by Corky Carroll
I have been wanting to write about this guy for a long time and thankfully have gotten around to it today. Rick Blake is one of those guys who is well known in Orange County, especially Huntington Beach, as an excellent surfer and artist. Also, he is the guy who has been putting on the retro surf events held at Surfside and Sunset Beach for several years. These have become extremely popular and have turned into a “thing.” I asked Rick in an email to tell me about it and here it is in his own words.
“I had always been interested in history and that goes for surf history as well. We used to ride old longboards in the late 80s and 90s and decided to start an old longboard riding event. We had old Gordie’s and Velzy’s and Ole’s that would probably be worth a fortune now and had a few surf events we lovingly called “Log contests” in the mid 90s.. We were just having fun cruising the logs and trying the old school style and turns from the early to mid 60s… I would do the art for the posters and shirts..and it was fun for awhile.. until people started getting too serious and were bringing new modern longboards to the “log” contest so it wasn’t really what we were aiming for. My buddy Benny Bigler was the manager at Bruce Jones Surfboards in Sunset Beach and people were constantly bringing in beautiful old 1970s era Bruce Jones’ to trade in for new ones. Benny started collecting a few and we were digging the old shapes. So we were like “Lets have a 70s surfboard riding event”! We called it the Surfside 70s and hold it just inside the border at Anderson St near the Water Tower house. We started that in 1998 and just had our 24th annual this year. I do all the art every year and come up with different 70s concepts..We now have a much larger collection of boards and friends like Tony Alvarado that bring down maybe 60 or more pristine 1970s sticks for people to ride. We used to joke and put names like Gerry Lopez on the heat sheet but nowadays we have actual 70s legends show up to the event. (PT, Rory Russell, Sam Hawk, Buzzy Kerbox…etc) Each year we give tribute to a 1970s legend or shaper and I get to tell stories about the history and shaping and try to focus on things that have been lost to history so we don’t forget. We hooked up with Bud Llamas in 2014 and started the HB 80s event where everybody rides 80s boards at Goldenwest St. Bud has a surf shop called 17th St Boardshop and runs it all through his shop.. I do all the art for that event and focus on Bud or other 80s legends that we all want to celebrate. Then we started the Sunset 60s event and back to the original idea we all ride 1960s era boards and I do the art for it all and then we connected the three retro events calling it the Triple Crown of Retro Surfing sponsored by Quiksilver. We have been getting some great photographers coming down capturing the surf action like Mike Moir who comes from all the different eras which lends great visual brilliance to the whole thing. I started an instagram called Retro Surf Series where I can tell some history and show old photos of surf spots and things and write about shapers and surf shops.. so much history out there.”
Rick grew up in Huntington Beach and learned to surf at the local beaches back in the 1980’s. After graduating Cal State Long Beach with a Fine Arts degree he went to work in the surf industry for Billabong and then Hurley. His love for art overcame all else and he got a teaching credential and now works as an Art Teacher at a middle school in Orange.
I love Rick’s art. As some of you know I paint too, Rick has been an inspiration and has been very helpful with some great advice on my own art. The surf art genre has some incredible talent out there, and Rick Blake is one of the very best. You should check out his stuff at the “Surf Art Corner”, a part of the International Surfing Museum in Huntington Beach.