by Corky Carroll
My relationship with the just completed U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach goes all the way back to the first event in 1959. It was called the West Coast Championship back then. In 1961 they changed the name to the United States Championship. Thru the years it morphed into the current title of U.S. Open.
In 1959 I was an eleven-year-old stoked gremmie surfing in my first contest. My dad drove me down to the pier and I gave it a go. First win was in the Junior division in 1963, then Men’s in ’66, ’67 and ’69 along with the Overall title in ’66, ’67, ’68, ‘69’ and ’70. I had a good run.
Thru the years I have watched as the event has grown from those early times of two-day events, always on a weekend, to what has become an enormous surfing extravaganza. Along with the surfing there are all kinds of other events going on and it’s pretty much nonstop entertainment for 9 days.
In recent years I have not been able to go as many times as I might have wanted as I have been spending a lot of time surfing far south along Mainland Mexico. As I have entered the battle with geezerdom I have found that warm water and tropical breezes suit me better than wetsuits and guys with pierced eyeballs running me over.
But this year I really wanted to go. It started with me seeing on Facebook that my favorite band, HONK, was getting inducted into the “Walk of Fame.” I said to my pretty wife Raquel, “Hey baby, Honk is getting an award at the U.S. Open, we should go. This immediately lit the “shopping” light in her head and she gladly agreed.
Our mission for the week was to attend as many of the extremely fun events as we could. Seeing the surfing is always cool, it is mind blowing these days. But it’s all the other stuff that was our quest.
We started our week with a visit to see my pal Nik at “Dirt Cheap Hawaiian Shirts,” in Costa Mesa. We loaded up some very cool gear so we could look good. My entire wardrobe consists of t-shirts and the two Hawaiian shirts I got from Nik a few years ago. Ya gotta blend in ya know. Plus, he carries triple X sizes to fit my cowish figure.
Lookin’ like we belong, our first event was the opening “after party” at Hurricanes on Main Street. As a bonus, my son Clint’s band was playing and, a proud father moment here, rocked the house. Totally blew us away.
Next event was the reception for the Walk of Fame held at Pacific City. It was our first time to go there. I kept thinking that at one time this would have been where the “Grinder” diner was and the old miniature golf course. My dad had a trailer in the old trailer park there after our house in Surfside burned down in ’65. And now, “this.” Incredible. Ran into my pal and long-time rival David Nuuhiwa. How many times did he and I duke it out in the finals at that pier? A lot. Great to see him. The next morning was the induction ceremony, and I got the honor of introducing “Honk.” I always say my favorite bands are the Rolling Stones and Honk, giving Honk the edge cause I know ‘em. In the program there was a photo of an old poster from 1971 of them headlining at the 4 Muses club in San Clemente and April Fuladosa and I were the opening act. Very proud of that.
The next day we got to go to the 25th anniversary induction ceremony for the “Surfers Hall of Fame” in front of Huntington Surf ‘n Sport. This was really sentimental for me as I had been involved with helping its founder, Aaron Pai, get it going back in 1997. This years inductions brought back a flood of great memories of all the amazing surfers who have had their hands and feet enshrined there, many of them my idols. Aaron’s entire family, which has grown into a small community, all surf and they all take part in putting this on. I was so happy to be back there, my wife Raquel said she had never seen me smile that much. Saw so many old pals. This is really one of the coolest events in surfing.
Later that night we went to the Huntington Beach Surfing Association’s annual reunion party. I was totally stoked to get inducted as an honorary member along with my pals Robert Highsmith, Jeff Holland and super surf artist Roy Gonzalez. What a fun night that was and what an extremely fun week that certainly was.
Now it’s gonna take me a weeklong “recovery party” in my Lazy Boy. Awhooo. Boy, 63 years sure went by quick. Seems like just the other day I was that skinny, kinda scared, eleven year old paddling out next to the pier with not the faintest idea of what was about to come.
by Corky Carroll
Wow, it’s hard to believe that 25 years have gone by since Aaron Pai came up with the idea to put together a Hall of Fame for the sport of surfing. I remember it well. He called me and asked me to come down to his store, Huntington Surf ‘n Sport, saying he had something to talk to me about. It was a cold day in January 1967 as we stood in the parking garage under the store and he laid out his plan. He had his concrete guys on hand and they got my hands and feet in a slab right then and there. His vision was to recreate the same sort of thing as was done at Graumans Chinese Theater in Hollywood.
A week or so after that I helped him drag guys out of the Action Sports Retailer Trade Show in Long Beach and into the parking lot to do more of the original slabs. These were laid into the floor in a new section of the store that had a coffee counter and was to be the “longboard” section.
In 2002 the city approved plans to move the Surfers Hall of Fame into a plaza in front of the store surrounding a beautiful bronze statue of Duke Kahanamoku. This was when Aaron began the yearly induction ceremonies that occur in conjunction with the big surfing championship held each year at the Huntington Beach Pier, directly across the street. That year the inductee’s were Kelly Slater, Laird Hamilton, Lisa Anderson and Joel Tudor.
One memory I have of previous induction ceremonies was when I used to be the Master of Ceremony. I always had these long and flowery induction speeches laid out, sincerely assuring Aaron Pai that I would would keep it G rated and not embarrass anybody. So, this one year we were inducting the great Tommy Curran. They had just got his hands and feet laid into the concrete and, while they were waiting for it to set up, I was doing my aforementioned long and flowery dedication to Tom. As he is one of my favorite surfers I was deep into a beautiful and sincere rap, all the while moving around and looking into the different sections of the crowd on hand. Suddenly, not watching where I was going, I stepped right into the fresh slab that Tom had just put his hands and feet into. OMG. One of those perfect “want to get away” moments. Thankfully it was still soft enough to quickly redo. My co M.C. that year was David Stanfield and he happily posed the question, “Gee Corky, do you HAVE to get your feet in here again?” After that they made plastic covers to go over the slabs while they were drying. Corky-proofed ‘em.
Aaron Pai describes this years ceremony as “a dream come true.” Having visited the famous Graumans Chinese Theater as a kid he reveled in the fact that he could put his own hands and feet into the concrete plaques that held the impressions of famous actors and celebrities. And now his vision of the Surfers Hall of Fame is firmly established, and at the 25th year mark he is able to share this with not only the world but also with three generations of the surfing Pai family. I love this part. EVERY member of the Pai family surfs. Mom, dad, all the kids and the kids wives and kids. How cool is that. And they are all part of this and will be on hand August 5th.
The ceremony is free to the public and a great event to witness. Tons of great surfers and surfing celebrities will be on hand to meet. If you are in the area and a surfer then this is a must do.
This years induction ceremony will take place on Friday, August 5th at 9 A.M. at the Surfers Hall of Fame plaza at the corner of Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway, directly in front of Huntington Surf ‘n Sport. The inductees are big wave charger Peter Mel, legendary surf adventurer and boat caption Martin Daly and the surfing world’s favorite mom, Michele Turner. They will join a list of the biggest names in surfing history including Kelly Slater, Andy Irons, Mike Doyle, George Downing, Linda Benson, Margo Oberg, Joyce Hoffman, Mickey Munoz, Phil Edwards, Tom Curran, Robert August, Bud Lamas, Shawn Tomson, Mark Richards, Hap Jacobs, Leroy Grannis, Gerry Lopez and more. With Peter, Martin and Michele the list will now stand at 90 members of the Surfers Hall of Fame.
By Corky Carroll
It’s that time of year again leading up to the big mid-summer surf contest and all of the activities that go along with it, such as the “Surfers Hall of Fame” induction ceremony. This year marks the 25th anniversary celebration and will be held on August 5th at 9 A.M. in the SHOF plaza in front of Huntington Surf ‘n Sport at the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Main Street in Huntington Beach.
More on the ceremony in my next column. Today I want to talk about this years inductees. Big wave charger Peter Mel, Surf Adventurer and Explorer Martin Daly and the whole surf worlds favorite Main Street Mom, Michele Turner. I told you all about Peter Mel last time, today is about Martin and Michele.
Aaron Pai, the founder of the Surfers Hall of Fame, and his selection committee did some “out of the box” thinking this year and came up with two people that are legendary in their particular spheres although not too known to the general public. Kinda of a refreshing change to the normal super famous surfers who are normally on the induction list.
Martin Daley is without a doubt the most experienced and heralded boat caption in the known surfing world. Australian born surfer and diver Martin moved to South East Asia in 1981 to work marine diving jobs. Over the course of then next decade or so he bought a broken down boat, fixed it up and semi renamed it the “M.V. Indies Trader.” He and that boat are responsible for exploring and discovering more amazing surf breaks that anyone ever has or most likely ever will. He has taken thousands of surfers on dream voyages to exotic and secret waves located far off the known surf map.
Watch for our new line of Corky Carrol T-shirts coming early next month
Hired by Quicksilver, and supported by the United Nations, Martin took on the seven year mission of a surf adventure around the world finding new spots and checking on coral health. This little trek resulted in visiting 56 countries, 4 territories and the discovery of 115 new surf breaks. 160,000 nautical miles all in all. This is like going around the world 8 times. An Amazing feat.
Not only is Martin “THE Capitan,” but he is also recognized as an amazing big wave charger and expert surfer. If you aren’t a very hard-core surfer, and pretty much even if you are, I doubt you would know about Martin Daly. It is to the credit of SHOF to shed some light on a person well deserving the induction who didn’t get there thru the normal way in the limelight.
The other inductee this year is all of our favorite surf mom, the iconic Michele Turner. How do I tell you about her? For decades Michele has owned and operated the “Sugar Shack” restaurant on Main Street in Huntington Beach. She is the mother of two legendary and world class surfers, Timmy and Ryan Turner. Thru the years she has made breakfast for about every famous surfer on the planet who has come through Huntington Beach and befriended probably all of them.
Anybody and everybody who comes to town makes it a point to have breakfast with Michele. She is one of the sweetest and kindest people ever and loved by all of us. She raised her two surf boys to be not only great surfers but truly outstanding people. This is another person who is well known within the hard core surf world that would not be known to the gen pop. Well deserving of some love and limelight. Again, the SHOF crew attempting to give credit to admired and respected “core” legends. Good on ya.
Stay tuned for a rundown on the 25th annual Surfers Hall of Fame induction ceremony and the evolution of the incredible “
Surfing Pai Family” next time. Awhoooo!!!!
by Corky Carroll
I just got handed the list of inductees into this year’s SURFERS HALL OF FAME. At the top of the list is one of the greatest big wave chargers of all time, Peter “the Condor” Mel. This dude is a member of a very small group of what I like to call “monster wave riders.” (At this point cue in one of my old songs called Big Wave Rider….”monster walls of water, blockin out the sky…monster walls of water don’t you know that you can die…” sets the tone).
Monster wave riders are the very few insanely fearless souls that chase waves that are bigger than big, the ones that you can only get towed into because they are too big and fast to be able to simply paddle into. Maybe “fearless” is not the correct term, because anybody in their right mind would have to be somewhat scared in that stuff. Some maybe saying “people who know how to deal with fear” would be better. Or heck, go with “fearless,” and figure that they are NOT in their right minds after all. Hence the “insanely fearless” thing.
Big surf ends at about 25 to 30 ft. Monster surf is anything over 30 ft. Peter Mel is a monster wave rider, one of the best to ever take the drop. Laird Hamilton and Kai Lenny are a couple of others in this small fraternity.
Peter was born in Santa Cruz, California in 1969. His dad is John Mel, himself a national surfing champion, who learned to shape surfboards with the legendary Skip Frye in San Diego before moving to Santa Cruz and opening Freeline Surfboards. Peter learned to surf at Capitola, a smaller wave spot just south of Santa Cruz, before moving into the lineup at the bigger wave spots such as the infamous “Steamer Lane” and “Mitchells Cove.”
Some experience on Hawaii’s North Shore and Peter found himself to be high on the pecking order at “Mavericks,” the famed Half Moon Bay big wave spot. Having a speed defined surfing style with his arms pulled back got him the nickname “Condor.”
Although a fantastic small wave surfer, having been a finalist in the 1984 U.S. Championship in the Junior division and winning the 1997 Cold Water Classic, it was the challenge and thrill of the big stuff that drew his passion. In the late 1990’s Peter was a finalist in the K2 Big Wave Challenge, the Quicksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau and the Mavericks Invitational. He also successfully rode what was at that time the biggest wave ever ridden outside of Hawaii.
In 2001 the Condor was part of one of the heaviest surfing adventures ever, the assault on “Cortes Bank.” A small group of monster wave riders, which also included San Clemente’s Mike Parsons, successfully surfed the mysterious “giant wave that breaks in the middle of the ocean” place that lies 150 miles out to sea off San Diego. This, probably even to this day, was one of the most radical over the edge big wave accomplishments ever.
In 2011 he won the Pico Alto Big Wave championship. He followed that by winning the Big Wave Tour in 2012 and then the Mavericks title in 2013. A super successful professional surfing career.
Today Peter is still searching out and charging monster waves around the planet while, with his wife Tara, running the family surf business, Freeline Surfboards, that he took over from his dad. Peter and Tara have a son they named John who is presently making a name for himself on the World Surfing League Qualifying Tour. And just to cap things off nicely Peter was awarded the “Ride of the Year” award for 2021.
Stay tuned for more news on the Surfers Hall of Fame Inductions which will be held on August 5th in Huntington Beach. This year marks the 25th anniversary of surfing’s prestigious institution and word has it that the induction ceremony will be incredible and surf star laden. Peter Mel is joining a lineup of the greatest surfers of all time who have previously been honored during this past quarter century. All that and more coming your way right here.
by Corky Carroll
I just received a press release about a new movie coming out about Lifeguards. Not just any lifeguards though, the ones that work at the worlds most dangerous surf spots. Pipeline, Waimea Bay, etc. etc. These are some of the most skilled water people on the planet and some of the most unheralded.
For pretty much my entire life I have been a surfer, closing in on 70 years in the water. A lot of that time I have been under the watch of lifeguards, even if I wasn’t really aware of it. A lot of the time that I wasn’t, I really wish I was. Even in small surf things can happen. In big surf the chances of something bad happening are far greater and it’s a great thing to have somebody on hand in the event that the bad thing that you never thought would happen, and didn’t see coming, actually does happen. And these things do happen all the time. There is a great line in a Jackson Browne song that goes, “don’t think it won’t happen just because it hasn’t happened yet.”
I have always had tremendous respect for the guys who put themselves on the line each time they jump in the water in life and death situations to save somebody else. Just as with a fire fighter running into a burning building this is serious stuff. And big wave lifeguards don’t have any protection. A movie about these people is long overdue.
Going beyond the fact that this is a great concept for a film is the fact that the people who made this film are the cream of the crop as far as not only being experts at what they do but also lifelong dedicated surfers themselves. Surf Star Marty Hoffman, son of legendary big wave surfer “Flippy” Hoffman, nephew of Walter Hoffman (one of the all-time greats) and cousin of World Champion Joyce Hoffman, is the Executive Producer. The film is made in conjunction with MacGillivary Freeman Films, known for epic IMAX masterpieces as well as some of the best surf films ever made. Greg MacGillivary himself being a lifetime Orange County surf regular. And the film was written by my former college from my years working at SURFER magazine, Jim Kempton. Jim was Editor when I was Ad Director. We spent many a “working” afternoon surfing at Cottons Point and Trestles. It would be hard pressed to arrange a more competent and knowledgeable team to make this tribute to some of the bravest and selfless people on Earth.
“Big Wave Guardians” will be released nationally at the end of June. I got a chance to see a rough-cut version and was thrilled beginning to end. The footage is breath taking. The interviews are fantastic, the whole thing is just amazing. When I finished watching it I sat there flashing back on times when I personally had to save somebody and how hard it was. I am not trained to do it, as with most surfers. But sometimes somebody gets in trouble and you have no choice but to help them. It’s easy to be drowned by somebody who you are trying save from drowning, trust me on that. I will never forget when I was maybe 14 or so and living on the beach at Surfside. My cousin Gracie, who was the same age as me, went out swimming and got caught in a “rip.” I swam out to get her and she was so panic stricken that she just glommed onto me like an abalone and wouldn’t let go, almost downed us both. I had no idea of what I was doing, I just knew that I had to save her. If it were me in trouble I certainly would hope my fate would rest in the hands of one of these people who know what they are doing, and in fact are inventing and developing new and better ways to do it, many times on the fly.
Great subject and great movie. EVERYBODY who sets foot in the ocean should see it. And certainly every surfer. Might want to make you want to stop by that lifeguard tower on the way in and say thanks.
The OG's, Part 2
by Corky Carroll
Last column I shed some light on some legendary surfers who are still with us and that are at least older than I am, and that’s pretty old. I got a lot of great comments on this so today I am going to follow up by telling you about a couple more of these long livers who are beating the odds and livin’ longer than most.
This getting older stuff is not as easy as we would have liked to think when we are younger. Every day is a new challenge to overcome. Just this morning I got out of the shower and was just doing the simple task of putting on my underwear, a seemingly easy thing to do right? Well, my toes got stuck in the leg and while trying to jam my foot through I lost my balance and almost crashed into the floor. Probably would have broken a hip or something that old people do when they fall. But lucky for me I was able to get a death grip on the edge of the bed and swing myself over enough to land mostly on top and saved my frail old body from the hard cold tile floor. Geeze, what now? Gotta sit down to get dressed? Argh. I always say the only thing “golden” about the golden years is our teeth. Those who still have teeth anyway.
Anyway, the guys I am going to talk about today are surf survivors and ones who command my highest respect. Great surfers and great human beings.
First off is a guy who everybody considers to be one of the best to ever ride a board, but also to be “the nicest guy” in surfing. Paul Strauch. Born in Honolulu in 1943, started surfing in 1947 (the year I was born), won the Makaha International Championship as a Junior in 1959 and the mens division in 1969. Also won the Peru International in 1963 and a bunch of other stuff. The dude has plenty of credds. At one time Paul was thought by many to be the best surfer on the planet, a guy who had the rare ability to totally shred waves with radical moves and yet do it very gracefully and with a beautiful flowing style. With all this going for him you might think he would be a jerk, but not at all. Called “the Gentleman” surfer and deservingly so. We all love Paul Strauch. Always has a smile and is glad to see ya (well maybe he isn’t but he makes ya feel like it anyway).
I first met Paul surfing at Ala Moana on Oahu’s south shore during the summer of 1963, my first time surfing there. He and George Downing were out and were very encouraging to this young and brash hoale from Orange County, Calif. We have been friends ever since. He is still surfing great too.
Next up is probably one of the fastest guys to ever surf. Joey Cabell. Another dude born in Honolulu in 1938. Anybody that has ever known Joey will tell you that this guy likes to go fast. On a surfboard, on skiis, in a car…. in any and all ways. Rapid. Yes. he has won plenty of stuff. Like Paul Strauch he won the Makaha International and the Peru International and lots of others including the first Malibu Invitational in the early 1960’s.
Not known for tricks and show off kind of surfing he blew the crowd away by doing a “spinner” in the nose. Totally uncharacteristic of the flowing style master that he is.
He is also known as one of the original owners of the Chart House Restaurants. In Aspen, Colorado he was as fast or faster than anybody on skiis. I was a decent skier myself but would have trouble keeping up with Joey, the guy flew. In Hawaii he rode giant waves from point A to the end in a blur. There are stories about him surfing alone on monstrous days at Hanalei Bay on Kauai going so fast that people on the cliff with binoculars could not pan with him. Having first met Joey at the U.S. Championship in 1963, I have always looked up to him as a person who just did things right and with style. When you see him you have to look fast though, he is gone quickly. The guy has left me in the dust more times that I even wanna remember.
Surfings Real OGs
by Corky Carroll
Today I wanted to share some love for a few surfers that are older than I am and that I have great respect for. Just the fact that they are older is a great feat in itself as I am really old., Comin’ up on 75 in September, how did this happen? So many of the guys I looked up to all my life have already kicked out and are riding the great sea of tranquility in heaven. Seems more by the day. Part of living long is losing most of your pals along the way. That and forgetting stuff.
But today I wanna talk about some people that are still going and are still a part of our surfing community. Long livers, if you will.
What got me going on this was I saw that Reynolds “Rennie” Yater just turned 90. Rennie is one of the great shapers of all time and also a legendary surfer from the Santa Barbara area. They had photos of him surfing in the very first issue of SURFER magazine back in 1960. Always the coolest of people and one that we all like and respect. I first met him surfing at Rincon when I was maybe 13 or so. He was really nice to me and helped me get a few waves. He owned Santa Barbara Surf Shop in Summerland at the time. Today he is still making fantastic boards and tucking into a few perfect waves at the reef breaks in that area, always with a smile and good spirit.
Another golden year charger is Mickey Munoz. I have written a lot about him in recent years but want to include him here as the dude is still surfing extremely well in his mid 80’s. He was the first person I saw ride an SUP really well and it changed my opinion of those as legitimate surfing vehicles. He was 75 at the time and my opinion was he was surfing better then than he ever did back in his surfing prime, the dude was out and out killing it. He is still surfing all the time at his house on the east cape of baja and still killing it. He is my inspiration to keep trying to improve and staying in the water. Mickey has been my mentor for 60 years.
Skip Frye is one of the greatest California surfers ever and is still drawing the cleanest lines in the water most every day near his shop in San Diego. Another world class surfboard shaper whose boards are so coveted that you have to wait in line to get one, IF you can get one. He is 80. Known for having one of the most beautiful surfing styles of anybody and to this day still stands out in any lineup for his flowing and clean line surfing. His style was so good that he was the inspiration for a young Billy Hamilton to emulate. Billy, in my opinion, has the best surfing syle of anybody ever. He can’t be in the story because he is a year younger than me.
Bob “OLE” Olson is now 92. The legendary surfboard shaper and goofy-foot surfer who started surfing at the Huntington Beach Pier in 1946, the year before I was born, and who is still shaping boards and riding waves near his longtime home near Lahaina on the island of Maui. My history with Ole goes back to about 1960 when he was building boards in Sunset Beach, Calif. Not far from my home in Surfside. One day I was in his shop trying to buy a copy of a surfing newspaper that had just come out from his shop manager, Timmy Dorsey. Same dude is now my neighbor at my getaway casa in Mexico. Tim said Ole thought I had “potential,” and wanted to offer me a “team deal” on a new board. I was over the moon. Turned out a team deal was free color, but hey…. I was officially on the team. I saw Ole a few years ago in Hawaii and he took great pleasure into noting how much better shape he was in that I was. We were riding together to a surfboard auction, along with Greg Noll, Lance Carson and Bob McTavish. When we got to the place and they opened the door of our van Ole jumped, should say he “sprung” out, and sprinted into the auditorium. They had to pry the rest of us out, but to our credit none of us needed help walking in.
There are more I would like to mention but am out of space for this week. Stay tuned as I will probably come back to this in the near future.
The First Real Waterman
by Corky Carroll
There is a new movie coming out called American Masters: Waterman – Duke, Ambassador of Aloha. Kind of a long title really, but it hits the nail on the head all the way around. Obviously it is about the life of the legendary Duke Kahanamoku. Well, I guess “obviously” to everybody over a certain age. These days a great majority of the younger crowd coming up in surfing, and in life, are not big on their history. They know who Kelly Slater and Kai Lenny are, but most likely not much from before what is fairly current. So, even though Duke is one of the biggest, most famous and certainly most respected names in not only surfing, but in sports period, he might not be in the known world to your average surf kid on the beach.
The title of the movie sort of says it all. “American Masters.” Duke is certainly a master. “Waterman.” Surfer of legendary status, Olympic swimmer with 5 gold medals and all around waterman of incredible skills. “Ambassador of Aloha.” This is the real bottom line of the story of Duke Kahanamoku, this guy lived the spirit of Aloha and took it around the world with him. He was the most famous and loved surfer/waterman of all time. This movie goes into depth showing what an amazing person he was along with all of his accolades and accomplishments. He was one of those rare people who are just bigger than life and as genuine as they come.
I first met Duke in the early 1960’s when they added the “Duke Kahanamohu all around best surfer” award at the United States Surfing Championships in Huntington Beach. Duke was there to present the award and many of us who were in the event got to meet him. It was pretty cool, kinda like meeting Elvis or something like that. Mike Doyle won it the first year and I won it 5 times in a row between 1966 and 1970.
Then there were the “Duke Invitational” events held in Hawaii beginning in the mid 60’s. The top 24 surfers in the world were invited to compete and for the first time were flown to Hawaii and taken care of with hotel and food etc. We always got to say hi and all that, had our photos taken with him a bunch of times. I was fortunate to get invited to the first seven “Duke meets,” and consider those to be at the top of the highlights of my competitive surfing years.
There were dinners at “Dukes” in Waikiki where he would be there and Don Ho would do a show. They gave all of the competitors these beautiful gold trophies that looked like “Oscars.” It was Duke standing in front of board, an image that became very famous and is now many statues around the world. Duke would hand them out to all of us and always thanked us by name when he gave us our “Duke.” It was like “Thank you so much for coming over Corky, aloha.” I always felt like he meant it.
My best personal memory of Duke comes from one day I was invited to ride out to the North Shore with him, Paul Strauch and Freddy Hemmings in Dukes personal Rolls Royce. I think Freddy drove. Amazing just what a tranquil and sweet person he was out of the limelight. You got the feeling that he really cared about you when he talked to you, wasn’t just thinking of himself or trying to be impressive. Really an easy guy to like. They loved him so much in Hawaii that no matter where he went for a meal it was always “on the house.” Cool side benefit of hanging out with Duke was it always meant free lunch.
“American Masters: Waterman – Duke – Ambassador of Aloha” premiers May 10 at 9 PM eastern time on PBS. The documentary has narration by Jason Momoa and features comments from some of todays surfing greats such as Kelly Slater, Laird Hamilton and Kai Lenny. It is a great film and should be required viewing by every serious surfer under the age of 40 or any others who don’t know the legend of the great Duke Kahanamoku. A beautiful and well done tribute.
It may not end well otherwise
by Corky Carroll
I have been harping on this a lot lately in my social media posts and have mentioned it here before too. But it needs saying again and maybe in a stronger tone, sometimes I gloss stuff over with trying to be glib or non-judgmental. But here it is. There are too many people in the water these days that have no clue as to the proper surf etiquette as far as who has the right of way and who needs to get out of the way. People need to be taught this stuff and I am not sure that a lot of today’s surf instructors are really paying enough attention to that part of the learning process, as well as enough safety guidance.
I watched a guy give a beginning class the other day. He did a great job of telling his group how to pop up, but that’s all he did. He gave them exactly no tips on safety. Not even to cover their head when they fall off, THAT is the one main thing that should always be taught to beginners. He did not tell them anything about what to do if somebody was riding in their direction either.
Over and over, I have mentioned that the main problem I have in the water these days is not with people taking off in front of me, although that happens all the time, but with clueless people paddling out who are so freaked out about getting over the shoulder of the wave that they paddle right directly into my path. Nobody has told them to let the rider go by. They are not gonna die if they have to eat a little white water, even though they think they are. Stop you geeks, let me go by. Argh.
This very thing came to a head at my local surf break a couple of weeks ago. Our first Women’s World Champion, Linda Benson, was visiting and out surfing. Linda is in her mid 70’s and still surfs great. Super cool chick too. She took off on a wave and two other girl surfers paddled directly into her path causing her to have to straighten out. One of the girls panicked and jumped off her board with no attempt to hold on to it. The board hit Linda in the leg causing serious damage. She had to have surgery on it and spend a night and day in the hospital. Three weeks later she is still laid up as it is a slow heal.
The girl let go of her board for no good reason, it wasn’t a giant wave. Obviously, she was not taught what to do and not do. I have had the same thing happen to me many times and it’s always the same story. “Why did you let go of your board?” “I was afraid the wave was gonna cream me.” “It was a two-foot wave, you were not gonna die.” “Well, what was I supposed to do?”
There it is right there…. They don’t know what they are supposed to do. Surf teachers out there, do your jobs. Friends of beginners, take the time to educate them before they kill somebody else.
There are more people surfing today than ever before. Way more girls for sure, many starting when covid hit and the gyms were closed. I am sure that most did not take lessons. I wish people would realize that some simple early-stage help would go a long way to not only providing themselves with a better experience but also to save others the problems caused by those out there who just don’t know what they are doing.
TAKE LESSONS. And all of you surf instructors, and so-called surf instructors too, pay attention to all phases of learning. Safety first. Etiquette too. Skills yes, but being smart is better than being hurt or hurting somebody else.
I am gonna say this one more time too. If you are paddling out and are in the path of an oncoming rider it is your responsibility to get out of the way. If you can make it over the shoulder without impeding the rider, then great. But if not then you must stop and let them go by. And by all means DO NOT let go of your board where it can hit somebody. Hold on to that sucker with all your might. The head that you cave in might be mine and that is a huge NO NO.
Working isn't so bad!
by Corky Carroll
One of the more common questions that I get asked is what it was like doing the Miller Lite beer television commercials back in the 1980s and ’90s — and more specifically, how did I get involved in that in the first place.
For me, this was one of the best parts of my career and a period that I look back on with great memories. Plus, it was the most money I had made in my entire life.
For those of you that are too young, or just don’t remember, at one time Miller Lite was one of the leading beer brands in the country. This was on the shoulders, at least in part, of a mega-successful advertising campaign that featured retired athletes from different sports. Some of the athletes from the commercials were also part of what they called the “Miller Lite All-Stars.”
I was one of the lucky ones who did both the commercials and was part of the all-star program. That group did personal appearances around the country and were the national spokespeople for the brand. Some of the guys I worked with were Bubba Smith, Boog Powell, Billy Martin, Bob Uecker, L.C. Greenwood, Bert Jones, Sam Jones, Red Auerbach, Jack “Hacksaw” Reynolds and Dave Cowens. It was a very cool lineup of really great dudes who were funny and amazing to hang out with. What Miller Brewing Company looked for were guys that people would want to hang out with and have a beer.
So, how did I get selected for this?
They had a guy in New York that researched sports figures and selected those he thought would fit. As most of the mainstream sports — such as baseball, football and basketball — appealed to the over-25-to-dead market they were looking for somebody to appeal to the “just turning drinking age” group. A surfer seemed a good choice for that. And, lucky for me, the dude doing the selecting came up with me.
Here is how the deal went down:
I was hanging out on the North Shore of Hawaii, surfing and staying with my pal Mark Martinson. One day I got a call from a woman who identified herself as being with an agency in New York and they had been looking for me because they wanted to know if I would come in and read for a Miller Lite commercial. I thought it was one of my friends playing a joke on me — many of my friends are not beyond that kind of thing — and started joking and saying, “Oh yeah, sure … um hummm.” Stuff like that. But after a few minutes I realized it was on the up and up.
She asked me if I could be in New York the next day. I said no, the surf was really good right then, but I could come as soon as the swell went down. Seemed reasonable. So, she told me to call her when I was ready and she would have a ticket waiting for me at the Honolulu airport. Two weeks later I flew to New York and tested for the commercial.
I thought I did a pretty good job and went home more or less expecting the call to shoot the spot.
After three months went by, though, I pretty much figured I didn’t get it. But then one afternoon I got the call to be at the Beverly Hills hotel the next day for “wardrobe and contract signing.” They would shoot my first Miller Lite commercial the day after that.
Wow, I was on cloud 376. I didn’t even bother to ask how much I was getting or anything like that, I just figured whatever it was it was gonna be a whole lot more than I had in my account at that moment. And I had no idea this would lead to a series of commercials and 11 years under contract with the Miller Lite All-Stars. To be continued...