By Corky Carroll
Right about now they are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1968 World Surfing Championships that was held in Rincon, Puerto Rico. It was a great event that was won by Hawaiian Fred Hemmings. That was my third trip to Puerto Rico and I wound up in 7th place, this was due to an ill-timed kick out that caused my board to get picked off by the following wave and limiting my rides to four, when they were scoring the best five. At the time there was an amazing young surfer who lived there who was showing the promise to become a real surf star. His name is Jorge Machuca and I thought I would spotlight him for you today as he was a part of surfing history at the time of the big change from longboards to short, and he has been more of less forgotten about outside of Puerto Rico.
I met Jorge on my first visit to the island a year before the World Championship. There was a surf event going on called the Puerto Rico International and surfers from all over came to compete. At that time I was riding for HOBIE surfboards and was in charge of Hobies surfing team, a group of excellent surfers who were given free boards to ride. The Hobie dealer in Puerto Rico was Jose Rodriguez and he and I became friends. He told me about this young kid who was really good, named “Machuca.” I met the kid when the competition started and could see that he had the makings of an excellent surfer, even at such a young age. I am thinking he was about 15 at the time. I liked him too, really nice and super stoked on surfing. As the competition came down to the finals it was between Jorge and me for the title. In a close decision I won, and he took second place. I was so impressed with his surfing that I gave him my board after the event was over. When I got home I talked to Hobie about getting him on the surf team, which we did.
I went back to Puerto Rico and stayed for about four months between January and April of 1968, thinking it would be a good idea to get to know the break a little better before the upcoming World Titles in November. There was nobody surfing out on that end of the island at that time other than the handful of Puerto Rician surfers. Tom Morey, of boogie board fame, rented a little place next door to me and on most days we would be the only two guys out. One enormous day at Tres Palmas comes to mind when it was probably 20 feet and we tried to ride it on normal small wave boards. I got three rides that day before my little “mini model” spun out on a huge take off and I wound up swimming for what seemed like weeks to retrieve it. During that time I was able to surf with Jorge many times and got to know him better. Always a totally stoked kid with a big smile and some big turns. We flew him to Florida for the Easter Classic at Coca Beach and he was on his way to becoming a top-flight competitor.
After the World Championship in 1968 I only went back to Puerto Rico a few times. These were when I was doing Miller Lite commercials and they would send us on cruises a couple times a year to promote beer sales. I only got to surf on one of those trips and it was in San Juan, near the airport. I never got to see Jorge again, but have always remembered so many fun days surfing with him out at “Marias.” That was back when Maria was still alive and would sell us cokes out her kitchen window. Dogman was there too, living under a tree on the beach in front of “Dogmans.” B.C. was also there, living in a little cave in front of “B.C.’s”. Great times and super good memories of totally uncrowded waves and Jorge Machuca when he was a stoked up and coming surf gremmie. Unfortunately, his career was cut short just as he was reaching International acclaim by a car accident, leaving him unable to surf again. Cool dude though, and a surfer that should be a little better known than he is.