Corky on "the other Corky"
by Corky Carroll
If you grew up a Steve or a Bill, probably even a Tom, Dick or Larry for that matter, it probably never really phased you to meet other people with the same first name. This would be the same for a Mary or Susan if you are a girl. Growing up a Corky was a bit different, there just aren’t that many of us around. In my life I think I have only known 4 others, one of which is a girl. This is not counting dogs. It seems there are many more dogs named Corky than people. Probably all of us have other proper names and have been nick-named Corky for one reason or another. I was named that by my mother when I was a baby. I had the colic and burped all the time; the neighbors had a small dog that barked all the time. The dog was named Corky and my mom never could tell if it was me burping or the dog barking, so she nicknamed me after the dog. It stuck and I have never gone by anything else.
One of my pals through the past 55 years is Corky Smith, one of most legendary characters in the city of Laguna Beach. Corky’s proper name is Briggs Christian Morris-Smith. When he was a baby his parents threw a lot of parties and served bottles of Champagne. Little Briggs liked to suck on the corks, hence the “Corky” nick-name. I like his story better than mine, the whole burping and dog barking thing is something that I always intended on changing to something way cooler, but just never got around too.
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I first met Corky Smith in Jacksonville, Florida in 1964 when I was on the “Endless Summer” movie and surf exhibition tour with Bruce Brown and Hobie Alter. Corky was running the Hobie dealership there that had been opened by Dick Metz, another Laguna Beach surfing legend and longtime partner with Hobie in many projects and stores. We became friends and I would see him often when he moved back to his hometown of Laguna Beach. He is an excellent surfer and former City Surfing Champion, plus an all-around waterman. One of those people who can do it all, and does. Bodysurf, board surf, paipo boards, skim boards, frizby tosser and most of the beach activities you would find during your average day at Oak Street Beach. He worked for SURFER magazine and he is also a martial arts expert and teacher.
But Corky’s story goes way beyond all that. A Korean war veteran who risked his life in service of our country as a United States Marine. A devoted historian who has worked his entire life to discovering and maintaining many sites in and around the hills surrounding the City of Laguna Beach. He has been one of the main people in keeping the ocean waters clean, the hills pristine and preserving the quality of life in that town for well more than half a century.
So, here’s the deal and the main reason for this story today. Corky is now 83 years old and the wear and tear on his body from his years in the Marines and in the Hills of Laguna has taken its toll. He needs a new hip. The Veterans Administration has let him down and now it’s up to us, the good people of Orange County, to give him a hand. There is a fund set up for contributions to get Corky the new hip. It is https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-corky-smith-get-a-new-hip.
If any of you can spare some money to help out this amazing and good person it would be a very cool thing to do. He is anxious to get back out to second reef at Brooks Street and up into the Hills of Laguna to explore and protect more historical sites. Thanks to all of you who can chip in.
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by Corky Carroll
Each year for as far back as I can remember I have done my annual giving thanks column in the week that comes closest to Thanksgiving, except last year. I can’t remember why but I think something came up that required that time frame. Anyway, I got lots of mail asking me why and saying that I should always do that one. So, without further ado, here is my list of things that I am thankful for this year.
Before I get to me, though, I am thinking that this would be a good time to suggest a couple of things that, as surfers living in Southern California, we all should be grateful for. At the top is that fact that we surf and live in one of the coolest and most desirable places on the planet. It’s too easy to get angry with the crowds in the water and on the highways and forget that even with that this is still a total mecca. Surfing is fun. I don’t think there is ever a moment in my life that I am not grateful that I am a surfer and my life revolves around such a great thing to do. And to be able to live here is a total gift. Yeah, it’s not perfect. But it comes about as close as I can think of for a great place to live. Just about anything you can ever want is right here and close by.
O.K, now on to my personal thankings. At the moment I owe a huge thanks to my team of doctors for keeping me around longer. Having a recent run of physical issues, that were a not so fun of a surprise, I gotta thank Dr. Cathy Gentemann for catching a heart defect during my annual checkup at Memorial Care in Huntington Beach. A few hospital stays and a pacemaker later I am still vertical and walking around, which might not have been the case if Dr. Gentemann had not been on her game that day. And also Dr. Yang at American Heart in Fountain Valley for keeping me that way. And the dude who has been my skin doctor for as long as I remember, Sidney Newman at Los Alamitos Dermatology. Keep cutting and I will keep breathing. Thanks Sid. Naturally I am as thankful as it gets to my team of “Ear Babes.” This is Dr. Carol Jackson and her crew, the very best when it comes to your ears, and specifically “Surfers Ear.” Dr. J rocks and the hearing aids she fit me for are more important to my day to day happiness than words could ever express. Last, but not least, thanks to the most awesome surfing dentist known to man or beast, Dr. Eric Vanek. So a huge Thanksgiving shout out to these wonderful care givers.
On a more personal basis I am so grateful and thankful to have the most wonderful, sweet, beautiful and fun wife imaginable. Raquel Sauza Carroll. Nobody can understand how I got so lucky and landed this one, even me. My great kids too. Clint, Kasey and Tanner Carroll, love you guys. Grandson Cannon Carroll too. Family is so important and in the struggle for survival and the legal tender it can easily be forgotten just how important this is. The older you get the more you wish you had spent more time, done more things with, and for, and had let them know how important they are in your life and how much you love them. So to each of you just know that you are everything to me and I am so thankful to have you.
This goes for friends too. What blows my mind is that I actually have a long list of them and it would be impossible to narrow down a list short enough to fit here. Super thanks to Joel Saltzman, who is my partner in our new BLUE MANGO SURF adventure (www.bluemangosurf.com). Joel is one of those super fun and up-tempo people that is just always fun to be around. Everybody at HOBIE. My partners in the Mexico surf adventure that keeps me eating, Ron “Sharkenburger” Chrislip and John Ford. Best duo I can think of to help me keep this killer lifestyle I am lucky enough to live going. And, there it is too…. The killer lifestyle that I am lucky enough to live. I can go surfing every day. Think about that. I am 72 freaking years old and I can go surfing every day. Most of my pals my age are either in the ground or close to it. But I am still walkin’ the nose and crankin turns. If THAT isn’t something to be thankful for, what is?
I am going to wind this up with a huge thanks to all of you who read me each week and to the Orange County Register for letting me continue to do this for all these years. Stay tuned kids, there is a lot more to come.
Corky's Best Gifts for Surfers
by Corky Carroll
Fa la la la laaaaaa kiddies. Yes, it’s that joyful time of year again when you are in a snit over what to get that surfer in your life for Christmas, Hanukah, or just because everybody is giving and getting gifts and you wanna be a part of it. Yeah, many remind us that “it’s not about getting presents.” I say don’t be a baa humbug grinch and get ready to burn some plastic. Fret no more because I am here to save the day, yet again, and give you some extremely helpful suggestions on the perfect holiday gift for a surfer. Of course many of you are surfers yourselves so you already have a good idea on this, so this is aimed more towards non surfers who trying to figure this out.
Normally I come up with a list of what I think would be the best choices, but this year I am trying something new. I posed the question to my friends on Facebook and got way more answers than I had counted on. From the hundreds of comments I picked these little tidbits for you.
A subscription to SURFLINE. Corkys new book (available soon on Amazon). Membership to SURFRIDER FOUNDATION. Subscription to SURFERS JOURNAL. Reef safe sunscreen. Wetsuit. Wax. Remote controlled Tiger Shark to patrol the lineup and bump people just before you paddle out. (I like that one.). State Park Pass. Terrycloth hoodie changing robe. “Endless Summer” book and box set. Trip to Hawaii. Surf leash. Stickers. Astrodeck. Good set of fins for bodysurfing. Surfing DVDs. Blue Mango t-shirt or anything from bluemangosurf.com. (that is a good one).
Dry bag for transporting wet stuff in your car. Flip flops. Sunglasses. Ugg slip-ons. “Surfboards and Stratocasters,” great book on the Beachboys from BALSABILL.COM. Gift certificate for 2-hour surf photo session with John Lyman Surf Photos. Gift certificate to any good surf shop. New surfboard. New Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP). New paddle for SUP, ( I like Quickblades). Travel Boardbag. Paddle Air rib protection vest. Pass to Kelly Slaters wave park in Lemore, Ca. (these go for 25k per day). Ear Plugs. Lock Box for your keys. Hang Air wetsuit dryer. Tide chart calendar. Beach chair and umbrella. Portable water shower. Beach towels. Hawaiian shirt. Ding repair kit. Quick Fin Release. Rail Grabber from Linda Benson (these are great for carrying your board). Tanker surfing adventure with Captain James Fulbright, (note: this is in Galveston, Texas. Super cool experience, Jimmy Buffet is a regular).
O.K., those were the highlights that I got from the Facebook survey. I would like to add a few ideas of my own to this list. You can never go wrong with surfing orientated t-shirts. Surfers live in t-shirts. Always get one size bigger than you think too, we like em loose. Straps to tie boards on cars, always come in handy and are easy to pack for a trip. All sun care and after sun products, I cannot stress the importance of NOT getting sunburned. Hats, some reason. For those interested in the new “foils” I just read about a new product called a “Fliteboard.” This is a motorized foil which allows you to ride one in any body of water. You can get info at us.Fliteboard.com. My recommendation is to NOT go anywhere near other surfers on one of these puppies though. Foils are getting more popular these days but still look pretty dangerous to me.
I also recommend surfing coffee table books, and there are a number of them out there to choose from. And, of course, there is always surfing lessons for beginners and private coaching for those more advanced. Got a kid getting ready to start surfing competition? Get him or her some competitive coaching to help get going on the right foot. A good water watch is a great one too. I just got a new Apple Watch and it’s set up to record and measure all my rides, how cool is that?
Of course my ultimate suggestion, and this is where I get to toss in my once a year plug, would be a one or two week surf adventure package to come stay and surf with me at my getaway casa on Mainland, Mexico. Totally all inclusive and includes personal surf coaching if desired. Just email me for info at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To wrap this up let me also suggest that you try to find out what he or she really wants, or needs, ahead of time and that you know his or her sizes. Have fun shopping and HAPPY HOLIDAYS.
Annual Holiday Gifts Article
Corky on the first "Mr Pipeline"
By Corky Carroll
I spend way too much time on Facebook and I know it. But, in my defense, I get a ton of info there and come up with ideas that would not surface if I didn’t. As I spend way more time more or less “off the grid” than on it, tucked away at my happy and warm little tropical getaway, the internet and social media keep me at least somewhat it touch with reality, or at least the current state of what people are thinking. Lately there have been some photos posted of the late great Butch Van Artsdalen and suggestions that I write something about him. I have done this, but it was decades ago and I guess it’s time for a redo, or at least fresh look.
Butch was a very wild dude, anyway you slice it or dice it. He was an amazing surfer and just one of those all-around gifted athletes. He lettered in Baseball, Basketball and Football three years in a row at La Jolla High School, after moving to San Diego from Virginia at age 14. He took up surfing at Windansea, one of La Jollas heavier surf spots, shortly after and within a short amount of time was one of the standout locals in the line-up. He started surfing in most of the contests here in California in the early 1960’s and also was a solid paddle board racer. The dude was ultra-competitive.
During the winter of 1962-63 Butch went to Hawaii and became the first guy to really ride the famous “Pipeline” in a dominant kind of way. It had been ridden before him, but he was the first to really do it well. He was nicknamed “Mr. Pipeline” after his performances there, which were well documented by tons of surf movies and magazines. This was later passed down to the great Gerry Lopez some years later. But it was Butch who really showed us how to ride the place in the beginning.
I met him at a few of the surfing contests but didn’t really get to know him until I started working at the Hobie shop in Dana Point when I was about 14. Butch did repairs in a little shed behind the shop and also lived right down the street from where I shared an apartment with a couple of pals. I loved the dude, he had a great personality and was easy to laugh, my favorite trait. But, I learned really fast not to stop by to say hi much after dark. Butch surfed hard, worked hard and drank hard. Mister totally cool could turn into Mister really mean really fast. Best to avoid that part of the package if possible.
Although, on the North Shore of Oahu, where his life more or less had to take him, this kinda worked in his favor. His fearless hard charging surfing in the biggest and most gnarly waves combined with his love for drinking, fighting and general all out rowdiness was endearing to the local Hawaiians, many of whom shared the same kinda approach to life. The dude just was one of those “go for it at all costs” kinda people. He was super fun to surf with, especially when the waves were really big. His total “isn’t this incredibly fun” kind of attitude could spill over onto those of us who were kinda, well lets be honest, scared. Many times I took off on waves steeper and deeper than I might have if Butch hadn’t been yelling out, “yeaaaah, GO FOR IT!!!!” And he would give me a hoot if I made it or laugh his butt off if I ate it like a rat. To him it was all fun. I think Butch would have made a great pirate if he had lived in different times.
He became a lifeguard on the North Shore, probably the most dangerous lifeguard job in the world. He was one of the few people with the nerve to charge rescues in the most challenging situations.
Butch lived hard and died just as hard, drinking himself to death in 1979 at the young age of 38. A big ceremony was held for him at Pipeline and his ashes were scattered into the lineup, the rightful place for him. One of the greatest surfers ever.
Mr Pipeline Article
Corky on Babysitting Laird
by Corky Carroll
After ten plus years of scribbling out notes I finally just finished writing my autobiography. A few months ago my pal Brad Fiedel, great keyboard dude and composer of movie soundtracks, asked me how it was coming. My response was, “not done yet.” He said that would be a good title for it. Yeah, made sense to me. The book is done, but I’m not. So, perfect title. I will let you know more about release dates and all that when I know, well, all that. In the meantime I thought I would share a tale or two from the book with you here.
Today I thought I would talk about back in the late 1960’s, early 1970’s when I used to spend a lot of time on the North Shore. One of my best friends was Billy Hamilton. Billy lived right in front of “Pipeline” with his girlfriend Joanne and her son Laird. Eventually they would get married and Laird would take Hamilton as his last name. I always stayed with Mark Martinson, who live right up the street from Billy and Joanne, and was often called for babysitting duty when they wanted an evening out. Laird was just a young kid, but already was showing the sort of competitiveness and aggression that would later make him into probably the greatest big wave surfer and innovator of all time. So, here is a little snippet from NOT DONE YET about my adventures babysitting Laird Hamilton.
“My pal Billy Hamilton had moved to the North Shore and was living in a house right in front of Pipeline during those years. He had met a great girl named Joanne and she was living with him, along with her son Laird. They called him Laird-John when he was young, the “John” part got dropped sometime later. When I was staying on the north shore during the winters I sometimes got called into babysitting duty for Laird when Billy and Joanne wanted to go out and nobody better qualified was handy. Babysitting Laird, who was really young but already ultra-high energy and super competitive, was an adventure. He liked to play Checkers. Playing a board game with Laird was sort of an art form. If you beat him he would sulk off to his room and before long checkers would be pinging off the back of your head, followed by the checkerboard itself. If you let him win he would know it and the same result would happen, only he wouldn’t bother with sulking off to his room first. So the challenge was to sort of make it as even as possible. Barely win one, then let him barely win one and sort of keep it really close with him coming out the eventual “grand champion.” I remember that Joanne liked to play “Jacks.” One day I was driving past their house when all of a sudden a whole bunch of jacks came flying out the upstairs window and hit the windshield of my car. I had to laugh. Obviously Joanne had just beaten Laird. I got outta harms way before the little rubber ball or anything else rained down on me. It wasn’t unusual for Laird to toss a chair or even a couch, the kid was pretty gnarly. When Billy and Joanne got married Laird took Hamilton as his last name. That kid grew into the greatest and most fearless big wave, no….GIANT wave, surfer of all time. I have been in constant awe at the things he has done over the years and have proudly pointed to a few checkerboard scars on my head a number of times and stated, “Laird Hamilton?, yeah I know that dude.””
Stay tuned, I will try to get you a few more of these little bits from the book before it comes out. Cowabunga.
Laird's Babysitter Article