by Corky Carroll
So, I was sitting on my deck last night with my lifetime pal, and neighbor, Tim “the Iguana” Dorsey, chit chatting about how another year has slipped by in the blink of an eye. When you get as old as us they go way faster than when you are a kid. The Iguana and I have known each other for over 60 years. When I was a little kid, just starting to learn to surf, he was one of the big-name surf heroes in our area. He was part of the Seal Beach crew that would sometimes come and surf out in front of my house in Surfside. Most of them were kinda mean to me, I was kinda over exuberant in those days and probably asked too many questions and talked too much. But Tim was always really friendly and a good guy. He became a lifeguard and his job was to patrol the beach in Surfside in the evenings. On his nightly patrol he always made it a point of stalling out in front of our house until my mom would see him. This would naturally be met with the nightly invite in for dinner. She would bring us TV dinners, which we would eat on TV trays in front of the TV in the living room. Tim would park the lifeguard jeep right outside the door so he could hear if he got a call. I would be in like my pajamas and bathrobe and we would watch something like “Highway Patrol,” with Broadrick Crawford. I think Tim sort of saw himself as the lifeguard version of that.
These days most nights (I like the way that sounded) he and I hang out on my deck having a “Corkarita”and talking about all the people that have passed through our lives over the years, adventures we had had together and separately, and who is the latest friend, or not, that has hit the big banana peel (as he likes to call it) and moved on to the next phase. When you get our age, actually he is way way older than me, it gets more and more frequent to have to say, “Ahh man, guess who pulled out today?” Then we toast them and tell whatever stories we know about them. Just part of the daily conversations in our “Geezers gone wild” real life reality show. He always says he likes to read the “obits” just to make sure we aren’t in there.
One of the many things I love about the Iguana is that he has a sense of humor that is close to mine. Somehow we can turn even the most bummer of events into some sort of joke and laugh about it. Like when we find out one of our childhood pals is really sick and might not make it. First the mood is dark, and we are lamenting. But somehow then comes something like, “yeah, remember when he picked up that chick in the Long Bar in T.J. and it turned out to be a guy? He made out with him/her for 20 minutes before he figured it out, hahahahaha.” Then we toast him and send him a get-well message, bringing up the story. It might not be politically correct, but it lightens the mood. And, truth be known, neither of us has even been all that politically correct in the first place. It is a good thing we are not around anybody who would quote us on most of the subjects we talk about (yikes, except for me), with the way things are these days it could be a problem. But, I am guessing it is the same with most people.
We do talk about surfing most of the time, and surf people. After all, that is who we are. Tim started on a hollow paddleboard and me on a heavy solid balsawood plank, in the mid 1950’s. We watch kids in the shorebreak in front of my house getting air on modern boards and debate about how we could be doing that if we would have had that kind of equipment when we started. Not really debate, we both are sure we could, we just argue about who would be getting higher.
So, there we were in our normal deck chairs talking about yet another year going into the books. Guys coming close to riding 100 foot waves, Kelly Slater still competing on a world class level at 46 years old, who has to pee more times a night than the other, how it would be fun to try out one of those “foils” on the outside reef in front of the house (“Corkyland”), and other important, or not, topics that come to play at the end and beginning of another year. Like, “I am really gonna get in better shape this year.” “Hahahahahaha, yeah right.”
Somehow the evening always ends with, “O.K., lets surf in the morning, a new swell is gonna be filling in.” Of course, it’s harder and harder to get him to paddle out, but when he does he can still shred. It’s great to have a real true lifelong surf pal.
By Corky Carroll
Last week I wrote about some of my favorite surfboards through the years and got a lot of response. So, this week, seeing as how Christmas is just a few days away, I thought I would talk about a favorite Christmas Day from my treasure trove of all the zillions of them that I have had the pleasure of being alive for. A few years ago I did this and talked about the one where I got my first surfboard. Today I am gonna tell you about one that I had in the late 1960’s while I was staying on the North Shore in Hawaii.
Every year from 1963 to 1971 I was on the North Shore for Christmas, it was the big winter surf contest season over there and it was where you had to be if you were involved in that kind of thing. I think it was 1969 or 1970 when I was invited to a friend of mines home for Christmas dinner. His name was Al Dukes, cool dude who lived up on top of the mountain in an area called “Pupukea Heights.” He had this very nice “A frame” house and a great wife who did the cooking. He also invited Johnny Fain, the famous Malibu Hotdogger, over that same year. We had a wonderful mid-afternoon dinner and a couple of holiday drinks, it was very nice. After eating Al and Johnny started playing Chess. I had never played it and watched intently, I had always wanted to learn. After they played a game Johnny showed me how to move the pieces and then kicked my butt in a matter of a few minutes. Humph.
After that the three of us went down and paddled out at a little surfed spot, at that time, called “Kammieland.” It was really good, about 8 feet with perfect screaming left-hand barrels, just the kind I like. And, as an extra added treat, we were the only guys out, probably the best day I ever surfed that particular spot. I always remember the “Christmas Kammieland Session” when it’s this time of year and memories of former holiday seasons filter into my semi functional one flickering memory cell brain.
The next day I went to town and bought two books on how to play Chess. I spent day after day reading, practicing what I read and learning. I also was playing games with my pal Rodney Sumpter, who I was able to blow away within a matter of days. In these kind of situations I have always been able to super focus and put maximum effort into whatever it is that has challenged me. My pal Allan Seymour used to tell me that I could focus so intently on one thing that the entire rest of the world did not exist, I probably have a few wives, ex and current, that can back that up too. Finally, ready and full of confidence, I casually asked Johnny over for dinner at my house one night. Afterwards I pulled out my little cardboard and plastic Chess set I had bought at the drugstore in Haleiwa and asked him if I could have a rematch. He told me he would give me both Castles and both Knights and play me for 10 bucks. We did and I won. This did not go well with Johnny, being a pretty competitive dude, so he says double or nothing and I only get the two knights. I won again. Now he is actually kinda hot under the collar and says “100 bucks, straight up.” Yep, nailed him. He was in shock. As he didn’t, or so he said, have the cash on him he told me he would pay me later. Of course he never did, nor did I actually think he would. But it was a moment of glory for me and kinda the icing on the cake of a great Christmas.
I heard Al passed away some years ago, but Johnny Fain is still alive. I know you are still out there Fain. Where’s my C note dude? It’s not too late to pay up and clear your conscious amigo. An extra hundie would make my Christmas just a little sweeter.
By Corky Carroll
A lot of times people ask what were my favorite boards over the years. Most of the time I will talk about boards that just flat out rode better than the rest, I mean those would obviously be the favs I guess. But I was thinking about this last night when somebody brought up this subject and I sort of realized that some of the boards that I really had an attachment to had more to offer, personally speaking, than just that they surfed really good. I thought I would talk a little bit about those today.
Off the top, I have had really a lot of surfboards over the past 60 something years. There are little things that can make a board attractive to you. Boards are like chicks, they can be the hottest looking you ever saw but you like the one with the really sweet smile the best. Yeah, it’s cool to be seen with the mega babe but it’s the one that makes you feel good that you want to spend your time with. Boards are like that. Here is a perfect example. I had a board made that I went way overboard on with “extras.” It had five stringers and a ton of colors. This was in the early 1960’s when I was first getting “deals” on boards and was offered “anything I want” for 80 bucks. That thing looked amazing, but was so heavy that it rode like an old Buick. When I first got sponsored by Ole Surfboards, which was owned by HOBIE at the time, my pal Scott Hoxeng, who also got signed on at the same time, and I had identical boards made. They looked and rode alike. But Scott put a little stripe around his to make it look different, so we would know which was which. For some reason, in my mind, it made his board ride just a little better than mine. I was always borrowing his. I won the 1963 U.S. Championship in the Jr. Men’s on that board. That was definitely one of my favorite boards.
Before I was surfing for Hobie I rode for HARBOUR Surfboards in Seal Beach. Richard Harbour made me a beautiful board that I won my first contest ever on, the San Clemente Surf Capades in 1962. While he was building that board he loaned me a used board out of the rack, it was a solid kinda mustard colored thing. That board rode so well I was just gonna tell Rich that I wanted to keep instead of the new one he was building me. It was not very pretty really, looked like a Yam or something. But I loved that board. Bummer was I broke it in half on one of the houses on pilings where I lived in Surfside.
Then there was a board that I did the colors in the gloss coat myself sometime in the late 60’s. Raymond Patterson was our gloss and color guy and one day when I was telling him what I wanted on my new board he just handed me the bucket and said “go for it.” I did a kinda purple splash thing that in itself was not unusual in any way, other than I had done it myself. In other words, HIGH ART. Loved that board, as I remember it rode very well but it was probably the fact that I did the artwork myself that made it special to me.
Then there was my beloved first “Cow” twin-fin. To make a long story short, I started riding boards with cow-print airbrush designs in the mid 1990’s when I did a “Country-Surf” album for a record company in Germany. We did a cow colored board for the cover photo. I rode that board at the pier in Huntington Beach and people laughed at me, just enough to get an extra wave or two. From then on I have ridden cowboards. When I went back to riding the “twin fin” designs towards the end of the 90’s, early 2000’s I had one done with the cow colors. Dam, that board became my one and only for years. A couple others came and went, but THAT one was just IT. I still have it but haven’t ridden it for a long time. First I switched to “quads,” and then to Stand Up Paddleboards. My wife put it and one other like it on stands by our front door where you walk into our house, it’s kinda like “welcome to the Cow Palace.”
Naturally there have been others, but those come to mind off the top of my head at the moment. Boards that not only rode good but also had a sweet smile and made me happy.
By Corky Carroll
I always love writing stories about positive stuff, history’s of legendary surfers or colorful people from my past, cool events, new revolutionary equipment and all those kind of cool things. I hate it when somebody croaks, or I have to report on some not fun and not positive kinda deal. Well, today it’s one of those sort of half this and half that adventures. A couple of important local talents that are having a hard time with health issues, that is the bad part, and people coming to their aid with great fundraising events that we will all want to take part in, which is the good part.
Starting off with all-star surf guitarist Paul Johnson. Where do I start with Paul? This dude is up there with Dick Dale on the Mount Rushmore of Surf Guitarists. He was a member of the famous surf band, the “Belairs,” and wrote their monster instrumental hit “Mr. Moto,” in 1961. That song is on the all-time surf music hit list. He has been around Orange County forever and has taken part in more surf music venues than I could possible list here. One of my favorite Paul Johnson moments was at one of the United States Surfing Championships that I competed in at Huntington Beach, not sure of the year but it was probably early 1970’s. On the morning of the finals they had Paul do a surf guitar version of the Star-Spangled Banner. The sun was barely coming up and I think I might have been one of only a few people even on the beach that early, I used to always try to get a quick session in before the contest would start so that I had a feel for the waves on that particular day. I was just coming out of the water when Paul cranked it up. It was truly an amazing version. Jimi Hendrix would have been proud. When he was done I couldn’t help but think that I wish they would have had him do it just before the awards or something, when zillions of people could have heard it and not just me and a couple others. None the less, it was killer.
O.K. to the point, Paul has some bad cancer and the surf music community has come to his aid. There is a MONSTER benefit being held Sunday, Dec 9th at the Gaslamp in Long Beach, 4 to 10P.M. I think every known surf band on the planet are playing along with every member of previous hit bands sitting in. Admission is $20, and all ages are invited. To further help Paul you can go to WWW.GOFUNDME.COM/GET-PAUL-WELL-AND-PROSPERING.
The other dude with a dilemma is our own Huntington Beach surf hero, the one and only Bud Llamas. Anybody who knows anything about surfing in Huntington Beach can tell you that Bud is one of the best to ever fly through that pier, bar none. He was one of the top surfers in the world back in the 70’s and 80’s, is a Hall of Famer, and to this day is one of the top guys you will see out there on a daily basis. His off the lip top turns have been known to be so heavy that kids on the pier get sprayed when he is having one of his “Bud on fire” epic sessions on the south side. But not only is Bud a great surfer but he is an amazing person and a core member of the local surfing family.
Bud needs a new hip. The Huntington Beach surf community is throwing a “Lets help Bud spray the kids on the pier again Christmas Party-Bud Llamas Hip Help” fundraiser at Cruisers Huntington Beach on Friday night, December 21st. The entire local lineup will be there ready to rock to the great Ramsey Brothers Band, and special guests. A super fun way to spend the evening and help out a wonderful Orange County surf legend.
I love it when the tribes come together to help out one of their own who is down and in need of some aid. Medical costs are just absurd these days and unless you can afford some sort of mega gold insurance you are totally in trouble if you have some major problem to deal with. So, a little help from your friends goes a long way.
by Joel Saltzman
These days, travel is nowhere near as easy as it used to be. We have compiled several helpful tips that may make it slightly less painful the next time you travel.
1) Liquid 3-1-1 Rules
Everyone knows that if you try to bring your own water, it will get confiscated by security forcing you to pay $5 for a bottle once you clear security. Here is the TSA rules on liquids. There is a very easy solution that that they don't seem to mention anywhere but I've been doing it successfully for years. I take a large bottle of Smartwater and freeze it the night before. I also put a note on my front door reminding me not to forget it. As long as the water is frozen, you can bring as much as you desire. This way you have ice water all the way to your destination.
2) FREE Surfboard travel
I personally fly Alaska Airlines quite a bit and found that the $75 per year for their credit card was well worth it. They not only let you fly free once you get the miles, you get lots of other benefits. One of my favorites is their "Buddy Pass". You get one a year. It used to be $100 plus tax but I believe it may be $110 plus tax for a second person to join you. The other really cool thing is Alaska allows one free bag per person on your reservation. That means if I book reservations for my friends, their boards travel free as well as mine. I've also heard that United recently launched a California program that anyone traveling to or from California with a surfboard would not be charged for it. I have not done this first hand and recommend verifying it.
3) TSA PreCheck , Clear, and Global Entry
If you travel globally often, it might be wise to consider one of the above programs. For $85, you are covered for 5 years and get whisked through security without having to remove your shoes or laptops. I personally have not yet done this because for some reason, about 60% of the time, they give me PreCheck anyway. TSA FAQ's
How does it work?
4) Food on the Plane
These days, you're lucky to get FREE coffee and soft drinks on flights. Possibly a bag of peanuts or a Biscotti too. Most of the food available is pretty heinous and overpriced. The only exception for me was the Angus burger that Alaska Airlines served for many years on the way back from Mexico. Unfortunately, that went away early this year so I will only bring my own food now. Of course, you could always buy something in the airport but it's going to cost far more than if purchased elsewhere. I personally buy a sandwich from my local sub shop with the dressing on the side. You will never have any problem bringing your own food. The only exception was once when the TSA agent thought my oil and vinegar may have been Nitroglycerin or something. I poured it on my sandwich and they let me pass that time. This has not been an issue since, except if I don't finish it, they seem to want to confiscate it going through customs in Mexico. They say it's because of the lettuce or something but who knows?
Of course, my favorite surf trip these days is Corky Carroll's Surf Adventure. As it's all inclusive and includes the usage of his surfboards and SUPs, who needs to drag boards around, FREE or not. Nothing is worse than getting home early on an international flight, having your bags come off the carousel first, and then having to wait a half hour at the oversized luggage area for your board bag.
By Corky Carroll
After years and years of toiling away at my autobiography I have, at last, just about finished it. I sort of thought I had it done, but then remembered that I forgot to put in the story about the night I got a batting lesson from the great Joe “Joltin Joe” DiMaggio, the Yankee Clipper himself. I wrote about this a zillion years back, I think I did anyway, but thought it would be fun to revisit it as people always like this little tale. And I can use this for that part in the book and kill two birds with one bazooka. OK, calm down….. no birds were killed or hurt in the writing of this column, you gotta watch what you say these days.
During the years between my retirement from the pro surfing circuit in 1972 and the late 1990’s, when I damaged my Achilles tendon, I spent an enormous amount of time playing tennis. I worked my way up in classifications and eventually became a teaching pro. One of my favorite things in my tennis career was that I was invited to play in many “celebrity” tournaments for charities all around the country. It was at one of these events, in the friendly town of Billings, Montana, that this little interaction took place.
This particular event involved both a tennis and golf tournament and included a huge list of celebrities invited. On the Friday night before the tennis and golf events started they held a big softball game between the “Hollywood All Stars” and the local softball team. I thought it was gonna just be a little fun event, but noooo. Turns out they sold out a 10,000 seat minor league baseball stadium for this, and it was on local television. I see this and am thinking, seeing as how there are dozens of bigger names here for this than me, I doubt I will have to play. So, I am sitting in the dugout, trying to look invisible, when Rod Dedeaux comes rolling in. Rod was the baseball coach at U.S.C. for years and was also my neighbor when I was growing up in Surfside. He is coaching the Hollywood All Stars. He sees me and goes, “Coorrrky, I heard you were here. Great, you will be my leadoff hitter.”
Oh no, this is not good. I am watching this dude warming up on the mound tossing up these 14’ to 16’ foot high pitches that are twisting and doing all this stuff and landing right on the plate every time, it was THAT kind of softball. I go into semi panic mode and am thinking of how bad it would look if I boogied on outta there right then. But, as fate would have it, in strolls Joe DiMaggio. Mr. Coffee himself, right there in front me. So, I seized the opportunity and innocently say, “Hey Joe, I need your help. I am just a dumb surfer/tennis player and I have never seen, nor tried to hit, a pitch like that. How do you hit that?”
On that note the entire dugout does an “E.F. Hutton,” and stops dead. Everybody is waiting to hear what Joe has to say. And there were some huge sports guys in there such as Ahmad Rashad, Kenny Anderson and Rick Berry. Joe pauses and looks down at me sitting there, considering his words carefully. And very direct and sincerely he says, “Corky, I am gonna tell you how to hit that pitch. But I am going to tell you this one time and one time only, so listen carefully.” I am listening super carefully and so is everybody else in there, I can’t believe I am actually getting a batting tip from Joe DiMaggio. This would be like some kuk from Pasadena getting a surf tip from Duke Kahanamoku.
After a short pause, for effect I think, he slowly and firmly tells me, “KEEP…YOUR EYE….ON…..THE BALL!”
Oh yeah, of course. It had to be that. I would tell people that all day long when giving them tennis lessons. “Keep your eye on the ball, relax, bend your knees and follow through.” The grail. Everybody kinda gives an “oh yeah,” and goes back to doing what they were doing.
When they were announcing me as leading off for the Hollywood All Stars I was shaking and sweating bullets. The pitcher, who had a handlebar mustache and looked amazingly like Rollie Fingers, was confidently sizing me up. This was worse than close out sets on a giant day at Waimea Bay.
I went up and swung as hard as I could at the first pitch, closing my eyes in the process, resulting in a zillion foot high pop up to the pitcher. When I came back in the dugout Joe says, “Well, you hit it.”