by Corky Carroll
I just got the news that Gary Propper passed away in his sleep on March 15. If there was anybody that I know that I would not have bet would have gone while sleeping it would probably be “GP.” The dude could party with the best of the heavy partiers. I would have picked him to drive off a cliff going 150 in a Lamborghini with two hot chicks sitting on his shoulders, or something flaming and flamboyant like that. But that is not the story that I will tell you about this dude, because the fact is that he was one of the most important and influential surfers of all time. Gary was the very first international surf star from the East Coast and one of the very best small wave surfers ever. He could ride two foot and under surf better than anybody of his era. In fact, in my life I have only seen two people who could ride surf that was seemingly flat to the naked eye and make it look like it was totally firing. The other is Tom Curren.
I first met Gary in 1964 when I was with Bruce Brown and Hobie premiering the surf film “Endless Summer,” and doing surfing exhibitions on the East Coast from New York to Miami. We had heard about this kid who was reported to be amazing and got a chance to watch him surf one day in Jacksonville. There was no surf that day to speak of, but Gary paddled out to show us what he could do. Rumors were true, he amazed us. He could take off on the tiniest of swells, crank a big sweeping turn and run to the nose, hang ten, run back, crank a big drop knee cutback followed by another sweeping turn and do a fly away kickout. All of this would happen within about 20 feet from the beach on a tiny swell that never ever would break. Hobie liked what he saw, and wheels were in motion to get him involved on the surf team. The next season saw the release of the Gary Propper East Coast model and the Corky Carroll West Coast model. Over the next five or six years we both would do very well with the relationship with Hobie and our boards selling very well. The first couple of years his outsold mine by far, then mine were the big sellers in the later 60’s. I don’t have exact numbers, but my guess is that we both sold upwards of 6000 boards with our names on them from 1965 to 1970. One of Gary’s models was called the “Eastern Star.” That was him, he was Mr. East Coast during the period that saw the biggest growth in surfing ever. And, no matter where the wave was, he could ride small waves as good or better than anybody.
GP was also a very driven and clever businessman. He was smart enough to invest the money he was making and set himself up for after surfing, something that not many of the early pro surfers even thought of. He became a very successful event promoter and brought many rising musicians and bands to the concert halls in south Florida. This led to him getting into management with successful stars such as Hank Williams Jr. and then later with comedians Gallagher and Carrot Top.
But, other than his surfing career, the big jewel in Gary's incredibly successful career was the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” He loved the comic book and bought the rights for movies and products. He made tons and tons of money with the Turtles and for a while retired to the island of Maui.
GP was never the kind of person to just relax and take it easy, that was just not in his DNA. He came to Southern California and that is when he took over the careers of Gallagher and then Carrot Top. I ran into him in Las Vegas one time when Carrot Top was playing there, he was so completely in his element there. He loved what you could call “fast times.” A true mover and groover.
The last time I saw Gary was at the SURF EXPO in Orlando two years ago when we both showed up to do an appearance in the HOBIE booth. Same big smile, swagger and energy as I first remember on that day in Jacksonville when we first met.
Gary Propper was a true icon in American surfing and an amazing person. RIP amigo.
by Corky Carroll
One of my favorite surfers from the years I was growing up here on our beautiful Orange County beaches is Chuck, aka “Raouuul” (ya gotta say it with a couple extra u’s to make it sound right, like Ra-oouuuul), Linnen. I have reported some of this stuff in years gone by, but his name came up today so I thought I would re-tell a little bit plus add some previously untold tid bits.
I met Chuck the first time I rode my bike, pulling my big balsawood board behind, from my house in Surfside to the Huntington Beach Pier when I was about 10 years old. I was riding some waves but was afraid of the pier. Chuck saw this and introduced himself to me as “Charles,” and gave me directions on how to “shoot the pier.” We became friends that day. In years to follow he would stop by our house occasionally, normally about dinner time, show me some stuff on our piano, and graciously accept my mom’s dinner invitation. This is when I became aware of his quest for a free meal.
On trips down to surf “Trestles” when Mark Martinson and I would get rides from some of the older dudes, such as Steve Pezman, Jim Barker and Roy Crump, I would see Chuck many times. I remember my mom would always cough up a dollar or so for gas money and would normally make me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for after surfing. One day right as I got there I buried the bag with my sandwich in the sand so it would be safe for when I came in. But, low and behold, when I got back to the spot where I had it stashed it was gone. Only the empty paper bag was there. Chuck was sitting nearby, and I asked him if he has seen anybody steal my sandwich. He looked at me straight in the eyes, with crumbs and peanut butter still in his mustache, and innocently and sincerely said “no.” When I told the other guys about this they just laughed and said, “Yep, it was that dirty Linnen.” I guess he was known for this kind of thing.
Later on, when I was about 16, I was on the North Shore and a whole group of us were living in an old Quonset hut out by Velzyland. Chuck was one of them, along with Mike Doyle, Roy Crump, Billy Fury, Mike and Sherry Haley, Kent Casper and others. Everybody was noticing that little bits of their food would go missing from the fridge, and the prime suspect was Chuck Linnen. So, one morning before we all went surfing everybody, except Chuck, got together and rigged up a carton of milk with some extra added goodies as a trap, the least worst of these goodies were “boogers,” you can imagine some of the other ingredients that were put in. We put it in the fridge, and we all went surfing. When we got back everybody was busy getting the boards off the roof of the car. Naturally Chuck slipped away and hit the fridge. Seeing a Milk carton with only a little bit gone he naturally took a swig. We all howled in delight as he came screaming out of the house barfing all over the place and moaning and groaning. That dirty Linnen got rudely caught in the act and payback was not Heaven. I still laugh when I think of that. Just desert, you could call it.
Through the years Chuck has remained a good pal and one of the longest lasting and most respected locals at the Huntington Beach Pier. He is a veteran of riding big surf in Hawaii and being a successful competitor in International surfing events in the 1960’s. Why he surfs in the winter without a wetsuit on is anybody guess, the dude is just kinda loco I figure. Cool guy, just watch your food when he is around.
by Corky Carroll
When I am normally coming in from a surf session at my favorite spot I have a set way I land myself on the beach. As I am on a Stand Up Paddleboard I always drop to my knees for a beach landing. Just before hitting the sand I kind of lean back a little bit, allowing the wave I am riding to get sort of underneath me, and then float up the beach on the back of the surge. As it stops, I am able to step off and stand up in a few inches of water. Then I can pick up my board and casually walk off looking like I know exactly what I am doing. Very cool. Except for the other morning when it all went terribly wrong. As I was doing my little lean back thing the wave I was on sort of doubled up and shot me out in front of it. My board bellied into the sand with a bit of speed. I went rolling off the nose head over heels, the board and my paddle both hitting me in the head and my leash getting wrapped around my neck. I was left squirming around in the sand under my board trying to untangle myself and I was getting sand everywhere, my hair being the least of the issue. This was not pretty. Thankfully nobody saw it, at least that I know of. I didn’t hear uncontrollable laughing coming from anywhere at least.
I was telling about this unfortunate event on my deck, over Corkaritas and our new house drink, the “Blue Mango,” that night and the subject came up of bad shallow water wipe outs. Most people don’t think about the dangers of the shallows, it’s always the dangers of the deep. You need to be extremely careful in shallow water, especially over rock or reef bottoms.
First example is my good friend Lourdes, the Queen of La Saladita. Lourdes is a great surfer and grew up surfing this spot. It is a rock bottom break with a sand beach. She was coming in one morning and stepped off her board thinking she was over the sand. But she was still over the rocks and he foot wedged between two rocks and broke her ankle. This was a year ago. She had surgery and has a bunch of pins inserted into the area of the break. It still hurts her to try and surf and maybe always will. Simple mistake with bad result.
Another friend just recently was coming in on a wave, at the same spot, and from what I understand his fin hit a rock causing him to lunge forward. But he saved himself and went to straighten up when his board surged forward after the fin hit and became free again. He fell backwards on to the tail of his board and severely broke his back. Fractured a number of vertebras and had to be airlifted back to the U.S. Might not ever surf again. Same thing, simple mistake but with even worse result.
The worst one I know was when a guy I know was surfing at a beach break and dove off his board into what he thought was fairly deep water. Turns out he was over a sand bar and it was only about a foot deep. He broke his neck and was paralyzed the rest of his life. This happened in the sixties when he was in his twenties and he just passed away a few years ago. His wife took care of him his whole life by making wigs, along with some help from Hobie Alter. The guy was a Hobie dealer in Maryland and was surfing with Mickey Munoz the day it happened. I think Mickey saved his life if I remember the story correctly. A few years before he died Mickey strapped him onto the hull of his catamaran and rode about an eight-foot wave at Trestles with him. He said he was both terrified and thrilled at the same time. One last ride. Once again, simple mistake with horrific results.
The bottom line here is to pay attention when you are in the water no matter how deep it is. You can get hurt or even die in knee deep water, seriously. It’s not just the zillion foot monster surf that is deadly kids, most of the time it’s those simple mistakes that you don’t ever think will happen but then they do. Don’t think it won’t happen just because it hasn’t happened yet. (That line is from a Jackson Browne song). Pay attention
by Joel Saltzman
Anyone who knows Corky is well aware that he has been a rabid, die heart Laker fan since his days of working and paling around with Jerry West. Unfortunately, the only way to see Laker games in his Mainland Mexico paradise though, is to subscribe to the NBA Laker Subscription package. He retreats upstairs with his laptop and headphones every time they play.
Last October while visiting them, I was aware that the biggest game of the season would be Christmas day when the Laker's played the reigning champs and bitter rivals, the Golden State Warriors. A friend had given me a Golden State Warrior Michael Thompson jersey as a gag as I also hate that team with a passion. I snuck that GS jersey down to Raquel and asked her to hide it until game day and then put it on to see how Corky reacted to seeing her in it.
As some mutual friends of ours, The Turners, are big Golden State fans and live up that way, I was hoping Corky would blame them which he did until Raquel confessed (multiple times no less) that I was behind this caper. Had the Lakers not ended up upsetting the Warriors and winning huge by 25 points, my surfboards were destined to get run over by Corky's car and who knows what else lay in my future.
Still, even after that amazing victory, I was not out of the woods yet. I had to wait 3 months for him to cool off enough to publish this video which is totally priceless. Raquel waited for the game to start, walks in, and Corky stares in stunned disbelief, wanting to "gouge his eyes out" after seeing Raquel in uniform. Priceless!
by Corky Carroll
I learned about Dr. Eric Vanek from my pal Joshua Paskowitz. I was looking for a good dentist in Orange County to take care of my youngest son Tanner, who was having some teeth issues and hadn’t been to a dentist in years. Josh recommended Dr. Vanek and said, “This guy surfs and really has the Aloha spirit.” That was good enough for me and I sent Tanner to see him. He came back telling me, “this guy is a very cool dude, you will like him.” So, I decided to find out a little bit about him and was blown away by the story I found. This man is amazing. Let me see if I can give you a little glimpse of what I am talking about.
Eric learned to surf on a boogie board at a very young age and got his first surfboard, a hand me down from his older brother, in the third grade. He loved the ocean and did Junior Lifeguards, paddle races and all that sort of thing. He would ride his bike 30 minutes to Torrance Beach each day to surf. He loved the television show “Chips,” and used to love to imitate Ponch and John. Just before the 4th grade he crashed hard attempting a “massive skid.” This resulted in breaking a bunch of teeth and many visits to the dentist. It was from that accident that he got the idea to become a dentist “when he grew up.”
Through high school he rounded out his water array by becoming proficient in wake boarding, water skiing and played Water Polo. Entering college at UCSB he decided to blend his love for the ocean and desire to be a dentist. He gave me this account, which I like in his own words.
“I decided I liked oceanography and studied for a Bachelors in Science in Geology with a Biological emphasis (so I could get accepted and fulfill requirements for dental school applications). The reason this is worth mentioning is that as a result I was able to qualify as a research assistant for the Institute for Crustal Studies at UCSB. This job led to the opportunity of a lifetime. I was invited by Dr. Bruce Luyendyk (who recently had a mountain named after him) to work on the icebreaker N.B. Palmer mapping the coast of Antarctica. This took us by C-130 equipped with skis to land on the Ross Ice Shelf near McMurdo Base at the foot of Mt. Erebus. As oceanographers we were mapping the sea floor in an area never accessed by anyone in the history of the Earth! Lots of stories to go along with that research but it gets even better. One of my tasks was to utilize existing satellite data to help navigate our way through the sea ice. This led me to contact the Institute for Computational Earth System Science (ICESS) to learn more about the data and I was invited to a second trip to the opposite side of Antarctica. So, in a 2-year time span I traveled to Antarctica twice and on the way home was able to visit New Zealand, Fiji and traveled through Chile as well as Costa Rica. I produced a short surf film titled “Southerlands Travels” to celebrate all the trips. Those 4 areas are on my Facebook page. After returning from these research trips I entered into Dental School.”
O.K., so he goes off to dental school in, of all places, Nebraska. No surf there. But he figures out how to make it work.
“After living in Nebraska for a year and getting bored with the local activities I had an idea one windy day. I was always curious about these 2-line traction kites I had seen out on the beaches. Nebraska being very windy at times I thought to myself, I could use all that wind to tow me around on these new “mountain” off-road skateboards I had seen advertised. After a little online research, I came across a huge discovery, this rig I was looking for had recently been invented by a pair of French guys! So, in the late 90s I figured all this out and by 2000 I made my very first internet purchase shipping a Wipika 2-line kite from Oahu, HI to Omaha, NE. The kitesurfing revolution was on. There were no instructors in those days, so we learned through trial and error, but fortunately for me a now famous Canadian named Hung Vu was documenting all his experiences with the new kites online. He set up a FAQ page and it was translated into 70 languages. We learned through a lot of crashes we called kitemares, luckily I was not one who suffered any major injuries although I have had my fair share of close calls. Shortly after learning I got my Dad involved and he kiteboards as well. To my knowledge he is the oldest participant in the La Ventana Classic Crossing, which takes place on the East Cape of Baja every year. We have competed in this charity event a lot & I even came back with a 1st place in the Short Course Racing event & a 3rd in the Big Air. This sport really captured my imagination by combining all the wakesurfing, wakeboarding, snowboarding & surfing skills that I grew up loving.” (I love the “kitemares” part.)
Eric came back to California in 2002 and opened Vanek Dentistry in Costa Mesa, “modern dentistry that is affordable, caring and fun,” in 2002. He is an avid kite surfer, has two kids and a surfing dog that he hangs with. He is one of those people that just give off, as Joshua told me, the great Aloha Spirit.
by Corky Carroll
I recently read Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, well actually I listened to it as an audio book. Very cool, he narrates it himself and is excellent at telling the story. I am a big fan of his music and was looking forward to this, plus we have a little connection thru a dude who goes by the nickname “Tinker.” Tinkers real name is Carl West. In the early 1960’s he worked for Wardy Surfboards in Laguna Beach as a glasser (the dude who does the fiberglassing). A very respected glasser at that. He lived in Dana Point in a little pink house with John Seversons little brother Joey. They had a goat that lived in the yard too. Why? I have no idea, they just did. Tinker was a thin dude with long hair, a big mustache and goatee. More of a “beatnik” kinda vibe, just pre-hippy. I lived up the street at the time in a little apartment and spent some time hanging out at Tinkers house with my girlfriend at that time, Janet Ambuehl. Janets dad was the principal of the elementary school in San Juan Capistrano and her mom was a teacher. They didn’t think a surfer was a good fit for their daughter, probably right. They later named the school after her dad. Anyway, we both liked to hang out at Tinkers place, it was kinda bohemian.
Two things I remember that stand out in my semi functional memory bank. One was that he had this big old panel truck and he liked to go up in the hills behind Dana Point and “jungle cruise.” This meant screaming around in the bushes, up and down hills, and all over the place at alarming speeds. Most of the time not having any idea of what was in front of him. I made the mistake of going with him one time and I am still traumatized from it. The other was that Tinker was a musician. He played acoustic guitar with metal finger picks and with a harmonica on a rack, like early Bob Dylan. Joey had a guitar too and wasn’t around much, so I would grab it and try to play along. That actually gave me a lot of inspiration to get more serious about playing music.
Tinker moved to San Diego and took over Challenger Surfboards. Then he moved to New Jersey and opened Challenger Eastern Surfboards. Fast forward to about 1967 or 68 when I am traveling up the East Coast promoting my new “Mini Model” shortboard design from HOBIE. I was with a great East Coast surfer named Freddy Grosskreutz in his blue VW bug with our boards strapped to the roof. We were driving along when I saw the Challenger Eastern surf shop and decided to stop and see if my old pal Tinker was around. Luckily he was and we had a great time catching up. He mentioned that he was helping out a bunch of local kids who had a band and they practiced in the back of his shop. He told us they were really good. We decided to stick around and set up dinner at his house that night where we would show a little promo movie that Spyder Wills had made for Hobie called “The Curl Line.” It was to promote the Mini Model. While there, Tinker introduced me to this kid named Bruce who was the singer in the band he was working with. Evidently this kid surfed a little bit and had ridden one of my boards at one time.
Fast forward years and years later and I find out that this kid was Bruce Springsteen and Tinker had turned out to be his first manager. Wow, small freaking world I am thinking. So, fast forward to a couple of weeks ago when I am kicked back in my hammock overlooking the surf at my getaway casa on Mainland, Mexico. I am listening to the Springsteen autobiography and he goes all through his years working with Tinker and classic adventures they had together, including going surfing. How cool I thought, I know that guy. Anyway, thought I would bring you that little tid-bit of O.C. surf, and rock n roll, history and suggest you check out the book for yourself. If you are a fan, like I am, you will dig it.
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.
by Corky Carroll
Today I thought it would be fun to talk a little bit about one of the really great surfers of the past half a century, the one and only Mike Purpus. Mike was one of the top competitors of the 1960’s and into the 1970’s, you could find him in almost any final in any contest. He was one of those guys you really did not want to see show up in your heat. He was really good and really competitive and he knew the ins and outs of how to compete in surfing. I think he was a finalist at the United States Championship something like seven times as well as just about every other event on the West Coast.
My first memories of Mike were at competitions when we were both little kids in the “Junior Men’s” division. He and Dru Harrison were the hot up and comers from the South Bay. Mike reminded me a little bit of the legendary Dewey Weber. He was sort of short and stocky and had the bushy bushy blonde hairdo, he looked exactly like what you would think a surf “gremmie” should look like. He also could turn a surfboard extremely well. In later years many felt that he had “the best cutback in the business.” I would not argue that point either. I remember one day I was paddling out at Lower Trestles, near San Clemente, and saw him lay one out so perfectly and so radically that I was blown away. And he did it with great style. The guy really could surf.
We kind of came up at the same time, I might have been a year or so ahead of him as I think I am a year or so older than him. We are both geezers. He was definitely one of the main competition. As we were not from the same area we never hung out together, would mostly only see each other at events or somewhere like on the North Shore. I always liked the dude, even though we were always against each other in the events. He is a really good guy, to this day. There were some of those dudes who were great surfers, but I could not say the same about their character as with Mike. What I really appreciated about him was that he did things his own way regardless of what everybody else was doing, and he had my favorite personality trait. A great sense of humor. I have always said that if you are not afraid to embarrass yourself in front of zillions of people then you have a special gift. Mike surfed to his own drummer. SURFER magazine once did a feature where they asked a bunch of top surfers what they wanted out of life. Everybody was all wrapped up in the “soul brother” thing of that period and the answers were all like, “live in peace and harmony,” “find my inner soul and become one with nature,” “world peace,”stuff like that. It was the thing to say. Mike, on the other hand, confessed, “I wanna Rolls Royce Silver Cloud full of naked women.” Hey, ya know what? I think I am going with his answer. Let the soul bros eat granola, show me the money. I love it. Another of his famous quotes was, “I found out a long time ago that all the soul in the world can’t buy me breakfast.” Truth is, Mike’s surfing was, and is, as soulful as anybody and way more than most. You look at Gerry Lopez deep at Pipeline and think, “that dude is the sultan of soul.” True. But check out a full speed Mike Purpus cutback at Sunset Beach and tell me that isn’t a work of art.
Mike is one of the few guys from my era of pro surfing that is still surfing every day. I follow him on Facebook. I always see photos of him in some sucked out beach break gnarly barrel someplace in the South Bay. He can still do it, it’s obvious. The best part is that he retains the stoke, it’s written all over his face. It makes me happy to see this stuff, I love guys who carry such a good vibe around with them. I respect Mike Purpus for that, his great surfing, his non-flinching charging on his own terms and that fact that through all of that he is a truly good person. I am looking forward to the next time I get to surf with him, I hope it’s soon.
by Corky Carroll
Today I thought I would talk about a condition that seems to happen to just about every long-time surfer as he reaches a round and mature age, or in other words, gets old. I am going to call it “Surfers Back.” Hey, they got “Surfers Ear,” so it’s time to call it what it is and Surfers Back is the perfect name. Surfing and paddling a surfboard are hard on your back and after a lifetime of doing it pretty much every surfer will tell you that sooner or later it will start to give you problems. Many will find that it becomes harder and harder to pop up from a prone position to standing. Some just stop surfing. Others switch to different equipment such as stand up paddleboards, knee boards or boogie boards.
I am gonna use me as an example. I have surfed almost constantly for well over 60 years. The first time I hurt my back was when I was about 18 and I got rammed into the bottom sitting down at Pipeline. Doctor told me to just take it easy for a few weeks and it would be ok, they knew far less back then. So I did and it got better. Now and then it would ache a little bit after long surf days or when I was skiing a lot and in later years when I was teaching tennis and putting in long days on hard courts. But it was not causing me to not do anything. Then in 1997 I got impacted on a very big wave while surfing on the island of Kauai and it caused what the doctor diagnosed as a “swollen” disc. Treatment was for pain and the plan was to let it heal on its own. I also popped both of my hernias at the same time which required surgery. I was laid up for nine months and gained 45 lbs. After that my back was never quite the same, I could still do everything, but I had to be really careful not to lift anything heavy or twist wrong. Every few years I would do something dumb and would be out of the water a few weeks or so. Then about 4 years ago I tweaked it and it didn’t come back so well. This caused me to switch from standard boards to the SUP. I can’t go from laying down to standing up without getting on my knees first. The SUP allows me to get up from my knees and then I am standing so don’t have to deal with getting up all the time.
As time has gone on the pain has increased and finally this past summer it got difficult to surf, or even walk much. So, I went to see a back doctor that a friend recommended. This guy told me I needed a surgery that would more than likely end my surfing. Naturally I passed on that. It appears I have severe stenosis along with a couple of swollen discs, some spurs and something else I can’t spell. Everybody told me to get a second opinion. I knew of Doctor Warren Kramer in Newport Beach, but I wasn’t sure he did backs, I just knew that he was respected as one of the best in sports medicine. I called his office and found out that his brother, Sten, is the family back dude. I went in to get the second opinion, thankfully. Turns out he thinks I can be treated with meds and not surgery, a much better plan. It’s only been a few weeks but already I am moving better and in less pain. Finally optimistic that I will be able to keep surfing, standing up and walking, at least to some degree. Better than a wheel chair.
Getting to the point of this story, more than likely your back is gonna give you problems as you age if you surf all the time. Don’t just give in to it. See a good back doctor. Naturally I am recommending Dr. Sten Kramer and Kramer Orthopedics, he certainly changed my direction and quality of life. You can find ways to keep surfing if you really want to. I want to and so should you. Don’t BACK down.
INTRODUCTION TO SURF ETIQUETTE FOR DUMBSTERS, NEWBiES AND BUTTHEADS WHO JUST DON’T SEEM TO GET IT, PART 3
by Corky Carroll
Two weeks ago I tossed out a little story about a confrontation I saw in the water between a guy and girl surfer and opened the floor for comments. This involved the issue of surf etiquette and who has the right of way on a wave, a subject of constant controversy in todays crowded surf conditions. The root of the story was the girl felt the guy was taking too many waves and so she dropped in on him on purpose, to which he shoved her off her board. Shouting and name-calling ensued with the term “woman bashing” added in for good measure. I asked for opinions, and last week posted what came in. For the most part everyone agreed that this was NOT a male vs female issue, the girl instigated the confrontation and therefore took that out of the equation. Also, the general feeling is that everybody needs to be respectful in the water, it’s not cool for somebody to constantly paddle around everybody else who are sitting and waiting for a wave and hog way more than his or her share. And, at the same time it’s not cool to purposely drop in on somebody. Two wrongs never make a right. All that said, there is a ton of grey area in this saga. But, bottom line is the person closest to the curl has the right away in most cases.
Today I want to take this little adventure into proper surf manners a tad farther and talk about who has the right of way between surfers riding a wave and those who are paddling out. This has been a total thorn in my surf bumps forever and I have mentioned this before, but it never hurts to try and drive in the point. I can’t tell you how many times I will be riding a wave and racing down the line to make a fast section when somebody will paddle directly into my path. This results in one of three things. One is I have to pull out to avoid running them over. Two is I have to straighten out and not make the wave in order to not run them over. Three is I run them over. I never choose number three and the other two test my geezer mellow and former youthful temper. This is almost a daily thing in my surf world. Let me try and explain this and make it as clear as possible. The person riding the wave has the right of way. It is the responsibility of the person paddling out to get out of the way and not affect the rider on the wave. And this, many times, requires that the person paddling out stop and let the rider go by, or even at times move towards the breaking part of the wave to get out of the way. The problem generally arises when the person paddling out does not want to give way to the rider because they are franticly trying to get over the shoulder of the wave. Why do people think a head high wave is gonna kill them?
Here is an example of this. The rider says, “Why did you paddle right in front of me?” The paddler says, “Because I had to get over the wave.” The rider says, “You could have let me go by.” The paddler says, “But the wave would have broken on me.” The rider says, “Yeah, so what?” And there is the point. So what, having a wave break on you is not a life-threatening issue, unless you are out in zillion foot surf. And if you are good enough to be out in zillion foot surf you certainly don’t need this little tutorial. The rider has the right of way, let him or her go by. That is unless you have plenty of time to get around the shoulder without impeding the progress of the rider. The smart thing is don’t paddle out right in the middle of the surfing lanes.
Now, there is of course exceptions to this. You might have just ridden a wave and been deposited right in the of path of the next wave. And you might just be stuck right there with no way to get out of the way. This happens. If it does what you need to do is sit up on your board and raise your arms letting the rider know that you are stuck. This puts the responsibility on the rider to avoid running you down. Then you can understandably say you are sorry, but you were stuck. The rider more or less has to understand and it’s no harm, no foul. As with most of these surf rules of the road there are always exceptions. But if you follow basic golden rule kinda stuff you should be ok.
Again, I would love to hear your comments on this and it’s an open discussion.