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.