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Early Surfing in the British Isles

This chapter in the LEGENDARY SURFERS collection is free for viewing here and also available as an ebook for $2.99. To purchase, please go here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075FRGWZ8/. The advantages of the ebook over the online edition is that it is portable, you don't need an internet connection to read it wherever you want to on a PC, tablet or phone. Additionally, it is shareable with friends and family for two weeks after sending and it is a file for yours to keep.

Whether you read it here or in ebook form, I hope you enjoy learning about the earliest days of prone and stand-up surfing in the British Isles!

Appreciations


You are about to read about the earliest days of surfing in the British Isles, including prone surfing on body boards as well as stand-up surfing. In collecting all I could about the subject, I am greatly indebted to the work of Peter Robinson, founder of the Museum of British Surfing; Roger Mansfield, author of “The Surfing Tribe”; the Museum of British Surfing; and J. M. Ormrod, author of “Middle class pleasures and the safe/dangers of surf bathing on the English South Coast 1921-1937.”

For images, my thanks to the Museum of British Surfing and Jeremy Oxenden.

Introduction


Surfing along the coasts of the British Isles is far older than most people realize.
It used to be that we thought of surfing in this part of the world as beginning in the 1960s. There is an element of truth in this belief as stand-up surfing did not really catch on in the British Isles until then. However, there had been stand-up surfers long before then, as well as the far more numerous “surf bathers” who rode wooden body boards prone off the coasts of many resort areas.

Fact is, Hawaiian surfers first rode at Bridlington, in 1890; a local Briton in North Devon in 1904; numbers of vacationers in Newquay in 1921 and St. Ouen’s Bay in the mid-1920s. At Newquay, surfing on body boards has continued to present day.1

Piikoi Brothers, 1890


After introducing surfing to Santa Cruz during the time they were going to school in California in 1885, Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole Piikoi and his brother Prince David Kahalepouli Kawanaankoa Piikoi took a trip to the British Isles to further their formal education and surfed there briefly, on vacation. They were in company of their English guardian on holiday in Bridlington, Yorkshire, September 1890.

A letter, believed to be the earliest report of the sport in Great Britain, was uncovered by Hawaiian historian and author Sandra Kimberley Hall in 2011. Pictures of the trio and details of their vacation are part of the growing historical collection housed at the Museum of British Surfing.2

The fact that not only do we now know that Hawaiian royalty surfed while being educated in England in the late 1800s, but also that they chose a relatively obscure surfing destination like Bridlington on the east coast to paddle out and catch a few slides is just fantastic,” declared Peter Robinson, founder of the Museum of British Surfing.

“This is the earliest proven instance of surfing in Britain so far – previously we had thought it was the 1920s in England and the Channel Islands – but this blows our history right out of the water.

“The Victorian locals must have been incredulous at the sight of these Hawaiian princes paddling out, and riding back into shore most likely standing on large wooden planks, their dark skin and hair glistening in the North Sea waters.

“I only wish I could have been there to see it.”3


In a letter to consul Henry Armstrong from Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole Piikoi, the prince wrote that he and his brother, Prince David Kahalepouli Kawanaankoa Piikoi, were allowed by their tutor believed to be John Wrightson – to holiday in Bridlington.

The pair were given the reward for good work in their studies at colleges around Britain. They had been in England studying for almost a year.

On September 22, 1890, a joyful Kuhio could not restrain his enthusiasm in his letter to Armstrong:

“We enjoy the seaside very much and are out swimming every day. The weather has been very windy these few days and we like it very much for we like the sea to be rough so that we are able to have surf riding.

“We enjoy surf riding very much and surprise the people to see us riding on the surf.

“Even Wrightson is learning surf riding and will be able to ride as well as we can in a few days more. He likes this very much for it is a very good sport.”

It is thought the Hawaiian princes, the orphaned nephews and heir to Queen Kapiolani, would have made their surfboards from timber acquired from a Bridlington boat builder.4

The princes were cousins of surfer Princess Victoria Ka‘iulani, the half-Hawaiian, half-Scottish heir to the Hawaiian throne who was educated in Brighton a couple of years later, in 1892.

Sandy Hall pointed out that it is possible “She [Ka‘iulani] may have been the first female surfer in Britain, but the only tangible evidence – so far – is a letter in which she wrote that she enjoyed ‘being on the water again’ at Brighton.”5

Surfing did not spread from here. It was an isolated event and it was not until three decades later that body boarding became popular at some beaches along the British Isles.6


Prince of Wales, 1920


Edward Windsor-- the Prince of Wales and future but brief king Edward VIII -- surfed at Waikiki, Hawaii, in 1920.7 To Edward Windsor and Earl Louis Mountbatten go the honor of being the first Britons photographed surfing; Edward the first one to stand.8


He had gone to Hawaii in April 1920 on HMS Renown and was taken out by Duke Kahanamoku on an outrigger canoe, told Peter Robinson. He had a surf lesson and did OK, but absolutely loved it. He later [in July] ordered the royal yacht to go back to Hawaii so he could surf for three days. Duke was out of the country when he returned so David Kahanamoku took him out and these pictures were taken then.

According to an interview with David Kahanamoku in a Hawaiian canoe club newsletter in 1950, the two young royals surfed for two hours every morning and three hours every afternoon during their July stay.

“The prince learned quickly to ride the board standing, although he did have some spills,” Kahanamoku recalled. “Louis Mountbatten never mastered the art but was content to lie prone.”9
Despite their enthusiasm for the sport, there are no known efforts by either Edward or Louis to foster surfing in Great Britain.10

Agatha and Archie, 1922


Two years after Edward Windsor surfed in Waikiki, in 1922, his friend and famous crime novelist Agatha Christie became one of Britain’s earliest stand-up surfers while visiting Cape Town, South Africa, as well as Waikiki.

Christie spent her teenage years on the south coast of England, around Torquay, where “sea-bathing” -- body boarding prone on a short wooden board -- was, by then -- a seasonal activity of young vacationers.

After the First World War, Agatha’s husband Archie was offered a position to help organize a world tour to promote the British Empire Exhibition scheduled to be held in London in 1924. The couple left England in January 1922, leaving their baby daughter in the care of Agatha’s mother and sister. They arrived in Cape Town, South Africa in early February and soon took to “sea-bathing” at Durban. There, they were introduced to prone surfing at the popular Muizenberg beach. Two years later, she wrote about her surfing experience in her novel The Man in the Brown Suit.

“Surfing looks pretty easy,” Agatha Christie wrote. “It isn’t. I say no more. I got very angry and fairly hurled my plank from me. Nevertheless, I determined to return on the first possible opportunity and have another go. Quite by mistake, I then got a good run on my board and came out delirious with happiness. Surfing is like that. You are either vigorously cursing or else you are idiotically pleased with yourself.”

Agatha Christie and Archie continued their promotional tour to New South Wales, in Australia, and New Zealand before arriving in Honolulu on August 5, 1922. They quickly hit the beach and were soon stand-up surfboard riding at Waikiki, as Prince Edward had done two years earlier.

The larger boards and real surf were difficult for them to handle, at first. Also, like most Westerners, they were prone to sunburn. Cut feet from standing on coral also proved a limitation. At one point, Agatha’s silk bathing dress was almost swept off her by the Waikiki surf. To protect their feet, they bought soft leather boots. Her flimsy bathing suit was replaced by “a wonderful, skimpy emerald green wool bathing dress, which was the joy of my life, and in which I thought I looked remarkably well!”

Waikiki beach boys would swim the couple out through the break, help them select a wave to ride on and then retrieve their boards when they got away from them.

“I can’t say that we enjoyed our first four or five days of surfing –” Agatha wrote, “it was far too painful – but there were, every now and then moments of utter joy. We soon learned too, to do it the easy way. At least I did – Archie usually took himself out to the reef by his own efforts.”

“Most people, however, had a Hawaiian boy who towed you out as you lay on your board, holding the board by the grip of his bit toe, and swimming vigorously. You then stayed, waiting to push off on your board until your (beach) boy gave you the word of instruction. ‘No, not this, not this, Missus, no, no wait – now!’”

“At the word ‘now’ off you went and oh, it was heaven! Nothing like it. Nothing like that rushing through the water at what seemed to you a speed of about two hundred miles an hour; all the way in from the far distant raft, until you arrived, gently slowing down, on the beach, and foundered among the soft flowing waves.”

“It is one of the most perfect physical pleasures that I have known. After ten days I began to be daring. After starting my run I would hoist myself carefully to my knees on the board, and then endeavor to stand up. The first six times I came to grief, but this was not painful – you merely lost your balance and fell off the board. Of course, you had lost your board, which meant a tiring swim, but with luck your Hawaiian (beach) boy had followed and retrieved it for you.”

“I learned to become expert, or at any rate expert from the European point of view. Oh, the moment of complete triumph on the day that I kept my balance and came right into shore standing upright on my board!”

“In fact, on a rough day I enjoyed the sea even more.”

Agatha and Archie stayed in Honolulu from August until October, 1922.

It’s not known whether she continued surfing or not, upon returning to the United Kingdom. She had a writer’s retreat built at Burgh Island, Bigbury, South Devon, in the 1930s and that spot overlooks some small but very beautiful surf.11

Surf Bathing


In the Barnstaple and North Devon Museum there is a photograph, dated 1904, of Hobart Braddick, founder of Braddick’s Holiday Centre, and his surfboard. It is not known to what point he surfed on it. What little surfing there may have been at the beginning of the Twentieth Century, at least until 1921, was very rare.12


It is believed that surf bathing -- body boarding prone -- was introduced to Great Britain by Australian lifeguards, during or after World War I.13

J. M. Ormrod, in a paper titled “Middle class pleasures and the safe/dangers of surf bathing on the English South Coast 1921-1937,” wrote that “Surf bathing was a leisure pastime enjoyed along the south coast of England in the inter war years and up to the early ‘60s when its popularity waned in favour of the stand up surfing which we know today... Surfing was associated with swimming and... became known as ‘surf bathing’. ‘Surf bathing’ was conflated in the 1940s to ‘surfing’. Surf bathing was also known as ‘Cornish surfing’ in North Devon, [and] ‘Surf Riding’ in Cornwall...”14

Surf bathing in the early twentieth century was an activity supported and promoted by a developing tourist infrastructure, however, it was quite different from modern surfboard riding. First, the surfboards were: flat and made from plywood, squared at the body end and rounded at the other end, sometimes this end had a slight upward curve. Second, one did not stand up on the surfboard: The expert rider takes off lying prone on his surfboard on the crest of a wave that is just breaking, and providing his timing is correct he will get a run of anything up to a hundred yards, at a speed of ten to fifteen miles an hour. Third, the surfer did not surf in deep waters. This aspect of surfing is emphasized in most of the guidebooks, ‘Surf Riding makes a particular appeal to non-swimmers as it is never necessary to go into deep water’... this aspect of surf bathing is of crucial importance in its longevity and promotion as a holiday activity. Last, it was not a subcultural activity and was enjoyed by everyone: ‘…most people surfed – it was just the normal thing to do and accepted by all.’”15


1921 is the date usually given for the first native “surf bathing.

“The earliest images and references of surfing in Britain originate from photographs relating to colonial discourse, travel posters and guidebooks,” wrote Ormrod. ”... The earliest images discovered feature surfers at Newquay 1921-1922. The images show surfers in what was to become an iconic image in surf culture; featuring the relationship and centrality of the surfboard. In the photographs surfers stand on the beach with their surfboards either by their side, behind them or they peep out from behind their boards. Their boards, however, are coffin lids. It is not known whether these surfers rode the boards standing up or on their stomachs. The three photographs are dated 1921-22 and have been issued as postcards for sale around Newquay.”16

The seaside became the natural choice for crowds of holidaymakers to escape from inner city squalor: ‘They came not for their health, to decipher nature’s code, or for spirituality, but for sheer delight.’ By the early twentieth century England boasted ‘…a system of coastal resorts whose scale and complexity was unmatched anywhere else in the world.’ In 1911, Walton [who was the first to write about these resorts] estimates there were a hundred ‘substantial seaside resorts’ in England and Wales.”17

“Beaches in the early part of the twentieth century tended to be class specific,” continued Ormrod, ”... Cornish and North Devon beaches tended to be associated with the middle classes who often traveled from London eager to benefit from a healthy environment... Newquay and North Cornwall was a getaway resort first for the upper classes and increasingly for the middle classes at the beginning of the 20th century. The growth of the middle classes was also a factor in the steady increase of tourism.. The inter-war years was a time when stable income and continuous employment meant that middle class affluence and disposable income was growing... However, there is little doubt the most significant factor in the development of resorts was railway access.”18

St. Ouen’s Bay, Mid-1920s


Jeremy Oxenden’s family was surfing at St. Ouen’s Bay in the mid-1920s. In 2009, Jeremy wrote to me about it, attaching photographs:

Jeremy wrote of the above photograph: That is Oxo with the 5.5 prone surfboard. He surfed in Hawaii some time between 1919-1923... The Island Surf Club of Jersey UK was formed in 1923...


“The Girls in the beach hut are Dot and Ching Martin, left and right, and Pat Oxenden in the middle. The beach hut went up in 1924. The... Army knocked all the beach huts down in 1940. My Grand Parents re-built their hut just after the war (WWII). It was their top priority. We still have the beach hut and still surf from there... Thank you for including Oxo and his surfing Gang.”19

“Snow,” 1928


Toward the end of the 1920s, Australian surfer Charles “Snow” McAllister visited England and surfed standing up at several locations.

“Snow” McAllister is considered to be the “Father of Australian Surfing,” who not only was one of the first stand-up surfers in New South Wales, but also became a championship swimmer and surfer.
In 1928, Snow gave a demonstration of surfing on his way home from the Olympics held in Amsterdam, Netherlands, where he had been competing.

By this time, surfing prone on short wooden body boards had become popular at some of the beaches that held consistent surf.20 But, like Duke Kahanamoku had done in Australia the decade before when Snow first got his start, demonstrations of stand-up surfing really captured peoples’ imagination. Not only that, but Snow had perfected a headstand while surfing, just like George Freeth had done back in Southern California.

The Daily Mail reported on September 12, 1928, that McAllister intended to “popularize surf board riding, described as the most thrilling sport in the world, at English seaside resorts.” It’s not known how many Snow visited, but he almost certainly visited Newquay. Years later, he told Tracks magazine about how, at one spot, the locals called the police when they saw him heading into sea because they thought he was going to drown, and the police escorted him from the beach for his own safety.21

About this same time, two other Australians were noted by J. M. Ormrod as surfing while vacationing at Croyde:

“Susan (Tunbridge Wells)... holidayed in Croyde, North Devon 1927-8 with her mother and sister when: ‘who should turn up but a couple of cousins from Australia who took one look at the breakers in the sea and were amazed to see no surfing. Without any loss of time they went to see the local village carpenter and supervised the making of two wooden surfboards and took us all down to learn how to surf…’22

Rosenberg, Rochlen and the Elveys, 1929


A year later, in 1929, Lewis Rosenberg and three friends traveled by train from London to Newquay, in Cornwall. Rosenberg had seen film footage from Australia of surfing off the coasts of that country and had carved his own homemade surf board.23

Rosenberg and his friends Harry Rochlen and brothers Fred and Ben Elvey were part of a close-knit group of Jewish immigrants who lived in London and Hove. They had reportedly been riding four-foot long wooden body boards in the West Country and Channel Islands for almost a decade. But in 1929, inspired by the Australian newsreel, they built a longboard, wrapped it in linen sheets, and took it on a steam train from London to Newquay, the most popular surf destination of that era and years afterwards.


Not only did they try to teach themselves how to surf standing on their board, they also filmed their exploits. This rare footage laid untouched in a Cambridgeshire loft for many years before it was discovered by Ben Elveys daughter.

When Maxine Elvey visited one of our exhibitions,” Peter Robinson, founder of the Museum of British Surfing said, “and told us she had film of her father’s surfing exploits on a wooden longboard in 1929 we were totally blown away. We took the reels of fragile 9.5mm stock to the local film archive for them to be preserved and transferred to digital tape – it’s a national treasure.”

The film is special for a number of reasons. Not only does it show Lewis and his friends attempting stand-up surfing for the first time, but it also shows what it was like being part of a group of friends enjoying life on the then-unpopulated Newquay beaches – sometimes riding the waves naked, and dancing the Hula wearing costumes made from seaweed.

Lewis even made a waterproof housing for his video camera, which was innovative for its time in Great Britain.

Maxine Elvey said her father Ben Elvey recalled they surfed in 1928 or 1929, but that it could have been as late as 1931. “They also saw a film called ‘Idol Dancer’ which showed Hula dancing in Hawaii – they copied this as well and made grass skirts from seaweed and danced and sung the lyrics ‘Goodbye Hawaii, my island paradise, we’re bound to meet again someday,’ on the Cornish beaches.”24

“We interviewed three of the old boys who were part of the surfing gang, and they were totally stoked on what they were doing,” said Robinson. “They were in their mid 90s when we filmed them, but as soon as we spoke about surfing and their beach lives, their eyes lit up and their memories came flooding back. It was truly emotional.”

Speaking in 2006, Harry Rochlen recalled that “We swam out and when the waves came in, my friend Lewis tried to stand on the board, like they did in Australia. After a lot of practice, we managed to do it. It was incredible, it really brings back memories. It was really thrilling, to be able to stand on the board and go on to the beach.”

It is unknown how many seasons Lewis Rosenberg, Harry Rochlen and Fred and Ben Elvey surfed together. Sadly, the eight foot board which had been lovingly shaped from a solid piece of wood was later stolen from Rosenberg’s home in London.

“I had no idea my father’s surfing would turn out to be so special,” said Lewis’ daughter Sue Clamp. “We knew the films were important but mainly because they showed the build up to World War 2 and the racial and political tension. It’s fantastic the lives of Lewis and his friends is being remembered in this way.”25

Jimmy Dix, 1937


The earliest British surfers we have detailed information about are Jimmy Dix and Papino Staffieri.
In 1936, Nuneaton dentist Jimmy Dix summer vacationed with his family on the north coast of Cornwall at Newquay. There, local people and visitors had been prone surfing on thin, flat plywood boards for well over a decade.

Jimmy liked bodyboarding, but was intrigued by an encyclopedia photo-picture showing “Hawaiians gliding shoreward standing on boards, as if Gods, propelled by the waves.

“This looked worth a try, but it needed a real board,” Jimmy recorded.

He decided to build one, himself. So, he wrote a letter to some one or some organization in Honolulu. He explained his predicament and requested the dimensions of a board that he might be able to ride standing up. It is possible he sent the letter to the Outrigger Canoe Club, but this cannot be verified.
He had a long wait for his reply. It was a time before international airfreight and letters had to cross two oceans and one continent by ships and land vehicles.

What eventually arrived at his front door in Warwickshire in 1937, was a large box containing a 13 foot long hollow wooden surfboard of the Tom Blake design, weighing 30 kilograms and signed by Blake with a hand painted map of the Hawaiian islands upon its deck.

Using this Blake hollow board as an example, Jimmy built a smaller one for his wife. In the summer of 1938, they both headed to Newquay in his Alvis to holiday and experiment with riding the two boards.26

Papino Staffieri, 1940-43


Papino Staffieri was born August 3rd 1918, a son of an Italian family who moved to Newquay at the beginning of the century in order to pursue the ice cream business there.

“Pip,” as he was known to his friends, grew up in Cornwall overcoming a minor disabling of his left leg through polio at two years of age. He grew up to become very much a local boy in Newquay, with a love of the water and some prowess as a long distance swimmer.

He had watched the Pathe newsreels in the Pavilion cinema above Towan Beach in the mid-30’s. These had shown him the great Australian surfboats in races including epic wipeouts while being surfed to shore. He connected the surf in Australia with his own local waves; the same raw material rolling into his home beaches.

After surfing prone on the local flat surf-planers [bodyboards], Pip’s first opportunity to ride waves in a different manner came with a group of local boys who had taken to building canoes. George Old, who lived further down the street built canoes with canvas stretched on a wooden frame. Old was also the most skillful canoeist in the area. It was he who led the experimentation with wave catching among the group, which Pip managed to join for a while.

Unfulfilled, however, Pip dreamed of surfing as depicted in the picture he had seen of men surfriding off Waikiki beach, with Diamond Head in the background. This picture was from the 1929 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica which he had originally seen at the dentist’s office as a youngster.

Stand-up surfing suddenly came closer to reality for him one day as he set up along the sand with his pony and trap to sell ice cream to the holiday-makers at the Harbour. Two surfboards lay on the sand side by side. It was 1938 and Jimmy Dix and his wife had come to the beach at Newquay. He hadn’t meet them yet, but seeing and being able to touch real surfboards stirred him into action.

He left the beach with his a mental blueprint of a working design for his own board. Pip was a competent craftsman and pursued the construction of his own hollow wooden longboard with some variations on the Tom Blake model:


His board was 136 long, with greater width than the Blake board. Its construction was of 3/8’’ Deal strips screwed to oak frames by brass screws with the whole shell sealed with a varnish finish. Dry, it weighed 112 lbs. Like all hollow boards, it had a nose drain plug to empty absorbed water. Most significantly, at a later date (circa 1941), he added a 3’’ deep fin for greater directional guidance. It’s not known whether this was an original thought or one he picked up.

Dix and Staffieri never actually surfed together. August was a busy time and Pip, the worker, spent all day selling ice cream before taking to the water in the long summer evenings. This was when Jimmy, the professional man, normally retreated to the hotel for dinner with his family.

A couple of summers later (1942), Jimmy, hearing of another man with a surfing board, visited Pip and took him out for a drink and chat. During their first time together, Jimmy showed Pip some simple box camera pictures of Jimmy and his wife standing, riding white water near the beach.
Dix and Staffieri would meet again over a few intermittent summers; but for Jimmy, his visits were only annual two weeks holidays.

Papino “Pip” Staffieri was the first stand-up surfer in the British Isles to ride for any significant length of time. Not only had he built his own board in 1940, but then learned to ride it with no example to follow, in the summer of 1941.

Pip’s favorite surfing spot was off the point between Great Western and Tolcarne beaches. Here, he would surf evenings, alone. Over time, he learnt to paddle and swim-push his board out through bigger swells to ride larger surf.

Pip continued surfing until about 1943, after which his seasonal involvement started to wane. The war had truly arrived and the world was in upheaval.

During the war, Australian Air Force officers on a reprieve from active service found themselves on “R&R” (rest and relaxation) break and lodged at the Great Western hotel overlooking Newquays’ surf beaches. They found opportunities to borrow Pip’s board for paddling and wave riding. Pip, in turn, was inspired by these men from the Australian surf life-saving tradition and subsequently devoted himself to body surfing.27

Surf writer Paul Holmes wrote to me in 2009: “As kids [at Newquay in the 1960s], we used to buy ice cream from Staffieri’s van. It was the best ice cream I ever tasted, but even as he knew we were all getting into surfing, he never talked about it.”28

As a man of 85, when his story became more widely known, Pip reminisced: “I don’t want you to think I was a great surfer – nothing like all the acrobatic stuff young people do on waves today. Some waves I’d ride lying down or on my knees part of the way, in between standing.”29

Riding surf standing up definitely did not catch on until the 1960s, as Paul Holmes noted to me:

“When I grew up in Newquay during the 1950s, surfriding on plywood bellyboards was a big deal during the summer months, especially during July and August when the water was at least passably warm and hordes of tourists flocked down from the industrial cities of the midlands and north. Our local ‘beach boys’ rented out such boards, along with deck chairs, canvas windbreaks (the northwest wind could be a beach party killer even when the sun was blazing) and visiting tourists could get a ‘tea tray’ with a pot of tea, cups and saucers, mini milk jug, sugar pot, teaspoons and a plate of scones and jam with Cornish clotted cream...

“From the time that I could swim, I and like-minded friends would ‘surf’ from May through September on such bellyboards, usually plywood but (like my favorite) sometimes a single plank about four feet long, a foot wide and one quarter to one half inches thick... All had a scoop nose steamed in. Usually they were ridden in the foam, launching into an already broken wave and planing to shore... But, I guess because we did so much of it, us ‘locals’ found that on small days, when waves broke in waist or chest-high water, we could launch across the face and get at least a short ride in the ‘green water.’ By 1960-61, I and a few others figured out that on a big swell we could swim out with our boards, using kid’s size swim fins, and take off on bigger waves, getting a much longer ride on the open face, especially at high tide when waves refracted/reflected off the cliffs, giving a wedge effect. (I should point out that conditions varied rapidly and radically because of the 17-22 foot tidal range).

“It's funny to me that even supposedly well-informed people so underestimate the wave action on the coast of Britain exposed to the North Atlantic. ‘Oh, there's surf in England? It must be pretty weak!’ Not so. I grew up with fishermen who knew where to avoid 60-foot cloudbreaks. I've seen bigger seas off the coast of Cornwall than I've seen on the North Shore of Oahu.”30


4  There is a possibility that the Piikoi brothers were bodysurfing and not stand-up board riding. This is just my thought in reading the wording of the letter.
5  Western Morning News, 11 April 2012.
8  Booth, Robert. “The Prince of Wales: new UK surf museum unveils sports noble roots,” The Guardian, 4 April 2012 at: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2012/apr/04/prince-waves-uk-surfing-museum
9  Booth, Robert. “The Prince of Wales: new UK surf museum unveils sports noble roots,” The Guardian, 4 April 2012 at: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2012/apr/04/prince-waves-uk-surfing-museum. David Kahanamoku quoted.
11  See http://www.museumofbritishsurfing.org.uk/2011/07/27/agatha-christie/. See also “Agatha Christie, 1922,” posted at LEGENDARY SURFERS, August 2011: http://www.legendarysurfers.com/2011/08/agatha-christie-1922.html
12  Ormrod, J. M. “Middle class pleasures and the safe/dangers of surf bathing on the English South Coast 1921-1937,” 2001. Posted on the Internet in 2004 at: https://e-space.mmu.ac.uk/617588/9/Such%20a%20jolly%20holiday%20(8).pdf. Page 1.
13  Holmes and Wilson, 1994. Cited in “Middle class pleasures and the safe/dangers of surf bathing on the English South Coast 1921-1937,” by J.M. Ormrod, 2001. Posted on the Internet in 2004 at: https://e-space.mmu.ac.uk/617588/9/Such%20a%20jolly%20holiday%20(8).pdf. Page 1.
14  Ormrod, J. M. “Middle class pleasures and the safe/dangers of surf bathing on the English South Coast 1921-1937,” 2001. Posted on the Internet in 2004 at: https://e-space.mmu.ac.uk/617588/9/Such%20a%20jolly%20holiday%20(8).pdf. Page 1.
15  Ormrod, J. M. “Middle class pleasures and the safe/dangers of surf bathing on the English South Coast 1921-1937,” 2001. Posted on the Internet in 2004 at: https://e-space.mmu.ac.uk/617588/9/Such%20a%20jolly%20holiday%20(8).pdf. Page 3.
16  Ormrod, J. M. “Middle class pleasures and the safe/dangers of surf bathing on the English South Coast 1921-1937,” 2001. Posted on the Internet in 2004 at: https://e-space.mmu.ac.uk/617588/9/Such%20a%20jolly%20holiday%20(8).pdf. Page 28. Ormrod added about the origin of surfing coming from Australians: “this has yet to be corroborated.”
17  Ormrod, J. M. “Middle class pleasures and the safe/dangers of surf bathing on the English South Coast 1921-1937,” 2001. Posted on the Internet in 2004 at: https://e-space.mmu.ac.uk/617588/9/Such%20a%20jolly%20holiday%20(8).pdf. Page 13.
18  Ormrod, J. M. “Middle class pleasures and the safe/dangers of surf bathing on the English South Coast 1921-1937,” 2001. Posted on the Internet in 2004 at: https://e-space.mmu.ac.uk/617588/9/Such%20a%20jolly%20holiday%20(8).pdf, pp. 15-16 and 20.
19  Oxenden, Jeremy. Email to Malcolm, December 2009. Replicated at: http://www.legendarysurfers.com/2009/12/1920s-st-ouens-bay.html
22  Ormrod, J. M. “Middle class pleasures and the safe/dangers of surf bathing on the English South Coast 1921-1937,” 2001. Posted on the Internet in 2004 at: https://e-space.mmu.ac.uk/617588/9/Such%20a%20jolly%20holiday%20(8).pdf, p. 29.
24  “The Idol Dancer,” by D.W. Griffith; silent film, 1920. Maxine Elvey quoted.
26  Ben Marcus’ notes for an exhibit for the Surfing Heritage Foundation (renamed Surfing Heritage and Cultural Center [SHACC]), 2008. See also “Newquay Surfing, 1929,” posted at LEGENDARY SURFERS, June 2010: http://www.legendarysurfers.com/2010/06/newquay-surfing-1929.html - original source: “UK surfing history started in 1929,” SurferToday.com, May 12, 2010.
27  Ben Marcus’ notes for an exhibit for the Surfing Heritage Foundation, 2008.
28  Holmes, Paul. Email to Malcolm, March 2009. Also replicated at: http://www.legendarysurfers.com/2009/03/cornwall-beginning-1960s.html
29  Ben Marcus’ notes for an exhibit for the Surfing Heritage Foundation, 2008.

30  Holmes, Paul. Email to Malcolm, March 2009. Also replicated at: http://www.legendarysurfers.com/2009/03/cornwall-beginning-1960s.html

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Velzy's Shack at SHACC

The The Surfing Heritage and Culture Center (SHACC) [formerly the Surfing Heritage Foundation] plays a key and expanding role in preserving our history and culture as surfers.  Among the many other things it is and does, it is the official repository of my collected surf writings, thanks in large part to good friend Dick Metz

During my visit to SHACC in the Summer of 2017, longtime friend Darin McClure of RTGit took some photo synths (360-degree virtual reality images) of SHACC's replica of Dale Velzy's shaping shack. It is posted below. Use the rectangle to move around, the compass to rotate, and the +/- to zoom in or out; clicking on the image will also get you to move forward or back. Using the tools, you'll be able to move all around the shack and close up on things that interest you about Velzy and shaping.



Some still shots from my visit:

https://photos.google.com/share/AF1QipORYNnO3FvlUi1mMXZnWWia44f9uORNA78WLNcZn7UXCI8r0tddIIjuZ38uINUlBw?key=RmtKMWpoX3A3WWxJeTRJUGwxV2MtS29YRzRja3p3

Mahalo, NeoN!!!!

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Jack O'Neill (1923-2017)


Jack's kicked out and has been sent along his way with the largest paddleout in history:



Image courtesy of KSBW TV.



Jack O’Neill

If ever there was an appropriate home for the overused word “iconic,” it’s snugged up close to the name Jack O’Neill. This pilot, diver, skier, surfer, sailor, balloonist, windsurfer, businessman, innovator, marketeer … well, he changed our world. Before Jack, you didn’t see many surfers north of Point Conception, but when he created the neoprene wetsuit for surfing, back in the mid 1950s, well, that changed.

Jack was a presence at Santa Cruz beaches since the early 1950s, when he and his wife Marge would come down from San Francisco on weekends; but he really became a presence when he opened his first surf shop down at Cowell’s Beach in 1959, and then his enduring shop and wetsuit factory at 1071 41st Ave., about a mile from his unique home at Pleasure Point, on the water side of East Cliff Drive.

Since the 1970s Jack made a home there, watching the surface of Monterrey Bay rage and go calm, ripple with the wind and turn slick as glass, glow with morning sunrises and evening sunsets, and brood under cloud and disappear altogether in muffling fog. Meanwhile his wetsuits, in untold numbers, opened the world’s oceans to divers and sailors and swimmers and surfers, too. In the process, the O’Neill brand became one of the most well known on the planet, from Norway to Tasmania, from Japan to South Africa, from Chile to Canada. But the heart of it all was here in Santa Cruz.

Jack has left the scene now. His home is still there on East Cliff Drive, but Jack’s not in there, gazing at the waves, the surfers, the boats out on the bay. But his influence continues, especially with the O’Neill Sea Odyssey program, which has already shown thousands of kids that the ocean isn’t just water, it’s alive with brilliant little organisms that are key to life on earth and the air we all breathe. Making sure that the next generation understood that enormous truth was the pinnacle of Jack’s work on behalf of the oceans. That, above all, is his living legacy.

© Drew Kampion, 2017

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Drew wrote Jack's biography, published in 2011. It is still in-print and can be borrowed at a number of locations:


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Additional links:  Jack O'Neill and his Legacy

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John Severson (1933-2017)

Drew Kampion wrote an obituary for John Severson... for John's family:


John Hugh Severson
December 12, 1933 – May 26, 2017


John Severson, the artist, filmmaker, and founder of Surfer Magazine, died on Maui last Friday morning after an accelerating battle with a rare form of leukemia. 

Louise, his wife and lifelong companion, wrote: “John died here in Napili, in the house he loved, at the surf spot he loved. It was a beautiful sunny morning and four of his girls were around him.”

And so John’s planetary journey came to an end, peacefully and with apparent acceptance, but probably wishing for more of what he loved most: life.

His life was full, and full-on, right from the start. As a Southern California kid who grew up at the beach and lived to surf, a conventional life was probably not in the cards. His academic career curved towards the arts and, finally, to Long Beach State, where he earned a Master’s degree (’56) in Art Education. That was where, following the advice of a perceptive instructor, he began to paint the world he knew: the beach, surfers, and waves. He found voice in a bold, bright, modern style that somehow seemed all his own. He embarked on a career as an art teacher.

However, he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1957. He was bound for Germany when an unexpected shift in assignment sent him instead to Oahu, the birthplace of surfing. There, his mastery of pen and ink got him assigned to map-making, and his skills in the ocean put him on the U.S. Army surfing team.
 John Severson, image courtesy of Encyclopedia of Surfing

John had been taking pictures of his friends at the beach and in the water since his father moved the family to San Clemente in the late forties; now in the right place at the right time, armed with a 16mm Keystone movie camera, he turned his attention to the exploits of the rag-tag crew of young men who were drawn to the North Shore’s big winter surf. The footage from that first winter became his first film, Surf! The film’s showings in Hawaii and back in California (thanks to big-wave surfer Fred Van Dyke, who toured the film) earned enough to exchange his Keystone for a Bolex and buy more film for another movie, Surf Safari, which led to another, Surf Fever. Using enlarged frames from his films, he created a 36-page booklet to promote the shows. He titled that booklet The Surfer, which became The Surfer Quarterly, and then Surfer, a bi-monthly then a monthly magazine, known as “the Bible of the Sport.”

By the mid-1960s, John was at the helm of a successful business, with a full magazine staff and plenty of advertisers, plus two daughters and a home at the beach in a gated community at the southern end of Orange County. And then Richard Nixon bought the house next door.

It was the peak of the national crisis precipitated by the Vietnam war and a counterculture that had been building since the fifties, back when those North Shore surfers were very much a part of a growing rebellion against conventional living & societal norms. So it made sense that, amidst this generational shift in consciousness, John’s life took a turn. He returned to his cameras and pulled together a team of polite revolutionaries to create the first environmental surf film, Pacific Vibrations, which soon made its way to the big screen as a Warner Bros. release.

After that he sold Surfer Magazine and the house and bought land upcountry on Maui. He built a home, planted a garden, and set out with the family on a Swiss Family Robinson journey through the South Pacific before settling down, back on Maui, to build, garden, and paint. The word “transformation” would apply.

Back at Surfer, in 1969, John had titled a two-page spread of his paintings “Surf Art,” perhaps coining the term, and certainly defining his ongoing life path, which was always about creating a unique and engaging beauty. On Maui, in the seventies and eighties, he built his own homes, and those creations were every bit as imaginative and beautiful as the art works that began to issue from his studio. John’s paintings of island beauty, depicting the balance and drama of ocean waves and the thrill of surfing, remain as powerful testimony to the artistic vision and joy that was fundamental to everything he created.

By following his own love of life, and expressing it in whatever media he put his heart and hands into, John became one of the most positive, affirmative, inspirational people of our lifetimes. He felt, understood, and translated the magnificent power of ocean waves into food for all our souls. What a great gift to humanity!

One of John's greatest goals was to spread awareness about protecting the ocean and restoring its coral reefs. We all need to be aware of the toxic products that run off into our oceans. We can start by using "reef safe" sunscreen in the water, so we can revive the reefs that have been bleached by the chemicals in the creams we put on our skin.

In addition to Louise and his daughters, Jenna and Anna, John leaves one brother, Joey, and his grand-daughters: Jenna’s children Alizé, Luna, Kea, Aleia, and Anna's daughter Zoë (all girls!) to carry on the positive power.

– Drew Kampion

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The Surfer's Journal Filmmakers half hour episode on John and his movies:


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John Heath "Doc" Ball (1907-2001)





In 1998, I had the honor of interviewing Doc Ball, then at age 91. Subsequently, much of that interview appeared in an article I collaborated with Gary Lynch on. Printed in LONGBOARD magazine, Volume 6, Number 4 (August 1998), "Doc Ball, Through the Master's Eye" contained not only Doc's story, but a number of images he took during the 1930s. Five years or so later, I wrote a fuller bio of Doc which is still on line here: Doc Ball: Surfing's First Dedicated Photographer. This latest chapter on Doc is a further expansion of that biographical sketch.

Doc Ball was tremendously influential in the growth of surfing in California, especially between the 1930s and 1950s. To his very last day, December 5, 2001, he remained a source of inspiration to all of us.




A man who would become one of Tom Blake’s best friends of all time and one of the most influential surfers of the 1930s was “Doc” Ball.  Born John Heath Ball on January 25, 1907,[1] Doc was a key guy in two very important areas: Firstly, he, along with Adie Bayer, organized and lead surfing’s first great surf club, the Palos Verdes Surfing Club (PVSC), a group whose legacy is still felt today.  Secondly and as importantly, Doc became surfing’s first truly dedicated surf photographer.  Although others had shot surfers and surfing before him – most notably Blake – it was not until Doc Ball that surf photography rightly came into its own.[2]

Doc grew up in Redlands, California, the son of Genevieve – a natural child psychologist – and Archibald E. Ball, DDS, a graduate of the University Of Michigan School Of Dentistry.[3]  While as a boy, photography became part of John Heath’s life.

“Most of my lifetime, I guess,” he told me, “I’d had a camera for some reason or another… I started with a little thing about four or five inches; maybe less than that; a little tiny camera box that they made.  I guess it was for kids or something.  It was black and white stuff.  Take it on bike hikes and everything.  That was when I was about eight years old.  I got started ‘photography’ that way.”[4]

Doc’s introduction to the Pacific Ocean also came early in his life.  Out at Catalina Island, “at age 4,” Doc wrote, “I was taken along with my parents on a Redlands Elks Club party.  On arriving, my mom decides to take a swim in the little bay.  She also carried me out there and met another club member, Jake Suess (owner of a grocery in Redlands).  He says, ‘Let me take little Jack.  I’ll teach him to swim.’  She handed me over to him.  He wades out to hip depth and plops me down in that cold H20.  I went clear under before he grabbed me up.  And I start screaming ‘It’s salty!’  Anyway, that did not blot out my interest in the old salty, as our family vacationed at Hermosa Beach.  I learned to bodysurf, here.  Also, to make a few dimes catching and selling sand crabs to be bait for fishermen.”[5]

Doc’s water direction was kept alive, back in the Redlands during the school year, when he later became a junior lifeguard at the Redlands Municipal Pool.  Duke Kahanamoku visited the pool as a master of ceremonies for an inauguration and made an impression on Doc that was never lost.[6]

By 1924, Doc held the Redlands High School pole vault record of 11-feet 6-inches, using a bamboo pole.  He continued playing sports in school when he played left end on the University of Redlands football team (1928).[7]  “The next wild experience here,” Doc wrote about the aquatic side of high school sports, “was learning how to do a one-and-a-half flip over from the 20-foot high diving platform.  It was a blast!”[8]

Following his father’s profession, Doc enrolled at the University of Southern California Dental School in 1929.  “This is where I learned to put my hands in people’s mouths,” Doc recalled, “and not get bit.”  It’s also where Doc got his nickname.[9]

“By this time,” Doc added, “I also set another record.  A 20-foot exhaust pipe for my strip-down Model T Ford (rode the thing on the gas tank) – was given the thing for cleaning up a friend’s backyard of weed overgrowth.  Weeds had almost swallowed the old T.  It had no body or fenders or front tires.  I drove it home and got it in shape to drive.  When they did some repair work on the Kingsbury Grade School roofing was when I got that 20-foot pipe – put the end of it on skate wheels and attached it to my Model T Ford.  Got a blast when classmates went to look at the skate wheel towing attachment.  I would pop the thing [pop the clutch] with a backfire which caused them to jump sky high.”[10]

Doc recalled that “when I went down to USC Dental College, I had a little canoe I used to ride up in the Redlands area, in the lakes and rivers and whatever – canals [even].  So, I figured, ‘why not?’ [try it in the ocean].  Oh, we had lived in Hermosa Beach, there, in the summertime, way back [beginning in] 1920-21.  So, I knew the beach and I was interested in salt water and so –” he laughed, “I took that canoe, went out and paddled around; finally found out I could catch some waves with it!”[11]

When we think of a “canoe” nowadays, an image of a nicely constructed, mass-produced, well-marketed product comes to mind.  But, back then, a canoe could mean something you bought, but most likely meant something you made.  Doc’s was a custom job he called “The Bull Squid.”[12]

“I made it with bicycle rims – wooden rims, in those days,” Doc told me.  “The canoe was mostly made – what they had were some [train] car strips that they would use for packing oranges; great big orange boxes in the flat cars in the freight trains; just big long strips [of wood].  They just fit together perfect.
“So, I made the sides out of wood and put a little canvas covering over the front and back and that kept the waves from crashing over both the bow and, ah – stern.

“Anyway, it was a pretty good little surfing canoe; 6-foot, 6-inches long.”[13]

With The Bull Squid, Doc not only spent time sliding the surf, but diving for abalone.  The rest of the time was spent on classes and studying.[14]

“Remember your first surfboard?” I asked Doc.

“Pretty much.  It wasn’t mine, but it was one we could use.  There was a guy who came down to the beach, there, to go surfin’.  He’d been to Hawai‘i and he brought this board back.  A big 10-foot redwood.  He didn’t know what to do with it during the week, cuz he knew he’d only come down on the weekend.  So, by that time I had another buddy whose mother and father owned a restaurant right on the beach – right on the cement walk, there, on the ocean front.

“We went in and made a deal with him.  If the guy would let Norm [Brown] and I use his board during the week, they’d let him store it in their restaurant (‘Walt & Mize Hamburgers’).  It was kind of an attraction!  It helped them out and it helped us out.  That was the first board.”[15]

Encouraged by Sam Apoliana, a Hawaiian classmate,[16] Doc went on to build a plank-style surfboard.  He carved it out of a large slab of redwood, hewn with an adze.[17]

“Then,” Doc told me of this development, “Norm and I decided we better have one of our own, so we went down and got some lumber.”  Doc paused and asked me if I knew what an adze is.  “You have to stand with your legs spread pretty good,” Doc cautioned about use of the adze.  “Some of the guys we’d been told – in the logging industry – they’d pretty near chopped their ankle off.

“It’s a horizontal [blade, as opposed to an axe’s vertical].  Well, we hacked us out a couple of boards with that.  That was really the first one [we made ourselves and were our own].”[18]

In the late 1980s, Doc passed this same adze on to big wave legend Greg Noll, appointing him as “keeper of the flame.”  As for Doc’s first surfboard when he first hacked it out, he colored it white and decorated it with copper sheeting in the shape form of a shield with the words “Na Alii,” Hawaiian for “The King.”[19]  Copper studs kept it solidly pressed to the board’s surface.  “In time,” Doc said with some regret, “it was stolen out of our Hermosa Beach house backyard.”[20]

“Then ole Norm,” Doc told me, “he decides he’s gonna make one after Blake’s type [hollow paddleboard].  He started making 14-foot paddleboards.  I bought one of those from him and that was my board for a long time.”

“You liked the increased flotation?” I surmised.

“Oh, definitely,” Doc agreed.  “Yeah!”[21]




Early Heroes & Influences


Like many surfers of his time, Doc revered Duke Paoa Kahanamoku.  “He was one of our heroes in that time,” Doc told me.  “He came here and toured around a little bit, but I didn’t get to see him too much.”[22]

About a year or two after he got started surfing, Doc had an opportunity to surf with Duke down at Corona del Mar.[23]  One of Doc’s most vivid memories of Duke was in the early 1930s, at a surf contest at Santa Monica:

“They had a big thing at Santa Monica – a whole gathering of surfers giving out awards from the contest they’d had,” Doc recalled.  “Ol’ Duke was in there.  And, son-of-a-gun, when I got in there and sat down, here’s Duke.  He’s sitting right in front of me.”  Doc was laughing about it as he remembered the day.  “And I said, ‘Duke… Duke… Duke…’ [trying to engage him in conversation].  Never even turned his head.”  To get Duke’s attention, Doc resorted to the little Hawaiian lingo he knew.  In Hawaiian, Doc said, loud enough for Duke to hear: ‘To the up righteousness of the State.’[24]  “And, man, he whipped around like a shot!”  Doc laughed some more, then told me they got into active conversation.  “We had a blast…”[25]

A hero more accessible and even a close friend was Tom Blake.[26]  “He was my surfin’ buddy for all those years,” Doc told me of the 1930s and ’40s.  “We rejoiced together in the picture shootin’ [photography] and everything.”[27]

I mentioned to Doc that I’d heard there were only about 30 surfers in Southern California at the end of the 1920s.[28]

“That sounds a little extra, to me,” he responded.  “When I started, there were probably 15 or 20 around the whole coast.  But, they were mostly all in Southern California where the water was warm.”
I asked Doc who the earliest surfers were that he could remember.

“Some of the local guys.  Johnny Kerwin and his family, Jim Bailey [and] lifeguards.  They had a big pier there [Hermosa], ya know.  You go out there and that’s where you run into the lifeguards.  Most of the time, some of these other guys were out there; goin’ fishin’ or just checkin’ the situation out.”[29]

Most respected of these lifeguards was Rusty Williams.  “Anytime the waves got good, why, he’d be out there.  He was the one who was always telling us to watch out for the pilings on the pier.”[30]

About Johnny Kerwin, Doc said, “He was one of the first, there, at Hermosa Beach; the Kerwin family.  He had three brothers and a sister… We used to get together to go surfing, abalone diving, lobster diving and, boy, you name it.  His folks had a big bakery down there at Hermosa Beach and so that’s where we went to get all our cookies, bread, cakes… it was really an ‘in’ thing.
“He was a real friend...”[31]




First Dedicated Surf Photographer


John “Doc” Ball certainly was not the first person to photograph surfers.  One has only to visit any surfing museum to see evidence of predecessors.  There are shots taken of surfers going back to the late 1800s.  Frenchmen Auguste and Louis Lumiere invented the motion-picture camera in 1895[32] and by 1898, motion pictures of surfers at Waikiki were taken by Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb and the phonograph.[33]

Notable during the 1910s was Alfred Gurrey, Jr., in Honolulu.  Sometime shortly after 1903, he opened Gurrey’s Ltd: Fine and Oriental Art, which became a hub of Honolulu’s art scene; “the haunt of artists and patrons,” as a Honolulu Commercial Advertiser later put it.[34]

It was while operating the gallery that Gurrey photographed surfers and then had some of his surfing photographs published in magazines like Alexander Hume Ford’s Mid-Pacific Magazine.[35]  It was Gurrey’s photographs of Duke, especially, that gained a large audience not only in the Islands, but on the U.S. Mainland and in Australia.  His best work can be seen in one of surfing’s most scarce collectibles: The Surf Riders of Hawaii.

Surf Riders of Hawaii was originally self-published by Gurrey as a handmade booklet photo compilation of surfing photographs in 1914.  It was later reprinted in St. Nicholas Magazine, Volume XLII, Number 10, August 1915.  The booklet combined artistically-rendered prints with romantic poetry from Lord Byron and also prose by Gurrey himself.[i]

Unfortunately, Gurrey quit photography shortly after publication of Surf Riders of HawaiiHis art gallery struggled financially through the second half of the 1910s and on into the 1920s, finally shutting its doors in 1923.  After a year of unemployment, Alfred, Jr. joined his father in the insurance business.  He died a few years later at the relatively young age of 53.[36]

Photographs of surfers continued to be taken through the first two decades of the century – the beginning two decades of the rebirth of surfing.  Surfer, inventor and philosopher Tom Blake took many photographs, some of which can be seen in his first book Hawaiian Surfboard.  And, in a notable milestone, Blake had the first surf layout printed in an edition of National Geographic., published the same year (1935).  Like Doc Ball, Don James also began surf photography in the 1930s, shooting many a photo between the ‘30s and 1960s.[37]

The significant role Doc Ball plays in surf photography, however, is that he was the first truly dedicated “surf photog,” as he called himself.  His surfing experience was framed by the camera’s lens from many angles.  Sure, he surfed and spearheaded the Palos Verdes Surfing Club, but more than that, he took photographs of surfers, surfing and surf culture.  He was the first to take this approach as his primary focus.  It began like this:

In 1926, Doc was given a Kodak Autographic camera by his father’s dental assistant.  “My dad was a dentist,” he reminded me, “and his office gal brought in a folding Autographic.  She didn’t want it anymore, so she gave it to my dad and he gave it to me.  I took that down to the beach, there, and when I went to school.”[38]

“I started [taking pictures of surfers surfing] after we started going down to the beach.  I said, ‘Oh, man, I gotta take a picture of some of these guys.’  That’s when I started using that folding Autographic.”[39]
One of Doc’s earliest surf-related photographs was taken the same time he started riding waves with a canoe and then a surfboard.  Around 1929, Doc took some pictures of his mother on a board at Palos Verdes Cove.  “My mother was a beautiful chicken,” is how he put it to Gary Lynch, “you have to admit it, a natural child psychologist.  She raised us right,” he added in appreciation.[40]

The year 1931 was when Doc really hit a turning point in his life; a turn that would unite his recreational time with both surfing and photography.  At the start of the year, the Los Angeles Times printed a sepia-toned, full spread rotogravure photograph of four surfers at Waikiki.  Taken by Tom Blake with his new waterproof camera housing, “Riders of Sunset Seas” grabbed hold of Doc’s imagination at the same time it provided viewers with a unique perspective of waves and surfers at an angle never before.[41]

From that point on, “Doc became dedicated,” surf historian Gary Lynch wrote, “to the pursuit of artistically recording the California surfing scene.”[42]

About the Kodak folding Autographic and why it was called that, Doc told me: “You could sign the thing and it registered right on the film; had a little place down at the bottom of the camera case.  I used to carry that out to the Palos Verdes Cove… I finally got to the point where I carried it in my teeth with a towel around my neck, getting’ drowned an’ everything.”[43]

“Doc started,” Gary Lynch wrote, “producing photographs of surfers surfing, their boards, cars, girlfriends, parties, surf board construction, living quarters, club houses and just about all activities related to this new breed of Californian.  Comedy often played a part in the composition of Doc photographs.”[44]


Palos Verdes Surfing Club, 1935-1941


Doc graduated from the USC Dental College in 1933.  Shortly afterward, on Monday, March 19, 1934, he opened an office at 4010 1/2 South Vermont Avenue, in Los Angeles.  “He rented a second story, five room suite above a movie theatre that then stood at that address,” wrote Gary Lynch. “On a surviving photograph of the office and theatre beneath, the marquee clearly informs us that the movie ‘Algiers’ was showing, starring Charles Boyer and Hedy Lamarr.  One room was dedicated to working on his patients and one room served as his bedroom, office, darkroom, and laboratory.”[45]  A third room constituted the Palos Verdes Surfing Club, after it was formed in 1935.[46]  The landlord gave Doc the first two months rent free, due to the Depression, and charged forty dollars a month thereafter.[47]
“In those days,” Doc told Gary, “I didn’t have enough money to rent another building to sleep in.  We made our own boards and swimming trunks, camera tripods, and copy stands.  We bought very little.  It was good for you.  After all that, you really knew how to get there from here.  It was a do-it-yourself age.”[48]

A year after he got going in his dentist practice, Doc got together with Adie Bayer to found the Palos Verdes Surfing Club.  “He was one of the big ones,” Doc told me, referring to Adie Bayer as one of the top surfers of the era.[49]  Bayer was a champion platform diver, swimmer, tennis player, as well as surfer.[50]

“He was real energetic and everything,” Doc affirmed. “He helped do organizings, too.”[51]

Because it helped sponsor the first annual Pacific Coast Surfing Championship, the Corona del Mar Surf Board Club was probably the first surf club to form on the U.S. Mainland. It was “the largest club of this kind in America,” according to The Santa Ana Daily Register, July 31, 1928.[52]  The Hermosa Beach Surfing Club was probably second, organizing around 1934.  They had about 18 members, including “the old ones plus Don Grannis, Ted Davies, and others.”[53]

The following year was “A banner year,” “Chuck A Luck” Ehlers recalled of 1935.  To the south, “the Palos Verdes Surfing Club was formed – with Tulie Clark, ‘Doc’ Ball, Hoppy Swarts, LeRoy Grannis, along with transferred surfers Matt Davies, Jim Bailey, Johnny Gates, Tom Blake, Gard Chapin and others.”[54]

Doc remembered that it was Johnny Kerwin who got the Hermosa Beach Surfing Club going, but he said it was “a little after we formed.  Palos Verdes was one of the first ones that organized.  After that was Hermosa and then Manhattan and then Santa Monica.  From there on it went up the coast and kept going after that.”[55]

I asked Doc if there were any significant differences between the surf clubs that sprang up in this period.  “Not especially, as far as I know,” he responded.  “They all had their little banquets here and there and times of celebration; same things we did, too, in our Palos Verdes [club].”[56]

Doc was being typically modest in his comparison of the PVSC to other surf clubs.  The fact was that the Palos Verdes Surfing Club was more sophisticated and organized than any other club.  It’s organization would be impressive even compared to today’s standards.  Certainly, Doc’s photography played a large part in establishing the PVSC as the dominant surf club of the decade.[57]

“We also had, among the clubs,” Doc added, “the Catalina Island-to-Santa Monica Paddle Race.  It was on those [hollow Blake-style] 14-foot paddleboards.  Whew!  That was a long paddle, but [at least] it was a relay.”[58]  What Blake, Peterson and Burton had started had evidently continued.

Soon after forming, the Palos Verdes Surfing Club moved its headquarters into one of the rooms Doc rented.  A small room that separated the clubhouse from the dental office was Doc’s storeroom, bedroom and darkroom.[59]

“The interior of the club room,” reconstructed Gary from Doc’s personal photographs, “was elaborately decorated with photographs of all members with their boards, trophies won by club members, surfing paintings, a president’s desk with gavel, and a set of shark’s jaws that housed the club creed.”[60]
The Palos Verdes Surfing Club creed went like this:

I as a member of the Palos Verdes Surfing Club, Do solemnly swear:
“To be ever steadfast in my allegiance to the club and to its members,
“To respect and adhere to the aims and ideals set forth in its constitution,
“To cheerfully meet and accept my responsibilities hereby incurred,
“And at all times strive to conduct myself as a club member and a gentleman,
“So help me God.”[61]

For non-members, entrance into the PVSC club room was by invitation only.  The club had a sergeant-at-arms and no smoking was allowed in the club room.  “We forbid any cigarette smoking in the club,” Doc explained for me.  “There were some that did, though.  One was [Gene] Hornbeck and another was Jean [Depue].  They never did have any cigarettes when they came to the club, but once in a while, outside, you’d catch ‘em.  Finally, Jean – he tried to go out Hermosa Beach in the big surf and he couldn’t make it out; couldn’t punch through like the rest of us.  He ran out of breath.  That slew the cigarettes on his behalf; never touched ‘em again.”[62]

“The Palos Verdes club members were just regular guys,” remembered LeRoy Grannis of his own participation.  “We worked or went to school, and were pretty much on our own.  We were all like little animals.  Nobody had much or any money, so there was no incentive to go looking for places to spend money and have fun.  We just stayed on the beach and everybody was happy.  I was an apprentice carpenter for my dad, building houses along the oceanfront in Hermosa.  If the surf was good and my friend Hoppy Swarts came by, ready to go, and my dad wasn’t there, it was really hard for me to stay on the job.  Three days later I’d come back and my dad would be madder than hell.”[63]

The PVSC went on to organize paddling races, paddleboard water polo matches, and surfing contests.[64]  The club’s influence went far beyond Palos Verdes.  “When the surf was flat there in Southern Cal,” Doc said of the surf safaris club members would take and the PVSC influence on the rebirth of surfing in Santa Cruz, “we’d make these trips out around, up the coast and down.  One of them went up to Santa Cruz.  They’d not seen that activity (surfing) up there [before]!  Our guys were the ones who initiated it in Santa Cruz.”[65]

E.J. Oshier was the main PVSC guy to help get surfing going again in Santa Cruz.[66]

“The sport quickly took hold at Long Beach, Corona del Mar, San Onofre, Dana Point, and many Santa Monica Bay areas,” confirmed Duke Kahanamoku, “like Redondo, Hermosa, Manhattan and Palos Verdes Cove.  To thousands and thousands it has become a way of life.”[67]

In his limited edition California Surfriders, 1941 – later republished as California Surfriders and still in print – Doc documented “How All This Started.”  Below the title, the photo shows Doc “snapping one in the good old days when the camera was carried out by holding it between his teeth.  Towel was there just in case.”[68]  The photo below it, entitled “Straight Off,” featured “Paddleboards, hats and paddles, constituted the cove surfing gear back in 1934.”[69]

“Life was grand around the California beaches even though the Great Depression had drained the savings and expectations of many,” Gary Lynch wrote.  “For as little as $15-$25 one could build a hollow board or plank style surf board, sew a pair of swim trunks out of canvas and feel like a king at the beach.  When the swell was small, Palos Verdes Cove provided food as well as recreation for the surfers.  A number of interesting photographs taken by Doc demonstrate that a paddle board could be used as an abalone diving platform.  Green abalones were abundant and the limit was twenty a day.  Diving for abalone in combination with fishing made for a pleasant existence.  Driftwood still existed on the Southern California beaches and a warm fire often was the centerpiece for the daily gatherings.”[70]

One particular time stands out in Doc’s memory and it was less than pleasant.  “I was diving for abalones and every time I get down there – oh, about 8-feet of water – I had an abalone beneath a rock.  The thing was anchored there pretty solid.  Each time I’d get my iron in there to loosen him up, he’d get re-anchored.  I stayed down and stayed down – I plumb ran out of air!  Man, I began to black out and so I just dropped everything and came up and started to inhale a little water before I hit to where my surfboard was anchored up there.  I kinda flopped over onto the board and here comes this guy around the corner, at the Palos Verdes Cove.

“‘Hey, Doc – What’re you tryin’ ta do?  Drown yourself?!’

“Holy mackeral!  Then it hit me; what was happening.  That was a wild experience.

“I had another one, too, down diving like that when a big shadow come over the top.  I look up and there’s this great big – 6-7-foot, white belly – leopard shark came swimming across.  Holy cow!  I got outta there!”[71]

Up until Tom Blake began drilling holes in redwood boards in 1926,[72] surfboard size and weight had remained the same since early on in the 1800s.  Further innovations in surfboard design and components continued during Doc’s time.  By the time the PVSC was underway, Blake had already gone to chambered hollow boards that reduced the weight even further.

Blake’s “Hawaiian Hollow Board” – the board that had begun this period of innovation – became known more commonly as “Blake’s Cigar.”[73]  Even though it was nearly laughed off the beach at first, almost every surfer in California and the budding East Coast began turning in their old spruce pine and redwood planks for the lighter, “Blake-style” boards once he went to a chambered hollow design.  “The trend [in surfing] soon changed,” noted a surfside analyst of the late 1930s, “due to its [the hollow board’s] extreme lightness, strength, durability and the greater ease in gaining speed, with much less effort.”[74]

Delbert “Bud” Higgins, a Huntington Beach lifeguard of those times, described the solid boards during this period.  “The “redwoods were really too heavy, about 125 pounds, plus another 10 pounds or so when they got wet.”  Yet, Higgins, who was the first man to ride through the pilings of the Huntington Beach Pier while standing on his head, swore by the old boards, saying they were, “so big and stable [that] you could do almost anything.”[75]

It was true that compared to the heavier solid wood boards, hollow boards had more steering and stability problems.  The hollows tended to “slide tail” or “slide ass,” in large part because the rails were not rounded and caught water rather than released it.  Except for simple angle turns – accomplished either by dragging one’s foot “Hawaiian style” off a board’s inside rail, or by stepping back and tilt-dancing the board around and out of its old course and into a new one – the hollow boards were still awkward and cumbersome.[76]

This situation ended later on in the decade, thanks to superior construction techniques.  By then, even hollow board rails incorporated a rounded edge.  Also, although they would not completely be embraced until the 1940s, keels (skegs, bottom fins) on surfboards eventually were universally accepted.[77]

The fixed fin was invented by Blake in 1935 in an effort to solve the problem of the hollow board’s tendency to “slide ass.”[78]  The skeg allowed surfers to track and pivot more freely and gave the board more lateral stability.  As a result, terms like “dead ahead,” “slide ass,” “all together now, turn,” and “straight off, Adolph,” gradually faded from surfers’ vocabularies.[79]

By 1937, Doc’s reputation as a surf photographer was well established.  That year, he built his first waterproof camera housing.  The watertight “shoots box” housed Doc’s replacement for the Kodak folding Autographic – a stripped down Series D Graflex.  Not only could he get closer to his wave sliding buddies, but the images were clearer.[80]

“By that time,” Doc told me, “I made a water box. I got a stripped down Series D Graflex camera – 3 ¼ x 4 ¼ – and put a water box around it.  So, that way, you could open it up and make your shot and then shut it up real quick and it didn’t get all wet.”  Doc laughed.  “That thing really did work.  I got some terrific shots with it.”[81]

Doc’s water box had a large brass handle attached so that when he was caught inside, large sets would not wrest it from his grasp.  Although the Graflex was big and bulky compared to today’s camera bodies used for surf photography, it used large format cut sheet film – 3 ¼ X 4 ¼ – which made for sharp enlargements.[82]  “I traded the chief of photography in the Los Angeles fire department arson squad for one of my Graflex cameras,” Doc told Gary.  “I made him a three-unit gold inlaid bridge,” in exchange.[83]
In the late 1930s, Doc shot a small amount of 16mm movie film and, later on, some 8mm.  “I finally got rigged-up with a Keystone.  It was a 16mm.  Take that out on the board and I got – man, I just got pack after pack.  I’ve got it here in the house, all stored up… it’s got some wild stuff in there.”[84]

Doc didn’t pursue this aspect of his photography, but what he did shoot documents the heyday of prewar Southern California surfing.  The films, themselves, contain one very unique segment shot from a bi-winged airplane.  “During the aerial photography shoot,” Gary wrote, having seen the footage, himself, “Doc turns the camera on the pilot.  With his leather cap slapping in the wind, the pilot’s eyes grow wide from behind his goggles and a large grin appears on his startled face.  Other notable footage includes Martha Chapin, sister of pioneer surfer Gard Chapin, and step-aunt to Miki Dora.  Martha stands in front of an enlarged map of Los Angeles wearing an eye-catching swim suit.  Looking like a Hollywood film actress, she points out the way from Hollywood to Palos Verdes Estates.  This was a promotion device for the new Palos Verdes Estates subdivision.

On this rare footage is recorded both an astonishing look at what the surfer sees while sliding a comber and the first-known surfing snake.  While surfing with his hollow board – named ‘The Wonder Board’ because of its paddling and surfing qualities – Doc hand-held his 16mm camera while filming.  On the deck of the board, the Palos Verdes Surf Club logo is clearly visible along with Oscar the surfing gopher snake!  “With water splashing off the rails and ocean whizzing by, the club pet snake lies on the nose of the board, head and upper third of body erect, apparently enjoying the ride.”[85]

Doc had “The Wonder Board” during much of the 1930s and on into the 1940s.  Then, he had a Blake paddleboard that he would later regret trading for a skateboard.  Doc called the Blake paddleboard his “X-1.”  It was a chopped-down foam paddleboard originally shaped by Tom and Doc.[86]  “Dog-gone-it, I did the worst thing I’ve ever done when I traded my paddleboard [the X-1] – he [Blake] gave it to me after he left the country [for Hawai‘i].  I traded it to a Keith Newcomer, up here [in Northern California] for a skateboard.  It was really a good skateboard!”[87]

As for the original Wonder Board, it’s now in the hands of Doc’s old Palos Verdes Surfing Club member Tulie Clark.[88]

Demand for Doc’s photographs by fellow surfers, surfboard manufacturers, newspapers and magazines continued to grow.  “When arriving at distant surf breaks such as San Onofre,” Gary Lynch wrote, “Doc was besieged by the crowds, demanding a look at the most recent prints that he had produced in his small darkroom.  Amused by the interest (which at times became a burden), Doc on one occasion handed a group of young Nofre surfers his newest spiral bound photo book titled Beach Stuff and stepped back to record the image with his new Graflex camera.  The photograph that resulted still survives and clearly shows the enthusiasm of the group.  Piled head over head, shoulder to shoulder, everyone eagerly scanned the pages looking for that special image that would portray them as masters of the rolling comber.  ‘Obviously these boys were interested in surf photography,’ smiles Doc.  A surfing book with photographic illustrations was inevitable.  There was no way to satisfy demand without one.”[89]

The Los Angeles Times published many Doc Ball photographs.  “Doc became friends with many of the Times photographers and the newspaper often relied on Doc’s images when huge storm surf or surfing contests made news at the beaches.  His creative eye caught the imagination of many.  Eventually Doc’s photographs would find their way into Life magazine, Look magazine, Encyclopedia Britannica, news magazines and papers, art galleries, national and international photography competitions, surf board brochures, advertisements, documentaries, foreign publications, and National Geographic magazine.”[90]


Late 1930s


Surfing continued to gain in popularity, as demonstrated by not only surfing photographs making it into newspapers, but articles about surfing, as well.  One such recognition of the interest in wave sliding was a September 1936 newspaper article by Andy Hamilton entitled “Surfboards, Ahoy!”[91]

Doc documented notable big swell conditions the following year:

“This is Big Surf,” wrote and photographically documented Doc of March 13, 1937.  Pete Peterson “of Santa Monica” is identified riding the “wave of the day.”  Also featured: LeRoy Grannis and Jean Depue.[92]

“Pete Peterson – he was one of the big ones who could really paddle,” fondly recalled Doc.  “He was expert at taking gals up on his shoulders and everything and riding.  He was one of the big surfers in those days… He was a big wave rider.  He used to be able to cut across a wave almost like they do, now; get in the tunnel and get out; just an extraordinary surf hound.  That’s what we thought.”[93]

As for LeRoy “Granny” Grannis, aka “Scrobble Noggin,” he continued to be a close friend of Doc’s to the day Doc kicked out.  Most notably, Granny took up the photographic banner that Doc started and became one of surfing’s great photographers after Doc gave it up.  “He’d get shook up every once in a while,” explained Doc about LeRoy’s nickname of Scrobble Noggin, “and he’d get an ornery look on his face [at those times].”[94]

Later on in 1937, Doc documented more big surf, this time at Hermosa: “Twenty Footers Roll In” shows Doc, himself (“having deserted his Graflex”), on a big, sloping overheader on Turkey Day, 1937.  Another of Doc’s bro’s, Kay Murray was also out that day.[95]  “He was a big guy; an athletic instructor; taught classes on body building and exercising.”[96]

The following month, there was more big surf.  In “Storm Surf of December 12th, 1937,” Doc’s photo, “Taken during a drizzling mist... shows the cove in the throes of a zero break.  Johnny Gates vowed ‘he’d get a ride on one of those or else.’  Credit is hereby extended him that he did reach the half way point, only to be wiped out by a monstrous cleanup and forced to swim in through devastating currents, rocks, etc., to retrieve his battered redwood plank.  Purple hardly described his color when he finally got out of that freezing blast.”[97]

“Zero Break at Hermosa,” wrote Doc of the term used for maximum surf.  “Perhaps twice a year this remarkable surf will hump up a good half mile offshore and keep all ‘malihinis’ on the beach.  Strictly for the ‘kamaaina,’ this stuff comes upon one out there with a long steamy hiss, and fills him at first with the apprehensive thought of, ‘Mebe I better wait for the second one.’”[98]

That winter swell continued to crank out good sized surf.  January 7, 1938 was “The day when the newsreel boys came down to shoot the damage done by the big seas – packed up and left when we came out with our surfboards.”  Surfers identified: “Tulie” Clark, Hal Pearson, Al Holland, Adie Bayer and LeRoy Grannis.[99]

Tulie “was one of our big guys in the surfin’ club,” Doc said, laughing at the thought of his old friend.  “We got together a lot of times at Hermosa Beach… we’d always stack our boards all together in the back of my car or back ‘a his, or whatever, and take off for where we thought the surf was up!

“He was one of the guys… not poverty-stricken, but very down, financially, in his early days.  Everybody used to get after me about him: ‘What are you doing – a doctor! – messing around with those bums; those surf bums?!’  Holy cow; about flipped my lid!

“The guy winds up being a millionaire – got a big house down at Palos Verdes Estates; lives in Palm Springs.  He went from a ‘surf bum’ to a millionaire.”[100]


Multiple Methods


“Through the years,” Gary Lynch wrote, “Doc tried many methods of surf photography.  Holding the camera by hand, by teeth, strapped to body parts and surfboard, and shooting off piers and rocks, from airplanes and towers, automobiles and trees, from boats and rubber rafts and cliffs and caves, Doc tried to expand both perspective and perception in the minds of his viewers.  The main objective was to keep the camera dry while making exposures close enough to provide a large clear image on the negative.  Salt water, dust, sand, and bright sun light became intruders, always lurking close by and waiting for a chance to foul the shot.”[101]

“Doc also created surf posters using his photographs,” Gary wrote.  “These quality posters used the images of surfers and waves to beckon all who viewed them.  The majority of these posters announced that the Palos Verdes Surfing Club was holding a Hula Luau.  Hawaiian music, food and drink, female companionship, and of course, the newest surfing photographic images to leave the darkroom were the rewards if one attended the event.  These posters, photographically printed, one by one, by Doc, and ranging in size from wallet size (used to gain entrance to the event) to 8” X 10” posters, have become the rarest California surf posters for collectors to obtain.”[102]

A real rarity was a Doc Ball surf poster displayed in a place of business.  Such was the case with a Los Angeles night club called the Zamboanga.  “That was a place where they had one of my pictures in there,” Doc told me.  “They got excited about it.  I gave them a print and they had it blown up to a 5’ X 6’ or something like that and put it up on their wall.”[103]

The picture was of Jim Bailey and his cocker spaniel Rusty surfing together.  “A real friendly guy,” Doc remembered of Jim Bailey.  “He was one of our originals from Hermosa Beach.

“Movie gal gave him that dog,” Doc continued.  “Then, I got that picture of them out there at Palos Verdes.  They published that over in England and France and, son of a gun, the English guys were all over me about torturing that little dog.  That dog, [actually, would] about scratch your ears off trying to get on your board to go out and ride!”[104]

Gary Lynch continued his writing about Doc’s surf posters and even post cards: “Fine glossy photographically printed post cards that the Palos Verdes Drug Store published also boasted Doc Ball surfing images.  These post cards were sold inside the drug store to help promote the new subdivision being built in the area.  Action shots of surfers such as Hoppy Swarts or Tom Blake caught the eye of the customers as they passed by the post card rack, demonstrating the pleasures of beach life.”[105]

Doc had high praise for Hoppy Swarts.  “He was one of our big guys in the place [PVSC].  He’s the one who had that characteristic finger tips thing riding a board.  He’d have ‘em all stretched out.  You could tell who it was just by lookin’ at his hands while he was ridin’.  Yeah, he helped us organize the club… also judging on contests and all that kind of thing.  He was a graduate from Occidental College.  That’s where he was going when he got stuck on surfin’.”[106]

I asked Doc what was the most memorable moment he recalled of Hoppy.  “When I got [shot] him comin’ right, next to the pier, there.”  Doc laughed.  “Oh, he was real active… I always used to try and get him to grab one of those big waves out there cuz he could handle it pretty good.

“Those days, we had to steer with our feet; stick your foot in the water, either right or left, whichever way you wanted to turn.  He was an expert at that.”[107]

Doc Ball set himself apart from many surf photographers by shooting images of surf culture, along with actual wave riding.  A perfect example is a shot Doc made of the ‘Nofre crew still sleeping.  The caption read: “Six A.M. of a ‘flat’ day and everybody still in the bag.  Had the surf been humping they probably would have stayed up all night.”[108]  “When it was good down there,” Doc told me, “you couldn’t deny.  You could go in and stay all night on the beach.  Now, you gotta pay a fee and can’t [even] sleep on the beach.  If it was good on the weekend, why, that was it!”[109]

He shot night time photos, too, like the night of April 9, 1939, around a bonfire: “Super surf… kept the boys in the water til dark.  Tired but surf satiated they are seen warming up here prior to carrying their waterlogged planks up the trail.”[110]  Another shot showed a “Pre-war device for warming up in a hurry what gets coldest while shooting these pictures,” showed a surfer – none other than Doc, himself – squatting over a small burning tire on the beach.[111]

I asked Doc about music.  “What were you guys into?”

“If anything,” he replied, “they had a guitar or ukelele [for surfaris at the beach].  In our surfing club, whenever we’d have one of our [more formal] get-togethers, we’d hire a band from Hollywood.  They’d come over and do the dance music.”[112]

“What kind of roles did women have in surfing, in those days?”

“Mostly, if they had a boyfriend in it [surfing], they’d come down and eventually they’d say, ‘Hey, let’s get out in the water together.’  So, they’d have a tandem ride and finally started to get in the real deal.”[113]

Tandem riding was a common sight, particularly at San O.  In “Tandem Rides Are Popular With the Boys,” Doc Ball showed a picture of “Benny Merrill and wahini slicing along neat as anything.  Most of the female sex, however,” Doc noted in 1946, “prefer to sit on the beach.”[114]

Some of the notable exceptions to the “sit on the beach” mode for women were Mary Ann Hawkins and Ethal Harrison, at Corona del Mar.  Mary Ann Hawkins was an outstanding woman surfer of the 1930s.  Ethal Harrison later won the Makaha Championship in 1955.[115]  Of Mary Ann Hawkins, Doc attested: “She was one of the first surfers down there at Palos Verdes Cove.  She was a friend of E.J. Oshier, at the time, and he got her into the water there.  She got excited.  Then she was about to get a job with the movies, but she needed a portrait or photograph, so I took a picture of her down on the rocks, there, in her bathing suit at Palos Verdes and she got the job.”[116]

Patty Godsave and Marion Cook were two other early California woman surfers.  Patty Godsave, Doc recalled, “used to ride tandem with one of the guys, either Pete Peterson or E.J. Oshier.”  Marion Cook: “I don’t remember too much about her.  We called her Cookie.”[117]


WW II and After


On April 19, 1941, less than a year before the United States entered the war, Doc married Evelyn Young, an attractive registered nurse.  Their first child Norman was born in 1942 and their second child John Jr. followed in 1943.[118]

“When the United States declared war in December 1941,” wrote Gary Lynch, “it broke the back of the California surfers’ life-style.  The California surf clubs disbanded and almost every able-bodied man enlisted in the armed services.  Many of the fascinating personalities of the 1930s would never be seen again.  The war took some of the best men surfing had to offer, leaving a trail of waste and broken dreams.  If not for the persistent efforts of Doc with his camera we may never have known what the life and times of the first wave of California surfers was like.”[119]

World War II certainly “Shut it out for a while,” Doc agreed.  He, himself, joined the Coast Guard and became ship’s dentist on the U.S.S. General Hugh Scott, AP136.  “His photographic skills soon became known,” Gary wrote, “and he was given a new Speed Graphic camera.  As the official ship’s photographer he photographed much of the South Pacific.”[120]

“During September 1944,” Doc recalled a memorable moment during the war, “I got a big surprise.  While I was out on the South Pacific someone said the new issue of National Geographic had my surfing photographs in it.  Sure enough, there they were.”[121]

Doc credits Owen Churchill for helping provide some enjoyment during those war years, through his invention of the Churchill swim fins.  “He was the one that did it,” Doc told me when I asked him if it was Frank Roedecker or Churchill who first invented the swim fin.  “He [Churchill] came over here during World War II and I got acquainted with the guy.  I got a couple of original fins from him.”  He invented the swim fin “just before World War II,” Doc added, saying, “I think he was more of a diver than a surfer.  He was of French origin, I believe… We’d take ‘em [swim fins] aboard ship.  When I’d get out into that hot water of the South Pacific, why, I’d go diving and swimming and riding a wave or two; body surfin’.  They were somethin’ else!”[122]

After the war, “It just kinda exploded, again,” Doc said about Southern California surfing.  “Guys’d get back and they’d been hungry for surf.  It’d come natural that you’d want to get back… The ones who survived – we had an outlet and surf was it.”

“Thank goodness for that,” I said.

“You better believe it,” Doc affirmed.[123]

Surfer servicemen “started coming back in late ‘45 and early ‘46,” also recalled Duke Kahanamoku.  With their return, “surfing once again took an upturn,” not just in Southern California.  “But it was slow, for the military returnees were occupied with finding jobs or returning to their interrupted education chores.”[124]

“… when the war ended – Boom – we were back in the environment,” confirmed 1940s surfer Dave Rochlen.  “It was devotion, like seeing a girl again… like, ‘I’m never gonna leave!’  We gave ourselves over to it entirely.  I think it was because we spent four or five years in the war and we had survived.  And it had all been bad.  Now there was no question about what had us by the throat.  It was the ocean.  Everything else was secondary.”[125]

Doc and his brood was just one of many families to regroup and attempt to restart life where it had ended in 1941.  Doc opened a dental office in Hermosa Beach and, rejoining his wife Evelyn, concentrated on raising their two sons, “Norman (man of the sea) and John (God has been gracious).”[126]

It didn’t take Doc long to get back to his surf photography, either.  “Demand was still so great for Doc’s surfing photographs,” Gary Lynch wrote, “that he published the book, California Surfriders 1946.  The idea behind this was to satisfy the California surfers, giving many a portrait in the book as well as showing the major surfing locations.”  California Surfriders 1946 was first published in a limited edition of 510.  “Original cost for the first edition,” Gary noted, “was $7.25 a book.  Doc kept a complete and detailed list of who bought his book.  This list still survives and provides an astonishing array of Who’s Who in the world of California surfing.  Names only hard core surf historians would recognize such as Bob French and Jamison Handy to other more familiar names like Preston Peterson and Peanuts Larsen fill the pages.”[127]

“Oh, Peanuts!” Doc livened up even more than he normally did at the mention of Peanuts Larsen.  “He was one of the main ones down at San Onofre [before the war].  He lived in Laguna Beach, at that time, so he went to surf down at San Onofre and any time it looked good at Laguna.  That son-of-a-gun – I loaned him some stuff to publish and he never gave it back!  Well, I forgave him for that.  Old Peanuts – he was quite a guy.”[128]

Eventually, the fifth and final edition of California Surfriders 1946 published by Doc went out of circulation.  Ventura’s Jim Feuling copied the original and published Early California Surfriders in 1995.[129]  The images used for this latest edition were shot from the pages of Doc’s first edition and then enhanced by computer.[130]

“He did that without my permission,” Doc admitted to me with a laugh.  “That’s a classic.  It’s patented.  So, I told him as much as he’d printed it, we needed to get the message out for surfers, anyway, and keep it going [knowledge of the California surf heritage].  And, so I said, ‘I won’t sue ya or anything.’  So, he sends me a royalty, now.”[131]  That kind of reaction, on Doc’s part, was typical of the man.  As surf historian Gary Lynch put it, Doc was the quintessential “troubadour of good will.”[132]

“By the mid 1940s,” Gary wrote, “Doc Ball’s photographs had been published world wide.  National Geographic (September 1944), Encyclopedia Britannica (1952), photography magazines, news magazines, art galleries, and newspapers were among the places a Doc Ball photograph could be found.”[133]

An image Doc labeled as “The Mighty Ski Jump Roars in – December 22, 1940” showcases one of the best surf days of the year.  “Al Holland, Oshier, Grannis and Bayer riding the 30-foot grinders that arrive here on an average of twice a year and rattle windows over a mile inland with their heavy concussion.”  Doc, writing in 1946 in the third person, added, “This picture published in an Australian magazine, made its appearance in far away Noumea, New Caledonia.  Was discovered there by a very surprised Doc Ball.”[134]


Northern California


“In 1950,” surf writer Gary Lynch wrote, “Doc was almost killed when he drove his new Ford Woody into a eucalyptus tree.  It was during this period that Doc first received and followed Christ.”[135]  “Which caused me to start bible reading, cover to cover – my first time ever – because I had a vision, you might say, of me standing before the Judgement Seat of our Maker and He asking me, ‘Doc, did you read my book while you were down there?’  Having no sort of excuse, I just flipped and reading cover to cover began.  Took one full year to midnight the last day, but I finished the job.”[136]

“In 1953, the pressure from the Southern California population explosion resulted in the Ball family’s exodus to Garberville, Northern California, where he opened up a new dental office.”[137]  “Plus, the words of the Book [Bible], Genesis 12:1.  Also, the surfing at Shelter Cove [close by] attracted me.”[138]  Although he was now in Northern California and inland, “This move,” Gary wrote, “provided him with a more peaceful environment in which to live and work.”[139]

When he made the move, Doc had a chance to surf with his long-time surfing pal Johnny Kerwin at Shelter Cove, 18 miles from Garberville.  “We were spoken of as being the very first ever seen doing that in the Cove,” Doc recalled.[140]  “They had a Shelter Cove Surf Club, there.  They had a room – a kind of shack – right on the beach where you could go in and get your clothes changed; get your swimsuit on and get out in the water.”[141]  The 1953 surf session with Johnny Kerwin remained a special memory to Doc.  When asked about his surfing life overall, Doc always mentioned it.[142]  “Kerwin came to visit us in our new location,” Doc explained to me, “and he brought two boards along with him.”[143]

Photographic tragedy struck in 1964 when Doc Ball’s photo collection, film archives, and historical material was swept away in a devastating flood.  Yet, because Doc gave copies of most of his images away – approximately 900 of them – it would be entirely possible for someone to, with the cooperation of the Ball Family, reconstruct Doc’s archives by copying Doc Ball photos from the collections of others.[144]  We can only hope that that someday occurs.

Doc’s friendships through his life changes never altered.  He and his friends would still make time to hang together.  After “we moved north – Tom Blake lived on the East Coast, up there in Minnesota I think it was – he used to come out West,” Doc told me, “and just come out and have some fun with the surfers and get re-acquainted again.  Every time he’d come up, why, he’d stop here at our place.  We’d keep him overnight a couple of days or so.”[145]

After Blake had written Hawaiian Surfriders 1935 (aka Hawaiian Surfboard), “he gave me the last copy he had on that and then every time he’d come by, he’d sign it, again, with the date he’d visited with us; kind of a treasure, there.”[146]

I asked him when Blake, who died in 1993, visited him for the last time.

“That’s a hard one,” he admitted.  “It was after 1971, anyway.  We moved to Eureka, here in ‘71 and we kept him over in the place here.”

I asked if Blake surfed at that time.

“I don’t think so.  He might have gone in a little down at Shelter Cove.  The water’s warmer down there, but he was getting pretty up in the age, then.  Wow, what a guy!”[147]

In 1971, Doc retired from dentistry and moved his family back closer to the beach, to Eureka, remaining in Northern California.  “With more time to spend on hobbies,” Gary wrote, “Doc soon became infatuated with bird carving.  A combination of skillful maneuvering of his hands and fingers in the dental trade, and a life long love of birds, has produced one of the West Coast’s finest bird carvers.”[148]

I asked Doc when it was that he stopped photographing.

“I guess when I lost my camera,” Doc replied.  “I went out, one day, up here, at Eureka.  I was going to the North Jetty cuz the surf was huge out there that day.  I took my camera – Grannis gave me a Nikon camera with a – it had a great big telephoto lens.  I rushed out to my truck, there, set the thing down on my rear bumper and rushed back to the house – I’d forgotten something – went and got that, got back in the truck and took off.  I got to the North Jetty and reached for the camera box and nothing was there.  That thing just spilled off somewhere.  I’ve never heard anything about it…”[149]

“I got one here; one of the last ones I ever got with that telephoto. Patrick Edgar out at the North Jetty.  There was this great big – must’ve been a 22 or 23-foot big ole overhang comin’ down; soup on both sides.  It was obvious he was gonna get the axe.  I call it ‘Neptune’s Breakfast.’”[150]

Doc was still surfing shortly up to the time of his passing, but his real exercise in his last years was skateboarding.  “That’s how I stay in shape,” Doc declared, proudly.  “You gotta keep your reflexes sharpened up.  That’s one of the best ways to find out how old you’re getting.”[151]

For 18 years, Doc did the local surf report.  More importantly, he wanted to share the Christian experience with others, so he served in Gideons International.  Because of that, Doc regularly visited “churches, community organizations, care homes and schools, helping to provide both young and old with a positive direction and a meaningful future.”[152]

Doc Ball remained a dedicated beachcomber.  Every morning at daybreak he could be found at water’s edge, checking the tides and swells.  Beach combing also provided him with a supply of driftwood perches and body parts for his hobby of bird carving.[153]  “Latest rage,” Doc wrote me in reviewing the draft of an article Gary Lynch and I wrote about his life, “is knife cleaning up of common driftwood.  It’s amazing what images will appear when it’s cleaned and developed – knifed down to the original stuff.  It is full of very fascinating images.  It also makes the clock go like lightening.”[154]

“There was always an exciting ending with each visit to the Ball residence,” Gary Lynch recalled.  “As you depart, you get into your car and start to pull away from his home.  A glance back at the front porch reveals a smiling Doc giving you the ‘thumbs up’ and yelling, ‘Hang in there!’  Returning the gesture, you feel privileged he has given you his blessing to enjoy surfing, and most of all, to keep the tradition alive.”[155]

On December 5th, 2001, at 1:02 am – at age 94 – Doc “caught and rode his last wave into the waiting arms of his beloved Savior, Jesus Christ,” read his obituary in the Eureka Times Standard, “thus ending a legendary and inspirational life here among us and beginning a new, wonderful one in Heaven.”[156]

Doc Ball gave his own kind of obituary when he quoted in ending his classic California Surfriders 1946 – aka Early California Surfriders:

“When Old King Neptune’s raising Hell
And the breakers roll sky high,
Let’s drink to those who can ride that stuff
And to the rest who are willing to try.”[157]



[1] Eureka Times Standard, December 7, 2001; obituary.
[2] Gault-Williams, Malcolm and Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball: Through The Master’s Eye,” ©1998 Longboard Magazine, Volume 6, Number 4, August 1998.  Base material for this chapter.
[3] Lynch, Gary.  “Biograhical Sketch of Dr. John Heath Ball,” February 2, 1989 and Lynch, Gary, “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[4] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[5] Ball, John “Doc.”  Notes to the draft, May 19-21, 1998.
[6] Lynch, Gary.  “Biograhical Sketch of Dr. John Heath Ball,” February 2, 1989 and Lynch, Gary, “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[7] Lynch, Gary.  “Biograhical Sketch of Dr. John Heath Ball,” February 2, 1989.
[8] Ball, John “Doc.”  Notes to the draft, May 19-21, 1998.
[9] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[10] Ball, John “Doc.”  Notes to the draft, May 19-21, 1998.
[11] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[12] Lynch, Gary.  “Biograhical Sketch of Dr. John Heath Ball,” February 2, 1989.
[13] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[14] Lynch, Gary.  “Biograhical Sketch of Dr. John Heath Ball,” February 2, 1989.
[15] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.  Of Norm Brown, Doc said, “He was one of our best buddies down there.”  When they got hungry, they hit Norm’s family’s restaurant.  See also Ball, John “Doc,” Notes to the draft, May 19-21, 1998.
[16] Ball, John “Doc.”  Notes to the draft, May 19-21, 1998.
[17] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[18] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[19] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.  “Keeper of the flame” is how Gary put it.
[20] Ball, John “Doc.”  Notes to the draft, May 19-21, 1998.
[21] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[22] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[23] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[24] Ball, John “Doc.” Notes to the draft, May 19-21, 1998.
[25] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[26] Gault-Williams, Malcolm. “Tom Blake and The Hollows,” Longboard, Volume 3, Number 3, August/September 1995.
[27] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[28] Ehlers, Charles (“Chuck A Luck”).  “Log Jam 1922,” The Surfer’s Journal, Volume 1, Number 2, May 1992.
[29] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.  Also Doc’s Notes to the draft, May 19-21, 1998.
[30] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[31] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[32] Grun, ©1991, p. 449.
[33] Source unknown.  See Gault-Williams, “The Revival.”
[34] Smith, Joel T. and Hall, Sandra Kimberly.  “A. R. Gurrey Jr.: The Genesis of Surf Photography,” The Surfer’s Journal, ©2005, Volume 14, Number 2, April-May 2005, pp. 52-53.  Honolulu Commercial Advertiser of March 26, 1928 quoted.  See also Gault-Williams, LEGENDARY SURFERS Volume 2: Early 20th Century Surfing and Tom Blake.
[35] Mid-Pacific Magazine, January and February issues, 1911.
[36] Smith, Joel T. and Hall, Sandra Kimberly.  “A. R. Gurrey Jr.: The Genesis of Surf Photography,” The Surfer’s Journal, ©2005, Volume 14, Number 2, April-May 2005, pp. 54-55.
[37]  Lynch, Gary.  Notes on draft of Doc Ball, Early California Surf Photog, May 1998.  Dr. Don James kicked-out in 1997.
[38] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[39] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[40] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[41] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.  Rotogravure (roh-toh-gra-vyoor) is a photogravure printed on a rotary machine.  A photogravure (foh-toh-gra-vyoor) is a picture produced from a photographic negative that has been transferred to a metal plate and etched in.
[42] Lynch, Gary.  “Biograhical Sketch of Dr. John Heath Ball,” February 2, 1989.
[43] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[44] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[45] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.  Also Doc’s Notes on the Draft, May 19-21, 1998.  There was a waiting room, office, laboratory, darkroom, large room (PVSC room) and toilet.
[46] Lynch, Gary.  Notes on draft of Doc Ball, Early California Surf Photog, May 1998.
[47] Lynch, Gary.  “Biograhical Sketch of Dr. John Heath Ball,” February 2, 1989.
[48] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[49] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[50] Lynch, Gary.  Notes on draft of Doc Ball, Early California Surf Photog, May 1998.
[51] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[52] The Santa Ana Daily Register, July 31, 1928.  See Lueras, 1984, p. 107.
[53] Ehlers, Charles (“Chuck A Luck”).  “Log Jam 1922,” The Surfer’s Journal, Volume 1, Number 2, May 1992, p. 46; classic photos.
[54] Ehlers, 1992, p. 46.
[55] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[56] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[57] Lynch, Gary.  Notes on draft of Doc Ball, Early California Surf Photog, May 1998.
[58] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[59] Lynch, Gary.  “Biograhical Sketch of Dr. John Heath Ball,” February 2, 1989.
[60] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[61] Palos Verdes Surfing Club Creed documented in Lynch, Gary, “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[62] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.  See Also Doc’s Notes on the Draft, May 19-21, 1998.
[63] Rensin, David.  All For A Few Perfect Waves: The Audacious Life and Legend of Rebel Surfer Miki Dora, ©2008, p. 36.  LeRoy Grannis quoted.
[64] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[65] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.  Actually, this was the rebirth of surfing in Santa Cruz, as Santa Cruz had been the very first place surfing had started on the U.S. Mainland in the late 1800s.  See Gault-Williams, LEGENDARY SURFERS Volume 1: 2500 B.C. to 1910 A.D., ©2005.
[66] Lynch, Gary.  Notes on draft of Doc Ball, Early California Surf Photog, May 1998.  See also Gault-Williams, “E.J. Oshier: Living the Life,” ©2003.
[67] Kahanamoku, Duke (1890-1968).  World of Surfing, ©1968, by Duke Kahanamoku with Joe Brennan, Grosset & Dunlap, New York, p. 37.
[68] Ball, 1946, 1979, 1995, pp. 44-45.  “He has since [1937] devised a waterproof job which he calls the ‘Waterbox.’  It’s a stripdown Graflex in a watertight case.”
[69] Ball, 1946, 1979, 1995, pp. 44-45.
[70] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[71] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[72] Lynch, Gary.  Notes on draft of Doc Ball, Early California Surf Photog, May 1998.
[73] Lynch, Gary.  Notes on draft of Doc Ball, Early California Surf Photog, May 1998.  “Only his first racing paddleboard was called that,” Gary wrote.
[74] Lueras, 1984, p. 107.  “… a surfside analyst of the late 1930s” quoted.
[75] Lueras, 1984, p. 107.  Quotes Los Angeles Times article by Jack Boettner, late 1970s/early 1980s.
[76] Lueras, 1984, p. 107.
[77] Lynch, Gary.  Notes on draft of Doc Ball, Early California Surf Photog, May 1998.  See also the definitive Blake biography: TOM BLAKE: The Uncommon Journey of a Pioneer Waterman, ©2001.
[78] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  “Woody Brown: Pilot, Surfer, Sailor,” Volume 1 of LEGENDARY SURFERS.  Based on interviews, November 22, 1994.
[79] Lueras, 1984, p. 107 and 109.
[80] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.  See also Lynch, Gary.  “Biograhical Sketch of Dr. John Heath Ball,” February 2, 1989.
[81] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[82] Ball, John “Doc.”  Notes to the draft, May 19-21, 1998.
[83] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[84] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[85] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[86] Lynch, Gary.  Notes on draft of Doc Ball, Early California Surf Photog, May 1998.
[87] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.  14-feet long, plywood covering foam.  Also Doc’s Notes on the Draft, May 19-21, 1998.
[88] Lynch, Gary.  Notes on draft of Doc Ball, Early California Surf Photog, May 1998.  Gary verified the correct spelling of “Tulie” (not “Tule”).  “I have his autograph,” Gary wrote me, “this is how he spells it.”
[89] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[90] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[91] Ball, 1946, 1979, 1995, pp. 48-49.  See also Ehlers, 1992, p. 47.  “September 1936,” remembered Chuck A Luck of the landmark moment in SoCal publishing, “Surfing made the Brown Section (Rotogravure) in the L.A. Times.”
[92] Ball, 1946, 1979, 1995, pp. 42-43.
[93] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[94] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[95] Ball, 1946, 1979, 1995, pp. 26-27.  Kay Murray and his wife used to visit the Balls in Northern California on up to Doc’s passing.  “He’s into square dancing, now,” Doc told me when I interviewed him in 1998.  “He and his wife go all over the United States where they have these square dance clubs.”
[96] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.  Also Doc’s Notes on the Draft, May 19-21, 1998.
[97] Ball, 1946, 1979, 1995, pp. 50-51.  “We’re in contact, now, with Johnny,” Doc told me in 1998.  “He just wrote me a neat letter; he and his wife Shirley.  They’re still goin’.  He gets in the water whenever he can, [but] we’re all getting’ old! (laughs)”
[98] Ball, 1946, 1979, 1995, pp. 28-29.  Possibly December 16, 1937.  Mali-hini = stranger, foreigner, newcomer, tourist, guest, company; one unfamiliar with a place or custom. Kama‘aina = native-born, one born in a place, host, acquainted, familiar.
[99] Ball, 1946, 1979, 1995, pp. 20-21.
[100] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.  Steve Pezman told me he made his money in real estate and lived in Palm Springs.
[101] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[102] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[103] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.  See also Ball, 1946, p. 55, where he wrote:  “So captured by this picture was Joe Chastek, owner of the Los Angeles night club ‘Zamboanga,’ that he immediately procured a copy and had a 3 by 5-feet enlargement made for the adornment of his bar.” The poster grew with time.
[104] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.  Note water-sled shaped board.
[105] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[106] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[107] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[108] Ball, 1946, 1979, 1995, pp. 82-83.  “Down at San Onofre,” Doc told me, “we used to have sea lions would come.  I had those things surfin’ right beside me… hard to believe, but that was in those days when everything was going real good – early ‘30s.”
[109] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[110] Ball, 1946, 1979, 1995, pp. 60-61.
[111] Ball, 1946, 1979, 1995, pp. 56-57.  Also Doc’s Notes on the Draft, May 19-21, 1998.
[112] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.  See also Ball, 1946, 1979, 1995, pp. 82-83:  “A couple of guitars and a ‘uke’ will always draw a crowd.”  Gary said E.J. Oshier was one of their main musicians (May 1998).
[113] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[114] Ball, 1946, 1979, 1995, pp. 84-85.
[115] Lynch, Gary.  Notes on draft of Doc Ball, Early California Surf Photog, May 1998.  Gary thinks Ethal Harrison may have won the Makaha Championship twice.
[116] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.  Mary Ann Hawkins was later married to Bud Morrisey for a while.
[117] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[118] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[119] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[120] Lynch, Gary.  “Biograhical Sketch of Dr. John Heath Ball,” February 2, 1989.  See also Gault-Williams.  Doc was very specific on the vessel number.  He said he’d never forget it: U.S.S. General Hugh Scott AP136.
[121] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.  Doc Ball quoted.
[122] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[123] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[124] Kahanamoku, 1968, p. 45.
[125] John Grissim, Pure Stoke, 1982, p. 20.  Dave Rochlen quoted.
[126] Lynch, Gary.  “Biograhical Sketch of Dr. John Heath Ball,” February 2, 1989.  Also Doc’s Notes on the Draft, May 19-21, 1998.
[127] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.  In his Notes on the Draft to this chapter, Doc noted about the $7.25 price: “hardback, yet!”
[128] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[129] Ball, John “Doc”.  Early California Surfriders, 1995, reissued California Surfriders 1946, 1946, 1979.  Published by Jim Feuling, 1995, Pacific Publishing, 2521 Palma Drive, Ventura, California 93003.
[130] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Surfing, Volume 32, Number 10, October 1996, p. 64.  Book review.
[131] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[132] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[133] Lynch, Gary.  “Biograhical Sketch of Dr. John Heath Ball,” February 2, 1989.
[134] Ball, 1946, 1979, 1995, pp. 52-53.
[135] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[136] Ball, John “Doc.”  Notes to the draft, May 19-21, 1998.
[137] Lynch, Gary.  “Biograhical Sketch of Dr. John Heath Ball,” February 2, 1989.
[138] Ball, John “Doc.”  Notes to the draft, May 19-21, 1998.
[139] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[140] Ball, John “Doc.”  Notes to the draft, May 19-21, 1998.
[141] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[142] Lynch, Gary.  “Biograhical Sketch of Dr. John Heath Ball,” February 2, 1989.
[143] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[144] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.  See also Lynch, Gary, “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.  Much of the location work has been done, already, by Gary Lynch.  Unfortunately, the Ball Family has not shown an interest in pursuing such a project either directly or through proxy.
[145] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[146] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[147] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[148] Lynch, Gary.  “Biograhical Sketch of Dr. John Heath Ball,” February 2, 1989.
[149] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[150] Gault-Williams, Malcolm and Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball: Through The Master’s Eye,” ©1998 Longboard Magazine, Volume 6, Number 4, August 1998.  Base material for this chapter.
[151] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[152] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.  See also Lynch, Gary.  “Biograhical Sketch of Dr. John Heath Ball,” February 2, 1989.
[153] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[154] Ball, John “Doc.”  Notes to the draft, May 19-21, 1998.
[155] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[156] Eureka Times Standard, December 7, 2001.  Obituary.
[157] Ball, John “Doc”.  California Surfriders 1946, 1946, 1979, p. 1.

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