How I celebrated my 50th!
by Corky Carroll
The other day we celebrated the 50th birthday of a friend of mine over dinner, drinks and a cake at our house. Naturally I had to give him the normal verbal jabs like, “it’s zero to 50 and then 50 to dead,” “it’s the last half amigo,” and my favorite, “it’s the beginning of the end, good luck.” It was all in good fun and everybody was laughing. Then he asked me if I remembered what I did when I turned 50. As a matter of fact I did, as it was actually a pretty big memory in the semi functioning old memory bank.
I turned 50 on September 29, 1997. As it was one of those “big” kinda birthdays, like 40, 65 or 100, I wanted to celebrate big. I wanted to take two weeks and go to Tavarua, in Fiji, where I had spent a lot of time in the late 80’s and early 90’s. But the island had been taken over by a new guy and he had all the weeks booked for the year. I would have to contact the “owners” of those particular weeks and see if I could fit myself in. I couldn’t, so I planned a trip to Tahiti. I had heard of some great lefts from a pal of mine named Phil Stubbs who at one time managed a Bali Hi resort on the island of Huahini. I contacted Hero Kelly, the son of the guy who had started the chain of Bali Hi resorts years before, and set up a very cool two weeks of surfing on both Huahini and Morea. He was gonna take me out to surf some great reef passes that most people didn’t know of at that time.
This was all good until the day before the flight. Turns out there was some big military coup or something going on in Tahiti and they had closed the airport and nobody was allowed to fly in. Bummer. OK, last minute change of plans. I booked a week at the Ilikai Hotel in Waikiki, right in front of my favorite summer south shore surf spot, Ala Moana. I was determined to get some good lefts for my birthday one way or another.
When I went to check into the hotel none other than Carlos Santana was checking in just ahead of me. To my total shock he saw me and walked over. He shook my hand and said, “I dig your work man.” I could not believe this.. THE freaking Carlos Santana actually even knowing who in the heck I was. All I could think of was that he might have seen one of my Miller Lite commercials on TV, this was right in the middle of the years I was doing them. I doubted that he had ever heard any of my albums or had much knowledge of surfing. Whatever, it was very cool and I was totally stoked. Years later when I was at an event put on by PRS guitars I met him again and mentioned that time in the lobby in Hawaii and how flattered I was. It was a great way to start my 50th birthday.
The next morning was my actual birthday and there was a really good south swell pumping into Ala Moana. I got up at dawn and paddled out to try and get some before it got too crowded. It was a beautiful morning and I got a ton of great waves. When I came in and was standing by the parking lot talking to a few old friends who were there when somebody came up and said that the North Shore was breaking. It was early in the season but sometimes it can happen. So, I decided to drive out there and see what was going on. Turns out there was a big west swell and Pipeline was totally going off. I had not surfed there in over ten years but I still had some big wave boards stashed under Mark Martinsons house, right up the beach.
I grabbed what had been my favorite Pipeline board and paddled out. Me and about 50 or more others. Turned out that there was not much respect for the person taking off the deepest that day, and even less so for some dog-eared old dude. I caught eight waves and on each one of them at least one or two guys took off in front of me. When I came out of the water I was cut, bruised and beaten from getting rammed into the bottom over and over. Guys were getting into fights all over the place. I looked out and said to myself, “Well, that is the last time I will ever surf Pipeline.” And it was. I was glad that I had so many great days out there alone and almost alone back when it was first being ridden in the 60’s, but that was all a memory. Just like right now that memory of my 50th birthday still stands out in what’s left of my old surfdog mind.