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.
by Corky Carroll
Coming up on Friday, August 2nd, will be the annual SURFERS HALL OF FAME induction ceremony. As part of the week long Vans U.S. Open of Surfings list of great activities, this is one of the coolest to attend and important. It will be held at 9 AM in the Surfers Hall of Fame plaza on the corner of Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway in Huntington Beach, directly in front of Huntington Surf ‘n Sport, who puts it on.
This years inductees are Janice Aragon, Kai Lenny and legendary Huntington Beach local Sam Hawk. I told you about Janice and Kai over the past two weeks and have saved Sam for today. When I saw the list of who was getting the nod this year I had to smile when I saw Sam’s name. I was also a little surprised, not because he doesn’t deserve it, he truly does, but because he is not really all that well known outside of the circle of hard core and longtime surfers. Unless you are from Huntington Beach, then the guy is like total local surf lore and royalty. And I was really stoked to see it there too, having known of him since he first started getting good in the 1960’s. Sam is not quite as old as me, but close.
As far as personal history goes Sam was born in South Gate in 1950, but grew up in Huntington Beach, a pier rat, along with his brothers Tom and Chris. All three turned out to be great surfers, with Sam being the standout. Sam came to the North Shore of Oahu in 1967 and almost immediately caught all of our attention, the kid could really surf. He used to hang out with Craig “Owl” Chapman a lot and the two of them seemed to always be getting deeper and showing more guts than just about anybody. Owl became famous for his bold “hood ornament” poses, while Sam just had a purely great style and seemingly endless desire to explore the deepest, darkest and most dangerous places on the biggest days at places like Pipeline and Sunset Beach. Sam was the standout at the “Expression Session,” held at Pipeline in 1970. It was a big and perfect day with the top surfers in the world invited to “express.” Well, Sam just kinda expressed all over everybody. There was a lot of “Wow, who is this guy?,” kinda stuff goin on that day.
The best description of Sam Hawk that I ever heard was from a 2014 story in SURFER magazine by Matt Warsaw. “Give me the DNA know-how and a pair of med students in lab coats, and I would love to take a crack at building the perfect ’70s surfer. I would call him…Sam Hawk. Because that is the best surfer name ever. Now toss over a petri dish and a gene splicer, let’s get to it! Start with a nice fat wet strand of Terry Fitzgerald. Add a little John Peck. Barry Kanaiaupuni, of course. Little more BK. Little more. OK, good. Buzzy Trent’s chest and arms, scaled down 15 percent. Buzzy Trent’s cajones, full-size. Breweresque skill with the planer. Robert Redford hair, eyes, jawline, and bang! We’re done.
Sam Hawk was the missing link between the Mount Rushmore Hawaiians (Lopez, Hakman, Reno, BK), and the Bustin’ Down the Door gang (Shaun, Bugs, MR) who followed. Powerful and fearless. Stylish from here to next year. White trunks, white board, a late-takeoff-to-deep-bottom-turn line at Pipeline so clean and pure and perfect that you need a French curve to render it properly. As a backside tube rider, he was, almost to the day, four years ahead of his time. Took Shaun and Michael Tomson combined to finally better Hawk’s mark at Pipe.”
SURFERS HALL OF FAME founder Arron Pai says, “Back in the day my surfing buddies and I used to watch Sam Hawk in the dead of Winter during huge swells as he swam around the HB Pier (in just speedos) staying fit for Big Wave Surfing. Sam is a home grown Surfing Legend!”
That pretty much sums it up. The ceremony is free and open to the public, you should go.
by Corky Carroll
With the big Vans U.S. Open of Surfing set to pounce on Orange Counties most famous surfing spot, the Huntington Beach Pier, from July 27 to August 4, the eyes of the surfing world are upon us. One of the more prestigious of the events that go along with the big competition is the annual induction ceremony for the SURFERS HALL OF FAME. This years inductions will take place on Friday, August 2nd at 9 A.M and will be held at the Surfers Hall of Fame Plaza on the corner of Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway, under the statue of the great Duke Kahanamoku in front of Huntington Surf ‘n Sport.
The three honorees for 2019 are. NSSA director, Janice Aragon, incredible all-around waterman Kai Lenny and local legend Sam Hawk. Last week I told you about Janice Aragon. Today I want to talk about Kai Lenny, and next week I will finish up by covering Sam Hawk.
It’s hard to describe Kai Lenny without saying that he is probably the greatest “all around surf waterman” of all time. This is a short list. The only three surfers I can think of that truly fit into the discussion would be the late great Mike Doyle and big wave king Laird Hamilton. There are people that have excelled in more than one facet of surfing, but I can’t think of anybody who has excelled in ALL of them. Other than Kai Lenny. This dude can do it all. World Class big wave and small wave surfer, longboard, shortboard or any board. World Class Stand Up Paddleboard surfer and racer. Same for Windsurfing, Kite boarding, Skim boarding, Boogie boarding, Prone paddleboard racing, Foil surfing and any other kind of surf related activity known to man. Probably a few that are not even known yet, the guy is that advanced.
O.K., when I say, “World Class,” I mean with the elite of the elite. He wins stuff. Seven time Stand Up Paddleboard World Champion. Winner of the Molokai to Oahu paddleboard race. Runner up in the Professional Kite Board World Championship. It goes on and on. And here’s the kicker, Kai is only 26 years old. His parents put him in the water near their home on the island of Maui when he was less than a week old. Both of them were water people and had moved to Maui to be a part of the Windsurfing and Surfing culture over there. Kai was doing it all before he ever had his first nap time in Kindergarten, blowing minds in all sizes of surf in his early teens and now standing almost peerless in his mid-twenties. It’s just crazy how good this kid is.
SURFERS HALL OF FAME founder, Aaron Pai, calls Lenny “one of the most progressive and amazing big and small wave surfers on the planet.” Followed up by, “We are so stoked and honored to have Kai becoming a part of the Surfers Hall of Fame, it’s a thrill of all of us here at Huntington Surf ‘n Sport.” Lenny follows both Mike Doyle and Laird Hamilton into the SHOF, along with other amazing all-around watermen such as George Downing, Mickey Munoz and Rabbit Kekai.
I have been a fan of Kai for a number of years although I really don’t know him, other than briefly meeting at one of the “Battle of the Paddle” events in Dana Point where I was an announcer and he was racing. I started seeing videos of him surfing big waves at “Jaws,” on Maui. My first thought was, “Wow, this kid can really surf. He is not just a SUPer.” And I do not mean that as a knock on SUPing at all, just that I was surprised at what a great prone board surfer he was as well as being the great SUP racer that I had seen at the BOP. As time went on I kept seeing more and more footage of him doing pretty much everything. Shredding small surf on a shortboard and equally shredding monster surf doing tow ins. One of my favorite videos of him shows him jamming off the bottom and up into the lip on a monster, like zillions of feet, wave at Jaws. He explodes through the lip and free falls a few stories down the face of the wave, lands it and races it out the end. One of those “WOW,” kinda deals. The dude is just a really great surfer, PERIOD.
Stay tuned next week for my take on Huntington Beach’s own Sammy Hawk. And plan on showing up for the induction ceremony on Aug 2nd, its free to the public and a totally cool event.
by Corky Carroll
The big Vans U.S. Open of Surfing is coming back to Huntington Beach, Orange Counties famous “Surf City,” from July 27 through August 4th. Along with the surfing competition there are numerous other activities including Skateboarding, BMX bicycling, beach festivals and the annual inductions into the SURFERS HALL OF FAME. As a more than less Surfing Historian, of sorts, I like to focus on this aspect of the week each year and leave the blow by blow coverage of the surfing competition to others.
The SURFERS HALL OF FAME will be held on Friday, August 2nd at 9 AM at the Surfers Hall of Fame Plaza on the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Main Street in Huntington Beach. This is directly in front of Huntington Surf ‘n Sport, which is owned by Huntington Beach local surfer Aaron Pai. It was Pai who came up with the idea and established the Surfers Hall of Fame back in the 1990’s. Since then many of the greatest names in surfing have had their hand and footprints embedded into the famous concrete squares laid into the hallowed ground under the shadow of the big statue of Duke Kahanamoku that watches over the plaza. Among them are the likes of Phil Edwards, Mike Doyle, Linda Benson, George Downing, Gerry Lopez, Shawn Tomson, Tom Curran, Tom Carroll, Margo Oberg, Joyce Hoffman, Mickey Munoz, Jericho Poplar, Wingnut Weaver, Frieda Zamba, Bob Hurley, David Nuuhiwa, Lisa Anderson, Kelly Slater, Andy Irons and many more. I am proud to have been inducted the first year, along with fellow Huntington Beach High School alumni Robert August.
This years inductees lead off with Janice Aragon, winner of the ISA World Surfing Games, the NSSA Nationals and current executive director of the NSSA. Next up is Sam Hawk, local standout and incredible North Shore power surfer during the 1970’s. And followed by the amazing Kai Lenny, probably the versatile and boundary pushing surfer of our generation
Today I am going to focus on Janice Aragon and will follow up on Sam and Kai in the next two weeks, leading up to the inductions on August 2nd. Janice began surfing at age 16 and didn’t win her first surfing event until the age of 29, a very late start in a sport such as surfing. But, since then she has been one of the most influential people both in and out of the water that the sport has seen over the past thirty years. She first became a judge for the NSSA in 1986 and was the first female to be hired to judge a Professional World Tour event the following year, the OP Pro. She became the Executive Director for the NSSA in 1989 and was instrumental in separating that organization from the old United States Surfing Federation in 1993, bringing about a more polished and organized competition format for Scholastic surfers all over the country. She calls Huntington Beach her home and is one of the real bright spots in United States surfing, her work having influenced thousands of young surfers over the years.
In the words of organizer Aaron Pai, “Janice Aragon has dedicated 30 years of her LIFE to being the Executive Director of the NSSA, is an ISA World Women's Surfing Champion and is greatly responsible for raising the level of competitive Surfing in our amazing USA!”
The induction ceremony is open to the public and is free of charge. It’s a great way to see these, and many other surfing celebrities, up close and personal, get photos and autographs and mingle with some of the greatest surfers in the world. Bring a hat and wear sunblock, the August sun is strong in Surf City. Afterwards you can walk out on the pier and catch some of the action in the surfing event, see what the top surfers in the world are doing at this minute. Great sort of past and present kinda day.
by Corky Carroll
In the early 1960’s surf clubs became popular along the Southern California coast. Many towns had them. Some of the more well-known were Hope Ranch, from Santa Barbara, the Malibu Surfing Association, Dapper Dans, from Manhattan Beach, Bay Area, from all over the South Bay, Seal Beach Surfers, the Hole in the Wall Gang, from Huntington Beach and the Newport Beach Surfing Association. The two biggest would have been the Long Beach Surf Club and the San Diego based Windansea Surf Club. The Windansea Club being the most famous and long lasting, in fact still going today.
I was a member of the Long Beach Surf Club in 1963 and on the team that competed in the big “Malibu Invitational” that year. The top clubs were invited to a contest held at Malibu and everybody wanted to be on a team. This was the only way you were ever going to get to surf the point at Malibu with only you and five other people in the water. We were pretty sure we were going to win the event as we had, at least what we thought was, the strongest team at that time. What we didn’t know was that Chuck Hasley, a notorious San Diego surfer and party animal, had thrown together some of the greatest surfers, and party animals, in the world and had gotten an invite to the event. This was sort of a surprise to everybody. He hired a bus, which left Maynard’s Bar in Pacific Beach at closing time, to take the crew up to Malibu. They had a band in the back, plugged into a generator, and reportedly at least one keg of beer onboard. There is rumor of them hanging Pat Curren out the window naked, so he could pee. This was because the bus driver refused to stop. The team was loaded with the likes of Joey Cabell, Bobby Patterson, Mike Hynson, Skip Frye, Mickey Munoz, Butch Van Artsdalen and a total all-star lineup to fill out the 10-man team.
The bus rolled up to Malibu in the morning, just before the first heats were called. Guys were staggering out and passing out at the same time. We were all in shock. Somehow, someway, that Windansea team put 5 out of 6 guys in the finals and Joey Cabell won it. Butch Van Artsdalen lost his trunks in the paddle relay race. This did nothing to stop him and he completed his leg of the race without them. The Windansea Surf Club won going away.
I was 15 at the time. After seeing this whole thing, I started thinking “now THESE guys are having way more fun than we are.” I wanted to be on THAT team. The next week I jumped ship from the Long Beach club and joined Windansea.
A guy named Thor Svenson, who was evidently a talent agent of some sort, got involved with the Windansea club at that time and did his best to “clean up the image.” This was sort of at that time when there was a big push in surfing, as a whole, to do that kind of thing. Surfers had a bad reputation. I always kinda gravitated to that side of it. Not doing vandalism or anything like that, just the parties and chicks and the whole romantic bohemian kinda vibe. But there were those who felt that if surfing was to ever become any kind of “sport” it needed to have what they thought of as a “better” image. Thor was that guy for the Windansea Surf Club.
Probably my favorite thing about being a member was having my club jacket, t-shirt and patch on my trunks. I was young and proud to be a part of it. Also, it enabled me to surf at Windansea, the La Jolla surf spot, without any grief from the locals. I was an Orange County guy and if you weren’t from San Diego you were not all that welcome to surf there.
By the 1970’s surf clubs sort of faded away, not totally but they certainly didn’t have the charm that they did in the 1960’s. In recent years I see they are slowly making a comeback. This is very cool, I always thought they were a good idea.
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.