Randy Draper from Bay Cities to Maui
By Thomas Takao
Climbing up Haleakeala Volcano on his personal electric vehicle, Randy Draper is focusing on the next curve in the road. How he got there can be linked to an electric motor from a science project in the 8th grade and the steep hills from his paper route days. Before he reaches the summit, lets look back down the road and get an idea of where he came from.
Looking east towards the mainland of California many years back when Randy turned 11 years old. He wanted to get a surfboard, so with his mom’s permission he got a paper route and started to save up for a surfboard. After getting out of school for the day, the bundle of Daily Breeze newspapers would be waiting for him at his house on Ruhland Street in Redondo Beach.
In the garage Randy would fold the papers and stretch the rubber band around them. A pile would develop in the corner of the garage before placing the folded newspaper in his bike’s saddles. Everyday for over a year Randy made the rounds delivering the local paper, climbing the rolling hills of Hermosa Beach. In 1962 after saving enough money, Randy’s bought his first surfboard. A used Greg Noll S stringer surfboard bought at Greg's shop on PCH just south of Pier Ave.
During this time period we can find Randy hanging out by Walden’s Surf Shop at 13th St. and Hermosa Ave., or standing on the Strand wall near the Biltmore Hotel and checking the surf. When the Biltmore Hotel closed some of the guys including Randy would find a way in. They would go up to the roof and check the surf from the Breakwater to Manhatten Beach Pier.
Randy would surf the Hermosa Beach Pier most of the time and some of the sandbars towards the Breakwater if the waves there were better. Some of his friends like Brian and Bruce Logan, Biff Collins, Chris Schlinkenmeyer, Scott Miller, Dean Deitzman, Mark Kerwin, Dave Boyce, Neil Norris, Angie Reno and Tiger Makin grew up with Randy and were into surfing as well.
Matt Velzy another good friend of his who also lives on Maui, first met Randy when he and Bruce Logan were admiring Matt’s new Jacobs 422 surfboard. It was at the base of the Hermosa Pier, resting in the sand. Shiny white and reflecting the afternoon sun, the guys were taken by the shape. It had a wide nose and mid section, curving inward creating a narrower tail section. Matt's dad Dale had shaped it for him.
The winter months meant the waters would be cold. Wetsuit weren’t available to the general surfing population back then and trunking it was the only way to surf. Randy remembers making a gas key for the 14th Street Taco Bell fire pit. After getting out of the water, Randy and his friends would warm up at the pit by using the key to turn the natural gas on.
On a couple of occasions, Randy and some of the guys would accidentally singe the hairs on their legs. After surfing in 53 degrees waters without a wetsuit, meant most of your body would be numb and your hands and feet were purple. Talk about the Polar Bear club in winter, all those surfers without wetsuits back then.
His first surf trip was with friends to C Street in Ventura and Rincon. On the return side of the trip his surfboard along with the others flew off the rack. Traveling on the newly built 101 Freeway near Reseda the boards bounced back towards a fast approaching semi truck. Before they could say wholly shit, their boards were dusted. No one slowed down behind the semi and all that was left were pieces of foam and fiberglass.
Like many before him, Randy at the age of 14 learned about glassing by repairing dings. He did all his friends boards at Joes (The Tropic Shop). The repairs were done in an unused area located in the alley. It was downstairs from where Joe was living. Getting his fiberglass from the discarded cloth that was in the trash bin and resins from the near empty drums at Jack Pollard’s factory. Randy got his supply of materials at a substantial discount.
His next board would be a Jacobs Surfboard, which he had bought from Robert August. Robert had shaped it for Johnny Fain, but Johnny declined the board and Robert shaped him another one. Randy still remembers liking it for the way it rode, but says he wasn’t sure of the apricot pink color.
Robert took $30.00 off the original price because of the color. Randy could live with color since he would be paying $70.00 for a new/used Robert August shaped Jacobs. His next Jacobs would have the same shape but a different color. Donald Takayama would shape some of Randy’s next boards later on.
Randy was a part of a group of surfers/ board builders whose early beginnings can be traced back to the surf factories of Hermosa Beach. Many would become internationally well known, while others would slip through the cracks and disappear from the scene. It was a time when surfboard demands were going off the Richter scale. And the epicenter of the board building activity to meet this demand was in Hermosa Beach.
Those who wanted to become a surfboard builder did so by hanging around the shops that were located there. Doing odd jobs at first and watching those who were shaping, glassing, sanding, and polishing. Eventually learning from someone who felt like teaching you the ropes.
In Randy situation, Sterling Santley let him watched while he sanded the boards for Bing’s shop. But it wasn’t until Grant Reynolds and Bay Cities Surf Repairs Shop that he got his hands wet in production glassing. Grant who grew up in the La Jolla / Pacific Beach area glassed for Gordon and Smith, and Dewey Weber and Bing before starting his new venture. In fact Randy was his first employee.
Bay Cities Surf Repairs early accounts were ding repairs for the Officer’s Club at Camp Pendleton and boards from around the South Bay. Then a year later Grant would have Al Kostler working for him glassing Chuck Dent’s Magic Ladyland boards. Randy hot coated and did glass on fins, when fin boxes became popular he would do the routering. Grant would sand and managed the business.
Business continued to grow and Mike Collins was hired. Mike position was to managed the shop, do rub outs and eventually took over the sanding from Grant. By this time Grant had two shops, one in Hermosa Beach and the other in Costa Mesa. Bay Cities Glassing was using over forty 55 gallon drums of resin per month during its peak times.
The other glasser who was working for Grant at this time was John Lawerence. Both Al and John would teach Randy the finer points in production glassing. In the later part of the mid 1960’s Randy was working for Jacobs Surfboards. He would learn from Wayne Miyata, Mark Hammond, Randy Wong, and Raymond Patterson.
In 1968 Randy had glassed his 9’6 Stepdeck Jacobs longboard shaped by Donald Takayama. He was riding it in the Hermosa Beach Surf Festival Contest, which was being held on the north side of the Hermosa Beach Pier. The waves were solid 8 feet, and at low tide the waves were closing out. Randy waited with the other 5 contestants to enter the water for the finals.
Watching the waves break from one end of the beach to the other. Things looked liked it was going to be toss up with the horn sounding for the contestants to enter the water. They all started to paddle out, over the first few rolls of white water. With the water smooth and a slight low, they all paddled like crazy to get out before the next big set.
Barely getting over the next set of waves, he makes it to the lineup. While catching his breath Randy looks towards the beach and lines up a couple of landmarks to position himself by. Looking out he sees a set coming and paddles towards it to get into position. Sitting up and grabbing his right rail, he turns around and begins to paddle for it.
Making the drop on a 8 foot wall, he leans into a bottom turn. Coming out of the turn and climbing towards the lip, Randy times it just right. With the lip of the wave feathering, he flips the board around as the wave pushes him out and down. With all his weight on his rear leg the roller coaster maneuver is on the down turn. Randy disappears into the exploding whitewater.
First his head, then his body and finally his surfboard reappear from the head high soup. The wave begins to roll and reform on an inside sandbar. Randy sensing this, does a slight stall, before running up to the nose. Placing his left foot forward at the tip of the surfboard getting five, the crowd is cheering him on. Still concentrating on the wave and back peddling to the middle of the board Randy doesn’t hear a thing.
A cutback in the soup to complete the wave of the contest, Randy realizes the ride may have given him first place. Catching a couple of more waves, the horn sounds. Randy had won and after the contest Randy and Angie Reno were invited to join Bay Cities Surf Club.
Besides Bay Cities Surf Club, Randy was recruited by Mike Doyle to ride for Hansen Surfboards. He accepted the offer and received a turned down nose “Competitor Model” surfboard. Randy would surf 12 feet Lunada Bay on it.
Recalling that day Randy and Grant Reynolds drove up to Palos Verdes early one morning. Pulling up to Lunada Bay. Parking it next to the field that overlooked the cliff. Randy and Grant watched the sets marching in, big mothers, line after line, and with no one out they decided to go surf.
The path down was slippery with a sheer cliff of over a hundred feet on one side. Holding on to any vegetation with roots and any slot to place their feet. Slipping and sliding they eventually made their way down to the rocky shore that lines the bay. Walking along the river rock and boulders, they neared the point where the Dominator lay rusting.
Grant mentions to Randy that they should paddle out a little further down from the Dominator to avoid the heavy current and white water. Grant had told Randy about his days at Big Sunset Beach while walking up to the point. With a loud roar the white water would slam into the Dominator. At the water’s edge Randy could feel his leg and knee vibrate as the powerful waves pounded the area. They paddled out and kept an eye on each other. They made it out to the lineup after 20 minutes
In Randy’s mind it was fuckin hairy. Constantly paddling as the current pushed them both towards the middle of the bay as the sets came rolling in. Having caught two waves prior to his last of the day. Randy took off on the wave to go in on. Having made the drop his board feels squirrelly, his Hansen “Competitor” was no match for the big waves that day.
Not having the right track and angle, Randy attempts a rollercoaster. The rail releases from the face of the wave before being in position. In a matter of just a few seconds, Randy was on a foamy elevator of terror. Having taken a deep breath before he went into a free fall down.
It was the most turbulent water he had ever been under, a gigantic wash cycle of tossing and turning. What seemed like an endless struggle to regain his thoughts, he pops through to the surface and takes a deep breath and a sigh of relief. After doing the rock dance to get into shore, Randy does another dance on the rocks to retrieve his board. Mentally and physically banged up and his board as well. It took an hour to climb back up the slippery path.
Moving to Maui in the 1970’s Randy was where he wanted to be, glassing and surfing. Randy remembers glassing for Chris Schlinkenmeyer in Lahaina during the mid 70's. Chris had a shop in a bank that was located in the old Mala Wharf area. Situated on the beach side, across the street from the old Lahaina Cannery.
Chris would shape in the vault and Randy would glass in the teller area. This was for a short time. But could you imagine leaving the bank with your surfboard and have a south swell of 6 feet peeling across in front of you. Having made your withdrawl, only to re-deposit it on a long wall at Mala Wharf, so to speak.
After glassing surfboards, Randy started to sell blanks, fiberglass and resin. The named of his establishment was Maui Blanks and Fiberglass. It was located at 844 Front Street in Lahaina, across the street from the ocean. Living in the back room, he didn’t have far to go to work.
During closing time on many occasions, his friends would stop by to watch the evening sunset. Sometimes a hazy smoke from an unknown source would cloud their vision. As they watch the bright pastel hues turn into a curtain of darkness as Lanai disappeared for the day. The tide slapped the wall along Front Street and the evening crowd made their way to wherever they were going.
Randy would be in his trunks walking to “The Bell” (Maui Bell) which was three buildings down. It was the only nightclub in Lahaina at the time. Next to “The Bell” was Queen Theater, where Randy and some of his friends like Les Potts, Dabbo, and Pompador would go see “Five Summer Stories”.
Maui Blanks and Fiberglass would last for 9 years. Then Randy would start skippering on charter fishing boats during the 80’s. He would marry and have a son named Louis. When Louis was 18 months old Randy took him surfing. Randy paddle out at Kaanapali Point on a tanker (longboard) and caught a 2 foot wave with Louis on the nose. Louis, like his father, appreciates and respects the ocean since his early beginnings.
Into the 90’s and 2000’s Randy continued to skipper varies boats in Lahaina Harbor. A slight bump in the road and Randy regains his thoughts as he crosses the finish line. He has climbed the 10,006 feet elevation of Haleakeala Volcano in record time on a pedal assist Ebike. After realizing what has happened and all the congratulations. Randy finds a place to rest and savor the moment before going back downhill.