Corky and Purpus telling classic Dale Velzy stories
by Corky Carroll
The other day I was fortunate enough to have lunch with a couple of my favorite people, the legendary Mike Purpus and Blue Mango Surf CEO, Joel Saltzman. For those who don’t know, Mike Purpus is one of the great surfers from my era and a super charismatic and funny dude. He loves to tell surf stories and dig up historical stuff that is just classic. The name Dale Velzy came into the conversation, the “Hawk” as he was known by. Velzy was one of the surfboard building pioneers and bigger than life character. He was like surfings John Wayne. Both Mike and I had a great Velzy story to toss out. I will start with his.
In the later 1950’s when surfboards had just gone from balsawood to foam Velzy was partnered with the great Hap Jacobs and they made “Velzy and Jacobs” surfboards. Hap’s mom didn’t like Velzy much because he always tried to get Hap to ditch school to go surfing when they were in high school. In the early days of building foam surfboards the builder would have to cut the foam blank in half, vertically, and glue in the wood “stringer” that would be put down the middle for strength. Some boards had more than one stringer and the cutting and gluing process was super important to the outcome of boards in those days. As Mike (who surfed for Jacobs Surfboards for decades) tells the story, one time those guys had a bunch of orders for boards but had run out of wood to make the stringers out of. Hap was kinda worried about getting the boards out on time, but the Hawk told him not to worry because he knew where they could get good wood. He told Hap to be ready to go out for wood that night at 11 P.M. Hap thought that was kinda late to be going shopping for wood, but then the Hawk was never the normal kinda dude about anything, so he was ready to go at 11 P.M.
Turns out that the next morning every stop sign in Palos Verdes had been cut down, and Velzy and Jacobs had plenty of wood to make stringers out of. Palos Verdes, being a very upscale neighborhood, actually had redwood stop signs in those days.
Typical Velzy, totally cracked me up. As this was over 60 years ago and Velzy is now living in surf heaven I don’t think telling this is gonna get him in much trouble.
Corky's "Not Done Yet" book and Mike's Assembly DVD have lots of great stories and nostalgic moments..
My Velzy story took place one day in his shop in San Clemente in about 1959. In those days when a person ordered a board the guy building it would promise it in like two weeks. It was NEVER two weeks, more like two months. On one such order a guy called up and asked if his board was done as it was going on three months and it turns out it was finished and in the showroom ready for pick up. Velzy told the guy to come on down and get it. It was a 9’2” and clear (no color). The guy was all stoked and said he would be there in an hour. About 15 minutes later another guy walks into the shop and tells Velzy he wants to buy a new 9’6” and wanted it clear, asking if he might have one in stock. So, Velzy being Velzy, pulls out the finished order that was waiting to be picked up, cleverly pulling the order card off as he did so, and lays it down on the floor. The guys is stoked but wonders if it is 9’6”. Velzy being Velzy, hands the guy the end of his measuring tape and tells him to hold it by the nose as he stretches it out to the tail. Velzy looks closely at the tape and says, “yep, 9’6” exactly.” The sale is made and they guy pays and drives off with the new board. Velzy is happy and jumps in his Gull Wing Mercedes and peels out down Pacific Coast Highway. When the original owner of the board shows up there is a “Sorry, gone surfing” note on the door.
Ah, the golden years of surf shops and surfboard building. It was a great lunch and I am looking forward to seeing those dudes again for more food and more stories. Stay tuned.