A Definitive History of Surfing's Culture and Heroes
By Malcolm Gault-Williams
This Chapter Updated: 27 March 2008
Champion Surfer & Paddler of the 1960s
Contemporary Mike Doyle image courtesy of GoWithAPro
Aloha! And welcome to LEGENDARY SURFERS! In this chapter, we feature the legendary waterman, champion surfer, tandem rider, paddler and artist Mike Doyle. Much of the material in this chapter is drawn from Mike's own recollections of his past, as written with Steve Sorensen in his biography Morning Glass
Manhattan Beach Pier Beginnings
Mike Doyle started out in the Manhattan Beach / Long Beach area.
"One day in 1954, when I was thirteen," wrote Mike in his autobiography Morning Glass, "I was down at Manhattan Pier watching a guy ride a huge, old-fashioned paddle board -- what we used to call a 'kook box.' It was hollow, square-railed, made of mahogany, about fourteen feet long, maybe sixty-five pounds, and had no skeg (or fin). It was the kind of paddle board lifeguards used for rescues; they worked fine for that purpose, but for surfing they were unbelievably awkward. When the guy came out of the water, dragging the board behind him, I asked if I could borrow it for a while. He looked at me like, 'Get lost, kid.' But when he sat down on the beach, I pestered him until he finally shrugged and nodded toward the board."
"I'd watched enough surfing by then to have a pretty clear idea of the technique involved," Doyle continued. "I dragged the board into the water and flopped on top of it. After a while I managed to paddle the thing out beyond the shore break and get it turned around. To my surprise, after a few awkward tries, I managed to get that big clumsy thing going left on a three-foot wave. I came to my feet, right foot forward, just like riding a scooter. I had no way of turning the board -- paddle boards are so awkward even expert surfers can barely turn them -- but for a few brief seconds, I was gliding over the water.
"As the wave started
to break behind me, I looked back, then completely panicked. I hadn't
thought that far ahead yet! My first impulse was to bail out, so
I jumped out in front of the board, spread-eagled. That massive paddle
board hit me right between the legs. I washed up on the beach, dragged
myself onto dry sand, and lay there groaning. Within minutes my left
testicle had swelled up to the size of a grapefruit..."
Mike Doyle vs. The 22nd Street Gang
"The first time I ever saw somebody riding a surfboard was at the Manhattan Pier in 1953," wrote Mike Doyle, who was then age twelve. "As much time as I spent at the beach, you'd think I would have at least seen one surfer before then. But... like surfers today, they were out at dawn surfing the morning glass. By the time the crowds arrived, they were gone.
"But this one morning I took the first bus to the beach, walked out onto the Manhattan Pier, looked down, and saw these bronzed gods, all in incredibly good shape, happier and healthier than anybody I'd ever seen. They sat astride their boards, laughing with each other; at the first swell they swung their long boards around, dropped to their stomachs, and began paddling toward shore. From my viewpoint, it was almost as if I were on the board myself, paddling for the swell, sliding into the wave, coming to my feet, and angling the board down that long wall of green water. It was almost as if I already knew that feeling in my bones. From that day on, I knew that surfing was for me.
"There were several surfers out that day: Dale Velzy, George Kapu, and Greg Noll. Greg was just a kid then, about sixteen years old, but he was hot. On one wave he turned around backward on his board, showing off a bit for the people watching from the pier... Another surfer out that day was Bob Hogan. He was blond and stocky, with very tightly defined muscles. He was probably about twenty-five at that time, a lifeguard, a great paddler, and an all-around waterman. As I left the pier, I happened to look in the back of Bob Hogan's car -- a perfectly clean '46 Ford coupe -- and saw lying there on the back seat a trophy he'd won in a paddling contest. I just knew he had to be some kind of superhero to own this piece of glitter, and I ran back onto the pier and watched him some more, trying to analyze what it was that made him so good.
"... I used to stand out in the surf and wait until one of the surfers lost his board. The boards then were eleven feet long, twenty-four inches wide, and weighed fifty or sixty pounds. When they washed in broadside, they would hit me in the legs and knock me over. I would jump back up, scramble the board around, hop on, and paddle it ten feet before the owner snatched it back -- 'Thanks, kid' -- and paddled away."
Mike Doyle continued: "The South Bay surfers who were really ripping at that time -- guys like Dewey Weber, Henry Ford, Freddie Pfahler, Mike Zuetell, and Peff Eick -- had their own little clique, the 22nd Street Gang. They all lived in Manhattan or Hermosa Beach, and they all went to Mira Costa High. They hung out at the wall on 22nd Street, just north of the Hermosa Pier, which was the coolest place in Hermosa Beach, and where there were two or three great hamburger joints and the famous Green Store on the corner. They had their own style of talking and dressing. They wore faded jeans, blue T-shirts, bitchin' blue tennis shoes, and wore St. Christopher medals around their necks. Dewey Weber, who was a yo-yo champion, sometimes broke the gang's dress code by wearing his red Duncan Yo-Yo jacket; but other than that, they always looked like perfect clones of each other. And they did everything together. They surfed together every morning, and they drank together every night. All weekend long, they'd be standing there in front of the wall, talking about who got laid the night before, who got drunk, and who got put in jail. They'd be all hung over, with vomit stains on their pant cuffs and seaweed wrapped around their necks. They had their own little world and I wanted so badly to be part of it.
"But... When I
went down to the beach, the 22nd Street Gang called me a kook and a hodad.
I couldn't surf like they could, and even though they were only two or
three years older than I was, they were a lot more mature. I didn't
know anything about drinking and carousing, other than what I'd heard."
The Herb Dewey/Doc Ball Influence
It didn't take long before gremmie Mike Doyle started to branch out away from his home break:
"I had a good neighbor... Herb Dewey," recalled Doyle. "He was married, about thirty, with his first kid. Herb had picked up surfing in the army, over in Hawaii, at Waikiki. He had a big paddle board, and he used to take it down to Corona Jetty on the weekends. I told Herb there were surfers at Manhattan Pier, which was news to him... Herb got all stoked at the thought of having a surfing buddy, so when I bought my new surfboard, he bought a new board, too. Herb took me under his wing, and we went surfing together almost every weekend.
"One day in the summer, Herb and I stopped at the Velzy and Jacobs shop in Venice. We had been up and down the South Bay looking for surf... Velzy listened to us complain, then said, 'These are all winter breaks along here, fellas. You gotta go up to Malibu. That's a great ride in the summer. I just heard it's breaking six feet right now.'
"We thought Velzy was putting us on, but Herb and I drove up to Malibu anyway, and sure enough, Velzy was right: Malibu was breaking set after set of long, ruler-perfect waves. That was when I first realized that it wasn't enough just to know how to surf. You also had to understand the seasons, the weather, the swell direction, and the wind pattern. Surfing was more than just kicks in the water. In order to be any good at this, you had to understand how your home planet works.
"After that, Herb and I started surfing at Malibu every weekend... We would stop first in Culver City, at the old rail yard, and load up the back of Herb's '52 woody with railroad ties. As soon as we hit the beach, we'd start a big smoky bonfire that stank of creosote. There weren't many wetsuits in those days -- sometimes when the wind was blowing hard, we'd wear a little wool sweater out in the water, but that was all we had. So as soon as we got out of the water, we'd run right over by the fire to get warm. When the fire burned down some, we'd wrap potatoes in tin foil and toss them in the coals. By the time we remembered to pull them out, they were usually charred black, but we'd crack them open anyway and eat them with salt. After surfing all day, those potatoes were a feast."
"All through those... high school years," continued Doyle in Morning Glass, specifically 1953-54, "I had a recurring dream of waking up in the morning and seeing the ocean out my window. I craved being near the water, and all I ever thought about was escaping to the one place where I thought I could be free and happy.
"I tried to find as much literature as I could find about the ocean and surfing. There were no surf magazines in those days, but in the school library, in a copy of National Geographic, I found a photo of Waikiki, probably taken from an airplane or helicopter, showing a couple of surfers riding long, clean rollers. The water was so clear, you could see the coral bottom. The only beaches I had ever seen were the South Bay beaches, with sandy bottoms and murky water. But Waikiki looked so beautiful, it didn't seem to me like a place that could really exist. I kept trying to find the flaw in the photo, like it was some kind of trick. Every day for weeks, I went to the library to stare at that photo. I was in love with it, and I finally decided I just had to have it. So one day after school, I went to the library, found the copy of National Geographic, slipped it between two of my textbooks, and walked out with it. At home I hid it under my bed, and every day for two years, I would take it out and stare at that photo of Waikiki, planning for the day I would escape."
These were years before surf media of any kind. The few exceptions were Tom Blake's book, published in 1935, and the pictorial glossy of Doc Ball's, published in 1946.
"One of the older surfers down at Manhattan Pier told me about a book called California Surfriders by Doc Ball. It focused on surfing in the 1930s and '40s, in San Onofre, La Jolla, and Santa Cruz -- all places I'd never been before. I looked for the book at the school library and a couple of local libraries, without any luck. Then I told my mother about the book, and after a few phone calls, she learned that the Los Angeles County Library had a copy of it. She drove me to downtown Los Angeles so we could check it out.
"I took Doc Ball's book home and studied each picture for an hour at a time, scrutinizing each grain in the black-and-white photos, the way the water flowed over the board, the way the wave was breaking -- every detail -- until I could feelw what it was like trimming across a wall of water. I studied each of the surfers' styles, their hand movements, the way their feet were placed on the boards, and I came to understand that each surfer in that era -- Hoppy Swarts, LeRoy Grannis, Pete Peterson -- had his own individual style.
"I saw that the surfers in the book had a wonderful camaraderie that I didn't have in my own life. They were healthy and joyful, and they enjoyed being with each other. I could see a community spirit there that I wanted to be a part of.
"But more than anything else, I saw from Doc Ball's book that surfing is as much an art as it is a sport. Before I had developed any elements of my own style, I came to appreciate that surfing at its highest level isn't supposed to be a macho struggle to defeat the wave, it's a form of dancing, with the wave as your partner, almost like ballet.
"I was heartbroken
when that book finally had to go back to the library, already days overdue.
But my wonderful mother, seeing how enthralled I was with the book, somehow
managed to find out that Doc Ball was running the Life's Highway Ranch
for Boys, in Fort Seward, California. She wrote him a letter telling
him how much her son loved his book, and a few weeks later, Doc Ball himself
sent me a signed copy of California Surfriders.
I received that book in 1956, and it's still one
of the most precious things I own. Even today, every black-and-white
photo in that book is as beautiful to me as the first time I saw it."
The Velzy/Jacobs Ants/Totem Balsa Board
After a surfing accident causing a swollen testicle one of his first times out, a very young Mike Doyle went about to convince his mother that he needed not only to continue surfing, but a new board to do it with. "I knew I wasn't going to quit surfing," wrote Doyle in his autobiography Morning Glass. "I began pestering my mother for my own surfboard, arguing that if I'd had the right equipment in the first place, an accident like that never would have happened. I worked my mother every way that a kid knows how, trying to convince her how sorry she would be if I died and she never bought me the one thing I truly wanted. I can still hear her reply: 'Michael, it'll be just like everything else you get. You'll use it for a week, and then you'll never use it again.'
"My mother and I still get a laugh every now and then over those words. But I usually got what I wanted from my mother, and this time was no exception. The only problem now was that I didn't know anything at all about surfboards and had no idea what kind of board I should buy. So one day down at the pier, I asked one of the older surfers what I should get. 'Just go see Velzy and Jacobs,' he said. 'They'll fix you up.'
"Most surfers at that time were riding either hollow paddle boards (a wooden framework with a plywood shell), or solid redwood slabs, some of them twelve feet long and weighing more than a hundred and fifty pounds. The much lighter and much better balsa wood boards were just starting to appear. Dale Velzy and Hap Jacobs were making the only commercial balsa boards in California at that time... their shop [was] a little building in Venice, right under an oil derrick."
"The businessman in the partnership," continued Doyle, "was Jacobs, a soft-spoken man who had grown up around Hermosa Beach and had been a star basketball player at Redondo High. Velzy was the salesman. He had style, charisma, and a silver tongue. He wore a diamond ring on his little finger, always had a pocketful of cash, and always drove a brand-new car.
"Velzy was tending shop the day I walked in. Even though he had grown up on the beach... I thought he looked more like a cowboy than a surfer. He had a big cigar in his mouth, tattoos on his arms, and wore his hair slicked back...
"I explained to Velzy that I wanted to buy a new surfboard. He looked down at me, then asked, 'Where d'ya surf, kid?'
"'I haven't really surfed anywhere yet,' I said...
"Velzy just nodded. 'Don't worry about it. We'll make ya exactly whatcha need.' He looked me over for a minute, mentally calculating my height and weight. Then he drew up an order, took my deposit, and said, 'Be here first thing Friday morning.'
Later I learned how Velzy did business: Every Friday morning there would be thirty or forty custom-made surfboards waiting on the racks. But anybody who walked through the door with cash in hand could buy any board on the rack -- you just changed the name on the tag, handed Velzy the cash, and the board was yours. If you got there a little late, the board you ordered might already be sold.
"I was late picking up my first surfboard, so I'm pretty sure it wasn't the board I ordered. But I didn't know that then, and it wouldn't have mattered anyway. I handed Velzy my mother's $75, and Velzy handed me a board off the rack. 'Here, this one's perfect for ya, kid.'
"That first board was a 9' 6", and had sixty-four ants embedded into its surface coat of resin. It was what they called an 'island-style' board, with a small fin and a pointed nose. Actually, it would still be considered a fairly contemporary shape today, except that none of the boards in those days had any rocker (or curve) -- they were almost totally straight from nose to tail. You glued the balsa boards together, and they were only four inches thick to start with, so all the shaper could do was carve a small rocker."
Doyle, who would go on to become a world champion surfer, dinged his Velzy/Jacobs days later. "I had no idea how to fix it, so I called Velzy and asked him what to do. He said, 'No problem, kid. Stop by the shop, we'll sell you some fiberglass and resin, and you can patch it yourself.'
"... Later that summer, when the surf wasn't good, I started hanging around the Velzy and Jacobs shop in Venice. I became fascinated with the whole process of making surfboards, and I wanted to learn as much about it as I could. After a while Velzy got tired of seeing me standing around, so he handed me a broom and said, 'Here, you can see for yourself what a mess this place is. Why dont'cha clean it up!' So I started working there, sweeping the floor, running errands, and sanding boards. I didn't earn much, but I learned a lot. It was an apprenticeship that served me well over the years."
Mike Doyle's first board was bought around 1956.
"I talked my mom into buying my first board then," recalled Doyle, "a nine-foot, six-inch Velzy and Jacobs balsa board with thirty-two ants in the glass job. Velzy told me the ants wouldn't hurt anything and I believed him. I remember my mom's words: 'This board is probably just like everything else you want. You'll use it for a week and throw it away.'
"I showed her!
We still laugh about it. Mom painted a totem pole on that first board
and later I sold it to the real Gidget for fifteen bucks. At the
time, my father was in the Navy at Point Mugu. He drove past Malibu
every day -- a great deal for me! I became 'Malibu Mike' and was
at Malibu during the sixties, during the renaissance era of surfing, when
Dora, Gidget, the Beach
Boys and all the excitement of surfing was coming on strong.
In those days, when the Big South started pumping, every hot surfer on
the coast would come to Malibu, the true proving grounds."
The Waterman Tradition
In his autobiography, Doyle wrote of the period just before he first rode Malibu, when he wanted to be accepted by the South Bay surfers:
"By the time I was fifteen , I'd already accepted the old tradition of the watermen as my own, and I set about the long process of mastering each of the waterman's skills. The tradition of the waterman comes from Polynesia and is different from the tradition of the sailor. The waterman's skills include surfing, paddling, rowing, and rough-water swimMeng. He might also be skilled at diving, fishing, spear fishing, tandem surfing, lifeguarding, and handling outrigger canoes. But he isn't necessarily skilled at sailing or navigation. The difference is that a waterman focuses on the coastal waters, while the sailor's realm is the deep water. By reading about the early days of surfing, I learned that the watermen who came before me didn't just go to the dive shop or the surf shop and buy the latest thing on the rack. They designed their own boards, their own dive gear, and their own outrigger canoes. They were constantly thinking and experimenting with other watermen about ways to perfect their gear. Nobody knew then how a surfboard should be designed. The only way to find out what worked and what didn't was to try it."
Writing about what he sees, today, Doyle went on:
"But the waterman
tradition seems to be dying out with surfers today. A lot of younger
guys are focused only on surfing, and they want to be masters of the sport
before they've learned the fundamentals. There are some good surfers
today who can barely swim. And I don't see much respect for the previous
generations of surfers. When I was coming up, I didn't laugh
at the older surfers on their redwood planks, because it thrilled me to
think what they'd been able to accomplish on those old boards. They
could paddle way outside and catch waves that surfers today wouldn't even
try for. And instead of being stuck in one place on a wave, they
could drive through the flat parts and pick up a new section. What
a thrill it must have been to stand up on a big plank like that -- like
riding a Cadillac downhill. I'm sure those huge redwood boards were
as much fun as the little five-foot sticks that came into style in the
1980s and '90s. And to my way of thinking, the old style of surfing
was more beautiful and creative than all the slashing and tearing that
came along later. I realize that styles change, and that the slashing
style fits the contemporary state of mind. But I think that surfers
today are missing something really important when they don't try to learn
from the watermen of the Thirties and Forties."
There's a story Mike Doyle tells of this time in his life when he was nicknamed "Tiki Mike":
"A lot of the California surfers from the Forties had served in the military in Hawaii, where they'd learned about surfing and Hawaiian culture. When they came back to California, they painted girls on their surfboards, just like Duke Kahanamoku, the great Hawaiian master; they had luaus on the beach, and carved Hawaiian tikis for their bamboo huts. Their whole beach scene was set up just like it had been in Hawaii.”
“Subconsciously,” writer of surf culture and music Domenic Priore wrote about tikis, “soldiers returning to San Pedro from World War II’s Pacific Theatre brought tiki culture with them. Subversively, they introduced this provacative art to an American culture still dominated by Victorian and historically puritan values. The party had begun.”
Tiki is a westernization of the Hawaiian word ki`i, which meant: image, statue, picture, drawing, diagram, illustration, likeness, cartoon, idol, doll or petroglyph.
“The Polynesians revere them [tikis] to this day,” a 1994 BBC documentary Nomads of the Wind noted, “because they hold the spirits of their ancestors. The early voyagers carried tikis with them to sea – for protection and guidance in their new homes.”
“One visible example of the Tiki’s connection to surfing still exists,” wrote Priore. “Though the surf is mild and its carved images are restored by artists, there are about 20 Ki`i (Tikis) on the palace grounds at Pu`uhoua O Haonanau (The Place Of Refuge), including two in the water. It’s been saved as a National Historic Park, and in late June they hold a traditional feast. These Heiau remain as the link between the surfing sacrament of the ancients and the benedictions laid to Tiki at the behest of the hemispherically serene California surf cat. Dig…”
"Because I was landlocked,” Mike Doyle continued in telling his own story of Tiki Mike, “I had to work hard at creating my own surf scene out in Westchester. Though I'd never been to Hawai`i, I'd seen pictures of the tikis, the Polynesian wood carvings that represented ancient gods, and I got caught up in the symbolism and magic of these tikis. Because I was lonely, vulnerable, and in many ways miserable, I figured I needed the magic of the tikis as much as the Hawaiians did. I took two periods of wood shop, the only class except art that I really enjoyed in high school, and spent most of my time carving wooden tikis. I started wearing them on leather thongs around my neck, like magic talismans, to ward off... [people who were] making my life difficult. I talked my mother into painting a beautiful full-length totem pole on my surfboard. And one day I dragged an old telephone pole back to my house and started carving it into a big totem; when it was finished, I mounted it in our front yard.
"Deep down I suppose I hoped my tikis would win me some respect from the 22nd Street Gang, the group of guys I most wanted to be a part of. I thought the tikis would identify me as a true and devoted surfer who was spiritually in tune with the Hawai`ian gods. But the first time I wore my tikis to Manhattan Beach, Dewey Weber, Mike Zuetell, and all the other bitchin' guys humiliated me. One of them grabbed the tiki around my neck, took a hard look at it, then flung it back at me. 'Jesus, Mike, that's really hokey. Did your mother buy that for you?'
"'No,' I said. 'I carved it myself.'
"From then on
I was 'Tiki Mike,' the laughingstock of the South Bay."
Rising Up The Ranks at Malibu
Doyle rose through the ranks at Malibu. As evidence of this, Doyle tells an interesting story of a point where he realized his progression and to some extent, the end of his innocense:
"I stopped by the Velzy and Jacobs shop in Venice to order a new board," wrote Doyle. "Watching Phil Edwards had changed my thinking about what kind of equipment I needed, and besides, I'd outgrown my old board. (I was seventeen, but all of a sudden I was six feet tall and still growing.) I told Dale Velzy and Hap Jacobs exactly what kind of board I wanted, and they listened patiently. Then I asked them how much a board like that would cost.
"Hap Jacobs put his arm around me and said, 'Well, Mike, I'll tell you what. We'll make you whatever kind of board you want, and it'll be from the best balsa we got. But we aren't gonna sell it to you. We're gonna own it. You can ride it all you want. When you decide it's time for a new board, you bring it back to us, and we'll make you another one.'
"I didn't get it at all. 'Why would you do that?' I asked.
"'Just trust us, Mike. This is something Dale and I want to do for you.'
"I still didn't get it. 'That's great! But why?'
"'Mike,' Velzy said, 'the way we hear it, you're getting to be one of the hottest young riders at Malibu these days. We just like to see the best surfers riding our boards.'
"I went home ecstatic that night and told my mother I'd won a free surfboard for being such a good surfer. I thought it was like winning a trophy in a contest.
"You might say that was the end of my innocence. For the next fifteen years, I didn't pay for another piece of surfing equipment and rarely paid for a plane ticket."
Another incident helped drive the point home to Doyle:
"I didn't surf at Manhattan or Hermosa Beach much anymore," admitted Doyle. "There were so many better places to surf, and besides, I had bad memories of the place." Doyle referred to being hassled, when he was younger, by the locals who surfed there. The 22nd Street Gang had put him down on many occasions and even made fun of his embracing Polynesian culture by calling him "Tiki Mike," after the tiki he wore. "And except for Dewey Weber," Doyle continued, "the 22nd Street Gang didn't make it up to n much. We never saw them at Swami's, Rincon, or San Onofre, either. They were all talented surfers, but they were afraid to leave their home turf, where they were unchallenged.
"But then one day, maybe as an effort to break out of their rut, the whole 22nd Street Gang showed up at Malibu. I could see how nervous they were. Maybe they were afraid they would be treated as badly as they had treated outsiders on their home turf. They just sat on the beach for a while and watched the Malibu regulars surf.
"I knew they were watching, so I showed off a bit. When I came out of the water, Henry Ford, who had always been their ringleader and mouthpiece, walked over to me and said, 'Are you Tiki Mike, the guy who we used to see down at Hermosa Beach?'
"I laughed -- nobody had called me Tiki Mike in years. I'd grown at least a foot and gained fifty pounds since the days when they'd made my life so miserable. I didn't look so gangly anymore (some girls were even starting to give the impression they thought I was attractive), and I had the self-confidence of somebody who had found his own place in the world. I said, 'Yeah, I'm Tiki Mike.'
"Henry got a pained look on his face, then said, 'Jesus, how'd you get to be so good?'
"I could see now
how their tight little clique had retarded their growth. By being
so cruel to me, they'd forced me to go out on my own -- they'd shoved me
into evolution. 'I don't know, Henry,' I said. 'I've been working
on it, I guess.'"
"In 1959," Doyle wrote, switching the subject to transportation, "my senior year in high school, my buddy Mike Majek and I started a business shaping balsa wood surfboards in my garage. Our major investment was a power planer. Foam surfboards had just started to come on the market, but their advantages hadn't been fully recognized yet. In fact, some surfers called foam boards 'speedo sponges' or 'flexi-fliers.' So Majek and I stuck with shaping balsa boards. Beginning with a balsa blank, we would plane and sand each board into the shape we wanted, then coat it with fiberglass and resin. We shaped about 150 boards that year and sold them all, which put a little spending money in our pockets and gave us some independence.
"One weekend, after Majek and I had each saved up a few hundred dollars, we flew up to San Francisco, then took a cab down to Burlingame, just south of the airport. There was a huge storage yard there filled with used ambulances and hearses: big beautiful Cadillacs with powerful V-8 engines and heavyweight suspensions. The mortuaries would buy new cars every year or so, no matter what condition the old ones were in; the cars had been well serviced, and hardly any of them had more than 15,000 miles, since they only went from the mortuary to the graveyard and back. There was almost no market for these cars -- who wanted to own a used death-mobile? -- but they made perfect surf wagons. So for $400 I bought a beautiful 1958 Cadillac with braided curtains and a burgundy velvet interior -- a beautiful piece of metal and chrome. I remember the interior smelled like dried flower petals.
"Majek bought himself a Cadillac ambulance, and together we cruised down the Coast Highway, through Santa Cruz and Big Sur, in our plush wagons with their big engines purring. We were only eighteen and had our own Cadillacs.
"As soon as we got home, I had my hearse painted canary yellow, and Mike had his ambulance painted fire-engine red. We liked to cruise side by side down Manchester Boulevard, in Inglewood, Majek in his ambulance and me in my hearse, while all the other cruisers in their lowered La Bamba '54 Oldsmobiles gave us angry stares. What thrilled us most of all, I think, was that we were thumbing our noses at the stifling Fifties mentality and getting away with it. We didn't have to act like square football jocks, and we didn't have to dress like tough cholos anymore. We had our own style now. The creative freedom and exhilaration we'd found in surfing was affecting our whole lives.
"I loved taking
my hearse to the beach. I carried my surfboards and wetsuits on the
chrome coffin rack, so when I pushed a button, the whole rack would come
sliding out. In midday I could climb in the back of the hearse to
get out of the sun, and I slept in it when we went overnight to Rincon
or Swami's. The only bad thing about that car was going to pick up
a girl for a date. One look at my bed on wheels, and no girl's father
would ever let his daughter see me again. So I learned after a while
to park around the corner."
The Aspiring Surf Bum
"As my senior year in high school drew to a close," Mike Doyle wrote, "I had no thought of going to college. My mother didn't encourage me to go -- nobody in her family had ever gone. I was just waiting for high school to end so I could go to Hawaii.
"On the last day of high school, in June 1959, everybody in my English class had to stand up and talk about what he or she planned to do with the rest of his or her life. One guy described how his dad was going to get him a job selling life insurance. One girl said she was going to marry her boyfriend, the same guy she'd been going with since the ninth grade. Another guy was going to join the army and learn about radio repair.
"The teacher, Mrs. Tregeagle, was probably congratulating herself on how she'd helped these fine young people achieve adulthood. Meanwhile, all the other kids were listening nervously, trying to come up with stories good enough to outdo their classmates.
"I was sitting in the back of the class, trying to keep a low profile. But Mrs. Tregeagle eventually called on me. I walked to the front of the class, looked at my classmates, then at the teacher, and said, 'I'm gonna live on the beach at Malibu, and I'm gonna surf every day.'
"Mrs. Tregeagle was not pleased. 'Now, Michael, you know you can't make a living surfing.'
"'Well, I've thought about that,' I said. 'I'll collect Coke bottles.'
"The whole class started giggling, not sure if I was serious. Mrs. Tregeagle gave me her most severe look.
"'There's two guys down there doing it right now!' I said. 'Tubesteak and Harry Stonelake. They work at it every day, and they get just enough money to eat. It's perfect!'
"The other kids were really having fun now, watching me make a fool out of myself.
"Mrs. Tregeagle got up from her desk, walked over to my side, grabbed me by the arm, and dragged me out of the classroom and into the hall. She was furious. 'What do you think you're doing, trying to disrupt my class like that?'
"I said, 'I didn't do that to disrupt your class. That's really what I'm going to do.'
looked me directly in the eye and slowly began to realize that I really
was serious. She let go of my arm, stepped back, and shook her head
with disgust. 'You poor, poor boy,' she said."
1st Trip to the North Shore
"When that summer came to an end," Mike Doyle told Steve Sorensen, "I'd saved enough money to make my trip to Hawaii. Buzzy Trent, Ricky Grigg, and a few other California surfers had a place on the North Shore they rented every winter. They told me that if I flew to Honolulu, they would pick me up at the airport and let me stay at their place until I could get a place of my own. My plan was to spend all winter, and I was starting to get really excited about it. But at the same time, there was something scary about knowing my greatest dream was about to come true. If you put all your hopes into one thing and that one thing turns out not to be as wonderful as you'd thought, what do you do next?
"Also, the thought occurred to me that until now surfing had mostly been just for fun. But in Hawaii, there would be a very real element of risk. Every now and then we would hear reports through the grapevine of big-wave riders on the North Shore drowning, and for the first time I began to understand why so many of the great California surfers never gave the North Shore a try, or if they did, they came back home and never tried it again."
"In September," continued Doyle, "I bought my ticket on USOA -- United States Overseas Airlines. The price was only $80 round trip but, as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. The rumor was that USOA stood for 'Use Some Other Airline.' Their only plane was a rickety old DC-6, and they treated the passengers worse than they treated the freight...
"The plane was supposed to leave from the Lockheed terminal at the Burbank airport, but right after departure, one of the engines broke down. We had to wait at the YMCA in Burbank for two days while they pulled the engine out, repaired it, and got it back into the plane again.
"When the plane was finally ready to fly, they cancelled the tickets for about three-fourths of the passengers because they needed the space for a load of Avon cosmetics bound for Honolulu. I was lucky to get a seat...
"We landed at the Honolulu airport late that night... Buzzy Trent and Ricky Grigg were waiting for me... With them was Peter Cole, another Californian who now lived in Honolulu, where he taught at the Punahou prep school. He was thin, with a receding hairline, had a studious look, and was quieter than the others; but I knew he was a legendary big-wave rider. The winter before, 1958, he'd become the first haole to win the Makaha International, [then] the most important surf contest in the world."
"We grabbed my luggage and surfboard," continued Doyle, "and climbed in Peter's car. The war stories started immediately: 'You shoulda seen the wipeout Peter took at Sunset yesterday,' Buzzy said. 'God, it was horrible! We didn't think he was ever coming up again.'
"... Buzzy and Ricky lived in an old army barracks Quonset hut just a few feet back from the high-tide line. The place had one big room in front, a kitchen and bath, and some small bedrooms in back. There was no furniture except a few old smelly mattresses thrown down on the floor. The kitchen was piled high with dirty dishes and trash. They had a big sack of beans, a big sack of rice, and several cases of beer. It was the only house of surfers on the whole North Shore, and the guys rented it for something like $75 a month."
"Buzzy welcomed me to their house by saying, 'Doyle, you want my wife for the night?' Buzzy's wife, Violet, was a Filipino who grew up in Hawaii. She looked soft and dark and, I thought, beautiful.
"Buzzy didn't mean any harm -- it was just his idea of a joke. But I was so embarrassed, I just looked at the floor and pretended I didn't know what he was talking about.
"'Ah, come on, Buzzy, lay off him,' Ricky said. 'He just got here.'
"Well, then here, have a shooter,' Buzzy laughed, and handed me a glass of whiskey. 'Tomorrow we ride the big surf!'
"Buzzy and the
others stayed up late that night drinking whiskey, but I unrolled my sleeping
bag on the floor and tried to sleep. I couldn't, though. The
impact from the waves made the floor of the hut shake, and I kept thinking,
What am I doing here with these madmen?"
Banzai Pipeline Ridden, September 1959
Phil Edwards is generally credited for being the first one to ride Pipeline in 1961. Despite the importance of his groundbreaking action, Edwards was really just the first one to ride Pipeline and be photographed doing it. It is probable that in ancient times Pipeline must have been ridden. It certainly was cracked by the Hot Curl surfers of the 1940s, as attested to me by Fran Heath who bodysurfed the spot on more than one occasion. Mike Doyle was another who rode Pipeline before Edwards, as he writes in his autobiography:
"I was relieved when dawn finally arrived," continued Mike Doyle in retelling the story of his first trip to the North Shore. "As soon as I heard the others stirring, I got up and went outside. Right in front of the Quonset hut was the most incredible shore break I'd ever seen -- eight-foot barrels crashing on a reef. It was the fastest, tightest wave I could imagine, and I just stood there staring at it.
"When the others came out, they looked hung over. Buzzy scratched his belly, pointed at the shore break, and said, 'Well, this is it, Doyle. This is where we surf when Sunset's not breaking.'
"I looked at the shore break again, then back at Buzzy. 'Are you serious?' I asked. The place looked like death to me.
"'Yeah, some good lefts out there. Here, lemme show ya.' And he started pointing out the line-up. 'Now, you wanna paddle out right over there. It's a bit tight, sure, but get up on the nose right after takeoff, and you'll make it. We'll come out as soon as you get a coupla rides.'
"I took my board and paddled out, thinking to myself, This is way out of my league."
Doyle ended-up riding the spot, successfully, on a couple of rides. "I rode three or four waves before I noticed that none of the others were coming out to join me. They were standing on the beach watching me. So I paddled back in, thinking maybe I was doing something wrong.
"Buzzy said, 'Way to go, kid.'
"Nobody else said a word.
"I didn't find out until later I'd been surfing what they called the Banzai Pipeline. The bottom was shallow rock, with hollow caves where you could be trapped and drowned. It was considered [at that time] too dangerous to surf.
"In later years
a lot of surfers claimed to be the first to have ridden the Pipeline.
I don't know who rode it first, and I don't really care. I do know,
though, that I did ride it then, in September 1959. And it was only
utter ignorance that made me do it."
Quonset Hut Life
"Meanwhile," Mike Doyle told the story of the life lived in and out of the Quonset hut, "back at the Quonset hut, Buzzy and Violet fought constantly. They loved each other a lot, but they expressed their affection in a way that I wasn't able to understand. Sometimes after they'd been fighting for days, Buzzy would take Violet to her mother's house on the other side of the island and leave her there. When he got back to the North Shore, he'd say to the rest of us, 'Now, let's surf!'"
"The whole situation at the Quonset hut made me nervous," admitted Doyle. "But after a couple of weeks, I was joined by another group of friends from the mainland who were closer to my age: L.J. 'Little John' Richards, Mark Portrif, Adrien Esnard, and a few others. I put down a deposit, and we rented a house from the Kahuku Sugar Plantation, which owned six houses at Kawela Bay, just northeast of Sunset. The house we rented cost #300 a month. That was a lot of money in those days, but we split the rent among eight guys and became only the second house of surfers on the North Shore.
"At first we all decided we would share the household expenses. We would go shopping together, cook our meals together, take turns washing the dishes, clean house together, and so on. That plan lasted about three days. There were constant arguments: Who took my bowl? Who got in my peanut butter? Who's turn was it to wash dishes last night? The house was a filthy mess, and nobody ever washed a dish. So we changed the rules: Everybody bought his own food, everybody put a lock on his own cupboard to keep the other guys out, and everybody washed his own dishes."
"There were no girls on the North Shore at that time," continued Doyle, "except for a couple of local Hawaiian girls, and they were off limits. If you messed with a Hawaiian girl, her big brother stomped your face. We didn't care about girls, though. We were dedicated surfers, there to ride the waves. If it had been girls we wanted, we'd have stayed in California. Too many times back home we'd seen one of our friends meet a girl, then the next morning he wouldn't answer the wake-up call. He couldn't go surfing because he had a new girlfriend. We felt sorry for him. None of that here -- our time on the North Shore was too precious to waste on girls."
Mike Doyle entered the Makaha International that December, but lost his board in the preliminaries and ended up not even qualifying.
Living not far away from him, also living at Kawela Bay, was Bud Browne, surfing's first commercial film maker. After five or six years actively making surf films and personally showing them, he was joined in the ranks by Greg Noll and John Severson. "He'd been a high school art teacher at San Juan Capistrano but had just recently started making surf films," recalled Doyle who met Severson that winter on the North Shore. "He was a very creative person, and kind of nervous. I remember he had large hands and feet, was kind of stooped in the shoulders, and he always had a great tan.
"Like Bud Browne,
Severson followed our little band of surfers around the North Shore, taking
photos of us all. He told us late that winter that he was going to
start a glossy surf magazine, and we were all pretty excited about that
because there had never been a magazine about surfing before."
When Mike Doyle's first trip to the North Shore ended, he returned to Southern California in the Spring of 1960 to take up lifeguarding at Manhattan Beach. Before he did so, though, he surfed Swami's a bunch with Rusty Miller.
"I'd surfed with Rusty at Swami's several times," wrote Doyle, "but the first time I ever saw him out of the water was at a party in Palos Verdes. He'd been wearing a tweed coat and slacks, and was smoking a pipe with his arms crossed, looking very much like a professor of history, which was what he wanted to become at the time. He had a freckly complexion, kind of a bent nose, and reddish-brown hair. I remember thinking, This guy's really got his act together, going to college, dressing like a professor. He made me feel like a goofball.
"Rusty lived with
his parents on the bluff in Encinitas, just a half mile or so from Swami's.
It was kind of strange going to Rusty's house. His father was extremely
overweight, and every time I saw him he was sitting in a chair in the living
room smoking cigarettes. Rusty's mother had a deep, raspy voice,
and she chain-smoked, too. The ceiling in their house was stained
brown from all the cigarette smoke, so it was easy to imagine what the
insides of their lungs looked like."
"Rusty and I surfed at Cardiff Reef that morning," continued Doyle, "and I explained to him the problems I'd had with my surfboards in Hawaii that winter and how badly I needed one of Pat Curren's designs.
"Rusty said, 'You know, Curren just opened a surf shop here in Encinitas. You oughta stop by and see him.'
"I tried to explain how terrified I was of Curren.
"'I know what you mean,' Rusty said. 'He scares me, too. But I still think you oughta go see him.'
"That afternoon I stopped by Curren's shop on D Street. I parked around the corner and sat in my car for a few minutes, working up my courage. When I finally got out and walked around the corner, I saw a sign on the shop window: Be back sometime.
"I peeked in the window, and in the dim light I could see a row of Curren's big guns standing against the back wall, like dark tiki gods. I stood there trying to memorize their shapes, trying to capture that one magical line. But I knew it couldn't be done.
"I started walking away -- then stopped. Right there on the sidewalk, drawn in grease pencil, was a full-scale drawing of Curren's template. It was about 9' 6" -- just my size -- a masterpiece of art and design, right there where people could walk on it, spit on it, or make off with it. I stepped inside those magical lines, then looked down at my feet to see how the water flowed over and around me. It was a miracle!
"But how could I get it off the sidewalk and into my hands? I knew right away what I had to do. I ran up D Street, across the Coast Highway, then up the hill to the Mayfair market, where I bought ten feet of butcher paper and a felt pen. I ran back down the hill to Curren's shop, unrolled the butcher paper over the template, placed rocks at all four corners to keep the paper from blowing away, then got down on my hands and knees, and began tracing the lines.
"I had most of the template on paper when I realized somebody was watching me. I looked up and saw Curren standing on the street corner. His forehead was all twisted up in anger, and his eyes were scrunched down into mean little slits. I wasn't sure if he even recognized me. Should I try to explain myself? Or should I just run for it now, while I still had a chance?
"Curren stared at me for a long time, putting it all together: the North Shore, the Quonset hut, the kid with the lousy surfboards. Finally, as he fumbled for the keys to his shop, Curren said, 'You didn't have to steal it, Doyle. Though I have to admit that's kind of flattering. Just don't forget to tell people where it came from, all right?'
"As he disappeared
through the doorway, I saw a smile on Curren's face."
Paddling, Surfing & Lifeguard Competitions
The Summer of 1960 was when Mike Doyle earned his second nickname of "Ironman," by winning the first Ironman competition. More than any surfer of his time, he got into competition in a big way:
"In those days every little beach town up and down the coast had its own summer beach festival... Since I was training every day to stay in shape as a lifeguard, I used to enter all those contests as a fun way to check my level of conditioning. If there was a paddle board contest anywhere in Southern California, I was in it. If there was a rowing contest, I'd enter that. And, of course, I was in the surf contest, too. In no time at all, I'd collected a whole garage full of trophies.
"Looking back on it now, I'd have to say I went to the extreme. I became a contest junky. But at that age, nineteen, I craved the recognition..."
"Competing in paddling contests taught me that I had certain natural talents -- broad shoulders, long arms, and fairly large hands... Paddling races also taught me a lot about the psychology of competition. There were a few great big guys who were just animals at paddling, but they didn't know how to compete. I would plan each race ahead of time, then stick to the plan. If it was an eight-mile race, I'd stay with the pack the first couple of miles, then make my move on the third mile and power out until I'd buried them. I'd be almost exhausted, ready to die, but the guys behind thought I could still keep going, so they'd quit, at least in their minds. And when they gave up, I could slow down and conserve my energy for the rest of the race.
"I really loved competing in paddling races -- much more than I ever loved competing in surf contests. Paddling had a finish line, which made it real."
Mike Doyle admitted that "some of those first surf contests were so bad, it was kind of funny. Usually the judges didn't even surf. The local president of the chamber of commerce would get his mother-in-law, who was a gym teacher, and his brother, who was a fan of big-time wrestling... And they were considered qualified to judge a surf contest, even though none of them had ever been on a surfboard before. The judges had no concept of wave selection, wave positioning, or style. So if some guy in the contest did something really silly, like stand on his head, the judges thought that was just fantastic and the guy would win the contest. It was ridiculous, and the surfers knew it.
"Even the surfing trophies were ridiculous. In those days it was hard for the contest organizers to find surfing trophies, so they used to take a basketball trophy with the basketball player jumping up to make a one-arm dunk. They'd cut the basketball off his hand, cut under his feet at the base, then lay him down on a small, hand-carved paddling board. It looked like a basketball player being carried out on a stretcher."
"The truth is, I never felt that surfing as a competitive sport made much sense. Surfing is very difficult to judge because there's an act of god that influences how each wave will behave...
"But probably the worst thing about surf contests," continued Doyle, striking a blow, "is that they're contrary to the very essence of the sport, which is freedom. If you make up a bunch of arbitrary rules that are supposed to define good surfing, the creative freedom of surfing gets destroyed.
"I wasn't the only surfer of my era who felt this way. There were a lot of great surfers -- Kemp Aaberg, Lance Carson, Phil Edwards, and Mickey Dora -- who rarely entered contests. If a big contest was being held at Malibu, they'd much rather go down the road someplace and surf by themselves all day."
"As a young man," Doyle admitted, "I was caught in the middle of all that. I wasn't against competition -- I loved competition... But in a surf contest, I never felt there was a fair way to decide who won.
"After I got a little older and began competing every winter in world-class surfing contests, the judging became somewhat better. But I still never felt the contests had any real validity. I competed because surf contests were my free ride. How I placed in contests one year would determine whether of not a sponsor would pay my way to Hawaii the next year. If I hadn't competed in the big surf contests and done well, I would never have been able to spend half the year traveling and surfing. So in a way, competing in surf contests became a job."
This is probably
true for many of the professional surfers who compete, today.
"Halfway through that winter," wrote Mike Doyle of the Winter of 1960-61, "just before I turned twenty, I came back to California and enrolled at Cabrillo Junior College in Santa Barbara... After the excitement of surfing twenty-foot waves in Hawaii, everything in college looked pretty tame to me. I had way too much restless energy, not nearly enough self-discipline, and I didn't have even the vaguest idea how to go about studying.
"Going to college didn't mean I was ready to give up surfing. In fact, one reason I chose to go to school in Santa Barbara was that I knew how good the surf was at Rincon, just down the coast a ways."
Mike Doyle went on to talk about that time in his life when he lived close to Hammonds and Rincon: "I... rented a house on Butterfly Lane with four other guys: Garth Murphy, Bill Engler, Lance Carson, and Kemp Aaberg, who were also attending Cabrillo. It was a beautiful, Tudor-style house owned by the Music Academy of the West. They had about ten houses that were supposed to be for gifted music students, but we talked the academy into renting it to us anyway -- a decision I'm sure they came to regret.
"Each of the guys staying there at the Butterfly Lane house had a whole pack of friends who came up from the South Bay every weekend. They weren't in school; they just wanted to surf Rincon, hang out, get drunk, and act crazy.
"Something gets into young people at that age -- a real craving for the outrageous and absurd. Maybe it's a normal and healthy reaction to two decades of education. I don't know what it is, but you see it today just like you did in those days."
Kemp Aaberg’s younger brother Denny gave more detail on the Butterfly Lane house:
“Montecito [where the house stood] had mystique. It was a place of enchanted forests and narrow, tree-shaded streets. Nestled deep in the woods were sprawling mansions built of old money, where millionaires, dignitaries and movie stars like Errol Flynn, David Niven and Greta Garbo used to party. Juxtaposed to this was the aged-Victorian grand dame of a post age – now a funky surf pad on Butterfly Lane. The hilarious episodes that occurred within its walls were as colorful as the surfers who gathered there.”
to the occupants by the most dubious ties,” recalled Bob
Cooper, “would show up on the weekends, then double up on the following
weekend. If the surf was up, the visitors would triple. It was a classic
deal where you personally knew 2% of the people coming and going. No drugs
– just underage drinking. Noise was never a problem, but parking blew the
cover. It (Butterfly) operated for 6-8 months before the furniture was
all burnt. It had been decked out. The cops would come, but we’d see their
lights down at the end of the block. They couldn’t drive right up to the
house as the street would be totally choked with cars. That was enough
time for everyone to get upstairs and out onto the roof (or out the back
door and down the railroad tracks). If everyone shut up, the cops would
search high and low and usually find just me, who didn’t drink, and not
a sole to prosecute.”
No Pants Lance
"Another time at the Butterfly Lane house," Mike Doyle told of Lance Carson from that time when he lived in Montecito, not far from Hammonds, "When Lance had an audience of maybe thirty people, he went into some kind of self-induced fit. He started breathing deeply, hyperventilating, until the veins in his neck bulged out. Then he smashed his fists into the walls and started breaking windows with his bare hands, yelling, 'I'm gonna kill myself! I'm gonna do it this time!' Lance didn't really want to kill himself. It was just a strange mood he used to get into from time to time.
"Just then we heard the train coming down the tracks toward our house. Lance's eyes opened wide, and he started chanting, 'I'm gonna throw myseld in front of the train! ... I'm gonna throw myself in front of the train!'
"The train track was only about sixty feet behind the house. Lance dashed out the back door and ran to meet the train. A bunch of people who didn't know Lance's mood ran out after him, shouting, 'No Lance! Don't do it!' A bunch more of us followed, mostly just curious to see how far Lance would take it this time.
"With his audience all in place, at the very last second, Lance threw himself in front of the train.
"From our perspective, it looked awfully close. Maybe Lance made it all the way across the tracks, or maybe this time he became the victim of his own joke. At any rate, there was nothing we could do until the train had passed. So we stood there for two or three minutes, saying, 'Should we call the ambulance, or do you think he made it?'
"'I don't see how he could have!'
"As the last car finally rattled on by, we were ready to dash across the tracks and rescue whatever was left of our mangled friend. But instead of blood and gore, what we saw was even worse. Lance had his pants down around his ankles, and he was bent over showing us his hairy butt, using both hands to spread his cheeks as wide as they would go."
“I was the bad influence,” Lance admitted many years later. “It was me who was instrumental in getting those guys kicked out. I had graduated from Santa Monica High and was going to Long Beach State – doin’ lip service as far as school went. I had it rigged – Tuesdays and Thursdays off from class and I had the’40 Ford with the back seat ripped out. See, ’59 was the first year that Kemp and the guys explored up north. By ’60, Rincon was the new winter frontier. It was Kemp, ‘The Bumkin’ Doug Ridell, Dick Natland, James Roach, they were all actually South Bay and P.V. guys. Being from South Palisades, Kemp was the ‘black sheep,’ but because of his reputation, Butterfly was called ‘his’ house. They’d be hitting the books when I’d show up with a couple of six packs and that would start it. They’d complain they were trying to study, but I’d point out that, hey, I was going to school, too. They could never resist. First it was surf. Then it was beer. Then it was up to Isla Vista to hit the parties. Then back to Butterfly with the spoils to carry on.”
“After a while,” Lance continued, “the parties at Butterfly became so famous that surf filmer Dale Davis even came over one Saturday night to film. The footage came out a little dark, so he threw it away. It was classic stuff. I couldn’t believe he did that [throw it away]!”
Carson remembered a favorite moment:
“I’d been surfing
Rincon all day and I was upstairs taking a hot bath when I heard the cars
pull up. Suddenly a bunch of chicks were in there with me going, ‘Oh, he’s
so cute,’ and pouring bubble bath all over me. So I got up to see what
was going on, walked out into the hall and slipped and fell down the stairs
– landed right in the middle of a raging party wearing nothing but bubbles.”
"One of Lance Carson's biggest rivals when it came to wildness was a guy named Jim Wicker," Mike Doyle wrote. "He had a beautiful old woody that would be a real collector's item, today, but Wicker had no regard for it at all. It was really embarrassing to drive with him. One day when we were coming back from the beach, Wicker knocked down a stop sign, drove over the curb and down a whole block of yards, across fences and hedges, peeling over lawns and rose gardens, smashing sprinklers and tricycles. When he got to the end of the block, he drove over the curb again, then continued driving slowly down the street without even looking back to see the damage he'd done."
"One time," continued Doyle, "Wicker went into a little market to buy a Coke. When the cashier, an Asian woman, told him how much it was, he reached into his pocket for the change, but his pocket had a big hole in it. He reached through the hole, grabbed his weenie and pulled it out of his pocket. 'No,' Wicker said, 'that's not the right change.' And he stuffed it back into his pants."
"Another time three of us were riding in Wicker's woody to Baja," Doyle went on, "where we were going surfing for the day. We passed a carload of girls, so all three of us lined up against the rear window and gave them a bare-assed moon shot. We laughed and laughed, thinking what a wild bunch of guys we were. But a few minutes later, the carload of girls came roaring by us, and all of them except the driver had their pink little butts pressed up against the windows. We didn't think it was funny -- in fact it kind of scared us to think there were girls that crazy driving around on the highway.
"We pulled in at the Long Bar, in Tijuana, which was a mandatory stop-off for surfers. Inside the bar was a guy who had a hand generator -- you would hold tow wires while the guy cranked the handle, and a meter showed how many amps you were getting. It was a macho thing to see who could take the biggest shock. Wicker held onto the wires so long he fell over and passed out. I don't know if it was cardiac arrest or what, but we just poured a little beer on his face and shook him for a while until he came to."
It was a unique
time in America. Politically, it’s now referred to as the "Camelot"
years, when President John F. Kennedy was in the White House and anything
seemed possible. Although narrowly beating Richard Nixon in the 1960
elections, Kennedy became an extremely popular president -- at least in
the northern and urban parts of the country. His attractive wife
Jacqueline and the rest of the "Kennedy clan" were likewise well thought
of through much of the country. Publicly unknown at the time, however,
Kennedy was having an affair with film star Marilyn Monroe. Surf
historian has it documented as February 20, 1961 when "Peter
Lawford, a female companion, Marilyn Monroe
and John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 35th President of U.S. hang out at Malibu,
accompanied by Secret Service."
Don Hansen & Officer Wablinsky
On a trip to Santa Cruz in the Spring of 1962, "I was in Santa Cruz during Easter vacation," Doyle wrote, "hanging out, surfing at Steamer Lane, and sleeping in a car I'd bought there -- a 1936 Buick with beautiful mohair seats. I happened to run into Mike Zuetell, one of the guys from the old 22nd Street Gang in Hermosa Beach. He was in the army at Fort Ord, near Monterey. He introduced me to a chubby-faced army buddy of his, a guy named Don Hansen, who had a crash pad in Santa Cruz. Hansen was from Redfield, South Dakota, and his teeth were stained brown from some mineral they had in the water back there. He'd been surfing in California for a few years before he joined the army, and sometimes he shaped surfboards for Jack O'neill.
"Zuetell and Hansen told me that almost every night they would go AWOL, jump the fence at Fort Ord, party at their house in Santa Cruz, and be back on base for reveille. They said they'd never been caught.
"'Hey,' they said, 'we're having a big party at the house tonight. Why don't you come?'
"It turned out to be one of the craziest parties I'd ever seen," Doyle testified. "The house was packed full of people getting drunk and wild, and as the evening went on they became more and more out of control. At one point Don Hansen took a ceramic mixing bowl, threw it as hard as he could at Mike Zuetell, and hit him square in the forehead. Mike had a crescent-shaped scar on his forehead for the rest of his life."
"When I saw things were really getting out of hand," Doyle continued, "I retired to one of the bedrooms to get some sleep. But I'd only been asleep for a few minutes when I heard a terrible commotion in the front room. All of a sudden the door swung open, Hansen ran through the room, dived over the bed, through the screened window, hit the ground outside, and kept on running into the night.
"Then, not far behind Hansen, came a great big cop. He looked around, but when he couldn't see Hansen, he became furious; he came over to the bed and started hitting me over the head with his flashlight. I tried to protect myself with my arms, saying, 'What's going on?'
"Somebody turned on the lights, and I saw that the cop was even bigger than I'd thought. Then a woman ran in and stopped the cop from beating me. I looked up long enough to glance at his name tag. I'll never forget it -- Wablinsky.
"I recognized the woman. She'd been with Hansen earlier that evening. Now I found out she also happened to be Officer Wablinsky's wife. As I understood it, earlier that evening two police officers had been beaten up, supposedly by out-of-towners who had thrown one of the officers over a cliff. The officer was in the hospital in serious condition. So the cops were on the rampage, and Wablinsky was using that as an excuse to go after Hansen. I just happened to have been caught in the middle of it.
Doyle, "was my first experience with Don Hansen, South Dakota farm boy,
soldier, and future pillar of the surf industry."
"Sometimes on the weekends," Mike Doyle told of his days in 1962, "I liked to drive down to Laguna Beach and stay with Marge Calhoun and her two daughters, Candy and Robin. I first got to know the Calhouns at Malibu, where they were regulars, and over the years I became pals with all three of them."
"Marge was a statuesque woman, extremely strong, with broad shoulders, narrow hips, beautiful skin, and penetrating blue eyes -- just an amazing looking woman who radiated health and beauty. Marge got her first lesson in surfing from Buzzy Trent at Santa Monica in the early Fifties and went on to win the women's Makaha International Surfing Championships in 1958. Even though she was strong, she was still very feminine, and it was a wonderful thing to watch her on a surfboard."
"Her oldest daughter, Candy, was strong, too, with beautiful golden hair, blue eyes, and lovely brown skin. She was great on a surfboard and won the women's West Coast Surfing Championships in 1963. But her real love was bodysurfing. She swam like a seal. When you saw her dive into the water and come up with her wet hair slicked back, you just knew this person was meant to be in the water. Some people are like that -- they're more at ease in the water than out.
"The youngest daughter, Robin, was great in the water, too. She was taller -- all legs, with long, elegant hands. She, too, had the most gorgeous, penetrating, blue eyes."
"Their hair color, their skin, their physical strength and athletic prowess -- the Calhouns were like ocean goddesses to me. Over the years, at one time or another, I had a crush on each of them, though it never amounted to anything more than wrestling around in the back of the car and a few friendly kisses.
"The Calhouns and I became a tight little clique. When I came to Laguna Beach, I would stay at their little house on Glennaire Street, where they always made me feel welcome. It was a white beach cottage, very pretty, and decorated with sea shells and driftwood. We would surf all day at San Onofre, then go back to their house and make a big salad dinner, drink beer, laugh and tell stories until we fell asleep on the floor with our arms aching. What a wonderful feeling that was. Then we'd get up the next day and go do it again.
"I loved being
with the Calhouns..."
The Assasination of President John F. Kennedy
By November 1963, Mike Doyle had transferred to El Camino College, in the South Bay. He did this to be in the same proximity of his "on-again, off-again" girlfriend, long black-haired Marsha Bainer, one of the stunningly beautiful women surfers of the period. "She and I were both too restless to settle down yet," Doyle explained, "but we really liked each other a lot, and continued to spend time together. Marsha had adopted a lot of my training regimen -- working out every morning, eating a low-fat diet, yoga -- and she had grown into a healthy, vibrant, fun-loving young woman.
"One morning, Marsha and I were in the parking lot of the college, fooling around in the back of my VW van. I had the radio tuned to a jazz station, and turned down softly. Suddenly, there was an interruption, and the announcer said to stand by for a special bulletin. Then we heard the words everyone in my generation would remember for the rest of their lives: 'President Kennedy has been shot.'"
Most everyone who was around in those days remembers where they were, what they were doing, and how they heard the news that fateful day of November 23, 1963. "Mickey Dora used to say that a curse fell over this country when President Kennedy was assassinated," Mike Doyle mentioned. "... Mickey was becoming sort of the gloomy prophet of Malibu, and sometimes it was hard to tell how serious he really was... But in spite of his eccentricity, Dora could be very perceptive at times, and I think he was correct in foreseeing the end of an age of innocence."
"I have to admit
that I shared many of Dora's views about the commercialization of the sport,"
Greg Noll affirmed. "... By the late sixties, a lot of the fun and
camraderie of the early days had been wiped out by the hordes of aspiring
surfers and the ever-present click click click of the surf photographers'
cameras, followed closely by the lads with their notebooks and pencils."
"In the previous decade or so," Mike Doyle wrote in Morning Glass, "surfing in Australia had grown to a level of importance it has never reached in the United States, and the Australians took their role as hosts for the contest very seriously. Australia is a water-conscious country; almost everybody there lives along the coast, everybody swims, and almost everybody surfs or at least bodysurfs. The Australians were very proud of their watermen, and hosting a world surfing contest was an opportunity for them to show the rest of the world what Australia was all about. An American equivalent might be a baseball world series, but with every baseball-playing country in the world invited to compete."
"When Hawaii and California saw us have the first world championship here," Midget said, "can you imagine what they thought? They went, 'Can you believe these Australians!' The very next year the Peruvians went, 'We're having a world title!' and it was wonderful, we were all off to Peru.
"Whatever that world contest did for me doesn't matter. It just does not matter. What happened was that it took surfing from the back stalls [in Australia] to the front stage in one fell swoop."
Midget Farrelly followed his Makaha win of Fall 1962 with another dramatic win at Manly Beach, N.S.W., Australia, on May 17, 1964. It was the first year Australia hosted an international surfing event and -- counting Makaha -- the second time an Australian won a world surfing title.
"It's difficult to explain to people the excitement that event caused," wrote Mike Doyle, one of the contestants. "Today there are major surf contests held almost every week somewhere in the world, but at that time, there was only the Makaha, held once a year in Hawaii. So when the Australians announced they would be hosting a world championship, we were thrilled. This was going to be the first truly international surf contest."
The 1st Australian International Championship was organized by Bob Evans and sponsored by Ampol Oil, a major Australian corporation. "They not only covered the costs of organizing the event," Doyle pointed out, "but they paid for the hotel accommodations for all the foreign competitors. The contest was covered live by three Australian television stations that had helicopters hovering above the water."
"On the first day there was a crowd of 65,000 watching," wrote Nat Young, "the biggest crowd ever assembled in the history of surfing... Midget Farrelly won, proving that what had happened in Hawaii two years earlier was no fluke."
In the final, Midget was up against Joey Cabell, Mike Doyle and Little John Richards, and Aussies Mick Dooley and Bobby Brown.
"They were all excellent surfers," Midget credited. "…So what it came down to that day was Doyle could have won because he had all the manoeuvres and could walk. L.J. Richards could have won because he was an excellent walker. Dooley could do it and so could Bobby Brown, so they could have won.
"I knew the full repertoire. And it's sort of like I knew what I had to do to win. If you do get those waves and then you do what has to be done then all the buttons are pushed."
"Manly at two to four feet is not about taking the drop and surviving the hold down!" Midget laughed at the image. "Riding a two to four foot wave on a 10'6" longboard is almost about a dance.
"There are a set of manoeuvres that form a repertoire and if you get the right wave, and your board works, and you're good, you can perform all those manoeuvres in harmony and pull off a perfect score."
Midget won the contest in the final minute, catching a good one on the inside.
Thirty years after winning the title, Midget had high praise for Mike "Ironman" Doyle, "probably the best waterman surfing's ever seen... He could ride any ocean...
"I've seen Doyle ride one foot waves on a longboard. I've seen Doyle ride closeout Waimea on a gun. I've seen Doyle win tandem. Doyle could bodysurf Pipeline. I know Doyle can paddle and I know Doyle can swim. Now, if you think about what that all means it's that he's complete.
"Even Eddie Aikau [later on in the decade and on into the 1970s], who could ride giant Waimea, bodysurf anything, wasn't that great on a shortboard, didn't do tandem and may have not been a paddler. You can take any world champion since 1964 and it's the same. I mean, it's going to be a long time until you see another Doyle...
"You have to look at the bodysurfing, the paddling, the swimming. Doyle was a lifeguard. It's really hard for young guys [in the 1990s] to accept what I'm saying, but I wouldn't even claim to be 25 percent of what Doyle was. No one had the versatility that Doyle had."
"After the main
competition was over," Doyle wrote, "Linda Benson (the top woman surfer
in the world at that time) and I put on a tandem demonstration that was
covered on national television. Many Australians had never seen tandem
surfing before, and they were fascinated by the grace of the sport.
In fact several Australians told us later they thought our tandem demonstrations
had been the highlight of the contest."
2nd World Surfing Championship, Peru, 1965
There were four world surfing championships in the 1960s. The first one was held in Australia in 1964 and won by Bernard “Midget” Farrelly, Australia’s 1st surf champion. The following year, Peru hosted the 1965 World Surfing Championships. “There was no professional surfing then,” wrote Fred Hemmings, “so the World contest was the ultimate competition.”
The year before, just prior to the world championship in Australia, Peru had hosted the Peruvian Invitational Championships in March of 1964.
The second World Surfing Championships were held at Punta Rocas, Peru. The 54-man line-up included the world’s best big-wave riders and was held in 10-to-12 foot surf with 2,000 Peruvian spectators.
“Getting to Peru was an exhausting journey,” Hemmings recalled of 1964 and 1965 air travel. In recollecting the trip to the World Surfing Championships in Peru in 1965, a year after the Peruvian International Surfing Championships, Hemmings wrote, “The Hawaiian team received a deal from Canadian Pacific Airlines. They would fly our boards to Lima for free. The catch was that we had to fly Canadian Pacific all the way, which meant flying Honolulu/Vancouver, BC/Calgardy/Mexico City/Lima. Seems Canadian Pacific routes could not take us on a more direct journey. Buffalo and I saw snow for the first time in Calgary, Canada… We indulged in adult beverages the first leg or two of the trip and were sick the rest of the way… We survived and completed the journey to Peru.”
“After I came back from Hawaii, in January 1965,” recalled another world competitor, Mike Doyle, “I traveled with twelve other surfers from the Long Beach Surf Club to Lima, Peru, to compete in the Peruvian International. Our team was sponsored by Catalina Swimwear, which was eager to capitalize on the growing popularity of surfing.
“The Peruvians had a beautiful clubhouse they called the Club Waikiki, at Miraflores Beach, just outside Lima. It was more like a polo club than any surf club I’d ever seen. It had two swimming pools, a restaurant, bar, squash court, locker rooms, lots of pretty girls lying around, masseuses, and white-jacketed waiters running all over the place. Everyone who surfed in Peru at that time was wealthy. There weren’t any peasant surfers – no surf rats, no beach bums. Surfing was a gentleman’s sport in Peru, and almost all the surfers were very, very rich. They would work for a while in the morning, tending to their business affairs, then come down to the club for the rest of the day. They would surf for a couple of hours at the little beach break in front of the club, shower, then have lunch and cocktails on the terrace.”
“At the Club Waikiki,” Doyle continued, “guests weren’t allowed to carry their own surfboards down to the water – the servants did it for you. One of the Australian surfers, Nat Young, didn’t like that. When they tried to take his board from him, he snatched it back and said, ‘Goddamnit, leave me alone! I’ll carry my own board!’ Which is how most of us felt, too. But Nat only insulted the servant, and probably our hosts as well, and in the end the Indian carried his board anyway.”
“The servants waxed your board for you, too,” Doyle went on. “If you lost your board, they would run over and shag it for you before it hit the rocks. You could surf right up to the beach, step off and walk away – the servants would run out, grab your board, and carry it up to your locker. If you happened to ding your board, at night a little Indian came out of a hole in back of the club and patched it for you. The whole scene seemed unnatural, and it made me uncomfortable. But the Peruvians were such great hosts, and they took the whole thing so seriously, we had no choice but to go along with it.”
“Most of the young Peruvian surfers were bored rich kids, like spoiled princes,” Doyle continued. “They loved playing the role of Latin lovers, and they were outrageous partiers. But the older guys who sponsored the contest were active surfers, too. They’d paddle out, catch a wave and stand up, just to show they still had the old animal prowess. They they’d come in , have cocktails and lunch, and play a few rounds of palenta, which is a paddle-and-net game, kind of like badminton.
“We stayed in a hotel in town, and a bus would pick us up and take us to the club every day, or to one of the many social events the Peruvians had planned for us.”
“One afternoon they got us all drunk at the club,” recalled Doyle, “then took us to a bullring. They gave us all capes and said, ‘Here, it’s time to fight the bulls.’ I didn’t want to fight any bulls. Most of us didn’t. We tried to get out of it, tried to politely decline, but the Peruvians wouldn’t have it. It was a big macho deal to fight a bull, and everyone had to do it. The bulls had their horns trimmed so we wouldn’t get gored, but it was still dangerous. Several guys got flipped around, and we could have been badly hurt. I really hated that, but I did it.”
“On another occasion,” retold Doyle, “the president of Peru at that time, Fernando Belaunde Terry, invited the whole Long Beach Surf Club to a banquet at the presidential palace. We all filed by in our blue blazers and shook his hand. We were honored – imagine, a president who wanted to meet surfers! We drank huge pitchers of pisco sours, which are like the national drink, and had a great time.”
“One of the contest sponsors was Pancho Wiese, the president of a big bank chain in Peru. He surfed and had even won a few local contests back in his prime. Another contest sponsor and organizer was Carlos Dogni, in his eighties at the time, who had been one of the first surfers in Peru and had helped start the Club Waikiki. The skin on his face was taught and almost translucent, as if he’d had several face lifts. He was still in great shape, though, and he always had two or three young girls on his arms. Dogni never seemed to work, but he had a huge house, and he invited us all to come over there for a big party. I remember he had a big bowl of photographs sitting on a table where everybody could look at them. They were all pictures of Dogni in swim trunks flexing his muscles, Dogni lifting weights, Dogni on the beach with young girls on his arm. I remember thinking some of them were pretty wild photos to be leaving around for the guests to see. But that’s the way he was, eager to project an image of great sexual vitality.”
“I was on a strict training regimen at the time,” Mike Doyle recalled of his own lifestyle. “I was a vegetarian and trying to stay away from any hard booze. I figured if I’d traveled all that way to compete in a surf contest, I owed it to myself and to my sponsors to try my best. My roommate at the hotel was Reno Abellira, a great Hawaiian surfer who was teaching me some yoga postures. Reno and I would get up early in the morning and do some yoga, then go practice surfing on the Peruvian waves, trying to get ready for the contest.
“But the Peruvians didn’t want us to train. They wanted us to drink and party with them. Before lunch every day, they’d all start drinking. One guy would stand up at the club, wave his drink at the rest of us, and say, ‘Salud!’ Then he would insist that we all lift a glass with him. As soon as he sat down, another Peruvian would stand up and say, ‘Otra salud!’ And we’d all have to drink another one.”
“In Miraflores on the coast of Lima,” Fred Hemmings recalled of his accommodations, “my roommates in the hotel cabana were Buffalo and Paul Strauch.
“All the best surfers in the world were in Peru for the event,” Hemmings continued. “The contest was staged at a newly discovered peak on a point named Punta Rocas.” Punta Rocas was just slightly south of Kon Tiki. It’s an excellent reef break with rights and lefts and breaks all year, but best between December and March, with a range of 5-to-15 feet. Fred Hemmings recalled asking his Peruvian hosts about this spot the year before, but they had dismissed it as being too close to the rocks. Within a year, they had had a change of mind and most all the Peruvian championships have been held here since.
“The contest was held at a place called Punta Rocas,” Mike Doyle also remembers, “about thirty miles south of Lima, on a desolate point. There were some sharp barnacles that grew on the rocks there; the Peruvians called them chorros, and they could punch holes in your feet if you weren’t careful, so some of the surfers wore tennis shoes. There was heavy fog on the morning of the contest, but the waves were ten to twelve feet and well shaped. The waves at Puntas Rocas reminded me a lot of Swami’s, back in Encinitas, so I felt comfortable riding them.”
“The day of the finals,” Fred Hemmings recalled, “the surf was moderate in size, but rough. The waves were thick and broke in a bowl about a quarter of a mile off the point. The ocean was chilly, and we frequently had to dodge large jellyfish floating in the surf. The right lined up for a long ride and closed out in a relentless shore break. The lefts peeled off the point into the bay. Buffalo rode a beautiful wave all the way into the bay and almost out of the view of the judges.”
“For the men’s big-wave event,” Mike Doyle wrote, “the best surfers in the world were there: George Downing, Mickey Munoz, Paul Strauch, Buffalo Keaulana, Fred Hemmings,, and Joey Cabell, just to name a few. In my first heat, George Downing dropped in ahead of me, and I had to bail out to avoid hitting him. The wave plucked my board away and carried it all the way to the rocky shore, about a mile away. I was able to bodysurf all the way to shore, grab my board and paddle back out. I placed second in that heat and eventually went on to the finals.”
Fred Hemmings kept a Peruvian journal the year the world contest was held in Peru. His entry for February 20, 1965 gives a further insight into that day:
“We awoke at 5:30 and caught taxis to Punta Rocas. No one was there till about 7:30, at about 9:00 they started the two semi final heats. Paul won the first heat with Mike Doyle, Nat Young and Felipe Pomar qualifying. I won the second heat with George Downing, Ken Adler, and Mickey Munoz qualifying. We came in and rested for about a hour before they started the finals. The point was hot and crowded. I hadn’t eaten a thing.
“After the television people were finished the eight finalists were sent out. I rode Joey Cabell’s board at first because Paul was using my board, the one I used in the semis. I didn’t want to use the gun because the waves were only about 10 feet. Maneuverability was going to play a prime factor in the contest. Joey’s board was too light and after a few futile attempts to ride it I came back to the beach to change it for the gun. I spent the next 10 minutes trying to paddle out through the shore break. That almost broke me. In the water Felipe Pomar looked real good. Nat Young was getting hot small inside waves and Paul was performing on everything he caught. After a half hour a helicopter with a photographer onboard hovered over us and by the riders while on the waves. The 1 ½ hours went by fast and the horn sounded. We came to the beach and eagerly waited for the results. It was fairly evident that Felipe was going to be victorious. This made me happy. If a Hawaiian couldn’t win Felipe would surely be our choice.”
“A handsome young Peruvian, Felipe Pomar, won the event,” Mike Doyle noted, “… Some people thought favoritism in world surfing had stretched all the way to South America. Personally, I thought Pomar outshined us all on his home waves and deserved to win.”
“We returned to the Club Waikiki for dinner. I had 2 steaks and six beers, got dressed and went to the hotel. The rest of the guys went to a television show. I stayed at the Leuro Bar with John Severson and Chuck Lennin. We went to Rincon Café at 8:00 for another steak dinner… Then we came back to the hotel, I phoned Hawaii at about 9:30. We all went to Sunset Bar, the owner let us drink free. Buff turned on and got a guitar and cruised around the bar. I left early because I got tired of sitting on my ass. Came home at 1:00.” About the excessive food and drink, Hemmings added in The Soul of Surfing is Hawaiian, “Buffalo made me do it… what a trip.”
Mike Doyle’s post-contest escapades are somewhat different:
“After the contest was over, the Peruvians want to party even harder. They took us all to dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Lima, where everybody got drunk. Little by little things started to get out of control, until everybody was throwing food around the place and smashing their plates on the floor. George Downing, who had been coming to the Peruvian Invitational since 1955 and was sort of the Hawaiian ringleader, started breaking chairs and smashing them over the tables. I suppose he figured that was what the Peruvians expected us to do, so he did his best to make them happy. The Americans started throwing food at the Hawaiians, and the Hawaiians fought back by throwing plates at us. The crazier it got, the more the Peruvians loved it.
“What really confused me was that the Chinese who owned the restaurant didn’t seem to mind the demolition. They weren’t thrilled about it the way our hosts were, but they accepted it in good humor. Later, when we all finally staggered out of the place, the Peruvians handed the restaurant owners a big stack of cash.”
“One of the Peruvians involved in the contest,” wrote Doyle, “was Pitty Blocque (he pronounced it ‘Peetie Block’), a wealthy race-car driver who had competed on the international Grand Prix circuit. He was a bit heavy, dressed well, and always had a wild look in his eye. He made his living from a very successful body shop in Lima. All the Peruvians who were in the surf club drove the fastest American cars – Corvettes, GTOs, Trans Ams – and they all drove like madmen, which meant their cars were always in Pitty Blocque’s body shop getting fixed.
“The night after the dinner at the Chinese restaurant, Pitty asked me and a couple others to take a drive with him. He had a Jaguar XKE, and we all crammed into it. Right from the hotel, he started driving about eighty miles an hour through the narrow side streets of Lima, I suppose to demonstrate his skill as a race-car driver. An Indian peasant pushing a little cart full of oranges couldn’t get out of his way, and Pitty splattered that cart like a cartoon. I was scrunched down in the back of the Jaguar, thinking we were going to get thrown into jail. But Pitty just screeched to halt and told us, ‘No problem.’ He got out, walked over to the little Indian, who was terrified, pulled out a roll of cash, and handed him a few bills. The Indian nodded agreeably, but then pointed to the wrecked cart. So Pitty handed him a few more bills for the cart. Now the Indian was elated! He couldn’t believe his good fortune. Not only had he sold all his oranges, but he would get a new cart, as well. Getting run over by Pitty Blocque was probably the luckiest thing to happen to him in years.
gave us a nod that everything was alright, hopped back into the Jag, revved
the engine a few times, and we were off again at eighty miles an hour.”
Peruvian Romances, 1965-66
“Before long we were way out in the country,” continued Doyle in his recollections of adventures with Pitty Blocque. “I heard Pitty say something about a whorehouse, but I already knew there were several whorehouses right around the corner from our hotel back in Lima, so I couldn’t understand what we were doing out here in the country.
“We finally pulled up to an old, colonial-style mansion surrounded by rows and rows of new American cars. Pitty explained that this was an ‘official whorehouse.’ As near as I could tell, that meant the place had been set up by the ruling class, for the ruling class. That way there would be no blackmail, no bad rumors leaking out, no embarrassment to the men or their families. They controlled everything.
“Inside, it was like a huge barroom. All the Peruvians from the Club Waikiki were there – they’d just moved the whole party out to their whorehouse in the country.
“Most of the Hawaiians were there ahead of us and already in great form. They knew the routine, and they were primed for it.”
“I was amazed to see that every girl in the place was absolutely gorgeous,” Doyle continued. “There were mulatto girls, Asian girls, Peruvian girls, American girls. They were all exotically beautiful.
“Pitty pointed toward the girls, then asked me, ‘Which one do you want?’
“I felt a little uneasy. I was twenty-three at the time and not exactly naïve when it came to sex, but I’d never seen anything like this before.
“’Don’t worry about the cost,’ Pitty said. ‘I’ll take care of it.’
“I pointed to a Japanese girl and said, ‘She’s nice.’
“Pitty smiled and rubbed his hands together. ‘Okay, come on.’
“He led me over to the girl, nodded, and she immediately took me to a back room. We had a couple of drinks and talked for a while. She waited until I was relaxed and comfortable before she initiated the sex. She was a real professional.
“When I rejoined the others, Pitty asked me, ‘Did you enjoy yourself?’ When I nodded, Pitty pointed toward the girls again and said, ‘Do you see another one you like?’”
“I must have looked shocked,” Doyle went on, “because Pitty laughed out loud. I’d been thinking this was a one-course meal – I didn’t know it was a smorgasbord. But looking around, I began to notice that some of the older Peruvians disappeared with a different girl every few minutes. And when Pitty went into the back rooms, he took two girls at a time.
“Sometime that night, I came to the realization that the Peruvians couldn’t have cared less about the Peruvian International Surfing Contest. They just loved watching the rest of us go berserk in their country. They had already indulged themselves with every kind of pleasure imaginable, and the only new pleasure for them was watching us indulge ourselves. Officially they were our hosts, but actually we were there to entertain them.”
Mike Doyle was not the only one captivated by the women Peru had to offer. During “the 1965 World Surfing Championships,” wrote Fred Hemmings, “Paul [Strauch] enthralled all the Peruvians with his suave style and gentlemanly manner. In fact, he really captivated one lovely Peruvian lady to the extent that she ended up in front of our hotel with her luggage on the day we were to return to Hawai`i. Must have been some miscommunication.”
Hemmings told of another little Peruvian romantic involvement that took place the following year, in 1966. “This happened in Peru. I am not going to name the famous Hawaiian surfer involved,” he wrote, but it is likely he was referring to Richard “Buffalo” Keaulana.
“We were partying
one day after a full day of surfing. Peruvian friends had country
homes at Punta Hermosa, a town in the bay where the World contest was held
the year before. One of my surfing pals, a big wave rider from Hawaii,
was making music and partying it up. A lovely young Peruvian lady
was all over him and he was falling victim to her advances. She definitely
was the aggressor. There was a very awkward communication problem,
frustrating the blossoming relationship. The Hawaiian surfer could
not speak Spanish and the lovely Peruvian lady could not speak a word of
English. My Hawaiian friend became very frustrated. Realizing
I spoke a little Spanish, he pleaded with me, ‘Freddie, tell this wahine
I like give her the gas.’ It was obvious that he did not want to
fill her auto with fuel. What he really wanted I could not muster
the words for in Spanish.”
2nd Annual Surfer Poll
“That spring, 1965,” wrote Mike Doyle, “I moved to San Diego to go work for Don Hansen. His new surf shop was in a small building on the Coast Highway, just across the street from Cardiff Reef, one of the best surfing spots in San Diego’s North County. That stretch of beach was practically deserted, except for one restaurant and one big, pink, two-story house with white trim. Along with L.J. Richards and a few others, I rented the pink house for $150 a month. It was just a funky board-and-batten beach house – so old the plumbing had been added onto the exterior walls – but upstairs there was a long panel of windows that looked out over the ocean and a long white sandy beach.”
“Every morning,” Doyle continued of his Spring 1965 lifestyle, “we would get up early and surf at Swami’s, Cardiff Reef, or else the shore break right in front of our house, which we called the Proving Grounds. (To work for Hansen you had to ‘prove’ yourself there first.) After surfing, I would walk across the street to Hansen’s shop, where I would shape four or five of my signature-model boards. Don paid me twenty-five bucks a board, so I could make about $100 in just a few hours of work.
“Also, I took the state’s lifeguard test, passed it, and began working at Moonlight State Beach in Encinitas on the weekends. I also enrolled at San Diego State, where I planned to finish my degree in biology.”
“Later that spring,” Doyle went on, “I got a letter from Surfer magazine inviting me to the awards banquet for its second annual Surfer Poll. The ballots for 1964 had come in from all around the world, and the results were going to be announced in June.
“I drove up to Dana Point for the awards banquet and was surprised by how many people were there and what a lavish affair it was. Duke Kahanamoku, now in his seventies, had flown in from the islands, along with Fred Hemmings, who I figured would be the most likely winner, based on his performance in the contests that year.
“After dinner they showed surf movies to get the crowd pumped up; then the master of ceremonies, Hevs McClellan, started going down the list of the ten finalists: Phil Edwards… Joey Cabell… Corky Carroll… until finally there were only two names left, Fred Hemmings and me.
“’And now,’ Hevs said, ‘The most competitive and versatile surfer in the world today: Mike Doyle.’
“I was truly surprised
and very emotional. I considered it a greater honor to be recognized
by my fellow surfers than to win any surf contest in the world. To
make the occasion even more memorable, the award was presented to me by
Kahanamoku, my boyhood idol and the man I considered to be the greatest
surfer who ever lived.”
The Tom Morey Invitational, July 4, 1965, Ventura
“Weeks of stewing on how to promote my new little Morey Surfboards company in Ventura resulted in a pretty neat idea,” Tom Morey remembered of what was going to be named “The Tom Morey Invitational.” The idea was to – for the first time ever – offer cash prizes based on time nose riding rather than subjective judgements on style or manouevers. “Cash might bring some unrecognized greats out of the woodwork;” was Morey’s thinking, “guys who wouldn’t normally participate for mere tropies.”
“Twenty years of talk about the need for professional surfing,” Morey recalled, “had resulted in nothing to this point, maybe because nobody worth his wax could feature being judged for money. You know, what has-been is to say the straight ahead go-for-the-gusto ride then early pullout method of a guy like Freddie Fowler is not as good or better than the prolonged soup sliding which prevailed?
“Then there were strong personalities like Mickey Dora, Phil Edwards, Tubesteak and Corky Carroll – all natural showmen yet each differed in what they considered worth doing. In fact ask any ten surfers what consisted of ‘good,’ ‘better’ and ‘best’ surfing and you’d get ten different answers.”
“So,” Morey wrote in an article published in The Surfer’s Journal in 1994, “in the Tom Morey Invitational only the lengths of nose rides would count, timed just like bronco riding in rodeo. A special prize would also be awarded for the single longest nose ride. This way certain strutting dandies might also enter without their tempermental egos being ruffled.
“Besides, of the fewer than fifty guys and gals worldwide who were great surfers, all fifty were also excellent nose riders.”
“On the Fourth of July,” Mike Doyle remembered as one who was there, “Tom Morey and his partner, Carl Pope, sponsored a nose-riding contest at Ventura Point that turned out to be what a lot of us thought was one of the best surf contests ever held. The concept was simple but innovative: Twenty-four surfers were invited, and each surfer put up a twenty-five-dollar entry fee to be used as part of the prize money. There were two divisions, regular and goofy foot. Each surfer would paint the front twenty-five percent of his surfboard red, and he would be awarded points based on the amount of time he stood in that area. The rider with the most nose time won his division.”
“So the contest was scheduled for July 4, 1965, and a poster was designed featuring the then famous image of Joey Cabell on the tip,” Tom Morey detailed. “One was mailed to every surf shop from San Diego to Santa Barbara along with cover letter, entry forms and the rules. Innovative board and skeg design was to be encouraged and the shops were invited to send their best. To help defer expenses, a $50 entry fee was to be charged and the rest begged from local businessmen. Fortunately twenty-four of the greatest surfers of their time respond positively: L.J. Richards, Mickey Munoz, Dewey Weber, Bobby Patterson, Billy Hamilton, John Peck, Johnny Fain, Robert August, Bob Bermel, John Day, John Hayward, Rick Irons, Mike Doyle, Mike Hynson, Skip Frye, Ross Cave, Mike Haley, David Nuuhiwa, Rusty Miller, Don Thomas, Butch Linden, Terry Jones, Corky Carroll, Donald Takayama and Tom Lonardo.”
Everything was looking good, but a suspicious call came in from Mike Doyle:
“’Aaahhh Tom,’” Morey remember Mike saying, “‘would you please go over in detail again what will govern the board length to nose ratio?’
“So I re-explained,” wrote Morey, “that I had arbitrarily established that, ‘the nose will consist of the front 25% of the board’s length.’
“Mike says, ‘Okay. Thanks. Now, the thing is that Rusty and I will be driving up together and probably won’t get there until the last minute because of…’ (whatever it was) they needed to do for Hansen that day.
“’So do you have any problem with us painting our own noses beforehand? We want to be sure they’re done right.’
“I suspected they were up to something,” Morey continued, “but couldn’t imagine what? They could not fudge the paint jobs since the ratio of nose to board lengths had to pass inspection on the morning of the contest. Maybe they just didn’t want anyone messing with their boards? So I agreed it would be all right.”
The morning before the contest, Tom Morey tested his latest design, “The Snub,” Morey called it, “which would be ridden by Ventura tip wizard Ross Cave… Perhaps it will be easy to fool the judges?” Morey thought then. “In fact, could they even see the boards, let alone the colored nose areas, especially in the afternoon when the sun would be in their eyes? Hummm. I hadn’t figured on that. Oh well, too late to change…
“Next, Ross is out on The Snub and I’m clocking his times like some thoroughbred owner clocking his horse. He’s hanging toes, heels and even nose riding backwards! Man oh man, wouldn’t it be lovely if Ross actually won and I could recoup some of my expenses!”
“Around noon [of July 3rd] the initial wave of what were to become the first true professional surfers arrived;” wrote Morey. These included, “Dewey Weber and Donald Takayama. The words ‘Dewey Weber’ echo back through the lineup in hushed toned. ‘Yeah, I think it’s Him… paddling out here. Wow!’
“Meanwhile, Donald is riding what seems to be a rather nondescript board, but is catching on real quick to back siding on the nose across C Street mush.”
“Dewey definitely has something weird going which he doesn’t want seen,” Morey wrote in 1994 as if it were some 30 years before. “The tip of his nose has radical kick and the front quarter is resined bright red, but certainly that’s not it. However, there also seems to be something special going on underneath his board and he is being very secretive about this. Yet, whatever it is, it seems to be causing him trouble. He’s been falling on pracically every wave, and has just now fallen off again, his board washing way down the line; skeg up. I can’t quite see what, but something is attached to the end of the skeg. Cripes, what if that something is an electric motor! Would that ever be an idea! Batteries inside the board which are charged as maybe a ducted fan hydro generates from the wave’s power, then at the throw of a switch on the deck converts to an electric motor for additional nose time and maybe even a free paddle back out. I sure didn’t have such a feature as that covered in the rules!
“Dewey bodysurfed in on the wave behind and then dashed across the rocks to recover his board before his secret gizmo could be seen. I still couldn’t make out what it was, but sure enough, it included a duct on the tip of the fin! Next chance I had to look, Dewey was running with this board up to his van. The same little tubular something fastened to the end of the skeg and an enormous ‘Factory Powered by Weber’ painted across the bottom.”
“Then around mid-afternoon,” continued Morey, “Mike Hynson and Skip Frye showed up with two of the sweetest looking boards I’ve ever seen: before or since. These babies were short (for their day), around 8’ and with a lot of tail rocker. The noses were squared off and covered with rough non-skid 3M adhesive-backed boat decking. The traction must have been incredible.
“Skip and Mike rode beautifully from the very first wave. Whether because of their own special talents or because of these short, lightweight, blunt nosed, deep finned, high traction boards, who could tell. Either way, we were seeing long, legitimate nose rides and hot, radical turns. With each saunter to and from the nose, surfing was also making some of its biggest advancements.
“By sundown, the water was full of the hottest of the hot. Fine tuning their boards and wiring the reefs. As great a surf session as has ever graced the shores of Ventura was taking place, yet as is so often the case, none of it made it onto film.”
That evening found Tom Morey and friends “down at the shop on Front Street,” Morey later recalled. “I’m collecting entry fees, Lee Morgan’s, The Sidewinder, is cookin’ over the sound system and most of the world’s great [nose] riders are hanging around at our little shop yacking as their boards are being logged in by Wiener. Measured, noses de-waxes and lightly sanded by Blinky, and then spray painted bright fluorescent red.
“Dewey’s board is brought in quite late and turns out to be properly painted. It has a very nifty foiled tube attached to the skeg, ‘to help keep the tail level and prevent pearling.’ Dewey’s earlier paranoia was understandable as this idea could have been seen by someone during the afternoon’s warm-up session. Within hours, lidless soup cans could have been glassed to the tip of every skeg in the contest.
“As grateful as Dewey must have been that this had not happened, I was doubly thankful the turbo was not a motor!
“Conspicuously absent that night were the guys from the Hobie shop. Phil, Mickey Munoz and Corky Carroll… and of course Rusty and Doyle.”
The morning of the Tom Morey Invitational, surf was small but glassy. Morey remembers it as “one to three feet with no prospects for increase.
“Combined with the morning’s high tide, waves are little more than noises swooshing along the shore. But, this is not a big problem. I had never promised surf, just a contest. We’ll find out who really cuts it when the chips are down.”
Phil Edwards bowed out and didn’t even show. However, Mickey and Corky came with boards that he had helped shape. These featured “additional width, extra tail rocker, a larger than usual skeg and blunt rounded concave bottomed nose.”
Come time for the invitational, numerous volunteers helped out with everything from lending stop watches to photography. LeRoy Grannis, who had by now made a name for himself as a top-notch surf photographer, trained his lens on the scene around him. Bruce Brown showed and shot movie film, “although to this day,” wrote Morey in 1994, “the footage has never been seen.” Surfer and International Surfing magazines as well as the L.A. Times covered the event.
Causing somewhat of a stir on the beach was “surf darling Sherry Haley,” Miss Surf-O-Rama, who “the young bucks are sparking about like kids on a picket fence as the early morning overcast gives way to the first glint of sunlight. A huge crowd for Ventura (thirty or forty locals) join a dozen rider’s wives and girlfriends as all straggle out onto the rocks which line the beach. Humorist Kenny Price begins announcing.”
Then the real excitement came into play. “Doyle and Miller have arrived. Late,” Morey recalled many years later, in the present tense. “They have dillydallied around without showing their boards until the last possible minute. Finally, wearing two of the world’s biggest grins, they unveil their equipment. And our jaws drop! There sit two nicely shaped, 10’ long, Mike Doyle Model, Hansen surfboards, each attractively painted, but with way more nose than seems right. In addition, Rusty’s board features a matching pair of red bricks resined onto the rear deck, ‘to help keep the nose up,’ he explains. ‘But Rusty,’ some kid asks, ‘do you actually think this is gonna help you win?’ Furthermore, both boards sport innovative horizontal trim fins created by design wizard Carl Ekstrom. The planing angle of these fins has been carefully adjusted to keep the tail from going over until every bit of speed is spent from the ride: like Dewey’s Turbo Tip, the Ekstrom skeg is a very slick idea!”
“The contest inspired some bizarre innovations,” Mike Doyle acknowledged, “which is what Tom Morey wanted all along. Some people showed up with really long boards, so the front twenty-five percent was a huge area. Rusty Miller fiberglassed some bricks to the tail of his board, as a counterweight when he was standing on the nose. My board, which I called ‘the Stinger,’ was only eight feet long but with an additional eight-foot tail. Tom Morey disqualified it, saying it wasn’t in good faith with the rules of the contest. But I didn’t really care. I got to sit on the beach and watch the greatest nose-riding performances of all time.”
The Stinger really tweaked Morey. As he recalled the 1965 scene in 1994, “these rascals have built 10’ long boards using 14’ long stringers! The extra 4’ of bare stringer is protruding ominously out the back! The additional stringer length increases the nose area from two-and-a-half feet (25% of 10’) to three-and-a-half feet (25% of 14’)! Yikes!!
“Everyone crowds around, ooohing and booing.
“Doyle challenges, ‘Tom, in the written rules you made it clear that nose length would be twenty-five percent of the board’s length. Well 25% of total board length is exactly what we have here, there’s nothing wrong. In fact, I even called you Tuesday to double check this, to make absolutely sure this would be okay (brow furrowing) and you repeated, ‘25% of the board’s length. Start the contest and let’s go (big smile)!’
“I answer, ‘Yeah, I know Mike, but, aaah, but, but…?’
“Doyle continues, ‘You didn’t say anything about us having to use 6” tails or 8” tails of something, did you? You said design innovation is encouraged, right?’
“Glub, glub, aaaaaaaaa…
“’So what’s the big deal if we use 14’ long boards with hips pulled way forward and a 2” wide tail? This is the way we want our boards and it is in exact compliance with your rules!’ Rusty, all the time is still grinning from ear to ear.
“I’m standing there flat-footed. They have me. Those were the rules and all these boards are perfectly legitimate. Meanwhile, someone is saying, ‘Morey, you can’t let them do this, it’s not fair.’ And someone else is saying, ‘Let’m enter just like they are. Hansen boards are dog shit anyway. Besides, Doyle is a big wave rider and couldn’t handle this junk surf no matter what he rode, especially not with a silly stick hanging out the back.’”
“Now Rusty is going, ‘You know, Tom, Hansen has a lot of time and money in these boards. You invited us, sent the rules, and we followed them to the letter. So how else can it be? Don paid, we ride.’
“After several minutes of this,” Morey went on, “I happen to see a sea gull fly overhead and dump a blob of poop on one of the Hansen boards. It tickled me pink seeing nature itself shit on these boards, and with the inner chuckle came a tiny natural voice saying, ‘Don’t just stand there taking this lip. Those boards are way outside the spirit of your contest; trickery, plain and simple. Give these guys a little poop, like I just showed you. No more Mr. Nice guy.’
“So I tell them, ‘Mike, Rusty, look, I agree with your logic. Yes, indeed the rules were as you quote. However, sweetheart of a guy that I normally am, this is my contest. (Pause for effect.) I made it all up and put it together myself. (Pause again to test the waters.) I also made up the rules. So, right or wrong, guess what, I’m just now making up a new rule that you can’t ride those boards the way they are. Period. We are starting in fifteen minutes. The clowning had been a lot of fun, but now it’s time to paint out those extra feet of nose color or forget about being in this contest. Saw off the stringers or leave them, I don’t care.’”
“Well,” Morey continued, “I send a guy for a saw and a lot of arm waving and shouting follows. (I’m glad it never came to blows because in the ensuing years both of these gentlemen have become great friends.)
“Finally Rusty capitulates and saws off his excess stringer, then waxes over the raw wood end. Doyle, however, will not remove his excess stinger claiming it (with deadpan expression) a legitimate design feature called a stinger. ‘The stinger is a counter-balance to what I do just like the tail of a kangaroo.’ (Uproarious laughter all around but in fact it is a very provocative idea.) So in cloudy compromise he agrees to compete for fun, no money and his entry fee is refunded. (The headache by now is throbbing full volume).”
Turns out, Doyle’s design didn’t work all that well, anyway and he ended up finishing well behind the leaders. Rusty’s bricks diddn’t work, either. “Halfway through the contest,” Morey wrote, “he was seen behind the judge’s stand sledging them off with a big rock.” Morey’s man Ross Cave didn’t do all that well, either. “Interesting enough,” Morey noted, “two red-hot goofy footers, David Nuuhiwa (16-years-old, riding some off-the-shelf production board) and Corky Carroll (17, riding the Hobie special) clocked more nose time than all but a few of the regular footers.”
The climax of the contest came in a duel between Mickey Munoz and Mike Hynson, “during which time the waves were dying to almost complete non-existence.”
“Mickey Munoz got a phenomenal ride of 9.9 seconds,” documented Doyle. “Corky Carroll, a goofy footer, nearly matched him with 9.6 seconds. With their accumulated time, those two ended up winning their respective divisions and taking home cash prizes of $750 each.”
Complete contest results:
concluded Doyle, “was only one element of surfing and, looking back on
it now, maybe not a very important one. But at least we had a contest
with some objective standards to judge it by.”
Years later, Mike
Doyle retired to Baja del Sur, Mexico. Since then, he has pursued a successful
career as an artist/painter who continues to surf and stay involved in
the world of surfing.
Additional Internet sources for info on Mike Doyle:
Sources Used In This Chapter:
Bernard “Midget” Farrelly ~ Denny Aaberg ~ Domenic Priore ~ Fred Hemmings ~ Greg Noll ~ Lance Carson ~ Mike Doyle ~ Morning Glass ~ Nomads of the Wind ~ The Soul of Surfing is Hawaiian ~ Surfer Magazine ~ The Surfer's Journal ~ The Surf Report ~ Tom Morey ~ Tubesteak
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