by Corky Carroll
By now I am sure most, if not all, of you have learned of the passing of the legendary surf guitarist, Dick Dale. He left us on March 15 after many years of poor health and fighting cancer a number of times. The guy is a huge part of surfing, music and Orange County history and was a pal of mine since the early 1960’s. So, I thought today I would stroll through some of my “DD” memories, as ancient as they may be, and give some thought to how his life crossed with mine and his effect on our culture.
I first became aware of Dick Dale when he was the headliner at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa back in the early 1960’s. I was just going into High School at Huntington Beach and becoming more and more aware of my growing attraction to chicks. (OK, I realize that in this weird day and age you can’t use certain terms to describe people, so I have no idea if “chicks” is an acceptable term or not, but I still call girls “chicks” and to me it is a positive term, so I am gonna use it.) The big thing at the time was “Surfer Stomps.” These were dances where people would do the “Stomp,” which was a dance that pretty much was just a whole lot of stomping to the beat and not a lot of much else. It was in the early age of instrumental surf music. There was a place in Huntington Beach called Memorial Hall where they held these Stomps every Friday or Saturday night and a few other places around the county. But the main place was the Rendezvous and the big daddy of that music was Dick Dale, he was the King of the Surf Guitar and always has been through the years.
Dick surfed too. We met one night when I was at the Rendezvous and became pals. During his breaks he liked to hang out with the surfers who were in the crowd. I found that a lot of the hot chicks would swoop around Dick and that when he would go back on stage there was ample opportunity to latch onto one of those and this would occasionally lead to a moonlight stroll on the beach and maybe more. I spent many fun nights stomping and strolling to the sounds of Dick Dale.
In later years he opened a second Rendezvous, over in I think it was Garden Grove, and I went to see him one night. I was in the early years of my music career then and he asked if I wanted to “sit in” with him. As my guitar playing at that time consisted mostly of strumming or finger picking chords as backing to my vocals I politely declined. Or, as is more the case, I chickened out. At that stage of my career I had no business on the same stage with Dick Dale with a guitar in my hand.
He always said he wasn’t a guitar player, that he was a “sound sculptor.” I beg to differ; the dude was both and to the ninth degree. That sound that he produced was amazing. The fact that he and Leo Fender had to develop a special amp just to handle the power and volume that he produced speaks, well, volumes. He was an innovator in much the same way as Jimi Hendrix. I loved the fact that with all that punch to his playing that it was still clear as a bell. The guy truly was the King of the Surf Guitar, nobody did it like Dick Dale.
He moved out to the desert and we kept in touch through emails and a few phone calls over the years. He liked to fly and had his own runway on his property. At one time he talked of flying down to visit at my getaway casa in Mexico and there was also a plan to have him do a cameo appearance on my last album, “Blue Mango.” But schedules never lined up and he was also dealing with his health so neither of those came about, unfortunately. Dick had a ton of “stoke” about him, lots of great stories to tell and he was good at telling them. I liked his company and am a big fan of his music. Sad that he left us, but the legend of Dick Dale will never die. I think about now he is waking up a lot of angels with that machine gun double picking.
CORKY CARROLL firstname.lastname@example.org
by Corky Carroll
I just got the news that Gary Propper passed away in his sleep on March 15. If there was anybody that I know that I would not have bet would have gone while sleeping it would probably be “GP.” The dude could party with the best of the heavy partiers. I would have picked him to drive off a cliff going 150 in a Lamborghini with two hot chicks sitting on his shoulders, or something flaming and flamboyant like that. But that is not the story that I will tell you about this dude, because the fact is that he was one of the most important and influential surfers of all time. Gary was the very first international surf star from the East Coast and one of the very best small wave surfers ever. He could ride two foot and under surf better than anybody of his era. In fact, in my life I have only seen two people who could ride surf that was seemingly flat to the naked eye and make it look like it was totally firing. The other is Tom Curren.
I first met Gary in 1964 when I was with Bruce Brown and Hobie premiering the surf film “Endless Summer,” and doing surfing exhibitions on the East Coast from New York to Miami. We had heard about this kid who was reported to be amazing and got a chance to watch him surf one day in Jacksonville. There was no surf that day to speak of, but Gary paddled out to show us what he could do. Rumors were true, he amazed us. He could take off on the tiniest of swells, crank a big sweeping turn and run to the nose, hang ten, run back, crank a big drop knee cutback followed by another sweeping turn and do a fly away kickout. All of this would happen within about 20 feet from the beach on a tiny swell that never ever would break. Hobie liked what he saw, and wheels were in motion to get him involved on the surf team. The next season saw the release of the Gary Propper East Coast model and the Corky Carroll West Coast model. Over the next five or six years we both would do very well with the relationship with Hobie and our boards selling very well. The first couple of years his outsold mine by far, then mine were the big sellers in the later 60’s. I don’t have exact numbers, but my guess is that we both sold upwards of 6000 boards with our names on them from 1965 to 1970. One of Gary’s models was called the “Eastern Star.” That was him, he was Mr. East Coast during the period that saw the biggest growth in surfing ever. And, no matter where the wave was, he could ride small waves as good or better than anybody.
GP was also a very driven and clever businessman. He was smart enough to invest the money he was making and set himself up for after surfing, something that not many of the early pro surfers even thought of. He became a very successful event promoter and brought many rising musicians and bands to the concert halls in south Florida. This led to him getting into management with successful stars such as Hank Williams Jr. and then later with comedians Gallagher and Carrot Top.
But, other than his surfing career, the big jewel in Gary's incredibly successful career was the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” He loved the comic book and bought the rights for movies and products. He made tons and tons of money with the Turtles and for a while retired to the island of Maui.
GP was never the kind of person to just relax and take it easy, that was just not in his DNA. He came to Southern California and that is when he took over the careers of Gallagher and then Carrot Top. I ran into him in Las Vegas one time when Carrot Top was playing there, he was so completely in his element there. He loved what you could call “fast times.” A true mover and groover.
The last time I saw Gary was at the SURF EXPO in Orlando two years ago when we both showed up to do an appearance in the HOBIE booth. Same big smile, swagger and energy as I first remember on that day in Jacksonville when we first met.
Gary Propper was a true icon in American surfing and an amazing person. RIP amigo.
by Corky Carroll
One of my favorite surfers from the years I was growing up here on our beautiful Orange County beaches is Chuck, aka “Raouuul” (ya gotta say it with a couple extra u’s to make it sound right, like Ra-oouuuul), Linnen. I have reported some of this stuff in years gone by, but his name came up today so I thought I would re-tell a little bit plus add some previously untold tid bits.
I met Chuck the first time I rode my bike, pulling my big balsawood board behind, from my house in Surfside to the Huntington Beach Pier when I was about 10 years old. I was riding some waves but was afraid of the pier. Chuck saw this and introduced himself to me as “Charles,” and gave me directions on how to “shoot the pier.” We became friends that day. In years to follow he would stop by our house occasionally, normally about dinner time, show me some stuff on our piano, and graciously accept my mom’s dinner invitation. This is when I became aware of his quest for a free meal.
On trips down to surf “Trestles” when Mark Martinson and I would get rides from some of the older dudes, such as Steve Pezman, Jim Barker and Roy Crump, I would see Chuck many times. I remember my mom would always cough up a dollar or so for gas money and would normally make me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for after surfing. One day right as I got there I buried the bag with my sandwich in the sand so it would be safe for when I came in. But, low and behold, when I got back to the spot where I had it stashed it was gone. Only the empty paper bag was there. Chuck was sitting nearby, and I asked him if he has seen anybody steal my sandwich. He looked at me straight in the eyes, with crumbs and peanut butter still in his mustache, and innocently and sincerely said “no.” When I told the other guys about this they just laughed and said, “Yep, it was that dirty Linnen.” I guess he was known for this kind of thing.
Later on, when I was about 16, I was on the North Shore and a whole group of us were living in an old Quonset hut out by Velzyland. Chuck was one of them, along with Mike Doyle, Roy Crump, Billy Fury, Mike and Sherry Haley, Kent Casper and others. Everybody was noticing that little bits of their food would go missing from the fridge, and the prime suspect was Chuck Linnen. So, one morning before we all went surfing everybody, except Chuck, got together and rigged up a carton of milk with some extra added goodies as a trap, the least worst of these goodies were “boogers,” you can imagine some of the other ingredients that were put in. We put it in the fridge, and we all went surfing. When we got back everybody was busy getting the boards off the roof of the car. Naturally Chuck slipped away and hit the fridge. Seeing a Milk carton with only a little bit gone he naturally took a swig. We all howled in delight as he came screaming out of the house barfing all over the place and moaning and groaning. That dirty Linnen got rudely caught in the act and payback was not Heaven. I still laugh when I think of that. Just desert, you could call it.
Through the years Chuck has remained a good pal and one of the longest lasting and most respected locals at the Huntington Beach Pier. He is a veteran of riding big surf in Hawaii and being a successful competitor in International surfing events in the 1960’s. Why he surfs in the winter without a wetsuit on is anybody guess, the dude is just kinda loco I figure. Cool guy, just watch your food when he is around.
by Corky Carroll
When I am normally coming in from a surf session at my favorite spot I have a set way I land myself on the beach. As I am on a Stand Up Paddleboard I always drop to my knees for a beach landing. Just before hitting the sand I kind of lean back a little bit, allowing the wave I am riding to get sort of underneath me, and then float up the beach on the back of the surge. As it stops, I am able to step off and stand up in a few inches of water. Then I can pick up my board and casually walk off looking like I know exactly what I am doing. Very cool. Except for the other morning when it all went terribly wrong. As I was doing my little lean back thing the wave I was on sort of doubled up and shot me out in front of it. My board bellied into the sand with a bit of speed. I went rolling off the nose head over heels, the board and my paddle both hitting me in the head and my leash getting wrapped around my neck. I was left squirming around in the sand under my board trying to untangle myself and I was getting sand everywhere, my hair being the least of the issue. This was not pretty. Thankfully nobody saw it, at least that I know of. I didn’t hear uncontrollable laughing coming from anywhere at least.
I was telling about this unfortunate event on my deck, over Corkaritas and our new house drink, the “Blue Mango,” that night and the subject came up of bad shallow water wipe outs. Most people don’t think about the dangers of the shallows, it’s always the dangers of the deep. You need to be extremely careful in shallow water, especially over rock or reef bottoms.
First example is my good friend Lourdes, the Queen of La Saladita. Lourdes is a great surfer and grew up surfing this spot. It is a rock bottom break with a sand beach. She was coming in one morning and stepped off her board thinking she was over the sand. But she was still over the rocks and he foot wedged between two rocks and broke her ankle. This was a year ago. She had surgery and has a bunch of pins inserted into the area of the break. It still hurts her to try and surf and maybe always will. Simple mistake with bad result.
Another friend just recently was coming in on a wave, at the same spot, and from what I understand his fin hit a rock causing him to lunge forward. But he saved himself and went to straighten up when his board surged forward after the fin hit and became free again. He fell backwards on to the tail of his board and severely broke his back. Fractured a number of vertebras and had to be airlifted back to the U.S. Might not ever surf again. Same thing, simple mistake but with even worse result.
The worst one I know was when a guy I know was surfing at a beach break and dove off his board into what he thought was fairly deep water. Turns out he was over a sand bar and it was only about a foot deep. He broke his neck and was paralyzed the rest of his life. This happened in the sixties when he was in his twenties and he just passed away a few years ago. His wife took care of him his whole life by making wigs, along with some help from Hobie Alter. The guy was a Hobie dealer in Maryland and was surfing with Mickey Munoz the day it happened. I think Mickey saved his life if I remember the story correctly. A few years before he died Mickey strapped him onto the hull of his catamaran and rode about an eight-foot wave at Trestles with him. He said he was both terrified and thrilled at the same time. One last ride. Once again, simple mistake with horrific results.
The bottom line here is to pay attention when you are in the water no matter how deep it is. You can get hurt or even die in knee deep water, seriously. It’s not just the zillion foot monster surf that is deadly kids, most of the time it’s those simple mistakes that you don’t ever think will happen but then they do. Don’t think it won’t happen just because it hasn’t happened yet. (That line is from a Jackson Browne song). Pay attention
by Joel Saltzman
Anyone who knows Corky is well aware that he has been a rabid, die heart Laker fan since his days of working and paling around with Jerry West. Unfortunately, the only way to see Laker games in his Mainland Mexico paradise though, is to subscribe to the NBA Laker Subscription package. He retreats upstairs with his laptop and headphones every time they play.
Last October while visiting them, I was aware that the biggest game of the season would be Christmas day when the Laker's played the reigning champs and bitter rivals, the Golden State Warriors. A friend had given me a Golden State Warrior Michael Thompson jersey as a gag as I also hate that team with a passion. I snuck that GS jersey down to Raquel and asked her to hide it until game day and then put it on to see how Corky reacted to seeing her in it.
As some mutual friends of ours, The Turners, are big Golden State fans and live up that way, I was hoping Corky would blame them which he did until Raquel confessed (multiple times no less) that I was behind this caper. Had the Lakers not ended up upsetting the Warriors and winning huge by 25 points, my surfboards were destined to get run over by Corky's car and who knows what else lay in my future.
Still, even after that amazing victory, I was not out of the woods yet. I had to wait 3 months for him to cool off enough to publish this video which is totally priceless. Raquel waited for the game to start, walks in, and Corky stares in stunned disbelief, wanting to "gouge his eyes out" after seeing Raquel in uniform. Priceless!
by Corky Carroll
I learned about Dr. Eric Vanek from my pal Joshua Paskowitz. I was looking for a good dentist in Orange County to take care of my youngest son Tanner, who was having some teeth issues and hadn’t been to a dentist in years. Josh recommended Dr. Vanek and said, “This guy surfs and really has the Aloha spirit.” That was good enough for me and I sent Tanner to see him. He came back telling me, “this guy is a very cool dude, you will like him.” So, I decided to find out a little bit about him and was blown away by the story I found. This man is amazing. Let me see if I can give you a little glimpse of what I am talking about.
Eric learned to surf on a boogie board at a very young age and got his first surfboard, a hand me down from his older brother, in the third grade. He loved the ocean and did Junior Lifeguards, paddle races and all that sort of thing. He would ride his bike 30 minutes to Torrance Beach each day to surf. He loved the television show “Chips,” and used to love to imitate Ponch and John. Just before the 4th grade he crashed hard attempting a “massive skid.” This resulted in breaking a bunch of teeth and many visits to the dentist. It was from that accident that he got the idea to become a dentist “when he grew up.”
Through high school he rounded out his water array by becoming proficient in wake boarding, water skiing and played Water Polo. Entering college at UCSB he decided to blend his love for the ocean and desire to be a dentist. He gave me this account, which I like in his own words.
“I decided I liked oceanography and studied for a Bachelors in Science in Geology with a Biological emphasis (so I could get accepted and fulfill requirements for dental school applications). The reason this is worth mentioning is that as a result I was able to qualify as a research assistant for the Institute for Crustal Studies at UCSB. This job led to the opportunity of a lifetime. I was invited by Dr. Bruce Luyendyk (who recently had a mountain named after him) to work on the icebreaker N.B. Palmer mapping the coast of Antarctica. This took us by C-130 equipped with skis to land on the Ross Ice Shelf near McMurdo Base at the foot of Mt. Erebus. As oceanographers we were mapping the sea floor in an area never accessed by anyone in the history of the Earth! Lots of stories to go along with that research but it gets even better. One of my tasks was to utilize existing satellite data to help navigate our way through the sea ice. This led me to contact the Institute for Computational Earth System Science (ICESS) to learn more about the data and I was invited to a second trip to the opposite side of Antarctica. So, in a 2-year time span I traveled to Antarctica twice and on the way home was able to visit New Zealand, Fiji and traveled through Chile as well as Costa Rica. I produced a short surf film titled “Southerlands Travels” to celebrate all the trips. Those 4 areas are on my Facebook page. After returning from these research trips I entered into Dental School.”
O.K., so he goes off to dental school in, of all places, Nebraska. No surf there. But he figures out how to make it work.
“After living in Nebraska for a year and getting bored with the local activities I had an idea one windy day. I was always curious about these 2-line traction kites I had seen out on the beaches. Nebraska being very windy at times I thought to myself, I could use all that wind to tow me around on these new “mountain” off-road skateboards I had seen advertised. After a little online research, I came across a huge discovery, this rig I was looking for had recently been invented by a pair of French guys! So, in the late 90s I figured all this out and by 2000 I made my very first internet purchase shipping a Wipika 2-line kite from Oahu, HI to Omaha, NE. The kitesurfing revolution was on. There were no instructors in those days, so we learned through trial and error, but fortunately for me a now famous Canadian named Hung Vu was documenting all his experiences with the new kites online. He set up a FAQ page and it was translated into 70 languages. We learned through a lot of crashes we called kitemares, luckily I was not one who suffered any major injuries although I have had my fair share of close calls. Shortly after learning I got my Dad involved and he kiteboards as well. To my knowledge he is the oldest participant in the La Ventana Classic Crossing, which takes place on the East Cape of Baja every year. We have competed in this charity event a lot & I even came back with a 1st place in the Short Course Racing event & a 3rd in the Big Air. This sport really captured my imagination by combining all the wakesurfing, wakeboarding, snowboarding & surfing skills that I grew up loving.” (I love the “kitemares” part.)
Eric came back to California in 2002 and opened Vanek Dentistry in Costa Mesa, “modern dentistry that is affordable, caring and fun,” in 2002. He is an avid kite surfer, has two kids and a surfing dog that he hangs with. He is one of those people that just give off, as Joshua told me, the great Aloha Spirit.