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!”
Corky on Chris Darrow
by Corky Carroll
On Jan 15 the world lost one of its most influential and beloved musicians, the legendary Chris Darrow. Chis was a heavyweight to music insiders, yet not all that well known to the general public unless you are a real student of musical history, especially folk and what could be called “West Coast Rock.” He was a member of the Kaleidoscope, who Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) calls his favorite band ever, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, the Floggs and the Corvettes, among a zillion others. With the Corvettes he became the band leader and musical director for Linda Ronstadt. He also played with and was instrumental in the development of many well-known artists such as James Taylor, Leonard Cohen, Hoyt Axton and countless others. He is credited with putting Glen Frye and Don Henley together with Randy Meissner and has connections to Zappa, Jim Morrison, the Allman Brothers and way too many more to list here.
O.K., that’s a little background on the dude. Along with all that Chris was my musical sensei and partner for the past 40 years. I first met him briefly when I was working the sound for a Linda Ronstadt concert in San Clemente in the mid 1970’s that was put on by Jim Jenkins from the Four Muses Concert Hall. Then a few years later when I was working at SURFER magazine my pal Rick Griffin, the legendary artist, brought Chris into my office and told me that he felt that the two of us should know each other. Chris had just moved to San Clemente and surfed a little bit. Rick knew that I was into playing music so he figured the two of us could use each other. We became instant pals, many times characterizing ourselves as “Ozzie and Thorney,” from the Ozzie and Harriet T.V. show. I was the surf guru for him and he became my music guru, expanding my scope well beyond what it would have become if not for his guidance. He put together the band for Corky Carroll and the Coolwater Casuals (“Surfer for President”) and introduced me to Mike Nesmith (Monkees) who signed me to his Pacific Arts record label. Mike produced our single, “Tan Punks on Boards,” which Chris and I co-wrote. When we played the Troubadour in Hollywood Dennis Wilson, of the Beach Boys, said that “Mondo Condo,” a song that Chris and I wrote, was one of the coolest he had ever heard and offered to produce an album for us on Brother Records. Unfortunately he died a few days later.
As a surfer Chris caught on real fast, being a super good athlete who had played baseball earlier in life. Our favorite thing was hanging out at San Onofre in the afternoons. We would surf, chit chat with Dorian Paskowitz, BBQ steaks and drink tequila and grapefruit juice that came from the tree in Chris’s front yard. He integrated into the surf scene fluidly. When SURFER magazine resurrected the SURFER POLL and held the awards banquettes Chis put together the house band for those events, the “Hula Buckaroos.”
Chris eventually moved back to his hometown of Claremont. We did a number of gigs as a duet over the years and he played on most of my albums, including the latest one, “Blue Mango,” released on Darla Records. He was a member of our recording band, the Piranha, which also includes Orange County rockers Richard Stekol, Matt Maguera, Matt Marshall, Doug Miller and Brad Fiedel. I am pretty sure this was the last of the many albums he played on over the years.
The last time I saw Chris was in November when my wife Raquel and I went to see him and we had dinner at his favorite Italian restaurant in Claremont. I am still in shock with the news that he had a stroke and passed away. When I just wrote that last sentence I misspelled “stroke,” I put “stoke.” Occurs to me that really would sum up Chris Darrow. TOTAL STOKE, all the time. About now I am sure he is rockin’ the angels in the Heaven Allstars. R.I.P. mi amigo.
For further information on Chris Darrow check out this great piece in MUSIC CONNECTION, https://www.musicconnection.com/chris-darrow-an-appreciation/?fbclid=IwAR3Ech2fJdvCzHf3_lUsrIRp91hv9LvRWdpC0pgDMSu-2FrsYJtaoN5qgFg.
Corky on the Pipeline Chargers
by Corky Carroll
In the early 1960’s the spot known as the “Banzai Pipeline” was board surfed for the first time. It had been body surfed for a number of years but most people thought it was too steep and dangerous to ride on a board. Phil Edwards rode it the first time with Bruce Brown filming. He got one great ride and left it at that. The next day John Severson showed up and filmed a session with a crew that included Dave Willingham, Loren Swan, Mike Hynson and Danny DeRohan. This was 1961.
The next winter more people started surfing it and the real standout was the infamous Butch Van Artsdalen, the original “Mr. Pipeline.” Butch was a fearless goofy-foot from La Jolla and took to the place like a fly on honey. A shot of him getting a perfect tube ride in which he would wind up sitting down at the end and rubbing his hands together made all the surf movies and is a huge part of surfing history.
In the next few years there were a number of guys who rode the place well including John Peck and a little-known guy named Mike Turkington. John was the first “regular foot” (left foot forward) to really excel backside in the cavernous barrels that made the place famous. I rode it for the first time in 1963 on my 10’ Phil Edwards shaped Hobie. From the first scared outta my mind wave I fell in love with the place. It remained my favorite surf spot up until the time I rode “Restaurants” on the island of Tavarua in Fiji. I was older then and the dangers of getting pounded at Pipeline were getting too great for my older body
Going into the mid to later 1960’s the duo of Jock Sutherland and Rory Russell took over and ruled the spot. There were others, but these guys were the top dogs. Also of note were a small crew of chargers from the Huntington and Newport Beach area that included Sam Hawk, Craig “Blind Owl” Chapman and George “Little Weavo” Weaver. These guys were the guys that were out there on giant days when nobody else was either around or wanted to paddle out, after the crowds and cameras left the beach. They held an “Expression Session” one year and Sam Hawk probably would have won it if it had been a competition.
Then came the era of the all-time King of the place, Gerry Lopez. I am pretty sure it can be agreed that he ruled it like no other ever did or ever has since. He was and will always be, well never say never because you “never” know, THE “Mr. Pipeline.” First Butch, then Gerry. Only two on record.
How can I describe Gerry at Pipeline? The best and most stylish Bull fighter ever going against the biggest, most gnarly and angry bull? Kinda like that. He just got steeper and deeper than anybody and did it with a totally relaxed style that made it look a lot easier than it really was. Gerry was the surf photographers dream child and all the movies and mags were full of him way back inside screaming tubes and flying out with a little grin on his face like he just got away with stealing a cookie from the plate when mom wasn’t looking. The dude was the best, period.
As the 1970’s came in there were a few other standouts which would include Jackie Dunn, Jeff Crawford from Florida and Joey Buran. These kids could all hold their own out there and held respect in the lineup. Commandos of the early years, first decade if you will, of surfing the Pipeline.
Now I watch the new crew out there and am amazed at how steep they can take off with the new equipment and how fast they go. Guys like Kelly Slater and John John Florence who just defy gravity at times and I find myself continuously letting out loud “wows.” But these are no greater reactions than the same ones we all had from watching Butch Van Artsdalen, Jocko, Rory, Sam Hawk and especially Gerry Lopez.
Corky's Fake Surfer Magazine News
by Corky Carroll
Ah, the wonderful world of media. I learned the hard way, when I was very young, that just because something is in print does not always make it true. Stories are told from the angle of the person who is telling the story and from what they personally feel is true, which many times is not the same angle that many others feel is factual. It’s the nature of the beast. In recent years this has come to light more and more in world news. But, in the surfing world, I have to admit that most people believe what they read. I have had issues with so many things printed over the years that it would take a year of columns to get into half of them.
With that said, I fully admit to having played a part in a couple of classic “fake news” surfing myths back in the great yesteryear. The first was the great “J.J. Moon” caper. There was, still is actually, a great dude who wrote a handicapping column for the horseraces back in the 1960’s. He went under the name J.J. Moon, and his column was called “Moonshots.” This guy also surfed and was pals with Joey Cabel, Mickey Munoz and other surfing big wigs of the time. They got together with John Severson at SURFER magazine and put together a great spoof on the surfing world. SURFER did stories on the great legendary eleven toed heroes’ hero, J.J. Moon, the only man who could “hang eleven.” This totally ballooned into a J.J. Moon fan club, t shirts, towels, membership cards and the whole nine feet. There was one story called “Corky vs J.J.” It was supposed to be a debate, but it was mostly both of us praising the great Moon and how he was secretly the best surfer in the world. It was huge. In fact, I used the “J.J. Moon Corporation” as a credit reference on the application for my first credit card, the address and phone number was the Chart House in Newport Beach. When they called he actually happened to be there, and they put him on the phone. He told them I had unlimited credit with them. I got a gold card right off the bat, I think I was like 18.
In later years, when I was working at SURFER magazine myself, we pulled off, to a much lesser degree, the same sort of mislead. One day our photo editor was going around the building with a great surf photo that they wanted to print, but had no idea who it was. He as asking all of us if we had any idea. This sparked the conversation about all the unidentified great photos that we had in the files. We were all sitting in the coffee room talking about this when the idea popped up, and I am pretty sure it was mine, to make up a name to use whenever we had a great photo that could not be identified but was too good not to use. We came up with the name “Lucas Bowels.” If memory serves me, which is hardly ever the fact these days, the guys involved were Jim Kempton, Guy Motil, Tom Servais, Jeff Devine, Art Brewer, Warren Bolster and myself. I am not sure if we told Steve Pezman, our publisher, or not.
For a couple of years Lucas Bowels showed up in the occasional great photo. Sometimes he was mentioned as one of the guys out on some particular day or session, or in some gossip news thing in the “Pipeline” section. Stuff like “the great Lucas Bowels sat in on guitar with the band” at some big party. Just enough to establish him as a part of the surf world at that time, thinking this was late 1970’s. We even nominated him on the ballot for SURFER POLL one year, and he got votes. The only person to ever actually question it was a local guy, who was an excellent surfer and unhappy that he had not been nominated. He, and I am not going to name him, came in one day and voiced his displeasure, which included a “and WHO is this Lucas Bowels guy anyway?”
At that point we stopped doing it and just let the myth of Lucas Bowels fade away. But for a couple of years he was alive and shredding all over the world and nobody was the wiser.
If a few surf dudes with a sense of humor could pull of J.J. Moon and Lucas Bowels, what in the heck do you think those dudes at CNN and FOX could be up to??? The ONLY place you can come to for real stuff is right here folks. Really.
Corky on Tim Dorsey
by Corky Carroll
Last night I was sitting at the dinner table with a couple of visiting surfing guests and my neighbor, the legendary surfer/lifeguard Tim “the Iguana” Dorsey. For those of you who don’t know about Tim let me give you a little background. Tim was one of the top surfers in the late 1950’s thru the mid 1960’s. He was a big wave rider on the North Shore and appeared in many of the early surf movies. He was a member of the United States Surf Team for the 1965 World Championships held in Lima, Peru. Tim is from Seal Beach and eventually became the Chief of Lifeguards there for his whole career. He is world renowned for his achievements in the world of Lifeguarding. The dude is also a great storyteller and loves to talk, to the point where sometimes I have a hard time fitting a word in here or there. But he is so good at it that most of the time I just enjoy kicking back to see what he says next, sometimes there is even a tiny shred of truth in whatever tall tale his is spinning. Sometimes, not always though. But either way he is always super entertaining and beacon of light.
So, there we are sitting around the table and Tim is telling these guys about many of the well-known surfers and surfboard builders back in “the day.” Whenever I hear the term “in the day” I always wonder what day they are talking about. But, anyway, Tim is talking about early surfboard builders in Orange County such as Richard Harbour, Joe Quigg, Wardy and on and on. Then he brought up Gordie. Gordie, a.k.a. Gordon Duane, made surfboards in Huntington Beach and was sort of a character in his own right. He had a tendency to be a bit of a grouch, truth be known. And this reminded me of one of my favorite Iguana and Gordie stories and I had to tell it, and am going to tell it to you now.
Tim was hanging out down at Bolsa Chica State Park one morning and after surfing was sort of holding court to a number of admiring surfers who were stoked to be in the presence of such a legendary hero as Tim Dorsey. Tim was happily regaling them with colorful story after colorful story when he spots Gordie riding his bike up the bike path next to the beach. He points to him and tells his flock of followers, “hey, here comes Gordie.”
They all look and one of them asks, “wow, do you know Gordie?”
Tim says, “sure I know Gordie, come on I’ll introduce you guys to him.”
So they walk over to the bike path and Tim waves Gordie to stop. Gordie takes off his glasses, looks at Tim and gruffly says, “yeah, whadda ya want?”
Tim replies, “Hey Gordie, it’s me…. Dorsey.”
Gordie looks Tim up and down, spits, and says, “You ain’t Dorsey, the last time I saw Dorsey he was looking good, you look bad.” And with that he turned and rode off on his bike.
At this point all of Tim’s former admirers turned on him.
“You don’t know Gordie.”
“You are not even Dorsey.”
“You are just an old fake; you should be ashamed of yourself.”
And with that they walked off giving him dirty looks over their shoulders. Poor Tim was left standing there by himself muttering, “Hey you guys, I really am Dorsey, honest.”
I love that story, mainly because Tim is my best friend and we have a tendency to enjoy laughing at each other as much as possible. And this little encounter just perfectly sums up the personalities of these two Orange County surfing legends. Tim is all light and peaches and cream while Gordie had a touch of chili pepper in the mix. Both of them are Classics and part of our local surf lore.
Corky on Changes in Surfing over the decades
by Corky Carroll
I can’t believe another whole decade has gone by. What I really can’t believe is that it’s gonna be 2020 and I am gonna be alive to see it, unless something unfortunately unexpected comes up between now and the first of the month. You never know. I always said the only thing golden about the so called “golden years” is our teeth.
But there actually is something else golden. It’s our memories. Well, if they are still there, anyway. I have a ton of them and they have become much better over the years as they have had time to mature and grow colors and lots of leaves and flowers on them.
With this thought in mind I figured it would be a good time to reflect back on the past 65 years that I have been surfing. I rode my first wave on a surfboard in 1955 in front of our house at Surfside, at the far north end of Orange County. I got my first board for Christmas in 1957 and grew up surfing the local beaches from Seal Beach to San Onofre.
When I started, all the boards were made of wood. It was mostly balsa wood at that time, although there were some with redwood still lurking around, especially at San Onofre. My neighbor, the infamous Tim Dorsey, started on a hollow paddleboard with square rails and no fin. That was also 1955.
Two things happened at the end of the 1950s that changed surfing radically. The first was the invention of polyurethane foam boards by Hobie Alter and Grubby Clark. This made the boards light enough that just about anybody could carry them and surf on them. My first board was wood and weighed three pounds more than I did. Foam boards opened the doors to just about everyone.
Then the movie “Gidget” came out in 1959 and surfing just exploded. All of a sudden surfing went from this thing a few lunatics along the California coast and in Hawaii did to a full blown “fad.”
The period starting with foam boards, say 1957 and on, is generally considered the “modern era” of surfing. The first big surfing event in California during this period was the West Coast Surfing Championship held at the Huntington Beach Pier in 1959. This grew into the United States Championship and then, eventually, into the U.S. Open of Surfing. The Makaha International in Hawaii already was going before that.
These were the beginnings of what has grown into a huge International sport that will be in the Olympics for the first time in 2020. I didn’t think that was ever going to happen.
The next huge transformation in surfing came in the years between 1966 and 1972, when boards went from long to short. This period is commonly referred to as the “shortboard revolution.” This equipment refinement totally changed the way we surfed and pretty much the way we even thought about approaching waves.
I am not sure how to explain this so most people can understand it, but before the boards got small it seemed like we were riding the board, which was riding the wave — it involved more thinking about what we were doing with the board. When they got small, it was all about riding the wave and being one with the board — like the board was part of our body and not something separate.
Some of us were making a living as pro surfers back then, although the income was nowhere near what they are pulling down today. Things started to change in that regard when they started the worldwide pro tour in 1976. People who came along during that era claim this was the start of “pro” surfing. I beg to differ on that one — we were getting paid and there was prize money well before that. But, that said, this was the forerunner of where professional surfing competition is today.
A lot of great surfers have come and gone over these 65 years. Just to name a few of the great ones that I have respected: Phil Edwards, George Downing, Paul Strauch, Mike Doyle, Mickey Munoz, David Nuuhiwa, Mike Purpus, Jock Sutherland, Gerry Lopez, Nat Young, Shaun Tomson, Peter Townend, Mark Richards, Tom Carroll, Tom Curran, Laird Hamilton, Kelly Slater and Kai Lenny. Among the women, Joyce Hoffman, Linda Benson, Margo Oberg and Lisa Anderson would qualify. There are so many more and not enough space, but these are just a few that stick out as being elite surfers.
I haven’t really had the chance to see many of the top ones lately. But suffice to say a lot of great surfers have come and gone.
Surfing also has changed a lot through this years — from charging along in a good “hood ornament” stance to getting huge airs and riding close to 100-foot waves. The equipment and surfing are just amazing these days too.
So, here we are at the end of another decade and heading into the 2020s. Normally my resolution at this time of year is to lose weight and keep surfing. This year I am gonna forget about the losing weight thing, who cares. My new goal is to be still surfing every day and writing these columns when it’s time to start the 2030s.