by Corky carroll
As another year turns over, I started to think back on many of the really great days I have had over the past sixty-five plus years that I have been surfing. I rode my first wave standing on a board in 1955 and got my first board for Christmas 1957. I get asked all the time about what my favorite memories are and when were the best days, stuff like that. So, in honor of the new year, I thought I would reflect on a few of my fav surf days.
As with most things we always remember our first. In this case it is not so much the first wave I rode, which has been well documented already in my book “Not Done Yet,” but the first day I rode my first board. It was a clear and very cold Christmas Day and the surf was, thankfully, very small in front of our house in Surfside. My parents had given me a beautiful new 8’7” balsawood board made by Dick Barrymore over in Seal Beach. Dick was a fireman that made boards in his garage at that time, but later opened a shop and eventually became a leading “ski movie” maker.
I put on a pair of trunks and waxed up my board with a bar of my mom’s paraffin sealing wax. I couldn’t carry my board as it weighed more than me. I had to pick up the tail and move it to the front and then pick up the nose and move it to the front, sort of walking my board across the short stretch of sand and into the water. It was cold, really cold. I paddled out about halfway and caught a white-water (broken) wave and stood up. As I neared the shore the wave kinda backed off and I was riding the green water swell for maybe 40 or 50 feet before it lapped up on the shore. That last part was such an amazing feeling and probably one of the things that really got me hooked. The feeling of gliding along on top of the swell.
The next really memorable day came the first time I actually got inside a “tube,” or “barrel.” That is the inside of a wave just as it is breaking. This actually goes back to when I was a very little kid, maybe 4 or 5 years old. My parents sent me to summer camp in the Malibu Mountains, Kilgore’s Kiddie Camp. One day they took us all to the beach just south of Malibu. I was standing in the shallow water when a wave came along and broke right over my head and I vividly still remember the sound and feeling of that moment when I was inside the chamber just before it creamed me. This is a very cool feeling.
The day that I got my first tube ride came during the first summer I had my balsawood board. There was a south swell and good peaks along the beach at Surfside. Most of the local surfers who lived there were out riding it. On one wave I was going left, facing the wave for me, and it looked like the wave was going to close out on me. But I was already angled high on the face and decided to just keep going rather than trying to straighten out at the last moment. It was like a miracle happened, maybe it did. The lip of the wave threw out and I found myself inside the chamber, there was that sound and feeling again. But this time I was on a board and moving fast. It only lasted a few seconds, but I came out the other side and the feeling of sheer joy and adrenaline pumping was incredible. One of the local surfers, Jerry Motes, had seen this ride while he was paddling out. He came over to me and said, “well, you just “shot the curl.” I smiled for years after that. And all I knew was I wanted to do THAT again. To this day I am still trying to do THAT again, it’s kinda the big goal and no matter how many times you get it, you still want it again.
Stay tuned, in the coming weeks I plan on sharing more great day memories, along with other more current topics and surf news of the day.