TABLE OF CONTENTS
"Mystery of the Surf Sphinx"
"Reaching Waipio Valley"
"The Story of Dan Heritage"
"Shaper, Glasser, Designer"
"Michel Junod Story"
"Classic Long Bar of TJ"
"Sonny Vardeman Story"
"Mayor of Main St. HB"
"Oscar Pedro Larghi Story"
'Buttons still catching Waves'
"Shaping an Art Form"
"Blue Cheer Days"
"Roberto Damiani Story"
"Cat in da Shadows"
"Surfing into Health"
"MYSTERY OF THE SURF SPHINX"
By Paul Young 9/9/1999
LONG BEACH PRESS-TELEGRAM
LONG BEACH, CA.
Legend has it there once was a sphinx who cast a spell over the sea, bringing in the surf with force and perfection. For nearly 50 years, the plaster icon sat atop a home in Seal Beach, where it pulled breaking monsters from the ocean and made men fall in love with that rolling abyss of power and beauty. If you listen closely, legend says, the whisper of the sea will spin tales of waves and parties and friendships. That sphinx house became ground zero for surfing in Orange County, says Tim Dorsey, former chief of the Seal Beach lifeguards and a surfer who grew up near the house at 1303 Seal Way.
If you wanted to know about surfing or get a little history about surfing, youd go to that house, he says. It s interesting because everybody had this idea that it was South County or Huntington Beach, but it really all started in Seal Beach. During the 40s and 50s, there were beach boys who rode the waves out in front of the house almost every day. They liked the way the churning sea surged around them and the way it felt to slip across the face of a peeling wave. They rode pillows sewn together and filled with air, later discovering balsa surfboards and the art of stand-up surfing.
One night, as the beach boys intoxicated themselves with green death, they decided to do something to make the waves bigger and better. They would capture a sphinx --- a mythical figure with the body of a lion and the head and breasts of a woman as their personal surf god. They would place it on the roof of the home of surf guru Blackie August to bring the life-empowering waves.
Surf legend Jack Haley, 59 (has past away RIP), recalls that their quest began around 2 a.m. He says that a group of surfers headed to a hotel on Ocean Boulevard at Alamitos Avenue in Long Beach to bring the wave-creating idol to Seal Beach. (Others say it came from Santa Monica or Venice. The mystery lives on.)
According to Haley, the sphinx sat overlooking the ocean from its perch on the Villa Riviera Hotel, where it watched perfect waves break near where the Queen Mary now rests. When the surfers arrived, the guard was sleeping. They sneaked on their hands and knees to the stairwell and made their way to the top. When they got to the roof, says Haley, these surfers climbed onto the ledge where the magical sphinx was sitting. Using brute force and about 10 men, they lifted the heavy structure from its place, carried it down the stairs, past the sleeping guard, and into their car.
Skeptics may note that the Villas figures looming gargoyles are of concrete, not plaster, and are medieval in design. But why spoil a good story? By 4 a.m., says Haley, the surfers were back in Seal Beach, building scaffolding and putting up ladders to load the sphinx onto the roof. Later that day, Lloyd Murray, one of the first surfers in Seal Beach, came down to the beach to help consecrate the sphinx.
I remember standing out there with a bed sheet over me, praying to the Kahuna, he says. There were a bunch of us out there, and we got some green death, or whatever we were drinking, and we poured wine on a surfboard and we were going to light it on fire and get four virgins to take it out, but we couldnt find four virgins. So we got a couple of little girls to take it down for us. Later that day, waves came. And there the sphinx stayed for nearly 50 years.
NIGHTS OF WINE
Surfers everywhere were drawn by its power. They wanted to feel the surge of magic, lining up with the sphinx to get the perfect, peaky waves that broke there. Every night in Blackies garage would be Bruce Brown, who made the surfing movie, The Endless Summer and his fellow surfers and filmmaker, John Severson. After surfing 13th Street all day, surfers would pay 25 cents to see their films. They would hang out and drink wine and eat Pat Augusts unbelievably tasty food and listen to Blackies stories. The next day, theyd do it all over again.
I surfed so much and I was so skinny that they sent a note home from school to ask if I was eating enough, says surf legend Robert August, who grew up in the house. His mother was insulted after all those great meals shed cooked for him. People were free to surf as much as they wanted, when they wanted. And Pat and Blackie August encouraged it, always ready with a peanut butter sandwich or a hot drink.
When they worked as lifeguards, there was no tower at 13th Street and theyd have to sit on the beach with a can and a blanket and be cold, Haley says. Pat would come out with a sandwich and give it to you. Or shed invite you into her home to go to the bathroom. What people they were--- they just had generosity. Full aloha spirit, just 100 percent.
We had no Disneyland, says Dorsey. We didnt have any cars. Our playground was the ocean. Blackie introduced us to that playground. Surfers didnt fight over waves back then. They shared bonfires and wine to stay warm after surfing in winter and always pulled over on the side of the road if they saw another surfer driving in the opposite direction.
They also threw outrageous parties. Like the one where they feasted on El Supremo, which some say was the biggest lobster to walk the face of the earth. One night, a group of surfers got into the sport fishing building at the end of Seal Beach Pier, dove into El Supremos tank, grabbed him and brought him over to the sphinx house.
Haley came knocking on the door dripping wet, with this thing flipping all around, August recalls. So Blackie and Pat got up and cooked it for everybody in the middle of the night. El Supremo was so large, however, that his meat wasnt very tasty, August says. It was too tough. There was also a barbecue every summer, where the Grenache rose flowed like a river and the best surfer of the year painted the sphinxs nipples red. There was a red can of paint and a small brush in the garage just for that party. The tradition lasted some 15 years.
When the neighbors got offended, Blackie bought the sphinx a training bra. To maintain it, he would climb onto the roof and restucco the sphinxs green body with care, so as not to displease it. It is said that when he sold the house, the house would be purchased but the sphinx couldnt be taken down, Haley says. Even though it was crumbling and weathered, the sphinx had to stay. But as it deteriorated, so did the spirit of surfing.
CROWDS AND PARKING
The lifeguards situation was almost military, August says. There were way too many rules, and you were in horrible fear of the parking people. Crowds began to form. People began to fight over waves. And surfing was turned into a major industry. Eventually, the freedom and youth of those days passed into a mystic past, like the sphinx. No more lighting fires on the beach to warm up, or sleeping in the sand, or drinking wine until sunrise. When the house was torn down, the sphinx was thrown into a dumpster. A passerby picked it up and supposedly brought it back to Long Beach where its said to sit in a garage somewhere. Times had changed.
"I miss the freedom" says Haley. There are too many restrictions now. We grew up in the best of times, and I miss the fact of the freedom of going out and the fact that everybody was pals.
REACHING WAIPIO VALLEY WAS NEVER EASY
By Kent Warshauer
Waipio Valley can be reached by a four-wheel-drive vehicle, but how and when did this become possible?
Since the valley walls are at a steep angle of 45 to nearly 90 degrees, roads and trails into the valley floor did not exist before 1889. That year $3,000 was expended on a survey and laying out of a bridle path from Honokaahane to Waipio. This trail is now known as the Waipio-Waimanu trail and can be seen zig-zagging up the side of the valley from the existing Waipio Lookout on the Honokaa side. The Honokaa side of the valley was a portion of the ili of Lalakea in the ahupuaa (land division) of Waipio. The land of Lalakea is part of the crown lands reserved by King Kamehameha III for himself and his heirs. On Dec. 15, 1854, Kamehameha III died and Kamehameha IV was coronated on Jan. 11, 1855, assuming ownership of the crown lands.
Kamehamaha IV granted 2,944 acres of Lalakea to William C. Lunalilo on Dec. 7, 1857. Lunalilo in turn was named king on Jan. 8, 1873. Following Lunalilos death on Feb. 3, 1874, his estate sold the land of Lalakea to the Pacific Sugar Mill of Kukuihaele. On July 1, 1928, Pacific Sugar merged with the Honokaa Sugar Company, and ownership of the Honokaa side of the valley was then transferred to the enlarged Honokaa Sugar Co. Private ownership of this side of Waipio valley would soon have an impact on the development of the four-wheel drive road into the valley floor, but this would not be apparent until the 1940s.
In July of 1898, the Hawaiian Legislature appropriated $ 6,000 to establish a road into Waipio Valley on the Kukuihaele side. On Nov. 9, 1899, Minister of the Interior Alexander Young called for bids. Work on the new road was begun shortly thereafter by a contractor using Japanese labor. By the following September, four Japanese laborers had lost their lives building this road and several others were critically injured. The last casualty had fallen some 380 feet to his death, and his companion was severely injured.
Construction stopped at this time and was not resumed until bids were again called by James H. Boyd, superintendent of public works, on Sept. 8, 1902. Construction continued slowly due to the dangerous conditions encountered.
When the County of Hawaii came into being in 1907, Samuel K. Pua, clerk of the newly formed government, called for bids to finish the road. There is little record of anything being done.
On Jan. 4, 1917, County Supervisor Eugene Lyman introduced a resolution that $ 10,000 be appropriated to a fund known as Wagon road from the top of Waipio Gulch to the bottom, and ordered plans and specifications be prepared. The residents of Waipio were overjoyed that a safer route was to be built. Both East Hawaii and the Kona district relied on Waipio for their supply of poi. And all the produce of the valley had to be packed by mules over the old trail.
On July 6, 1923, the Waipio residents wrote to Governor Farrington requesting that prison labor be employed to complete the wagon road, as large acres of fertile land in the valley was lying fallow due to insufficient financial returns caused principally by the excessive expense of bringing the produce to market. Just as arrangements for the transfer of prison labor had been completed, the residents rose in protest, citing the danger to young women and girls in the community.
The county did not forget the residents of Waipio, as Samuel M. Spencer, chairman, and executive officer of the Board of Supervisors, sent work crews to clear the guava bushes and put the trail in as good a condition as possible. Otherwise, the trail would have been overgrown that travel would have been almost impossible. On July 28, 1929, Joseph Bettencourt, the countys examiner of motor drivers, drove an automobile the 4,000 and more feet from the top of the valley to the bottom and back. Bettencourt used a stock 1929 Pontiac to climb the average 45-degree trail, and it took a grueling three hours.
Prior to this historic feat, only two other automobiles had even attempted this dangerous trail, and both machines became stuck at the bottom. The first was Bettencourt himself, for in 1910 he was misdirected down this trail, and it took six mules to get the EMF Studebaker back up the muddy horse trail. The other was renowned driver Samuel Simpson who tried it in 1914, and it took a dozen mules, and much manpower to extricate the car. During Thanksgiving vacation that year, local schoolteacher Edith Munson nearly lost her life on the muddy trail, which was 2 to 3 feet deep in muck. Due to this accident, Chairman Spencer ordered that the trail be improved.
Work began in January 1930, The trail was graded, a subbase and gravel surface laid, and ditches dug on each side to carry off the rain. At this time the trail was still used by pedestrians, horses, and donkeys. Indeed, everything going into or out of the valley was by pack train. The 1945 Territorial Legislature authorized a survey fee for a new federal standard road from Kukuihaele post office to the floor of the valley. On Oct. 30, 1945, a survey crew under Edward Kaaua began the $ 10,000 project. By January 1946, only 1,000 feet of the federal aid highway was unfinished. The completed plans were in the offices of the highway department at Kuhio Wharf on April 1, 1946, and were destroyed by the seismic sea wave that hit the Hawaiian Islands on that day.
A side note from the USC Tsunami Research Group that describes the events that destroyed the set of plans.
During the early morning of April 1, 1946, an earthquake of magnitude 7.4 occurred in an area of the Aleutian Trench located approximately 90 miles south of Unimak Island, part of the Aleutian Island chain. During the quake, a large section of the seafloor was uplifted along the fault where the quake occurred, producing a large, Pacific-wide tectonic tsunami.
The most detailed, and well-documented accounts of the 1946 Aleutian tsunami come from Scotch Cap, located on Unimak Island, and the Hawaiian Islands. Despite its enormous size at Scotch Cap, the 1946 tsunami had little effect on the Alaskan mainland, due to the presence of the Aleutian Islands, which absorbed the brunt of the tsunami's power, shielding the mainland.
Approximately 48 minutes after the earthquake, a 100-foot tsunami struck the area of Scotch Cap. The tsunami destroyed the newly built US Coast Guard lighthouse, surging over the coastal cliff to a height of 42 m (135 ft.) above sea level. All five members of the lighthouse crew were killed.
At approximately 7 a.m., less than five hours after the earthquake in Alaska, the first of several tsunami waves reached the Hawaiian Islands. The tsunami caught Hawaii completely unaware, as the destruction at Scotch Cap prevented the transmission of any warning message until it was too late.
The tsunami waves produced extensive destruction along the shorelines of the Hawaiian Islands, especially at Hilo, on the big island of Hawaii, where the city's entire waterfront was destroyed. Wave heights across the Islands reached an estimated maximum of 55 feet, 36 feet, and 33 feet on Hawaii, O'ahu, and Maui, respectively. The tsunami inundated areas up to half a mile inland in some locations. A total of 159 people were killed as a result of the tsunami in Hawaii.
Resuming the article REACHING WAIPIO VALLEY WAS NEVER EASY:
By Feb. 15, 1947, Kaaua had prepared another set of plans for a 12-foot wide paved road with 6-foot wide shoulders, a 3-foot gutter on the pali side for drainage, and no more than a 7 percent grade. The proposed highway was to start near the present horse trail, and descend to a point near Hiilawe falls and hairpin to the floor of the valley.
Meanwhile, the taro farmers pleaded with the county to widen the existing trail to allow a tractor into the valley to boost production. They also supported the plans for the replacement federal-aid highway. At this time the county attorney's office determined that the road was owned by the Honokaa Sugar Company, and ruled that the county could not maintain the road without owning it.
Waipio folks pleaded for a road, and following an accident on Dec. 27, 1949, when a horse fell over the side with two children aboard, the county installed several guard rails. All hopes for a new highway into the valley were dashed. March 7, 1952, when Robert M. Belt, Territorial Public Works chief, stated a review of past correspondence shows the property in the valley is (worth) considerably less than the cost of building a road.
On May 6, 1966, the Honokaa Sugar Company's manager, Richard M. Fraizer, turned over the deed for a 30-foot right of way encompassing the 10-foot wide Waipio Valley access road to the county, which immediately graded the dirt road allowing access by ordinary automobile. On July 17, 1968, the Board of Supervisors, under the recommendation of the Hamakua Traffic Safety Committee, restricted traffic to four-wheel-drive vehicles only, due to the 25 percent grade.
This action did not prevent a series of horrific accidents, leaving the side of Waipio Valley littered with wrecks. The first occurred on Jan. 11, 1969, when a Jeep slipped out of gear and careened down the steep road, and flew off the side, injuring two taro farmers. The next occurred on Nov. 26, 1970, when seven people went on a wild ride down when their van's brakes failed. The two-wheel-drive van ended up smashed on the bottom.
The first fatal accident occurred on Dec. 3, 1971, when a Jeep plunged over the side, fatally injuring Michael Dale Johnson of Oregon and bruising and maiming four others. Brake failure on Aug. 27, 1988, resulted in the death of Ester Macatangay of Eagle Rock, Calif., And the injury of seven others when a truck went over the side backward, after stopping to allow an approaching vehicle to pass. The accident resulted in a lawsuit against Hawaii County filed on Dec 17, 1988. On March 23, 1990, the Hawaii County Council voted to ask the state to take over the Waipio valley access road, as it was deemed by engineers as among the most precarious on the Big Island.
The State Transportation Department was unwilling to assume responsibility for the road. In late June 1991 county workers installed safety guardrails on the lower portion of the narrow roadway, partially in response to the 1988 accident. This $400,000 project disrupted tour operators who had been booked solid.
Winter storms damaged the road in 1994 and Kohala contractor Mike Lucee began a $120,000 repair project on April 11, and in May prepared the road base, layered reinforced steel, and paved the road with quick setting concrete. A $ 274,000 upgrade by Lucee began Feb. 24, 1997, when a further 1, 225 feet of guardrail and a new turnout were added, increasing the safety of the 1.2-mile-long road.
Chuck Dent 1944-1980
By Patt Morrison Times staff writer
A lot of people would have said that Chuck Dent was the greatest fellow to have walked a surfboard. And Chuck Dent would have agreed with them-would have told them so in the first place, no doubt. He wasn’t the world’s best surfer, it damn near killed him to admit it, but he just wasn’t. But Chuck Dent was one of the first in those parts to see what surfing could be and, as he built a surfing legend around himself, he condescended to give surfing some of the limelight, too.
There is a halo of youth to surfing, to its litheness and casualness and the salt-stung tans and straw-fair hair of its acolytes. It is an aura Chuck Dent retained to the end, even though he was overweight, even though he hadn’t really been on a surfboard in as long as five years. But the youth, Chuck Dent still had youth, and if you ask the beach people who measure the years in summers, it seems like some incredible miscalculation of nature that a heart attack should have killed Chuck Dent at the age of 35.
They said Chuck Dent was a character, and he worked hard to prove them right. In truth, it didn’t really matter to him what they were saying, just as long as they were saying it about him. He preened his image, cultivating it until it shone like new wax on a surfboard—his surfboard, nine feet long, larger than life, like its owner, so big that, like its owner, you couldn’t ignore it.
You may not have liked him, say his friends—and his enemies, but you didn’t overlook him. That one party, where he entered like the Prince of Wales or something and let the screen door nearly clip off the nose of the girl behind him. Well, Chuck Dent took it as his due when one wag crawled up to him, groveled, kissed his hand, and announced, “Our master is here.”
If people didn’t say it about Chuck Dent, he said it about himself. “The original angry young man of surfing.” He labeled himself in a 1974 trade magazine. A miraculous transformation from the candidate from “Clearasil poster boy,” he wrote with equal bravado. A surfing pioneer since Ike was President, he was the kind of guy who had his picture taken being “crucified” on a pair of surfboards. He boasted that he sold the first pair of bellbottoms in Orange County. It is probably true and he may have bought them himself. Full tilt boogie, that was his motto, like some lapsed Boy Scout, living off the fat of the sand.
Even later, when he stopped surfing (except for his single annual ride, heralded like a coronation and as ritually ceremonial as an Aztec sacrifice), when he took to peroxiding his hair now and again, when his weightlifter’s torso was running to fat, even then, the gremmies—the neophyte surfers—still bought his surfboards, the ho-dads still listened to his stories.
He never let up on himself, he was never off-stage. He was the self-appointed bouncer to those bars that still let him in the door. He once made off with a concrete bus bench for the pure hell of it. He ate and drank and partied like an 18-Year-old kid, which in his mind and everyone else’s, he still was.
Everybody knew Chuck Dent, one way or another. To his mother, “you couldn’t ask for a better son, or a sweeter one”- an only child who bought his mother a color television about 15 years after he badgered her to death for one of his first “Woodie” trucks.
To anyone foolhardy enough to be a foe, he was the big dude in the chocolate-brown Caddy with the baseball bat in the back seat. To associates, he was a brilliant salesman who made and marketed his own brand of surfboard before he was old enough to vote. He could sell a board to a paraplegic Bedouin, but he was an erratic businessman if there was a party, or a pretty woman or a good wave, it was “closed for the day.” And Chuck Dent was gone.
Toward the end, in the last year or so, he had “mellowed out” a bit _ a phrase Chuck Dent might have blithely claimed he invented. Began losing weight. Began showing up at family gatherings regularly, and word even got around in the street that he was engaged to be married. Began taking medicine for his high blood pressure as secretively as other people take drugs-image, you know.
Dave Nuuhiwa, four-time US surfing champ and Chuck Dent’s rival for local stardom, went partners with him in a surf shop a few months before Chuck Dent died. But the swagger and braggadocio, the Barrymore trick of turning his profile to you in the conversation for your 90-degree admiration- all that was still there, up to the recent spring admiration = all that was still there, up to the recent spring night, when friends say he was partying with a couple of Peruvian guys and died of a heart attack, sometime in the small hours of the morning. His big exit and he performed it alone.
They still call it Chuck Dent’s shop and they probably always will. The back room is surf of self-made shrine to the man who once claim that he was to surfing what the Beatles were to Rock and Roll, the man whose first surf shop bore his name in letters as tall as he was. His favorite pictures are there, mostly of himself, his enormous surfboard, and the vintage wheelchair in which he mugged for the cameras in a surfing documentary film.
No one is likely to forget Charles Gary Dent very soon around here, which is precisely what he intended. “I’m not on any crusade or brotherhood trip,” he wrote once. “I just want to put the fun, individualism, and togetherness back into surfing. There’s a message there somewhere. Enough seriousness.”
"CAT IN DA SHADOWS" BIARRITZ, FRANCE
By Steve Boehne
The Biarritz Surf Festival; there is no other event like it in the surfing world primarily because it came to being purely as a celebration of surfing and a sharing of surf culture. The history of surfing in France began in the early 1960’s right in Biarritz.
There are old photos of the early pioneers of French surfing. Modern French surfers hold these old pioneers in reverence. In the early 1990’s Robert (Robear) Rabagny realized that all modern surfing owes a thanks to the Hawaiians for inventing this sport that we all love. He decided to bring real Hawaiian surfers over to France to celebrate Hawaiian surfing heritage.
He traveled to Hawaii and met the elite in Hawaiian surfing culture. The next year, he found sponsors for the Biarritz Surf Festival. Together, they bought two outrigger surfing canoes and tickets for the Hawaiians. His aim was more than to just bring the current hot group of Hawaiian surfers, but more importantly to honor the older Hawaiian surfer legions. Virtually every important figure in Hawaiian surfing history has been to the Biarritz Surf Festival.
In 1995, the Long board World Championships took place at Malibu. This was first World Surfing Contest to include tandem surfing since the 1972 World Contest in San Diego. Barrie and I won the World contest in 1972 and I suppose by default were still the World Champions. We were invited to defend our title 23 years later at Malibu. We were 48 years old then, but still actively competing in tandem events. The best tandem surfers in the world arrived, including the strong teams from Hawaii.
We were probably twenty years older than most of our competition, but we felt confident because of the intricate routines that we knew and our years of experience. The Malibu contest went well for us and we once again won the World Title. Robert was on the beach observing the action. After the awards presentation, he asked us to come to France to be a part of the BSF. Later, he asked us to be the ambassadors for tandem in France and to choose two other tandem teams to join us each year for the BSF.
We felt so honored. Tandem takes a pretty distant back seat in the US surfing contests and media, so even though we had been the top team in tandem competition for over 25 years, we never felt part of Surfing’s elite. In France, tandem is a very big deal with extensive TV coverage. We participated and won six out of the eight BSF events we entered. We were featured in many TV interviews and even a short documentary.
One of the outstanding years at the BSF was the year of 2000 because Quick Silver was the sponsor. QS is the top Surf clothing company in Europe and was determined to let it be known. No expense was too great. The elite of Hawaiian and Australian surf culture was there. Just to name a few: Rell Sun, Buttons, Buffalo, Clyde Aikau, Dennis Coveia, Archie ---, Dave Kalama, all the Kailana boys, Jock Sutherland, Peter Cole, Fred Hemmings, George Downing, Rabbit Kaikai Greg Noll, Gerry Lopez, Jeff Hackman, Mark Richards, Midget Farley, etc, etc
There was an event every night after each day’s competition. There were banquets, concerts, dinners, parties, surf movies, tours everything to share Hawaiian and French culture. During the day all the elite of the surfing world were just hob-knobbing around the event. There was an eating area cordoned off at the contest site where the celebrities could dine on fine French cuisine. It was a dream to be part of such a notorious group.
The tandem teams From Ca., plus Mickey Munoz and His wife Peggy stayed in a small Inn a few blocks from the event site. Mickey and Peggy were wild partiers and would come in late every night. They must have been drinking Harvey Wall Bangers because that’s just what they were doing. One evening, a group of us decided to go to the art gallery of a talented French surfing artist, Eric---. The Gallery is in the entry hall of his very large house in the village of Guithary, just a few miles from Biarritz. The BSF actually supplied us with a vehicle for the entire trip. Mark and Debby Gale, Barrie and I along with Mickey Munoz and Peggy all drove together.
Mickey had the address, when we pulled up I couldn’t believe how big and old the house was, but then everything in France seems big and old. Eric greeted us at the door. His pictures were hung in the entryway and on into a large entry hall. Most of the paintings were of photographs of famous moments from the past; the shot of Greg Noll standing next to his gun staring out at big Pipe Line and the shot of him taking the drop in his stripped trunks at Waimea. There was that drop knee cutback shot of Dewey Weber, Gerry Lopez at Pipe, LJ Richards at Makaha, plus many others.
It’s funny how one photograph printed in a surf magazine can define a surfer’s entire career. Us old baby boomers just never forget an image printed years ago in our young brains. I seemed to scan my way through the paintings a little faster than everyone else. As I turned to review the paintings closer, I noticed that through a doorway, in a dimly lit room, there were even more pictures hanging. It didn’t appear that these were part of the main display, but the door was open…so I wondered in alone.
In the center of the room was a very large easel with a very large painting in progress. On the floor, was a surfboard, up on its rail, leaning against the easel. I walked around to stand directly in front of the new creation. It was a picture of Mikki Dora in full speed trim at Malibu. I was amazed to recognize the board on the floor as the same one in the picture. I was contemplating the significance of Mikki Dora’s board being in this room when I had a strange feeling of someone standing behind me.
I turned my head and was struck dumfounded by what I saw. Mikki Dora was lurking in the shadows. He was standing posed in the same position that he always had in all his old surfing pictures (the position that has been printed in my brain for decades). He was a little sideways, one foot was ahead of the other, his head was cocked slightly to one side, his elbows were down, but his hands were reaching forward, almost pointing at me. For years I have read about Mikki Dora, but had never actually seen him. He had disappeared from the scene at Malibu long before I started surfing there. He appeared in relatively few classic 60’s vintage surf movies, but his surfing style was so unique and flowing that his impact was enormous. His nickname was “Da Cat” because of his soft, fluid footwork while surfing. Dora was the bad boy of surfing.
He would shoot his board at anyone who would take off in front of him or just come up behind them and shove them off their boards. His famous remarks like: “Oh, do you mean the Killer Dana that is right next to Killer Doheny?” were often quoted in Surfer magazine. Dora is definitely the most controversial figure in modern surfing history. Mickey Munoz shared an apartment with Dora in the early 60’s and he said he wouldn’t trust Dora for a second with anything.
Dora did some jail time for breaking & entering plus credit card fraud. He fled to France in the early 1970’s, but was run out by the French Police for similar activities. It was rumored that Dora was living at Jeffrey’s Bay in South Africa, so I never expected to see him in this back room in France. There was an awkward silence and then I said: I really like your picture. He replied: aren’t you that photographer from Longboarder? I said: No I’m just one of the contestants at the BSF. He was looking at me like he was trying to decide if he was pissed at me for some past transgression, maybe taking off on him years ago or possibly some misquote in a magazine.
I am not one of those in-your-face kind of people who seem to thrive on awkward situations, so I said: well, it’s been nice talking to you and I walked back out into the main hall. I was nearly bursting with what I had discovered, but I realized that this was also a delicate situation; Mr. Dora was definitely a little edgy. I knew that Barrie had actually spent time around Dora in 1966 when she was surfing with Pete Peterson and I thought he might remember her.
I walked up to Barrie and Debby and said: please come outside, I want to tell you something in private. Debby is one of those girls who would belong to a celebrity fan club, she gets giggly around them. I said Debby, I have a very big secret to tell you and I want you to promise to behave and not act all crazy. There is an old friend of Barrie’s in the next room and I think you two would like to go back and talk to him. Just keep it cool! They said: who is it? I said: Mikki Dora. NO WAY!
I took them to the doorway and said go on in. He was still lurking in the shadows. Barrie reintroduced herself and Debby was close to losing it. They talked of the old Wind an Sea Surf Club, to which they both belonged for a while and then Debby asked for his autograph. Dora said: Sorry, I can’t sign any papers; they’re still looking for me. Even with persistent begging from Debby, Dora steadfastly refused to sign his autograph. After a while the girls also left the room.
While they were in there, I walked over to Bill Par, the photographer assigned to the BSF for Longboard Magazine (different than Longboarder) and told him what was going on in the next room. Apparently, the defunct Longboarder had interviewed Dora and never paid him for his caustic comments. Bill was pretty excited about the opportunity waiting in the next room, but I warned him to play it very low key because Dora seemed to have a beef with some other photographer.
Bill “wondered” into the room and “discovered” the easel and painting. He stepped back and prepared to take a picture. Suddenly, Dora yelled out from the shadows: Hey; don’t take a picture of my picture. Bill, with the camera up to his eye pivoted around to face the commotion behind him. Dora put his arms up in front of his face like Dracula grimacing from the sight of a cross and said: and don’t take a picture of me either! You and your magazine still owe me $10,000 for my interview. Bill tried to explain that he had never seen Dora before and that the old magazine had gone out of business. Dora would have none of it, so Bill hastily left the room. Mickey Munoz also went back to see Dora and they had a somewhat civil conversation.
We all decided to drive a short way over to Christoph Reinhart’s Restaurant for dinner. The Restaurant is situated in the unbelievably quaint village of Guthrie on the sea-cliff overlooking the famous big wave surf spot of the same name. The sun down was spectacular and we settled around various tables on the terrace overlooking the sea. Mickey Munoz was sitting with a group of seventy’s surf starts including Buttons, LJ Richards, and Titus. We were sitting with Mark, Debby and Bill Par.
I left the table and went into the Bar to fetch another round of beers. As I walked past the side door facing the street, I spied Dora drive up in a very nice sports car. I decided to discretely watch from the bar. Soon, Dora’s head peered around the bushes. He surveyed the area before entering just as his nickname “Da Cat” would do. He had a drop dead gorgeous blond French girl on his arm. Together, they slithered along the bushes and flowed around the corner just like a pair of alley cats.
The gorgeous blond seemed to be use to the routine and probably enjoyed the attention it attracted. When Munoz saw them, he pulled up two more chairs and invited them to join his table. Cautiously, they acquiesced. Mickey suggested that he take a group picture, but Dora protested. Mickey said: this is just my old camera and I won’t take this picture to any magazines. As this was going on, Bill Par eased out of his chair and into the restaurant. He looked around the corner, pointed his camera and snapped a picture.
With the click of the shutter and blink of the flash, Dora bolted for Parr yelling: you fucking paparazzi! He body slammed Parr into the wall, grabbed the camera and ran away with it before Parr had a chance to know what happened. Dora ripped the film out of the camera, dropped the camera on the ground, summoned the gorgeous blond and fled the scene. We had a pretty lively conversation over dinner.
Over the next few days, as the contest continued, we would hang out, watch heats and wait for our next heat. Several times we spotted Dora in disguise wondering amongst the crowd. He wore a sort of Afro looking wig, dark glasses and French style clothes. All of the celebrity Surfers knew who he was, but he was very private, so everyone just went along with the act. He would come and sit with old friends in the celebrity eating area.
Barrie walked up to him once and said: Mikki, I know who you are. Why don’t you give me your autograph? He said well, for you, I will, but not here. Stop by the Carolina Hotel later and I’ll sign it for you. She never did. Post script; Apparently, Quicksilver had been supporting Dora somewhat in South Africa and had paid his way to France to hobnob around the contest site. Mikki Dora was diagnosed with cancer and died at his parents’ home in California two years later.
"GEORGE DRAPER MAYOR OF MAIN STREET HUNTINGTON BEACH"
George Draper 1935-2020
By Thomas Takao
I parked in front of the old George’s Surf Shop to meet George Draper. But, I was a little early so I took a walk down Main Street to the Huntington Beach Pier to check out the surf. Walking along the south side of the pier, looking down the coast towards Newport Beach, and stopping just past the lifeguard tower to look at the waves. It was 3 to 5 feet, the swell was from the south and pushing through the pilings as the wind started to pick up.
I crossed over to the northside recalling days gone by and those who use to surf there. Walking back I stood next to the guardrail where once a pub was located, having a beer or two and watching someone wiping out in front of someone else paddling out. It was gray and overcast and it looked like it was going to rain in a few hours. Returning from my memory I watched the surfers for about ten minutes before making my way back across the Coast Highway towards George’s. As I got nearer I could see George sitting on the brick edging along the front windowsill of his shop.
“Hi George, long time no see,” I said while shaking his hands. George mentions he just had breakfast with his long-time high school friend Jack Murphy also known as “Murph the Surf “. Murph is famous for the Jewel robbery of the Star of India and a few other precious gems. The two go way back to the days when their fellow classmate Phil Edwards made them their Balsa surfboards for $50.00, a special time and a special place in George’s back pages.
We would go over to George’s house and continue with his story. George traveled around during his early years with his father who was a YMCA Physical Director. George was born in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas on October 3, 1935. From Kansas, they moved to Hattiesburg, Mississippi and from there they moved to Augusta, Georgia. In 1945 after the war they moved to Newport, Rhode Island. This is where George learned how to sail and said “it was Beautiful up there and then we moved to Bremerton, Washington, after Bremerton we moved to Carlsbad, California in 1952”.
George enrolled at Oceanside Carlsbad Union High School. Being a new kid in school George soon became friends with Murph the Surf, Phil Edwards, and LJ Richards. He learned to surf at Terra Mar with a board that Phil Edwards had made. “The boards we were riding were around 10’6” to 11’ then, Phil was shaping them with a big drawknife. I don’t remember the other tools he was using, but I do remember that big draw knife” said George.
After High School George enlisted in the Army and served from 1955 to 1957. His father was now the USO Director in Oceanside, California. After returning from the Army George got a job with the State of California as a lifeguard. He was the first State lifeguard at Tamarack Street in Carlsbad. Being a lifeguard lasted for a couple of years.
Around 1958 a young Don Hansen moved from South Dakota with his family to North County San Diego and met George. George taught Don how to surf at Swami’s and took Don snow skiing and taught him skiing. Don would go on to make surfboards and start Hansen Surfboards, first in Del Mar then in Cardiff on the Coast Highway across from the Cardiff reef. Don was there for a couple of years before moving his shop to Encinitas just a ways from Swamis. George remembers some of the people working for Don back then and mentions Jim Jenks. Jim would go on to start OP surfwear.
In 1962 George was a milkman in LA, after that George got a job with Grubby Clark of Clark Foam in 1963. George recalled “The factory was located in Laguna Beach Canyon Road I was the delivery driver and public relations, guy. Santa Barbara to Brownfield was my area.”
From this point in our conversation, I will be using TT for Thomas Takao and GD for George Draper.
TT: “When you were in Santa Barbara, did you go to Renny Yater's shop.”
GD: “That was the furthest I would go. Yeah. I didn’t go to Haut, well, I might have gone once or twice. I think Haut would pick up his blanks at Renny’s place.”
TT: “So you made deliveries into the South Bay as well, like to Rick’s shop and then.”
GD: “Yeah Rick’s; Greg Noll, Bing Copeland, Rick Stoner, Phil Becker, Al Nelson, Bill Schrosbee, yeah Bill was working for Con, Con Surfboards”
TT: “Did you meet Dave Sweet.”
GD: “I, I met them yeah, I don’t remember them but I met them, been to their factories. Saw the pop-out blanks and molds and everything. Yeah, I saw those guys.”
TT: Still on a row I asked “Did you deliver blanks to Bob Bolen and Sonny Vardeman?”
GD: ”Yeah I took blanks to the Greek, and Vardeman, yeah. Chick Edmondson use to be out there. Another person who was working at Clark Foam at this time was Bruce Jones who would later start Bruce Jones Surfboard.”
TT: “Did you move to the new Clark Factory on Crown Valley.”
GD: “Yeah, I was there when they were building it and yeah I was over there when it got started. I worked for Clark for 4 years and at that time we were all in party mode. So I lost my driver's license and couldn’t drive for Clark anymore. Meanwhile George Panton had been going up to Clark Foam and I got along well with George Panton. Panton mentions to me since I can’t drive anymore, I’m opening a shop in Huntington Beach, why don’t you come and manage it for me? So I did that, that’s when I started.”
TT: “Was George’s before Jack’s?”
GD: “No, no, Jack’s was there in the 50s, about 1957 or so. I think Jack was the first major store in Huntington Beach.”
TT: “Was Jack’s last name Murphy?”
GD: “No, it was Hoganson”
TT “So Jack had his corner shop while the other shops like Greek and Infinity came later then?”
GD: “Well Greek was there a little later not too much, he was there in the late 50s. It was September 7, 1967, when we opened, ah the first sale, yeah, how well I remembered.”
TT: “All those young kids that were there, hanging around the shop when you first opened”
GD: “I don’t even know who they are when they come up to me. They’re all grown up now. That’s a long time, yeah,” said George while looking up at the ceiling.
TT: “Did Chuck Dent move into Huntington Beach after Seal Beach?”
GD: “Yes, he was working for Jack Haley I think down there. Then he came to Huntington and was 35 years old when he died” as George finished mentioning Chuck I thought to myself of his legendary times on Main Street.
TT: “Did he pass away in the mid-’80s.“
GD: “No it must have been around 81 or 82. I was a pallbearer for him.” TT “He was a good salesman.” George nodded his head GD “He was a great promoter.”
TT: Getting back to George Surf Shop “It must have been good during the 70s selling the varies items and surfboards?”
GD: “Oh yeah, we would finance surfboards. We had a Dial Finance Company. We would go finance boards and people could come in and get well, those days, those beautiful surfboards for $130 apiece, you know, I’ll never forget that.”
TT: “What types of boards were you selling out of your shop?”
GD: “We had 14 board manufacturers back then, 14 of them. I mean we had G&S, we had Hansen’s, then we would have Bing, Con, Yater, I mean I could go on and on you know.”
TT: “You had all those boards and when the longboards started to phase out, you went out and got short boards didn’t you?”
GD: “Yeah the first short board was a Greg Noll Model called the Bug. I brought David Nuuhiiwa to Huntington Beach when he was 16 years old from Bing Surfboards. And introduced him to Downtown, I drove him from Hermosa and put him in the Clark truck and he came down to Huntington with me.”
TT: “So you met David at the Bing Shop, I mean the factory?”
GD: “ Yeah he and Donald were up there. You know Donald was up there too; shaping. David was such a tremendous surfer”
TT: “When he came down here to Huntington Beach, did he like surfing the Pier?”
GD: “Yes he did. He made his home down here. He was the Guru here and Phil Edwards was the Guru in Oceanside. Those guys could walk on water. We would get out of the water and watch them surf, George stopped for a moment and then continued, "they were phenomenal”
TT: I remarked it sure seemed like it back then. So when you started surfing Huntington was George Farquat ah at the paper?”
GD “Oh yeah you mean George Farquhar. He would come by and we would go out together and surf. “
TT: I remember George Farquhar with his helmet on and surfing either side of the Pier. He wasn’t a big guy, around 5’4” but big in stature. He would carry his Carbonell surfboard on his head while returning to the Huntington Beach Independent News after a surf session.”
GD: “George Farquhar passed away some time back he was in his 70’s. George pauses for a moment and says, “Gosh dam a lot of people are gone!”
TT: When the short board era began you had a smoothie shop in the back of your shop and? Do you know who started that?”
GD: “It was Steve Pezman. He started the smoothie shop. He and Bill Lottard started that shop. They built the little shack back there and Duke Boyd happened to have a smoothie or two.
TT: There was a girl back there who? “
GD: “Jan Gaffny who is still making sandwiches today. That was the main thing to do. Everyone would get out of the water and go to the Heath Bar afterward. Oh, that was the melting pot. Yeah, all and all when we had the big contest Jan was in there for 20 years in my store. Pezman had eased out and sold it to Jan earlier.”
TT: Things started changing and the boards were changing, did you have some Aipa Stings?
GD: “Yeah Ben Aipa would bring his boards in.”
TT: “What about Brewer?”
GD: “Dick Brewers he was about my age he would bring his board in, Oh yeah if you can hit the notes I can tell ya, you know. I mean I had so many boards in there from different manufacturers, but it was wonderful, yeah we were the supermarket of the surf industry.
TT: The other shop had one or two different makes while yours had a variety of longboards, shortboards, and whatever color you wanted?”
GD: ”Kneeboards, skimboards, yeah it was fantastic.
TT: I remembered Sam Hawk and some of the other guys who were around during the summer months“
TT: Were the international guys around when the contests came through?
GD: “ Not not too much, but they would come here for lunch. It was the “in place”.
TT: During the contest scene, things were hectic in your shop?
GD: “Yeah, Mr. Nuuhiiwa, David's dad would put on exhibitions on the floor, Karate, and bring in all the mats and things.”
TT: Mr. Nuuhiiwa sure went through a lot of exciting moments in his life.
GD: “Yeah he sure did.”
TT: “Were there many other surf shops during the ’70s? “
GD: “Whew, back then in the early ’70s there must have been 21 surf shops, yeah 21 surf shops. You get anything you wanted in Huntington Beach, that was something.”
TT: Both sides of Main Street was filled with surf shops?”
GD: Yeah. It seemed like it. My rent back then was $150.00 a month. TT: I remember a small Tee Shirt shop next to your shop back then is it still there?” GD “No that has been taken out.”
TT: “There was a staircase-like thing. I think there was a second level in that room. Was there a guy there that….?
GD: Jose Neato a shoe repairman. Oh, Jose was the original guy I charged him $35 a month for rent.
TT: “Did he sail?”
GD: “Happy Miles or something like that, was it that guy? He was a tall guy with curly hair”
TT: Yeah, that’s the guy, he was the one with the Tee Shirts and talked about sailing the Pacific. He mentioned being on a starboard tack for a couple of weeks kinda sailing, talking of "coming about" when did you start sailing in the 60s with ah…?”
GD: “I started sailing in the '40s, I had my own sailboat in 1945. I was 10 years old and it was a small Sabbath like sailboat. That’s when we lived in Newport, Rhode Island. Our home was right next to the ocean, right there. My father had a beautiful sailboat also. So we would sail his boat too.”
TT: “That when you picked up the fundamentals?”
TT: Just for a moment I could picture George with his small sailboat tacking and jibing in the summer breeze. “When you live in Carlsbad did you go sailing”
GD: “I went sailing with Phil Edwards in his Catamaran.”
TT: “At Oceanside Harbor?”
GD: “No Harbor, it wasn’t built yet. Phil would keep his catamaran on the beach. We would push it into the water and go from there. I think it was about 22 ft. He was down where the Army Navy academy is, in Carlsbad. We would go sailing. That was during the early 60s.”
TT: Are you still sailing?
GD: “Yeah still sailing today. I sail on a beautiful Newport 41.”
TT: “You mention you had a boat? “
GD: “I had a boat made for me; it was a Catalina 32-footer. They started building it in 94 and got it in 95. I had it for a couple of years before selling it. Nowadays I take the camper out and go places.”
TT: “There sure been a lot of history through your shop.”
GD: "You can’t imagine the things that happen. I was the original Mayor of Main Street. A title my friends understood and knew me by."
Going over some old photos of George’s, He is standing with a lady on the side of a boat.
TT: “Is that Tuesday?”
GD: “No, that's some other girl. That was on Dick Dale’s boat we were on. That was 1985. Well, he had that down by his home, the mansion in Newport Beach. As I turned the page, George says 1985, wow look at that, my good friend Carson.
TT: “Richard Carson” reading the photo
GD: “Do You remember him.”
TT: "It seemed long ago and names and faces are sometimes hard to remember. There David and Sam, Sam Hawk, Ed Greener, and who’s that George?”
GD: “That’s Leroy Dennis.”
TT: Looking again through some of the other photos. “Hey that's Bill Bahne and that’s Dale Dobson. There is another picture of Dick Dale.”
GD: "This is a CD Dick gave to me. Cool."
TT: “Hey George did you remember this photo of the guy you have a headlock on?
GD: “Yeah that’s Mr. Downey. That’s Pat Downey, Mike Downey's father. There’s Merrill, Chuy’s wife and then there’s Jerico Poppler. Hey here is a picture of my 69th birthday picture with Sandra and oh. There’s Dilbert and Sherrie his girlfriend. There is Carson, Me, Mike Downey, and that’s Bob Rhinehart a real character.”
George Draper retired in 1993 and an article was written about him by Joel Beers from the Independent. In 1962, George Draper was a milkman in Los Angeles. Not bad if you’ve grown up around cows all your life. But for a Southern California surfer, it was torture. “One night I just prayed I could get back into the surfing industry,” Draper recalled. The next year, Draper landed a job with a manufacturer of surfboard cores in San Diego. Since then, he’s spent everyday surfing, the past 27 as the owner of George’s Surf Shop at 121 Main St. Huntington Beach.
But come Sept. 15, the 58-year-old Draper is retiring, although that isn’t a word he would choose. “It’s been a wonderful way of life and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world, but I do feel in my heart it is time to move on to a new adventure,” He said. George’s Surf Shop has been a city landmark for 27 years. And Draper has been a part of it since the first day, although it’s not even named after him. Draper moved to Huntington Beach from Carlsbad in 1967, when he began managing a surf shop owned by George Panton. At the time, George’s Surf Shop was one of only a handful of surf-oriented stores in Huntington Beach. The only remaining surf shop from that era is Jack’s.
Panton went bankrupt a few years later and sold the store to Draper- for $1000. Business boomed shortly after. “It totally rocked ‘n’ roll, it wasn’t uncommon to sell 13 boards a day,” Draper recalls. “ Today seven to 12 boards a week is good.” Surfing has become more commercial over the years, Draper said, with clothes and images overshadowing the actual surfing. That’s why George’s and other surf shops now pay their bills via clothing and surfing-related accessories rather than board sales.
Though he still regards Huntington Beach as Surf City, Draper said the city’s surf image is waning- most noticeably through downtown redevelopment. “ Redevelopment is overwhelming surfing. We’ve got different people coming in. It’s great for business but the area is losing something.”
Great for business indeed, Draper bought his building in 1976 for $40,000. It’s now worth $600,000 and he plans to hold onto the building, leasing it to a woman who will operate a clothing-only store, Leia’s Beach Store. Draper is 58 in years only. He looks and talks like a man 20 years younger. He has a full head of hair and his bright blue eyes, shorts, sandals, and soft-spoken nature don’t make him appear any different from the younger surfer shown in pictures throughout his store and office.
“I’ve been around youth all my life,” he said. “I’ve never had to work with older people, and I think that environment has helped me stay young.” Draper hasn’t surfed in 10 years because of a knee injury, but he says he may wear a brace and go back in the water on his next birthday, Oct. 3. After that, he plans on packing up his Volkswagen Westfalia and visiting New England, fish in Utah, hike in Yosemite and travels to British Columbia. The interview was done in the early 2000s.
"Blue Cheer Days"
By MIke Perry second from the right
My memory is 'iffy' at best so apologies in advance to anyone I've omitted. It's accidental and I wish I could remember more but I fried a lot of cells in that time and place. We all did. My time at Blue Cheer, AKA 'Blue Cheese' as referred to by the staff, was, I'm guessing, from around 1968'-69' to maybe '71'.I was in Hawaii in 1968 with Hank Miller, my neighbor from Culver City, who became my glasser when I started doing boards from home under the title "Progressive Surfboards".
We got that when a Hawaiian kid at Kaiser's told us our boards were too long and we 'weren't ready for progress. Our sticks were longer than the one he was riding but they were short for 67’-68'. Maybe 7'6" or less. I had gone on this, my 2nd trip to Hawaii, (1st trip was in 1964), with a Roberts that was 'sensible' after handing back the absolute finest Roberts ever made because I didn't think it would be long enough for Town.
That was a beautiful board. About 7' 2" long with a 3'8" balsa center stick and two offset T-bands made of balsa and red foam, each netting about 3/8" width. It had a turned up nose into a turned down tail, with a transparent amber color all over. Very ahead of its time. Damn, it was honestly the most beautiful board I ever owned and I gave it back because I didn't have the guts to try something different for Hawaii! Lame ass.
Back to Blue Cheer. I'd been shaping boards since 1964 having gotten my start from George Downing when I lived with the family in Hawaii for a few months in '64'. George was the impetus but more than that, he gave me the values and accuracy demands that I still hold close.
But in 68' I was still another garage hacker although I had done some commercial work at Roberts earlier. One day I was in Malibu trying out a new board when I met Jay Stone, owner of Blue Cheer at the walk-down right off the highway. He checked out the stick and we discussed me doing some work for him.
That night I went to an address off Wilshire in Santa Monica, down an alley and he was set up in a garage there. He wanted to try my Skil planer on a board he was working on and I reluctantly let him. First off the board was on edge in the saddles of the shaping stands and had about 2" of foam to cut down to get to the outline he'd drawn.
Anyone would use a saw. 'Buzzy', as he was affectionately known by the crew later, (thanks to Steve Kroll), was trying to mow his way down to the pencil line in full cuts with my planer that's 1/8" a cut! I sussed that he wasn't too much of a shaper, just about then he ran over my planers' cord doing a pass and blew out the lights, everything. In the dark, I got my ax back and said: "Check ya' to the guy. I was pretty pissed off. Hey, that planer cost me $25 and now I had to fix the cord and the burnt blades!
Not much later Stone convinced me that he wanted me to shape for him and he'd stay out of the way. I could glass too so we talked a bit about that. It was decided that I'd just shape and that was fine by me. Jay had just bought the Hobie shop on Wilshire and it was a well-known business so I thought: 'Hello, we might make a buck here and get in some serious work too." I was right. At the time, all of us 'underground shapers' wanted to gain experience and the only way to do that was to grind LOTS of boards.
This was that chance for me. Over the next couple of years, I shaped SO many boards. At one time, during the first twin fin era, we had me, Steve Kroll, (a fantastic master shaper from Dana Point), and the legendary Ralph Parker all grinding. Kroll and I lived in our cars right in the parking lot of the factory and did an honest 10 twins a day, EACH, 7 days a week, for 6 months solid.
That's not bullshit, there must be hundreds of them still around in Florida 'cause that's where we sent thousands. Many, many times I slept in my car, with my dog, and with the day's foam dust all over me. Kroll taught me a very great deal and I admired his planer and shaping skills immensely.
He was making concave into vee three finners in 1971! We went on to work together on Kauai in '71' at Brewers' old place in Hanapepe. We were really tight. Parker was a mysto guy. He'd show up at night on the weekend and do a week's worth of good work in one weekend!
I learned a few tricks off of him but mainly I only saw the results of his work on Monday morning. He was a line shaper from Hobie. Not a surfer. Just a powerhouse grinder. A lot of his ideas made sense though. Like, why work harder?
He was the first guy I saw using a Skil saw to cut outlines. He was really good with his tools and his boards were clean and as good as anybodys'. There was no romantic nonsense about shaping to him, unlike us. He had figured out the way to systematize the job and get results. I didn't want to be like him but I thought he was smart as Hell.
At various times, other guys were brought into shape too; especially when Buzzy got in bed with the Japanese. Then we mowed some foam, I can tell you. I can't remember the name of this one guy from Huntington but he had a color TV on a chair at the end of his shaping bay and he'd watch soap operas on TV all day while he worked! Can you fucking believe that?! He wasn't bad either. I think he wound up in one of the later incarnations of Blue Cheer and was tight with Clyde Beatty Jr. in that phase. (Steve Braum? Maybe.)
In this first phase though, Kroll and I were shaping, The glass shop changed over time and what was Orlando's scene soon became entwined with Zephyr and Buzzy's deal just grew into a warehouse up the street. John Orlando and later Doug Marshall were glassing. Skip was always around and I think he was Orlandos' sander. And of course, C.R. (Stecyk) was orbiting around a fair bit as well. Ho, Skip, Orlando, and Stecyk, and I had a long history. I just don't remember so many other details. That would be because of the beer and the smoking. There was a lot of beer going down.
Wayne Miyata was our glosser / pinliner and it was really a fantastic thing to have worked with him. I told him how he once was going to throw me down the stairs at the SM Civic at a surf film because I was swearing over him and his date at some friends. He smiled and softly said: I would have to. But you apologized, right?" Correct he was and lucky I was!
We became fast friends and did a bit of socializing after hours in, of all places, Hollywood. Oh...the dingey bars! He was a good man, loved the absolute best things in life, and wouldn't settle for less than first class, ever. This helped our work ethic in the factory. Having a true legend glossing our work was tough.
If the outlines were faulty he would be the first to know and it could affect his work. Having Wayne there made us all try harder. And he knew the most stories of anyone I have ever known. Just a one-man encyclopedia of amazing first-hand experiences. Imagine!
One day he'd had a board built that he was going to put into his own new shop in Hermosa. It was coal black with about a million little red pinlines all over it. Every pinline had an arrowhead at the top and feathers at the tail-all done with tape and a straight-edged razor blade! While he was taping the last few we all watched him in silence.
His sticker was round and he was shooting two pins around the sticker. Ever laid tape for pins? It's fucking hard. 2 lines of tape for 1 pinline of resin. To do it evenly around a round sticker is nearly impossible. Down the board would come Waynes' hand peeling off and smoothing tape like butter.
Rip! Up would come what appeared to us to be a perfect line of tape and down he'd come again. Over and over until it was just insanely perfect. We were impressed. I think Glen Kennedy was in on this show and he just looked at me and rolled his eyes up like he'd seen Da Vinci at work.
Doug Marshall was ex-Gordie / Huntington and tight with Guy Okazaki. Doug was the finest glasser I have ever had the privilege to work with. A great sander and a very wise man as well. He once led a quiet revolution at the factory when he just got sick and tired of looking at that stupid sticker with that stupid name: "Blue Cheer." We all agreed that no boards would get made until Stone changed the name and the sticker. Stone caved in and we became "Ocean" surfboards. Much better!
But then Stone got a deal on a big bucket of this pigment color called'Aqua Pool' and we had to produce several hundred boards that were colored like opaque swimming pools! Yuk! There was always something! I worked with Dougie in Australia too and was so sad to see him die at just 45; a victim of Agent Orange and possibly, the glassers' lifestyle.
Bob Petty came in on a later version of Blue Cheer. His shop 'Boy' was a guy named Pat Rawson. Ex Roberts too and later become one of the greatest North Shore shapers ever. We remain, good friends, today. Jeff Ho blew in and out at various times but when Orlando had the glassing concession, Ho was very busy there. Ho and I went all the way back to '65'-'66' when he was bringing his first 'Innovations' into Roberts for glassing while I was apprenticed to Bob 'Roberts' Milner.
Ho was and is a true original. He was eccentric as Hell and I loved his ass. I've known him since the very beginning of my career and respect him greatly. He has an original mind. We had some very fun times together over the years. There was also a guy named Craig Moody .
This guy was Petty's first "Shop Boy" and hand sander. He worked hard for not much dough and was just one of the guys. Then one day he says to me: " My old Boy Scout leader has put me onto a job possibility and I think I might have a crack at it. It involves this new stuff called computer software and the bosses have given me a stack of computer mags to check out over the weekend. I start selling next week. I don't know anything about it but they say it sells itself."
2 years later and he's got an apartment in the heart of the most happening part of New York and another in L.A. and his career is just rocketing skyward. He must be a billionaire by now! We were all really glad to see a brother make it out of the surfing ghetto. Still, other versions had Fred Stangle and Bob Erspalmer onboard in the glass shop and Rich Reed, (another really gifted shaper), shaping.
Man, this is just unfair...I'm sure I'm forgetting a few people here. Sorry boys. These were very crazy times with super great guys. Truly worthy of making a movie from-for real! And Jay Stone? He was just a really nice guy who wanted to make surfing his business and make a success of it. No secret agendas-nothing sinister.
He often stressed the shit out of all of us and we often stressed the shit out of him. It was kind of like a marriage without the sex. (Well, actually, that's marriage all over, isn't it? Hah!) We made Stone a lot of money and he paid us heaps in return. I have only good memories. And at the bottom of it all, I knew that he cared more about us and our well-being than almost any other guy I ever worked for. Thanks for everything Buzzy!
The Story of Dan Heritage
By Heritage Surf and Sport
In 1962 Dan's interest in surfing began after reading an ad in Popular Mechanic. The article was on how to build your own surfboard. Having spent many summer days in the Jersey surf as a kid, he had a love for the ocean. With a few friends, he sent away the materials and instructions.
After testing their skills (if you could call it that) on three foam boards they proceeded to try their hands on glassing. After the glassing of one board, they were evicted from the basement to the garage. There they finished the others. Dan and his friends were ready to test ride their new surfboards. It only took half an hour before Dan's board broke in half in the shore break.
He would open a concession stand in Ocean City, New Jersey in 1963. Along with the concession stand, he operated a small store in his hometown of Vineland, New Jersey, which was about 40 miles from the beach. Surfing was taking off on the East Coast and Dan happened to be on this wave that was getting bigger.
The year was 1964, and Dan opened up his first Surf Shop. It was located in Sea Isle, New Jersey, and was named Little Wave Surf Shop. Little Wave was one of G&S first distributors on the East Coast. Besides G&S Surfboards there were Ventura Plastic Poparts and Ernie Tanaka Surfboards. The business was growing at Little Wave, but Dan worked full-time for a chemical laboratory as a supervisor to support his wife and two kids. Having worked for Burlington Fabrics, he helped design the fiberglass warp and weft structure, the ounces, and softness at Burlington.
Whenever he got the chance, Dan would be surfing. Weekly surf contests became standard for the many surf shop-sponsored teams, but it was a challenge to those owners including Dan to manage their schedules. He contributed his time to coordinate several competitive events, besides never missing to qualify his team for the East Coast Championship at Hatteras.
From 1968 Dan Heritage began manufacturing his own boards on a full-time basis. Because of their limited experience in board manufacturing on the east coast, Dan had to teach all of his employees the aspects of each process. This included shaping, glassing, sanding, pinlining, and glossing. Dan Heritage became known as one of the best pinliner on the east coast.
Everything Dan accomplished was self-taught. He worked endless hours with persistence and determination to be the best that he could. He was never afraid to try new ideas. When Ross Houston opened up the Surf Expo in Virginia Beach, Dan was among the first supporters. Dan was considered one of the few avid supporters of the east coast surf industry.
In 1971 Dan built his main retail location at Sea Isle City, New Jersey. It was then that his wife and kids began getting involved with the business. Skateboards had been making a comeback. While Dan made wooden and fiberglass kicktail decks, the rest of the family was assembling, packaging, and shipping them to other dealers. Since Dan's Dad was an artist and photographer in the advertising field, he lent his expertise to the promotion of Little Wave products. Dan's Dad designed the family crest logo for the first Heritage Surfboard logo." What better name to give your boards than your own?" His Dad said. From that time on Little Wave became known as Heritage Surf and Sport.
A second store was established in 1978 in Ocean City, New Jersey, and a third was opened in 1982 in Stone Harbor, New Jersey. In 1986 after two decades of shaping surfboards and working with resins, Dan began to scale down the manufacturing operation. Dan retired in 1989 due to health reasons. His family would manage the business and Dan would go fishing. In February of 1997, Dan Heritage passed away. He had been one of the early pioneers of East Coast Surfing and help build the East Coast Surf Industry.
"Classic Long Bar of TJ"
By Thomas Takao
Tony Mikus is a well-known surfboard glasser in the Santa Cruz area. Having worked for many of the local surfboard factories and some freelance, Tony’s glassing has covered many boards since the 1970s. Tony Mikus’s craftsmanship and surfing are a part of the Santa Cruz Surfing Community’s classic history.
Tony was born and raised in Santa Cruz, California. He started surfing on weekends with two friends that went to the same Junior High School. They first started surfing at Cowell’s in the early 1960s. Tony had a Velzy Jacob’s balsa gun which seemed like 20 feet long when he first started. He couldn’t carry the board very well, so older guys there would help. Chubby Mitchell was one of those guys and he would help Tony carry the board down to the beach from the parking lot a few times, back then. Chubby always carried the Aloha Spirit with him wherever he went.
The older surfers would watch out for Tony and his friend. A special time and place for both the young and older surfers of this era. Surf wetsuits were in the early stages of design development. So only a few older surfers were able to have a custom beaver tail jacket made by Jack O'Neill. You needed cornstarch to get into those early wetsuits Tony recalled because they did not have nylon lining.
During the winter when the surf wasn’t good Tony would go to Otto’s and glass a board for fifty cents aside, even though he didn’t know what he was doing. With the money that he earned, he would go across the street to Sis’s and get a hamburger and coke or just hang out at George’s. Tony learned how to glass from Bob Cates, Dan Haut, and John Cross at the Haut’s shop on Swift Ave in the early 1970’.
After working for Doug Haut, Tony started working for Session surfboards in the ’80s, after Session, Tony worked at Santa Cruz Surfboards, John Mel‘s Freeline Designs, Bob Pearson’s Arrow Surfboards, Bill Ryedale, Ward Coffey Shapes, and John Henderson at Strive Surfboards.
While talking about the process of glassing and the experienced ones develop. Tony remembered a time while working for Arrow Surfboards. Halfway through glassing a double layer of cloth on the deck, the lights went out. The door was open with a little light coming in, but the room was dark. Tony continued glassing and finished the board. The glass job was fine and no one could tell the difference.
The experience glasser develops a feels, through the many glassed boards. Most people watching a glasser glass cannot see this feel. Tony handed me a copy of the Pleasure Point Surfing handbook, actually two pages. Besides glassing surfboards, Tony is a charter member of the Pleasure Point Surfing Association.
Jim Phillips an artist (no relation to Jim Phillips the shaper), who was the secretary of the club at its inception, and who is the secretary of the reformed association has written an overview of its history. The following surfers were original members:
Mark Angell, Joe Ayer, Gary Benson, Jerry Benson, Duncan Blue, Gene Hall, Dan Haut, Doug Haut, Joe “LJ” Harris, Jimmy Hoffman, Tom Hoye, Joe Kienholz, Tom Kienholz, Bill Luke, Johnny McCombs, Paul Meltzer, Tony Mikus, Rich Novak, Jimmy Phillips, Dave Puissegur, Dent Snider, Davey Sultzer, Dave Sweet, Jeff Thomsen, Gene Van Dyke, Gary Venturini, Norman Walker, Mike Winterburn, Joel Woods, and Johnny Rice,
FELLOW MEMBERS who have passed on at the time of Tony’s story:
Ted Pierson, Jay Shuirman, Adrian Jones, Bob Richardson, Gene Williams, Rod Russell, Mike Searcy, Bruce Phillips, Pete Bowersock, Leigh Perkins, Gary Anderson, Hank Serrano, Rudy Zeiss, Gramps Scroggins, Mike Ryan, Steve Scofield, Kenny Edgett, John Manwarren, Jim Miller.
The following came from the PPSA Handbook by Jim Phillips: The Pleasure Point Surfing Association was the first organized surfing club in Santa Cruz County since the 1940s era Santa Cruz Surfing Club. PPSA continued to earn its own distinguished place in history. It was formed in 1963 by seven charter members and continued to grow in membership over the next few years.
Originally, the PPSA came into being as a surfing competitive team, as the Santa Cruz response to statewide surfing teams such as Wind an’ Sea, Hope Ranch, Playa Del Rey, and various surfboard company teams. In 1964 the Santa Cruz Surfing Association held the first annual Northern California Surfing Club Invitational, November 28-29 at Steamer Lane PPSA held its own against top surfers of California and took 1st place in the event which included clubs such as Hope Ranch, Pedro Point, West Wind, South Peninsula, North Side, East Cliff.
PPSA surfers contributing to the victory included: Junior Division: LJ Harris, Tony Mikus Gary Venturini Men’s Division: Davey Sultzer, Doug Haut, Gene Hall, Tom Hoye, Joe Kienholz, Tom Kienholz, Jimmy Phillips, Joel, Woods, Jim Schmedding, Norman Walker. (note: Other members were probably omitted from the program listing (source)
With top standing in the competitive field, PPSA reached out to the community and formed one of the first environmental programs in Santa Cruz County. PPSA placed the first trash cans at locations in Pleasure Point. To spread the environmental message the PPSA entered a float in the club division in the 1964 Miss California Parade, which occurred during the summer on Beach St. in Santa Cruz.
The PPSA float won 1st place! It consisted of a large crepe paper trash can built over a Volkswagen, it had the club logo on the can and “Keep your beaches clean” written below. The trash program exists to this day in the form of Pack Your Trash thanks to efforts covering many years by the PPNF and others, including establishing county trash can pickup and beach cleanups.
Pleasure Point Surfing Association produced a highly successful Surf Fair on April 15, 1965, at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium. It was from 10 AM to midnight, during the Easter Break. The event had booths by every major Surf Shop in northern California, Surf Clubs displays, movies, dancing to live bands, skateboard exhibitions, and prize drawings every hour. General admittance was $1.50. With the proceeds from the Surf Fair, the PPSA members enjoyed a one-week all-expense paid surfing trip to Baja California.
Resuming the conversation, where in Baja did you guys go I asked. Tony replied Tijuana. We both started laughing. He goes on to tell a classic story at the Long Bar in Tijuana. After the PPSA members crossed over the border to Mexico and found a safe parking spot, they made their way to the Long Bar.
"Hey you guys, come on in, have a good time," said the doorman with a Spanish accent swinging one arm in a circular motion and pointing at the door with the other. A lot of surf clubs were there, and the bar was filled with surfers having a good time, laughing, drinking, joking around, and talking stories. With a haze of smoke at various parts of the bar, the ambiance was right out of a B movie bar scene. The PPSA guys settled in and found some tables. It wasn’t long before the mood shifted, in other words, things started to get out of hand.
Tony standing nearby heard Bigler saying something to Sultzer. Sultzer returned the compliment and poured beer on his head, what followed was the biggest beer fight Tony had ever seen. Being only 16 years old, he had something to talk about when he got back. Everybody was pouring beer on everyone, it was one soaking mess.
The mariachi band that had been playing traditional tunes for the strippers began changing the tune. When the entertainment changed from the stage to the bar floor, they began playing faster and faster until they were seen racing out the door. The noise soared to the ceiling, but after a while, calm prevailed.
With a few guys still pouring beer on one another, most of the guys walked out through the puddles of beer suds and went looking for some dry clothes. A fitting climax for a surf trip to Baja, the guys caught good waves down to the border and good waves back up to Santa Cruz. Tony would pass on in 2014.
CARL EKSTROM SHAPER / DESIGNER / GLASSER
By Thomas Takao
Surfing was still growing and there were a group of guys in La Jolla who were into board building during the 1950s. To get their balsa, some would drive up to General Veneer and buy their wood. Other times General Veneer would bring the balsa to them at the WindanSea parking lot. Either way, the guys would put their money together and buy a full bundle of wood. Of course, they would argue over the best wood after the delivery. The reason being there was light boards and really heavy boards that came out from the same bundle.
Carl Ekstrom was one of these guys who would chip in. His good friend Al Nelson was another. Al’s early beginnings in shaping started in any garage in La Jolla. He would go into a garage and start shaping his board. The homeowner would come home and say what the hell are you doing in here. Al’s remark would be “Ed told us we could shape a couple of surfboards here.” The owner would say “who is Ed.” Al would say “The guy who lives in the house.” The owner replied “That person doesn’t live here and my name isn’t Ed.” Then Al would go up the alley to the next garage, finally, he had worked his way up the street by La Jolla Blvd. and found 3 garages with dirt floors.
He started shaping in one of those garages and no one kicked him out, they were kinda semi-abandoned. Al made friends with the guy in one of the front houses and used an extension cord from the house for electricity. After Al was in the garage for a few weeks, Carl would use the garage next to the one Al was using and started glassing boards there. Carl had been doing some work at Danny Mack’s house before starting his first glassing shop in the garage next to Al. Pat Curran was shaping at Danny Mack’s house, which was across the boulevard at the end of Bonair Way. The guys working at Danny Mack would go to Tijuana on Sundays for the bullfights sometimes leaving on Saturday for two days.
The guys would tell Carl that they had to get there early to get good seats. Some years later, Carl found out that the bullfights meant the Long Bar. Getting back to Danny Mack’s shop Carl learned to shape from the guys at the shop. His first board turned out alright but his second board was not so good, the year was 1957. After Danny Mack’s and the garage, Carl started working at AJ Surfboards where George Lanning was working part-time and going to High School. Carl would move up to Hermosa Beach after graduating from High School in 1960. Briefly working at Jacobs surfboards where Hap Jacobs, Larry Felker, and Kenny Tilton were shaping. At Jacob’s shop, he was introduced to the side-shaping lights.
This was the first time he had seen it and it sure made the contour of rails more distinct. A few months later Dick Mobley got Carl to work at Bing Surfboards. From there Carl would shape at Wardy’s in Laguna Beach, Del Cannon got Carl the job there. After that, it was to Ole’s shop in Seal Beach. Being a wandering shaper, his views on different techniques broaden his outlook on shaping. But it was at Con Surfboard that Carl got good at shaping. After that in 1963, Carl would open a new shop with Al Nelson in Pacific Beach. It was in 1965 at his Pacific Beach shop that Carl developed the asymmetrical surfboard concept.
Carl would continue making surfboards and do some glassing for his friend's boards in the '70s, '80s, and '90s. Pat Curren is one of his best friends and a steady customer through the years. Besides surfboards, there have been opportunities to design various products. Carl grew up in the old school of surfboard building and pioneered the asymmetrical design in surfboard outlines. He has continued being a Designer of provocative concepts.
Fatty Fiberglass a Woman Glasser
By Thomas Takao
In a setting where most of her peers are males, Leslie Anderson has squeegeed around the glassing stands to her drum of resin. Starting in the board-building field in the mid-’90s as a stand-in airbrusher for Steve Walden in Ventura. The airbrushing was temporary until the regular airbrusher returned from his vacation. But being around a surf factory made an impression on her and would start her on a new career.
As the saying goes one thing leads to another. Steve would show her how to polish, then the finer points in sanding. After the basics, she was sanding and polishing at Walden Surfboards for a few years. Meanwhile being around the surf factory she learned other jobs that needed to be done. Fabric inlays, ding repairs, and other miscellaneous shop jobs. Eventually, she started to do some of the preliminary work in shaping by outlining the shape and then cutting it out.
It takes a certain amount of time and trials and errors in reading foam before developing into a shaper. If you are willing to spend the time and money on blanks, then you will be on your way, but no guarantees on your investment. Besides shaping, glassing would be another avenue to travel on in a surf factory so to speak. And that is what happened to Leslie. She started by glassing her surfboards.
Having watched other glassers at the shop she was familiar with the process. Watching is one thing and doing is another. Once you mix the catalyst with the resin you are off to the races. Pouring the resin onto the cloth and working it in was no problem. But further along, you notice that you might not have enough resin but you are almost there. Looked down at the floor wishing some of that resin was still in the bucket.
If you had added a few cc of catalyst more than you should have and the room temperature started to warm up. You begin to notice the resin isn’t flowing as easily as before. Then panic sets in, and you rush to finish the overlap. Barely finishing that procedure, you see unsaturated air bubbles shining in various places of the deck or bottom. You can call it quits after that or keep on going. Leslie would continue and become a glasser at Walden’s for several years. Besides working at Walden’s she would polish Casey McCrystal’s boards and then later glassed for him. Learning the tricks of the trade, her technique was being fine-tuned.
Then one day her good friend Jay Stone of “Blue Cheer” introduced her to Clyde Beatty Jr. and after that, she started working for him. Doing epoxy boards, fins, inlay fabrics, and paddleboards. Eventually becoming the main glasser, she was doing Cooperfishes, Yater, and Wayne Rich’s boards. Having worked there for five years, she learned a lot from everyone there.
After working in Santa Barbara Leslie moved north to Fort Bragg and started working for Paul Kraus. There she continued to glass. Having the experience and confidence in glassing, Leslie started her glassing shop called “Fatty Fiberglass” and the business has been steady doing glassing, ding repairs, and restorations. Besides her glassing, she started her surfboards called Fatty Surfboards. The boards are being shaped by Jamie Murray a shaper Leslie highly appreciates. Jamie also has his label called Jamie Murray Custom Surfboards. Jamie grew up surfing on twin fins and quads in the 80’s while on the East Coast.
After a surfing hiatus during college, he moved to California in 1999 for graduate school. After his arrival, he began shaping a board from a stripped-down longboard that had blown off his girlfriend’s car (she is now his wife). His first board wasn’t what you would call shop quality, in Jamie’s words it sucked, but he was hooked on shaping. For a while, he bought every sub $ 20-yard sale board he could find, stripped it, then reshaped it and finished it off by glassing it himself. After a while, the shapes started to look good and most importantly they rode ok. His glass jobs of resin colors, pipelines, and high glosses started to get noticed.
In 2001 he bought his first blank and it blew his mind. No more hours of stripping the glass and cleaning up the mess before shaping. Since then he shapes for his local clientele when he isn’t doing his day job of teaching. He doesn’t do a lot of boards so he concentrates on doing quality.
Jamie continued glassing his board until 2003 when he met Leslie Anderson. She blew his mind with her skill, stoke, and spirit. Still developing as a shaper, Jamie has been getting insights into the art from other shapers. To name a few, Greg Griffin, Brian Bulkley, Jed Noll, and Steve Boehne. With Jamie shaping and Leslie glassing, Fatty Surfboards will continue to grow in popularity. Before, if you were in the Fort Bragg area, you could have stopped by Fatty’s and checked out her surfboards. But now, Leslie is married and living in Alaska.
"SHAPING AN ART FORM"
By STEVE PEZMAN
The article appeared in Surfer Magazine back in 1974.
Today in 1974, there are many more surfboards shapers within our sport than there used to be. Probably in the hundreds. But relatively few are really fine shapers who have put in the years of learning to read foam and to control their tools, so necessary to create out of a given volume of foam a predetermined shape. (Rather than being satisfied with what they seem to have ended up with when they put their fine-sanding block down.)
The shaping of surfboards is a remarkable art form spinoff from the sport of surfing, easily as involved as the act of riding a wave. In fact, there are striking similarities in the terminologies of both surfing and shaping. Even back in the early days of draw knives and varnished wooden planks, those who had the knack of creating those long, heavy, spiritual spears were considered to be a notch above those who could only ride them.
In present times, even with the use of easily shaped foam, becoming a master shaper involves developing and intimate and complex knowledge of the medium and the tools used to form it. It becomes a full-time, absorbing task to keep abreast of the constantly evolving blanks and surfboards theories.
There are a staggering amount of variables. Different batches of foam have different densities and textures. Every mold or plug has a different displacement of volume and curve. Every glue-up has a chance to vary. The starting point for a shaper is practically never the same twice in a row. Thus, shaping becomes a zen; brain game of sorts, challenging your ability to see what’s there, and act accordinly, requiring a combination of efficiency, concentration, creativity and manual skills.
At first you begin to develop the barest abilities to look at a blank or shaped board and read its contents. You learn to gaze across a plane of foam, form one angle then another, and see it as flat and true, tilted, bumped, dipped or what. You learn to distinguish between a low dip in a line as opposed to high spots on either side of a point on that line that creates the illusion of making that spot on either side of a point on that line that creates the illusion making that spot look low.
You become capable of comparing the widths, tapers, and slopes of bands you’re cutting on either rail. You get to the point where you can step back and see enough in a shape to like it or not, for specific reasons rather than for gut feelings. To be able to look at and read foam, you use shadow-casting lights and silhouette. The space you shape in must be large enough to allow you to step back from the shape and view it in its entirety.
And the walls should be dark to form a contrasting backdrop for the white light reflecting foam. Lighting is used to create form-defining shadows. Shapers preferences for lighting setups vary between top lights, side lighting and combination of both. Side lights have a tendency to create more readable shadows when a blank is flat on a shaping rack, while top lights have a tendency to fill in light and obscure shadow.
Both side and top lights are generally made of eight-foot fluorescent light boxes, and their distance from the shaping rack, as well as elevation in relation to the blank on the rack, greatly affects the intensity and coverage of the light. Many shapers who prefer top lighting are in preferring not to see what they’re doing (what marks their tools are leaving) unless they shape the entire board in a vertical, on-edge position in the racks.
It takes shapers quite a few blanks from a particular mold to learn it qualities. By learning, I mean knowing at the start, without having to look, where the volume of foam is and where the flaws are (there have been good blanks, but never an absolutely perfect one). On a blank from a badly warped mold, you can spend fifteen minutes just straightening it out, and end up with such a reduced amount of foam that you have little choice as far as thickness, rocker and contour are concerned.
Merely being able to look at a blank and read it correctly can take up to a year or two of full-time effort. Basically, looking involves scanning the blank from many angles while comparing one longitudinal half to the other and seeing what’s there to work with. Initially everything looks the same, but after a few minutes you begin to see things.
The lines and planes a shaper is looking at are the top line or deck from nose to tail, along the stringer and the outer portions of the deck both longitudinally and crosswise from nose to tail, and the same for the bottom. A shaper will also step back and look at the entire length of the blank edge on the thickness flow (flow of the volume between the top and bottom lines).
As a shaper learns to read lines and planes, he begins to see them as a series of straights comprising what seems to the untrained eye to be a curve. The task becomes one of converting these straights and the points where they meet into a flowing, true, evenly breaking curve.
To remove a high point from a line means touching just that high point with your tool and not the low on either side (the same holds true for removing a low point). Since your tools are all planning on the existing surface, unless you’re merely duplicating or compounding your earlier mistakes.
Eight years ago, shapers were faced with making 10-foot boards out of 11-foot blanks. They had to remove tremendous amounts of foam and maintain large, true planes of bottom and deck while doing it. They also had to keep ten feet or more of rail line and contour the same on both sides.
The shapers who are still into it from this era are generally superior tool users and foam readers to those who started more recently in the short-board era, with blanks being very close. Plus, those old boards had 50-50 rails rather than the low-cornered ones of today that are much easier to read while shaping (Hynson is no fool).
To accomplish this massive foam removal, shapers developed individualized systems or sequences of things they did to a blank every time the same way in the same order. A truly flexible system could be adapted to any shape.
With slight alterations due to different tool preferences and blanks, etc., a system might go something like this:
(1) Look at blank if major bumps, dips or glue-up are way off, correct with planner.
(2) Draw outline and cut out and saw.
(3) Adjust rocker and bottom and deck surfaces to proper thickness and flow. (note: this procedure can be done with step # 1 also.)
(4) Band rails with planer (to begin with a series of bevels which break the rail curve into the deck).
(5) Fine-contour rails and blend into bottom and deck with sureform.
(6) Clean up center stringer and fine tune nose and tail with block plane.
(7) Rough sand with block.
(8) Screen rails.
(9) Fine sand flats.
Through every step, you’re reading the blank and making adjustments and corrections. Shaping systems are constantly being evolved by the shaper. Basically, they are confined to the tool-use abilities the shaper has mastered.
The advent of production shaping in the early to mid-60’s created master tool users who developed new techniques such as the use of power saws for outlining (which sounds scary, but was a break through in the sense that the more efficient the tool, the more perfect the cut), and power disk sanders for sanding flats and blending curves. The logic being, aside from speed, that the larger the surface you could effect in one pass, the fewer bumps you shape in.
It’s funny, but the common belief that the longer a shaper takes to do a board, the better it will be is more often than a fallacy. The whole idea in shaping is to touch the foam as little as possible in the most direct fashion with the most efficient tool. And that takes knowing at the beginning where you want to be at the end.
Templates are constantly evolving along with board theory. Basically, a shaper keeps revising a line he’s been working with for a long time, rather than designing an entirely new one each time. Using a template is another art in itself.
From one template, many different outlines can be created by combining portions of one or more templates. Sometimes an outline on one side of a board represents the sum of three or four different sections of template all blended smoothly together. It can b tricky to duplicate such line on the other side of the blank.
The power planer is used to remove areas of foam from the decks and to carve tapered bands, the first step in turning the rails. You use a planer just as the name implies, planning the tool on its rear planning surfaces, holding the tool so that you’re cutting a controlled line with a controlled angles to the blank (which may want to change during the cut).
Learning how to control the planer as you extend your arms without altering the angle of the planer, while adjusting the depth of bite the blade is taking, takes time. Learning how to swing the tail of the planer out when coming to a sharp upward curve so that the length of the planer doesn’t bridge the curve, inadvertently changing your angle of attack is another tricky and time consuming lesson to be learned.
Many shapers cut their planers down to reduce this problem. Saw are basically used for outlining. The whole art of using this tool is to remember you’re creating a curved, vertical plane (the thickness), not just cutting along a line. Here, ability is centered around holding the tool in a constant up and down attitude while following the line.
Sureform a grating tool about ten inches long and an inch or so wide. This is the crutch tool, the hardest to control accurately, as far as cutting surfaces goes, and the hardest to tell afterwards what you’ve actually done to the board.
The sureform is properly used in a plane conscious way, rather than for scrubbing on spots. It’s used as a blending tool, and can cause a hell of a lot of bumps if you’re not delicate or try to attack a large surface of foam with it. Many shapers overuse the tool because it feels so direct and craftsy, but it’s a mistake.
Block plane, if you had to choose one hand tool with which to shape a board, this would be it. It’s easily controlled and leaves a nice, even surface, compared to a sureform. However, the block plane is basically used for flushing the center stringer and fine tuning the nose and tail. It’s also good for altering the top and bottom line of a rail band.
Sanding Block, you use a block (as big as you can control) whenever sanding so that you cover a large area with fewer strokes and with a constant angle and pressure. Sanding is used for blending, fine contouring rails and flats, and making minor corrections to nearly finished shape. Different grades of paper vary the cutting power and resultant smoothness.
Abrasive Screen, Potentially another crutch tool, the screen is primarily used for final smoothing and contouring of the edgeof the rails and into the decks four or five inches. A lot of shapers will try to do too much shaping with the screen because it tends to hide bumps by eliminating the ridge that casts the shadow. It won't take out bumps, for merely duplicates the surface it's pulled over.
Every shaper has his personal tool use habits, and frequently customizes his tools to fit his system. Learning to use all these tools to the degree that they don't hang you up is more involved than it may seem. For instance, learning to go both front side and backside with your planer is a necessity if you wish to shape your rails from tail to nose on both sides. If you don't, or can't, chances are they'll be different.
The entire shaping process calls for total concentration. Foam is very malleable and easy to contour, but also easy to ruin for the same reasons. The system that a shaper develops becomes a reflection of his efficiency and perceptiveness, a contest with himself to materially create that which he mentally envisions.
Surfboards are incredibly beautiful and functional sculptures. Part of their beauty lies in what they're designed to do: to slide down the face of an upward- flowing mass of water in a controlled fashion.But their forms exist aesthetically on their own artistic merit as well as on their usefulness.
The surfer shaper who has earned, over a period of years, his ability to read foam and who has evolved a truly direct system and a flowing set of templates, is just that much further into the intrinsic values hidden within the sport of surfing. And we are the lucky ones who may plug into all that energy by merely riding his shape.
In one art is zen used time and again-shaping for all the seasons. Archipuni
"The Sonny Vardeman Story"
By Thomas Takao
Just before getting out of the water after a late afternoon surf session, I was navigating my board between the surging rush of white water at high tide across the rocks at the Huntington Beach Cliff. I made my way past the boulders and up the path to the parking lot. Thinking about some of the waves that I rode and the small gravel-shaped rocks that I happened to step on before reaching my car. After rinsing off and putting my wetsuit in a plastic container, I was recalling my lunch meeting with Sonny Vardeman this day.
For those who do not know Sonny, he was a surfboard shaper and glasser in the 1950s and ’60s. He also was a lieutenant in the Los Angeles County Lifeguards now retired. We arranged to meet at Greg Martz’s shop in Santa Ana. I was there a few minutes earlier looking at the finished boards at the Waterman Guild when Sonny walks in. I introduced myself and we began a friendly conversation. It was around noon and Sonny mentioned there was a café close by and to go have lunch.
So a few minutes later we sat at a table that was located near the counter of the cafe. The sound of dishes being placed behind the counter could be heard. Besides surfboard building and being a lifeguard, Sonny at one time was considering going into the surf clothing business. He came close to taking off on that wave, but circumstances beyond his control altered his outlook and desire to go there.
The waitress poured us some coffee and would be back to take our orders. I asked about Hermosa Beach and Sonny started by saying 1937. That was the year his parent moved to Hermosa Beach and where he was born. His childhood days were spent playing around with friends and walking to the beach which was a couple of streets down from his house.
The Hermosa Beach Pier was the center of activity in Hermosa Beach and Sonny would go there to check out a book or two from the library which was at the south side of the entrance to the Pier. Many a day Sonny and his friends would be on the Pier and watch the surfers with their big surfboards riding the waves next to the Pier.
Sonny started surfing in 1948 on a plywood hollow surfboard called a kook box, that was built by Al Holland. In 1950 at the age of 13, Sonny was in a surf club called the Hermosa Seals Surf Club. Their surfboards of choice then were balsa surfboards shaped by Dale Velzy. The member was Charley Davis, Mike Bright, John Rhind, Bill Bryson, Chip Post, Steve Voorhees, Jeff White, Sonny Vardeman, and Jimmer Lindsay.
The club became well known within the community and the Daily Breeze Newspaper decided to do a story on them. The reporter/photographer whose identity has been forgotten over the years got the boys to line up on the Northside of the pier and took their picture. After their picture was taken the club members became celebrities at their school. Summers came and went and it wasn’t long before Sonny was a freshman at Mira Costa High School.
There were many well-known surfers and board builders that went to Mira Costa High School and Sonny and Mike Bright were one of them. During Easter break in the early 1950’s Sonny and Mike along with “Ole Ming” went on a surf trip. Ole Ming was older and the one who did the driving on the trip. They went to Trestles and caught it at a perfect 8 ft. with it being sunny and glassy all day.
You had to sneak by the Marines in those days said Sonny and it was sometimes more fun than surfing. They were out in the water all day, except for having a lunch break when the marines were gone. They sat on a big old trunk of a Sycamore tree, which had become driftwood. Mike and Sonny forgot to bring a lunch on this trip, but Ole Ming knew better and pulled from his backpack a couple of cans of pork and beans and made the day. After lunch, they went back out for an afternoon session. By way of a path along San Mateo Creek, they would return back to their car which was located in some bushes along Pacific Coast Highway. Driving through San Clemente, Dana Point, Laguna Beach, and the other beach cities they would return to Hermosa Beach some few hours later.
The waitress came with our sandwiches as Sonny continued on with his story. We talked about the early beginnings of surfwear, T-shirts, floral shirts, and trunks in particular. Sonny remembered John Bernard who was a couple of years younger than himself and also went to Mira Costa High School. His father was the manager of the JC Penney’s store on Pier Ave and Hermosa Ave in Hermosa Beach. John was the stock boy who folded the T-shirts and helped out wherever needed.
Sonny and many of his other friends would go there and buy their T-shirts, dress shirts, and pants. Occasionally he would see John there and at school and ask what was new. As fashion would have it the crew neck T-shirt with its slightly heavier weight was more appealing compared to the looser collar and lighter weight T-shirts that were available. The Penney crew neck T-shirt was very popular and the number one choice among the surfers in the South Bay.
There was this guy named Richard Meyers, Sonny recalled who started silk screening the T-shirts for local surf shops. By placing their logos on the back and a smaller one in the front the shop owners were all for it. He would make T-shirts for Hap and Velzy, then later for Weber, Sonny, and other surfboard builders. His main source of crew neck T-shirts was from Penney’s store where John worked. How insignificant it seemed back then, but the beginning of surf shop T-shirts can be traced back to those days of the mid-1950s.
Meanwhile, Sonny took his first trip to the Islands in October of 1955. Dave Rocklin who was a lifeguard in Santa Monica got Sonny and the bunch of other guys a package deal from an airline out of Burbank Airport. When they took their boards to the airport the ground crews didn’t know what to do with their surfboards. So Sonny and a couple of other guys got in the cargo bay of the prop passenger plane and loaded their boards by staggering the boards by placing the fin of one board with the nose of the other and utilizing the space better.
Sonny would go with Steve Voorhees, Bing Copeland, Mike Bright, Rick Stoner, and George Kepo'o. George would stay with his family while Sonny and the others would rent a place out by Makaha Point. They would surf Makaha that fall and winter and make trips out to the North Shore. While living at Makaha the guys chipped in and bought a 1937 Plymouth sedan.
One day they drove around Kaena Point to get to the North Shore by following the tank tracks on the dirt road that went along the side of the mountain. They reached Kaena Point where they stop for a surf check, they stood and watched the big surf breaking.
Someone mentioned going out. The others looked at each other and the whitewater smashing on the rocks below them. Mike said, if you lose your board once, all that’s left is a whole lot of balsa toothpicks. It wasn’t long before everyone was back in the 37’ Plymouth and making their way around the Point. Not knowing the road conditions further up ahead, they continued on the way. Before fully realizing their predicament, one side of the road became a cliff as the road became narrower.
At one point making a turn around a corner, one of the wheels hung over the side of the cliff while making the turn. Steve Voorhees kept his eye on the road while Bones looked down at the rocks which were 50 to 60 feet below them. Nervously they all shifted their weight to the mountainside as the Plymouth slowly rounded the corner. The dirt road turned into the asphalt as they made their way to the North Shore and passed Dillingham airstrip, Mokuliea, and Waialua. Around the traffic circle and into the town of Haleiwa. Whenever they drove over a puddle of water, on purpose or not, the hole in the rear floorboard acted like a blowhole and the muddy water would splash the guys inside.
Passing all the spots that one day would become popular; they arrived at Sunset Beach in one piece. To capture the achievement of getting there a picture was taken and then they all went surfing. On the returned trip, they took the long way home through Wahiawa down Kamehameha Hwy to Farrington Hwy. They would stop frequently at every gas station along the way to re-supply the car with reused motor oil.
In 1956 Steve Voorhees and Sonny joined the Navy at Pearl Harbor. Sonny was on a light cruiser that was home-ported in Long Beach. Bing Copeland and Rick Stoner went into the Coast Guard. Mike Bright would move into town, where he would train with Tommy Zahn and Joe Quigg in building his stamina for paddle boarding. In 1958 Sonny would return to Hermosa Beach and in his parent's two-car garage Sonny started glassing some surfboards. Bing and Rick who had just returned from New Zealand, got together with Sonny and Mike and started shaping some boards, while Mike and Sonny did the glassing.
“It was a bad scene, we had sawhorses lined up and down the alley and my dad was getting mad as hell. He finally kicked us out saying, “You guys are running a commercial enterprise down here. If you're going to be in business, find yourselves a shop." Looking around I wave to the waitress and she comes over and refills our cups of coffee. Sonny continued saying “This is how Bing and Rick's shop on the Strand evolved and how they became partners. The board building was a side business for Sonny, Rick, and Bing at first. Sonny and Rick had jobs being lifeguards for the County and Bing with the Postal Service.
Another friend of Sonny is Greg Noll, in 1956 while they were away in the service. Greg had opened a shop on Pacific Coast Highway in Manhattan Beach. After a year or so he moved his shop to Hermosa Beach on Pier Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway. Greg would go on to become known as one of the world’s best big wave riders of the 1960s. But before then Greg was making surf films. In one of those films made in 1959, Sonny and Rick Stoner were in it.
They had bought a 1940 Ford with a small trailer for the trip across the border. Before going down to Mexico, they had talked about it and agreed to meet up. The plans were made and they would meet with Greg and Beverly at Mazatlan. From there they would travel down to San Blas. With $300.00 to pay for expenses, they spent the next 3 months traveling around in search of surf in Mexico.
They took the mainland route to Mazatlan. One of the surf spots that they surfed was Cannon's Point. Rennie Yater and a couple of his friends were there. Gary Severs and Bing Copeland were also out. Bing who had returned with Rick Stoner earlier in the year from New Zealand would meet up with his friends there. Some of the filmings was done by Beverly would the boys when Greg was in the water. In one part of the movie, they were in a hillside stream toasting the moment. With refreshment in hand, Sonny and the others were cooling off from the hot noonday sun.
“Back then it was truly a grind looking for surf. Sometimes we would go for days without finding surf” says Sonny. All of Greg’s movies were called ‘Search for Surf’. They would explore the different beaches along the way to San Blas. Giving them names, one such location was Peechichini Point. In the film, Sonny is in front of Rick whose arms are pointing upwards. In another sequence, Greg is in front of Sonny. Two good friends climbing and dropping on the same wave, making remarks to each other that only they could hear. As the sun sets to the West, the scene slowly fades from that day.
They were in their early 20s and a new day awaited them all. None of them would have thought a whole new decade would bring surfing to a new level. They would be part of the “Surf Rush” that swept across both coasts of the US, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Peru, and the other countries of South America, South Africa, and Europe.
Back from their trip Sonny and Mike Bright started a glassing shop called Surf Fiberglass. They did glassing for most of the surfboard makers, including Greg, Dewey Weber, Bing and Rick, and Hap Jacobs. They were one of the first to commercially glass surfboards and by doing so, had to learn and create shortcuts to meet the demand.
During the winter of 1959, the Redondo Breakwater was breaking with the face of the waves in the 12 to 15 feet neighborhood. John Severson was shooting some films for his movie Surf Safari. Sonny was out that day with Tom Sweeny, Billy Kercanson, and a couple of other guys.
They would walk along the break wall path to the bend in the Breakwater. Once there they would wait for a lull in the waves. Then make their way down the boulders quickly towards a designated rock that they would jump from and into the water.
Everyone would paddle fast before the next set of waves started popping up on the horizon. Once out they would sit at the takeoff spot waiting for the right wave to take off. On this day you had to catch the right one because if you made the drop the waves were mostly a wall. Then going in on a prone position or swimming, the process of paddling back out was the same. Walking back up to the Breakwall and doing the paddle-out merry-go-round.
Sonny and the other were caught on film by John and became part of the movie. After the surf session, Sonny went back up the hill to the Surf Fiberglass shop. The shop was located near Prospect Ave and 180th St. John Severson would show his film in pack school auditoriums in the South Bay and for some lucky locals at Blackie August’s garage in Seal Beach for a quarter.
In the early 1960s, Sonny and Mike would close the glassing company. Mike would go on and work for Bing and Rick, while Sonny got married and moved to Orange County. He would start his own surfboard and surf shop called Vardeman Surfboards. The first shop was located in Whittier, where Bing had a second shop. Sonny bought the shop from Bing. But Sonny wouldn’t stay long at that location. He would move down to Huntington Beach.
In 1962 Sonny opened his new shop in Huntington Beach, which was located near 3rd St. on Pacific Coast Highway across from the Pier. Sonny sold surfboards by Bing, Dewey Weber, and his own. Sonny remembers “those boards had layers of 10 oz. cloth top and bottom and that the wooden fin must have weighed 6 to 8 pounds by themselves”. “There was this one guy who had a woodshop and was making all kinds of wooden fins for everyone. You have to consider just one of his accounts was making 300 boards a week. That was a lot of fins! ” said Sonny while taking a sip from his coffee.
In general, Sonny mentioned “There was a lot of money lost in the surfboard industry back then during the early 1960s. Mostly due to the labor-intensive nature of board building, competition, mismanagement, and the surf team craze. It was a competition frenzy, with surfboard makers advertising their surfboards and surf teams. The surf magazines were increasing their revenues as each shop tried to outdo the other. This time period was the birth of the surf industry. The East Coast busted wide open with Hobie, Weber, and others doing promotions, which cause the phones to ring off the hook for many of the South Bay surfboard builders.
Vardeman Surfboards had a few accounts on the East Coast and one of them was Al’s Surf Shop of Virginia Beach. Al Snebling was the owner and was ordering Vardeman Surfboards besides East Side Surfboards and other manufacturers.Sonny was doing some of the shapings, but Bruce Jones and Randy Lewis were shaping for him while Greg Martz was doing the glassing. They were sending boards over to the East Coast, not as many as the other guys but 20 to 30 a week was considered a few. Some of them were the newer V-bottoms designs that were popular on the West Coast.
One of the East Coast team riders for Vardeman Surfboards was Jimbo Brothers who was getting his boards at Al Surf shop. Another hot young surfer who would become a well-known shaper on the East Coast was Allen White. Allen traded in his 8’6” Hobie Surfboard that he had since 1963 for an East Side surfboard shaped by Bill Frieson and glassed by Ronnie Mellott. While waiting for his board to be done, Al let Allen use a Vardeman Surfboard that use to belong to Jimbo Brothers.
Allen was stoked using the board and never forgot Al’s good gesture. Allen would surf the Vardeman Surfboard at Virginia Beach Pier and impress a few locals on it. After getting his East Side board Allen would take second place in the Junior division at the Hatteras Surf & Baha Festival in 1968. The East Coast shops started making their own and the orders for new boards dropped out for the West Coast builders. Meanwhile, Sonny was going through a divorce and decided to work full-time as a LA County Lifeguard.
Sonny explained by going back some years when the people of the inland areas of Los Angeles were flocking to the beach in large numbers. With that increase, there were more people drowning. In 1936 the Mayor of Hermosa Beach went up to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and said we can’t handle your crowds and we want you to take the responsibility for them. The County Board said that they would do so.
With that agreement, the Los Angeles County Lifeguard was formed. The lifeguards in the beach cities of Los Angeles County now had more personnel, equipment, and vehicles. Through the years boats were added and each boat was named Bay Watch and the beach city where they were located. Speaking of the Bay Watch television series, Sonny said it was through a business-minded lifeguard that the show came about.
There was lifeguards with Hollywood connections; Greg Bonehand had a sister who was married to a guy named Schuwatz who was related to Grant Tinker the movie producer. Tinker’s studio had produced Gilligan’s Island and was looking for some new ideas for a series. Greg’s sister mentioned that she would like to create a Lifeguard show and to make a long story short, they bought the idea and made a deal with LA County and paid for the use of the beach.
Sonny was the technical supervisor during the first two years of the series and oversaw the procedures and protocol that the actors were conveying. The studios did have an artistic license that added to the scene, which wasn’t part of the County’s usual lifeguard procedures. It was a very successful series that lasted for 9 years.
In 1969 Sonny opened a surf shop on Hermosa Avenue between 1st and 2nd St.. His salesman was Jeff Fischer who was one of the top surfers in the South Bay. In the back of Sonny's mind, he wanted to make Hawaiian-style MD corduroy shorts with pockets and he told Jeff of his idea. Jeff said his sister sews and Sonny asked Jeff to have his sister stop by. Pam stopped by and Sonny could tell she was the person for the job, so he hired her. They set up shop and it got busy, so busy that Sonny had to hire another girl.
By this time Sonny was going up to the Mart in downtown LA and buying bolts of corduroy and miscellaneous items like buttons, zippers, and threads. Things were going quite well until Pam and her husband Tom Eberly decided to move to Hawaii. Sonny couldn’t find someone to replace Pam, so the garment section of the shop closed.
That fall Sonny had saved some money and went up to Dive an Surf and purchased a lot of wetsuits for the Christmas season. Wetsuits were selling like hotcakes and he was looking forward to selling them. While skiing during the Holiday Season Sonny got a phone call and was told that someone or persons broke into the shop by way of the ventilation shaft on the roof. They stole all the wetsuits in the shop. This was too much for Sonny, experiencing a gut-wrenching loss just before Christmas, he closed the shop.
It would be 10 years before he would start making boards in his garage again. It was the mid-1980 and a longboard revival was underway. Greg Martz of Waterman Guild calls Sonny and says “Hey man get down here and shape some boards, the old boards are happening again”. Sonny did just that and started making a few more.
Sonny would retire from the LA County Lifeguards in 1993. He was still shaping a few boards in the early years of the 2000s and taking it easy and doing some traveling to different locations in search of surf. Sonny is the nicest guy you will ever want to meet and a good friend to those who know him.
By Tom Takao
Jack Reeves has been glassing since the 1960s, and is considered one of the best glassers in the surfboard building industry. Originally from Florida, Jack has lived in Hawaii since Jeff Hackman invited him over in the late 1960s. His early beginning on the North Shore was a learning process during the mid-1970s. Jack moved into a shop in Haleiwa that Don Koplien had occupied, it was next to Country Surfboards. He would glassed there for a while, before relocating to a shop at Sunset Beach, and then to other locations on the North Shore through the years.
Having known and glassed for many renowned shapers on the North Shore. To mention a few, they included Dick Brewer, Mike Diffenderfer, Owl Chapman, and others from the 1970s to this day. Whenever time allowed, and a swell was happening, Jack could be found out in the water surfing the waves of the North Shore. Besides surfing, Jack enjoys golfing, and finds time to shoot a round of golf whenever his schedule permitted. One golf story he recalled was in a tournament with legendary shaper Mike Diffenderfer 1938-2002. Diff as he was known to his friends was playing in front of Jack’s group. Diff was near the lead on the leader board when he hit his approach shot to the 18th green. It faded to the right near some trees, that were next to the green. After coming up to his ball, he saw that it was on an exposed root. Diff carefully contemplated his next shot.
There was some apprehension in his mind, but being a very good golfer, he thought of his options and knew the odds were not in his favor. He hit his chip shot, and the ball flew passed the flag and landed on the opposite side of the green. Looking over his long putt and sensing he had to make it to win, gave it a go. The putt was short and was 3 feet from the hole. Feeling relaxed Diff started joking around. He lined up his putt, but instead of the face of the putter, he lined it up with the toe (front end away from the shaft) of his putter, and gave the ball a poke with his Wilson 8802 putter.
Diff didn't make a sound or dance around the ball before putting it like Chevy Chase did in Caddy Shack. But there was this time on Kauai when he was the golf pro at Princeville Resort, and had step into a restaurant / bar in Hanalei with friends. He hears someone calling out his name "Diff come on over" from a table where the lighting was dim. He walks over to the table and notices who it was. It was Jon Peters and Barbara Streinsand. Jon Peters was the producer of Caddy Shack.
Returning back to the green, the ball is rolling and after a few seconds and 20 rotations later, it found the bottom of the cup. It brought a smile followed by a sigh as he walked off the green to turn his scorecard in. A short time later, Diff found out that he had won by one stroke! Back at the Club House and celebrating his victory, Mike would share his experience of the round with Jack as the other golfers congratulated him on his victory. There are other golf stories Jack remembered, but this one stands out as one of the best. And that is the same sentiment Jack’s customers feel when they see their boards, knowing their glass job by Jack is one of the best.
OSCAR PEDRO LARGHI STORY
by Oscar Pedro Larghi
Reading Malcolm Gault-Williams’s Legendary Surfers website a while back I discovered Thomas’s job with the TREE (theshaperstree.com) now Cadamaran.com. After reviewing some of the names on the site it brought back memories of how my surfboard-building experiences took shape back in the early 90s.
The first time I saw Ed Searfoss, he was patching one of Bob Lundy´s boards, using red pigmented resin thicken with aerosol. Pigments! I said as I walked into the shop. Yup, he answered. "They are not very popular nowadays, but I have some old friends who still like them, and you have to take care of your friends..., don´t you?"
This guy knows something I thought to myself and started wandering over to the enormous array of surfboards in sight: longboards with Hawaiian fabrics, guns glassed with tints, fine pin-lining work, pigmented glass jobs, all kinds of stuff. I was shocked with amazement, but I couldn’t continue dreaming. Ed woke me up "If you stay here for a while you might learn something, I´ve been in this business for thirty years and I am still learning, I´ll take care of you in a minute,” he said to me while he finished repairing a ding.
As a matter of fact, that was the second time we spoke, the first time was earlier in the day. It was in the morning and a hot Monday morning at that. It was the beginning of August and those on the North Shore know it's hot at this time of year. For anyone who witnessed a morning in Country Surfboards in those days, it would be easy to understand the impossibility to have not 5 minutes, but one minute to talk to Mr. Ed Searfoss.
A horde of people swarmed around him planning the daily activities, a mechanic, sanders, glassers, a welder, and some other guys that looked a little scary to me... I introduced myself and mentioned we had an appointment at 8:30. "I am sorry I made you come over here so early but I am too busy now" he said to me trying to transmute his nervousness into a polite disguise using the best friendly smile available in his facial repertoire.
"Never mind" tell me when it will be ok to come back and I´ll be here, I was there with my wife Roxana, on our first day on the North Shore and we wanted to look around,( since we were tourists so to speak who had just arrived) . "what about 5:30, will that be fine, hopefully", Ok ‘Ill see you then said, Ed.
The facts of that day deserve a whole story by themselves, but to summarize it I went surfing for a while in trade wind bump at Ehukai Beach Park and talked with a guy who told me his girlfriend was Brazilian, when I told him I was from Argentina. (the person whom I was talking to turned out to be Dylan Aoki, whose Fiancé Celma was Ed´s fin and hot-coat woman).
Later Roxana and I spent the afternoon at the Three Tables area across Kam Highway from Foodland chatting about the future possibilities. I already had this vision about staying in Hawaii, if Ed hires me, it would be the signal for us to stay in paradise!! With that in mind, I said to my wife “Let's go see him”.
The environment had changed completely, he was almost alone in the shop and the Hawaiian music that inspired him for the evening glossing sessions was already coming out of the old beaten "magazine" sound system. "Well, so you are a glasser he asked and continued "For how long? “ I started three years ago, and I also know how to sand and polish" I answered.
Backing up a little when we first arrived in Hawaii, the first island that we visited was Maui and later Oahu. With the thought of trying to work for a couple of months in a shop in to learn some things to bring back home. With the thought of improving the production of my company Jam surfboards, which I started three years earlier in a partnership with my friend and teacher Renato Tiribelli (the finest craftsman of the business in Argentina in those days).
I wasn’t very lucky though, we walked around and asked a lot of people until my quest seemed to have come to an end when I talked to this French guy at the Planet Surf Shop in Waikiki. "Do you need some help with the boards? I can do the repair I said "Not really, I am fine over here he said (another denial I thought) but he continued and said I know a guy who needs a glasser, his name is Ed, call him" he said as he wrote a telephone number in a piece of paper. "If he hires you you´ll have lots of work.
That’s how I ended up calling Ed and setting an appointment for that morning. The Frenchman was Phillip and my brother Mariano later worked for him managing his shops. "You are the good karma I received for sending your brother Oscar to work for Ed in the past," he told Mariano once. The law of karma is visualized very finely in Hawaii as everything that happens over Hawaii is so intense. The youngest place on earth where the waves are so powerful and dangerous compared to Buenos Aires one of the oldest places on earth which lay on a geological plain of 10,0000,000 years old.
Fast forward and back to the shop " I only need a glasser" Ed said. " My brother-in-law that worked for me, left for the mainland for good, problems with his family... and the other ones that promised to show up are not here yet. I can’t wait any longer". I finally got lucky I thought, thank God for those guys never showed up. "I´ll hire you as a professional, we pay over here by the piece, (I think that at that time I would have worked for free just to be there... ) When do you want to start?" he asked me.
Well, I have to take my wife to the doctor tomorrow morning, but I can definitely be here on Wednesday. "Don’t worry, take care of your wife first, I have waited this long, one more day is nothing” I wasn’t believing it, working on the North Shore making boards, and the best part was the location of Ed’s shop, which was across from Sunset Beach. Kind of behind the beach park they built some years ago.
That’s how I ended glassing for Ed. My glass jobs weren’t bad but today I can say that on a 1 to 10 scale they were just a 6, passing mark at least. I was really slow and still kind of untidy. The first personal lesson came one day when Ed told me to be there early the next morning.
"A guy that you want to see is coming to glass a board." The guy was Tomahawk, Sam Hawk's brother who did fins for Jack Reeves. He owed some money to one of the North Shore big characters and was going to glass aboard for the guy. A longboard shaped by BK. Tom played with the resin and dipped the whole laminates in the buckets with resin before placing them on the board trying to remember in which direction Mr. Bottom turn Kanaiaipuni wanted his laminates.
I still remember how his slippers stuck to the resin on the floor as he danced around the board, one even stretched so much that it broke the toe divider and left Tom semi-barefoot stepping on resin. Though he cursed a lot, he never lost his good humor and had time to fix the slipper and finish the job before the resin went off. I was amazed and watching him, definitively helped me to improve my act a lot.
But the real definitive change came some months later when this guy, Keith Swanson showed up. We were never introduced formally, but it seemed to me he was an ex-employee that came from the mainland when the low winter season arrived. it was around December and Keith started glassing a couple of boards in the room beside mine where Celma and I worked. All I could hear was the NOISE of his scissors cutting the glass constantly even and FAST, really fast! Celma and I stared at each other, speechless I had to see how he was doing that!
So I started visiting the room next door to sneak a peek. Keith was really friendly he used his time to show me openly the tricks of his art. Cutting the fabric evenly and straight and showing me how to tuck the laps without pulling out the strings. Cleaning the laps by taking away the extra resin and using a file to sand out the bottom lap before glassing the deck. These were some of the tips he gave me that I still use in my everyday duty. He was the man to follow and if my glass jobs are compared to his, I would be more than proud. Thanks, Perico!!!
Little by little, I gained confidence and expertise so I ended up doing all those special jobs and when Ed showed me Pele´s fire acid splash. At the same time, Ed also taught me his trade, taping the boards, the pigments, tints, and fabric inlays. I wanted to learn everything. I glassed my first Sunset gun with panels of Hawaiian prints and used red fins on it to match. Received some compliments on the line-up for her. Imagine that, this guy from Buenos Aires, Argentina, that is not even by the sea, working and surfing with the legends!!!
I jumped into them passionately and even invented my splashes, the Red Shift ( as Ed baptized it), and the Fireball (if they weren´t invented earlier). I think I ended being quite good, my little laminate (also glass) appeared on the tail of Aipa’s, Bradshaw’s, Brewer’s, Rarick’s, Diffenderfer’s & Vicente’s just to mention some of the shapers who trusted on my labor. I learned so much from them and rediscovered the pride of surfboard manufacturing as a real legacy. Which I was losing back home, bored with the clear sanded hot coats, skinny pro da kine boards with clothing company's laminates that the market was demanding more and more.
The last step was to start shaping. I was so respectful to that duty that I left it for the last. I made my first complete boards and my family board in the summer of 96’. It was a tandem board with which I entered the Sunset to Waimea Bay 4th of July Paddleboard Race. It came in third in my category!!! Ed told me "It is a show board" so I put on her everything I had learned.
On one of the walls of Ed´s shop was a poster from Surfing Magazine that had some kind of genealogical tree of shapers. I always thought that all the members of the industry should be given the same credit, especially the glasses whose job from my point of view is the hardest of the trade.
You can leave a half-shaped board for tomorrow or for whenever you are inspired to correct any mistakes, sanders can do the same, but once you shoot the catalyst on the resin you only have 15 minutes to do your act, and it must be done perfectly!! This is a little piece of my life as a surfboard manufacturer and an homage to the guys who meant something in my career.
Mahalo and Aloha to them! Oscar Pedro Larghi
ROBERTO DAMIANI STORY
By Roberto Damiani
"There is no way to anticipate the warm, humid, flower-scented air of the islands" recalled Roberto on his trip to Hawaii. Roberto Damiani is a well-known surfboard builder in Uruguay and South America. While on Kauai he met Bill Hamilton "The Style Master" through a mutual friend. In the short time Bill and Roberto got acquainted, Roberto says "It seemed like we knew each other for a long time."
After a full day's surf session at Hanalei Bay, it was time to unwind, as sunset turns into nightfall. Roberto was at the Hamilton's that evening sitting on the veranda and having a beer. Gazing out into the night and viewing the outline of the waterfall some distance away. While Roberto and Bill talked about shaping and things in general. Let's turn the clock back some years to when Roberto started building surfboards.
In the mid-1960 Roberto’s family lived in Southern California where his father was employed. Previously they had lived in Uruguay. It was at Hermosa Beach where Roberto first rode a wave on a surfboard and was hooked on surfing. Having watched the other surfers catching waves that day, He borrowed a friend’s board and paddled out somewhat awkwardly. Managing to get past the impact zone where the waves were breaking 2 to 3 feet. Out in the lineup, Roberto caught his first wave ever and stood up. Balancing himself as the white water rolled toward shore. With a smile on his face, Roberto was one happy beginner.
With his newfound sport Roberto was interested in going surfing. But that would change in the weeks that followed. His family was soon taking a flight back to Uruguay and thinking it was for a few weeks. But as it turned out the few weeks turned into over fifty years. His time in Southern California had lasted a few years and he had just learned to surf. In Uruguay he felt like Robinson Crusoe, nobody had any idea what surfing was about. But then he met Ariel Gonzalez a gym teacher that actually surfed. Ariel was one of a handful of local pioneers that had recently started riding the waves in Uruguay.
The encounter sparked the founding of the first surf club in Uruguay. The name of the club was called UWR is short for Uruguayan Wave Riders. Since the club was on a budget the club’s clubhouse was at Roberto parent's house. It had admission rules, hand-painted surf posters (surf magazines were a very rare luxury), and live Mauser ammo hanging from their necks, a very eye-catching surf gear to represent a tribal token. The club members did not have a single surfboard.
Getting a surfboard in Uruguay was very difficult. No one knew how to shape foam and glass them with fiberglass and resin. So they ended up doing a lot of skimboarding and belly boarding on wooden planks. This would change when Roberto started shaping and glassing. He made his first board in 1969.
It wasn’t long before he started making surfboards for the rest of his fellow club members. Roberto had studied to become a graphic artist and it appeared that was the direction he was going. But after shaping and glassing his first surfboard and then riding it, he sensed that surfboard building was his calling. After doing some art business his path changed towards the surfing lifestyle.
“All I really wanted was to be soaked in salt water all day” recalled Roberto. In Uruguay and the rest of South America, normal people were all into soccer. On the other end of the sporting spectrum, Roberto's group were thought of as weirdos. That didn't change their way of thinking and enjoyed the ocean. There weren’t that many surfers in Uruguay so when Roberto ran out of people to make surfboards for in his area he decided to go to Brasil.
The surf industry was booming there and new factories and surf shops were springing up everywhere. Some brands were turning out hundreds of boards a month. People came from other countries to join in on the "Surfing Rush". Brasil and its tropical surroundings were 1200 miles to the north. Roberto and his good friend Alex hitched and hiked more than 3000 miles to Brazil and back to Uruguay. They would stay for 2 months and meet a lot of nice people. On this first trip, they didn't bring their surfboards. So whenever they were at the beach they would have to borrow a surfboard from one of the locals. The following year they would hitchhike back to Brasil and this time they brought their own boards.
Roberto's first few trips to Brasil were a learning experience on where to go and who to know. He would start shaping for Homero Naldinho at his factory in Santos, a port city in San Paulo in 1973. While at Homero’s factory, Roberto would meet a young Californian shaper named Gary Linden who was there to learn the ways of the Brazilian surfboard industry. While working at Homero's, Roberto recalls a board that was being repaired at his factory. (link to that story)
Continuing on, having heard that another Californian board builder was looking for help. Roberto left the hectic pace of the city and went to the green hills and clean waves of Guaruja Island. Where Johnny Rice greeted the young shaper and was surprised when he spoke English to him. That made communicating their thoughts easier to understand.
Roberto mentioned to Johnny besides shaping and glassing he was a graphic artist. With that in mind, Johnny sold a new Paasche airbrush to Roberto and made him the new airbrusher and sander at his factory. Roberto learned many valuable lessons from Johnny. One of them was: “You can’t do everything perfectly. You have to expect to carve out a fluke every so many board and be able to admit it.”
Roberto stayed in Brasil for the rest of the 1970s, with several surf and shape trips to other South American countries, like Argentina and Peru. There was this time in Peru in 1977, he arrived just in time to double for Gordo Barreda at the Shaping Shack. Gordo was temporarily out of commission with a broken collar bone after a heavy wipeout at La Herradura. Sometime later Roberto had his own sampling of La Herradura power when he broke a borrowed gun surfboard. It was during a paddle like crazy for a large outside set that had caught others inside of it.
He decided to do a late take-off, turning around on a good-looking shoulder. He did a two-paddle takeoff as the lip started to feather. Just when he was standing, there was someone scratching at the bottom, trying to get through. It threw Roberto's concentration off a split second. That split second was the difference between making it or losing it. Being lip launched onto his board shoulder first, the impact broke the board in half. Roberto swam in with one piece and went back through the infamous shore break and around to the cliffs. Climbed into the caves at the foot of the cliff to recover the other piece and swam back out again and through the shore break.
Being of Italian ancestry, Roberto went searching for his family roots in 1981, he ended up in Pescara, a port city on the eastern shores of Italy. Not a surfboard in sight, just sailboards, sailboarding was happening in a big way. All of Europe was doing it. The board manufacturers of these different countries were taking the sport of windsurfing to higher levels through their pace-setting Research and Development. Halfway around the globe “Hookipa in Maui was the testing ground, Robby Naish was king. But it was really German, the French, the Swiss, the Austrian, and the Italian that broke design barriers in the golden days of windsurfing” recalls Roberto.
So he spent a few years surfing completely alone on the eastern shores of Italy. Wishing some other wandering surfer would stop by. Eventually, he moved to Viareggio on the western side of Italy. To Roberto, it felt like going from the Great Lakes to North Florida. From not much happening to a whole surfing scene, complete with factories, shops, contests, and familiar apparel. Roberto began learning the ropes of custom sailboard making. He shaped hundreds of them, in a 5 to 1 ratio over surfboards. “The amount of input and feedback was awesome,” says Roberto. Changes were going on so fast, it was an exciting time for windsurfing in Europe.
"I did my best to spread surfing in Italy. When I left Pescara, a few kids were shaping and glassing. One had even started to make foam". In Viareggio, Roberto helped organize and increase production where he was working. He would lend a hand in local surf contests and he influenced others through his surfing. Besides the local scene, he explored new spots along the coast.
Roberto could see the potential for the blooming surf business in Europe. However with a growing family to take care of Roberto returned to Uruguay during the late 1980s. After returning he started building surfboards again for his friends and new customers. His surfboard building business during the 1990s and 2000s had grown. Being busy and needing a break, Roberto had an opportunity in 2003 to visit Kauai for the first time. Having traveled some distance to get where he is, we return back to the veranda and find Roberto thanking the Hamiltons for their hospitality and their aloha. He would return to Uruguay and remember his visit now and then.
Homero in front of his shop
"THE DING" SANTOS, BRASIL
By Roberto Damiani
Nineteen-seventy-something and the Times were groovy, hairs were long, and song lyrics depicted mystical journeys, much like Led Zeppelin´s dreamy "Stairway to Heaven”. Hippie culture pervaded the Brazilian surf scene. In Santos, Sao Paulo´s port city, inside Homero´s surfboard factory there was this wooden stairway that led to the shaping room. Rather than a factory, it was really an old, beat-up house in the middle of a parking lot, distant just a frisbee´s flight from the waves. Outside, dusk was setting among the incredibly leaning buildings crowding the Canal 5 shoreline.
I was standing close to the stairs, fiddling away some spare minutes after a day´s work, waiting for the rest of the gang to dash off and raid some food stand. The stairway. It was always in the way. Up against the handrail of these creaky, steep, and narrow steps, someone had previously rested a surfboard. Down the steps comes Homero clip-clopping his terribly obnoxious slaps, the ugliest ever, covered with layers of resin drippings from years of glassing, morphed to rock-solid glass clogs long before.
Homero was a sight with or without his clogs. Wiry and pot-bellied, long, loose-jointed arms, bobbing head as he walked. He looked right out of a Star Wars screencast. Watching him describe a wave ride with his peculiar body language was a riot. Anyway, here he comes stomping down the stairs while this unsteady board is just waiting for a slight tip so it can slide to the floor. This was no ordinary board but a brand new Gordon & Smith. A venerated piece of glass and foam, fresh from the Southern California Surfboard Mecca, and twice as costly as a local clone, not to mention the plane tickets. This was a time when you couldn´t find a board made in the States at a foreign surf shop, just like that.
It was there for a minor repair -already done- and the owner was due any minute, so hastily it banged rail first on the edge of a metal bucket, then clattered to a halt as Homero stumbled the last steps in a futile effort to catch it. The board looked up from the floor with a fresh half-moon smile on the rail, while the man started uttering a string of Brazilian curses that seemed to rise from deep within a cavern.
The growls turned into loud shouting as the rest of the crew gathered around...and this, more than anything else, sealed the poor board´s fate. He had just finished shaping and still had his big Skil planer in one hand. Mean, heavy machine -no plastic parts in those days-, easily ten, twelve pounds of metal.
Homero had this Jekyl and Hyde thing about him that was awesome to witness. Even if a bit bossy at work sometimes, he was generally quiet-mannered and fun to be with on the occasional surf sessions. But when some upsetting event triggered his behavior changes, he turned into a raging bull. His strength leaped tenfold, his face a tribal war mask, as he charged against anything inanimate with demolishing, unstoppable fury. Once he drove his fist through the triple-layer glass window of his own surf shop -collecting severe cuts, of course- though usually, it took more than that to unwind him.
But even in the midst of these one-man-battles, his fury wasn´t really all that blind. It seemed kind of calculated. Better still: he liked an audience. So when he saw us gawking in disbelief, first at him, then at the board, he just felt inspired. In one swift motion, he lifted the board with one hand, held it upright, rammed the half-meter-long planer into it, then let it go as he turned around and left the room still shouting while the thing collapsed once again on the dirty floor.
We were aghast, but we´d seen nothing yet. Instinctively we circled the victim letting out hushed comments while Homero´s imprecations seemed to fade backstage. One of us picked it up and set it on the stairway again, trying to size up the damage, as Homero´s volume went up again a few notches, sounding like he was getting closer. Into the room he bursts, sensing the paramedic scene, and out of a fierce grimace, he mumbles something about the "stupid" board standing up once more, making a line for the victim with arms extended and crisped fingers, Frankenstein style.
We tripped all over ourselves out of the way like fast, man! Many years later, our nightmares still bring us not only the sight but also the dreadful soundtrack. He grabbed the board with both hands, lifted it over his head, looked about for the most suitable landing, and then thumped it on the glassing stall with all his might. Our eyeballs popped out of their sockets. The board was literally impaled on the solid metal "T" !
"Frankie" lost hold for a moment, but bracing himself better he yanked hard, tore it loose as the fiberglass layer shrieked a marrow-freezing "r-r-r-r-r-rip", then threw it down, gripped the fifty-pound stall by the rod and using it as a piston he proceeded to pound the board to paper thickness. Subhuman. Then he threw this other weapon down -cracking a few tiles in the process- and exited again. Silence. We were breathless. Then, right on cue as if rehearsed, the gate bell rang.
'BUTTONS' STILL CATCHING WAVES'
By Ed Machado North County Times
written in the early 2000s
Early Tuesday morning of last week I saw some of the best beach break surf to hit North County in months. As I dawn-patrolled in Encinitas at 6:45 a.m., a lone surfer had already beaten me to the peak I wanted to ride. He took off deep on his shortboard and ripped a series of turns as he carved his way to the beach. When he got close, I recognized the man, it was none other than 60-year-old Loren "Buttons" Humphrey. If there is a better surfer over 60, I would like to know who he is.
It's a tribute to any athlete when he is recognizable by just one name; Tiger and Kobe come to mind. To the long-term surf community in North County, Buttons are one of those guys. The way he still rides, he should be an inspiration to every surfer less than 60. His current quiver includes a 6-foot-4 and a 6-6 Merrick and a 6-6 Cobalt. Humphrey's run of shortboard surfing nearly ended 15 years ago, when he narrowly avoided full paralysis in a bodysurfing accident. Riding a small wave back to the beach after losing his board, he rolled under to get out of the wave.
Humphrey hit a shallow sand bar and suffered severe injury to his neck and right shoulder. He was out of the water for 10 months and still has only regained about 70 percent range of motion in his right shoulder. But Humphrey is still charging on his shortboard. He surfs every day that's good, and he has been doing it for more than 40 years. His surfing isn't limited to California during the past 10 years, he has visited Fiji, Tahiti, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, New Zealand, and Mexico on surf trips."Going out every day and training keeps you in shape," Humphrey said when asked about the secret to his surfing longevity.
"The kids have taken surfing to such an extreme. I just try to keep my board moving at all times. You have to tell yourself, 'Turn, turn, turn.' If you don't, it's real easy to get lazy."What does he do for exercise when the surf is not happening?"I play golf every day," Humphrey said. "My favorite day is a 'surf and turf.' If I have a good morning of surfing and feel good about myself, I take it right to the golf course and shoot well. Golf is such a mental game."After graduating from San Bernardino's Montclair High in 1963, Humphrey moved to North County to surf.
He soon tried out for the Gordon & Smith Surf Team, and was one of 10 rippers out of 100 to make the team."I actually did the best surfing of my life on my longboard in the late '60s and early '70s," Humphrey said. "It was hard to get on a surf team back then. I'm finally going to get back on a longboard this summer let everybody know I'm going to get my toes back on the nose."An elder statesman in the surf community who garners a huge amount of respect, Humphrey is still very grounded about his performance in the water.
"At my age and you can quote me on this you are only as good as the wave," Humphrey said. "The reality is, you start out a kook, and end a kook. For an older guy, I'm a good surfer but weighed against the state-of-the-art surfing, I'm a kook. That's just the way it is. But I'll keep surfing until I can't paddle anymore."
Gibby Gibson, Bob Hogan and Frank Addleman
SURFING INTO HEALTH
For thirty-five years I taught nutrition and fitness at Santa Ana College in Orange County, California. During that time I was also the wrestling coach. At 68 years of age (2005) I am now retired. People always ask, “How did you get into the field of nutrition and fitness”. Thinking back there were several experiences that directed me toward my chosen profession.
Being a wrestler in college was probably one and surely my brief exposure to fitness Guru Jack LaLanne had a strong influence on me. But the real seed was planted when I was a nineteen year old surfer. In 1955 I was living in Hermosa Beach and surfing with friends, who would later become legends in Surfing. Dewey Weber and I wrestled at El Camino College and surfed regularly at 22nd Street in Hermosa Beach.
Back then my philosophy of life was very simple, “Surf, Sand and Sun”. That came first and I was sure my life would revolve around surfing. It was no surprise then that in the fall of 1955 I was encourage by my surfing buddies to drop out of college and go to the north shore of Oahu for the winter surf. That did not sit well with my wrestling coach or my parents.
My parents had moved to Oahu in 1951 and I had just returned from Hawaii where I had spent the summer with them. They expected me to be in college not surfing the north shore! After selling my 1950 woody (Big mistake) for airfare and spending Money, 12 of us landed on the north shore and took up residence in a Quonset hut on Makaha beach. Next door was the legendary surfer Buzzy Trent, who took us under his wing and put us through what he called “Big wave training”.
That was a hard concept to visualize at the time, since Makaha was as flat as a lake. Our daily routine consisted of paddling and diving. Buzzy would tell us that we had to be able to free dive down to the lower coral reef ledges and hold on until the surge of the wave pass and then come up. He also reminded us that if we were running out of air we could still breathe in the foam! That image did not sit well with me. Back then we did not have leashes, so I had visions of losing my board and being thrown on the coral reef.
I was already thinking that maybe I was meant to be a classic surfer and leave the big stuff to guys like Greg Noll and Buzzy. When the big surf did come, there I was stuck in 15 foot surf that looked to me like 50 feet. I was not a happy camper. As the sets kept pumping in I kept paddling out. There I was, sitting in the outside break surrounded by great surfers. The few I remember were, Rabbit Kakai, George Downing, Walt Hoffman, Dewey Weber, Mike Stang, and Jose Angel. That was comforting to me until a set came and most of them took off! There I sat looking at the sets building, wondering how I was going to get in.
Finally Jose Angel, my savior, paddled over to me and told me that I had to take off because it was closing out. Jose took off inside of me and literally coached me down that wave to the safety of the beach. I was really embarrassed as I crawled up the beach, but I was also happy to be on dry land. Lying next to me was Allen Gomez, who was younger than I, but was already known as an up and coming surfer. He said to me “Man, am I glad to be on the beach”. I smiled and said, “Me too”.
The next day Allen was out there ripping up the waves, while I helped Bud Brown set up his camera for his winter surf movie. Cameras always seem to give surfers that extra adrenalin rush to go out when they really didn’t want to. For me my new goal was classic small waves, so when it was smaller I was out there with a young kid named Joey Cabell. He was Hawaii’s answer to Mickey Dora; He was poetry in motion.
You are probably wondering by now when surfing planted this seed that resulted in my future profession. It occurred on one of those flat days while we were lounging on the beach eating lunch. Off on the horizon we thought we saw something moving. As we continued to watch, this spot keep getting bigger and bigger, and we realized that it was someone on a paddleboard. But who could it be? We were all accounted for on the beach.
It took another twenty minutes for the paddler to reach the beach, pick up his board, and walk towards us. Standing before me was this Bronze god looking down at me and he said “Hi, I’m Tom Zahn”. I had never met Tom before but I knew he was not only a good surfer but a world class paddler as well. Tom was one of those guys who looked like he just stepped out of G.Q. magazine! In fact he later stared in the first Cinerama movie in Hollywood. Tom had paddled up about 10 miles from a beach south of us and a friend was coming to pick him up.
We offered Tom some of our wonderful lunch, which if memory serves me, were probably soft drinks, bologna on white bread, and chips. Tom declined the food but took some water. His friend was bringing him something to eat. I eagerly looked forward to seeing what Tom had that was better than our gourmet offering. I remember it distinctly. The first thing out of the bag was sunflower seeds, followed by a carton of cottage cheese, and slices of fresh pineapple. Tom then put the pineapple over the cottage cheese and sprinkled the sunflowers over the top. I was amazed, this was health food!
Tom was training for the 1956 Catalina paddleboard race, which was coming up in August in California, and said he ate this way to enable him to train for endurance races. Right then and there I knew two things; one, I was going to eat what Tom ate, and I was also going to enter the paddleboard race from Catalina to Manhattan Beach, California.
The next day I was in the Waianae market getting my cottage cheese, pineapple, and sunflower seeds. With 12 of us in a two room Quonset hut we had one major problem with food, we only had one refrigerator! Using our ingenious young minds, we decided to partition off 12 compartments, thus giving each of us our own mini refrigerators. This sounded like a good idea but in no time food came up missing, especially mine.
When I returned to California I entered the Catalina race in the stock board division. Basically that meant an old plywood lifeguard board for each of us that we could sand, wax, etc., but could not modify. I cannot remember everyone who entered the race but I do remember training with Greg Noll and a Hawaiian friend by the name of George Kepo'o.
The three of us would paddle from the Manhattan pier to the Hyperion pier, a distance of about ten miles round trip. The actual race is about 36miles. Others that entered were my good friend Gibby Gibson, Bob Hogan, and Joe Zacollach. Mickey Dora had entered as well, but that was unusual since Mickey was anti competition in his philosophy towards surfing. Tom Zahn, and world class paddler George Downing of Hawaii, were of course the favorites in the stock board class.
The day before the race we all met at the Manhattan Pier for our bus ride to San Pedro, where we would board a yacht for the trip over to Catalina. The race was to be from the Catalina Isthmus to the Manhattan Beach pier the next day. There was only one problem. Tom Zahn was not there. Since Tom was a Santa Monica Life Guard they called their headquarters to find out why Tom had not arrived. They said he left awhile ago and should be there by now. Then they said “Look out towards Santa Monica, he’s paddling down to Manhattan.” That blew us away, but I knew it was to put a little fear into George Downing, Toms’ main competition in the race.
Needless to say, Tom won the race. George downing dropped out half way due to cuts on the inside of his arms, and Greg Noll finished second . Mike Bright, a good friend of mine, won the open division in a record time of 5.48.15. Mike later became a member of the U.S Olympic Vollyball team in 1964 and l968. Mickey Dora pulled one of his classics. The night before the race he told me that he just came for the food and the trip to Catalina and would not paddle back. True to his word, when we got about five hundred yards off the beach Mickey said “See you later Frank”, whereby he pulled the air plug and his board filled with water. The Coast Guard picked him up and he had a warm shower and hot coffee.
During the rest of the race Mickey would hang over the rail and cheer us on as he drank hot chocolate and we sweated away. You have to know Mickey to appreciate that. I finished 6th in 9:37, which was almost three hours behind Tom Zahn, who finished in 6:42.19..
I returned to college to wrestle and get an education and changed my major from Police Science to Health and Physical Education and the rest is history. Even today when I see sunflower seeds, pineapple, and cottage cheese I think of Tom Zahn and wonder what my life would be if I had not dropped out of College for a semester to surf the North Shore.
Today I would hope that most surfers and paddlers pay attention to their health and diet. Laird Hamilton might be the best role model for the surfing world. He reminds me of Tom Zahn. He is very conscious of his diet and the affect it has on his overall health and performance, which I am sure carries over to his wife and children as well. I had to smile when I watched Laird in a T.V. interview recently and he said his typical breakfast was an egg white omelet and a bowl of oatmeal. Looks like Tom Zahn is with us again!
Frank Addleman is the author of a new book called, “GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER, Think Healthy, Be Healthy”.
It is available at frankaddleman.com and through bookstores nationwide. The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
NOVEMBER 2022 11-6 to 11-12
Encintas, CA info and contact
Michel Junod Story
By Thomas Takao
Michel Junod started surfing in 1962 at the Santa Monica pier. At thirteen Michel was the smallest guy in his class and had a hard time putting the boards that were available back then under his arm. He went over to Jacobs Surfboards in Hermosa Beach and ordered a 7’10”x 20” wide surfboard. It was scaled down from the larger boards. This was the board Michel started on and it cost $100.00 plus 4.00 tax
He surfed on it for 9 months before getting an 8’ 10” Dave Sweet, after that he switched to a Dewey Weber Surfboard of the same size. His first longboard was a 9’6” Jacobs Surfboard, then a 9’ 6” Challenger. The co-owner / shaper of Challenger Surfboards was Carl "Tinker" West whom he met in 1964 at the Surf-O-Rama at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. After his friend purchased a Challenger, Michel did the same after seeing that board.
Michel’s surfing got him on the Challenger surf team, which was located in Mission Beach in San Diego. Since that time, Michel has been a lifelong friend of Carl West. Carl moved to Belmar, New Jersey in 1965 to start Challenger Surfboards East. Michel would go visit Carl when school got out for the summer of 1966 and for the following 2 summers afterward. Learning to shape from Carl was a good experience for his shaping foundation. Besides work, Michel surfed the East Coast Surf contest scene for Challenger Surfboards.
The East Coast surf scene was unique in the 1960s with its rules and regulations on the beaches. In 1967 during Christmas break, Michel went over to Hawaii to visit his friend Butch Yamashida. During his stay in Oahu, his board was stolen. Once back from the islands Michel got a 9’ 8” board shaped by Del Cannon in the spring of 1968.
Most of the hot surfers during the 1960s were on surf clubs, and Michel too was on a surf club called the North Coast Surf Club. They had a good time, though they didn’t have the recognition or membership compared with clubs like the Malibu Surfing Association. Like the 60’s longboards, most of the surf clubs of this era disappeared. In the summer of 1969 Michel went to Hawaii once more, living across the street from Punaohe High School, shaping boards in the basement of the apartment where he was staying, Butch was doing the glassing.
After the spring of 1970, Michel returned to Santa Monica and was working for Jay Stone who was making Blue Cheer Surfboards. During the summer, Chuck a good friend from high school had moved up to Santa Cruz when Michel was in Hawaii. He was working for Jim and Tom Overlin surf shop in Santa Cruz and had come down to visit family in the Los Angeles area. So Chuck stops by and tells Michel the surf is great in Santa Cruz and the Overlins were making surfboards and he suggested coming up. The lure of the good wave made the invitation acceptable to Michel.
So Michel loaded his boards into his 55 Chevy and drove up to Santa Cruz. He got a job with Jim and Tom Overlin for the summer. Things didn’t work out after the summer for his friend at the shop. So Michel and Chuck started West Winds Surfboards, Michel was doing the shaping and Chuck took care of the books and managed. That lasted until 1974 when Michel felt he needed to get back to the islands. Michel made the move back to Oahu’s North Shore. In 1974 through 1978 Michel made his own boards, Michel Junod Customs, as well as worked for George Downing, Lightning Bolt, and Surfline on the South Shore.
The year was 1978 when Michel, his sister, and his father went to Switzerland to visit relatives. While his family was in Switzerland, Michel spent 2 months in Biarritz, France making boards for Michel Barland before returning to Hawaii. Once back on Oahu Michel decided to move over to Kauai with his good friend Mike Wellman and started making boards on Kauai. In 1984 Michel got married and had a son in 1986.
In 1986, Michel, his wife, and their young family moved over to the Big Island to study at a Christian missionary training school for 1 year. Surfing mostly on the Kona side, the year went by fast. It was the summer of 1987 when he and his family moved to Chile for 2 ½ years. Then in 1990 moved to San Clemente for 6 months working for Terry Martin at his Laguna Canyon shop. Terry’s boards were called Just Add Water.
After working for Terry Martin, in September of 1990, Michel moved back to Santa Cruz, to make boards and has continued to this day. Besides the quality shapes, Michel has been a hot surfer since the 60s. In 1993 Michel won the 5th Annual Big Stick Surf-O-Rama. The other finalist was Bob Pearson who took 2nd, 3rd went to Dave Parmenter, 4th was Terry Simms, 5th was Mike Young and 6th was Joel Baldwin. Today you might see him riding one of his longboard shapes.