by Corky Carroll
I get a ton of requests for stories about people and places from when I was a surf gremmie growing up here on the beaches of Orange County. So, with that mission in mind, I thought I would talk a bit about one of my favorite places to hang out back in the early 1960s, when I was first getting mobile enough to get around to places other than in front of my house in Surfside.
Doheny State Beach in Dana Point, also known as “Doho,” was a very popular place to surf in the afternoons, especially during the summer. Due to the way it faces, the westerly winds, which are common in the afternoons here in Southern California, blow straight offshore. This makes for excellent conditions to surf when everywhere else is “blown out,” choppy and sloppy.
My first time surfing at Doho actually came in the late 1950s when the mom of my neighbors Mike and Marc DeCheverous loaded us in the back of her Buick station wagon and drove us down there, and then later in the day to San Onofre. The waves were great and I instantly loved the place, super cool vibe with all the eucalyptus trees and long fun rides.
Shortly after that I got a girlfriend who had moved to Dana Point from Seal Beach, where we had gone to school together. Her name was Theresa Thompson and she surfed. We used to walk along the rocks below the cliffs from Dana Cove to Doheny and go surfing. Her best friend was Marianne Harrison, daughter of Lorrin “Whitey” Harrison. From meeting him I got to know pretty much the whole local crew at that time. One of them was Mickey Munoz, who would later become a mentor and one of my best friends for life.
There were some very cool people and surfers hanging out there during those years. Bob Moore and Peter Van Dyke were the lifeguards. Some of the names I remember that were regulars were the Patterson brothers, Daryl Diamond, the Ashower twins, Tom Sylstra, Danny Estrada, Joey Hamasaki, Gary “Flash” Blash, the Fly, Ron Sizemore, Allan Seymour, the Sanchez sisters, and, of course, the beautiful “Banzai Betty,” who would later take over girlfriend duties.
I used to ride the Greyhound bus down there in those days to visit Theresa — it used to cost 50 cents each way. Most of the time I would spend my return fare on Theresa and wind up hitchhiking home in the late afternoons.
It was on one of those days that I got picked up by none other than the legendary Mike Doyle. I was in shock — Mike Doyle himself — giving me a ride home. I blabbered the whole way and I am sure he regretted pulling over that day. In fact, I know he did, because he told me years later, when we had become pals, that it was the last time he picked up a surfer with a thumb out that wasn’t a girl.
When they put in the Harbor at Dana Point it kind of changed Doho — it didn’t totally ruin it, but it didn’t help it either. It’s still there and still a fun place to surf. But the real glory days were pre-harbor.
by Corky Carroll
A week or so ago I put a post on my Facebook pages asking for questions that people might want to ask me about surfing. Normally I have a pretty good stockpile of them on hand to feed my “ASK THE EXPERT” column here in the OC Register, but the pile was starting to get low and I wanted to replenish. As a result, I got tons of great ones and am now stocked up really well. One of them that was asked a number of times concerns how to get oneself into “surfing” shape. This mostly comes from people who surf but have been out of the water for some time. Some are people getting ready to take a surf trip where they will be in the water much more than usual. And others are people who are getting ready to learn to surf and want to be ready. So, today I am going to touch on this and throw out a few ideas that I have on preparing your body to ride ride ride the wild surf.
First off I have to tell you that the most urgent thing you need to address is getting into “paddling” condition. It’s that part that really wears you out. So, lets’ start there. Other than just paddling, which you can do in a lake, river or flat water anywhere, the very best thing is to swim. A lot of swimming will get your arms, body and breathing tuned up, along with your endurance. It also gets your body into the type of “fluid” shape that is good for surfing. You want to be loose and flowing, not stiff and rigid, when you surf. Pumping iron and going for that kind of body is not as good for surfing as just plain swimming, in my opinion. Body builders tend to be stiff, swimmers not.
There is also a technique that I came up with years ago that you can do in a pool other than swimming. You can attach your surf leash to something on the side of the pool, like the handrail to the steps or anything that is not going to move, and then get on your board and paddle. You won’t go anywhere because you are tied to the side, but this is really a hard workout and is super good to get you into paddling shape. One more thing is that your paddling technique should be very much like swimming. Use your whole body to paddle, not just your arms. An example would be that you can dance all night, but if you stand still and wave your arms up and down they will feel like they are gonna fall off within minutes. Think swimming when paddling and you will last a lot longer.
For standing up from a prone position I have found that doing push-ups helps with that, especially if you can do those kind where you clap your hands each time. And just practicing popping up over and over. If you can be on a slight downward incline when you do that it helps a little, that is the way your board will be most of the time when you go to stand up.
Lastly, but very important, is breathing. If you have your breathing down then your entire surfing experience will be better. If you learn to breathe into your diaphragm, and not your chest, you will take in much more air. This lessens the amount of energy your body needs to breath, slows done your heart rate and also allows you to concentrate more clearly under extreme situations. If you are getting sucked over the falls on a big wave, and your board is falling out from below you, if you can channel your thoughts into how to find your board in the explosion and get your feet back onto it, rather than just the obvious “I am gonna dieeeeee” thing, you will find that a lot of things are possible that you might not have thought if you were not thinking clearly. You can go online to find exercises on how to breath. This will also help you stay calm when you are being held down for longer than you would really like to be held down and enable you to hold your breath longer. Good breathing will also just improve the quality of your life for the same reasons it will help your surfing. This is coming from Zen Corky Guru, slayer of waves and eater of many donuts. But, it’s all true and good stuff.
by Corky Carroll
I am constantly getting requests to write about the late Mickey Dora, also known as “The Black Knight” of surfing. I have written about him before, but it was mostly many years ago and probably most of you have not read me back that far. So, I will revisit Mickey today and try to add some new stuff I didn’t cover before. The dude was definitely one of the most controversial surfers ever to ride a board.
O.K., Miklos Sandor Dora III, the stepson of legendary surfer Gard Chapin. Gard was a more or less rebel kinda dude and a lot of that rubbed off on Mickey. By the way, he sometimes spelled his name Miki. This depended on the circumstance. Miki, Mickey, however you wanna spell it, was not your average kinda cat. And that was another of his nicknames, “da Cat.” He was born in 1934 and died in 2002, his glory years were the mid 1950’s thru the mid 1960’s when he stood out as one of surfings most colorful characters ever. Some people loved him and some totally hated him, some people respected him as a fantastic surfer, and some thought he was a fraud. Hardly anybody was in the middle, it was one way or the other. He was super famous, as much for his surfing as well as for a zillion capers, interviews and being seen in every “beach” movie that came out in those years. His territory was Malibu. He did surf other places and actually did fairly well in Hawaii one year, but Malibu was his spot. It was there that his catlike style shown brightest, and he did have an amazing “catlike” style. Front arm down, back arm up, super nimble on his feet and quick. The perfect style for Malibu. I remember seeing him in the early surf movies and thought that I wanted to surf like that. Phil Edwards and Dewey Weber too. But Mickeys style was truly classic. The guy was a very good surfer, without a doubt. But more so he was really an entertaining and colorful character, or villain, depending on who you talk to.
My first contact with him was one afternoon when Mickey Munoz had taken me up to Malibu, I was probably about 14. I had come out of the water and was standing on the beach watching both the Mickeys, Munoz and Dora, surf. I was a student of surfing and loved to watch the big names of the era. Dora came out of the water and I went up to him and babbled something about how great his surfing was, typical fan type stuff. He looked at me and said, “Thanks kid, hey can I use your towel?” I gladly handed it to him. He blew his nose into it, looked at it and then handed it back to me. “Thanks kid, see ya around,” and walked off. I stood there wondering if I should put the towel on my bedroom wall or toss it out.
We became friends over the years, went to Peru together for the International Big Wave Championship in 1967, skied together a number of times and played tennis too. I always liked him, he was very charismatic and had a unique sense of humor. It’s known that I am drawn to people who have that.
The other side of the story, unfortunately, is that Mickey was also a known thief. If he came over for dinner you would likely be lighter on the silverware the next day. Most of the second half of his life was spent avoiding arrest for a crime he committed while skiing at Mammoth Mountain. He had gotten caught but escaped when being transported for trial. From there he fled the country and spent most of the rest of his life in exile, mostly in France and South Africa.
So, there is the short version. Classic surfer with one of the most defining styles ever. Super charismatic and funny guy who had a million ways to make you laugh. Excellent skier and tennis player. Thief. I considered him a friend and respected him as a surfer. But I watched him closely when he would come to visit, but still I think he got away with some of my albums and a pair of trunks I had on the line.
by Corky Carroll
There is an excellent surf artist that lives in Huntington Beach named Rick Blake, who also happens to be a fellow alumnus of Huntington Beach High School. Rick is involved in a lot of the retro surfing events such as the “Surfside Seventies,” and the “Triple Crown of Retro Surfing.” I like his work and follow him on Facebook. The other day he put up a post headlined “The Lost History of Dick Barrymore.” This jarred my one remaining memory cell into at least a flickering mode, Dick Barrymore being a major part of both my early surfing days as well as the years I spent living and skiing in Sun Valley, Idaho. I am pretty sure that, for the most part, the surfing world has pretty much forgotten about this dude. He did become a very well-known and respected ski movie producer after he got out of the surfboard business. But, let me start at the beginning.
Barrymore made my first two surfboards. The first one was solid balsawood and weighed more than I did. He was one of the funniest dudes I ever met and at one time had me laughing so hard that my stomach hurt for a week, and I probably peed a little bit because he refused to stop even though I was begging him to do so. Probably the best story teller I ever knew, along with Hevs McClellend and James Arness. He helped me get set up in Sun Valley when I moved up there right after retiring from the pro surf circuit and I did some music for one of his ski movies, as well as was in it riding one of Mike Doyles mono skis (along with Mike, Joey Cabel and Roger Yates). Dick was a great pal and one of my favorite people ever.
The following paragraph is from Rick Blakes FB post (with his permission), I think he tells it perfectly. “One of the first surfboard shapers in Seal Beach and one of the first North Shore chargers in the early days. Dick Barrymore made Corky Carroll’s first surfboard.. a balsa board with the words ”Barrymore Surfboards” emblazoned into the wood. Barrymore learned to surf in Waikiki while stationed there in the early 50s.. He started surfing the North Shore and all parts of the island on leave and hung out with early Hawaiian beach boys and learned to shape from them. He set up a camp he called a compound on the site that a friend Howard Hawk’s girlfriend Fay Brash owned.. that site is now the front beach site at Pipeline today (at the time nobody was surfing it)...They had a water tap and an electric outlet and set up a mosquito net with bunks with bushes all around (on a 10x10 concrete slab) and hung up a sign that read “Keep out! S.M.S.S. Marine Bacteriological Survey Station #2” .. He surfed huge Sunset with Peter Van Dyke and others. He went on to live in Seal Beach and was a Fireman while shaping balsa surfboards in his garage which supplemented his income. Selling a board a week profiting 30 bucks a board was pretty good back then. 1958-59 he was skiing in the local mountains at Mt. Waterman where he would ski for free because he was friends with owner Lynn Newcomb .. he was introduced to a local channel 13 TV host Tom Malone who did ski films on Thursday’s at 8 pm. Barrymore made up a quick lie and asked him if he needed any ski films for his show. Malone gave him his card. Barrymore quickly figured out how to get a 16mm camera and called Malone back.. “We need surf films now.. people are getting sick of skiing”. Barrymore answers, “yes I have some local surf stuff” He lies again and now had to make a surf film in one week. He shot all the local guys in Seal and edited it in one week to show live on KCOP on Thursday while he narrated the 25-minute film. (Imagine the guys that were out surfing at 13th St. on that weekend in 1959 he filmed 15 rolls. Blackie and a young Robert, The Haley’s, the Buehls... who knows all the legends that he captured and where that film may be now?) That TV show announced Dick Barrymore as “the worlds #1 ski filmmaker” on live TV and he had not yet made a ski film. He went on to make a ton of ski films and to great success through the years with a million more stories. He says in his book that he carved surfboards by using a drawknife, a plane, two sawhorses, and some balsa wood blanks glued together with strips of an old inner tube. He would eyeball the teardrop shape, tear into it with a drawknife, tune it with a plane, and sand it smooth before applying a layer of fiberglass. He says other guys were better and he seemed to always make the nose a little lopsided. The left side would have a sharper arc and he couldn’t fix it.. but nobody noticed but him.. he said maybe it turned better going left.. haha ... what a legend. He later moved to Dana Point and was longtime friends with fellow filmmaker Bruce Brown. His sons Blake and Cole lived right next door to Benny Bigler in Sunset Beach California... small world. He later built a resort in Cabo off the East Cape called Cabo Pulmo.”
Thanks to Rick for that. Dick Barrymore is a solid part of Orange County surfing history