by Corky carroll
As another year turns over, I started to think back on many of the really great days I have had over the past sixty-five plus years that I have been surfing. I rode my first wave standing on a board in 1955 and got my first board for Christmas 1957. I get asked all the time about what my favorite memories are and when were the best days, stuff like that. So, in honor of the new year, I thought I would reflect on a few of my fav surf days.
As with most things we always remember our first. In this case it is not so much the first wave I rode, which has been well documented already in my book “Not Done Yet,” but the first day I rode my first board. It was a clear and very cold Christmas Day and the surf was, thankfully, very small in front of our house in Surfside. My parents had given me a beautiful new 8’7” balsawood board made by Dick Barrymore over in Seal Beach. Dick was a fireman that made boards in his garage at that time, but later opened a shop and eventually became a leading “ski movie” maker.
I put on a pair of trunks and waxed up my board with a bar of my mom’s paraffin sealing wax. I couldn’t carry my board as it weighed more than me. I had to pick up the tail and move it to the front and then pick up the nose and move it to the front, sort of walking my board across the short stretch of sand and into the water. It was cold, really cold. I paddled out about halfway and caught a white-water (broken) wave and stood up. As I neared the shore the wave kinda backed off and I was riding the green water swell for maybe 40 or 50 feet before it lapped up on the shore. That last part was such an amazing feeling and probably one of the things that really got me hooked. The feeling of gliding along on top of the swell.
The next really memorable day came the first time I actually got inside a “tube,” or “barrel.” That is the inside of a wave just as it is breaking. This actually goes back to when I was a very little kid, maybe 4 or 5 years old. My parents sent me to summer camp in the Malibu Mountains, Kilgore’s Kiddie Camp. One day they took us all to the beach just south of Malibu. I was standing in the shallow water when a wave came along and broke right over my head and I vividly still remember the sound and feeling of that moment when I was inside the chamber just before it creamed me. This is a very cool feeling.
The day that I got my first tube ride came during the first summer I had my balsawood board. There was a south swell and good peaks along the beach at Surfside. Most of the local surfers who lived there were out riding it. On one wave I was going left, facing the wave for me, and it looked like the wave was going to close out on me. But I was already angled high on the face and decided to just keep going rather than trying to straighten out at the last moment. It was like a miracle happened, maybe it did. The lip of the wave threw out and I found myself inside the chamber, there was that sound and feeling again. But this time I was on a board and moving fast. It only lasted a few seconds, but I came out the other side and the feeling of sheer joy and adrenaline pumping was incredible. One of the local surfers, Jerry Motes, had seen this ride while he was paddling out. He came over to me and said, “well, you just “shot the curl.” I smiled for years after that. And all I knew was I wanted to do THAT again. To this day I am still trying to do THAT again, it’s kinda the big goal and no matter how many times you get it, you still want it again.
Stay tuned, in the coming weeks I plan on sharing more great day memories, along with other more current topics and surf news of the day.
Surfers Ear is not a Cool!
by Corky Carroll
Every year when it gets cold I like to talk to you about exostoses, commonly known as “Surfers Ear,” and how to deal with it. Many full time hard-core surfers, such as myself and many of you I am sure, have had or do have or will have issues with this. For years this has been a real problem and the surgical treatment for this has evolved radically in just the past couple of years.
I first dealt with this like 40 years ago. Water kept getting stuck in my ears. The would plug up and I couldn’t hear, then they would unplug, plug up again and they kept doing that. I went to an ear specialist and was told I had the dreaded boney growths that form in the ear canals to protect the ear drums from the cold and win. Surfers ear.
At that time the surgery consisted of having the ear cut in the back and folded out onto the cheek. Then the surgeron would go in with a drill, like a dentist drill, and grind off the boney bumps. I have heard that some doctors even would use a chisel for this. Then they would pack it solid for a couple of weeks, followed by about 4 to 8 more weeks keeping dry and letting the skin grow back. It was not a whole lot of fun.
Thankfully this has all changed and Orange Counties very own Dr. Carol Jackson has led the way in developing the new laser techniques to treat this, she is THE leader in the treatment of Surfers Ear. I ask her every year to update all of us on what’s new in treatment. The following is what she just gave me...
“When exostoses enlarge over years of surfing and block over 80% of the ear canal diameter, they disrupt the ear’s protective mechanisms. That’s when plugging and uncomfortable infections called “surfers ear” (or “swimmers ear”) occur. Problems can become more frequent and severe despite diligent office and home self-care. That’s when they should be removed.
Micro surgical laser-assistive removals are now more complete, safe, and less invasive with than ever before. No more external ear incisions. With this technique and over sixteen-year follow-up, exostoses do not re-grow to require further surgical removal. It’s a permanent solution with minimal discomfort! Usual non-water activities except heavy lifting can be resumed the next day.
The bony growths can be halted or prevented by consistent use of ear plugs while surfing - not the long “hot dog” or “Christmas tree” plugs, but the flatter ones. Sized shallow plugs or disposable silicone plugs at any sporting or drug store work well. Keep them clean! Roll the silicone into a ball and flatten to make a thick frisbee disk to press in and cover the ear canal.
Custom plugs from a mold impression of your ear canal are even better and can be made with a membrane covered vent to allow hearing during wearing them. They are comfortable, last years, float, come in bright colors even with glitter, and can be on a lanyard. It’s rare they get lost!
If your symptom is plugging or it sometimes seems like people are mumbling, you may have hearing reduction either from surfer’s ear or completely unrelated. We occasionally diagnose treatable or more serious unrelated hearing and ear problems in surfers with exostosis such acoustic neuroma, a benign tumor, or hydrops which is elevated inner ear fluid pressure, or other treatable causes. You can have more than one cause of ear or hearing reduction at the same time. Causes may be different in ear each so it’s important to have a micro exam and hearing test in each ear.
One patient stopped surfing for ten years and avoided ear care thinking he had advanced exostosis and didn’t want surgery. He turned out to have large dry wax impactions! One office micro removal to “uncork” his ears eliminated his plugging and restored his hearing to the level of his hearing nerve capability.
To see the severity of your exostosis on camera, a status check, and evaluation of other ear conditions, it’s prudent to see an ear doctor with an office microscope. Have a hearing test in a sound booth by an audiologist or hearing professional. Take care of your ears. You only have two for life!”
To contact Dr. Jackson’s ear clinic and more info visit www.myeardoctors.com
On the Prowl for Hawaiian shirts
Recently I realized that my wardrobe had dwindled to a lot of t-shirts but almost no actual shirts. My extremely pretty wife Raquel takes care of me by tossing out anything that she thinks looks funky or old, always without me knowing about it because I hang onto stuff I like no matter the look or condition. So, I went on a mission to find myself a couple of new Hawaiian shirts for my closet. I feel good in those kinds of shirts and am a fan of the vintage silky types that we used to get in the 60’s.
The mission was long and hard. After going to pretty much every store and surf shop that you might think would carry this kind of thing I had no luck at all. Either they had nothing that I consider “cool” or they didn’t have anything that fit me. I wear 2xl or 3xl in most shirts (shut up, I have wide shoulders from a lifetime of paddling). Then I tried to google to find something. Low and behold there was a listing for a store called “Dirt Cheap Plants and Hawaiian Shirts,” in Costa Mesa. How could a store with a name like that NOT have what I sought?
So, along with my son Tanner, we set out to check it out. We almost missed it because the store is in the back and not visible from the street. Thankfully Tanner map quested it and we went around and found it. WOW. This was EXACTLY the store I needed. Outside were racks of the kinds of shirts I like and inside there was far more. This place is like the promised land for Aloha shirts and other of “da kind” stuff.
Upon quickly finding 4 wonderful shirts, and grabbing one for Tanner too, I struck up a conversation with the owner, Nik Wassiliew (who goes by Mr. Dirt Cheap). Turns out we used to surf together back in the 60’s at Doheny and share a lot of surf history. I was so stoked at having found Nik and his store that I asked him to write down some background on “Dirt Cheap” and email it to me. The following is the short version of his story.
“I was born when I was very young to Russian immigrants that settled in Orange during the early 50's. Went to Orange High and in my senior year we had double sessions. My afternoons were free and spent mostly at Doheny learning to surf. Started my retail life at 16 working for Montgomery Ward's warehouse in Anaheim and later their 17th St. Santa Ana store. After High School started in Traditional Clothing working for Guy Livingston's Fashion Square store in Santa Ana. That's where I had my first exposure to Reyn Spooner shirts. As Life moves on...we experience changes in outlooks and attitudes. Having a bit of an agricultural background from my father I started into the plant and flower business. All the while I still surfed and kept the 'Spirit of Aloha' in my persona. Along my road of life I kept collecting unique Aloha and Surf Shirts. I put a small rack outside my plant shop. Making a long story short, plant sales went down, thankfully Aloha Shirts sales increased. Aloha shirts to me just give-off amazing positive energy, how could you not feel good around those 'Rainbow hued tropical' fabrics..right? Have spent a great deal of time researching Hawaiian culture and Aloha shirt history while building my shirt inventory. Guessing that I have over 5000 pieces of vintage clothing, surf shirts, trunks, jeans, shorts, jackets, shoes and God knows what else stored in large plastic bins. I truly try to provide a huge selection of Aloha shirts fairly priced considering condition and how rare some are...in sizes ranging from Small to 3X. My outside racks have over 400 shirts displayed, and I always have at least 100 more on my value 2 for 20 rack. I have one of the finest inventories of vintage Reyn Spooners in California and lots of vintage Tommy Bahamas as well as tons of classic Hawaiian Aloha-labels. Inside the store is a special room full of an almost 50 year collection of unique and rare Spooners, vintage Surf shirts and eclectic clothing. As an example, considering the season.. I have Spooner's FIRST Christmas shirt from 1983...its undated because I think they never realized how popular it would become..! 70-80% of my shirts are in pristine to like-new condition and some still have original tags. Am always happy to answer Aloha/Spooner shirt questions, since there is so much mis-information out in the marketplace these days. Additionally if people are interested in vintage surf-clothing they can make an appointment to look through the bins. So all things considered, it’s the Best Vintage Aloha in town...at the lowest prices around..! “
I love this guy and this store, and on top of that he was World Bodysurfing Champion in 2001. Looking for the PERFECT Christmas present for anybody in your life that is into the Aloha vibe? This is your place.
The Dirt Cheap Hawaiian Shirt store is located at 440 E 17th St. Ste A Costa Mesa, CA 92627 · (949) 331-2803 · Dogs Allowed.
The truth can now be told
by Corky Carroll
Last week I began this story telling you about where I grew up, Surside Colony, and the background on what led to me sneaking my neighbors surfboard out of his yard and taking it for a spin. This is taken from my new book, “Not Done Yet.” Here is the rest of the story.
Surfside had a little street that ran along the beach. The houses on the ocean side were “A row.” On the land side they were “B row.” Our house was on the inland side of the street but there were no houses directly across the street on the beach side. There was also very little beach, maybe only about twenty feet of sand and then the ocean. Kerry had to help me carry the board out of the yard, across the street and onto the beach. It was too heavy for me to pick up by myself. We were only like maybe eight years old at the time and this big wooden surfboard weighed more than both of us together. But we got it down to the water and I made my launch. The surf was probably about three or four feet that day. Although in my boy-mind memory it was freaking huge. Like eighty or ninety feet, maybe a hundred. Really big.
I am really not sure how I made it our past the waves. Must have just been sheer luck. But there I was, sitting on Larry Conroy’s beautiful balsawood surfboard outside the surf and living life large. What a beautiful feeling and beautiful view. When the waves would pick me up I could see over the houses. There was a seafood restaurant on the other side of Pacific Coast Highway, which was right behind our house, named “Sam’s.” Sam’s had a big neon fish sign on its roof and I could see it from the board when I would float over wave crests. This was breathtaking.
But the idea was to ride this thing, not just sit there basking in the flora and fauna and enjoying the view. What I had not counted on was the current. I had floated a little bit north up the beach and without really realizing it I was now out in front of a couple of houses that were on A row. The front of the houses on A row were on wooden pilings keeping them out of the water. That’s how short the beach was.
A large wave came along and I decided it was time to try this out. Taking off on an air matt was one thing, you were laying down and they were floaty and full of air. On a surfboard there was way more speed and they are long and pointed. As this mountain of water lifted me skyward I paddled my guts out and caught it. I leaped to my feet just like I had seen the older guys do a zillion times and prepared to take the drop. What a rush. But, as often happens on peoples first attempt at this, the nose of the board buried into the bottom of the wave and sprung me off like a large springboard. I remember looking straight at a house right in front of me as I was flying through the air. Uh oh.
Lucky for me I came out of the bone crushing wipe out unscathed. But Larry’s board didn’t fare so well. It had hit one of the pilings under the house and had a giant gash in one rail. I was in deep cat poo poo. Cat poo poo is much like doggie doo doo but smells worse.
Conferring with Kerry we came up with the only workable solution that seemed available at the time. We would put the board back and never say a word.
The whole book is available at www.bluemangosurf.com or on Amazon.
The Beginning, Part 1
By Corky Carroll
The following is from my new book “Not Done Yet,” and is the accounting of the first time I rode a wave on an actual surfboard. It is in two parts because the story is twice as long as I have space for in this column. Here is the first half.
I grew up in Surfside Colony, a tiny strip of Southern California beach, just south of Seal Beach, which was lined with a few dozen weathered and battered wooden beach houses back in the 1950’s. They were one step above what you could call “shacks” really. Our first house was a tiny one-bedroom affair with a little loft, which was where I slept. The sound of the surf, which pounded in constantly literally within’ feet of our front door and the little window above my bed, pretty much drowned out everything else. It became the soothing lullaby that put me to sleep each night and woke me early every morning. In time I would be able to tell exactly what the surf conditions were like, the size and shape, tide and wind conditions, just by listening to the sounds it made. The surf would come to take my heart and soul, as well as become my life story. It got into my very bones and has become as much a part of me as my blood. It pulses through my veins. When it’s up I can feel the excitement rush through me like a freight train. When it’s down I get restless.
Our house was B-21. Next door, in B-20, there was an older guy who was a surfer and whose name was Larry Conroy. He had a beautiful wooden surfboard that he kept in his backyard. I could see it through the slits in the wood fence that bordered our yards. I had wanted to try and ride it for the first few months we lived there. My dad had bought me a heavy-duty canvas air mattress to ride in the surf. I loved that thing, even though it would rub my body raw daily with its rough and abrasive surface. There were a few other kids along the beach that were my age and we all rode those air matts together. Actually we would ride anything we could find that would float. Old pieces of plywood with nails sticking out of them, inner-tubes, whatever. One dude paddled out in a rotten old row boat we found on the beach one day. Before he got very far from the beach the thing just sank out from below him, which was really entertaining for the rest of us. The beach and ocean were our playground. I could not stay out of the water, it drew me like a goddess with a magic flute. The older guys had surfboards. In those days they were made of wood, mostly balsawood but some still with redwood and other wood combinations. Needless to say, they were heavy. Most of the guys just left them laying around on the beach after they surfed. Nobody was gonna bother them.
But Larry Conroy was the best surfer on our beach and he had the nicest surfboard, I guess that’s why he kept it in his yard. Right where I could see it and crave riding it. I would peer through that fence day in and day out just wondering what it would be like to be standing on top of it riding some monster wave. It sort of became an obsession after awhile, like I was stalking it or something. Larry also had a younger cousin named Kerry, who was my age. Kerry was really good at getting me into trouble. One day we were hanging out and I was telling him how I wished I could try out that surfboard that Larry had. He kind of casually, and challenging at the same time, suggested that I might as well just get it over with and sneak the board out of the yard and try it out.
“Larry’s not home, nobody will ever know,” he urged. “Come on Corky, just do it.” Did he later work for Nike?
So, I did. That was the day my future college career went out the window.
Stay tune for my next column to hear the rest.
"Not just the Boogie Man"
by Corky Carroll
2021 has been a very hard year on the surfing community, losing many icons and legends as the months have rolled by. On October 14th one of the brightest minds, coolest characters and smoothest surfers pulled out, Tom Morey. Most of you will remember him as the inventor of the “Morey Boogie,” or more simply, the BOOGIE board. Tom was 86 and still smiling.
This one hit me hard as we had been close pals for going on 60 years, having first met in the early 1960’s. Rather than going into a bunch of historical stuff I would rather share a little story about a few months I spent surfing with Tom in Puerto Rico, Jan thru April of 1968.
At that time surfing in that part of the world was still fairly new. I had been there a couple of months before to surf in the first Puerto Rico International Championship and liked it a lot. There was a movement to try and get the island established on the surfing map and the next years World Championship was scheduled to be held there in November of 1968. I was thinking spending some time down there prior to that would increase my chances, so I packed up and, along with my then pregnant with our son Clint wife Cheryl, took off for an extended stay.
Upon arrival we rented a small cabin on the hill overlooking the surf near Rincon, the main surf break. And, to make things even better and more interesting, Tom Morey and his wife had also just arrived and rented the cabin next door. Over the next few months we surfed and hung out together, shared countless stories and thoughts on surfboard design, jokes, lies, ideas on space travel, time travel and more cosmic craziness than I can describe here. We also did a lot of yelling out, “Aguaaaaaaaaa,” to the owner of the cabins, who lived just above us, to turn our water on. He liked to turn it off when he didn’t see our cars there. It became a thing that over the years when Tom and I would see each other, or talk on the phone, we would always start off the conversation with a loud and long rendition of the aforementioned, “Aguaaaaaaaaaaa.”
Three things stand out in my mind from that experience with Tom. One is us paddling out on a huge day at a spot called “Tres Palmas.” It was just us and it was big. As we got to the lineup Tom, who had not really surfed giant waves before that, looked at me and said, “So, do you think this is 20 feet?” I looked back and seriously replied, “Are you kidding? It’s at least 80 feet.” We should have laughed but were both so scared that we just left it at that.
The next was one day when we had been spearfishing and I was swimming in holding the bag of fish we had nailed. It was always the guy that got the less amount fish that had to hold the bag, and that was always me. On the way to the beach I ran eye to eye into an enormous octopus, like the size of one of those Krakens in the movies. Scared me so bad I still have nightmares about it. Tom was mad at me for not trying to spear it, “ya know kid, that’s good eating.” I asked if he was talking about the octopus or me?
The last, and most profound, was one day we were sitting in the water at a very remote spot with nobody else around for miles. Surf was good and it was a nice day. We were waiting for a wave and talking when far off in the distance we spotted a fish about two feet long just skipping on top of the water coming our way. Right behind that fish was another fish about three or four foot long skipping on the water at exactly the same pace as the smaller one in in the lead. They came racing past us going really fast. I was glad they didn’t hit us. And they sped off towards the horizon with the big fish in chase of the smaller fish as far as we could see. I looked over at Tom and asked, “So, do you think the little guy is gonna get away or will the big one eat it?” Tom, in his perfect scientist mode, says that the big fish is gonna eat the small one. Saddened, I asked why he thought that. He says, “The little fish is spending more energy to get away than the big fish because he is smaller, so the little fish is gonna be lunch.” I was obviously not happy at this conclusion. Tom looks at me and matter of factly just states, “Corky my boy, that’s life in the food chain!!!” This is when I decided that I didn’t like the food chain concept too much. Visions of the octopus flooding my now terrified mind.
I am gonna miss great chats with him, listening to his ideas on music, surfing and the universe, and just his great wit and sense of humor.
Tom Morey, one of the great ones.
Surfboard Builders "Academy Awards"
by Corky Carroll
The 22nd Annual International Surfboard Builders Hall of Fame induction ceremony is set to go off on Saturday, October 9th. This years’ event, to honor the inductees for the year 2021, will take place at the Huntington Beach Pier Plaza, on the North side of the pier, kicking off with a “meet and greet” at 9 A.M. This will be followed by the induction ceremony itself set for 10 A.M to noon. There will be Hawaiian music during the ceremony by the Kolohe Ukulele Club and an after party following at the Huntington Beach International Surf Museum with food and refreshments.
Viewed by the surfing community as the “Academy Awards of Surfboard Building,” this is a highly prestigious and coveted award within the surfing industry. The ISBHF began back in 2000 as the brain child of local surfboard builder and real estate mogul, Bob “the Greek” Bolen and his trusty side-kick Mike “Mickey the Rat” Ester. (Just a side note: if you see these two cruising down Main Street in Rats woody station wagon you will swear it’s Cheech and Chong going surfing.)
The first person inducted was the late great Bill Holden. The idea was to honor the mostly “unknown out of the shaping room” heroes who have dedicated their lives to the shaping, designing and construction of the surfboards that we all ride day in and day out. Up until then it was mostly the famous surfers who rode the boards that got all the glory. (Another side note: in my case this was totally deserved….hahaha.) The award itself is completely hand crafted by Mickey Rat to honor each inductee for his or her contribution to the art of building surfboards.
Some of the previous inductees include Hobie Alter, Dale Velzy, Richard Harbour, Greg Noll, Bing Copeland, Mike Doyle, Hap Jacobs, Skip Frye, Gordie, Jack O’Neill, Doug Haut, Mickey Munoz and Robert August. The list is a who’s who of the foam dust eaters.
This years’ list of honorees is truly formitable. Kicking off with the man most fondly referred to as the “Godfather of the Surf Industry,” Walter Hoffman. He and his brother Philip “Flippy” Hoffman were early big wave surfers in Hawaii and extreme lovers of the bohemian surfing lifestyle. Their father, Rube, had built a fabric company and both of the brothers would find their lifetime niche designing, building and selling all sorts of fabrics to the world. Foremost for them was the growing surfwear industy. Most all of the material for the shirts, shorts and other “surf” related clothing has come directly from Hoffman Fabrics over the years. All the time Walter and Flippy were still surfing their brains out. Flippy, who was known for riding as big or bigger waves than anybody, passed away a few years back. But Walter is still surfing going into his 90’s. Every few years I have the pleasure of sharing a surf session with him and it is always a wonderful experience. The man has the stoke.
Next on the slate this year is 4 time World Champion
The True Aqua Athletes
by Corky Carroll
Through the years there have been many great surfers that more than less were specialists in a certain aspect. Some have been expert big wave riders, others expert small wave riders and some expert middle size wave riders. For instance, you have guys like Greg Noll, who was famous for fearlessly riding giant waves yet was pretty much an average small wave rider. One the other hand there was the great East Coast Champion Gary Proper, the dude could ride tiny waves better than just about anybody ever could. But didn’t like the big ones.
There have also been many surfers remembered for certain parts of surfing that they were really good at. Like David Nuuhiwa, who was the greatest “noserider” of the great noseriding era of the 1960’s. Barry Kanaiaupuni was well known for his monster bottom turns at Sunset Beach, on the North Shore. Mike Purpus was well known to have “the best Cutback in the business.” Billy Hamilton and Skip Frye were both respected to have extremely beautiful surfing styles. Gerry Lopez was the man when it came to “tube riding,” and in fact was dubed “Mr Pipeline,” taking the title from the great Butch Van Artsdalen.
There have been some that have been able to ride anything thrown at them well. These are special human beings. Kelly Slater would be one that immediately comes to mind. From tiny Cocoa Beach, Florida ankle snappers to giant Waimea Bay on the North Shore, no problemos. Also on the dance card in this category would be guys like Peter Townend, Jock Sutherland, John Peck, Michael Ho, Reno Abellira, Rolf Aurness and Jeff Hackman. There’s more but my space is limited here.