A Definitive History of Surfing's Culture and Heroes
By Malcolm Gault-Williams
This Chapter Updated: 12 March 2008
The Year in Surfing
Image courtesy of Steve Wilkings of Felipe Pomar surfing Sunset Beach in 1972.
Aloha! And welcome to another LEGENDARY SURFERS chapter. In 1965, surfing was already immensely popular in the developed countries. Yet, it -- and 1964 -- were years that demonstrated the growth and robustness of Peruvian surfing, born out of the surf culture of Waikiki around the time of World War II. For this reason, much of this chapter details the Peruvian surf story up to 1965.
A NOTE for teachers and parents: Some of the subject matter in this chapter is not suitable for viewing by children under 16.
“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.”
“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.”
“After a few minutes, the wind chop
picked up to maybe a foot, and I figured that was the closest thing to
a real wave I was going to see. So I got up to my knees and started
paddling. Just as I bent over, my Catalina Big-Wave Riders ripped
out from the crotch, through the seat, clear on around the waistband.
As I rose to my feet on a cleanly shaped twelve-inch wave, with my bare
ass hanging out, the cameras began clicking all around me, and the crowd
parted to let the world-famous surfer pass.”
“Nowadays guys go to the Islands and
break two, three boards or more, riding the winter surf. Modern boards
are lighter and slimmer. In my day if you broke a board in half it
was a big deal. Like it was a black mark against your skill as a
"I have to admit that I shared many
of Dora's views about the commercialization of the sport… By the late sixties,
a lot of the fun and camaraderie 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."
It was a time when violence raged in the non-violent Civil Rights Movement in the United States. Martin Luther King, Jr. headed a procession of 4,000 civil rights demonstrators from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to deliver a black petition at a time when there were Ku Klux Klan shootings in Selma. Severe race riots flared up in the Watts district of Los Angeles, resulting in 35 people dead, 4,000 arrested, and $40 million in property damage. Black Muslim leader Malcolm X was shot in New York City.
The “Conflict in Vietnam” was escalating. North Vietnamese MIG aircraft shot down U.S. jets. Students demonstrated in Washington against the subsequent U.S. bombing of North Vietnam. The U.S.S.R. (Communist Russian states) admitted supplying arms to North Vietnam. There were further American demonstrations against the war. Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh rejected peace talks with the United States.
What was termed “the second British invasion” had hit North American shores the year before, in 1964. British rock ‘n roll had quickly replaced American as the primary contemporary music form for a number of years. Displaced soul – or “Motown” music – along with surf music were the genres hardest hit. Leading this British musical influx was the phenomenal Beatles and popular groups like The Rolling Stones, Animals, Kinks and Who.
This was also the time of Peru’s international
leadership in surfing competition…
The Birth of Peruvian Surfing
Off the west coast of South America, every day Pacific ground swells hit the beaches from Panama to Patagonia, producing some of the planet’s best surf. Geographically shaped the way it is, it is logical that Peru is the South American country that picks up a good portion of these waves.
Although Peruvian artifacts show that the native people of Peru, before the Spanish invasion -- the Incas -- were surf-conscious and practiced a kind of surfing on reed mats in the surf at Mira Flores, near Lima, true surfing began in the years surrounding World War II.
“Peru is one of the great surf countries of the world,” The Surf Report, Volume 13, Number 11, November 1992 states, “with a history of surfing competitions going back to 1955.” Located on the west coast of South America between Ecudor and Chile, the Amazon Jungle makes up the east side of the country, the Andean Mountains the line separator in the middle, and the coastal desert on the west. There are nearly 1,400 miles of coastline in the country, which is about three times the size of California. Best overall season for waves is January thru April, late summer and fall in the Southern Hemisphere.
It was as far back as the 1930s when a Peruvian visitor to Hawaii by the name of Carlos Dogny fell in love with the sport of the Hawaiian kings. It was pre-World War II Waikiki – an idyllic place and time. Dogny came to visit several times, bringing back at least one surfboard with him to Peru – possibly more. In his home country, Dogny introduced his Peruvian friends to the sport and it has been alive and thriving there, ever since.
Carlos Dogny, himself, came from Peru’s
upper class, so it is logical that it was the upper class in Peru that
first started surfing there, primarily off the beaches near Lima, the capital.
Even some thirty years later, “Due to the country’s economic conditions,
participation in the sport has been limited to the wealthier class… It
was the young men of this well-to-do class, already interested in beach
recreations, who quickly took up surfing and have continued to support
it. Today,” Finney and Houston wrote in 1966, “Peruvian surfing is
characterized by a luxury found nowhere else in the surfing world… most
surfers belong to the swank ‘Club Waikiki’ on the beach at Miraflores,
only fifteen minutes from Lima. It was founded in 1942 by Senor Dogny
and three other surfing Peruvians. Much like a yacht club in appearance,
the club is equipped with fish ponds, gardens, a squash court for winter
recreation, a kitchen, bar, and clothes-changing facilities; it also provides
members with the services of ‘board boys’ who fetch and carry surfboards
to and from the water.”
Quantum Leaps, 1955-56
George Downing was the first Hawaiian to surf competitively in Peru and did so in 1955. It was his surfing at Kon Tiki, down the coast from Miraflores, that inspired the Peruvians to tackle bigger waves. They had previously tried their olas grandes but had not met with success until Downing’s arrival with the first-ever balsa board in the country. Quickly obtaining their own tables malibus (Malibu Boards), the Peruvians made a quantum leap in their surfing capabilities.
The following year, Carlos Dogny went
back to Hawaii and competed in the Makaha Championship. While there,
he was particularly struck with the image of women surfing in competition.
In Peru, up to that point, surfing had been strictly a man’s game.
Dogny thereupon invited the female members of the Hawaiian Waikiki
Surf Club to attend the Peruvian meet the next year. Following
that, he then extended an invitation to the club as a whole, to send a
team to compete in what became known as the South American Championships.
Subsequently, for years afterwards, there was a back and forth exchange
of Hawaiian and Peruvian surfers riding together in each other’s country.
This cross-pollination peaked in the mid-1960s.
Map courtesy of WannaSurf.com
Peruvian Invitational, 1964
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.
“Phil Edwards and Bo Beck represented California,” recalled Fred Hemmings of the Peruvian International of 1964. “Australian surfers were world traveler Peter Troy, Mike Hickey and Rex Banks. We were all guests of Club Waikiki, founded in 1941 by Peruvian surfing patriarch Carlos Dogney…
“The contest was held at Kon Tiki. It was the original and only frequented big wave spot in Peru. I noticed that the texture of the Peruvian waves were so different from Hawaii. Waves do have ‘personalities.’ Some say that the waves are like women. The waves in Hawai`I are sassy, powerful, and arrogant. Kon Tiki, in Peru, provided waves that were slow, methodical, and deceptive. The Kon Tiki wave did not look difficult, but looks can be deceiving. Most Peruvians at the time surfed right in front of Club Waikiki in Miraflores, on the coast of Lima.”
Kon Tiki is a big wave spot in the Punta Negra area, similar to Pico Alto. Lonely and distant, it breaks about ¾ of a mile offshore, with a range between 6 and 18 feet.
“Surfing in Peru was in its infancy,”
Hemmings went on. “The senior statesman of the sport besides Carlos
Doggy [sic] were Poncho Wiese and Edwardo Arena. Hector and Carlos
Velarde, Miguel Plaza, Piti Block, the Barredda brothers, Poncho Ambarru,
Rafael Navarro and the late Joquin Mirio Quesada made up the core of regulars.”
2nd World Surfing Championship, Peru 1965
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.”
8th – Ken Adler, Australia
7th – George Downing, Hawai`I
6th & 5th tied – Mike Doyle, California and Fred Hemmings, Hawai`I
4th – Mickey Munoz, California
3rd – Paul Strauch, Hawai`I
2nd – Nat Young, Australia
1st – Felipe Pomar, Peru
“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.”
It should be noted that much has changed in the surfing reality of Peru since those glorious days of international competition in the mid-1960s. “I can tell you that there are very few [Peruvian] surfers that can afford to be members of the Waikiki Club,” Peruvian Oscar M. Brain wrote me in 1999, “and fewer that would even want to be members. Surfers in Peru [now] come from every class, ethnicity and gender. You can see that just two hundred yards down the beach from the Waikiki Club in the break La Pampilla… [and] elsewhere [along]… the coast of Peru.”
Oscar went on to tell me a story about one of Peru’s unnamed surfing watermen:
“Last year I was in Punta Hermosa, just
south of Lima. Since I was on a budget, I rented a room from a local
family in the town. It turned out that the old man living next to
me (the grandfather in the family that rented me the room) had surfed Punta
Hermosa since the early fourties. All his male children and grandchildren
also surf. In fact, his son Paco was second [in] last year’s big
wave contest in Pico Alto, a wave as big as any. This man was a fisherman,
and he got involved in surfing as many of the wealthier surfers from Lima
would leave their heavy surfboards with him. He would surf with them in
Kontiki, an almost big wave spot just north of Punta Rocas (where the World
Titles were held in 1965). This man was an all-around waterman.
He would swim through heavy surf to an island to fish. He would also
swim across the Huallaga River in the Peruvian Amazon (a very wide river,
like most major tributaries to the Amazon River). He is not even
well-known, but the detail of his stories showed me that he was intimately
connected with the surfing of the Forties and Fifties. Looking at
him, at his age, he is still very healthy. He stands tall and proud…
Even before modern surfing, native Peruvians have been riding waves (sitting
and standing up) for more than a thousand years in reed boards that had
a rocker, and a wide point just behind the middle of the board, much like
2nd Annual Surfer Poll
“That spring, 1965,” wrote Mike Doyle, getting back to the subject of 1965, “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 Duke
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 ahowed 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:
Longest Single Nose Rides:
“Nose riding,” 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.”
“Several days after the contest,” Tom Morey wrote of the time right after the Tom Morey Invitational, “a board came out of our glass room for William Blinky Hubina, foreman of the shop. Blinky had been the one doing all of the painting on noses for the contest, so naturally when his board was ready to surf, he taped off and lightly sanded away the gloss of his nose. Finding perhaps that there was not enough leftover paint to do the nose, he took his board next door to the Ventura County Street Department where city street barricades were regularly painted bright highway centerline yellow. He painted what he wanted and within a few minutes had a free, vividly colored bright yellow, flat textured nose.
“After pulling the tape and letting the paint dry thoroughly, he noticed how attractively rough was the texture. That evening, he and his buddy Bill Delaney (sander at the time and more recently famous for his 1990 surf classic Surfers) drove up to Stanley’s Diner (local beach break) [destroyed when the Highway 101 was expanded to include on/off ramps for Seacliff and the oil depot at another surf spot that became known as “oil piers” because of the oil piers built there and, as of this writing, being dismantled there] for a late evening go out. When it came time to wax up, Blinky left the nose alone thinking perhaps the paint alone would give adequate traction. Sure enough, he found the grip superb. Delaney tried it and was also impressed. One of them came up with the name ‘Slipcheck.’”
“On the following morning,” Morey remembers, “they showed Slipcheck to me, explaining they intended to buy a compressor and spray custom boards in Stanley’s parking lot on weekends. I mulled over the situation, then suggested a better way to go might be to let me take a crack at getting the stuff aerosol packaged in L.A., pay them royalties on every can sold and wholesale Slipcheck to surf shops worldwide.
“The details were worked out and Slipcheck became THE traction standard among surfers. Thousands of cans were sold until boards got extremely short and nose riding temporarily lost its popularity. However, now as the result of a synergetic combination of painted noses for time, Hynson and Frye’s innovative high traction deck covering [used at the Tom Morey Invitational] and Blinky’s discovery, there are Ultra Grip, Gorilla Grip, Astro Deck and all the other traction materials and systems now standard on practically every board made; both short and long.” Morey added:
“The boogie board would probably never
have been created had I never seen those Frye/Hynson square noses and the
superb riding turned in by these two.”
East Coast Promotionals
“A lot of California surfers who did East Coast tours in the Sixties to promote surfboards or beachwear hated every minute of it,” recalled Mike Doyle. “They hated being away from the beaches in California, and they hated having to smile and shake hands with people they didn’t know or want to know. But for me, the Catalina promo tours were a lot of fun. I’ve always liked to travel, and on those tours I got to see a different town every two or three days. And every situation in every town was totally different.”
“In Atlanta,” Doyle recalled, “the Catalina rep happened to be a real swinger. Everybody who came to his town had to have a good time. He set me up with this woman who was about thirty. He had his own girl, too, and we all went to dinner way out in the country someplace where they served fried chicken, and black kids danced on the tables.
“The next morning I was at some department store in downtown Atlanta, giving away autographed eight-by-ten glossies of myself and showing my seven-minute surf film. The parents walking by would grab the free photo and say, ‘Here, sign this for my kid. He loves surfing.’ They had no idea who I was or what surfing was all about.
“Three days later, in Miami, I was right in there with the Goldbergs, a husband-and-wife rep team. They took me home to meet their kids, I ate at their table, and slept in the back bedroom. We all went to the movies together, and I held their daughter’s hand in the dark.”
“A few days later,” Doyle went on, “I was in Cincinnati, where the local rep was a single guy, about twenty-four, driving a sharp El Camino. He didn’t know Mike Doyle from Arnold Palmer. It was about eight in the morning, but behind the driver’s seat he had a big ice chest full of beer; he handed me a cold one and said, ‘Hey, Doyle… Is it Doyle? Today we’re surfin’ the Ohio!’
“I laughed and said, ‘You gotta be kidding me!’
“He downed his beer in two swallows, then crushed the can on the dashboard. ‘Nope, I got a forty-foot boat lined up. Macy’s is puttin’ up the money. We got a restaurant here in town to cover the food. Channel 8 and Channel 10 are both gonna be there. Surfing’s a big deal in this town, Doyle!’
“Next thing I knew, I was on the Ohio River, riding the wake behind a big yacht, smiling for the TV cameras, and doing my best to dodge things in the water that looked a lot like floating turds.”
“My next stop was New York City,” Doyle continued, “where the young mayor, John Lindsay, had just seen Bruce Brown’s Endless Summer, and was all stoked on surfing. As soon as I got to town, Lindsay arranged to meet me at Gilgo Beach, on Long Island. He flew in on a police helicopter and, in front of a big crowd, awarded me the key to the City of New York. It didn’t look to me like it fit any real locks, but I figured if I got stopped by the cops, it might get me out of a ticket. Then Lindsay and I climbed in his helicopter, and we took a fifteen-minute flight around the mayor’s kingdom while he pointed out the landmarks.”
“A couple of days later, when I hit Galveston, Texas,” Doyle said of his promotional tour in 1965, “the taxi bringing me from the airport passed four huge billboards plastered with the message ‘World Famous Surfer Mike Doyle Is Coming to Galveston Beach!’ As if that weren’t enough, the local radio station repeated the same message every twenty minutes: ‘The famous big-wave rider Mike Doyle is coming to surf Galveston Beach! Be there to witness this once-in-a-lifetime demonstration!’
“The local rep put me up in some glitzy, Las Vegas-type hotel with mirrors on the ceiling, red carpets, and gold doors. For the rest of the day I was treated like royalty, with a free haircut, manicure, and facial, and that night I was the guest of honor at a banquet for the town bigwigs.”
“The next morning,” Doyle continued, “when I got out of bed, the beach in front of the hotel was lined as far as I could see in both directions with cars full of Texans waiting to see me surf. Looking out onto the Gulf of Mexico, I could see clear to the horizon, but the only waves were from a six-inch wind chop. I pulled on my flowery Catalina Big-Wave Riders, made with ‘Dependable Du Pont Nylon!’ and the matching nylon wind shell, grabbed my surfboard, and made my way through the hotel lobby to the beach. I greeted the crowd with a wave, waxed up my board, and waded into the lukewarm water, which was the color of chocolate milk.
“I walked 150 yards into the gulf, but the water was still only three or four feet deep. So I climbed on my board and paddled another 150 yards. Hundreds of people waded out with me. One of the local TV reporters, who was wearing slacks and a white shirt, slogged over beside me, leaned his elbows on the nose of my board, and said into his microphone, ‘For our viewers at home, this is the world-famous surfer Mike Doyle.’ He stuck his microphone a little closer to my face, then said, ‘Tell me, Mike, how do you like surfing here in Texas?’
“’Well, the waves are a bit small today. But other than that, I’d say the surf conditions here are just about ideal.’
“After a few minutes, the wind chop picked up to maybe a foot, and I figured that was the closest thing to a real wave I was going to see. So I got up to my knees and started paddling. Just as I bent over, my Catalina Big-Wave Riders ripped out from the crotch, through the seat, clear on around the waistband. As I rose to my feet on a cleanly shaped twelve-inch wave, with my bare ass hanging out, the cameras began clicking all around me, and the crowd parted to let the world-famous surfer pass.”
Of course, as soon as he got back to
California, Doyle called up the president of Catalina Sportswear.
Helping promote Catalina in those days, Doyle told Chuck Trowbridge that
the Catalina suits needed to be more like the kind of trunks being produced
by Nancy Katin. Trowbridge ended-up
buying Kanvas by Katin for Catalina. It was only years afterwards
that Katin would be able to get out from under the Catalina brand.
Honolua Bay, Maui
This was the era when Honolua Bay, Maui, became a prime surf destination for those in the know. Even though it had been surfed as early as the 1940s by Woody Brown and Don Uchimura, it was not until the early-1960s that Honolua Bay was really “discovered.” Paul Strauch and high school pals surfaried there circa 1960-61. Later, in the mid-1960s, the Bay was broke open by guys like Buddy Boy Kaohi, Les Potts, Herbie Fletcher, Albert Jenks, Mark Martinson, Jeff Hakman, Jock Sutherland, Bill Fury, Greg Tucker and others.
“Let’s put it this way –“ Herbie Fletcher told Scott Hulet, editor of Longboard magazine, in 1997, “the Bay was good enough that after I surfed it, I went back to Oahu, got my clothes, and moved there. See, in 1965 I was living on the North Shore, and MacGillivray and Freeman came by and asked if I wanted to go to Maui with Bill Fury to film a segment for Free and Easy. I said, ‘Uh, yeah.’ And you know how it is when you’re 17 and you’re on an adventure – you don’t have any idea what to expect – you just go. We ended up finding a new spot and calling it Windmills. Another called Sandbox, Osterizers. We went up to the crater (Haleakala) and met Paul Gebauer… which was pretty bizarre. But the Bay was the deal.”
“By the time I’d moved there,” continued Herbie Fletcher, “I had things figured out… I’d hitchhike out to the Bay in the morning and surf alone until about 3:00 PM. Most people wouldn’t go there ‘till the afternoon ‘cause they thought the winds were wrong. I had my own little patch kit with a spare fin, a Sureform, glass, fin rope, and stuff that I just stashed in the bushes, and I’d just surf it alone, no matter how big. I’d just hope people’d show up so I could get a ride back to Lahaina.”
Fletcher recalled the standout surfers at Honolua Bay were “Greg Tucker, Bill Fury, Buddy Boy, and me, OK? Gebauer – he used to walk to the Bay barefoot, all the way from Wailuku. It’d take him all day. He’d surf, then he’d disappear into… I don’t know, space. And Martinson. Mark was bad-ass, let me tell you. Powerful surfer. And Fury, man… smooth and stylish. This was all before ‘68/’69, when the hippies came and ruined everything.”
“I don’t have any idea who the first (Western) guy to surf Honolua was,” Fletcher admitted. “I know we weren’t the first in ’65. Weber’d been through there. Rick Irons. Probably Velzy. All I know is that there were about seven haoles – Diffenderfer, Ryan Dotson – then maybe a couple local guys, Snake Ahi and another guy. That was it.”
“Man, it’s changed so much,”Fletcher continued. “It used to take an hour to get there from town [Lahaina]; now it’s 25 minutes. Used to be just one little dirt road. Now the Bay’s surrounded by golf courses and roads, tourists, rental cars. It’s just so crowded. But the cliff’s still there. The wave’s still there. If you got the talent, you can have a lot of fun…”
“Oh, it’s out of control… just way too crowded,” agreed Dave Kalama, taking it one step further. “Who said I surf Honolua? Yeah… It’s still good, but not so good that everyone hears about it and crowds it out.”
Honolua Bay’s all-time best? “Jock Sutherland at Coconuts on a 20’ day,” said Herbie Fletcher. “Jeff Hakman, hands down,” say others according to Longboard editor Scott Hulet.
“Alika Moepono,” mentioned Dave Kalama.
“Lloyd Ishimine – and no one in 2nd… Albert Jenks… Les Potts…” Hulet notes,
adding later all stars Stu McRobbie, Chris Van Der Voort, Eddie Kondo,
Laird Hamilton, Wayne Cochran and Jeff Coleman.
Broken Boards: Brewer vs. Noll
“Nowadays guys go to the Islands and break two, three boards or more, riding the winter surf,” noted Greg Noll in his autobiography Da Bull: Life Over the Edge. “Modern boards are lighter and slimmer. In my day if you broke a board in half it was a big deal. Like it was a black mark against your skill as a surfboard designer.
“I was the first to use lightweight sticks for center strips in surfboards, to get the weight down. The old eleven-foot guns weighed forty-five to fifty pounds. They were double glassed and had the heavier, three-quarter-inch redwood sticks in them for reinforcement.
“In the sixties I blew my own foam. My dad figured out the formula and continually revised it, trying to come up with a lighter-density foam. I also single-glassed the boards, used aircraft-grade spruce for the center sticks, messed with the board design -- anything to get the weight down and still have some performance. As a result my boards were riding better, but every once in a while one would break.”
At that time a lot of the big-wave surfers on the North Shore were riding my boards,” Noll continued. “Dick Brewer, who went on to become a well-known shaper in his own right, was up-and-coming then and trying to find his niche. He opened a little shop in Haleiwa and put one of the boards I had made for Jose Angel in his window. Trouble was, the board had broken in half one day when Jose had it out in some big surf. Brewer had somehow got his hands on the two halves and put them in his window with my logo sticker showing. It was a real back-biting, chicken-shit thing to do and I was really pissed.
“It so happened that I was able to confront Brewer one night, when Mike Stange and I went to a party at Warren ‘Tubby’ Harlow's house, right on the point at Waimea. We both got a little smashed. Brewer was there, so I asked him what the hell he thought he was doing, putting my broken board in his shop window. He ignored me and called Mike an undesireable name, so I asked Brewer to go outside with me and settle this dispute. He wouldn't go, so I popped him right where he stood. His wife started screeching like a banshee and then talked some other guy into trying to hammer me over the head with a beer bottle. The whole thing turned into diarrhea and the cops were called.”
“Mike and I decided then and there that this would be a good time to take a tour of the other islands,” Greg Noll wrote. “We left before the cops arrived and headed for Maui, where we spent three very forgettable days. Then, on to e for a day. Lanai is not much more than a pinapple field with a little hill at one end. There's one town where most of the population lives. We talked to these elderly Japanese people who had lived on Lanai all their lives and had never been off the island. We couldn't believe it. Talk about island fever. We could hardly wait to get off Lanai and back to Oahu.
“Our rental car ran out of gas on the way back to the airport. We siphoned what we thought was gas out of a tractor, and realized too late that it was diesel. We abandoned the car and hitched a ride back to the airport.
“Before going back to Oahu we stopped over in Molokai and discovered that the locals had never before seen a real surfboard. At one bar we visited, all the guys crowded around to touch and examine our boards. And here we were, only thirty miles across the channel from the greatest surf spots in the world!
“When we got to the Molokai airport all we had in our pockets were our airline tickets back to Oahu and enough change for a couple of hot dogs. We were so starved that we heaped on all the mustard and relish those hot dogs could hold. I ate the rest of the relish straight from the jar.
“By the time we finally rolled back
into Haleiwa, I had decided to go apologize to Brewer. As soon as
I showed up, his wife called the cops and they came and hauled me off to
the jug. Even the Hawaiian cops couldn't understand why some haole
would press charges against somebody who had just taken one shot.
That's all I did, just backhanded Brewer. It happened to break his
nose and he sued me for a hundred and fifty thousand dollars. What
an asshole. Eventually he dropped the lawsuit and we got along O.K.
Life's too short for all that crap.”
Board Production ala Noll
“A lot of guys who used to work with me went into business on their own,” wrote Greg Noll. “... We made boards for lots of the guys in the Islands... in 1965, we had a total lip lock on the big-wave-board business for many years... By the mid-sixties, the surf industry was booming. We built a twenty-thousand-square-foot factory on a couple blocks off Pacific Coast Highway in Hermosa Beach. We kept the retail store up on the highway. The factory was for offices and board production only. The building was a city block long. It started with the foam room, where foam for the surfboard blanks was formulated and then blown into one of several different molds. After that, the foam blanks were split in two so that a center strip of wood could be glued into the boards for reinforcement. From there, the blanks were moved into the shaping room on carts. There were eight shaping stalls. We were set up to produce up to forty boards a day, or two hundred a week.
“After the boards were shaped, they continued on the carts into the laminating room, where there was a sea of tables. The room was temperature-controlled with separate work tables for each laminator. In one corner was the sanding area with a huge blower that could remove twenty-one thousand cubic feet of dusty air per minute. The next room also had a bunch of work tables for glassing. It was heat-controlled, with a complete air change every one and a half minutes. In the last room, the boards were polished and then crated for shipping.
“It was quite an operation. At times we exceeded two hundred boards a week. During surfing's heyday in the sixties, we had sixty-three East Coast dealers that we had to keep supplied, in addition to other dealers on the Mainland and in Hawaii. I'd go back there two or three times a year to attend store openings and pep rallies at local schools and to judge surf contests. I hated it more than anything in the world. The people were nice, but I dreaded dealing with all that promotional crap.”
Sources Used In This Chapter:
Corky Carroll ~ Fred Hemmings ~ George Downing ~ Greg Noll ~ Herbie Fletcher ~ Mickey Munoz ~ Mike Doyle ~ Oscar M. Brain ~ Paul Strauch ~ Surfer Magazine ~ The Surfer's Journal ~ The Surf Report ~ Tom Morey
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