A Definitive History of Surfing's Culture and Heroes
By Malcolm Gault-Williams
This Chapter Updated: 21 July 2008
Surfing Year 1966
Aloha! And welcome to this chapter of LEGENDARY SURFERS.
This time around, we rundown some of the highlights of the surfing year 1966.
I picked this SURFER magazine cover because it really grabbed me when I was younger; when I was just starting to get interested in surfing. In high school at the time, in New England (USA), this wave looked huge to me. I'd never seen a picture of a wave that big before and the way the sunlight played against the surface of the wave just entranced me. It still does, only now I've been out there and seen it up close. It's far more beautiful when you're living it rather than reading it...
But, at least we have the words and pictures at times when we can't be out there in what Tommy Zahn referred to as "the pure joy of it all."
In clear reflection of the culture of the time, both miniskirts and color TV became popular in 1966. Soviet and American spacecraft landed on the Moon, taking pictures and collecting data. Chairman Mao Tse-tung’s “Quotations of Chairman Mao,” better known as The Little Red Book, was perhaps the most read collection of print on the planet. Red Guard demonstrations rippled across China, in opposition to Western influences. In the United States, the International Days of Protest made strong statements against US involvement in Vietnam. This would turn out to be just the beginning of a wider movement among young people across the United States and the world, in opposition to the Vietnam War.
For surfers, the Golden Age of Surfing continued in grand style. This was the time of signature model sufboards, woodies and the last popular strains of surf music. As far as innovation was concerned, the shortboard was just about to blast the sport apart. In the mix, there was even a paper surfboard…
Tom Morey tells the story of how the paper surfboard began:
“It was 1965,” Morey recalled in “Long Soggy Saga,” published in The Surfer’s Journal, “in the middle of November and a typic dreary morning. I was working out of Ventura, California (going broke actually), trying to build surfboards from a tiny metal shed at the North end of Santa Clara Street. No one had been to the shop for days. The skies were gray with a blur drizzle clouding everything, including my mind. Consequently I was just sorta squatting down behind the counter in a doze when the phone rang and a cheery voice on the other end goes, ‘Howdy, turnip tits.’
“After realizing that some tits really do look like turnips, I snapped out of it recognizing this as my old surfing pal, Lynn ‘Beetle’ Bailey, calling from New York.”
Turns out someone had concocted an advertising ploy of a surfboard made out of paper and Bailey had hooked Morey up with the International Paper Company and the New York advertising fim of Olgilvy & Mather.
“The ‘paper’ board,” Morey explained, “was to be constructed from some kind of new water resistant cardboard, then filmed as some nut would ride it in ‘the wild Hawaiian surf.’” Although Dewey Weber had been the first choice for this mission, Beetle Bailey was able to get Morey on-line with film producer Al Jenkins. “Turns out the project was not so silly as it first sounded,” Morey recalled. “The ‘paper’ involved is actually resin impregnated cardboard. The commercial is to demonstrate how a box on the loading dock in the rain, if made of this stuff, won’t dissolve into slop as would a normal box…
“Of course I, with no income, am Mr. Positive to Mr. Jenkins; all enthusiasm requesting he send me samples…”
Morey’s first stab at trying to make a board out of this stuff resulted in a laminated, overlapping cardboard board that weighed 54 pounds. He proceeded to attach fin and plug as many holes as he could. Even so, he had a problem with the rails not smoothing out and offering too many holes themselves. The second week in January, representatives of the company and the advertiser came out to check Morey’s progress and look at the problem with the rails.
Al Jenkins – not being a surfer -- was not overly concerned about the rails. The plan went forward, moving from Ventura to Makaha. Morey got the gig not only to build some more paper boards, as backups, but also landed the job of riding the boards for the cameras. This took place at Makaha in February. There were continued problems with holes in the paper, particularly along the rain line. Morey dealt with these, eventually, with silicon sealant. Buffalo Keaulana helped by controlling the crowds, at Makaha, so the shoot could take place without other surfers in the frame. After some real problems, Morey had a successful take on the third of the three paper boards.
“Looking back on it all after twenty-five years,” Tom Morey wrote in 1991, “I’m completely hysterical. But it was serious stuff then. Hopefully Olgilvy & Mather reimbursed everyone. (I know I sort of avoided Buffalo until just last year when I apologized for the trouble caused and we played uke together and had some good laughs.)
“… I earned an additional 4,000 in residuals over the next 18 months (which, kids, wasn’t a whole lot of money even in those days), but not all that bad considering.
“In August of 66, a full color, two page advertisement appeared in Reader’s Digest showing the riding of that first wave on Cardboard #1, a true paper surfboard (if, of course, you disregard the 15 pounds of silicon rubber plugging the rails).”
The Surf/Ski Synthesis
“A lot of surfers in those days were beginning to get interested in skiing,” wrote veteran Malibu surfer Mike Doyle. “We saw that surfing and skiing had a lot in common, not only in the physical mechanics, but in the way they used gravity and the elements of nature for fun and self-expression. Surfers began to talk a lot about the ‘surf/ski synthesis.’”
Doyle began to check it out at Mammoth Lakes, in the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains of California. There, he met his wife-to-be, Jamie Robertson. “I was twenty-four at the time,” recalled Doyle, “and Jamie was just eighteen. Looking back on it now, I can see that we didn’t really get along that well, but there was an intensity to our relationship that was irresistible. On July 31, 1966, a few hours after I’d competed in a surfing contest in Redondo Beach, Jamie and I were married in Palos Verdes.”
1st Annual International Surfing Hall of Fame
By 1966, Surfer magazine was beginning to have
International Surfing magazine. In that
magazine’s 1st Annual
International Surfing Hall of Fame, held at the Santa Monica Civic
Auditorium on June 7, 1966, the following were inducted:
Just 17 years of age at the start of 1966, Jeff Hakman had been impressing his elders for a number of years. What really brought him to the limelight was his win of the first-ever Duke Kahanamoku Invitational Surfing Championships, at Sunset Beach, in December 1965. “It was a fantastic exhibition by Jeff,” declared Buzzy Trent, one of the judges. “That one ride he made was a one-in-a-million shot. He harnessed the wave.”
Thereafter, Jeff Hakman was featured in Time magazine and then, when the CBS television special of the event aired in Spring of 1966, Jeff was the star.
Jeff was soon added to the Duke Kahanamoku Surf Team. Phil Jarratt, who has written the definitive biography of Hakman, describes Jeff’s entry into this elite group in this way:
“A couple of months after the contest, Kimo McVay [Duke’s manager] phoned Jeff… and asked him to drop down to Duke Kahanamoku’s [night club] for a beer and a chat. Jeff was shown into Kimo’s office at the rear of the club and handed a Lucky Lager. Kimo had a whisky in one hand and a smoke in the other.
“’Jeff, good of you to come down. You know Duke thinks a lot of you, right?’
“Jeff nodded, a little embarrassed.
“’Yeah, well he does, he thinks you’re kinda special. Would you like to be on the Duke Kahanamoku Surf Team? Totally professional, boards, clothes, spending money, an account here at the club, you name it.’
“’But what do I have to do, Kimo?’
“’Nothin’ much. Just keep surfing the way you did in the meet, wear Duke’s clothes, ride Duke’s boards, maybe bring your girl down to the club some nights and meet some folks, just generally be Jeff Hakman, surf star.’”
“It sounded like a deal to Jeff,” Jarratt wrote. “He had been a [Dick] Brewer team rider for a couple of years, of course, but this was very different. This was full page magazine ads, personal appearances with the other team members, this was like superstardom! The era of the team riders and the surf star models had well and truly arrived on the mainland, where Corky Carroll had his own model, David Nuuhiwa had his noserider, Dewey Weber had his ‘Performer,’ Greg Noll was putting the finishing touches to a Mickey Dora signature model called ‘Da Cat,’ Mike Doyle had a model with Hansen, Phil Edwards with Hobie, and even lesser lights like Dru Harrison and East Coaster Claude Codgen had their own models. But things had been a little slower to move in Hawaii, and the Duke team was the first real attempt to attract mainstream attention to a surf label.”
“We copped a lot of flak when we started wearing these aloha print shirts and jackets in team designs,” recalled Hakman, “but if you’d asked any surfer in Hawaii at that time if he’d like to be on the Duke Kahanamoku Surf Team, the answer would have been, you bet. It was a real honour.”
“I guess I got about as close as a seventeen-year-old kid can to an old man,” Jeff looked back in the late 1990s, “and I loved Duke. He had a kind of simple manner, wouldn’t say too much, but now and then he’d just crack you up with his sense of humor. And he had a very spiritual side, too, a real aura. All these years later, I don’t remember the substance of what he said, but I remember feeling good when I was around him. He was a very handsome man with a great physique, even at that age, and he always carried himself with dignity. I don’t know what he really thought about all the marketing bullshit, but maybe he was happy that it made Kimo happy.”
“For his part,” wrote Phil Jarratt, “Jeff liked the whole team deal, but he really loved his charge card at Duke Kahanamoku’s. It was for one hundred dollars a month, and no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t spend that much.” Jarratt told a story of one of the first times young Jeff showed-up at Duke’s:
“Soon after he’d joined the team, Jeff borrowed his father’s car and took a girlfriend along to see the Don Ho supper show. Jeff was seventeen and looked fourteen, and the maitre d’ couldn’t believe he actually had a reservation. ‘Sonny, this is a nightclub,’ he explained.
“’My name is Jeff Hakman. I’m sure if you go out back and check, everything will be fine.’
“The fellow stomped off. A few moments later he was back, all smiles and hand gestures. ‘I’m terriby sorry, Mr. Hakman. My mistake. This way please and I know you’ll have a wonderful evening. What about a complimentary mai tai to start you off?’
“Soon it was, ‘Your usual table, Mr. Hakman?’ Jeff had the coolest teenage act in town, and he knew it.”
U.S. Surfing Championships, Huntington Beach
The United States Surfing Championships were held in September, at Huntington Beach. David Nuuhiwa won the event. Jeff Hakman won the Duke Kahanamoku Sportsmanship Award which was presented to him by Duke, himself.
Duke Team in Vegas, September 1966
Phil Jarratt, in Mr Sunset: The Jeff Hakman Story wrote of a funny prank Jeff Hakman played on Duke when the team went to Las Vegas, after the Huntington Beach contest:
“… Jeff and Jock Sutherland had rooms next to Duke’s… the phone rang. It was Kimo. ‘Hey, Jeff, you guys need an education in fun. My treat. I’m sendin’ some fun up for you both.’
“A few minutes later Jeff answered the knock on the door and let an attractive brunette in. There was an awkward period, but the girl, about six or eight years older than him, soon made Jeff feel at ease. When they had finished the hooker said: ‘Any other potential clients?’
“Jeff said: ‘Oh yeah, my friend in the next room. He’s a little older, but he’s a neat guy.’ The girl dressed, kissed Jeff lightly on the cheek and left. He heard the faint knock on Duke’s door.
“Jeff hadn’t even begun to visualize the encounter in the next room when he heard doors slamming and the hooker burst back into his room. She was breathless and angry. ‘You guys are sick, you know that? That’s an old man in there, and I ain’t bein’ responsible for no heart attack.’ She slammed the door and was gone. When Jeff saw Duke later down at the tables, he looked a little bewildered.”
1966 World Surfing Titles, Ocean Beach
“In California,” wrote Phil Jarratt, “surfing would never get any bigger than it was that fall. The surf craze which had been building towards a climax since about 1963 was ready to burst, with surf shops on every corner.”
Hawaii was represented by Paul Strauch, Ben Aipa, Jackie Eberle, Steve Bigler, Butch Van Artsdalen, Jimmy Lucas and Jeff Hakman who had just been nominated by International Surfing magazine as the “best specialist big wave rider in the world.”
“Socially, it was just incredible,” Hakman recalled. “There were wild parties every night, girls running up and down the corridors screaming, quite a bit of pot and LSD. The Peruvians were just out of control. Hector Vallarde and one of his buddies took their team Camaro onto the beach and gave it a thrashing, doing donuts around people and generally terrorising. The lifeguards chased them off the beach, then the police chased them to the 405 freeway before they caught them. But Hector was one smooth guy, he told them that in Peru it was normal to drive on the beach. No charges were laid.”
Power vs. Cruise
That fall,” wrote Mike Doyle of the contest, “from September 26 through October 2, the third World Surfing Championships were held in San Diego, at Ocean Beach. It was the biggest surf contest ever held on the mainland, with 80,000 spectators. More important, though, it was the first time the U.S. media covered surfing as a serious sport, rather than just a wacky California fad.”
“That world contest shook up California surfing,” Doyle recalled. “At the time we were all riding 10-foot surfboards with trash-can noses, and we were still into an old-fashioned style of surfing there you stomp on the tail to kick the nose up, let the wave build-up go in front of you, then you either run forward and crouch down inside the tube, or else you stand on the nose and arch back in a kind of pose. We had all these stock poses we did over and over – el Spontaneo, Quasimodo, Nose Tweaking, Bell Ringing. They had originated back in the goofy Malibu days and had been a lot of fun over the years. But they had also stifled the creation of new styles. It was time to move on to other things.”
“When the contest began at Ocean Beach Pier,” wrote Phil Jarratt, “it soon became obvious that it would be a duel between two completely different approaches to wave riding… The California cruise, best exemplified by the surfing of Nuuhiwa and acolytes like Dru Harrison, used the surfboard as a platform for manoeuvres, some of them quite spectacular, like Nuuhiwa’s ten second nose rides. The Australian power style of Nat Young and Queensland surfer Peter Drouyn used the surfboard to attack the wave, riding in parts of it that had never before been utilized.”
“The real agent of change that year was Nat Young,” Mike Doyle wrote, “who came over from Australia with an old, beat-up, nine-foot log that looked like hell. But it was shaped like one of the old pig boards – a shape that had mostly been forgotten.
“… The pig board had gotten started by accident at Dale Velzy’s shop in Venice back in the Fifties. In those days, all the boards were wide in the front and narrow in the back. The guy who glassed Velzy’s boards accidentally glassed the fin on the wide end and left a narrow nose. But Velzy, to his great credit, was always open to new ideas. Whe he saw what had happened, he just laughed and said, ‘Ah, hell, don’t knock it off, let’s try it in the water and see what happens.’ The first time they put it in the water, they were amazed to find that it turned wonderfully, with all the width in back as a planing surface where the rider’s weight is, and the narrow nose to trim in close to the wave. In a very short time, that became the hottest new shape in surfboards – a wide tail and a narrow nose – and became known as a pig board.”
“But over the years,” continued Doyle, “with all the experimentation that had taken place in surfboard design, (and mostly because the nose-riding style of surfing required a wide nose) the pig board concept had been forgotten.
“Then Nat Young, with his born-again pig board, made a quantum leap in style. Instead of nose-riding like the rest of us, Nat was making lines and patterns on the faces of the waves. And that board of his, which looked like a piece of junk to us, was really pretty sophisticated. Besides being small (nine-foot was small to us then), it had a continuous-curve outline and continuous-curve rocker. While we were riding long, straight, cigar boards, Nat’s board was much more suitable for doing cutbacks and what I call S-turn surfing.”
“Nat was cranking his board,” also explained Jeff Hakman, “a nine feet four inch thing he called Sam, and doing roundhouse cutbacks like I’d never seen before. He’d just drive it out onto the shoulder, plant those big feet of his on the rail, and wind it back in. Drouyn used a lot of little turns to tuck into the best part of the wave all the time, very tight, very controlled. They were both riding the wave, not the board, and that made the difference.”
“… Nat gave us all a lesson in the future of surfing,” Mike Doyle testified. “While we would cut back or stomp on the tail to stall, Nat would cut back by compressing his body and pushing out with his legs, driving to get more power off his fin. He came out of a turn with more power than when he went into it, which allowed him to keep the board moving all the time, cutting a much bigger pattern in the water. He would accelerate way out into the flat of the wave, cut way back into the curl, then drive way out in front again. The waves at Ocean Beach were small and mushy, but Nat was still carving all over them.”
The Hawaiians, used to bigger surf, did not fare well. As for Nuuhiwa, his confrontation with Young was averted when he was eliminated early on, despite a 10-second noseride.
“Years after the World Contest,” Nuuhiwa recalled of a conversation about an over-emphasis on noseriding in contests, “Nat and I got together and laughed about it. What a joke. But I figured, ‘Hey, if that’s what they want, that’s how we’ll play it out.”
“I was disappointed,” continued Nuuhiwa, talking about the fact he and Nat never got to duel it out, “because I came down with the flu after a good first day.”
Nat Young emerged the winner.
“It was the first time most of us had seen anything like Nat’s style,” Mike Doyle recalled, “and it set him so far apart from the rest of us and impressed the judges so much, it was impossible for him not to win the contest.
“It was the first time a world championship had been won by a surfer from a country other than the host nation.
“And by the way,” Doyle wrote in 1993, “all modern surfboards today follow the pig-board concept – wide in the tail and narrow in the nose.”
“I think Nat’s performance at San Diego in ’66,” Jeff Hakman declared in the late 1990s, “really was a benchmark in world surfing. It was the last of the longboard contests, and seeing what Nat could do on a board that was basically a log, made us all realise what was possible if we had better equipment.”
14th Annual Makaha International, December 14-24, 1966
“In Hawaii,” wrote Mike Doyle, “1966 was the year of the combeback, beginning with Joey Cabell. After a phenomenal start in his surfing career, Joey had left Hawaii and moved to Aspen, Colorado. There he’d teamed up with Buzzy Bent (not Buzzy Trent), a surfer from La Jolla who had been in an underwater demolition team in the navy, and with something like $800 between them, they’d opened a restaurant called The Chart House. It was modeled after Mike’s, in Hawaii, a place where you could cook your own steak and serve yourself at a salad bar. Joey had a notion that a place like that would work in Aspen, and it did. But Joey had moved back to the islands that winter to concentrate on surfing again. He was determined to make a comeback, and he pursued his training with an intensity of concentration that only Joey was capable of. And it paid off for him. In the Makaha, which everyone realized had lost much of its luster, Joey Cabell took the first-place trophy.”
2nd Annual Duke Contest, Sunset Beach
“In the second annual Duke,” Mike Doyle noted, “Ricky Grigg, who was in graduate school at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla and hadn’t surfed on the North Shore for two years, surprised a lot of people by taking first place. In some ways, though, his win wasn’t so surprising. The surf was big during the contest, about twenty feet, and there weren’t many surfers in the world who’d had as much experience riding big Sunset as Ricky.”
“But for my buddy Rusty Miller,” Doyle said, “the Duke that year was a disaster. He took a terrible wipeout on a huge outside wave, hit the bottom hard, and broke his leg. A lot of people said it was one of the most horrible wipeouts they’d ever seen.”
The highlight of the Peruvian Internationals, that year, was Corky Carroll. “Corky Carroll came down with a terrible case of dysentery,” wrote Mike Doyle who wasn’t there, but got the story at a close 2nd hand. “It was so bad, he’d gone into convulsions and was taken to the hospital, where he was in critical condition for two days. (Mickey Dora, who’d never gotten along that well with Corky, visited him in the hospital. Dora was embarrassed later when people found out – he didn’t want people to think he’d turned soft.) The day of the contest, Corky pulled the I.V. tubes out of his arm, staggered out of the hospital, and somehow made it to the Club Waikiki. He was so weak and dizzy, he could hardly carry his board, but once he was in the water he was able to paddle out. He only caught eight waves, but his performance was good enough to win it. Like I said, Corky Carroll was one of the toughest competitors surfing has ever seen.”
Sources Used In This Chapter:
Tom Morey ~ Mike Doyle ~ Jeff Hakman ~ Phil Jarratt
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