by Corky Carroll
My relationship with the just completed U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach goes all the way back to the first event in 1959. It was called the West Coast Championship back then. In 1961 they changed the name to the United States Championship. Thru the years it morphed into the current title of U.S. Open.
In 1959 I was an eleven-year-old stoked gremmie surfing in my first contest. My dad drove me down to the pier and I gave it a go. First win was in the Junior division in 1963, then Men’s in ’66, ’67 and ’69 along with the Overall title in ’66, ’67, ’68, ‘69’ and ’70. I had a good run.
Thru the years I have watched as the event has grown from those early times of two-day events, always on a weekend, to what has become an enormous surfing extravaganza. Along with the surfing there are all kinds of other events going on and it’s pretty much nonstop entertainment for 9 days.
In recent years I have not been able to go as many times as I might have wanted as I have been spending a lot of time surfing far south along Mainland Mexico. As I have entered the battle with geezerdom I have found that warm water and tropical breezes suit me better than wetsuits and guys with pierced eyeballs running me over.
But this year I really wanted to go. It started with me seeing on Facebook that my favorite band, HONK, was getting inducted into the “Walk of Fame.” I said to my pretty wife Raquel, “Hey baby, Honk is getting an award at the U.S. Open, we should go. This immediately lit the “shopping” light in her head and she gladly agreed.
Our mission for the week was to attend as many of the extremely fun events as we could. Seeing the surfing is always cool, it is mind blowing these days. But it’s all the other stuff that was our quest.
We started our week with a visit to see my pal Nik at “Dirt Cheap Hawaiian Shirts,” in Costa Mesa. We loaded up some very cool gear so we could look good. My entire wardrobe consists of t-shirts and the two Hawaiian shirts I got from Nik a few years ago. Ya gotta blend in ya know. Plus, he carries triple X sizes to fit my cowish figure.
Lookin’ like we belong, our first event was the opening “after party” at Hurricanes on Main Street. As a bonus, my son Clint’s band was playing and, a proud father moment here, rocked the house. Totally blew us away.
Next event was the reception for the Walk of Fame held at Pacific City. It was our first time to go there. I kept thinking that at one time this would have been where the “Grinder” diner was and the old miniature golf course. My dad had a trailer in the old trailer park there after our house in Surfside burned down in ’65. And now, “this.” Incredible. Ran into my pal and long-time rival David Nuuhiwa. How many times did he and I duke it out in the finals at that pier? A lot. Great to see him. The next morning was the induction ceremony, and I got the honor of introducing “Honk.” I always say my favorite bands are the Rolling Stones and Honk, giving Honk the edge cause I know ‘em. In the program there was a photo of an old poster from 1971 of them headlining at the 4 Muses club in San Clemente and April Fuladosa and I were the opening act. Very proud of that.
The next day we got to go to the 25th anniversary induction ceremony for the “Surfers Hall of Fame” in front of Huntington Surf ‘n Sport. This was really sentimental for me as I had been involved with helping its founder, Aaron Pai, get it going back in 1997. This years inductions brought back a flood of great memories of all the amazing surfers who have had their hands and feet enshrined there, many of them my idols. Aaron’s entire family, which has grown into a small community, all surf and they all take part in putting this on. I was so happy to be back there, my wife Raquel said she had never seen me smile that much. Saw so many old pals. This is really one of the coolest events in surfing.
Later that night we went to the Huntington Beach Surfing Association’s annual reunion party. I was totally stoked to get inducted as an honorary member along with my pals Robert Highsmith, Jeff Holland and super surf artist Roy Gonzalez. What a fun night that was and what an extremely fun week that certainly was.
Now it’s gonna take me a weeklong “recovery party” in my Lazy Boy. Awhooo. Boy, 63 years sure went by quick. Seems like just the other day I was that skinny, kinda scared, eleven year old paddling out next to the pier with not the faintest idea of what was about to come.