by Corky Carroll
I love writing this column as it gives me the chance to wander all over the map on subjects that relate to fun, surfing, music and a lifestyle that has been great to me for a very long time. The one part that I never look forward too, however, is when it comes time to write about the death of a fellow surfer and friend. This time it is unfortunately one of the greatest surfers to ever set foot in the ocean and one of my lifetime best friends, Mike Doyle. I have written about him before, and recently for that matter. He had been in a losing battle with ALS and many in the surfing world have been paying tribute to him over these past months, knowing the final wave was at hand. Even though it was expected, and for the best as his last months were very hard on both him and his wonderful wife Annie, it still came as very hard and sad news when he passed recently after just turning 78. Today I would just like to lay down a few words about Mike and a couple of memories that I can share with you.
As I mentioned, Mike Doyle was among the all-time greatest surfers. Current surfing history does not give him due credit, a sore spot with me. During the 1960’s Mike was one of, if not the very best, big wave riders on the planet. When most people were going straight, and riding for their lives, he stood out for taking off deeper and actually surfing giant waves as if they were fun surf. It wasn’t until Laird Hamilton came along that another surfer separated himself from the pack in the same fashion. Doyle also won many events in small surf and was a total all around surfer and waterman. He won paddleboard races, lifeguard events, was an innovator in both surfing and lifeguard equipment and was the guy who developed the original “mono ski,” which would evolve into the “snowboard.” The dude could do it all. They called him “Iron Mike” in lifeguard circles as he was one of what they term “Iron men.” A guy who can do it all.
As a person Mike was a very good guy, honest and a straight shooter. You could trust him. He had a fantastic sense of humor and could always see the funny side of things, a trait that I have always found appealing in people. He was fun to be around. He could get moody though, kind of had that high/low thing at times. We hung out together a lot when I was a kid and it was him, along with Mickey Munoz, who kinda helped teach me when to keep my mouth shut. That was not always easy for me as I was pretty much a loud-mouthed punk most of the time. In my defense, I thought I was being funny. Those two were my mentors through my teen years.
Mike was good with the chicks, a total ladies’ man for as long as I have known him. He was a good-looking dude but was always self-conscious that he had a big nose, which he did. But it suited him. He was nicknamed “Tiki Mike,” because he would paint these big tikis on the bottom of his boards. He was also an amazing artist, a whole story in itself. The nose thing kinda gave him that “tiki god” sort of look. He was also famous for the Mike Doyle “nose tweek,” from the early surfing movies. Somewhere along the line he had a nose job to give him a more “perfect” one. He claimed that his board had hit him in the face and that this was the result of the accident. None of us bought it. He was a proud man. Yeah, he looked great with the new nose, but he was fine before it too. Chicks always dug him.
I have so many great memories of times we spent together that it would be hard to just lay down one or two. We went to the contests together, went to Hawaii together, he took me to Mexico for the first time and all the way there we shouted “Mexicooooooo” at the top of our lungs and then couldn’t talk for two days while we were there, we skied together and he turned me onto the “mono ski” while we both were living in Sun Valley, Idaho, he help ease me into the Stand Up Paddleboard (along with Munoz and Gerry Lopez) and he was always supportive and a good friend. He also could always make me laugh. I respected him on so many levels.
The surfing world lost one of its best in Mike Doyle. RIP mi amigo.