CHAMPIONSHIP, this was obviously way before the West Coast Surfing Championship began in Huntington Beach in 1959. Pete Peterson won the PCSC in 1932, 1934, 1936 and 1941. He was the pretty much undisputed top dog on the West Coast back then and thru the early and mid 1950’s. When the contests started in ’59 and spread to a whole circuit of events here in California through the 1960’s Pete was still winning trophies as the number one Tandem surfing team (along with Barrie Boehne, wife of Infinity Surfboards Steve Boehne) and in the Masters division.
But Pete Peterson was far more than just a surfer. He was the all time all around “waterman.” He did everything known to man that you can do in the ocean and was great at all of it. My pal Craig Lockwood, the well known paddle board racer, wrote a killer piece in SURFERS JOURNAL back in 2005 that describes Pete really well. “Peterson defined what would become the paradigm of the West Coast’s classic waterman. Peterson’s life and livelihood were the sea. There was no ocean skill he didn’t possess. He swam competitively, surfed, bodysurfed, rowed, sailed, lifeguarded, tandem surfed, paddleboarded, dove hardhat, SCUBA, and free, water skied, did movie stunt work, served as a boat master and marine coordinator for numerous films, designed and shaped surfboards, rescue and racing paddleboards, helped test and later manufactured his friend and co-lifeguard Lieutenant Wally Burton’s pioneering flexible lifeguard rescue tube, designed and built the West Coast’s finest surf dories (molds of which are still in use today), fished commercially, ran a marine salvage business as a licensed skipper and contractor, and designed for this business one of the most sophisticated salvage craft on the West Coast.”
I loved Pete, he was absolutely one of the coolest and nicest people you ever could meet. My first experience with him came at San Onofre in 1958. A couple of pals of mines mom, from down the street in Surfside, took all of us on a “surf safari” down the coast one day in her Buick station wagon. First we surfed at Doheny and then went to San Onofre. The surf was really good, fairly big for us as we were about 10 at the time. I got outside and was sitting for quite a while waiting for a wave, maybe a bit nervous. A guy had been sitting way farther out than everybody else, I thought he was just hanging out and maybe fishing or something. Then a huge set came in and he was the only one far out enough to catch it. He did and went screaming past the rest of us at mock speed. One of the other guys said, “That’s Pete Peterson, one of the best who ever lived.”
A few years later when I was entering all the surf meets up and down the coast, I started seeing him and got to know him very well. He was always nice to me, even during my intolerable loud mouthed brat stage. One of my favorite Pete Peterson memories was one day in the mid-sixties when I was out surfing on a big day at Sunset Beach, on the North Shore of Oahu, Pete came paddling out on his big tandem board with his partner (not sure if it was Barrie but I think it was). Everybody is kinda looking at each other going, “wow, what’s this?” It was freaking SUNSET BEACH on a big day. People didn’t go tandem out there; most people didn’t even go out on a big day. But there they were. To the amazement of everyone they took off and rode a couple of the biggest waves of the day. Impressed the heck outta me, I can tell you that. Even Mike Doyle, the best big wave rider of the time and also known as “Iron Mike” for his all-around water skills, was blown away.
Pete pulled out in 1983. For those of you who never knew about him but are interested in surfing history I encourage you to read up on him. There is a great account of his life at http://www.legendarysurfers.com/2011/01/1930s-pete-peterson-1.html
Stay safe and see ya next time…same Bat time, same Bat channel. (wow, dating myself here).
Best Surfer Gifts
by Corky Carroll
Yes kiddies, it’s that time of year again when many of you are banging your heads against the wall, or some other hard surface, trying to figure out what gift to give to a certain surfer in your life. This pertains to those of you who do not surf yourselves so you really have no idea of what the perfect and desired present might be. Bang no longer for I have come to save the day. Yep, this is my annual list of great suggestions of what you need to bring that big happy smile and, “oh my God, how did you know this is EXACTLY what I wanted?” from that particular surfer.
This list could be miles long but due to the space I have I have whittled it down to a few good ideas in each spending level. Starting off with the least expensive and going up to higher levels. Perfect stocking stuffers and other casual gifts we have items such as surf wax, surf leashes, ding repair kits, hats, sunblock, surf videos and the always popular t-shirts. We all love and wear t-shirts constantly. A hint, get them a size bigger than you think they might wear as most surfers like ‘em a bit baggy. It’s the weightlifters and those kind of people that like them really tight. Surfers like comfort and casualness. Like me, I tend to go for XXXL, even though I am probably a medium. (shut up). Another great gift is a book. Just so happens my new book, “NOT DONE YET,” is now out and available on Amazon. PERFECT gift. Also, I would like to recommend Joey Racano’s fantastic new collection of art, poems and stories called “POETRY OF DRAGONS, Serpents and Sea Monsters.”
Huntington Beach locals all know Joey, he could be found playing music in front of Starbucks most any evening for years. A super talented dude. I recorded on of his songs, “Little bit of Rhythm,” on my Visions of Paradise CD some years back. You can get one of these books direct from Joey at firstname.lastname@example.org. Might I also suggest that you check out www.bluemangosurf.com. There is all kinds of stuff there that would work perfectly for you.
Moving up in price point you could go for a hoodie, Hawaiian shirt (this is mostly for older dudes), board travel bag, surf watch, or even a wetsuit. Wetsuits are great gifts but a little bit hard to buy unless you know the exact model and size for your special surfer. This is an item I would probably get a gift certificate for. Most reputable surf shops that carry a full line or products have gift certificates available.
O.K. now let’s move into the more special and more expensive suggestions. Obviously this would include a new surfboard, or SUP if that is what your surfer is into riding. These cost a lot more but are also something that really is special to give. If you want to really stoke ‘em out, this is a great way to go. What you need to know to get the exact right one is something that you will have to covertly get out of them. Asking their best surf pals is another way to do it. Or there is the aforementioned gift certificate. And again, let me aim you to www.bluemangosurf.com if a custom handmade board is the way you want to go.
Lastly, and for the really over the top mind blowing and only reserved for the most extra special surfer in your life, the ultimate gift is a surf trip. And I have the perfect one for you. Yes, this is the chance I get to self-promote a little bit each year. I offer an all-inclusive surf adventure package to come and stay with me at a perfect point break in the tropics of Mainland, Mexico. The water is always in the low 80’s, air temps high 80’s and the surf is great. All food, drinks, use of boards and personal coaching (if desired) is included. We also have a pool and high-speed internet. Perfect just show up, surf and not have to do anything vacation, tons of relaxing going on. Email me at corkysurf.com for all info. Great for couples too. O.K., that’s the end of my plug.
I hope this helps you out and that you all have an amazing Holiday season. This has not been the easiest year for any of us and hopefully a little cheer will perk life up a bit. Fa la la la LAAAAAAA.
How To Regain Your Stoke
by Corky Carroll
Today I thought it would be a good time to deal with an issue that plagues many older surfers, and some not that old as well. When you have surfed for a reasonable amount of time and have reached a decent level of skills you feel pretty confident that those skills are gonna stick with you forever. But then, for some reason or another, you stop surfing and don’t come back to it for a long time. And when you do there is the reality that the skills you used to have are just not there, or at least not the same. I hear many people saying they don’t want to get back into surfing because they will have to “learn all over again,” and it’s just too hard when you get older. And, for the most part, this is true. You do have to learn most of it all over again and it is hard. No doubt. But, it’s also really fun and very cool to do. Soooo, is it worth it to you or not?
But then there is a completely different way to look at it and this is what I want to bring into the conversation today. Learning all over again is not that bad a deal. I am going to give my own experiences with this issue as an example.
I have dealt with a bad back for decades that just kept getting worse. I have severe stenosis in my L3, L4 and L5 area, plus some other stuff that I never can remember the name of. Over the years I have done little tweaks to it that have kept me out of the water for from a few days up to a few weeks. But I was always able to take it easy and be able to surf again when the current issue eased up. Until I couldn’t. One day I was just standing up on a small wave and I felt it go. It did not get better and as time went by I was trying to come to grips with the fact that I was probably never gonna be able to surf again. Not long before this happened I had the chance to surf with my lifelong pal and mentor, Mickey Munoz, out on the East Cape near Cabo. He was surfing a SUP and surfing it extremely well. He was 75 at the time and he told me that switching to the Stand Up Paddleboard is what allowed him to keep surfing.
So, I gave it a shot. At first I was not loving it. The boards are big and hard to turn and the whole thing was like “learning to surf all over again.” But then it just kinda clicked in one morning that learning how to surf all over again was actually REALLY FUN. Instead of being an old dude with declining skills I was like a kid who was getting better at it each day. I embraced this and started having a blast and learning more and more how to surf on one of these. As I got better I found that it was really fun and the different techniques are really very cool. Soon I was surfing pretty decently and started designing SUPs specially for surfing. Totally a gremmie all over again.
Then a little over a year ago, early Sept 2019, I started having issues with my heart that put me down for pretty much the entire time up until the beginning of October this year. It finally let up enough where I could go back in the water and surf again. But, a year off and with zero exercise during that whole time had taken its toll. My balance was off and I am having to build back up my energy level. I found myself falling off the back over and over. But each day it got a little better and I was falling off less. Turning what could be a very frustrating situation into a positive one I reminded myself of how much fun I had learning to surf on the SUP and that this was pretty much just the same kinda deal, learning yet a third time. In the middle of it I got a new board that is faster than the last one so, at first, I fell off the back even more. But I just had to laugh about it and remember to learn forward more on the next wave. Now I have one month back in the water and each morning I wake up stoked to go surfing. I am 73, way overweight, lack of breath, pacemaker in my chest and just flat out stoked to paddle out every morning. Just like I was when I was 10. Learning all over is not that bad. Those of you who are thinking about it should just give it a go and see how you feel. If nothing else it just is so nice sitting out there waiting for a wave. There is a lot of peace in that.
Corky's Secrets to Longevity
by Corky Carroll
It’s fall and both the air and the water are getting colder by the minute. One of the main health concerns for avid surfers this time of year is taking care of the ears. When it gets colder the chance for “Surfers Ear,” a.k.a. known clinically as Exostoses, is greater and greater. What is this, you ask? It is a boney growth inside the ear canal just outside the ear drum that forms to protect the ear drum from cold and wind. If left untreated it can cause major problems with your ears and if let go long enough could impair hearing. It is a pain in the neck, or head as it may be, as when it starts getting bad water can get trapped inside your ears and wax and crud builds up behind the bumps and you can really irritating popping and plug ups. I have had it a number of times and my savior was Dr. Carol Jackson, who is the leading specialist in Surfers Ear. Convenient that her office, Newport Ear and Balance Clinic, is here in Orange County. Every year at this time I ask Dr. Jackson to give you, my astute and loyal readers, an update this condition so that those of you that surf regularly, as I do, can be more prepared for the upcoming winter season. Here is this years update direct from Dr. Jackson.
When exostoses enlarge over years of surfing to the point of blocking about 80% of the ear canal diameter, they disrupt the ear’s normal protective mechanisms. That’s when plugging and uncomfortable infections, “swimmer’s ear”, can occur. Problems can become frequent, severe, and uncontrolled despite diligent office and self-care. That’s when they should be removed.
The good news is that micro surgical laser-assisted removals are more complete, safe, less invasive, and with less discomfort than ever before. There are no external incisions. With this technique and fifteen-year follow-up, we have found that exostosis doesn’t require further surgical removal. It’s a permanent solution. What’s also new is that a commercial graft material has been developed. It’s helpful in repeat revision surgery where the patient’s own graft donor tissues may be scarred or limited from prior surgery. This assists lining all bare bone canal and tympanic membrane areas after total exostosis removal. With complete lining, most surfers can return to water about four weeks later with precautions.
More good news is that reversible hearing loss from blockages can be relieved by micro removals and office care. And, although permanent partial hearing nerve loss from surfing trauma or board injury adds to noise loss from loud concerts, etc., it can be helped. Advanced technology hearing aids improve conversational hearing clarity with patient satisfaction in over 95%. Many are barely visible, are rechargeable, and link to TVs and cell phones for improved listening.
If you experience ear plugging or discomfort, drainage, hearing loss or dizziness, see an experienced ear doctor, an otologist or neurotologist. They have two years of ear surgery training after ENT residency. Before making an appointment, ask if the doctor uses an office microscope for exostosis and deep cleanings. Ask to see your exostosis on a screen and take or receive a photo to keep. It’s important to understand your ear problems and how to care for them.
The best news is that exostosis is totally preventable by wearing ear plugs while surfing. The strongest stimulus to formation is repeated forceful rush of water against the ear such as when active surfers wipe out. The second strongest stimulus is how cold the water is that slams against the ear drum. Plugs should be comfortable and stay in to block the forceful entry of cold water. Custom vented
or membrane ear plugs allow sound to be heard through them. They comfortably stay in, float, and come in bright colors so are rarely lost in the water. Plugs immediately halt the growth of exostoses.
Ear wax is your friend! It’s a protective water-repellent coating the canal; like the wax you use on a surfboard. Also, it moisturizes skin which is necessary for the ear canal’s self-cleaning function. I don’t recommend Q tips, alcohol or non-prescription agents. They remove too much ear wax and oils. That causes dryness and skin cracking which leads to blockage from dead irritated skin, debris, and dry wax. When water is retained in the ear, evaporate it with a hair dryer or surfer’s ear dryer for use on the go. They’re on the internet and plug into vehicle ports or run on batteries.
For an assessment of the severity of your exostosis or a status check, it’s prudent to see an ear doctor with an office microscope. Also, have a hearing test in a sound booth by an audiologist or hearing professional. “Take care of your ears. They keep you connected to enjoy life!”
For contact with Dr. Jackson and more info go to www.myeardoctors.com
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.