By Corky Carroll
Right about now they are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1968 World Surfing Championships that was held in Rincon, Puerto Rico. It was a great event that was won by Hawaiian Fred Hemmings. That was my third trip to Puerto Rico and I wound up in 7th place, this was due to an ill-timed kick out that caused my board to get picked off by the following wave and limiting my rides to four, when they were scoring the best five. At the time there was an amazing young surfer who lived there who was showing the promise to become a real surf star. His name is Jorge Machuca and I thought I would spotlight him for you today as he was a part of surfing history at the time of the big change from longboards to short, and he has been more of less forgotten about outside of Puerto Rico.
I met Jorge on my first visit to the island a year before the World Championship. There was a surf event going on called the Puerto Rico International and surfers from all over came to compete. At that time I was riding for HOBIE surfboards and was in charge of Hobies surfing team, a group of excellent surfers who were given free boards to ride. The Hobie dealer in Puerto Rico was Jose Rodriguez and he and I became friends. He told me about this young kid who was really good, named “Machuca.” I met the kid when the competition started and could see that he had the makings of an excellent surfer, even at such a young age. I am thinking he was about 15 at the time. I liked him too, really nice and super stoked on surfing. As the competition came down to the finals it was between Jorge and me for the title. In a close decision I won, and he took second place. I was so impressed with his surfing that I gave him my board after the event was over. When I got home I talked to Hobie about getting him on the surf team, which we did.
I went back to Puerto Rico and stayed for about four months between January and April of 1968, thinking it would be a good idea to get to know the break a little better before the upcoming World Titles in November. There was nobody surfing out on that end of the island at that time other than the handful of Puerto Rician surfers. Tom Morey, of boogie board fame, rented a little place next door to me and on most days we would be the only two guys out. One enormous day at Tres Palmas comes to mind when it was probably 20 feet and we tried to ride it on normal small wave boards. I got three rides that day before my little “mini model” spun out on a huge take off and I wound up swimming for what seemed like weeks to retrieve it. During that time I was able to surf with Jorge many times and got to know him better. Always a totally stoked kid with a big smile and some big turns. We flew him to Florida for the Easter Classic at Coca Beach and he was on his way to becoming a top-flight competitor.
After the World Championship in 1968 I only went back to Puerto Rico a few times. These were when I was doing Miller Lite commercials and they would send us on cruises a couple times a year to promote beer sales. I only got to surf on one of those trips and it was in San Juan, near the airport. I never got to see Jorge again, but have always remembered so many fun days surfing with him out at “Marias.” That was back when Maria was still alive and would sell us cokes out her kitchen window. Dogman was there too, living under a tree on the beach in front of “Dogmans.” B.C. was also there, living in a little cave in front of “B.C.’s”. Great times and super good memories of totally uncrowded waves and Jorge Machuca when he was a stoked up and coming surf gremmie. Unfortunately, his career was cut short just as he was reaching International acclaim by a car accident, leaving him unable to surf again. Cool dude though, and a surfer that should be a little better known than he is.
by Corky Carroll
This weeks column is one I do at this time every year to try and help those non-surfers out there who are trying to buy gifts for the surfers in their lives and have no idea what to get them. Some of these suggestions are the same ones I mention every year, but are very solid choices and I am taking into account that many non-surfers who are reading this probably did not read last years or any before that. I am going to start out with the least expensive and work up to the most.
Let’s kick off with “stocking stuffers” and things that don’t cost an arm and two legs. Surfers always need items such as surf wax and surf leashes. I would say you can’t go wrong with both of these, but you can. Surf wax must be the proper blend for the water temperature where the person will be surfing. If it’s for here in Orange County in December I would go with “cold water” wax. With the surf leash you will need to know what size board the person rides. Leashes come in all sizes, normally in six-inch increments going from very short boards all the way up to very long boards, and also in thickness relative to the size of surf the person will be riding. As a general rule of thumb the size of the leash should be about the same size and the length of the surfboard.
For adult surfers, who might enjoy a cocktail now and then, Jose Cuervo has just come out with a Limited-Edition bottle of Cuervo Especial Silver to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Cuervo Classic Surf Contest. It sells for $26 and is available in most stores. Also, in this same price point range, there are two new books that would be great gift ideas. One is former World Champion Fred Hemmings new work titled “LOCAL BOY.” This is a memoirs kinda deal dealing with Freddys life growing up surfing in Hawaii. Fred is a great surfer and story teller, super good read and is available at Barnes and Noble. The other is an amazing surfing cook book from former SURFER magazine editor Jim Kempton. It’s called “FIRST WE SURF AND THEN WE EAT.” This is a great collection of first-hand surf adventures and very flavorful recipes that Jim has come up with and collected through a lifetime of surf travel and adventures all over the world. It’s a tasty read and available on Amazon.
I have to mention items such as t-shirts, hoodies, hats and other surfwear that your surfer might like to wear. These are always great gifts, just get the size right. Surfers like stuff big. Nobody ever gets my size right. I have very wide shoulders, probably from a lifetime of paddling out, and if the shirt is too small it binds under my arms and chest. I am sure other surfers have this same issue. I like a 2xl, or 3xl even better. But people almost always give me a L or xl, which I can’t wear. Bummer to get a shirt you really love but doesn’t fit.
Moving up in cost there are always wetsuits, and of course, surfboards themselves. Now both of these items are fantastic gifts, but also not easy to buy because it is so important to get the correct size and model. Obviously with wetsuits the persons physical size is key, but also the type or suit. Surfboards are much harder as each surfer has his own preference. Stand Up Paddleboards (SUPs) fall into this same category. You need to either know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, exactly what your surfer wants as far as size, shape and most of the time brand. A really good idea for these items is a gift certificate. Let them pick it out, safe that way.
Lastly, and yes this is the part where I get to plug my own thing, would be a surf trip. All surfers love to travel, especially in the winter when it’s cold here in Orange County. Tropical destinations are at the top of the list. And a great choice would be a surf adventure with me. Send ‘em down for a week to stay at our casa on Mainland Mexico with my beautiful wife and I. We offer a totally all-inclusive surf trip that covers everything other than airfare. For info email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are tons of other ideas, but this is all I have space for and pretty much my top picks for this year. I hope it helps you and that you and the surfer, or surfers, in your life have a great Holiday season. And, just in case you were wondering, I like and am happy to accept gifts of any kind.
by Corky Carroll
Each year at this time, with Winter coming on and the water getting colder, I do a story on dealing with taking care of your ears if you are a surfer. My “go to’ expert on this subject is Dr. Carol Jackson of the Ear and Balance Clinic in Newport Beach. She is the leader in treating surfers ears and there is nobody I would trust my ears to other than her. I just did an interview with Dr. J that I think all of you that surf in the winter will find useful.
Q: Why does my ear plug up after surfing?
A: As the bony “speed bumps,” called exostoses, with surfer’s ear grow, water and debris flowing in as well as shedding skin cells from the ear drum and canal migrating out can get trapped. With growth, the ear canal opening gets smaller and eventually the canal pathway gets jammed.
Q: What’s the best way to prevent surfers ear or to stop mine from getting larger?
A: Keeping forceful flow of cold water out of the ear is the only way. Ear plugs that stay in are the best prevention, although a hood or Velcro headband can be effective if worn consistently. How hard the water is forced into the ear and how cold the water is are the two triggers that cause surfers ear.
Q: Which ear plugs are the best?
A: I’m often asked this question and my answer is always “the ones that fit you well, are comfortable enough that you’ll wear them, and that stay in.” Having said that, I favor short to medium length plugs; not so much the long “hot dog” or “tree-shaped” plugs which can rub on exostosis skin and push canal debris in deeper. For those who surf regularly, custom plugs are the best for fit and comfort. Since they last many years they’re cost-effective. They float and come in bright colors. They can be made with a lanyard and washed with soap and water.
Q: When should I see an otologist ear specialist?
A: If you are or have been in the ocean often, now is good in order to plan preventive care since there’s no method, except removal, to shrink exostoses. Symptoms of advanced exostosis that should prompt an otologist’s micro-exam include water plugging of your ear, discomfort, reduced hearing or pain with infection. Unlike emergency rooms, urgent care centers, or most general ENT offices, otologists have office operating microscopes connected to a display monitor to show you your problem and also to remove plugging debris. It’s critical that treatment medications can get down to the affected skin and deep canal near the ear drum.
Q: What’s the difference between swimmer’s ear and surfer’s ear?
A: Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the ear canal skin and soft tissues. It also occurs in non-swimmers and is made worse by using cotton swabs which remove protective wax and skin oils. Surfer’s ear, exostosis, is a condition of abnormal bone formation, rounded lumps that fuse and grow slowly. It’s nature’s attempt to protect the ear drum from repeated cold water flushes that has gone too far! They can occur together needing prudent treatment..
Q: When is exostosis removal necessary?
A: Since neither time nor other treatments will shrink exostoses, they need to be removed when they’re causing problems; usually that’s when they’re blocking 85% or more of the ear canal opening to the ear drum. That’s when they cause plugging or infections. When they are smaller, diligence to wearing plugs, air evaporating retained water, and promoting healthy canal skin can halt growth and allow reasonable management.
Q: If I need exostosis removal, what’s involved?
A: Removal procedures are usually outpatient under general anesthesia. Most patients have minimal discomfort afterwards. Most can return to their usual non-aqueous non-strenuous activities in a couple of days and return to water with precautions in four to six weeks. Individual healing varies depending in part on the severity of exostosis, technique used, the patient’s general health and compliance with post-operative care.
Q: What’s the best removal method?
A: I’m often asked this question by patients who are considering removal. My answer is an adage among physicians, “the way that works best in my hands.” Doctors develop preferences based on training, advances, theory, experience and results. Today, there are basically three:
(1) behind-the-ear approach with quiet diamond air drill removal; the standard for safe removal developed and used by otologists, specialists who treat only ear disorders, for some 50 years.
(2) chisel mallet separation in planes between exostoses and normal bone which is still used by a few general ENT doctors that also treat nose, sinus and throat disorders. The use of small chisels the surgeon taps with a small hammer was used in ear surgery 100 ago; before diamond air drills and lasers were developed for modern precision micro ear surgery near the ear drum and nerves.
(3) laser-assisted removal through the ear canal, with diamond air drill and grafts; my own developed preference used for 15 years, when feasible.
For more info or to make an appointment to see Dr. Jackson call (949) 574-7744
by Corky Carroll
EDDIE McBRIDE, SURFER 24/7/365
This week I am gonna dive way back into the early 1960’s for a little bit of Orange County surf history. It involves the San Onofre Surf Club, the Merrill family and a classic old surf dude named Eddie McBride.
I first started to surf at San Onofre way back in the 1950’s when the mother of two brothers who lived down the street, who were my age and both learning to surf at the same time as I was, would drive us down there in the back of her station wagon. Then in the early 1960’s I became friends with Benny Merrill, a club member who lived in San Clemente with his wife Kay, son Tommy and daughter Linda. Tommy was a local hot surfer who worked in the Velzy and Jacobs shop on Pacific Coast Highway and Linda was the tandem partner of the great Mike Doyle. Benny was an excellent surfer in his own right and the family home was sort of a meeting place for many of the San Onofre members and also local surfers. I would ride the Greyhound bus down there on Fridays after school and the Merrills would let me sleep in a back playroom that they had.
One of the San Onofre members who also hung at the Merrills was Eddie McBride. Eddie was retired from a career working for the Federal Governments Geological Department taking depth soundings along the entire West Coast. He had spent his entire life paddling around in small boats doing his soundings, and surfing along the way. At this point in his life I am gonna say Eddie was somewhere in probably his 60’s. He would be the first one in to San Onofre each morning and the last one out at the 10 P.M. closing time each and every day of the year. Then he would park his little camper truck, that he lived in, in front of the Merrills house and sleep each night. You could find him every day, rain or shine, in the very last parking spot on the far south end of the beach. That was his spot.
I really liked Eddie and spent a lot of time listening to him tell me great stories about the early days of surfing in California and all the historical surf guys and girls who came before me. He was a super good story teller. During those weekends staying with the Merrills I would normally hang out with a girlfriend I had in that area at night and then go to San Onofre with Benny and Kay during the days. There were a lot of colorful older surf legends on hand at almost any given time and they all loved to hang around the fire ring reminiscing about some story. One such tale was about the huge day back in the 1930’s when they had to stand on top of a Box Car parked on the railroad tracks in order to see George “Peanuts” Larson ride a 40 foot wave all way from outside Lower Trestles through “Church” and into the beach in front of the old Marine Recreation Center. If you don’t know that area this ride would have been close to a mile long. Being the punk “know it all” kid that I was back then I would laugh and say, “IT WAS NEVER 40 FOOT,” you guys are nuts.” This did not endear me to many of them. But Eddie was always understanding of my youthful obnoxiousness and was nice to me.
In later years when I had a car and could drive myself around I would sometimes drive down to San Onofre on a cold rainy day in the winter and go visit Eddie in his old camper truck in that same spot. I would take him something to eat and/or drink and would hang out talking surf stories for hours. He had a wonderful personality and never got tired of me coming around to squeeze some good history out of him, or at least he never let me know about it in case he did. I always felt he was happy to see me. Well, seeing as how he was there all the time and especially on cold winter days when nobody was down there except him, he was probably glad to see me. Plus, I was always good for a couple burgers and a six pack of beer.
When I got older and had a family and spent most of my time doing other things I didn’t get down to hang out with Eddie much and sort of lost touch with him. I would wind up moving to Idaho for a couple of years after my pro surfing career ended and somewhere along the line Eddie passed away. I didn’t actually hear about it when it happened, it was a few years later when I was down at San Onofre one day and noticed that his truck was not there in its spot. I asked where he was, and I think it was Doc Paskowitz that told me he had died. I didn’t get the details, just that he was gone.
Eddie was just one of a whole crew of really wonderful surfers who hung at San Onofre back then. A lot of those guys had kids that grew up to be the fathers and those dudes had kids and there is a whole “San Onofre Families” thing with that place. There are kids there now who have like four or five generations of San Onofre surfers that came before them. So much history at that beach. And Eddie McBride and Benny Merrill and his family were a huge part of that heritage.