by Corky Carroll
When I was a tiny kid, growing up here on the shores of our beautiful Orange County, my first wave riding vehicle was a heavy-duty canvas air matt. But then I also wasn’t against trying to ride anything that would float. We made “belly boards” and “skimboards” from old pieces of plywood laying around. But once I got big enough to get an actual surfboard there was no going back, that was the holy grail for riding waves.
There were a few people who rode better versions of “belly boards,” called “paipo boards.” But, for the most part, there were only a few people doing that and mostly at places like the Wedge and some at Brooks Street in Laguna Beach. Tom Morey changed all that when he came up with the nice soft “Boogie Board.” These foamy delights opened up riding waves for zillions of people all over the world. Go to just about any beach on any day and you will see boogie boards. They pretty much took over the world of water. And then there was a brief flurry of people riding knee boards. There are still a few around, but not many. Your standard surfboard has remained the main way to “surf” through the years and still is today. But, that said, there is new surfing equipment on the scene and more of more of it is making its way into already crowded lineups as we speak.
The roots of this kinda started when boards went short and stayed that way for a number of years. Then “longboards” made their way back onto the scene and many older surfers took back to the water on bigger boards. This created a sort of off balance in the lineup. Bigger boards catch waves easier than shorter ones. All of a sudden lots of old dudes where out there catching most of the good waves while the younger, and usually better, surfers where stuck further inside and not able to get as many. This led to a lot of “snaking,” and other forms of aggressive behavior in order for everybody who was out there to surf to actually be able to get in a wave or two edgewise. There is, of course, two sides to this. And which one is right or wrong is not my subject today, I am just pointing out that this long and short board thing is what started the imbalance in the quest of waves as far as who is riding what.
Then we add to the mix the getting more popular by the day Stand Up Paddleboard, also known as the SUP. These are larger and wider boards that are big enough for the surfer to be able to paddle standing up with the use of a paddle. Surfers call the people who ride these “sweepers,” as the paddling looks kinda like a sweeping motion. It’s not always used affectionately either. The SUPs have an even bigger advantage over the shortboards than the longboards do. A person on one of those can catch the wave earlier than both. So now the longboarders feel just like the shortboarders do and call “foul,” and “unfair.”
I won’t even mention how the occasional boogie boarder feels or fits or not fits into this situation. It’s kind of like “whales’ rule” out there. Cool if you are a whale, not cool if you aren’t.
And, low and behold, now we have a new and even more deadly predator on the wave riding vehicle scene. The “Foil.” These are boards that have a huge foil sticking out the bottom of the board. A surfer can catch a swell far offshore with one of these and ride it all the way to shore, by far a bigger wave catching advantage than even the biggest SUP. I should also point out that these things are pretty dangerous, if you get hit by the foil it can really do some serious damage to you.
OK, so let me sum it up. Here is the lineup from small to big. Boogie boards, knee boards, shortboards, midsize boards, longboards, SUPs and foils. And everybody wants a wave. So, the big question is how does this work? Or does it? Just the danger element alone would more than less tell you that it might not be the best arrangement to have all of these things in the same surfing lineup. But, in many places, they are. It’s getting kind of crazy. The ONLY way this can work is if EVERYBODY out there has respect for everybody else and are careful not to put anybody else in danger. Is this really possible? Honestly, probably not.
What’s the answer? Designated surf spots probably, even though I hate to say that. Or not, just live with it and hope not too many people get hurt. I do know that the foils are really the most dangerous and people really should not ride these in crowded surf spots. SUP riders have to respect others and not take EVERY good wave, same with longboarders. This is easier said than done. It’s crowded out there and tends to be dog eat dog a lot of the time. Takes the fun out of it. And, the whole reason we are out there is to have fun. Of course, for 25k a day you can rent the Surf Ranch and have all the waves you want to yourself and your friends. I guess it you can’t afford that, learn to like the taste of dog.
by Corky Carroll
I was just doing my morning scan of my Facebook page and saw that my pal, world renown big wave charger Jeff Clark, posted this, “WSL calls off Mavericks to focus on becoming a Media Company. Looks like surfing Mavericks because you really want it, and because you love it will hopefully become the norm again.” At first I just kinda went, “oh well, good for the hard-core locals at Mavericks, bad for the guys trying to make a living on the WSL Big Wave Tour.” Two sides to every story. But then I thought about it and some legit questions sort of found their way into my waterlogged and barely functioning little mind. Here are my thoughts on this as I sit here with my coffee looking out the window at some good waves that will require my attention as soon as I finish with this.
The World Surfing League (WSL) is the governing body of pro surfing events all over the world. This includes the Championship Pro Tour, the Big Wave Tour and various Longboard events. The reasoning, as I understand it from the media reports, for dropping the Mavericks event was the logistics involved. Mavericks is located at Half Moon Bay, just south of San Francisco, and breaks pretty far from shore. Not an easy place to watch a surf event and not in an area that is going to get a whole lot of media attention, other than hard core surf press. So, it looks like a business decision. Let’s look deeper.
Last year the WSL took the “Trestles” pro event off the World Championship Tour schedule in favor of holding one at Kelly Slaters “Surf Ranch.” This was not received all that well, especially here in Orange County where “Trestles” is located. It turns out that the WSL actually purchased the Surf Ranch and has plans of building a second one in Florida, possibly more after that. So, what we are seeing here is that the WSL is not only the governing body of professional surfing, but is also a functioning business. And, as so, is, as all businesses are, committed to the good old bottom line. So, looking at it from that perspective, holding an event in your own arena over holding one at one of the California’s best surf spots, one that is right here in San Clemente, would appear to make more business sense.
As my thoughts wander on, what do these things mean looking down the road for the future of pro surfing competition? Does it mean more events in artificial wave pools? With the WSL itself owning this technology, and having the control, it could certainly make you think that this could be a strong possibility. And, the real burning question here is, “is this a good or bad thing?” This is a huge question with two sides to it, pros and cons each way.
Those who are against the competition in wave pools say that it takes away the skill of reading the surf, judging when and where the waves are going to come and the talent it takes to deal with the unpredictability of each and every wave as it unravels. To many this is the very essence of surfing. Surfer, board and nature. It’s spontaneous and exciting.
The argument for competition in wave pools is that everybody has a totally equal chance. Every wave is the same and so it comes down to who rides the wave the best and not who gets the best wave. There is also the fact that there is arena viewing, concessions and all that stuff. They can charge people to get in to see it, sell them food, drinks and souvenir items in the gift shops. Also, you know that the surf is gonna be there on any given day. At real surf spots you never know, there has to be a waiting period, and even then it can be hit or miss.
Oh yeah, there is one more side. And this goes back to Jeff Clarks comment that led me on this rant. The part about this leaving Mavericks to those who really want it and love it. Believe me when I say that there are a lot of surfers who would love to NOT have surfing contests held at their favorite spots for a number of reasons. I have been on both sides of that conversation.
So anyway, that is my little wandering into what may or may not come about in the world of surfing competition. Remember when all the stuff on Star Trek was total fiction?
by Corky Carroll
Just a note to those of you who read me but don’t surf, we use wax on the top our boards to keep us from slipping off. It’s not like on skis where you use it on the bottoms to go faster. Ok, just wanted to clear that up as it is a common source of confusion to non-surfers. With that said, lets today take a look at waxes, how to most efficiently apply them and how to effectively remove them in case you desire to do that.
Back in the dinosaur days of surfboards, when I first started, we did not have surfboard wax. We used bars of paraffin wax that was made for sealing jars of jellies and jams that our moms would make. Moms did that back then. You could buy a box with four big bars at the store, break the bars in two and have eight hunks of wax. This wax was pretty good when you first put it on, but it would get slippery fairly fast so you needed to apply it often. This was the reason that when surf trunks were first appearing on the scene there was always a “wax pocket.” Obviously for holding your wax while you surfed so that you could re-apply it when needed. It has amazed me in recent years to find out that most people not only don’t use the wax pockets to carry wax, they don’t even know that’s what that pocket is for. True. I was out one day, not long ago, and found myself out of wax and in need of it. There were like thirty people in the water and I asked if anybody had some wax I could borrow. Everybody just looked at me and went, “huh?” Nobody had any.
Anyway, getting back to the story, we now have very good surf waxes available in all kinds of formulas. From extremely cold water to extremely warm water and in various degrees of sticky. Surf wax has come a long way. My advice on first applying wax to a new board is to get two bars. One bar of “base coat,” which is very hard, and one bar of whatever the water temp is going to be where and when you surf. Apply the base coast in long vertical strokes using the flat side of the wax, you get more on that way. I like to make my wax strokes about three feet in length and always vertical, nose to tail or visa versa. Little beads form this way and are very effective as to applying more later and keeping the wax on longer. Once you have a nice even coat of base wax applied then it’s time to put a layer of “temperature based” wax over it. For example, if the water in your area is in the 60’s, like Orange County in the summer, most people would choose a “cool” water wax. Apply this wax exactly the same as the base coast, long vertical strokes. I have seen people using the edge of the bar of wax and putting it on in tiny little circles, I never got that as it takes forever to do it that way and I don’t see the nice even beads form. Long vertical strokes work better.
Taking wax off is another matter. First off, why would you want to do that? I have had boards for years without ever even thinking of taking my wax off. But there are many people who like to always have a nice clean “new wax” kinda look and feel to their boards. Old wax can get kinda dirty and ugly looking, true. So, if that is important to you then it’s fine to change your wax. Also, you can get stuff in your wax that you don’t want, like tar or other forms of dirtiness. Taking wax off is not always that easy. I find that if you put your board out in the sun for a few minutes it will make the wax soft and easier to get off. Use a plastic tool, like a spatula, to scrape it off. They actually have wax removal tools available in most surf shops. Scrape it as clean as you can and then try to get the residue off with a moist cloth. Some people use acetone for this, and that works fine. But beware of gasoline as this can get into the pours of your glass job and make it extremely difficult to re-apply the wax. And NEVER use any kind of oil, like baby oil etc. You can never get that off and you will wind up having to totally sand your board down and re-gloss it. If you have to use anything I would keep it to only acetone.
One of the nice things we have today are all the cool boutique kinda waxes. They have nice smells like coconut, mango, lime, musk, cherry, banana and many more. I hear some even taste good in case you get hungry (just kidding, don’t eat it). And surf wax is not expensive at all, well worth the price.
I hope this helps shed some light on the wonderful world of surf wax to those of you who were wondering what it was all about. Happy surfing and no slipping.
by Corky Carroll
Over the past couple of weeks I gave you a quick look back at some of the women who first pioneered what we like to call the “modern era” of surfing. This began in the 1950’s when the boards went from huge and heavy planks to shorter and lighter boards that allowed just about everybody to surf, if for no better reason than they got light enough to where the average person, including girls, could carry one to and from the water. Before that you had to be Joe Strongdude to even pick one up.
So, today I thought I would go back and take a short look at one of the dudes who had a ton of influence on this transition period. Bob Simmons.
Simmons was one of those kinda off the wall loco genius types, the kind that don’t exactly fit into the term “normal” all that perfectly. He started surfing in 1939 at Newport Beach, already 20 years old. Right off the bat he realized that what he really liked about surfing was the thrill of the speed, and he wanted more of it. The big heavy redwood “cigar” like boards could get up to exciting speeds when you got one into exact trim and on a direct line, but they were big and awkward and not all that easy to actually get into perfect trim. A lot of them did not have fins and holding a hard line was very difficult. You had to drag your back foot over the tail to make them angle very much, and spinning out was very common.
Bob began researching hull design and how to design surfboards to maximize planing speed. His started making his boards a lot shorter than what was popular during those years, many of them in the eight-foot range. He experimented with concaves, eager to find out what effect having air between the bottom of the board and the water would have. His shapes also had thinner rails and were, for the most part, wider in the tail area to take advantage of that aforementioned planing speed.
Simmons was also one of the leaders of bringing in balsawood as the main material to shape boards out of. To do this he found that the use of fiberglass and resin made a great covering to keep the soft wood from getting waterlogged. Due to the fact that his boards tended to be very wide from front to back he found that putting two fins on the tail, instead of one, would allow the boards to hold a high line in the fastest part of the wave without falling out. Most people consider him to have invented the first “twin fin” designs in the early 1950’s. This concept was pretty much ignored until about 1970 when boards got short enough and surfing got good enough to bring it back. The only thing was that none of us really were thinking of the original Simmons shape at that time, and for the most part thought we were coming up with something new all on our own. But, looking back at some of the early two fin designs that Simmons made you can see a direct correlation to the new designs close to twenty years later. Even today there are a number of surfers, especially in the San Diego area, that ride what they call “Mini-Simmons” designs. The guy was truly ahead of his time. For him it was all about going as fast as he could. Turning and all that was not his deal, he just wanted to get from point A to point B in the shortest amount of time as possible. If he could be a blur it was exactly what he was trying to accomplish.
Bob was also one of the early pioneers of surfing on Oahu’s famous “North Shore.” This was back in the days when it was a fairly long drive from Honolulu on a narrow two-lane road. Simmons rode his bike out there, steering with one hand and carrying his board over his shoulder with the other. Just think about that for a moment. It would be like riding from Long Beach to San Clemente with a board over your shoulder. How insane is that? See what I mean about the not exactly normal thing? He was a loner and did stuff his own way. To this day many of the designs he first came up with are still in play.
He died in 1954 while surfing near the spot called “Windansea,” in La Jolla. In his honor they call that area “Simmons Reef.” He was only 35. A bona fide surfing pioneer.
by Corky Carroll
Last week I embarked on a little bit of surf history featuring the women who led the way starting with what is commonly called the “Modern” era of surfing. This period started with the advent of lightweight balsawood and foam surfboards in the mid to late 1950’s. I talked about Gidget, the Calhoun girls, Linda Benson, Joyce Hoffman and Margo Godfrey (later Margo Oberg after she got married). Today I am going to add a couple more girls to the list.
The first is Rell Sunn. To fully describe Rell and her impact on the surfing world would be really hard, but I will do my best to give you the best short version that I can. Rell was wonderful, in every sense of the word. Great surfer and a beautiful Hawaiian girl who truly embraced the true “spirit of aloha.” I first met Rell when I was at Makaha, on Oahu’s west shore, for the big International Surfing Championship in 1963. Her and her sister were both very young and were competing. We were all just kids back then. Through the years we were friends and I would see her at all of the surfing events both in Hawaii and California as she rose through the ranks of Women’s surfing. But her mark on the surfing community came from much more than just her remarkable surfing skills. Rell was like an ambassador for Hawaiian surfing, known as the “Queen of Makaha,” and lovingly as “Auntie Rell” by all the surfing ohana (family) on the “west side.” In 1982, while at a pro surfing event in Huntington Beach, she found a lump that turned out to be breast cancer. She was given a year to live at that time. Not going down without a fight Rell lived 16 more years, becoming a counselor for breast cancer at her home as well as piloting a program for breast cancer awareness at the Waianae Cancer Research Center on Oahu. Everybody loved Rell. Songs were written about her such as “Mother of the Sea,” by Darren Benitez, a documentary was done on her titled “Heart of the Sea,” and she was inducted into both the Surfers Hall of Fame and the International Surfing Walk of Fame. Rell was truly a special surfer and special human being, she passed away in 1998 at age 47.
Through almost all of the years that Rell was competing in surfing events around the world her main sidekick was the firey Jerricho Poppler. This is another one that would need a whole book or mini-series to fully give you the scope of her essence. Her competition record is huge and includes United States Champion and World Professional Champion. She was also inducted into the Surfers Hall of Fame and the International Surfing Walk of Fame, both in Huntington Beach. Like Rell, Jericho brought a whole lot more to the party than just her amazing surfing talents. This chick came with a personality, big bright blazing personality. She lit up the beach with it. It carried into her surfing style too. I wanna say she went at it like a modern dance. Well, actually I will say it. Her surfing was a dance, flowing and with a lot of rhythm. Along with competing, and just being a beckon of light and fun, she also co-founded WISA (the Women’s International Surfing Association). Through all these years Jericho is still out there surfing to this day and still better than pretty much anybody else out on any given day. She lives in Long Beach and you can find her at many of the surfing events in Southern California.
To wrap up this little historical wandering I would also like to mention the first girl to win back to back World Professional Surfing Championships, Lynn Boyer. She won in 1978 and again in 1979, along with many other titles and being in the SURFERS HALL OF FAME etc. This would pretty much wrap up what I personally would consider the “pioneering” period. There were many other great women surfers that I should also mention that were a part of it and important in their own right. Linda Merrill, Nancy Nelson, Judy Dibble, Joey Hamasaki and Sharon Webber come to my pea brain at this moment. All these girls opened the doors for today’s female superstars and deserve recognition. It has not been just all guys.
by Corky Carroll
With all of the hoopla going on during the recent U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach there was a lot of talk about different “pioneers” of surfing. Most of the time these discussions don’t mention the women who forged the way and opened the doors for the current flock of “equal pay” lady wave shredders. So, today, in the wake of the big event and dust laid back down, I thought I would reminisce a bit about the girls who lead the way in the early days of what is termed the “modern era” of surfing, starting in the 1950’s with the change to lightweight balsawood and then foam boards. I started surfing in the mid 1950’s, so this is where my first-hand knowledge would begin. I have touched on this in the past, but it seems a good time to revisit and update.
To preface this, I should add that the release of the movie “Gidget,” in 1959, had a huge impact on not only womens surfing but also surfing in general. Gidget was a girl named Kathy Kohner whose father wrote the book about her surfing experiences with the Malibu crew in the mid 1950’s. This would have been Tubesteak Tracey, Mickey Dora, Mickey Munoz and others. Just the sheer impact that the movie had on surfing would have to put Kathy up there with the most influential surf girls of the period, and beyond.
The Calhoun girls from Laguna Beach are legendary. Marge Calhoun was the Makaha International Surfing Champion in 1958 and remained involved in surfing competition as one of the leading judges well into the 1970’s. Her daughters, Candy and Robin, were both excellent surfers as well. Candy was United States Champion and won many events in the early 1960’s, also being one of the great water-people.
Linda Benson burst onto the scene winning the Makaha event and the first West Coast Championship at Huntington Beach in 1959 at the age of 15. She also stunt doubled for Sandra Dee in the Gidget movie. Over the next decade Linda went on to win just about everything there was to win as well as being named the Top Womens Surfer in the World by SURFER magazines first reader poll for the year 1963. She is still surfing today, looks pretty much the same as she did in 1959 and is one of the coolest and most fun people to share a lineup with. I love Linda. She currently makes a device called a “rail grabber,” a little handle to make it easier to carry a longboard for those with shorter arms.
The next big time womens surf star was the great Joyce Hoffman. Joyce, known as “Boo” to family and friends, totally dominated the girls competition scene for many years in the mid 1960’s. She is the daughter of famous early big wave surfer Walter Hoffman, known as “the Godfather” in surfing circles. The family company, Hoffman Fabrics, produces almost all of the fabric for the leading surfing manufacturers in the United States. Joyce learned to surf in an environment surrounded by the great surfers of that era, Phil Edwards, Hobie Alter, the Harrison family, her uncle “Flippy” Hoffman, Munoz and others.
On the heels of Joyce Hoffman came the amazing Margo Godfrey. Margo got recognition by winning the “Menehune” contest in La Jolla at the age of 11. She beat all the boys. By 15 she was World Champ. What was notable about Margo, other than her incredible competition record, was that fact that she was probably the first girl surfer to actually surf similar to the men as far as style and function of moves went. Another great girl surfer of that era that also was along those lines was Joey Hamasaki. But Margo was ahead of her time for sure. She still looked feminine, yet if you saw her from a distance and didn’t see that she was a girl it would have been easy to mistake her for one of the top men surfers as far as he style and presence on a wave. She ripped like no other girl had done before her and set the style and tone for those who followed.
That would take us pretty much through the 1960’s. I would like to continue this next week a look at a few more of the great female influences on surfing going forward, stay tuned!
by Corky Carroll
I first became aware of Herbie Fletcher back in High School in Huntington Beach. He was a hot young up and coming surfer a grade or two younger than I was. I recruited him to surf on the Hobie Surf Team and got him set up with free boards. At that time it would have been impossible to predict exactly how far the kid was going to go, but he was super likeable, really could surf and was very enthusiastic about it. Looking back at his transformation from then to now is remarkable, what an amazing journey.
The very short version, just to set the basics down, is that Herbie moved to the North Shore of Oahu, married Dibi, the daughter of the infamous “Godfather of Surfing,” Walter Hoffman, made a name for himself for his free flowing, side slipping and very individualistic style of surfing, came back to California and went on to open “Astrodeck,” the leading producer of surfboard deck pads. He produced, and stared in, a number of surfing videos and had a couple sons, Christian and Nathan, who have become outstanding and groundbreaking surfers in their own right. Dibi herself is an amazing artist and her influence rubbed off on Herbie who also went in that direction. To get more on the background please check out my story from 2014, https://www.ocregister.com/2014/10/21/corky-carroll-sharing-a-story-of-the-herbie-fletcher-i-know/
Which brings us to now and the reason for todays revisit to the wonderful wild world of things Fletcher. Dibi has put the whole story down in ink and her new book, “Fletcher, a lifetime in surf,” has just been released by Rizzoli. In conjunction with the release of the book the Gallery Gagosian, in New York City, is presenting an exhibition of Fletcher family art, sculptures and photos, and will sell items, including t-shirts, in their 976 Madison Avenue on site store. The exhibition just opened and is attracting tons of viewers from all walks of life. One of these is renowned artist Julian Schnabel, who had this to say, “The practice of the artist . . . is no different than that of the surfer, who inscribes his or her self in the ocean--a bigger canvas could not be engaged, defining their humanity in the most personal way, using themselves to draw their lifelines through the massive fleeting freedom of that power. The power and majesty of the sea—Herbie shared that with me and with my family as well as his own.”
I have always been amazed at how Herbie just always seems to find his way into stuff. He just, for lack of better words, “goes for it.” It’s like when he was pioneering the use of Jet Skis in giant surf. He would just stick himself into a monster beast and hold on for dear life. Amazed onlookers would be shaking their heads in disbelief and uttering stuff like “Wow, did YOU SEE THAT?” He just does stuff, and gets away with it. And, obviously, so does his wife and kids.
Along with the exhibition there will be showings of the 2019 Documentary “Heavy Water.” This film is about the insane HUGE wave surfing by Nathan Fletcher, the younger of the two sons. Christian, the older one, was at the vanguard of bringing in the age of “ariel” surfing. I remember standing on the beach at the San Clemente Pier watching him, Matt Archibald and Dino Andino blasting big airs off the top of close out beach crunchers way back when they were young teenagers in the early 1980’s and thinking, “well, this is the future happening right here.”
So yeah, back on the hill next to the snack bar at Huntington Beach High School, sitting there with Denny Buell, Robert August and the crew checking out John Boozers new light blue windbreaker and commenting on how good the grems were getting, that would have been the likes of Herbie, Jon Overmyer, Buddy Heil and Tom Leonardo, never in our wildest imagination would we have pegged Herbie to forge so many frontiers. But he did, and is, and will be one of the most multi-faceted and uniquely imaginative surfers ever.
For more information on the Gagosian exhibition go to https://gagosian.com/exhibitions/2019/the-fletcher-family-a-lifetime-in-surf/
Congratulations Fletchers, you have done it again.
by Corky Carroll
Coming up on Friday, August 2nd, will be the annual SURFERS HALL OF FAME induction ceremony. As part of the week long Vans U.S. Open of Surfings list of great activities, this is one of the coolest to attend and important. It will be held at 9 AM in the Surfers Hall of Fame plaza on the corner of Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway in Huntington Beach, directly in front of Huntington Surf ‘n Sport, who puts it on.
This years inductees are Janice Aragon, Kai Lenny and legendary Huntington Beach local Sam Hawk. I told you about Janice and Kai over the past two weeks and have saved Sam for today. When I saw the list of who was getting the nod this year I had to smile when I saw Sam’s name. I was also a little surprised, not because he doesn’t deserve it, he truly does, but because he is not really all that well known outside of the circle of hard core and longtime surfers. Unless you are from Huntington Beach, then the guy is like total local surf lore and royalty. And I was really stoked to see it there too, having known of him since he first started getting good in the 1960’s. Sam is not quite as old as me, but close.
As far as personal history goes Sam was born in South Gate in 1950, but grew up in Huntington Beach, a pier rat, along with his brothers Tom and Chris. All three turned out to be great surfers, with Sam being the standout. Sam came to the North Shore of Oahu in 1967 and almost immediately caught all of our attention, the kid could really surf. He used to hang out with Craig “Owl” Chapman a lot and the two of them seemed to always be getting deeper and showing more guts than just about anybody. Owl became famous for his bold “hood ornament” poses, while Sam just had a purely great style and seemingly endless desire to explore the deepest, darkest and most dangerous places on the biggest days at places like Pipeline and Sunset Beach. Sam was the standout at the “Expression Session,” held at Pipeline in 1970. It was a big and perfect day with the top surfers in the world invited to “express.” Well, Sam just kinda expressed all over everybody. There was a lot of “Wow, who is this guy?,” kinda stuff goin on that day.
The best description of Sam Hawk that I ever heard was from a 2014 story in SURFER magazine by Matt Warsaw. “Give me the DNA know-how and a pair of med students in lab coats, and I would love to take a crack at building the perfect ’70s surfer. I would call him…Sam Hawk. Because that is the best surfer name ever. Now toss over a petri dish and a gene splicer, let’s get to it! Start with a nice fat wet strand of Terry Fitzgerald. Add a little John Peck. Barry Kanaiaupuni, of course. Little more BK. Little more. OK, good. Buzzy Trent’s chest and arms, scaled down 15 percent. Buzzy Trent’s cajones, full-size. Breweresque skill with the planer. Robert Redford hair, eyes, jawline, and bang! We’re done.
Sam Hawk was the missing link between the Mount Rushmore Hawaiians (Lopez, Hakman, Reno, BK), and the Bustin’ Down the Door gang (Shaun, Bugs, MR) who followed. Powerful and fearless. Stylish from here to next year. White trunks, white board, a late-takeoff-to-deep-bottom-turn line at Pipeline so clean and pure and perfect that you need a French curve to render it properly. As a backside tube rider, he was, almost to the day, four years ahead of his time. Took Shaun and Michael Tomson combined to finally better Hawk’s mark at Pipe.”
SURFERS HALL OF FAME founder Arron Pai says, “Back in the day my surfing buddies and I used to watch Sam Hawk in the dead of Winter during huge swells as he swam around the HB Pier (in just speedos) staying fit for Big Wave Surfing. Sam is a home grown Surfing Legend!”
That pretty much sums it up. The ceremony is free and open to the public, you should go.
by Corky Carroll
With the big Vans U.S. Open of Surfing set to pounce on Orange Counties most famous surfing spot, the Huntington Beach Pier, from July 27 to August 4, the eyes of the surfing world are upon us. One of the more prestigious of the events that go along with the big competition is the annual induction ceremony for the SURFERS HALL OF FAME. This years inductions will take place on Friday, August 2nd at 9 A.M and will be held at the Surfers Hall of Fame Plaza on the corner of Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway, under the statue of the great Duke Kahanamoku in front of Huntington Surf ‘n Sport.
The three honorees for 2019 are. NSSA director, Janice Aragon, incredible all-around waterman Kai Lenny and local legend Sam Hawk. Last week I told you about Janice Aragon. Today I want to talk about Kai Lenny, and next week I will finish up by covering Sam Hawk.
It’s hard to describe Kai Lenny without saying that he is probably the greatest “all around surf waterman” of all time. This is a short list. The only three surfers I can think of that truly fit into the discussion would be the late great Mike Doyle and big wave king Laird Hamilton. There are people that have excelled in more than one facet of surfing, but I can’t think of anybody who has excelled in ALL of them. Other than Kai Lenny. This dude can do it all. World Class big wave and small wave surfer, longboard, shortboard or any board. World Class Stand Up Paddleboard surfer and racer. Same for Windsurfing, Kite boarding, Skim boarding, Boogie boarding, Prone paddleboard racing, Foil surfing and any other kind of surf related activity known to man. Probably a few that are not even known yet, the guy is that advanced.
O.K., when I say, “World Class,” I mean with the elite of the elite. He wins stuff. Seven time Stand Up Paddleboard World Champion. Winner of the Molokai to Oahu paddleboard race. Runner up in the Professional Kite Board World Championship. It goes on and on. And here’s the kicker, Kai is only 26 years old. His parents put him in the water near their home on the island of Maui when he was less than a week old. Both of them were water people and had moved to Maui to be a part of the Windsurfing and Surfing culture over there. Kai was doing it all before he ever had his first nap time in Kindergarten, blowing minds in all sizes of surf in his early teens and now standing almost peerless in his mid-twenties. It’s just crazy how good this kid is.
SURFERS HALL OF FAME founder, Aaron Pai, calls Lenny “one of the most progressive and amazing big and small wave surfers on the planet.” Followed up by, “We are so stoked and honored to have Kai becoming a part of the Surfers Hall of Fame, it’s a thrill of all of us here at Huntington Surf ‘n Sport.” Lenny follows both Mike Doyle and Laird Hamilton into the SHOF, along with other amazing all-around watermen such as George Downing, Mickey Munoz and Rabbit Kekai.
I have been a fan of Kai for a number of years although I really don’t know him, other than briefly meeting at one of the “Battle of the Paddle” events in Dana Point where I was an announcer and he was racing. I started seeing videos of him surfing big waves at “Jaws,” on Maui. My first thought was, “Wow, this kid can really surf. He is not just a SUPer.” And I do not mean that as a knock on SUPing at all, just that I was surprised at what a great prone board surfer he was as well as being the great SUP racer that I had seen at the BOP. As time went on I kept seeing more and more footage of him doing pretty much everything. Shredding small surf on a shortboard and equally shredding monster surf doing tow ins. One of my favorite videos of him shows him jamming off the bottom and up into the lip on a monster, like zillions of feet, wave at Jaws. He explodes through the lip and free falls a few stories down the face of the wave, lands it and races it out the end. One of those “WOW,” kinda deals. The dude is just a really great surfer, PERIOD.
Stay tuned next week for my take on Huntington Beach’s own Sammy Hawk. And plan on showing up for the induction ceremony on Aug 2nd, its free to the public and a totally cool event.
by Corky Carroll
The big Vans U.S. Open of Surfing is coming back to Huntington Beach, Orange Counties famous “Surf City,” from July 27 through August 4th. Along with the surfing competition there are numerous other activities including Skateboarding, BMX bicycling, beach festivals and the annual inductions into the SURFERS HALL OF FAME. As a more than less Surfing Historian, of sorts, I like to focus on this aspect of the week each year and leave the blow by blow coverage of the surfing competition to others.
The SURFERS HALL OF FAME will be held on Friday, August 2nd at 9 AM at the Surfers Hall of Fame Plaza on the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Main Street in Huntington Beach. This is directly in front of Huntington Surf ‘n Sport, which is owned by Huntington Beach local surfer Aaron Pai. It was Pai who came up with the idea and established the Surfers Hall of Fame back in the 1990’s. Since then many of the greatest names in surfing have had their hand and footprints embedded into the famous concrete squares laid into the hallowed ground under the shadow of the big statue of Duke Kahanamoku that watches over the plaza. Among them are the likes of Phil Edwards, Mike Doyle, Linda Benson, George Downing, Gerry Lopez, Shawn Tomson, Tom Curran, Tom Carroll, Margo Oberg, Joyce Hoffman, Mickey Munoz, Jericho Poplar, Wingnut Weaver, Frieda Zamba, Bob Hurley, David Nuuhiwa, Lisa Anderson, Kelly Slater, Andy Irons and many more. I am proud to have been inducted the first year, along with fellow Huntington Beach High School alumni Robert August.
This years inductees lead off with Janice Aragon, winner of the ISA World Surfing Games, the NSSA Nationals and current executive director of the NSSA. Next up is Sam Hawk, local standout and incredible North Shore power surfer during the 1970’s. And followed by the amazing Kai Lenny, probably the versatile and boundary pushing surfer of our generation
Today I am going to focus on Janice Aragon and will follow up on Sam and Kai in the next two weeks, leading up to the inductions on August 2nd. Janice began surfing at age 16 and didn’t win her first surfing event until the age of 29, a very late start in a sport such as surfing. But, since then she has been one of the most influential people both in and out of the water that the sport has seen over the past thirty years. She first became a judge for the NSSA in 1986 and was the first female to be hired to judge a Professional World Tour event the following year, the OP Pro. She became the Executive Director for the NSSA in 1989 and was instrumental in separating that organization from the old United States Surfing Federation in 1993, bringing about a more polished and organized competition format for Scholastic surfers all over the country. She calls Huntington Beach her home and is one of the real bright spots in United States surfing, her work having influenced thousands of young surfers over the years.
In the words of organizer Aaron Pai, “Janice Aragon has dedicated 30 years of her LIFE to being the Executive Director of the NSSA, is an ISA World Women's Surfing Champion and is greatly responsible for raising the level of competitive Surfing in our amazing USA!”
The induction ceremony is open to the public and is free of charge. It’s a great way to see these, and many other surfing celebrities, up close and personal, get photos and autographs and mingle with some of the greatest surfers in the world. Bring a hat and wear sunblock, the August sun is strong in Surf City. Afterwards you can walk out on the pier and catch some of the action in the surfing event, see what the top surfers in the world are doing at this minute. Great sort of past and present kinda day.