by Corky Carroll
There is an excellent surf artist that lives in Huntington Beach named Rick Blake, who also happens to be a fellow alumnus of Huntington Beach High School. Rick is involved in a lot of the retro surfing events such as the “Surfside Seventies,” and the “Triple Crown of Retro Surfing.” I like his work and follow him on Facebook. The other day he put up a post headlined “The Lost History of Dick Barrymore.” This jarred my one remaining memory cell into at least a flickering mode, Dick Barrymore being a major part of both my early surfing days as well as the years I spent living and skiing in Sun Valley, Idaho. I am pretty sure that, for the most part, the surfing world has pretty much forgotten about this dude. He did become a very well-known and respected ski movie producer after he got out of the surfboard business. But, let me start at the beginning.
Barrymore made my first two surfboards. The first one was solid balsawood and weighed more than I did. He was one of the funniest dudes I ever met and at one time had me laughing so hard that my stomach hurt for a week, and I probably peed a little bit because he refused to stop even though I was begging him to do so. Probably the best story teller I ever knew, along with Hevs McClellend and James Arness. He helped me get set up in Sun Valley when I moved up there right after retiring from the pro surf circuit and I did some music for one of his ski movies, as well as was in it riding one of Mike Doyles mono skis (along with Mike, Joey Cabel and Roger Yates). Dick was a great pal and one of my favorite people ever.
The following paragraph is from Rick Blakes FB post (with his permission), I think he tells it perfectly. “One of the first surfboard shapers in Seal Beach and one of the first North Shore chargers in the early days. Dick Barrymore made Corky Carroll’s first surfboard.. a balsa board with the words ”Barrymore Surfboards” emblazoned into the wood. Barrymore learned to surf in Waikiki while stationed there in the early 50s.. He started surfing the North Shore and all parts of the island on leave and hung out with early Hawaiian beach boys and learned to shape from them. He set up a camp he called a compound on the site that a friend Howard Hawk’s girlfriend Fay Brash owned.. that site is now the front beach site at Pipeline today (at the time nobody was surfing it)...They had a water tap and an electric outlet and set up a mosquito net with bunks with bushes all around (on a 10x10 concrete slab) and hung up a sign that read “Keep out! S.M.S.S. Marine Bacteriological Survey Station #2” .. He surfed huge Sunset with Peter Van Dyke and others. He went on to live in Seal Beach and was a Fireman while shaping balsa surfboards in his garage which supplemented his income. Selling a board a week profiting 30 bucks a board was pretty good back then. 1958-59 he was skiing in the local mountains at Mt. Waterman where he would ski for free because he was friends with owner Lynn Newcomb .. he was introduced to a local channel 13 TV host Tom Malone who did ski films on Thursday’s at 8 pm. Barrymore made up a quick lie and asked him if he needed any ski films for his show. Malone gave him his card. Barrymore quickly figured out how to get a 16mm camera and called Malone back.. “We need surf films now.. people are getting sick of skiing”. Barrymore answers, “yes I have some local surf stuff” He lies again and now had to make a surf film in one week. He shot all the local guys in Seal and edited it in one week to show live on KCOP on Thursday while he narrated the 25-minute film. (Imagine the guys that were out surfing at 13th St. on that weekend in 1959 he filmed 15 rolls. Blackie and a young Robert, The Haley’s, the Buehls... who knows all the legends that he captured and where that film may be now?) That TV show announced Dick Barrymore as “the worlds #1 ski filmmaker” on live TV and he had not yet made a ski film. He went on to make a ton of ski films and to great success through the years with a million more stories. He says in his book that he carved surfboards by using a drawknife, a plane, two sawhorses, and some balsa wood blanks glued together with strips of an old inner tube. He would eyeball the teardrop shape, tear into it with a drawknife, tune it with a plane, and sand it smooth before applying a layer of fiberglass. He says other guys were better and he seemed to always make the nose a little lopsided. The left side would have a sharper arc and he couldn’t fix it.. but nobody noticed but him.. he said maybe it turned better going left.. haha ... what a legend. He later moved to Dana Point and was longtime friends with fellow filmmaker Bruce Brown. His sons Blake and Cole lived right next door to Benny Bigler in Sunset Beach California... small world. He later built a resort in Cabo off the East Cape called Cabo Pulmo.”
Thanks to Rick for that. Dick Barrymore is a solid part of Orange County surfing history