by Corky Carroll
Just a note to those of you who read me but don’t surf, we use wax on the top our boards to keep us from slipping off. It’s not like on skis where you use it on the bottoms to go faster. Ok, just wanted to clear that up as it is a common source of confusion to non-surfers. With that said, lets today take a look at waxes, how to most efficiently apply them and how to effectively remove them in case you desire to do that.
Back in the dinosaur days of surfboards, when I first started, we did not have surfboard wax. We used bars of paraffin wax that was made for sealing jars of jellies and jams that our moms would make. Moms did that back then. You could buy a box with four big bars at the store, break the bars in two and have eight hunks of wax. This wax was pretty good when you first put it on, but it would get slippery fairly fast so you needed to apply it often. This was the reason that when surf trunks were first appearing on the scene there was always a “wax pocket.” Obviously for holding your wax while you surfed so that you could re-apply it when needed. It has amazed me in recent years to find out that most people not only don’t use the wax pockets to carry wax, they don’t even know that’s what that pocket is for. True. I was out one day, not long ago, and found myself out of wax and in need of it. There were like thirty people in the water and I asked if anybody had some wax I could borrow. Everybody just looked at me and went, “huh?” Nobody had any.
Anyway, getting back to the story, we now have very good surf waxes available in all kinds of formulas. From extremely cold water to extremely warm water and in various degrees of sticky. Surf wax has come a long way. My advice on first applying wax to a new board is to get two bars. One bar of “base coat,” which is very hard, and one bar of whatever the water temp is going to be where and when you surf. Apply the base coast in long vertical strokes using the flat side of the wax, you get more on that way. I like to make my wax strokes about three feet in length and always vertical, nose to tail or visa versa. Little beads form this way and are very effective as to applying more later and keeping the wax on longer. Once you have a nice even coat of base wax applied then it’s time to put a layer of “temperature based” wax over it. For example, if the water in your area is in the 60’s, like Orange County in the summer, most people would choose a “cool” water wax. Apply this wax exactly the same as the base coast, long vertical strokes. I have seen people using the edge of the bar of wax and putting it on in tiny little circles, I never got that as it takes forever to do it that way and I don’t see the nice even beads form. Long vertical strokes work better.
Taking wax off is another matter. First off, why would you want to do that? I have had boards for years without ever even thinking of taking my wax off. But there are many people who like to always have a nice clean “new wax” kinda look and feel to their boards. Old wax can get kinda dirty and ugly looking, true. So, if that is important to you then it’s fine to change your wax. Also, you can get stuff in your wax that you don’t want, like tar or other forms of dirtiness. Taking wax off is not always that easy. I find that if you put your board out in the sun for a few minutes it will make the wax soft and easier to get off. Use a plastic tool, like a spatula, to scrape it off. They actually have wax removal tools available in most surf shops. Scrape it as clean as you can and then try to get the residue off with a moist cloth. Some people use acetone for this, and that works fine. But beware of gasoline as this can get into the pours of your glass job and make it extremely difficult to re-apply the wax. And NEVER use any kind of oil, like baby oil etc. You can never get that off and you will wind up having to totally sand your board down and re-gloss it. If you have to use anything I would keep it to only acetone.
One of the nice things we have today are all the cool boutique kinda waxes. They have nice smells like coconut, mango, lime, musk, cherry, banana and many more. I hear some even taste good in case you get hungry (just kidding, don’t eat it). And surf wax is not expensive at all, well worth the price.
I hope this helps shed some light on the wonderful world of surf wax to those of you who were wondering what it was all about. Happy surfing and no slipping.
by Corky Carroll
Over the past couple of weeks I gave you a quick look back at some of the women who first pioneered what we like to call the “modern era” of surfing. This began in the 1950’s when the boards went from huge and heavy planks to shorter and lighter boards that allowed just about everybody to surf, if for no better reason than they got light enough to where the average person, including girls, could carry one to and from the water. Before that you had to be Joe Strongdude to even pick one up.
So, today I thought I would go back and take a short look at one of the dudes who had a ton of influence on this transition period. Bob Simmons.
Simmons was one of those kinda off the wall loco genius types, the kind that don’t exactly fit into the term “normal” all that perfectly. He started surfing in 1939 at Newport Beach, already 20 years old. Right off the bat he realized that what he really liked about surfing was the thrill of the speed, and he wanted more of it. The big heavy redwood “cigar” like boards could get up to exciting speeds when you got one into exact trim and on a direct line, but they were big and awkward and not all that easy to actually get into perfect trim. A lot of them did not have fins and holding a hard line was very difficult. You had to drag your back foot over the tail to make them angle very much, and spinning out was very common.
Bob began researching hull design and how to design surfboards to maximize planing speed. His started making his boards a lot shorter than what was popular during those years, many of them in the eight-foot range. He experimented with concaves, eager to find out what effect having air between the bottom of the board and the water would have. His shapes also had thinner rails and were, for the most part, wider in the tail area to take advantage of that aforementioned planing speed.
Simmons was also one of the leaders of bringing in balsawood as the main material to shape boards out of. To do this he found that the use of fiberglass and resin made a great covering to keep the soft wood from getting waterlogged. Due to the fact that his boards tended to be very wide from front to back he found that putting two fins on the tail, instead of one, would allow the boards to hold a high line in the fastest part of the wave without falling out. Most people consider him to have invented the first “twin fin” designs in the early 1950’s. This concept was pretty much ignored until about 1970 when boards got short enough and surfing got good enough to bring it back. The only thing was that none of us really were thinking of the original Simmons shape at that time, and for the most part thought we were coming up with something new all on our own. But, looking back at some of the early two fin designs that Simmons made you can see a direct correlation to the new designs close to twenty years later. Even today there are a number of surfers, especially in the San Diego area, that ride what they call “Mini-Simmons” designs. The guy was truly ahead of his time. For him it was all about going as fast as he could. Turning and all that was not his deal, he just wanted to get from point A to point B in the shortest amount of time as possible. If he could be a blur it was exactly what he was trying to accomplish.
Bob was also one of the early pioneers of surfing on Oahu’s famous “North Shore.” This was back in the days when it was a fairly long drive from Honolulu on a narrow two-lane road. Simmons rode his bike out there, steering with one hand and carrying his board over his shoulder with the other. Just think about that for a moment. It would be like riding from Long Beach to San Clemente with a board over your shoulder. How insane is that? See what I mean about the not exactly normal thing? He was a loner and did stuff his own way. To this day many of the designs he first came up with are still in play.
He died in 1954 while surfing near the spot called “Windansea,” in La Jolla. In his honor they call that area “Simmons Reef.” He was only 35. A bona fide surfing pioneer.
by Corky Carroll
Last week I embarked on a little bit of surf history featuring the women who led the way starting with what is commonly called the “Modern” era of surfing. This period started with the advent of lightweight balsawood and foam surfboards in the mid to late 1950’s. I talked about Gidget, the Calhoun girls, Linda Benson, Joyce Hoffman and Margo Godfrey (later Margo Oberg after she got married). Today I am going to add a couple more girls to the list.
The first is Rell Sunn. To fully describe Rell and her impact on the surfing world would be really hard, but I will do my best to give you the best short version that I can. Rell was wonderful, in every sense of the word. Great surfer and a beautiful Hawaiian girl who truly embraced the true “spirit of aloha.” I first met Rell when I was at Makaha, on Oahu’s west shore, for the big International Surfing Championship in 1963. Her and her sister were both very young and were competing. We were all just kids back then. Through the years we were friends and I would see her at all of the surfing events both in Hawaii and California as she rose through the ranks of Women’s surfing. But her mark on the surfing community came from much more than just her remarkable surfing skills. Rell was like an ambassador for Hawaiian surfing, known as the “Queen of Makaha,” and lovingly as “Auntie Rell” by all the surfing ohana (family) on the “west side.” In 1982, while at a pro surfing event in Huntington Beach, she found a lump that turned out to be breast cancer. She was given a year to live at that time. Not going down without a fight Rell lived 16 more years, becoming a counselor for breast cancer at her home as well as piloting a program for breast cancer awareness at the Waianae Cancer Research Center on Oahu. Everybody loved Rell. Songs were written about her such as “Mother of the Sea,” by Darren Benitez, a documentary was done on her titled “Heart of the Sea,” and she was inducted into both the Surfers Hall of Fame and the International Surfing Walk of Fame. Rell was truly a special surfer and special human being, she passed away in 1998 at age 47.
Through almost all of the years that Rell was competing in surfing events around the world her main sidekick was the firey Jerricho Poppler. This is another one that would need a whole book or mini-series to fully give you the scope of her essence. Her competition record is huge and includes United States Champion and World Professional Champion. She was also inducted into the Surfers Hall of Fame and the International Surfing Walk of Fame, both in Huntington Beach. Like Rell, Jericho brought a whole lot more to the party than just her amazing surfing talents. This chick came with a personality, big bright blazing personality. She lit up the beach with it. It carried into her surfing style too. I wanna say she went at it like a modern dance. Well, actually I will say it. Her surfing was a dance, flowing and with a lot of rhythm. Along with competing, and just being a beckon of light and fun, she also co-founded WISA (the Women’s International Surfing Association). Through all these years Jericho is still out there surfing to this day and still better than pretty much anybody else out on any given day. She lives in Long Beach and you can find her at many of the surfing events in Southern California.
To wrap up this little historical wandering I would also like to mention the first girl to win back to back World Professional Surfing Championships, Lynn Boyer. She won in 1978 and again in 1979, along with many other titles and being in the SURFERS HALL OF FAME etc. This would pretty much wrap up what I personally would consider the “pioneering” period. There were many other great women surfers that I should also mention that were a part of it and important in their own right. Linda Merrill, Nancy Nelson, Judy Dibble, Joey Hamasaki and Sharon Webber come to my pea brain at this moment. All these girls opened the doors for today’s female superstars and deserve recognition. It has not been just all guys.
by Corky Carroll
With all of the hoopla going on during the recent U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach there was a lot of talk about different “pioneers” of surfing. Most of the time these discussions don’t mention the women who forged the way and opened the doors for the current flock of “equal pay” lady wave shredders. So, today, in the wake of the big event and dust laid back down, I thought I would reminisce a bit about the girls who lead the way in the early days of what is termed the “modern era” of surfing, starting in the 1950’s with the change to lightweight balsawood and then foam boards. I started surfing in the mid 1950’s, so this is where my first-hand knowledge would begin. I have touched on this in the past, but it seems a good time to revisit and update.
To preface this, I should add that the release of the movie “Gidget,” in 1959, had a huge impact on not only womens surfing but also surfing in general. Gidget was a girl named Kathy Kohner whose father wrote the book about her surfing experiences with the Malibu crew in the mid 1950’s. This would have been Tubesteak Tracey, Mickey Dora, Mickey Munoz and others. Just the sheer impact that the movie had on surfing would have to put Kathy up there with the most influential surf girls of the period, and beyond.
The Calhoun girls from Laguna Beach are legendary. Marge Calhoun was the Makaha International Surfing Champion in 1958 and remained involved in surfing competition as one of the leading judges well into the 1970’s. Her daughters, Candy and Robin, were both excellent surfers as well. Candy was United States Champion and won many events in the early 1960’s, also being one of the great water-people.
Linda Benson burst onto the scene winning the Makaha event and the first West Coast Championship at Huntington Beach in 1959 at the age of 15. She also stunt doubled for Sandra Dee in the Gidget movie. Over the next decade Linda went on to win just about everything there was to win as well as being named the Top Womens Surfer in the World by SURFER magazines first reader poll for the year 1963. She is still surfing today, looks pretty much the same as she did in 1959 and is one of the coolest and most fun people to share a lineup with. I love Linda. She currently makes a device called a “rail grabber,” a little handle to make it easier to carry a longboard for those with shorter arms.
The next big time womens surf star was the great Joyce Hoffman. Joyce, known as “Boo” to family and friends, totally dominated the girls competition scene for many years in the mid 1960’s. She is the daughter of famous early big wave surfer Walter Hoffman, known as “the Godfather” in surfing circles. The family company, Hoffman Fabrics, produces almost all of the fabric for the leading surfing manufacturers in the United States. Joyce learned to surf in an environment surrounded by the great surfers of that era, Phil Edwards, Hobie Alter, the Harrison family, her uncle “Flippy” Hoffman, Munoz and others.
On the heels of Joyce Hoffman came the amazing Margo Godfrey. Margo got recognition by winning the “Menehune” contest in La Jolla at the age of 11. She beat all the boys. By 15 she was World Champ. What was notable about Margo, other than her incredible competition record, was that fact that she was probably the first girl surfer to actually surf similar to the men as far as style and function of moves went. Another great girl surfer of that era that also was along those lines was Joey Hamasaki. But Margo was ahead of her time for sure. She still looked feminine, yet if you saw her from a distance and didn’t see that she was a girl it would have been easy to mistake her for one of the top men surfers as far as he style and presence on a wave. She ripped like no other girl had done before her and set the style and tone for those who followed.
That would take us pretty much through the 1960’s. I would like to continue this next week a look at a few more of the great female influences on surfing going forward, stay tuned!
by Corky Carroll
I first became aware of Herbie Fletcher back in High School in Huntington Beach. He was a hot young up and coming surfer a grade or two younger than I was. I recruited him to surf on the Hobie Surf Team and got him set up with free boards. At that time it would have been impossible to predict exactly how far the kid was going to go, but he was super likeable, really could surf and was very enthusiastic about it. Looking back at his transformation from then to now is remarkable, what an amazing journey.
The very short version, just to set the basics down, is that Herbie moved to the North Shore of Oahu, married Dibi, the daughter of the infamous “Godfather of Surfing,” Walter Hoffman, made a name for himself for his free flowing, side slipping and very individualistic style of surfing, came back to California and went on to open “Astrodeck,” the leading producer of surfboard deck pads. He produced, and stared in, a number of surfing videos and had a couple sons, Christian and Nathan, who have become outstanding and groundbreaking surfers in their own right. Dibi herself is an amazing artist and her influence rubbed off on Herbie who also went in that direction. To get more on the background please check out my story from 2014, https://www.ocregister.com/2014/10/21/corky-carroll-sharing-a-story-of-the-herbie-fletcher-i-know/
Which brings us to now and the reason for todays revisit to the wonderful wild world of things Fletcher. Dibi has put the whole story down in ink and her new book, “Fletcher, a lifetime in surf,” has just been released by Rizzoli. In conjunction with the release of the book the Gallery Gagosian, in New York City, is presenting an exhibition of Fletcher family art, sculptures and photos, and will sell items, including t-shirts, in their 976 Madison Avenue on site store. The exhibition just opened and is attracting tons of viewers from all walks of life. One of these is renowned artist Julian Schnabel, who had this to say, “The practice of the artist . . . is no different than that of the surfer, who inscribes his or her self in the ocean--a bigger canvas could not be engaged, defining their humanity in the most personal way, using themselves to draw their lifelines through the massive fleeting freedom of that power. The power and majesty of the sea—Herbie shared that with me and with my family as well as his own.”
I have always been amazed at how Herbie just always seems to find his way into stuff. He just, for lack of better words, “goes for it.” It’s like when he was pioneering the use of Jet Skis in giant surf. He would just stick himself into a monster beast and hold on for dear life. Amazed onlookers would be shaking their heads in disbelief and uttering stuff like “Wow, did YOU SEE THAT?” He just does stuff, and gets away with it. And, obviously, so does his wife and kids.
Along with the exhibition there will be showings of the 2019 Documentary “Heavy Water.” This film is about the insane HUGE wave surfing by Nathan Fletcher, the younger of the two sons. Christian, the older one, was at the vanguard of bringing in the age of “ariel” surfing. I remember standing on the beach at the San Clemente Pier watching him, Matt Archibald and Dino Andino blasting big airs off the top of close out beach crunchers way back when they were young teenagers in the early 1980’s and thinking, “well, this is the future happening right here.”
So yeah, back on the hill next to the snack bar at Huntington Beach High School, sitting there with Denny Buell, Robert August and the crew checking out John Boozers new light blue windbreaker and commenting on how good the grems were getting, that would have been the likes of Herbie, Jon Overmyer, Buddy Heil and Tom Leonardo, never in our wildest imagination would we have pegged Herbie to forge so many frontiers. But he did, and is, and will be one of the most multi-faceted and uniquely imaginative surfers ever.
For more information on the Gagosian exhibition go to https://gagosian.com/exhibitions/2019/the-fletcher-family-a-lifetime-in-surf/
Congratulations Fletchers, you have done it again.