Sunday, July 09, 2006


Legendary Surfer Alonzo "Al" Wiemers has passed on.

The following are emails from Al's friend L.D. Freitas and his son-in-law Daniel Sampson that tell about Alonzo and his contributions:

Hello Mr. Gault-Williams, 

 I recently doscovered your blog on legendary surfers and have found it to be a very nice piece of work. I especialy enjoyed reading the Buzzy Trent piece, as he is somebody I heard a lot about over the years from my father-in-law, Alonzo Wiemers. Alonzo passed away earlier this week, and I have been looking for places to post this info, and maybe a quick bio for those interested. He was one of the early Makaha/North Shore crew in the early 50's, before Greg Noll et al. showed up, but he pretty much gave up surfing for family when his oldest daughter Laura was born in 1957. I was wondering if you couldn't post a quick note and link to an article in our local paper that was published today. Many thanks... Regards, Daniel Sampson

Al Wiemers passed away at age 79 on July 3rd in Santa Cruz. Noted for dropping out of high school at age 15 when the US entered World War Two and serving in an Underwater Demolition Unit in the Pacific Theatre. Played football at San Jose State in the late 40's, also on the boxing team. Got involved in surfing when he saw surfers at Cowell's in Sant Cruz on a day trip "over the hill" from San Jose. Joined the Marines during the Korean War and served in Japan and Hawaii, where he met Millie, his future wife of forty-nine years and mother of his three daughters. In Hawaii he became part of the group of surfers with Van Dyke, Trent and others who pioneered riding Sunset and Makaha. Al told me he had a 10' balsa at the time. Back in Santa Cruz later in the 50's he worked for the Santa Cruz City Lifeguards during the summers, and completing his education, began to teach first in Watsonville, then in the San Lorenzo Valley area, and for many years at Santa Cruz High, finally ending his teaching career in the late 70's at Soquel High, retiring in January of 1987. He taught history and coached football, swimming, and water polo. Al was about 5'10 or so, and heavy set, as he had been a guard in his football playing days. He also played some rugby for the Peninsula Ramblers in the 50's. He loved to read books, especially about politics and wars, and seemed to know something about everything, like gardening. Politically he was left of center, a Democrat, but he'd rather talk about the San Francisco 49ers, or "talk story" about someone like Buzzy Trent or Fred Van Dyke. James Houston, the author of "A Native Son of the Golden West" based one of his characters on Alonzo in that novel, as James had befriended and studied with him at San Jose State, and had also been to Hawaii in the mid-50's as part of that group of California surf pioneers. Houston also chronicled an incident in another of his books when he pledges at the SAE fraternity, and Wiemers was one of the brothers in charge of the initiation proceedings. Fred Van Dyke mentions Al and some beach pranks in Santa Cruz in one of his autobiographies. Peter Van Dyke, Richard Novak, and Johnny Rice were people Al would like to visit and spend some time with in his last decades, driving about Aptos and Pleasure Point in his old Chevy Malibu pickup, stopping off at Pleasure Point Cafe for breakfast and coffee. He and his family lived in Rio Del Mar and later the Aptos hills, where he built a home virtually from scratch. Al became mostly a body surfer, and in his last years when he still could, would drive down to nearby Seacliff State Beach, pull on his Churchills, and go for a swim and "take some drops" in the shorebreak. * * * L.D. Freitas Aptos, California 95003 (831)688-9206 I've surfed in the Santa Cruz area for about thirty years now, and got to know Wiemers about twenty years ago. I consider myself lucky to have heard so many of his stories about surfing. If I could relate something of the dry humor and ability to make comments that were funny, one of the last times I talked to Al was just after John Brodie, the 49ers quarterback from '57-'73, had a stroke back a few years ago. I asked Al if he heard that Brodie had had a stroke (Al knew some of the 49ers from that era, and had another time related a story that Brodie liked to come down to Santa Cruz in the off season and fish at the municipal pier). Al replied no. About ten seconds elapsed, in which I knew Al was thinking of some sort of reply. "He probably has really good health insurance" was what Al said then. Freitas

There is a picture "of Alonzo and his crew when he was captain of the Santa Cruz lifeguards in the late 50's(?), taken on Cowell's Beach in Santa Cruz. The guy on the left of Alonzo is Al Mitchell, for whom the Santa Cruz surf spot "Mitchell's Cove" is named, and the guy at the wheel is Dick Bender, the guy quoted in the Santa Cruz Sentinel article. It's a real testament to the man that he was still friends and in touch with many of these guys, and his earlier surf friends, over four decades later. "Another interesting point is that when Alonzo was surfing in Santa Cruz in the 50's, he and a few of his buddies had Pleasure Point all to themselves. I don't know how familiar you are with the surf in this town, but these guys had so much perfect surf to themselves that they didn't even realize places like "The Hook", just down from Pleasure Point, were worth paddling out to. Nowadays "The Hook" might have 50-100 surfers out on a good day. For awhile Alonzo lived in little gully at Pleasure Point, right next to where Jack O'Neill eventually built his house, and had a newspaper and milk delivered there to his cot, while he was attending classes at San Jose State. "He also has been credited with being the first to surf some of the wild coast spots north of Santa Cruz. He was always going up there to dive for abalone and knew that stretch of coast better than most. Now, of course, some of those spots are recognized for having some great, hollow surf, and it's where most of the Mavericks crew got their training in cold, thick, ledgy waves with pitching takeoffs and high abundance of Great White Sharks." - D.S.


  1. I was a student of Al's at Santa
    Cruz High. It was a black history
    class and Al was the sponsor.
    We became great friends. One thing
    he told me, when I was into the
    revoultion of "68 was "Cut out the
    hip rhetoric." It stuck with me forever. I visited Al in May while
    he was in a nursing home in Watsonville. I gave Al a t-shirt
    with the rhetoric. Al got a little
    smile on and laughed. He was a terrific guy and a wonderful teacher. I'll miss him. George Myers.

  2. As a born and raised Santa Cruz surfer, all I can say is "wow" and "thank you". This is one of the best blogs I have found on the internet. I will be sure to check back often. Please keep up this incredible historical work.

  3. Weimers was my Santa Cruz High swim coach, & trained me (I still do) laps under water, for an hour workout. "Young Dunham, this will save your life some day." He had the foresight that I would gravitate to Hawaii & surf big waves as he, and yeah it saved me! I also lettered varsity at 15 (1965)..It was nice re-connecting with him a number of years ago, and we would do lunch. Great guy!!...Larry "Bones" Dunham


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