"GEORGE LANNING"

By Thomas Takao

In 1960 George Lanning was sanding surfboards for AJ Surfboards in La Jolla. The AJ initials stands for Andy Jones who was one of the shapers and glasser at the shop. The other shaper at the shop was Carl Ekstrom. This was when foam surfboards were just starting out and the techniques to shape and glass were still being developed.

During this time George was going to La Jolla High School and had many friends. Butch Van Artsdalen was George’s best friend and they went everywhere, did everything together. After graduating from high school they both went over to Hawaii in 1961. They rented on the North Shore where everything was low key and laid back, George and Butch would surfed the popular spots. Butch’s first stay lasted a couple of months before returning to San Diego.

Meanwhile George was staying at a house on Ke iki Road about a mile from Sunset Beach. His roommates were Dave Willingham, Lawrence Swan, and a couple of other guys. One day in the Fall of 1961 John Severson came by the house, just George and Dave were home at the time. John says to George and Dave “Do you guys want to go to a new surf spot” explaining he would be shooting some film for a movie that he was putting together.

A young 19 year old George Lanning was excited with the idea and said “Oh yeah, great”. So they went to Ehukai Beach. George had surfed Pupakea before, but not the break they were walking towards. George didn’t even know that it was there. This was the first time he and Dave had seen Pipeline. George remembered it was just beautiful overhead good-size wave with big barrels and it looked like WindanSea to him, so they had to go out.

They went back to the car and grab their boards. They had brought the surfboards over from the mainland and were the early 60’s shape of what was happening in San Diego. Heavy somewhat pig shaped hips on the outline and not much of a nose rocker. Not your typical Pipeline type of board, but they didn’t know any better so they paddled out just stoked to go surfing.

Phil Edwards is credited for being the first to have ridden this new spot not yet named. Word spread around the North Shore that afternoon and night of Phil riding the new spot. The next day George, Dave and John were there ready to ride and film. Phil had been out earlier that day before George and Dave got there and would be watching from the beach. George Lanning, Dave Willingham, Lawerance Swan and Mike Hynson would join Phil Edwards in Pipeline surfing lore as being the one of the first to surf the spot.

Out in the lineup George said to Dave “ I’ll go on this one” as a set of waves approached the two surfers. George caught the wave and was thinking stall, a common maneuver when you want the wave to catch up to you. But at the Pipe that is the one thing you do not want to do since the wave is top to bottom within a few seconds. Anyway, George stalled his board as he took off and in a matter of a couple of seconds he saw his tailblock going over his head.

He took a nasty wipeout, free falling to the bottom as the top of the wave ate him up. After being pushed around underwater for about 15 seconds George pops back up. Dave was watching and waiting for George to reappear. After seeing George come back up he yelled “How was it”. Somewhat rattled and getting his senses back, George pretending to have a knife, placed in his right hand near his throat and dragged his thumb across his neck and yelled back “Don’t stall”.

Taking George’s advice Dave caught a good wave and made it. George was having a difficult time. He had caught 6 waves and unable to make one wave to the end of the ride. After about 45 minutes, Lawrence came out, and joined his friends. He soon fell into the same groove George was into. He had a couple of good wipeouts.

An hour later Mike Hynson came out and surfed with the group for about a couple of hours. He was getting some good waves, but the waves was getting bigger and bigger. Having wipeout George was standing on a coral head with the water up to chest (All this time he had thought the bottom was sand). Dave took off on one of the bigger wave of the day. Standing there in front of Dave, George was thinking what am I going to do?

In a split second George hunched down and placed his arms around his knees. Just then the wave exploded in front of him and shot him out like a human cannon ball through the water and towards the beach. The next thing he knew he was practically on the beach. He came in walking on the beach dazed, dizzy and light headed.

Phil Edwards had watched what had happened as George walked up to him and asked “What do you think of the place?”. Phil response was “Absolutely phenomenal” and continued “ you guys are absolutely crazy, somebody could have gotten killed out there”. George didn’t think twice about the remark as he paddled back out as John kept on filming.

George went back to San Diego a month or so later and saw Butch. George told him about the new surf spot and said to him “This is your place, it has your name written all over it”. The following year while sitting in the parking lot at WindanSea, Mike Diffenderfer and Mike Hynson drove up to George. Diffenderfer told him ” You won’t believe it about Butch, it’s incredible how he is surfing at the Banzai Pipeline” said Mike Diffenderfer who named the place.

Butch Van Artsdalen photo Leroy Grannis

Butch had been filmed there and one such wave after being inside the tube and coming out, he was sitting on his board while rubbing his hands. The ride would be seen in auditoriums and movie theaters up and down the coast of California, the East Coast, Australia, New Zealand, and Peru and in Europe. Returning back to their conversation in the parking lot at WindanSea they talked about other places on the North Shore.

The legend of the Pipeline and those who would ride her started to grow. In the years to follow Mike Differender would return to Hawaii before George and shape for Inter Island Surfboards. Mike Hynson would travel around the world with Robert August and Bruce Brown filming “The Endless Summer”.

George Lanning would return to Hawaii and be a sander for Dick Brewer's Surfboards Hawaii and Mickey Lake's Inter Island Surfboards in 1964. Wayne Land would teach George how to shape at the Jacobs shop in 1965 and George would go on and shape for Greg Noll Surfboards and Bing Copeland Surfboards in the 1960's.

Another side story from Cark Ekstrom story was at Bing Surfboards. Bing had a stall of shapers during the Nuuhiiwa Noserider period of the mid 1960’s. Those shapers were Wayne Land, George Lanning, Al Nelson, Mike Eaton, Dick Brewer, Dan Bendikson and Bing Copeland. One day during their lunch break at the Poop Deck which is by the Hermosa Beach Pier, Wayne, George, and Al were discussing the chromed planer Bing had given to Dick Brewer.

The guys felt they should also get a chromed planer as well. After the guys had a few drinks Al suggested that they should not do any more boards until they got their chromed planer. George and Wayne agreed. Al mentioned he was tried and was going home to get some rest. He left as Wayne and George who would continue refreshing themselves at the Poop Deck. Instead of going home Al went back to the shop and shaped all the orders that was on the to do list for the day. The next day George and Wayne found out what Al had done and gave him their piece of mind and laughed it off. The 60’s would fade like the longboards, but through it all they were like brothers.

In the 1970's George was Hap Jacob's deckhand. They would go out and catch swordfish off the coast of Southern California. During this time period Dewey Weber was also into fishing for swordfish. Hap wanting to pull a prank on Dewey tied a board looking like a sword and was dragging it behind them. It was mentioned that Dewey saw the decoy and raced after it. With the ship’s binoculars Hap and his crew had a good laugh as they watched Dewey took the bait of good humor. George would continue to make surfboards and do other lines of work. In the 2000’s he would move down to Baja and visit the San Diego area every so often. 

George Lanning Waimea Bay  

      COPYRIGHT 2020 Thomas Takao