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.
By Corky Carroll
Last week I talked about a little incident that happened in the water where a girl surfer got angry at a guy surfer because he had been taking what she considered more than his fair share of the waves. So, in retaliation, she dropped in on his next wave in front of him on purpose. He, in retaliation to her retaliation, came up behind her and shoved her off her board. Then a whole lot of shouting and name calling ensued, the highlight of which was her accusing him of “woman bashing.” It was quite a scene. The reason I reported this little misadventure is that I am going to get into a little discussion on what is, or is not, proper “surf etiquette.” With todays crowded surf conditions this is a subject that is talked about, and debated, over and over. The problem is not enough people who are learning to surf have any idea of what the so called “rules of the waves” really are. And there are no surf police patrolling the lineups taking names and issuing tickets.
With this in mind, I offered up the concept that the person deepest in the wave, or closest to the curl, has the right of way pretty much all the time. And I offered this incident as an example and have opened the floor for comments and opinions. Here are a few responses that I got.
“Sad but great column! Back in the days riding Doheny really developed my backhand and my cutbacks. Depended on where I was on my noserider and how far into the takeoff the shoulder hopper was. I did try to cut the obvious newbies some slack. Huntington with it's closeout walls and speed was a different story. Before the leash, a dirtball could cause a long unwanted swim, possibly even hazardous. Clearing a path one way or another was gonna happen.” Scott Swineford.
“Be mellow, wait your turn. Where I live in Panama, the wave has a definite pecking order, basically locals, transplants, then the rest. You need to figure out where you fit in, then wait your turn. Locals will give waves to visitors who wait their turn. Visitors who go out of turn can expect to be dropped in on. Pretty simple really.” Richard Brady.
“Geez, tell the guy to chill and let the girl have a wave! Maybe I am not as selfish in my older years when it comes to waves!” George Lambert. (Note: George is the long time “Mayor of Main Street” and arch Huntington Beach Pier local.)
“How about opening the door (wave) for the lady? Is chivalry so freaking dead? Is a wave so important in the scheme of life that you'll shove someone out of the way?
Have people become so selfish?” Mike S. Tyson
“Two wrongs never make a right, our mamas told us that. If the girl dropped in on purpose then she was sort of asking for a problem, and the fact that she got pushed off has nothing to do with if she was a female or male. I am not saying the guy was in the right to do that, just that in this case it had nothing to do with gender. Everybody was in the wrong. The guy should have not been hogging all the waves and the girl should not have instigated the conflict with purposely taking off in front of him..” Connie Conroy.
Well, there are some interesting views on this little taste of surf carnage. I pretty much agree with the last one, they were both in the wrong. But, these things happen all the time due to the crowds. So, it’s really important that everybody realize that we are all out there to have a good time, try and be considerate of everybody else and not just be an over aggressive butthead taking every wave you can. I have to admit that, in my over aggressive butthead past, I have been that guy and I don’t like the feel of it when I think about it. We all can learn better ways.
I am going to continue talking about surf etiquette next week in a broader scope, getting into paddling out protocol and more. And the floor is still open for comments and opinions. If you would like to share your thoughts, please do.
by Corky Carroll
I was going to save this one for closer to summer when more people are getting ready to learn to surf for the first time, but then this morning there was an incident in the water that inspired me to open up this discussion now, ask for feedback for anybody who might have an opinion on the subject, and then revisit it in the spring with an update. The much-debated subject of proper surf etiquette, or “rules of the reef” as we used to call it.
What happened this morning was a girl surfer took off in front of a guy surfer and the guy surfer pushed her off her board. Then the two of them got into an extremely spirited debate that went on for quite a while, and somehow got into the subject of “woman bashing.” If you were there seeing and hearing all this it was pretty entertaining, if you are of the mindset to see humor in things, or pretty disturbing in the case you take all this stuff more seriously. On the surface this looked pretty cut and dried, but there was more to it. The guy had been taking way more than his share of waves and had paddled around the girl a couple of times to “snake” the wave. So, the girl decided to drop in on him on purpose because, in her words, “he was being a butthead.” The guy saw her start to drop in and told her, “hey, I got this one.” Soooo, it was kinda one of those cloudy deals. Fact is both of them were being a tad over aggressive in an otherwise very mellow surfing scene. This kind of thing happens a lot in crowded spots and those that are known for aggressive surfers, not so much in easy spots and those known for having a lot of beginners, intermediates, longboarders, families, et. But, the fact that these run ins do happen there should be some sort of protocol for right of way. With that in mind I am going to state a few ideas that I hold to be true and open the floor for discussion.
There is a basic rule in surfing. The person closest to the curl has right of way. This is almost always the first person to stand up and/or the person deepest in the wave. There is a gray area where a person will turn and paddle for the wave and stand up first while someone deeper will take off a second or two later. That happens mostly when the person taking off in the front is on a bigger board and can catch the wave sooner. This is where it gets gray. The person deeper still has the right of way 90% of the time. It’s only when the person in the front had clearly staked that wave out and was going for it clearly before the person deeper, and the person deeper saw clearly that the other one was going for it before he or she decided to go for it. But, for the most part, it’s the rider in the back who has priority. To make this more unclear there are those surfers who are known to “snake” people all the time. They will see somebody all lined up to go and paddle as hard as they can to get on the deeper side of them and take off. There are a lot of snakes in surfing. That said, there is a lot to be said about just getting in better position. One common comment, normally from beginners or intermediates, is, “I was sitting there for an hour waiting for a wave and that guy was riding over and over.” Well, whose fault is that? The person getting in good position or the person sitting in one spot expecting that he would get the wave just because he had waited longer? This is a good question, and one that I am sure would be answered according to how experienced the surfer is who is answering it.
At this point I realize that it is going to take more than just one column to address this subject as I am already out of space and still have a lot to talk about. So, I will get back to this next week.
I would, however, like to put out one question for you. In the case of the guy pushing the girl off her board, do you feel that this relates at all to if this was a male or female? This is a really good question for a number of reasons, and I would love to hear opinions.
by Corky Carroll
I recently had a guest that lives in upstate New York and has a river near him. He was mentioning that sometimes the standing waves in one section of the river look almost rideable. Truth is, they probably are.
Back in the early 1970’s I lived in Ketchum, Idaho for a few years. Ketchum is the town here the Sun Valley Ski Resort is, and I was spending time skiing and playing music right after I retired from professional surfing competition. We rented a house in an area called Warm Springs and had a creek that ran behind our backyard. One spring that creek turned into a pretty fast-moving small river, and low and behold there was this nice head high standing wave right there behind our house. I had a board and wetsuit with me, as I would drive over to the Oregon coast to surf at times, so I figured why not try and ride that wave. It looked so perfect and inviting.
So, I suited up and jumped in the river, a frosty 33 degrees as freshly melted snow tends to be COLD, and paddled my arms off to try and catch the wave as the rushing river was taking me past it. No dice. Then I got battered and beaten through some rapids and rocks before I could get out. I spent the afternoon fixing my board from all the dings and went to the store and bought some dishwashing gloves, a water ski rope and a foam kayak helmet. The next morning I duct taped the dishwashing gloves into the sleeves on my wetsuit as the water was so cold it hurt my hands, put on the helmet to protect my delicate head from getting bashed into the rocks and tied the water ski rope to a big dead tree on the bank of the river. I got in the water and used the speed of the rushing river to stabilize my board so I could stand up and then backed myself into the wave. Perfect, once I was riding the wave I let go of the rope and was surfing. And it was really a good wave, tons of speed and perfect shape. After about five minutes though my legs started to get tired and I caught an edge and fell. Once again I went banging down the river dinging my board on every rock. It was like being in a pin ball machine.
Not easily deterred when it comes to surfing, I spent the afternoon once again fixing my board and coming up with a better plan for the next day. This time when I had backed myself into the wave I didn’t let go of the rope. I just let it get a little slack in it, that way when my legs gave out I could just pull myself back out of the wave and ride over the bank and get out. No harm, no foul. And it might have been a great plan, if I hadn’t got a bit too cocky and overamped on a cutback. After falling off I still had ahold of the rope. The result was about the same as being pulled from behind a boat, no air and no way to get out of the situation other than to let go. So, I let go. And again, went banging down the river. Only this time I had my board go around a big rock on one side and me on the other, with my surf leash wrapped around the rock. This left me drowning in a deep spot behind held underwater. Only way out was to get my surf leash off my foot and release the board. The last I saw of my board was as it went around a bend down the river.
So, I got out of the water as fast as I could and rushed in the house to throw on some sweats before jumping in my car and heading down the river to try and find my board. The creek dumped into the Wood River, which ran all the way down to the Snake River at Twin Falls. The place Evil Knevel tried to jump the canyon, I worked on the film crew for that. I followed the river all the way out of town, until it went away from the road. No board. Then I drown down to the next town and sat on a bridge over the river for a couple of hours hoping my board would come by. Nope, no board. As far as I know it went all the way to the Snake River, then to the Columbia River and probably made its way out to sea at Astoria, Oregon. After that, who knows. Could be stuck in that giant garbage patch out in the Pacific Ocean. Or it could have washed up on some beach and become the property of some lucky passerby. But I never saw it again. That ended my river surfing.
But, the point being, river surfing is a totally viable thing and they are doing in now in many parts of the world where there isn’t an ocean. Yeah, the water is normally really cold and there are hazards, but if it’s the only wave around and you are a surfer then why not? My hats off to the river rats around the globe who brave the elements to shred a few freshwater peaks.
by Corky Carroll
So, I was sitting on my deck last night with my lifetime pal, and neighbor, Tim “the Iguana” Dorsey, chit chatting about how another year has slipped by in the blink of an eye. When you get as old as us they go way faster than when you are a kid. The Iguana and I have known each other for over 60 years. When I was a little kid, just starting to learn to surf, he was one of the big-name surf heroes in our area. He was part of the Seal Beach crew that would sometimes come and surf out in front of my house in Surfside. Most of them were kinda mean to me, I was kinda over exuberant in those days and probably asked too many questions and talked too much. But Tim was always really friendly and a good guy. He became a lifeguard and his job was to patrol the beach in Surfside in the evenings. On his nightly patrol he always made it a point of stalling out in front of our house until my mom would see him. This would naturally be met with the nightly invite in for dinner. She would bring us TV dinners, which we would eat on TV trays in front of the TV in the living room. Tim would park the lifeguard jeep right outside the door so he could hear if he got a call. I would be in like my pajamas and bathrobe and we would watch something like “Highway Patrol,” with Broadrick Crawford. I think Tim sort of saw himself as the lifeguard version of that.
These days most nights (I like the way that sounded) he and I hang out on my deck having a “Corkarita”and talking about all the people that have passed through our lives over the years, adventures we had had together and separately, and who is the latest friend, or not, that has hit the big banana peel (as he likes to call it) and moved on to the next phase. When you get our age, actually he is way way older than me, it gets more and more frequent to have to say, “Ahh man, guess who pulled out today?” Then we toast them and tell whatever stories we know about them. Just part of the daily conversations in our “Geezers gone wild” real life reality show. He always says he likes to read the “obits” just to make sure we aren’t in there.
One of the many things I love about the Iguana is that he has a sense of humor that is close to mine. Somehow we can turn even the most bummer of events into some sort of joke and laugh about it. Like when we find out one of our childhood pals is really sick and might not make it. First the mood is dark, and we are lamenting. But somehow then comes something like, “yeah, remember when he picked up that chick in the Long Bar in T.J. and it turned out to be a guy? He made out with him/her for 20 minutes before he figured it out, hahahahaha.” Then we toast him and send him a get-well message, bringing up the story. It might not be politically correct, but it lightens the mood. And, truth be known, neither of us has even been all that politically correct in the first place. It is a good thing we are not around anybody who would quote us on most of the subjects we talk about (yikes, except for me), with the way things are these days it could be a problem. But, I am guessing it is the same with most people.
We do talk about surfing most of the time, and surf people. After all, that is who we are. Tim started on a hollow paddleboard and me on a heavy solid balsawood plank, in the mid 1950’s. We watch kids in the shorebreak in front of my house getting air on modern boards and debate about how we could be doing that if we would have had that kind of equipment when we started. Not really debate, we both are sure we could, we just argue about who would be getting higher.
So, there we were in our normal deck chairs talking about yet another year going into the books. Guys coming close to riding 100 foot waves, Kelly Slater still competing on a world class level at 46 years old, who has to pee more times a night than the other, how it would be fun to try out one of those “foils” on the outside reef in front of the house (“Corkyland”), and other important, or not, topics that come to play at the end and beginning of another year. Like, “I am really gonna get in better shape this year.” “Hahahahahaha, yeah right.”
Somehow the evening always ends with, “O.K., lets surf in the morning, a new swell is gonna be filling in.” Of course, it’s harder and harder to get him to paddle out, but when he does he can still shred. It’s great to have a real true lifelong surf pal.
By Corky Carroll
Last week I wrote about some of my favorite surfboards through the years and got a lot of response. So, this week, seeing as how Christmas is just a few days away, I thought I would talk about a favorite Christmas Day from my treasure trove of all the zillions of them that I have had the pleasure of being alive for. A few years ago I did this and talked about the one where I got my first surfboard. Today I am gonna tell you about one that I had in the late 1960’s while I was staying on the North Shore in Hawaii.
Every year from 1963 to 1971 I was on the North Shore for Christmas, it was the big winter surf contest season over there and it was where you had to be if you were involved in that kind of thing. I think it was 1969 or 1970 when I was invited to a friend of mines home for Christmas dinner. His name was Al Dukes, cool dude who lived up on top of the mountain in an area called “Pupukea Heights.” He had this very nice “A frame” house and a great wife who did the cooking. He also invited Johnny Fain, the famous Malibu Hotdogger, over that same year. We had a wonderful mid-afternoon dinner and a couple of holiday drinks, it was very nice. After eating Al and Johnny started playing Chess. I had never played it and watched intently, I had always wanted to learn. After they played a game Johnny showed me how to move the pieces and then kicked my butt in a matter of a few minutes. Humph.
After that the three of us went down and paddled out at a little surfed spot, at that time, called “Kammieland.” It was really good, about 8 feet with perfect screaming left-hand barrels, just the kind I like. And, as an extra added treat, we were the only guys out, probably the best day I ever surfed that particular spot. I always remember the “Christmas Kammieland Session” when it’s this time of year and memories of former holiday seasons filter into my semi functional one flickering memory cell brain.
The next day I went to town and bought two books on how to play Chess. I spent day after day reading, practicing what I read and learning. I also was playing games with my pal Rodney Sumpter, who I was able to blow away within a matter of days. In these kind of situations I have always been able to super focus and put maximum effort into whatever it is that has challenged me. My pal Allan Seymour used to tell me that I could focus so intently on one thing that the entire rest of the world did not exist, I probably have a few wives, ex and current, that can back that up too. Finally, ready and full of confidence, I casually asked Johnny over for dinner at my house one night. Afterwards I pulled out my little cardboard and plastic Chess set I had bought at the drugstore in Haleiwa and asked him if I could have a rematch. He told me he would give me both Castles and both Knights and play me for 10 bucks. We did and I won. This did not go well with Johnny, being a pretty competitive dude, so he says double or nothing and I only get the two knights. I won again. Now he is actually kinda hot under the collar and says “100 bucks, straight up.” Yep, nailed him. He was in shock. As he didn’t, or so he said, have the cash on him he told me he would pay me later. Of course he never did, nor did I actually think he would. But it was a moment of glory for me and kinda the icing on the cake of a great Christmas.
I heard Al passed away some years ago, but Johnny Fain is still alive. I know you are still out there Fain. Where’s my C note dude? It’s not too late to pay up and clear your conscious amigo. An extra hundie would make my Christmas just a little sweeter.
By Corky Carroll
A lot of times people ask what were my favorite boards over the years. Most of the time I will talk about boards that just flat out rode better than the rest, I mean those would obviously be the favs I guess. But I was thinking about this last night when somebody brought up this subject and I sort of realized that some of the boards that I really had an attachment to had more to offer, personally speaking, than just that they surfed really good. I thought I would talk a little bit about those today.
Off the top, I have had really a lot of surfboards over the past 60 something years. There are little things that can make a board attractive to you. Boards are like chicks, they can be the hottest looking you ever saw but you like the one with the really sweet smile the best. Yeah, it’s cool to be seen with the mega babe but it’s the one that makes you feel good that you want to spend your time with. Boards are like that. Here is a perfect example. I had a board made that I went way overboard on with “extras.” It had five stringers and a ton of colors. This was in the early 1960’s when I was first getting “deals” on boards and was offered “anything I want” for 80 bucks. That thing looked amazing, but was so heavy that it rode like an old Buick. When I first got sponsored by Ole Surfboards, which was owned by HOBIE at the time, my pal Scott Hoxeng, who also got signed on at the same time, and I had identical boards made. They looked and rode alike. But Scott put a little stripe around his to make it look different, so we would know which was which. For some reason, in my mind, it made his board ride just a little better than mine. I was always borrowing his. I won the 1963 U.S. Championship in the Jr. Men’s on that board. That was definitely one of my favorite boards.
Before I was surfing for Hobie I rode for HARBOUR Surfboards in Seal Beach. Richard Harbour made me a beautiful board that I won my first contest ever on, the San Clemente Surf Capades in 1962. While he was building that board he loaned me a used board out of the rack, it was a solid kinda mustard colored thing. That board rode so well I was just gonna tell Rich that I wanted to keep instead of the new one he was building me. It was not very pretty really, looked like a Yam or something. But I loved that board. Bummer was I broke it in half on one of the houses on pilings where I lived in Surfside.
Then there was a board that I did the colors in the gloss coat myself sometime in the late 60’s. Raymond Patterson was our gloss and color guy and one day when I was telling him what I wanted on my new board he just handed me the bucket and said “go for it.” I did a kinda purple splash thing that in itself was not unusual in any way, other than I had done it myself. In other words, HIGH ART. Loved that board, as I remember it rode very well but it was probably the fact that I did the artwork myself that made it special to me.
Then there was my beloved first “Cow” twin-fin. To make a long story short, I started riding boards with cow-print airbrush designs in the mid 1990’s when I did a “Country-Surf” album for a record company in Germany. We did a cow colored board for the cover photo. I rode that board at the pier in Huntington Beach and people laughed at me, just enough to get an extra wave or two. From then on I have ridden cowboards. When I went back to riding the “twin fin” designs towards the end of the 90’s, early 2000’s I had one done with the cow colors. Dam, that board became my one and only for years. A couple others came and went, but THAT one was just IT. I still have it but haven’t ridden it for a long time. First I switched to “quads,” and then to Stand Up Paddleboards. My wife put it and one other like it on stands by our front door where you walk into our house, it’s kinda like “welcome to the Cow Palace.”
Naturally there have been others, but those come to mind off the top of my head at the moment. Boards that not only rode good but also had a sweet smile and made me happy.