The other day I was sitting around with my neighbor and life long pal, Timmy Dorsey. We were laughing about an incident that occurred about 1960, and had a lot to do with us becoming friends and my future as a pro surfer.
I actually have the story documented in my latest book, “Not Done Yet.” The following is taken from Chapter 3.
With the gaining popularity of surfing came surfing publications. One day somebody at school told me that there was a surfing newspaper that had come out and had a killer photo of three guys on a giant wave at Makaha, in Hawaii, on the cover. The word was that they had them for sale at the Ole Surfboard shop in Sunset Beach, about a half mile south of our house. When I got home I squealed, whined and begged my mom slowly until she coughed up a dollar. Then I jumped on my trusty Schwinn three-speed and flew down the road as fast as my little legs could peddle.
The Ole Surfboards shop was an old Quonset hut converted into a tiny showroom in front with the entire manufacturing process done in the back.
You got blasted by the smell of resin right when you went through the door. And normally, you would step in some and ruin your shoes at the same time, or at least get a bad case of fiberglass itch from the dust in the air from sanding the boards. It was sort of becoming a part of the whole process I guess. Be one with your board, so to speak.
When I got to the shop that day, local surf star and future legendary lifeguard Timmy Dorsey was working in the little sales area. He was one of my surfing heroes at that time, and I was happy that he was there to talk to.
Timmy was one of the few local surf stars who had taken the time to be nice to me in the water and always had had a smile and a “Hey kid, howsit?” for me Of course, I was probably a bit hard to bear at that time for most of them due to my zealous stoke and high energy. More on that a bit later.
So, Timmy sees me come in and gets this huge grin on his face. “I bet I know what yoooooouuuuu want,” he said with music in his voice.
My eyes lit up. There it was sitting on the counter. The object of my desires. The first surfing newspaper complete with the classic surf shot of Peter Cole, Wally Forsyth and George Downing screaming across this huge and beautiful wall of water at Makaha.
“Yeah, the paper, the paper, the PAAAAPPPPPEEEEEEEEEER. I WANT IT.” I bellowed with glee.
“How much money do you already got?”
“My mom gave me a dollar, is that enough?”
At first Tim sort of winched and frowned. He was looking at the ground and kinda shaking his head. I guess he could see the light go out in my eyes. Well I guess he kind of engineered that actually. “Gee kid, they want a buck and a half for this thing,” he said, with just a touch of sympathy in his tone from him.
My head dropped.
“But for you I will let this one here, with only the small resin drip on the corner and a light mustard stain from my sandwich, go for only a dollar.”
“REEEEEALLLLLY????” I came back to life.
“Yup. And not only that, I also want to tell you that Ole and I have been watching you surf and are impressed with what we have been seeing. You could have some potential.”
“REEEEEALLLLLY?????” My heart was soaring. (Note: the price on the cover was actually 50 cents.)
“Yup. And Ole has authorized me to offer you a surf team deal if you want to ride an Ole Surfboard.”
“Yup. Free color.”
“FREEEEE COLOR….OH WOW…. REEEEEALLY???”
“Yup. So, when do ya wanna order your new team Ole board mate?”
Before those words had finished leaving Timmy’s lips I was on my bike, slightly soiled surfing newspaper in hand, and was racing home as fast as I could go. My dad should be getting home from work at any minute and I had some serious convincing to do.
And that’s how my surfing career got started.
ASK THE EXPERT
Q. Just wondering, why do surfers call the fin on their surfboards a “skag?”
— Jerry Bellman, Balboa
A. That would be a “skeg,” even though it sounds like “skag.”
Legitimate question. It comes from boat building actually; it is the term used for the extension of a keel placed on the rear part of the bottom of a boat.
In 1935, legendary surfboard designer Tom Blake tore a keel off an old speedboat and attached it to the bottom of a surfboard, hoping that it would keep the board going in a straight line and not “side slipping” as most boards did at that time . This worked very well, and it wasn’t real long before the “skeg” became a very important part of more modern boards.
Many of today’s boards use more than one.
The term “skeg” is however slowly phasing out of common surf vernacular as more people simply refer to them as “fins” these days. Single fin, twin fin, tri fin, etc.