by Corky Carroll
It seems like just the other day when my pal Terry Tracy passed away, but it was over eight years ago (August 2012). Known in the surfing world simply as “Tubesteak” the dude was just one of those great characters that loomed bigger than life and is a huge part of the history of the surfing culture. I get a lot of email with questions about this or that, mostly “I weigh 580 and am wondering if a 5’2” fish would be a good size for me to learn on?” kinda stuff. But this morning I got one asking if I knew anything about “some guy they called ‘Tubesteak’ up at Malibu.” So I thought it would be cool to remember him today, mostly for those who do not know about him and his place in surf lore. I had written a piece about Tube right after he passed away and went back and took the following tid bits out of that to offer up to you now, I don’t think I can say it better than I did then.
Tubesteak was like the King of Malibu in the 1950’s, or maybe more like the “Mayor of Malibu.” He was a very good surfer to be sure, but not the best. That would have been Mickey Dora, Dewey Weber, Doyle and Munoz. But Tubesteaks stature and presence was HUGE. He was like the main man on the point. At one time he built a little shack near the famous “pit” and lived in it during the summer. He is the guy who gave Gidget the nickname “Gidget.” As we all know her father wrote a book, which became the 1959 movie that started the whole surfing fad of the early 1960’s. In the movie Tubesteak was portrayed by a character called “Kahuna,” and played by Cliff Robertson. That one little Tubesteak spouting of “you’re not a girl, you’re a midget…. A girl midget. A Gidget,” was the spark that set the whole surfing world ablaze.
I loved the guy. I don’t remember when we became friends, but it was sometime in the early 1960’s. Mickey Munoz used to take me to Malibu with him sometimes. I got to meet the “in” dudes of that time through him. Munoz was as “in” as you could get. I remember the first time I met Miki Dora. He was coming out of the water and I went up and gushed over his surfing. He simply asked to use my towel, which I eagerly handed him. He blew his nose on it and handed it back to me with a very sincere sounding, “thanks kid.” I didn’t know if I should toss it or hang it on my wall.
Tubesteak was a wonderful guy. He had a way of making you feel like his best friend even if he hardly knew you. I think that I was probably one of his thousands of best friends over the years. We used to go to the racetrack together a lot. When we first went he offered to teach me the ropes on how to play the ponies. I had a sort of “study the racing forms and experts picks” method. He had a different one. It cracked him up that I won more than he did. He told me I was just lucky because I knew absolutely nothing about horse racing. He could chop you down and build you up at the same time. A rare gift in a person.
In his later years when his feet got bad and he couldn’t surf much anymore he still was a major light on the beach at San Onofre Surf Beach. He had a big chair and an umbrella and all day long people would stop by and be entertained by his words, views and just great sense of humor. Tubesteak held court. To be granted visitation next to his beach chair was an honor and privilege. There is a famous photo of Tube sleeping in that chair with a sign on his chest saying “wake me up when it’s lunch time.” Vintage Tubesteak Tracy.
The name “Tubesteak?” Hotdogging was big at the time in surfing and a hot dog was referred to as a “tube steak.” That is one version. He had another one that I am not gonna pass along. But it is a fact that Tubesteak was a lifetime hotdogger, both in surfing and in life. A legends legend.
Ah yes kids, another little stroll down surf memory lane. Stay tuned, ya never know what’s comin’ next.