by Corky Carroll
I was chatting with a friend of mine who came from the same era of surfing as I did, and in fact competed against a few times back in the 60’s. He was mentioning that watching the surfing events these days it seems that the scoring gives way too much credit for the “airs” and not pure surfing. He would rather see powerful carving lines and lip smacks, more “glide” if you will. I hear this a lot from older surfers who came from a different generation and different approach, so I thought I would weigh in on this and give you a little bit of history on my own evolution.
First off, I wanna say that the way the top surfers are riding these days is the way I used to dream about it when I was younger. Getting air was a fantasy. In the early longboard days the “side slip” was about all there was in that direction. When the boards went short we began to start to pop the boards out and “free fall” a bit. They called this “floaters.” When they finally were able to blast out the top and truly get air I was blown away.
Thru the years this has evolved into some amazing moves, and some becoming a functional part of the ride, not just a trick. The art to this is to combine the spectacular with power, glide and style. That is where the controversy over scoring comes in. We, as long-time surfers, don’t always see the style part as much as the trick part and feel the scoring gives too much credit to the trick.
This takes me back to my “formative” years in surfing, my teens. One of my best friends back then was Billy Hamilton. We surfed together all the time and used to go to contests together and take trips up and down the coast surfing different spots. Our approach to surfing was very opposite. Billy was a student of surfing style. He spent hours looking at photos and movies of guys like Phil Edwards and Skip Frye. Dudes who had beautiful surfing technique. He would work on his hand positions, even how he held his fingers. His stance and how his weight shifted during turns, his head position and how the whole position would flow from one second to the next. Billy got style way before he had a lot of moves, he was fluid and easy to watch. Didn’t get him many points in the contests though. Me, on the other hand, tried to do anything and everything I could think of on a board. Didn’t really stop to think so much on how my hands were pointing or any of that. Just wanted to be able to crank big turns, hang toes over the nose, do spinners or any other thing that popped into my mind. I remember one time I wound up going straight off in the white water at the end of a ride. Instead of just pulling out I turned around backwards, went into a kinda push up position and stuck one leg up in the air. A totally absurd move at best. Everyone laughed and it got me an extra point. I called that the “reverse bird.” This kinda stuff got me a lot of points in the contests, and I won a lot of them that way as a Junior. Tricks scored higher than flow. As we both got older our approach game together. Billy got the moves to go along with his style. When the boards went short I smoothed out and got the flow to go along with the moves.
So, I think that relates to my friend’s comment. Style and flow vs spectacular tricks. Why do I like watching Kelly Slater or Tom Curren over these amazing Brazilians winning a lot of these events today? The fact is that I am starting to see this all coming together at this time, just as it happened with Billy and me. Guys are putting style and flow with big airs. This state of the art is now maturing, and I find it incredible to witness, and am horribly jealous that I am too old and fat to pull it off myself. Can’t do it but totally respect it. As far as contest judging goes it has always favored moves over style and still does, right or wrong. We, as seasoned vets so to speak, would like to see it finally weigh the entire presentation of the ride and not just the tricks. Maybe it is, or will. We will see.
Using the Ocean for healing purposes
by Corky Carroll
Back in 2001 I was hired to perform at a 45th surprise birthday party up in Walnut Creek for Scott Ellis, a stoked surfer, diver and reported fan of my music. Not surprisingly, most of the guests remembered me more for my Miller Lite Beer commercials than they did for my surfing, this being 29 years after my last pro surfing event. Scott’s 10-year-old twin daughters were then already immersed in the surf culture and had just started riding waves together with Dad. I struck a friendship with them immediately. No future “Stuck-up Euro Babes” (one of my songs) here. I like surf families.
Fast forward 20 years. My Blue Mango Surf company recently received an order for two Corkarita Light longboards from Scott. What a cool surprise. But after catching up I found out that one of his twin daughters, Audrey, had recently passed away from Covid. She was a nurse and surfer, but she turned out to be one of a growing number of young adults worldwide who had post-Covid heart failure. Her twin sister Kelsey has always been the more avid surfer and in honor of Audrey, and other women experiencing grief during the pandemic, poured herself into the emerging world of surf therapy. Audrey and Kelsey’s story is currently being presented on the National Geographic documentary series “Impact” by Gal Gadot. Their episode is titled “Surf Sisters”. The link to that episode is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3LS8CQJW4A. Very powerful! Please check it out.
The Groundswell Community project was founded in San Diego with surf therapy programs for women overcoming trauma. Groundswell’s community of “surf sisters” provide surf related programs for women along their healing journey. Kelsey leads the northern California Groundswell chapter and has also started her own program there in Pacifica called Waves of Grief.
Groundswell offers a variety of surf therapy programs for intersectional communities of women overcoming various forms of trauma and its effects. Led by mental health professionals, this is a transformational group of surf chicks who provide brave and safe spaces for all women to find their unique form of healing, comradery, and power in the waves of our Mother Ocean. The beauty of the programs is that it is not a typical therapy model. Healing is found in the water and the waves. Surfing teaches us to be mindful, that we can be a part of something bigger than ourselves. It can be our greatest teacher in letting go, being present and having fun. I can personally attest to this from years of experience. When I am bummed out or angry, sad or in any other way not happy, I have always found that paddling out to catch a wave or two goes a long way to relieving the stress and clearing up my mind. Most always I come back in way happier than when I went out. In response to her personal and collective grief experienced in 2020, Kelsey began monthly "Waves of Grief" surf therapy programs in Northern California.
Surf therapy has become a hugely popular method of barrier crossing like the old Tony Robbins experience of walking across hot coals, except that in surf therapy the ocean is waiting to greet and embrace you on the other side. Most women have never worn a wetsuit, or been in the ocean, and standing up on a surfboard and riding a wave to shore is a ticket for a much-needed breakthrough. In many ways surfing is breaking away from one’s grief and daily troubles and breaking through that intimidation and learning curve of harnessing the ocean’s energy and actually standing up and surfing a wave. The transformation is immediate and permanent. It’s crossing over in the purest way and it separates you from the troubles and grief you left behind on shore. Surfing itself is therapy and can help everyone from those grieving the loss of loved ones to those just desperately needing a little more stoke in their lives. Hey, we can all use all the stoke we can get. I know I can.
The Warrior Surf Foundation on the east coast is a similar support group for vets experiencing PTSD and my pal Jimmy Buffett is an avid supporter. Wounded Warriors is now offering surf programs here in southern California for wounded veterans. In this crazy time and age we are living in it is getting more and more important for people to stop what they are doing and help other people who are in need of a hand, one way or another. There is too much anger in the air. There are too many people hurting. I was so sad to hear of Audrey death but so proud of Kelsey for taking a very big negative and turning it into a monster big positive.
For more information about Waves of Grief and Audrey’s story, please visit www.audreymarieellis.com
It's all Ocean Therapy!
by Corky Carroll
I learned how to ride waves on a canvas “air matt.” One of those heavy-duty rental kinds that were so abrasive that they would sand the skin right off your body in a matter of minutes if you didn’t protect yourself with a t shirt or something. This was in the early 1950’s, way before “rash guards” were invented. Boy, one of those would really have come in handy back then. But then, so would a lot of other things. Everything must evolve from somewhere to somewhere else.
From my air matt I graduated to a big heavy solid balsawood surfboard. Then polyurethane foam boards came out. At first there was some resistance, guys called them “foamies” and “flexi flyers.” Didn’t take too long to get past that though and these new lighter weight boards opened up surfing for just about anybody, big or small, male or female, strong or weak. All good.
Alternative surfing equipment, other than “tandem boards,” probably realistically began with the invention of the “boogie board” by Tom Morey in the later 1960’s. Yes, before that there were “belly boards,” “skim boards,” and “Paipo Boards.” But nothing that was really widely used by masses of people as an alternative to the surfboard.
Around the same time there was a surge in “kneeboards.” This was brought on by movies of George Greenough, a reclusive innovator from Santa Barbara that would surf Rincon at night with a minors helmet on with a light so he could see. George could do amazing things on these crazy shell-like boards he made to ride while kneeling. He could get himself very deep into the “tube” condensing himself into a ball and being down low to the water. A lot of people took this up, and many were critical of them. Some thought “if you can’t stand up you are not really surfing.” Very short sighted. I do admit that I was not a big fan of them myself, but at the same time had to give that it was a valid and different way to go to ride a wave.
Very similar kinda thing happened with the emergence of the Stand Up Paddleboard, or SUP as they are commonly called. People that didn’t do it were critical and called those who did “sweepers.” And yes, being the hypocrite that I have proven myself to be on more than one occasion, I was one of those critics. I would not call myself a full on “hater,” but was also not a real fan either. My beef with them was that guys would come into a crowded lineup and most of them were not good enough to not be a danger for everybody else. And those who were good enough would take all the good waves, having a big advantage in that department. They just looked like big clunky boards to me, I didn’t get it.
Mickey Munoz changed that in one afternoon, he is the first person I saw really shred on an SUP. And it was a different and very cool kinda technique he was using. He told me that the SUP added 10 years to his surfing, and that was ten years ago… so by now it has added 20 years to his surfing. Currently somewhere into his 80’s he is still surfing at very high level.
A few years ago I hurt my back bad enough to not be able to get to my feet from a prone position any longer. Forced me to try something else if I wanted to keep surfing. There were the kneeboards, the boogie boards, surf skis and the SUPs. I went for the SUP and never looked back. It let me surf when otherwise I would have had to stop. Opened my eyes to the fact that you can still surf, and surf well, on alternative surf equipment. And they are all good.
The reason I brought this up is that this morning I ran into a pal who broke his neck a little while back. His surfing was over, done, gone and finished. But, after like a year out of the water, he couldn’t take it any longer and went out and rode a couple of waves on a long board, just laying down. The longboard was not great for that, so he took out a smaller one. I had tried to do that same thing when I had hurt my back, found that a wide and fat 7’6” that I had laying around worked pretty good for that. My pal just made a 7’2”, the same kinda thing. Now he goes out for three or four waves at a time and is super stoked he can actually ride waves again.
Point being, there are many ways to ride a wave and whichever one makes you happy is all good. Don’t let buttheads, like me, discourage you. There is no rule that says what you must ride, or if you have to stand up or not, to be “cool.” If you dig it, it’s cool. The idea is to have fun.
Tips for those competing in contests
by Corky Carroll
There is an old saying in surfing that goes, “anybody can ride a good wave, but it takes a lot of skill to ride a bad one.” Well, it also takes skill to ride the good ones too, but the fact is that riding a lot of bad ones can and does make you a significantly better all-around surfer. Bad ones are much harder to ride and take seasoned judgement to be able to handle with any degree of success.
When I was growing up learning to surf along the local North Orange County beaches there were plenty of bad waves to ride. The standard thing in this area is for nice glassy conditions, with good waves, early in the morning. By about eleven each day the normal westerly winds come up and badly chop up the surface conditions and “blow out” the waves. Most surfers would pack up and go home at that time. Not me. I was lucky to have grown up in a house right on the beach in Surfside Colony, just south of Seal Beach. And I loved to surf so much that I would go out in any and every condition known to man or fish. Big, little, good, bad, stormy, blown to smithereens even. We used to call the really bad blown out conditions “Victory at Sea.” This was from a TV series of that name that showed horrible windy seas in the credits at the end of the show. I surfed a lot of this kind of choppy blown out surf. I know this really helped me in competing in surfing events that would start out in glassy good waves and then would be horrible by the time the finals would roll around later in the afternoon. The only condition I didn’t like to surf in was fog.
Let me also use a couple other guys to use as an example of this same sort of development pattern. Two of the greatest surfers of all time, Tommy Curren and Kelly Slater. Both of these guys started very young and grew up riding more bad waves than good ones. Tom lived in Santa Barbara, home to perfect point breaks. The issue was that these spots didn’t break all summer, only in the winter. So, Tom’s mom would take him to surf the sloppy beach breaks south of Ventura in the afternoons after school and in the summer. It wasn’t all pristine days at Rincon. I will never forget surfing at an out of the way spot one day with Tom and Al Merrick. There was no surf, it was flat. Call it zero to one foot. Al and I sat on our boards and talked while Tom rode about 50 ankle high waves, and shredded them at that. He was about 13 at the time and already amazing.
Kelly grew up riding Florida slop. And a lot of it. My favorite memory of this was one day when I was back there visiting Balsa Bill Yerkes, who owned Sundek Surfwear at that time. I worked for SURFER magazine and we were working on an ad program for Bill. He lived on the beach in-between Cocoa Beach and Melbourne Beach, which were maybe 8 miles apart. One this one day we were sitting on his deck talking and looking out at the surf. There was a swell running and it was super blown out. When there is surf in that area it goes along with a very fast current moving north to south. We saw Kelly and his brother Sean coming surfing down the beach, riding a wave to the left and paddling through giant chops to get back out for another one. All the while the current taking them past us and then out of sight. A couple hours later they went by again. Turns out their mom was dropping them off in Cocoa Beach and then picking them up at Melbourne Beach an hour and a half later, that was what it would take them to surf and ride the current the 8 miles from point A to point B. Then they would do it again. Kelly was probably about 12 or 13 at the time. This is the kind of hard-core training that went into building an 11-time World Champion.
Riding bad waves will make ya good. Think about that the next time the wind comes up and you are ready to pack it in.
How I celebrated my 50th!
by Corky Carroll
The other day we celebrated the 50th birthday of a friend of mine over dinner, drinks and a cake at our house. Naturally I had to give him the normal verbal jabs like, “it’s zero to 50 and then 50 to dead,” “it’s the last half amigo,” and my favorite, “it’s the beginning of the end, good luck.” It was all in good fun and everybody was laughing. Then he asked me if I remembered what I did when I turned 50. As a matter of fact I did, as it was actually a pretty big memory in the semi functioning old memory bank.
I turned 50 on September 29, 1997. As it was one of those “big” kinda birthdays, like 40, 65 or 100, I wanted to celebrate big. I wanted to take two weeks and go to Tavarua, in Fiji, where I had spent a lot of time in the late 80’s and early 90’s. But the island had been taken over by a new guy and he had all the weeks booked for the year. I would have to contact the “owners” of those particular weeks and see if I could fit myself in. I couldn’t, so I planned a trip to Tahiti. I had heard of some great lefts from a pal of mine named Phil Stubbs who at one time managed a Bali Hi resort on the island of Huahini. I contacted Hero Kelly, the son of the guy who had started the chain of Bali Hi resorts years before, and set up a very cool two weeks of surfing on both Huahini and Morea. He was gonna take me out to surf some great reef passes that most people didn’t know of at that time.
This was all good until the day before the flight. Turns out there was some big military coup or something going on in Tahiti and they had closed the airport and nobody was allowed to fly in. Bummer. OK, last minute change of plans. I booked a week at the Ilikai Hotel in Waikiki, right in front of my favorite summer south shore surf spot, Ala Moana. I was determined to get some good lefts for my birthday one way or another.
When I went to check into the hotel none other than Carlos Santana was checking in just ahead of me. To my total shock he saw me and walked over. He shook my hand and said, “I dig your work man.” I could not believe this.. THE freaking Carlos Santana actually even knowing who in the heck I was. All I could think of was that he might have seen one of my Miller Lite commercials on TV, this was right in the middle of the years I was doing them. I doubted that he had ever heard any of my albums or had much knowledge of surfing. Whatever, it was very cool and I was totally stoked. Years later when I was at an event put on by PRS guitars I met him again and mentioned that time in the lobby in Hawaii and how flattered I was. It was a great way to start my 50th birthday.
The next morning was my actual birthday and there was a really good south swell pumping into Ala Moana. I got up at dawn and paddled out to try and get some before it got too crowded. It was a beautiful morning and I got a ton of great waves. When I came in and was standing by the parking lot talking to a few old friends who were there when somebody came up and said that the North Shore was breaking. It was early in the season but sometimes it can happen. So, I decided to drive out there and see what was going on. Turns out there was a big west swell and Pipeline was totally going off. I had not surfed there in over ten years but I still had some big wave boards stashed under Mark Martinsons house, right up the beach.
I grabbed what had been my favorite Pipeline board and paddled out. Me and about 50 or more others. Turned out that there was not much respect for the person taking off the deepest that day, and even less so for some dog-eared old dude. I caught eight waves and on each one of them at least one or two guys took off in front of me. When I came out of the water I was cut, bruised and beaten from getting rammed into the bottom over and over. Guys were getting into fights all over the place. I looked out and said to myself, “Well, that is the last time I will ever surf Pipeline.” And it was. I was glad that I had so many great days out there alone and almost alone back when it was first being ridden in the 60’s, but that was all a memory. Just like right now that memory of my 50th birthday still stands out in what’s left of my old surfdog mind.
Surfing is Everyones new passion
by Corky Carroll
The first time I surfed was in 1955. During the period of time from then to now I have seen three big growth spurts in the amount of people surfing. The first one would have been the biggest. It came in 1959 with the release of the Hollywood hit movie “Gidget.” It seemed like almost overnight surfing just totally boomed.
This came about right at the time when surfboards were going from heavier balsawood cores to the lighter weight polyurethane foam. All of a sudden boards where light enough that just about anybody could carry one to and from the water. Kids, girls and your general weaklings could all surf now. Gidget was the match that lit the fire. In the few years following that movie hitting theaters all over the country the amount of people surfing exploded probably a hundred to one, or more. Before that surfing was a pretty bohemian kinda deal. People thought that it was only done by Hawaiians and a small clan of water beat-niks here in California. This was close to true.
In the early sixties we saw surfing become a national fad. There was now “surf music,” featuring bands such as the Ventures, Challengers, Chanteys and the legendary “King of the Surf Guitar,” Dick Dale. The Beach Boys and Jan and Dean followed with vocal surf songs. Hollywood flooded us with “Beach” movies, mostly featuring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. Surfboard builders were flooded with orders and there was a huge run on “Woodys” and panel trucks for surf mobiles. Before long there was a full-on surf industry developing and a kid like me was actually able to turn riding waves into a decent living. By the mid-sixties “Pro” surfing was becoming a reality.
The next spike in the surf population came with girl surfers. Again, it was a movie that spawned the spurt. “Blue Crush” came out in 2002. It was almost a total copy of the previous “North Shore,” which came out in the eighties, except it featured girl surfers. This opened the eyes of all kinds of females who might not have really thought about surfing. All of a sudden the lineups were full of beginning girl surfers. Girl surfing companies, such as the hugely successful brand “Roxie,” came on the scene. As a direct result of this the talent level of female surfers made a huge increase over the time between then and now as the sheer numbers made for stiffer competition. Hence better talent. In short, girls got a lot better and there are not a lot more of them in the water.
And now, thanks to this whole Covid 19 thing, surfing is in the middle of another good-sized population growth. You wonder how this can be don’t ya? Simple, people can’t do many to the things they were used to doing for exercise and recreation. Gyms are closed or very limited and most other similar activities are the same. As a result, people have taken up surfing. Especially girls. We are seeing a very similar kind of increase in girls in the lineup as we did in the period after Blue Crush.
At the spot that I surf most of the time it is now very common for there to be more girls surfing that guys, in fact it is becoming the norm. Hey, if you are a mature gentleman who appreciates the symmetry of the female form, such as myself, it makes for a much sweeter view. But, that aside, the numbers of surfers in the water has increased substantially over this past year since the virus changed the world. It is not as dramatic as the big boom of the early 60’s, but bigger than the increase in the early 2000’s.
I can almost hear the Beach Boys doing, “Let’s go surfin’ now, everybodies learnin’ how, come on safari with meeeeeeee.”
Is this a good thing or a bad thing? That would be all in the perspective of how you see it. Yes, it’s getting even more crowded that it already was. And there are many who couldn’t take the packed lineups even before, to them any growth is a bad thing. If you are in the industry, such as a board builder or surf shop owner, any increase in business is a great thing because business was bad and getting worse when this thing hit last year. New surfers mean a more buyers of surf stuff, so this a very good thing for the surf business. I guess you can say it’s a two-sided coin.
I paddled out this morning and at first was kinda frowning at the number of surfers already out waiting for a wave. But then I started talking to a couple of people who I had never met before and was able to pick off some good waves without much trouble. When I came in, I was smiling and happy. I had some new friends and got a couple of good rides. Felt great and totally positive. So, as I said, this stuff is all in the eye of the beholder. If you are ready to have a great time you probably will. If not, well, best to not even bother.
This lost art is not dead yet
I was talking to my pal Joel Saltzman the other day about the state of todays surfboard industry. Joel is a long-time avid surfer who is originally from Florida but has been living in the South Bay for many years and is my partner in Blue Mango Surf Company. I was visiting him and on a mission to buy a couple of center fins for some boards of mine that were at the moment without one. We went to a very cool little surf shop over a liquor store in Manhattan Beach called “El Porto Surf Shop” to find them. Great vibe in there with some stoked young dudes working and also some cool boards.
This got us talking about the days when a lot of people were more into ordering up a “custom” board and having it handmade especially for them. This is almost a lost art as the norm these days seems to be to buy them right off the rack. We live in the age of “instant gratification.” I want it and I want it now. I get that. I feel the same about donuts.
Yet, at the same time, it was a very cool thing to have a board built especially for you. There was a whole process that went with it. Most of the shops used to be actual “surfboard” shops. Some would have a small showroom in the front and make the boards in the back. You would go in and fill out an order form, many times with the guy who was going to make the board. Like you would go into the Velzy shop and order your board right from Velzy, or go into the Gordie shop and order your board right from Gordie. It was pretty cool.
Not all that many boards are even being handmade anymore, let alone done custom for somebody. Many are produced in Asia in molds and many are made using modern shaping machines that can reproduce certain shapes. But there are still some great surfboard shapers out there carving out boards. One is Jose Barahona, the guy who shapes my personal boards. This dude has shaped a zillion boards for many big-name surfboard companies over the years and is as good as they come. So, Joel and I went over to the board factory that Jose works out of and talked to him about this whole custom board thing. He said he was still doing a few along with all the stock orders. I am sure that there are a few others still doing them too, it’s just finding a shop that actually takes custom orders these days. I am investigating this as we speak (or read as the case may be).
So, if any of you would want a real handmade custom board done for you, I would be happy to hook you up for that. Just email me and I will put it together for you. CORKYSURF@AOL.COM
Watch Jose make a board in 3 minutes (Time Lapse)
by Corky Carroll
I have to shamelessly admit that I spend a lot of time on social media. This is not only for entertainment purposes but also to promote whatever it is that I am in need of promoting at the moment. Be it my new book “Not Done Yet,” or newest album, “Blue Mango,” new surfboard line, “Blue Mango Surf,” or my surf adventure package to come and surf with me. (yeah, that was plugging, I also shamelessly admit. Gotta eat.). Another reason is to interreact with other surfers and keep up on stuff that I might not hear of in my local neighborhood.
In the course of this interaction, and also as a result of my “Ask the Expert” column, I constantly get asked, “what ever happened to….. fill in the blank.” So today I thought I would enlighten those of you who wonder this stuff with some info on exactly what did happen to some of the more well-known surfers of the great yesteryear that kind of faded out of the limelight. Starting with popular surf people from my childhood era, 1950’s and 60’s.
Phil Edwards was widely considered the top surfer in the world in the late 50’s and early 60’s. He won the first SURFER magazine reader poll and was also featured on the cover of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. This along with having the very first signature model surfboard with Hobie Surfboards. In the later 60’s and onward he became involved with designing and sailing catamarans with the Hobie Cat Company. Phil still lives in southern Orange County although doesn’t surf as much as he used, but from all reports is healthy and happy.
Paul Strauch Jr. was also in the conversation for best surfer in the world during the early 1960’s. He won many events throughout that decade and was highly respected for his great style as well as being one of the nicest dudes you would ever wanna meet. We all revered him in the water and as “the Gentleman surfer.” Cool thing with Paul is that he is still a great surfer, still has great style, lives in Orange County and can been seen at San Onofre Surf Beach all the time. And still an amazing great person.
Mark Martinson was United States Surfing Champion as well as one of the top competitors in the world in the 1960’s. He moved to the North Shore of Oahu and made a career out of shaping surfboards with Robert August Surfboards. He is still there today, surfing and playing a lot of golf.
John Peck was one of the most respected surfers and surfboard designers of the 60’s. He gained fame from his amazing back-side surfing in the early days of surfing “Pipeline.” His unique surfboard design, called the “Peck Penetrator,” was ahead of its time and even today is highly sought after for collectors. John is alive and very well living in Newport Beach, still surfs great and will still build you a board if you seek him out.
Ron Sizemore was U.S. Surfing champ in 1961 and became one of the top competitors and surf stars here in California during that era. He was known for riding his bike, while pulling his board behind on a homemade bike rack, all up and down the coast from Santa Barbara to San Diego as well as appearing in classic WARDY surfboards ads in SURFER magazine. Ron still lives in his hometown of Laguna Beach and surfs the southern O.C. frequently.
Joey Cabell is widely known as one of the greatest surfers of all time. He won many big-time events including the Makaha International, the Peru International and the Malibu Invitational. Known as a speed demon on a surfboard, on skis, in a car and/or just about any and everything else he did. He liked to go fast and did. Also known for being one of the founders of the CHART HOUSE restaurant chain. Joey is still surfing and still going fast. He lives in Hawaii.
These are just a few of the surfers I get asked about frequently. I will continue with this in the future so if you have anybody you are wondering about shoot me an email to CORKYSURF@AOL.COM and I will do my best to bring you up to speed.
Flashing back to Youth
By Corky Carroll
I just watched videos of a 12-year-old kid getting towed into massive waves at “Jaws” on Maui during a monster swell that hit there a couple of weeks ago. Blew me away. Flashed me back to when I was 12 and first started to ride, at least what we thought were, bigger waves here in California.
Our house was right on the beach in Surfside Colony, just south of Seal Beach. It was a great place to grow up because I could surf all I wanted, whenever I wanted. It was right there. And I loved it so much that I would go out in just about any and every condition. Big, little, windy, glassy, stormy, high tide taking out houses, good shape, bad shape or no shape. It didn’t matter, I was on it all the time.
At the far north end of our beach was the south jetty for the Navy base at Seal Beach. On huge winter swells big peaks would form and break out near the end of the jetty. The big stuff. When I was little I would occasionally see guys out there riding it. But it was super dangerous as there was no beach and the shore break would pound into huge jetty rocks along the beach. If you lost your board it was toast. It was finding a half of a broken board on those rocks that provided me with the wood to make the first board that I shaped, they were balsawood back then.
When I was about 11 or 12 I started paddling out there when it was big. At first being really chicken and only taking off on the shoulders, but gradually getting more confident. To me, this was riding big surf, the “heavies.” I can remember Steve Rowe dramatically declaring, “It’s freaking 10 foot out here.” Wow, that was really big. But, in all fairness, wave size was completely mis-judged in those days. It was a mark of being brave to call a wave that was six times the height of a six-foot person six feet. Like 6x6=6. Didn’t make any sense at all. I know my first wave at Waimea Bay was at least 100 feet even though George Downing called it, “a solid 20 ft.” In the light of that I wanna say the Surfside Jetty waves were more like 3 times overhead, so what’s that? 15 to 18 feet. Gigantic for a 12 yr. old little skinny me.
Roll forward to a couple of days ago. As is my normal morning routine, I lit the fire to power up my old coal powered computer and checked my mail and Facebook pages. Low and behold here is this video of 12-year-old Steve “baby Steve” Robertson getting towed into monster waves, sooooo much bigger than what we had at the Surfside Jetty. After getting blown out the top of a few biggies he was coached on by big wave charger Makua Rothman and wound up getting himself some really great rides on waves that most humans would not even think of attempting.
The video and story are posted on SURFLINE. The link is https://www.surfline.com/surf-news/watch-12-year-old-baby-steve-roberson-towing-xxl-jaws/111012.
I would suggest you check this out. Pretty amazing stuff. And, just a side note: this is very very dangerous for anybody, but a person that size is at a much greater risk. Don’t send your young kids off to Hawaii to be trying this, keep ‘em home safe watching Sponge Bob or something.
Big Wave Riding Goes Nuts!
by Corky Carroll
Riding really big waves has always been an awe-inspiring feat, exciting to watch and thrilling to do. Lately they are taking things to a whole new and extreme level as far as sheer size of waves and just how they are approaching riding them.
Just in the last couple of weeks we have seen footage of Kai Lenny and Makua Rothman riding behemoth waves at “Jaws,” on the island of Maui, that have people actually tossing out the “100 ft” thing. And this morning I just saw a shot of Peter Mel at Mavericks, near Half Moon Bay, on a wave that scares me just to look at the photo of it.
It’s mind boggling to see just how massive these waves are that these guys are putting themselves into. And even more mind boggling is the way they are going about it. Not in the legendary big wave “stink bug” stance that was made famous by early big wave riders on the North Shore in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Nope, not in the “ride for your life” thrill seeker stance either. These guys are riding these waves close to the same way guys ride smaller surf. They are going for big turns, air drops and getting full blown “shacked,” (riding inside the barrel, curl or whatever you want to call it.). Doesn’t anybody get scared anymore?
I can still vividly, well ok….semi vividly, it was a while back, remember my first times riding big surf on the North Shore of Oahu. Back then they called big waves “heavies.” It was so different than what it had looked like in the movies or even from the beach. Just the sheer volume of water moving around and the massive thickness and power of those things made me feel totally insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Like a flea on a leaf heading over Niagara Falls, or something like that. The first day I was out at Waimea Bay when it was big George Downing looked at me and asked me if I was scared. I wanted to say no, but I was too scared to lie. “Heck YES, it’s b b baa BIG out here George!!!!”
Back then the deal was to under-estimate the size of the surf. If it was six times the height of a six-foot guy they would call it six feet. Totally wrong, but it made whoever was making the call seem braver by blowing it off as it was nothing big. I took the other road, I called it sixty feet. I swear my first big one at Waimea was 300 ft. And I was not going for giant turns, air drops or trying to get shacked, it was pure adrenaline survival thrill ride straight for the channel.
When Laird Hamilton and his crew started getting towed into waves that were too big to be able to paddle into it broke new ground. Waves bigger than ever thought possible were getting ridden. Laird was playing with them; the guy was absent on the day they handed out the fear cells. We were all blown away. It seemed like the limits were being reached with exactly what could be done.
But nooooooo. They just keep finding bigger and gnarlier water monsters to ride. They really are getting close to somebody reaching the sought after 100 ft all time biggie of biggies. So, this brings up the question: what is the limit of just how big a wave a human being can actually ride? And it appears there is, at this time, no answer to that. They are riding them as big as they come. Going to the ends of the Earth to find bigger and badder ones. Guys are sitting next to glaciers in Alaska waiting for giant ice chunks to fall off and make a wave. The only issue there is they have no idea just how big the chunk is gonna be nor how big a wave is gonna come racing at them. That’s pretty insane. Rocks, reefs, ice bergs, sunken ships, sharks and killer krakens in the lineup, no problemos. There are NO LIMITS, it seems.
This is one of the few times I am glad to be old and planted nicely in my Lazy Boy with no expectations to ride anything life threatening. Sure is fun watching these dudes like Lenny, Rothman and Mel charging these monsters though.