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.