Hippie, Blueballs, Glueballs, and Me (AKA- Asshole)


The first person I identified as being the dominant surfer at a particular spot was nicknamed “Hippie.” This was before Hippie Hippies. The story was he got the name early because of the relative size of his butt.  I did once know his real name. What I knew was he wasn’t someone to take off in front of. Undoubtedly influenced by the wave positioning and smooth transitions between a regular (pivot foot back) to a parallel stance of surfers like Phil Edwards and Miki Dora, Hippie would takeoff on an angle, use an in-line bottom turn to move high on the wave and forward of the middle of the board. His right hand acted as a baton as he rhythmically dropped and moved higher across a wave face, smoothly backpedalling to pullout on the shoulder.

Tamarack was a perfect spot for Hippie’s style of surfing. There was, back in 1965 (and I assume is), a peak that forms straight out from the bathrooms on the bluff. The left varies in shape and makeability, but the right, though not offering a long ride, is almost always makeable; even bigger waves have an out.

The problem with this is there’s really a small takeoff zone, and it can seem crowded without much of a crowd.  Still, when I was learning, I headed for the main peak, and, head down, blind to the wave behind me, stroked like I meant it.

We hung out at Tamarack enough to start getting familiar with some of the others who surfed there on this or other Sundays. Suellen would make a fire while I was using her board. Cold surfers, strangers or not, would stand around it.

There was the guy with striped blue and white trunks who someone called, my sister thought, “Glueballs,” though it may have been “Blueballs.” So we called him that. Not to his face. Others were identified by their boards, “Yellow Nose,” “Popout,” or whatever vehicle they arrived in. If I said, “Woody,” you’d know I’m making some of these up. I am, though Glueballs is real.

Because I abused the borrowing of my sister’s board, and seemed so serious about being a surfer, my parents, without my being there, or my input, visited the old Hanson Surf Shop across the street from Cardiff Reef. I’m sure budget was a factor, but I would never have approved the board they bought for me.

But, there I was, paddling out to the main peak on a Velzy/Jacobs balsa surfboard from, probably, 1957- too narrow, no real rocker. I did know enough to be embarrassed. Since I had been making advances in my knee paddling on Suellen’s 9’4” Hobie, I tried it on this board. Quite shaky. Fall. Try again.

Now, there was another guy who always seemed to be out when we were there. I never really got a name to go with him, but his nickname for me seemed to be “Asshole,” such as, “Hey, Asshole; my wave!”  This time it was, “Hey, look; asshole got himself a really screwed up old balsa board. Where’d you find that, Asshole?”

Actually, the main peak at Tamarack might have been a friendlier place for groms and kooks if real surfers just surfed somewhere else. We groms and kooks would actually hoot each other into waves, watch, root for other groms and kooks. “Haul A!” I remember one kid saying as we all watched as the kid hauled A into the shorebreak.

This was not my tormentor’s method. “Hey, Asshole; maybe you should practice knee paddling over in the slough, come back when you know how,” he’d say, perfectly balanced on his knees and motionless. Then I’d fall. Then I’d get back on the board, back on my knees, shakily.

Maybe to practice, I paddled farther out, taking a break from the peak and the ridicule. Of course an outside peak formed. I spun around, head down, paddling; moved to my knees, stroke. The entire rest of the group was inside, eyes on me, each surfer scratching to get over the wave I was about to… stroke… I felt the lift, I was on it, dropping, straight… straight down. My Velzy/Jacobs pearled, totally, I went ‘over the handlebars.’ Everyone paddling out turned-turtle or bailed. The balsa wood weapon popped straight back up, tail first.

No one had to call me Asshole. I paddled in, prone, banished to the crappy waves in front of the lower parking lot.

A year or so later, I was now riding a popout my Dad had purchased ‘on base’ from an auction of boards taken by Marine Military Police from surfers attempting to surf Trestles. One attempting such a beach assault would not take his best board. This particular bargain popout also featured a huge delaminated spot on the nose.

Okay, I’d fix that. Phillip and I made a cut, ripped off the de-lam and some surrounding glass, reglassed it. Then, coming in from surfing Swamis, waiting for my turn to stack my board on the roof of the car, I dropped it mere inches onto the grass. Snap!

Okay, so now we got some dowels, stuck it back together, put a fiberglass bandage around it. As a bonus, it now it had even more kick up, more rocker.

This was the board I was riding, my surf bumps now visible (even to others), on one after school afternoon at Tamarack; an afternoon a little crowded with kooks and grems and groms and Hippie. It was, perhaps, out of frustration that I did not give way, paddled stroke for stroke, took off even with but in front of Hippie. I gave him room, drove across the peak, kicked my board out hard.

My board was spinning, straight up, next to me. Beside and just behind it was Hippie’s board, twins in the spinning.

“I’m sorry” I said, the first words I’d ever spoken to Hippie.

“No you’re not,” he said; both of us climbing onto our boards.

“Okay then, I’m not.”

Perhaps I saw this as a rite of passage. Perhaps it was. No, still not sorry.


Corky Carroll, Billy Hamilton, & a Rising Swell


“There was nothing showing at Trestles; Oceanside was flat, but now, look at this.” Corky Carroll to someone else, while perched on a railing at the top of the stairs at Swamis, 1969.

Though the comment was not meant for me, I did look around. The surf at my favorite point break was- reaching back for the proper phrasing from the time- ‘classic,’ ‘epic,’ just about as good as it gets- four to five foot, glassy, sunny skies putting sparkle on the breaking lips, proper shadowing on the faces.

I’d say it was ‘perfect,’ ‘magical,’ other than the now-growing crowd of locals, semi-locals, and the Orange/L.A. County surfers (we) North County surfers always complained about the most (maybe other than the Texans in the summer).

They came, car-pooling, drifting south like the smog that usually, but not always, stopped somewhere south of San Onofre. They drove away from their crowds, added to ours.

Ours. Not that I wasn’t still an inland cowboy, still living in Fallbrook. But now I was working in Oceanside. This meant something. Maybe not to a true local.

In fact, one of the first surfing-related near-fistfight I ever witnessed was at Swamis, 1966. The older surfer was almost pleading with the guy who’d snaked him, taken off fin-first in front of him on the inside peak.

“I’ve been surfing here for over fifteen years,” the Snake-ie said. “Well,” the member of the Northern Horde said, grinning toward his fellow riders (or raiders, perhaps), “you should have learned to surf it better.”

Paused at the top of the Swamis stairs, I must have had that can’t-wipe-it-off expression of satisfaction, mixed with a sort of righteous exhaustion. The surf hadn’t started this good. When I paddled out, three hours earlier, it was small, the high tide dropping just enough to allow the waves to break outside of the bigger rocks, just far enough out for two or three others and me to get some in-and-out quickies.

As the tide dropped, the swell increased. An hour into it, I was back-dooring the peak, sliding the wall, and, with maybe just a couple of aggressive looks, maybe (I’d prefer to think not- but probably) a couple of whistles or that one syllable war whoop, guaranteeing each wave was just mine.


Oh, I was dominating; for a while. Now, however, with more surfers, the two peaks working, the group at the top of the stairs, Corky and his crew, and I watched someone smoothly, seamlessly take off, bottom turn, top turn, rise and drop across the wall, and then pull the first one-eighty-plus cutback into a high-and-off-the-curl top-turn into another bottom turn. I’d ever seen. If not the first, definitely the best. I almost dropped my board.

The surfer had the solid, split-leg stance that, if you made a surfer action figure; this all-purpose, any-board, all-wave-size stance would be the one you’d build into the mold. Classic.

“Billy… Hamilton,” one of Corky’s cohorts said. Corky and another Northerner, having already identified the surfer, shook their heads. “We goin’ out?”

I’m sure I gave Corky the same questioning look his car-pool-buddies did. I’d seen Corky in the magazines. I’d seen him on “Wide World of Sports.” He was one of the first world champions. He was competitive; and this was another arena. Now he was perched on the railing, the highest available throne, surveying the surf.

He looked at me, still in awe at the Billy Hamilton move, still anticipating his answer. He looked at his crew, back at me, gave me a ‘keep moving, kid; you bother me’ look.

“Oh, yeah.”

If I chose one session to mark the peak of my own surfing abilities; this would be it. The backside of the peak of wave knowledge/fitness/practice, practice practic- features a slow downhill with some just-as-memorable sessions. For this I’m grateful.

Still, watching the water as I walked to my car, I knew I was no Billy Hamilton. I knew I might never have the audacity to purposefully bounce off an oncoming curl. I also knew I would try.

But, on this day, I had other places to go, and I’d already seen what remains the most memorable single ride I have ever witnessed in person. I didn’t stay to watch Corky and his cohorts. No offense.

Guest Writer Stephen Davis on ‘Nose,’ Talking Story


 “The restaurant smelled like vomit and I couldn’t tell where it was coming from.” I was telling the story to our accountant Dolph, short for Adolph.  “You could smell it in the kitchen, the dish pit, and the twelve-top in the bar next to the wait station could more than likely smell it too”.  

Katrina, my stepdaughter, initially said she couldn’t smell anything.  Five minutes later she said that someone had, indeed, thrown up in the ladies’ room and that I must have a good sense of smell.

Having a discerning ‘nose’ is something I must have developed over a lifetime of cooking food and working in kitchens.  I never really thought about it consciously until now, but you can tell a lot about things just from smell.

 Once I was at a friend’s house when the retired fire chief, who was a neighbor, knocked on the door. He said my buddy’s chimney was on fire. After a career of fire fighting, he had a nose for chimney fires.  Both of us ignorant of the blaze, we were stoked the chief caught it.

“I think it might be a good idea to replace the fan in the ladies’ room one of these days,” I insisted. The fan had burned out two years ago and I had pulled it to get the part number. We never bought a new one because cash had been tight until the thought had dropped off everyone’s radar. 

“Having a strange hole in the ceiling of the ladies’ room for two years is just a buzz kill too,” I said.  No one is super comfortable using public restrooms and one having a strange, pervert hole in the ceiling just makes it more awkward.

The truth is, we’re a good team; Dolph and I.  We opened our restaurant in Port Townsend, Washington just before the banking meltdown and, somehow, we were able to skate through the recession, the Hood Canal Bridge closure, and another ferry crisis.  We pulled it, but it was tight, and the women’s room fan was a luxury no one considered until the smell brought our attention back to it. 

The reason I was involved in the restaurant business at all was because of my love of surfing, not food. I started working in kitchens to get through college by working nights.  As it turns out, working in the evening is great for surfing too, and, being an art major, I  just stuck with it after college. 

What gets confusing is that people think I must love food because I’m a chef.  Recently, reality cooking shows seem to be everyone’s window into the professional kitchen. Food becomes pornographic.  We now watch people eat for entertainment, like drooling dogs begging at the dinner table. 

That’s great, but waves are my true passion, and cooking has allowed me to ride a lot of them.  Having my weekdays free allowed me to surf every day waves were breaking; and I often surfed good spots alone.  I could go on long surf trips during the off season and not worry about losing a good paying job.

Like I had a good paying job.

College was amazing, but I didn’t see how it would help me surf more, so I bailed. That’s how I found myself owning my own place and talking to Dolph about foul smells in the ladies’ room. 

Foodies would often call me on my surf-over-work ways. When I asked a previous employer for a raise, he declined saying I didn’t “put enough love in the food“. 

“Whatever,” I thought,  “he should try putting love into two hundred-plus dinners a night.

 Assembly line workers don’t always put love into the torque wrench either. Maybe they‘re doing their best to make a buck for the fam and do some bowling at the end of it.  My boss had obviously never seen me praying for surf to a barrel-shaped tortilla chip on the dash while driving to the beach. 

People are extraordinarily fortunate when they get to do what they love for a living.  I do enjoy cooking for folks, but surfing is my love. 

I wandered out of the office and down the stairs to get back to work. A few minutes later Dolph comes down and says, “You really know how to tell a story,   your stories are always WAY beyond everyone else’s ”.  

“Oh,” I say, “It’s cause I’m a surfer. Talkin’ story is important to us!” 



Surfing With Donald Takayama

                        Surfing ‘With’ Donald Takayama

“I try to meet up with Donald every time I go to California.”

This remark came from a guy who worked for NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). I was doing some painting for the property management company overseeing the house he and his wife were renting in Port Townsend, a house with several Donald Takayama surfboards in the garage.

The surfer/renter/NOAA guy’s remark was in response to my, checking out his enviable stash, and having said, “Oh, I surfed with Donald Takayama once; Seaside Reef, back in, probably, 1969.”

So, now I felt I had to explain what I meant by ‘surfing with.’

“I meant we were out at the same time; not like we, like, went there together.”

Too late; I’d already sinned. I was just making it worse.

My girlfriend, Trish, was supposed to go on this trip, on a Sunday afternoon, to her brother’s house in Solana Beach. Jim Scott, recently out of the Marine Corps as a Captain, having only-recently returned from a tour of Vietnam as a Second Lieutenant, number one target. His tour had also aligned with the Tet Offensive of January 1968. Tough time, life-changing; Jim resigned from a definitely-promising military career

Jim and his first wife, Chris, had a house with a sweeping view of that curve of coast from Seaside Reef to Cardiff Reef and beyond.

Meanwhile, Trisha’s father, Major W.M. Scott, U.S.M.C., was in Vietnam.

Trish punked-out at some point after my surf racks had been transferred to her mother’s Corvair, my board secured. “It’s not weird,” she said, “she’ll just drop you off; pick you up when she’s done visiting.”

“That’s weird,” Trish said as I asked her for a few details while writing this.

Weird or not, Maureen and I were off.

I never called her Maureen, or her husband Wilkens, or Bill, or Dad; always Irene and George- Maureen’s nickname for herself, Trisha’s nickname for her father- or, later Grandmother and Grandfather- formal.

Knowing Irene (from the old song, “Good Night Irene,” one she would quote to stop Trish and I from making out, and/or to send me home) really didn’t consider me a great candidate, or even on the high end of acceptable, for someone dating her daughter, and a bit intimidated by my driver, I tried to make some conversation. “Yeah, Seventh Day Adventist.” “No, not a cult.” “Yeah, I guess; poor man’s Jew.” “Yeah, three brothers, three sisters.” “Yes, my Dad was a Marine; World War II and Korea.” “Sure; they probably ran into each other somewhere. Guadacanal?”

Somewhere before we got to the coast, my future mother-in-law, grandmother to three children her daughter had with me, two Jim had with his second wife, Greer, said, concerning one of the women she’d worked with at one of several jobs she’d had before meeting W.M. Scott; “She was so dumb she didn’t know the difference between Kleenex and Kotex.”

Then she went quiet for a while; maybe a little check in the rear view mirror to catch my reaction without actually looking over.

The waves just weren’t working at the spots we passed. Seaside Reef was the last chance. It was mid-afternoon, lined-up but pre-glassoff lefts breaking out from one of the last remaining trailer parks on the North County coast. There was one other surfer out. We didn’t actually speak much, but we did trade off empty waves for a while. I gave him at least a nod or two; had to. Donald Takayama, wunderkind surfer, had been known in the surfing world since appearing in a Bruce Brown film as a Hawaiian teenager pre-“Endless Summer,” pre-1960, surfing at Velzyland, named after board maker Dale Velzy, for whom Mr. Takayama would shape balsa, and later foam boards.  

This, 1969, was the era, pre-jail time, pre-restoration as a preeminent shaper and builder of long boards, Donald remembered most fondly when featured in “The Surfers’ Journal” sometime before he died in 2012.

I, of course, tried very hard, too hard, to impress him. He just seemed to be enjoying surfing decent lefts with only some random kid out; a kid constantly scanning the parking area for an ugly Corvair with racks on it; someone who looked like he wanted to say something; just didn’t know what.

This was also the only time I ever surfed Seaside Reef or with Donald Takayama. By the time those who waited for the afternoon glassoff arrived, we were both gone.   


Joyce Hoffman’s Bra


My boss, Buddy Rollins, of Buddy’s Sign Service, sold Christmas trees every year at an otherwise empty lot next to Master’s Automotive, right on Mission Avenue (U.S. Highway 101) in Oceanside, California.

Master’s Automotive, or, as we, in my family, referred to it, Mac’s Garage. Mac’s was where my father worked all day on Sundays, Tuesday and Thursday evenings after his regular job. It’s not like my dad and I hung out during the two seasons I untied bundles of trees, cut a little off the bottom, set them up on wooden supports, sold trees, and tied trees onto cars.

I enjoyed the selling of the trees the most. I had received some experience helping out at the lot set up by my Boy Scout Troop (724, Fallbrook, California). At that time, I thought the whole place was like a clean, moveable, and fake almost-Disney Christmas woods. I could easily imagine background music from the March of the Tin Soldiers. I could fully visualize the cute girls who occasionally came in frolicking with me in the big military-issue (originally) tent; the little post-Mouseketeer, pre-Beach Party Annette Funicellos all giggly and…

Hey, I was, like, eleven to, maybe 13.

But now, on this lot, I was eighteen, then nineteen. I had a girlfriend, Trish, a real surfer girl- blond hair, not afraid of and irritated by the sand as Annette had been rumored to have been.

And, in 1970, my second season on Buddy’s lot, Trish worked a few shifts with me. That is, she sold lots of trees, and kept me busy loading and tying, and holding several for her customers to decide between. “What do you think?” they’d ask. They’d ask her.

“Erwin, could you load this please?” Sure.

So it was that I got to carry a tree to Joyce Hoffman’s VW bus, two surfboards on top. Joyce Hoffman, the famous surfer, world champion, everything champion, the first woman to surf the Banzai Pipeline, the only surfer to be named “Person of the Year” by the Los Angeles Times, the first woman to be (later) be inducted into the Surfer’s Hall of Fame.

Blonde, fit, she had competed in a male-dominated sport and conquered. “Hey,” I wanted to say, “I surf. I have a VW bus. I, I surf, too.”  I didn’t. I did say something like, “Joyce Hoffman,” to which she responded with something like a polite, casual, “Uh huh.”

It seemed just knowing who she was would have been enough to prove I was a surfer.

Then she opened the side door. There, on the bed, was a bra. Nothing else. “Um.” I turned around quickly, politely, adjusting the tree a bit. When I turned back, the bra was gone. Joyce looked only slightly less casual, arms kind of crossed.

Near miss. In 1976, living in Encinitas, I was painting most weekends for Two-Coat Charlie Barnett. I had actually gone back to work for the Navy Public Works in San Diego. Charlie wanted me to call in sick a couple of days to help out him and his brother, Olie, on a job in Leucadia, near Moonlight Beach. An added incentive was that the job was for a famous woman surfer, Joyce, and her husband.

I really couldn’t, and I didn’t. It turned out that the job involved bleaching and stripping real wood paneling, and somewhere in the process, Olie, who regularly sprayed lacquer without a respirator, got ill enough to have to be rushed to the hospital, and then stayed there a couple of days. No smoking, either.

Well. Missed opportunities. Had I worked the job at Joyce’s house, I could have said, waiting for the ambulance, probably in an only slightly chemically-altered state, “Hey, I once loaded a Christmas tree in your VW bus, and…” chuckle, chuckle, end of this imagined scenario.

Other than Joyce Hoffman might have said, giving me one more, slightly skeptical check-out, “Uh huh.”  If she’d kind of crossed her arms, I’d have known she remembered.