Corky's First Surf Trip
by Corky Carroll
I got a lot of positive response from last weeks story about a surf adventure (“surf safari” in surf lingo) I took in the late 1960’s, so this week I thought I would continue in a little series on memorable surf treks I have made through the years. The best place to start is with the first one. This took place way back in the year 1958 when I was a ten-year-old gremmie just learning to surf in front of our home in Surfside, Ca., a tiny beach colony on the north end of Orange County.
On our beach there were about ten surfers in the late 1950’s. Among them were the DeChevroux brothers, Mike, Marc and Morgan. Both Mike and Marc were close to me in age and got boards at the same time as I did, Morgan was much younger and wasn’t surfing yet. We spent a lot of time surfing together before and after school, on weekends and all summer. Their mother, Ruth, was a rabid Bullfight fanatic. She loved going to Mexico for the Bullfights on Sundays. She had a big ol’ Buick station wagon. The first surf movie I ever saw is when Ruth loaded up all of us surf kids and took us to a little art theater in Hollywood to see “Surf Safari,” a surfing film by John Severson. Not long after that she got the idea to take us on our own surf safari. Loaded up Marc, Mike and me in her old Buick wagon and we set off to surf the historic surf spots in southern Orange County. In those days this was a trip down Highway 101. We were stoked to the max.
Our first spot was Dana Point, the legendary “Killer Dana.” There was a big south swell running that day and it was going off. The rocky point and beach made Ruth nervous, we were all pretty young. So we left there and went to the HOBIE surf shop to get advice on where we should surf. The guy there, I am thinking it was Jim Gilloon, said, “Windansea for experts, San Onofre for intermediates and Doheny for beginners.” So, Doheny it was.
The waves were really good. And it was my first experience at surfing over a rocky bottom. Scared me at first too. We had a great session; the highlight memory was seeing the great Lorin Harrison ride a big set wave in an outrigger canoe. After we were done we loaded up to head home. But Ruth surprised us and said we should go check out San Onofre, it was not that much farther away and we should know what it looked like for future safaris.
Pulling up to the guard gate at Camp Pendleton Marine Base we were told that San Onofre Surf Club members were the only ones allowed on the base to surf. The beach was on Marine property. This is when I found a whole new world of respect for Ruth DeChevroux. As we were leaving she saw a little spot where there was a hole in the fence and a dirt road on the other side. Shockingly she said, “Well, that might lead to the surf. Let’s give it a shot.” So she drives El Buicko through the hole in the fence and sets out down the dirt road to see if we can find our way to San Onofre Surf Club. And we do. But there is a gate with a chain and a lock. Not being one to give up easily, she got out and checked the lock. Voila! It had been left open. We were in. To our total glee she pulled up and parked right in the middle of all the camper trucks and surf mobiles parked at the main break, like we were supposed to be there or something. Nobody seemed to notice. The surf was big and breaking really far out. At first we were just gonna watch for a while, but then I got the urge and decided to paddle out. Guys on giant boards where taking off on what seemed like the horizon. I got a couple of really long and exciting rides. I was riding my first board, the 8’7” balsawood pintail made for me by Dick Barrymore, and it was suited to these waves perfectly. But then I fell off and it was a very long swim to the beach. After that I was done, satisfied for sure, but done.
We headed home a crew of worn out and extremely stoked surf kids. Our first surf safari had been an over the top success. Just the beginning. Get my latest book, Not Done Yet, for more great surf stories.