Always click on the LEGENDARY SURFERS icon to return to this homepage. LEGENDARY SURFERS
A Definitive History of Surfing's Culture and Heroes
By  Malcolm Gault-Williams

This Chapter Updated:  20 January 2007
Google
Search WWW Search www.legendarysurfers.com


Phil Edwards

The Guayule Kid

Artwork courtesy of Ken Auster.



Aloha! And welcome to this chapter of LEGENDARY SURFERS!

This offering reveals a little bit of the style and influence of Phil Edwards during the 1950s and early 1960s. There's a lot more to Phil's story, so consider this just a taste.

Enjoy, spread the stoke, and -- if you have the time -- let me know how how I'm doing.


Contents

  • Family Move to Oceanside, 1949
  • Shaping begun, 1951
  • "Sylvester The Cat" Board
  • Killer Dana
  • Doheny State Park, 1953
  • North Shore, 1955
  • "Cat On A Hot Foam Board," 1959
  • El Gato
  • "Surfing Hollow Days"
  • Index


  • "Waves can't be the god of the sport; if they were, we would all live in Hawaii.  It has got to be getting out in it that counts -- surfing because you love to surf, and getting pumped full of life and whip and snap.  I used to ride junk waves all day long, training for the good moments.  You do this, and one day you are sitting out there all alone, waiting for a set, and someone will paddle up and ask how the surf is.  'Man,' you tell them, 'you should have been here an hour ago.'"

    "... it is the lunatic fringe that gives the main body its bad name.  One cannot surf all day and have enough strength left to plunder all night.  A little quiet necking, perhaps, but no rapine.  And, conversely, anyone who cannot conduct his life well cannot surf well.  No matter what, talent will rise to the top... In brief, the good guys went on surfing.  The bad guys decided, 'Jeez, what dedicated squares,' and left the game, which is fine.  We were all getting tired of looking at those Iron Crosses."

    "Everyone who surfs must one day go to Hawaii..."



    Phil Edwards was born on June 10, 1938, on the ocean side of Long Beach, California.  Even before the age of nine, he was floating around in the still water of Long Beach lagoons on a paddleboard.
     
     

    Family Move to Oceanside, 1947

    In 1947,  when he was nine, his family moved closer to Oceanside "and that did it," wrote Edwards. "There were no more still lagoons... But there was the restless, prowling ocean and the beach. And about the time we moved into our house I moved down to the beach.

    "There were three lifeguards who had fine rescue boards -- big, 14-foot things with two-inch skegs (fins) under them. There weren't all that many people who needed rescuing, and the guards had taken to paddling around on their boards, then swinging around and riding waves back in.

    "They didn't encourage me. But the sight of them set me on fire, as the sight of surfers did at Long Beach, and I went home and came back, dragging my paddleboard in a staggering, waving tail through the sand, my pride and joy, and I wrestled it into the water.

    "In the next few minutes a surfer was made, not born. I didn't know anything about surfing, but I could paddle that old board to beat hell. I went churning out into the surf, bouncing over the waves, until I could turn around and catch one. With the guards watching me (I suspect ready to come rescue me), I got the thing turned around and sat there until a fat, rolling wave tilted the back end of it up into the air. Then I jumped up and stood on it, scared to death and singing inside -- and rode the board all the way in to the beach. I was plugged in... Do not misunderstand.  I was not yet a surfer. I fought, and swam, I paddled, fell down, drowned a little, tipped over, got thrown off, drowned a little more, paddled and worked for another two years before I ever caught another wave."

    Phil Edwards' paddleboard surfing occurred at a time when he was battling rheumatic fever.  "Finally, the old paddleboard had to go," wrote Edwards. "I set it aside in the family garage, and got a new, 14-foot board with a small skeg on it... It was a monster; to get it to the beach, I would start from my house early and roll it end over end across the sand... Whenever there was a new lifeguard on duty, he would say, 'Hey, look at that little old kid trying to get his board into the water. I'll go over and give him a hand.' He could have picked the board up under one arm and walked into the water with it. But the other guards would say, 'No, you don't. That's Edwards -- I know that kid -- and if he wants to surf badly enough, he'll get his own damn board into the water or he won't surf.'

    "I wanted to badly enough.  And what's more, I was starting to catch waves."

    Phil Edwards recalled when he first saw a balsa/redwood board. "Two of the lifeguards turned up one day with new, balsa-wood boards, laminated with redwood. We spent a lot of time just standing around looking at them. They were works of art. A surfboard is free-form sculpture, anyway, as you know. Its very form flows fluidly. These boards were 12-footers and each weighed about 85 pounds. Heavy, but about 25 pounds lighter than the others.

    "Those boards became all. I was allowed to try them out... Finally, after I could stand it no longer -- and I could get the money -- I bought one of my own. It cost me $15; it was 11 feet long, it was my first solid board... the boards had no rocker effect. They were straight... no lift on the nose."
     
     

    Shaping Begun in 1951

    In 1951, Phil Edwards was all of 13 years old, and already shaping his own boards. "Give a small surfer a solid board that is too big for him, hand him a saw and a drawknife, and -- zap! -- you've got another surfboard designer," Edwards later wrote, adding, "The idea is to come up with the correct shape and still keep all your fingers and toes."

    The first thing Edwards had attempted with an 11-foot redwood and balsa wood board he bought was to try it out. He didn't like its tendency to pearl. So, "Second thing I did with my 11-foot board was to saw it down to 9 feet," recalled Edwards. "I put a point of sorts on the tip of it. Then I sat down on the Oceanside beach, put it across my lap -- and we spent the winter that way, the board and I.

    "Each day, before and after school, I struggled over that board, pulling a drawknife toward me, shaving it down, while everybody groaned and looked the other way. A drawknife is a dandy tool for disemboweling yourself -- sort of instant hara-kiri -- but we both survived.

    "Several months and 35 pounds of shavings later, I had it: a whole new shape, finely tapered toward the nose and tail, a mean-looking board I could ride. The thing just lay there and glistened: It carried nine coats of 87 Spar Varnish and a shape called Early Edwards. It was still too heavy -- I could lean it against the lifeguard tower and know that the wind wouldn't blow it over -- but it was ready.

    "Not that the Model A Edwards No. 1 was perfect. In fact, the thing still dived to the bottom, taking me with it, and it still shot into the air in a fine, knifelike deadliness. And, worse, it introduced a new problem.

    "Working in early-balsa meant that nose blocks on the boards were deeply doweled and glued into place. Which was fine, if you intended to use the board for a coffee table or something non-combative like that. It was decidedly not fine for surfing.

    "The boards would pearl to the bottom, slam into the sand, and come up without noses. In those early years in California on a clear day you could hear surfboard noses snapping off all up and down the coast. Which meant that every day of surfing was followed by a long afternoon and evening of re-doweling and re-gluing nose pieces -- so that we could surf the next day. So that we could re-glue the next night, so we could surf the next day, you know?

    "Still, balsa had its advantages," admitted Edwards. "The wood is nicely soft, and after weeks of paddling the board, the deck conformed into fine, molded kneeholes which made it comfortable.

    "The Crisis-Every-Day life -- I hated it at the time -- taught me a number of things. Most importantly, it taught me how to use tools, and, in its own way, it taught me how to surf.

    "I have a theory about this... It is, simply stated: If you start from scratch, cut down a tree, design, carve, shape and build a surfboard; by the time you are done with it, you will know how to ride it."

    The young gremmie got known for his efforts on his own board. As Edwards tells it, "word began to get around. Edwards is hooked on surfboards. If your board is too big -- take it over to Edwards' garage. He'll fix it. Fix it: I probably screwed up more surfboards in those early days than anybody else. Our garage became a graveyard of old surfboard noses, kids kept coming around and I kept working over their boards; they were happy and I was learning more about the game. And I kept going back to my own, hacked-off board and looking at the thing. It wasn't right, somehow.

    "So I made a balsa-wood sandwich out of it. That is: I glued more wood on top of the nose and reshaped the whole thing. It began to have lift.

    "Meanwhile, back in the surf, we had spread out as far afield as San Onofre and Huntington Cliffs."

    A momentous day came when Phil Edwards discovered the curl of a wave. "One day -- by accident -- I got caught in a curl," Edwards wrote. "There should be a certain amount of tympani and crashing background music here because, in a way, this is what surfing is all about... I was scared to death. Here, the whole object of surfing was to stand nicely erect and make it all the way into the beach. And here I was, crouched in some crazy, unconventional posture on this rebuilt board, flying along while the wave broke across my back and shoulders, in a sort of delicate, hanging balance between two worlds.

    "Understand, we knew nothing of trimming boards. That is, you stood on the board where you got up, or occasionally moved to the fantail to get the nose up. Anything else was nonsense. Still, in the curl, I had automatically trimmed the board into the wave until it was zinging along on the rail -- and dropped into a crouch, not in any premonition of style but to keep on top of the thing as long as I could.

    "Surfing history had just come full circle. That is, the Hawaiians had discovered and done this sort of thing more than a thousand years ago; they had done it better and in bigger surf. But none of the Hawaiians had left written instructions on how all this was to be done. We had just rediscovered it ourselves."

    The event changed Edwards' life and was soon to elevate him in surfing circles as a young surf stylist to watch. "A couple of minutes in the curl changed my life," agreed Edwards. "I spent the next few days trying to beat the break."
     
     

    "Sylvester The Cat" Board

    Edwards knew his Model A board was too limited. So, he painted the family kitchen and clunked-down $30, buying a Joe Quigg balsa board from Bev Morgan. Quigg built this board in 1950. It was an ultra light 8-foot long board that first went to Greg Noll, who was still a paperboy at that time. Noll had put a drawing of the then-popular cartoon character Sylvester the Cat on the nose of the board. Noll later traded this board to Bev Morgan.   With this same board, Edwards received "one quick" surf "lesson that was to make everything fall into place.

    "'Your stance,' growled Morgan, 'is all wrong. Now. Let me see you stand here the way you do when you're surfing.' So I did," retold Edwards, "striking my very best surfing pose. Morgan put the flat of his hand against my chest and pushed me over. 'Now, then,' he said, 'get up and stand like you're about to box me. Take a fighting stance.'

    "I did... and Morgan pushed me again. I didn't fall down. 'See?' he said. 'It's as easy as that.'

    "The Quigg board was all balsa covered with fiberglass and had a skeg. It was called a chip. That's too technical. Actually, it was called a Catboard. It had a picture of Sylvester the Cat on it.

    "The Catboard and I covered California. My seventh-grade teacher, Jim Trueax, was an after-hours surfer, and he began taking us on trips up and down the coast. We ranged as far as 100 miles -- north to Malibu..."

    Edwards practiced Hanging Ten and, although he rather egotistically and erroneously gives himself credit as "the guy who invented angling off a wave," it's true he popularized the maneuver when many surfers were still riding straight into the beach. "And for a long time, until they tried it themselves, the old surfers would look at this in scorn and say, 'Edwards, you're supposed to ride the wave straight in. What are you, a chicken?'"

    Occasionally, he would be noticed even at age 13-going-on-14. "Were they impressed?" Edwards rhetorically asked about older surfers viewing him on his Quigg Sylvester the Cat board. "They were impressed with the fact that I was completely nuts," Edwards added. Yet, Edwards wanted to be good and recognized as such. He noticed, "more and more, other kids and a few grownups would stand around and watch. And, naturally, they would point out that one surfer was better than another. I was puzzled by the whole thing. But it was the ruin of me. I wanted to be the guy pointed out as the best. The seed of ego had been planted. I wasn't the best. Not by anybody's standards.

    "But I sure as hell wanted to be."

    By summer 1951, Phil Edwards was, as Nat Young put it, "chasing surf all over the Californian coast, from Rincon in the north, where he had to wear a woolen neck-to-knee to keep out the cold during winter, to Malibu and his home breaks of Oceanside and San Onofre during summer."

    Edwards would, later in the decade, help usher in "the more functional style of surfboard riding with smoother, more graceful movements."
     
     

    Killer Dana

    "The crash of big water makes a barrier every surfer must get over," wrote Phil Edwards. "It makes its awful sound inside your stomach; you hear it, not with your ears but with everything, it just comes pounding into you.

    "Every finished surfer must go through this... It is part of the thing; surfing has its scary moments, stirred in with its moments of giant elation. In a way, that's what it is all about.

    "Surfing, when the water is right, is not all that tough. But it can be full of surprises... At Oceanside... I can remember riding along on days when the surf suddenly came up strong and the sea began to take on big, mean, savage proportions.  Instead of riding in -- knowing it meant a wipeout -- I would swing around and paddle out, beyond the crashing surf line, and sit there, waiting for calm. Often, it would never come.

    "I would cry. I would sit there, half-frozen with fear, and stare back into shore where the waves were humped up with foam hissing along their tops. And after a while one of the lifeguards would notice me. He would slip on swim fins, plunge into the surf and swim out to get me. This is one of the tough parts of being a kid -- being rescued on your own beach, in your own surf... by 1953 I was over the Oceanside barrier.

    "There were others... we liked San Onofre, too. And slowly we got better. It was -- though we didn't know it -- a buildup for Killer Dana."

    "During a big swell in the summer of 1953, when everyone in the area was out at Salt Creek, Edwards and a local surfer named Key Hole impressed people on the beach," wrote Nat Young. "As the swell grew in size, some of the crew, including Edwards, went down to Dana Point. This was Phil Edwards' first attack on Killer Dana. Jim 'Burrhead' Drever took Edwards out with him and kept an eye on him. As the story goes, they took off on a wave together. Burrhead yelled, "Head for the green!" when Edwards cut back toward the curl. Edwards "just cut back, flipped another turn, ran to the nose, and caught up with the astonished Burrhead," wrote Nat Young, for whom Phil Edwards was a hero. "The word soon spread and Phil Edwards was the new standard to judge by."

    "The old-timers," explained Edwards, "men of considerable kidney riding their monster, heavy, fat boards, were convinced the lightweight balsa boards would never make the big surf.

    "'That stuff,' they would say, 'will chew you up and spit you out. It'll kill you, that's what it will do.'

    "At first I thought maybe they were right about it. The waves come fast into Dana Point," wrote Edwards of a classic break that exists no more, "piling high; they hit the beach and come surging back out again, creating a reverse riptide effect. The first time I tried it -- on Sylvester -- it killed me... Next time, I remembered the part about flexing my legs; riding the wave straight down, then turning and driving its knifelike rail into the wave. And suddenly we were able to do anything we wanted. But Dana's biggest test was yet to come."

    Although Dana Point bit the dust when the Army Corps of Engineers built the Dana Point harbor, it used to be a primo spot where big waves could be had. "Any time the surf breaks about 15 feet along California it is a killer surf," continued Edwards. "At Dana Point... when it came up that high, crowds of people from Dana Point and Capistrano Beach would come down. The word gets around on a sort of magic telegraph at such times, and they would line the high, rocky shoreline and watch it.

    "And the pioneer, big-board surfers, the bold men of those years, would ride it. 'They're riding Killer Dana,' everyone would shout, and people would close their stores or run out of their houses to come down and watch. Surfers were crazy, they all knew. But they put on a hell of a show.

    "And, suddenly, there I was, in the 15-foot surf of Killer Dana, too young to ride it and too old to cry any more. Around me, the old-timers were paddling into it, swinging around and riding it straight down and then straight in. Occasionally a board would pearl high into the air, spinning end over end, drops of water flying off the thing, and a sort of sigh would come up from the people lining the cliffs.

    "In moments like these you know there is a surfer -- another human -- encapsuled somewhere inside that savagely curling wave, someone being spun around inside a world that is neither sea nor air, and you wait in an agony for him to show up somewhere. It is a natural tendency to hold your breath in such instances, watching this. You stand there involuntarily not breathing, with your lungs bursting and your eyes sweeping the stretch of water, looking for some sign of life. Often the lost board will hiss along on its own, kicking up fine mists of spray and drive itself into the beach. Or -- at Dana Point -- it could smash dizzily into the rocks on the left side of the cove and snap in half -- a sight that makes you wince automatically because you know that somewhere being hammered along by that same powerful force is a person.

    "The impact of surfing on big water is a thing you have to see to feel. In most surfing movies the sheer fright of it is often lost -- because the film will show someone being hurtled off a board and then cut away or dissolve to another scene just as the force of the idea hits you..."

    "On the day of Killer Dana," Phil Edwards continued, "swimming up the cresting waves and looking into the comb of water hissing along the top, I was aware of all these things. Still, a special kind of mood sets in -- a feeling which forms like a knot on the inside of your stomach.  In your mind's eye you know how the scene must look from the beach. A small figure scratching up the side of a towering wave, making it to the top and going over the other side, paddling for the next one. And suddenly, an insulated, quiet confidence begins to form inside. You know you can do it.  It is as if you were, momentarily, standing outside yourself, watching all this, critically, unemotionally, and feeling, vicariously, the terrible, tensed stoked feeling building up in the surfer.

    "... in the one moment I looked over my shoulder at the humping-up sea and swung the board around shoreward I knew I was going to catch a 15-foot wave. The rest of it is engraved into my mind like electroplating... it is an unavoidable fact of surfing that the odds are very much against your beating the wave if you take it straight in. Beat it to the bottom, yes, and then you can sail along briefly with the wave behind you.  But at the bottom you have lost most of your momentum and the wave hasn't...

    "Halfway down I knew what I had to do. I stepped one foot back and came into the bottom of the wave in a boxing stance; then I threw all my weight backward and did a drop-knee turn. Sylvester and I swung sharply in the direction the wave was breaking and the rail dug in -- and suddenly we were running parallel. I dug the rail in even further and started back up the wave and the people on the beach groaned in unison.

    "We went all the way back up to the top in this position, where the curl was coming over... I cut back again, started down again... Suddenly, I was able to cut back and forth along the face of that wave, working it toward the beach -- while the old-timers were taking them straight in."
     
     

    Doheny State Park, 1953

    That summer of 1953, "Phil was staying in Doheny State Park," explained Nat Young, "surfing Onofre and the surrounding areas, and amazing everyone with his casual footwork. Phil rode with a style that allowed him to strike a pose beyond the necessities of balance, and turned surfing into an art form."

    "I was so broke you wouldn't believe it," recalled Edwards of his days at Doheny State Park. "The forest rangers sort of looked the other way and it was a special time for a kid. By day we surfed; by night -- after everyone had left and gone home -- I would have the park all to myself and wander through it, through an aisle of still-smoldering campfires and half-eaten hot dogs. And I had this girlfriend who would come down on her horse and we would sit there together on the beach and stare out into the black Pacific and dream about the time when we would all be rich and famous... By night -- and by day -- I collected pop bottles and sold them back to stores for two cents each... Still, the rangers had certain rules -- and when I opened a surfboard re-shaping emporium in the park, they had to draw the line. They chased me out. Not all the way out -- but I moved the business under the bridge, where I set up boxes and reshaped boards under there and glued noses back on... and through it all made enough money to get by."
     
     

    North Shore, 1955

    Meanwhile, out on the Hawaiian Islands...

    "In 1955 the North Shore was semi-pristine," wrote Fred Van Dyke, who had moved there from Santa Cruz. "Try to imagine having the North Shore practically to yourself. It wasn't always scary stuff. There were hot, offshore winds, five to ten foot surf days at Haleiwa where only Henry Preece, a local surfer, Buffalo Keaulana, Pat Curren, two or three locals and I rode wave after was alone...

    "At that time, many local families lived right on the beach at Haleiwa, now known as the Surf Center; then called 'Alii Beach' (for the noble class of the Hawaiian monarchy). It was a definitely slowed down and relaxing place to camp and surf.

    "We stole pineapples from the fields to make an alcoholic beverage called Swipe which knocked you out; speared fish, and shared a lot of 'Primo' beer along with great guitar music. I'll never forget watching Swipe being made and my friend Buffalo spitting into it, saying that made it ferment more quickly.

    "There were three or four wooden framed shacks covered with tarps. It kept the rain out, but not the mosquitos. Our time passed as intended, having fun."

    In this environment of a still-quiet North Shore, 15-year-old Phil Edwards made his first trip to Hawai‘i in 1955, focusing on both Makaha and the North Shore.

    "'Three weeks,' said my mother, who knew my every mood and could read the glint in my eyes from a block away. 'If you're not back in three weeks, I come and get you.' And she meant it.

    "I took the plane," Edwards recalled. "None of that routine with the nut-brown, doe-eyed girls waiting there at the airport, gently swaying their bronzed hips to steel guitars and hanging orchid leis around everyone's neck.

    "'How do you find Makaha?' I asked.

    "They know a loser when they see one. I sure as hell did not look like a Shriner. No lei. One of them jerked a thumb.

    "'Other side of the island,' she said."

    "In the Islands," wrote Chris Aherns in Good Things Love Water, Edwards "happened upon a surfer headed for Makaha, and begged a ride from the man whom he recognized as Pat Curren. The man didn't recognize the kid, but agreed to take him along with him. As they drove, Curren was silent, never initiating conversation, and speaking only to answer Phil's many questions with a simple yes or no."

    Curren dropped Edwards off at Makaha, where the he surfed with some of the locals in small waves that grew to head high. Late in the day, "a beaten up '36 Ford rolled up with a large stocky man at the wheel, and a passenger hanging half way outside of the car window.

    "Makaha was a tightly knit community in those days where everyone knew each other. The sight of any haole, especially a young boy with a surfboard and a suitcase, was so unusual that the men had to pull over to check it out... Phil recognized that it was his old friend, Walter Hoffman. The other man, who was built like a wild animal, was named Buzzy Trent. The boy had heard the lifeguards from home say that he was one of the best big-wave riders in Hawaii, a man who had pioneered big surf at Makaha and on the North Shore.

    "Once he realized the boy's homeless situation, Hoffman picked up the suitcase and threw it into the car. Trent helped the kid put the board into the trunk. On the way home, Trent spoke excitedly about a new swell that was about to hit the island. Then, without warning, Hoffman pulled over to the side of the road and asked the kid to sit in the driver's seat. 'Do you know how to drive?' he asked.

    "'No,' said Phil.

    "'Well, it's easy,' said Hoffman, as he illustrated the use of the clutch, gears and brakes... after a few near misses with palm trees and houses, he knew enough to become a surfer's chauffeur. He was directed down old dirt roads and up dead-end streets, and then up a winding road, and up over an overgrown path until they arrived at an abandoned army installation, an old semi-cylindrical metal shelter...

    "The land near the shelter was completely wild and overgrown. Nailed up near the door were the dried fins of big fish that had been speared and eaten by the men, and cooked over the much-used rock pit near the door. Inside, the place was sparse but roomy. Walter introduced the kid to another man, Leslie Williams.

    "That night after a dinner of fish which Buzzy had speared, rice, and sweet pineapples stolen from the fields, the kid lay on an old army cot thinking, 'In one day I went from having nothing, to having a great place to stay with some great guys.' He went to sleep smiling.

    "The next morning he awoke early with a warm wind that came through the mountains, and whistled through the gaps in the tin roof... The crew were soon up too, and Buzzy spoke in a staccato voice, wringing his hands and saying, 'Maybe Sunset today. Maybe Sunset today.'"
     
     

    "Cat On A Hot Foam Board," 1959

    Phil Edwards once called Bud Browne "the Matthew Jack Brady of surf photography." By the late 1950s, Bud's surf films were focusing on the best surfers in the world -- those surfers recognized by their peers as being such. By 1959, Edwards was easily within this pool of surfers. Surfing's first commercial filmmaker decided to make a film with Edwards as the centerpiece, highlighting the emergence of the foam and fiberglass surfboard on the scene. He called the film Cat On A Hot Foam Board.

    The "cat" recalled the making of Bud's 1959 production: "he had been shooting movie film all up and down the West Coast.  And Browne -- like others -- was beginning to get hooked on this surfing-ability kick that would make the movies something different from what they had been up until that time.

    "Browne planned an epic to be called Cat on a Hot Foam Board... which was to be the first surf movie whose theme bent around surfing ability.

    "By epic, I mean I was actually to get paid for it. My fee: plane fare to Hawaii.  (Later, when the movie was exhibited on the great high school tour -- a pubescent Minsky's Circuit for the underground movies of that day -- I was to collect a little more money from it. Nothing wildly profitable; Browne was kind enough to give me some of the action in a couple of small towns where he showed the film.)

    "Still, I was poised for a first starring role in a movie, with Dewey Weber, another surfer, which began to indicate that a life devoted to surfing was not exactly a misspent youth. Remember, youth spent in pool halls can only make a hustler of you. There is no way to hustle anyone on a surfboard. I add that little comment as the underlying moral of this book. You may quote me.

    "Hot Foam Surfboard under my arm -- everything I owned in a small suitcase -- I headed for Hawaii. But not by plane.

    "I pocketed the money Browne had given me and signed on as a crewman aboard an 83-foot sloop that was to be delivered to Hawaii...

    "Seventeen days after we had left California, I met Bud Browne on the dock, surfboard still intact, ready for the movie.

    "It turned out to be a good one..."

    "In the Fall of 1958," Bud recalled, "I met with Hobie [Alter] and some others at Hobie's shop and talked about filmmaking and different surfers. From that meeting came the idea of Phil Edwards, L.J. Richards, Hevs McClelland and I spending a month in Hawai`i doing a movie.

    "I went over first, bought an old blue Buick for $50.00 and for $90.00 rented a house close to Sunset Beach. Hevs and L.J. arrived later and Phil came over on a sailboat. Dewey Weber was there too.

    "Each morning we'd go out looking for good surf. Phil and L.J. surfed and I filmed. Hevs surfed some, but he had a natural comic talent and he appeared in humorous sequences in several of my films.  That's about it, it just happened."

    "When Bud Browne made a movie," wrote a later surf champ, Mike Doyle, "instead of just showing a whole bunch of guys out surfing, he would pick a couple of surfers he thought were hot, and he'd build the whole movie around them. It made a nice story, with real characters that people could relate to. And instead of just showing all surf shots, Bud liked to record the day-to-day lives of surfers living on the North Shore -- the house, the cars, going to town for groceries, and so on. One time he took a group of us up to Waimea Falls, where he filmed us jumping from the cliffs to the water eighty feet below; [and at the Pali] we'd lean off the cliff and let the wind blow us back. And another time he filmed us sacrificing old cars and old surfboards to the surf gods, a ritual surfers still practice."
     
     

    El Gato

    After Cat On A Hot Foam Board and time spent going to college, Phil Edwards went to Joe Quigg for a job.

    "When I got hungry again... I went to Joe Quigg, who had a surfboard shop in Newport Beach, and who was one of the fathers of the lightweight board. But more, Quigg also knew about boat-building, its technical and historical aspects.  He was somebody special.

    "... I moved into the loft of his shop," wrote Edwards, repeating a pattern he had begun working with Hobie.

    "Quigg made a boat that taught me a great deal," continued Edwards, writing in 1967. "Further, he influenced all my present feelings about surfboards as well. As a bonus, I was making enough money to live on, say $25 a day -- working only a couple of days a week and surfing and standing around looking at boats the rest of the time."

    "El Gato was born in 1960 and 1961... It was so knifelike, so poised, sleek and deadly you wouldn't believe it: 20 feet long.

    "El Gato was the forerunner of the Challenge (C) class and two years in a row it finished fourth in the Encinada race -- against other boats up to 80 feet. But the results were all unofficial. The committee always legislated it officially out of the race. Nonetheless, class-less or not, El Gato really flew."

    The year the catamaran came in fourth in a sea of 500, Edwards crewed with a group that included the vessel's owner, surfboard maker Don Hansen, Wayne Shafer, George Draper, Paul Allen and Edward's future wife Heidi.
     
     

    "Surfing Hollow Days"

    "While all this was going on," wrote Edwards of his El Gato participation, "... came the big turning point in my professional life.

    "On one of the Gato trips, filmmaker Bruce Brown turned up in Acapulco, cameras loaded -- and I signed on to surf for him...

    "On the trail of Surfing Hollow Days, we went first to Hawaii and the action on the giant water; then to Australia and Tahiti and New Zealand and home by way of Hawaii revisited.

    "It was on this trip I encountered the Banzai Pipeline... the one episode that was to leave me forever pumped.

    "Hollow Days had the briefest sketching of a plot... It was the story of a surfing trip around the world... Brown later proved that nothing more complicated is needed when he turned out his fabulously successful The Endless Summer. Some plot with one twist:  a trip around the world in search of a perfect wave."

    "The key thing that Hollow Days did," continued Edwards, "was to give me -- for the first time -- some commercial value as a surfer. It cleared up a thing that I had been feeling slightly uneasy about -- that a life of surfing can't be all bad and that there may be some final payoff for those endless cold days as a kid, surfing while others played, being scrubbed off those endless waves, learning how to surf.

    "For one thing, I began to take on some promotional value to Hobie, who was still pioneering like mad and still leading the surfboard world in ideas. It was Hobie's idea to start producing a Phil Edwards signature model board -- designed to exact order, custom made unflexible flyers -- an idea now copied by every boardmaker in the world."

    "When Surfing Hollow Days was making the rounds," Edwards went on, "the effect of it began to come home to me. Other surfers had begun to say, 'Hi, Edwards,' when they saw me. And at first I would say, 'Who, me?' It takes a while to get used to that sort of thing.  I was being recognized.

    "And you learn... To wear a suit, a shirt and tie, shoes and socks... with a social grace. And a certain amount of impetus began to take hold of my life."
     
     



    Sources Used In This Chapter:

    Chris Ahrens, "Good Things Love Water" ~ Phil Edwards "You Should Have Been Here An Hour Ago..."  ~ Fred Van Dyke ~ Greg Noll ~ Malcolm Gault-Williams ~ Mike Doyle ~ Nat Young ~ SURFER magazine



    Related Resources




    Return to LEGENDARY SURFERS Homepage


    Surf Shop, Online Store and/or Donations

  • Booklets and eBooklets: LEGENDARY SURFERS eBooklets.
  • Legendary Surfers branded clothes: LEGENDARY SURFERS Gear.
  • Other LEGENDARY SURFERS stuff for sale: LEGENDARY SURFERS SurfShop.
  • To make a donation, please click the donation button:
  • To return to the homepage with contents list, go to: LEGENDARY SURFERS.
    Have stories to share? Corrections? Please email Malcolm at LEGENDARY SURFERS.
    Copyright © 1992-2006 by Malcolm Gault-Williams... Aloha Nui Loa!