Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Cal Porter (1924-2019)

Malibu's first lifeguard Cal Porter passed on in June 2019.

His writings are still online at: County Recurrent:

Here's a brief intro Cal wrote about himself:

"I grew up on the beach, and the beach and ocean have been a major influence on my entire life and continue to be. I have always lived where I could see the ocean, the first part of my life in Playa del Rey and for the last 60 years in Malibu. I have found that I can never be away from the beach and ocean for any great length of time. I miss them, my mind dwells on them when I am gone, their magnet draws me back. There is a feeling you get when the surf is up or the water is crystal clear. You want to be out there, you have to be out there, you cannot wait. Other surfers know this feeling. And after, when you come out of the water, happy but cold, and the bright sunshine gradually warms your body, it is the moment of truth. I need to be in the water. I have been in the ocean since I was a baby. You can swim in it, you can surf and dive in it, you can fish in it, you can play in it, you can sail on it, and you can just be near it and sit on the beach, it’s all good.

"I surfed at an early age. I had older brothers, and we had surfboards of one kind or another before I was five years old. I’ve surfed all my life. I’ve bodysurfed all my life. I dived for lobster and abalone and fish for dinner, and I sold them to restaurants and fish markets. I had a small fishing boat and fished commercially. I taught swimming. When I was old enough I became a lifeguard so that I could earn a living and still be on the beach and in the water. Lifeguarding put me through college and graduate school. I became a teacher and then a school principal for many years. But I never left the beach. All my spare time and days off were on the beach. It’s a good thing for me that my family shared my love for the ocean. Most of our trips were to the watery places of the world, where the sea was warm, and the water was clear, and the diving was good, and the waves were big. I lifeguarded for almost 40 years.

"And now many years into retirement I’m still on the beach. I live on the beach. Through my windows I can see the beach. And when that day comes and it’s time to “shuffle off this mortal coil” (Hamlet), I will return to the sea once more."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Gabby Kanahele

[ Excerpt from "Hawai’ian ‘Beach Boys’ Keep Spirit of Aloha Alive," By Genevieve Long, Epoch Times, August 12, 2008 ]

HONOLULU, HI— ...The original beach boys in the 1940s provided beach services in front of the only two hotels at the time, the Moana Surfrider and the Royal Hawai’ian. The arrangement with the hotels were unofficial—the men would do everything from bringing guests towels to giving them surfing lessons—with no set fee. Modern beach boys are more official, with licensed beach stands and instructors.

One of the few remaining beach boys of the older generation, Gabby Kanahele, still surfs the gentle, warm break at Waikiki every morning and works as an instructor at the Star Beach Boys stand, where he rents equipment for lessons he gives. At age 75, Kanahele has been surfing since he was a young teenager and doesn’t show any signs of stopping soon.

“I started surfing in summer of 1946,” recalls Kanahele. “I worked as a beach boy at beach concessions, in the summer of 1954. In those times when we were growing up and learning more of the things to do…I was thinking back to the original beach boys that we were fortunate to hang out with.”

By original, Kanahele means people like Chick Daniels, “Fat Kala”, “Hoss”, Jimmy Ahakuelo (for the Royal Hawai’ian), Cornwall, and of course Duke Kahanamoku.

“As far as I know, they didn’t take money, when people said ‘How much?’ they would just say ‘Whatever you want to pay me, leave it at the desk and leave my name on it.’,” recalls Kanahele about the early days of surfing lessons. “They didn’t want to be hustling them, it was all up to you what you wanted to give.”

And the arrangement was much more than a financial exchange for services.

“A lot of [stars] come here. The first generation of [stars] stayed at the Royal Hawai’an, and that’s how they mixed with the beach boys, and even their sons, daughters, grandsons, and they got along very well,” says Kanahele.

The details of the life lessons the original beach boys taught endure today. Along with other young friends who spent their summers and afternoons at the beach, Kanahele would sometimes hang out and simply wait to tag alone with the “old timers”.

“We had about five different groups, and we used to go and meet all the old timers,” says Kanahele. “They are the ones who teached us about being human and giving Aloha, and feeling how other people feel, when you look them in the eyes and feeling what they need.”

The most legendary beach boy, Duke Kahanamoku, was already 66 years old in 1946 when Kanahele was only 14 years old. But Duke was still a regular fixture in Waikiki, giving canoeing and surfing lessons. Sometimes Kanahele and the other young surfers were lucky enough to accompany him on the water.

“He was very helpful,” says Kanahele about his memories of Duke. “Sometimes he would say, ‘Boys, wanna take a canoe ride?’” Of course the answer was always “Yes!”

But for Kanahele, telling stories about Duke and the lessons learned on the beach are about more than fond memories.

“Just looking at him [Duke], he exudes Aloha, which means lovingness and respectfulness and always giving,” says Kanahele. “He had a little in them eyes when he looks at you, it has so much meaning. You can feel it, and you can take it for what it’s worth. He speaks to you, not at you.”

Kanahele says he came by his subsequent career as a surfer and surfing teacher naturally.

“We guys who hung around the beach, we used to have surfboards and we used to rent them out, and so I said, ‘Well, I gotta learn about the business from these older guys,” says Kanahele. “They gave me so much influence, unbelievable. It was all positive, happy. First was respect.”

He adds that what he and other beach boys want to bring to their surfing and canoeing students is something intangible, but valuable.

“We Hawaiians always believe in family,” says Kanahele. “We say ‘ohana [family], that’s first in line. Anybody that you know that’s older than you, you will respect them.”

The spirit of Aloha so deeply imbued in him and the other beach boys is part of what Kanahele, who is full-blooded Hawai’ian, still tries to bring to visitors who come for surfing lessons.

“[In the] United States, different states speak in a different tone, and we here are very laid back, and we put them in our position where they settle down and enjoy it,” says Kanahele.

Today, lessons range in set prices from $35 to $75, but Kanahele still works to pass on the lessons he learned from Duke to visitors and the next generations of beach boys.

“When I became fifty, I asked the lord five years [to keep surfing],” says Kanahele. “He gave me ten. So I say, okay, five more, he gave me ten more. I’m on my third five.”

And he still treasures the wonders of his island home and his long-running career in the Pacific Ocean.

“It’s magical here, you’re healthy here, you’re teaching here, everything out there [in the ocean] is so magical,” says Kanahele. “The temperature is fine, the waves are fine, people here are good to you. They go back with fond memories, they come back with their grandchildren, their great-grandchildren.”

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Early Daytona Beach

Recently, Jordan Kahn of the Daytona Beach News-Journal wrote a very fine history of the early days of surfing at Daytona and Miami Beaches, in Florida. Below, is an Excerpt of "Surfing's Lost Chapter - How did Daytona Beach become Florida's 1st surf city," By JORDAN KAHN, DAYTONA BEACH NEWS-JOURNAL, 27 July 2008.

There is a grainy photograph of surfers posing near the Main Street Pier [in Daytona Beach, circa 1938] that holds clues to a lost chapter of local history...

[In the 1930s] Few people in the world had ever seen such a thing as surfing then... Yet there they are, sepia-toned Florida surfers wearing wool swimsuits and riding 16-foot wood boards at a time when Studebakers and Model A Fords rolled down the beach...


From a campsite on the beach a few blocks south of the pier, three brothers waded through the sea foam, and surfing in this city began.

"People didn't know what a surfboard was, and for years they didn't know what we were doing," said Dudley Whitman, one of those brothers.

The puzzling sight of these three brothers from Miami Beach standing above the waves didn't go unnoticed long so near the Boardwalk. In the 1930s, this was the hub of beach activity.

Pep's Pool and Pat Sheedy's Handball Courts were there. The "Flying Mile" race was held on the sand, and boxing rings were erected on the beach.

Within a few years, a chain reaction of surfing discoveries was spreading.

James Nelson of Daytona Beach Shores remembers the day some 70 years ago when he was at the handball courts and saw something in the ocean.

"Some of the lifeguards were out there fooling around on these boards . . ." he said.

Nelson, now 91, was fascinated. He went to talk to them and found out one of the lifeguards made and sold surfboards. Soon afterward, the young Stetson University law student bought an 18-foot red board for $25...


None of the men in that 1938 photo was the first person known to surf Florida, but the details of their boards contain the fingerprints of the man who was.

A fin is visible on one board. And a few bear the telltale dots of nails securing plywood to a hollow frame. These are the inventions of Tom Blake, the seminal trailblazer of surfing as not just sport, but lifestyle and craft.

While living in Hawaii, Blake put the first fin on a surfboard only [four] years before that photo was taken...


... [Hawaiian] Duke Kahanamoku... was famed as much as a surfer as for being an Olympics sensation, setting world records and winning three gold medals in the 1912 and 1920 games.

It was Kahanamoku who inspired Blake to take up surfing.

When Kahanamoku traveled to swim meets, he saved surfing from disappearing by giving the surf exhibitions for which he is now renowned as the "Johnny Appleseed" of modern surfing.

Kahanamoku told his biographer that by 1900, western colonization had so completely stamped out native Hawaiian culture that "surfing had totally disappeared throughout the islands except for a few isolated spots . . . and even there only a handful of men took boards into the sea."

It is surfing's narrow escape through this historic bottleneck that gives it a lineage like a family tree. Ancient Hawaiians are surfing's roots. Kahanamoku is the trunk. And surfing's genesis in Daytona Beach is only one branch removed.


Whitman said lifeguards visiting Miami from Virginia Beach, where Kahanamoku had held a surf demo, first showed him and his brothers how to surf in 1930.

Two years after that, the Whitman brothers were at their oceanfront workshop in Miami Beach when they saw someone paddling a surfboard.

It was Blake, who in his biography, "Tom Blake: The Uncommon Journey of a Pioneer Waterman," said he was looking for these Florida surfers he'd heard about.

Blake taught the Whitmans to build his boards that transformed the sport's 180-pound planks into 80-pound hulls.

These brothers' surfing experiments may have begun in Miami, but they did most of their actual wave riding in Daytona Beach as students at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

"We worked every minute so we could leave on the weekend and go to Daytona and surf," Whitman said.

"We actually surfed at Daytona; probably one of the first times was after the 1934 hurricane. . . . We carried our surfboards on a trailer and camped on the beach."

Blake could have directly influenced other locals, too.

He was a lifeguard in Florida during the early 1930s and toured with the Red Cross promoting the use of surfboards to save people from drowning.

And among the surfers in that 1938 photo are Paul Hart, a lifeguard examiner for the Red Cross, and Donald Gunn and Dick Every, who are both wearing the wool tank-top uniforms of the day for Daytona Beach lifeguards.

Every even remembers a picture of Blake surfing in Daytona Beach at Harvey Street.


... "I remember seeing Dudley driving into town in a fancy convertible with surfboards towed behind it," said Every, now 85. "My brother and I decided to build boards like them."

Gaulden Reed said in an interview before his death in November [2007] at 89 that people started making Blake-style boards in Seabreeze and Mainland high school shop classes.

Bill Wohlhuter, the owner of Port Orange Seafood today, said he built his board from plans he got from Every's brother, Don.

"I once mounted a 1 1/2-horsepower Water Witch outboard on that board," Wohlhuter said. "I steered the tiller with my foot!"

Many of these men -- including the three Whitmans -- are in the photo, preserved by the surfing hall of fame in Cocoa Beach, the Halifax Historical Museum in Daytona Beach and the Whitman family museum in Miami.

The occasion is said to be the East Coast or Florida surfing championships. By today's standards though, those boards are closer to boats.

"They were kind of like a freight train," Whitman said.

"They were very much faster for paddling, slow to get started of course, but probably faster than you could paddle a canoe once you got going. And you could catch big waves much farther out."

After hurricanes, to make it past the onrush of whitewater, Reed said he used to throw his board off the pier and dive in.

"During the hurricane season, you could catch some pretty good-sized ones, maybe 7- , 8- , 9-foot waves that were breaking out there beyond the pier," Nelson said.

"You'd have to really walk the board. You'd catch the wave and you'd have to walk about four or five feet to keep the nose down and then walk it back and forth to keep it going."

They stuck their hands in the water like oars to prod those big boards into turns.

"To be a cool cat and get the girls," Nelson said, "you had to lean over with your hand to steer it."

The real hot dog move was shooting the pier, surfing through the pilings from one side to the other.

"I almost lost a kneecap trying to do it," Nelson said.


When some of Daytona Beach's surfers made their first pilgrimage to the sport's birthplace, these Florida upstarts would achieve a degree of stature with the world's most hallowed surfing club.

The relatively advanced boards the Whitmans are holding in that 1938 photo defied odds in arriving in Waikiki... They were beautifully crafted; one made with mahogany and brass screws.

Blake had given the Whitmans a letter of introduction to the Outrigger Canoe Club, the first surfing club.

"We were just kids and we showed it to Duke," Whitman said. "But he didn't really have time for a couple of haole (Hawaiian slang for mainland outsiders) boys. So we went ahead and unwrapped our surfboards. People gathered around to watch us unpack and when the Hawaiians saw our surfboards, they gave us surf racks of honor."

The Whitmans were made club members and they surfed next to Kahanamoku. Reed also flew [probably travelled by steamship, as commercial aviation was still in its infancy] to Hawaii and met Kahanamoku and Blake. And Every met and surfed alongside Kahanamoku at Makaha.

Sadly, the life these men gave to an embryonic Daytona Beach surf culture nearly vanished.


A nucleus of roughly 45 Daytona Beach surfers had developed. As quickly as surfing was becoming part of life in Daytona Beach, World War II and its exodus of young men would all but end it.

In the days leading up to the war, Nelson sold Mainland High School grad George Doerr "a half interest" in his $25 red wooden surfboard.

"When World War II came along," Nelson said, "(Doerr) went into the Air Force and he was a fighter pilot and got shot down and was in a German prison camp for a couple of years."

Reed said the only person he remembers surfing with during the war was Brewster Shaw, a famous local beach race driver.

And on a coast suddenly on high alert for German submarines and spies, surfing went from a bizarre to a suspicious sight.

"Brewster and I were in front of the Boardwalk and we came in after dark because the waves were so good, and we were reported to the police that two men had come in on torpedoes," Reed said.

They were surrounded at gunpoint by military police.

Reed said another time he was out past the end of the pier and a patrol boat approached him, machine guns drawn.

"I'm saying, 'No! No! No! Surfboard! Surfboard! Don't Fire!'" Reed said. "Scared my mule!"

When Every returned home from the war in '45, he said, "there was no surfing at all."

Tony Sasso, a longtime director of the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame Museum in Cocoa Beach, said it's been very hard to come by stories about surfing at that time.

"Right around 1940 the trail goes dead. It doesn't start back up again until the 1950s," Sasso said. "Everything started from scratch again."

It is as if the war erased the heritage of Daytona Beach's surfing pioneers as cleanly as footprints washed by waves from the sand.

Only a few photos and people survive to stake Daytona Beach's claim as Florida's first surf city.

"I kind of hate to admit it, being from Cocoa Beach where we call ourselves the East Coast surfing capitol," said Sasso, "but the first seeds were planted in the Daytona Beach area."


By 1958, foam and fiberglass surfboards had transformed the sport.

Richard Brown of Daytona Beach turned 14 and bought his first surfboard that year. He remembers being one of the very first people at Seabreeze High School to have one.

"There were some guys at Mainland," he said. "But by '69, everybody at Seabreeze had a surfboard, or damn near."

To those who were catching this new wave, it felt as if surfing had just been born. But Richard and his brother Dana, who today own the insurance company Hayward Brown Inc., grew up around surfing.

And it was some of these early surfing pioneers who almost literally handed down the sport. Dick Every, who had the first foam surfboard in town, used to lend it to Richard and Dana. And Oscar Clairholme made a hollow board they used to play on as kids.

"In fact, we had it out in the ocean one day and it sank. We lost it," Richard said.

What has generally been remembered as Florida's first generation of surfers was, in fact, the second. And these Floridians lived the kinds of experiences romanticized by Hollywood's beach-blanket movies.

As a lifeguard, Dana Brown often hung out on the beach in a palm frond and wood shack in front of the Daytona Plaza Hotel and rented surfboards.

"In the summertime," Richard said, "my brother Dana used to anchor a sailboat out off of Daytona Plaza. We had pretty big boards back then, too, and my brother and his friends would each put a case of beer and a beach bunny on their board and paddle out to the sailboat for an evening of revelry."

... Richard remembers one of the best days of surfing he ever had was after a hurricane in 1964.

"I came home from Gainesville because I knew it was going to be good and I surfed in front of the old Voyager Hotel," he said. "You couldn't lose your board because it would smack into the sea wall. There was no beach... We'd never seen waves like that; it was so big, 10- or 12-foot waves."

Richard even saw what he called "the day the style of surfing changed."

He was in high school when two road-tripping surfers from California paddled out. They were all shooting the pier, riding gently rolling outside waves they called "humpers." Suddenly the Californians headed in.

"We figured, 'Well hell, they don't like it. They're leaving,'" Richard said. "And the next thing we see is their heads from the back of the waves screaming right and left and then they would do a kick out and the board would come flying back out of the wave.

"We were just sitting there dumbfounded. We thought you'd be killed if you tried to surf in the shallow water in big wave shore pound," he said. "Then we started doing it."


Is it possible that boogie boarders were the first wave riders in Florida?

There are numerous accounts of belly boarding, as it was called generations ago, predating surfing in the state.

Dudley Whitman said in 1930 when the group of lifeguards visiting Miami taught him to surf, he and his brothers had already been riding belly boards.

The St. Augustine Record archives contain an article about a man named Guy Wolfe riding the waves in 1914. The article says Wolfe rode on his belly on wood planks covered in painted canvas that had "barrel stays" for a sled-like nose.

And one of Daytona Beach's first surfers, native Gaulden Reed, who was born in 1919, said in his life both body surfing and belly boarding had always been among the sights at the beach.

"Prior to (surfing), we were really expert body surfers," Reed said before his death last year. "We also built belly boards that were about 4 feet long and 2 feet wide by putting thin boards together and crossing them with two small boards and rounding the nose. They were only good for catching a breaking wave and riding the foam in."

How this more basic wave sport made it to Florida before surfing is unknown...

The idea could have been imported by people who had either visited Hawaii or cities in California and the eastern seaboard that had been exposed to canoe surfing, traditional surfing and body surfing as demonstrated by Duke Kahanamoku in his travels.


... [At] the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame Museum in Cocoa Beach and the Halifax Historical Museum in Daytona Beach... Only two of the 16 people are named... Dudley Whitman and Floyd Graves, but the names are written in a way that indicates who is who.

A total of 28 names of people surfing in Daytona Beach during that time were given during interviews for this story.

These are the 16 surfers in the 1938 photo. Fourteen of them are now identified; Wilbur Flowers, Barney Barnhart Jr., Bill Whitman, Stanley Whitman, Dudley Whitman, Don Every, Earl Blank, Bill Wohlhuter, Paul Hart, Donald Gunn, Floyd Graves, Al Bushman, James Nelson and Dick Every.

An additional 13 surfers of that era were named in interviews: Gaulden Reed, Welling Brewster Shaw, Oscar Clairholme, George Doerr, Tom Porter, Buster MacFarland, Nelson Rippey, "Nudder" Wilcox, Charles Spano, Carlisle "Boop" Odum, Earnest Johnson, George Boone and George Jeffcoat.

Plus there are two surfers from the 1938 photos that remain unidentified. That's a total of 29 surfers.

James Nelson remembers the photo as taking place after the event and after some of the competitors had already left. And in the photo, only 16 surfers are shown, but Dudley Whitman is wearing a No. 24.

Dick Every said there were probably about 10 or 15 more surfers in the area who didn't come to the event, giving 1938 Daytona Beach a rough estimate of 40 to 45 surfers.

"There was nobody from New Smyrna surfing and I don't recall anybody from Cocoa either," Every said.

Paul "Bitsy" Hart won the contest that day, which in interviews was sometimes called the Florida Surfing Championships and sometimes the East Coast Surfing Championships.

"(Hart) was in the same fraternity we were in, in Gainesville," Dudley Whitman said. "We used to stay with him. His mother had the drug store on Main Street. He built his own surfboard."

Earl Blank, who died in 1993, was, among other things, a lifeguard and a hobby beekeeper.

Bushman and Nelson were law students at Stetson University in DeLand when the photo was taken.

Barnhardt remembers Boone and Jeffcoat were lifeguards in the 1930s.

Johnson's family owned bait-and-tackle stores in the Daytona Beach area.

Wilcox was a boxer and a lifeguard.

Spano was a city champ handball player and a head lifeguard.

Clairholme was a builder in the area.

Shaw was the father of William "Flea" Shaw, who coached and married the four-time world champion surfer from Flagler Beach, Frieda Zamba Shaw.

It's noteworthy that Pep's Pool was a public swimming pool at the Boardwalk near the foot of the Main Streer Pier in the time because the son of the pool's owners is in the photo, Barney Barnhardt Jr.

"The kid on the far left is a boy named Wilbur Flowers," Barnhardt said. "We were both 12 years old then.

"We weren't in the contest, but the photographer said, 'Hey you've got a board. Get in the picture.' Let me tell you an interesting thing about that picture. My grandfather lived in Akron, Ohio, and he saw that picture in the Akron Beacon Journal because it went out on The Associated Press wire."