by Corky Carroll
I flipped on my old computer just now and while it was warming up, it’s a steam powered Apple III, I was thinking about what I was gonna write about for todays adventure into my continued quest to wipe out the use of all grammer and long words. A semi loud “bing” sounded over my head and the idea that I should revisit some previous subjects, stories and people from time to time could be cool. So, I took a look back at a piece I did on three of our greatest local surf rats from the 1960’s that I did in 2012. John Boozer, Tommy Leonardo and Robert Kooken. These are guys you don’t hear about much but were a major part of Orange County surfing in their day. Hey, perfect choice to kick this off with. I took the following from that story.
Today I thought I would put out a little tribute to three of the best local right foot forward guys from my era, which was mostly the 60’s and early 70’s, who are not with us anymore.
First would be John Boozer. I first remember John as a freshman at Huntington Beach High School. There was a big fad at school that year with these light blue very lightweight windbreakers. Boozer was the first guy I saw with one of those and I liked it. I think that’s how I met him, by asking him where he got the cool windbreaker.
Shortly after that I started seeing him in the lineup on the south side of the pier and realized that he was a pretty good surfer. He really started to excel and become a serious competitor on the West Coast contest circuit about the time we were seniors in 1965. He won a big contest at Redondo Beach that spring called the “Laguna Masters.” It was put on by Laguna Swimwear.
John won the men’s division and took home a motorcycle. I won the juniors, as I was still 17, and got a color TV. I remember that it was Mother’s Day, which I had forgotten. I went home and gave my mom the T.V. Phew.
John did very well for a few years on the competition trail and eventually became a main guy in the Robert August Surfboards factory. Great guy and good pal. The next guy I wanna mention is Tommy Leonardo. Tom was known not really affectionately as the “Top Mouth on the Coast,” for many years. He held that title until Chuck Dent came along in the later 60’s. Tommy could really spew out a running stream of verbiage when he got on a roll. Sometimes he was funny, but mostly it was some sort of rage he was feeling toward somebody.
We were friends until he went to Hawaii one year. After that, and I never learned why, he seemed to have something against me. He went over before me and when I got there people told me he had said a lot of bad things about me. None the less I always respected his surfing skills. I still remember one day I paddled out down by Tower 5 and saw Tom on one wave totally in the barrel doing a “cheater 5” all the way across the face. On the next wave, there was Boozer doing exactly the same thing and I was thinking that these guys were really good surfers.
Tom and I were not pals, but he was one of the best goofy footers around in the early to mid-sixties. Lastly, there was Robert Kooken. I loved this guy because he was totally different surfing wise than what was popular at the time and he could have cared less. In a period when the popular direction was soulful style and grace, Robert Kooken wore polka-dotted surf trunks and totally attacked waves with an array of arm-waving, radical turns and spinners and all sorts of acrobatic-looking moves that made him look more like a circus performer than a surfer.
But in the midst of all that, he was really doing some great surfing. I would hear guys berate him for his wild style and I would always ask, “but is he a great surfer or not?” Everyone would always have to say, “Well yeah, he is really good.” He won a couple of events and was at the top of the competition scene here on the West Coast for a number of years.
I enjoyed watching Kooken surf, he was very entertaining. And he was an extremely fun dude to hang out with. One of the real rare “individuals” who have come along who just rode on pure stoke.
Yeah, I know there are a lot more. But these three guys had a big mark on surfing here in Orange County and they are gone now. I just wanted to remember them a little – they deserve it. And that kiddies is today's Blast from the Past.