by Corky Carroll
I just got my copy of SAN ONOFRE, Memories of a Legendary Surfing Beach, by David F. Matuszak. I was in shock. This is far more that what I had expected. The author had been in touch with me via email and was using a few of my columns as source material. He told me he would send me a book when it was done in the event that I couldn’t make the release party and pick one up personally. I couldn’t make that, and he mailed it to me. Must have cost him a fortune, this thing is HUGE. Like the size of what the phone book used to look like during the days of full on big phone books, maybe even bigger. With my aging and damaged back I can barely pick it up and carry it around the room. I wanted to bring it to my getaway casa in Mexico to put on the coffee table and had to pay excess baggage because it weighed so much. It’s really a BIG book.
That said, this is really a beautiful work and worthy of the amazing heritage that is San Onofre, the legendary surfing beach. “Sano” is far more than your average surf spot, it is a huge part of California surfing history. Maybe more so than any other one surfing beach. Malibu would be in the discussion, there is a ton of history there. But San Onofre is just more in so many ways. It was a private surf club for decades, and you had to be a member, or be with a member, in order to get in and surf there. It is on the Camp Pendleton Marine Base and you had to pass through the gate guard to drive in, and then had have a key to the gate to the beach. San Onofre bore families that continued thru generation after generation. They had all kinds of events, an annual surfing contest and along with the great surfing it was also a very social place. Everybody knew each other. There are some San Onofre families that are like five generations deep by now, dating back to old great great (I am not even sure how many “greats” to tag on to this) grandma and grandpa who surfed and barbequed and played music down there in the 1930’s. The place is just wallowing in surfing history. George “Peanuts” Larson riding a wave from Lower Trestle all the way through “Church” that was so big (some say 40 feet) that guys had to stand on a boxcar parked on the railroad tracks just to see it. Phil Edwards and Mickey Dora shredding the place in the 1950’s. Leslie “Birdman” Williams, Pete Peterson, Hobie, James Arness, Kit Horn, Eddie McBride, Benny Merrill, Barney Wilks, Hammerhead, Burrhead (some other “heads” I can’t remember), Mike Doyle, Mickey Munoz, Dick Metz, Dale Velzy, the Paskowitz family, the Turner family, the Hopps family, Jim Irwin, Hev’s McClellend, the Calhoun girls, the Harrison family, the Fly, the Flea, all the other creatures and so many more important names that it would take a years worth of space for me to mention. Almost anybody who was anybody in the surfing world had some sort of connection or history with San Onofre.
This book does an amazing job at documentation of a ton of that heritage and history. I mean, the thing goes as far as to mention classic surf mobiles people drove, and there were some great ones. Honestly, I can’t even begin to describe all of the great information and photos in this wonderful book, it is just the most complete and lovingly done dedication that you can ever imagine. I STRONGLY recommend it to everybody who has even spent any at all surfing there or who just loves to know about surfing history and culture. It is not less than a must have book. I have mine proudly displayed on the coffee table in front of my TV. I figure if I work at it I might finish reading it sometime before I croak, at least I hope so. The forwards by Jim Irwin and Paul Strauch hooked me in, I finished my first complete “browse,” and am now ready to read the whole thing. Funny, when I just wrote that last thing the word “whole” stuck out like a neon light. THAT is how big this book is. Most women and small children will not be able to pick it up.
You can order one by sending a check or money order of $59.95 plus $10 shipping to Pacific Sunset Publishing, 30320 Live Oak Canyon Rd. Redlands, Ca. 92373-0668. California residents need to add $5.25 sales tax. Great buy.