Steamer Lane, Wild Hook, Rincon, The Overhead, Malibu, P. V. Cove, Lunada Bay, The Cliff, The Pier, Salt Creek, The Cove, Cotton's Point, The Trestles, The Church, San Onofre, The Swamis, Windansea, Sunset Cliffs, The Tijuana Sloughs, K-39, San Miguel, Makaha, Haleiwa, Waimea Bay, Sunset, The Banzai Pipeline. The foregoing makes about as much sense to the middle-aged Middle Westerner as a Gregorian chant or the Upanishads, but to the swelling ranks of surfers it has a stirring, meaningful, "really neat" sound—the roar of surf—for these are the venerated places on the West Coast and in Hawaii that have the top wave.
Surfing has come a long way from Duke Kahanamoku to Annette Funicello, but who knows just how far? Grubby Clark, the president of Clark Foam, the nation's largest manufacturer of blanks—unfinished surfboards—says he doubts that there are more than 200,000 surfers in the U.S. Grubby, by the way, is called that because he has perfected a technique of shaving that almost works. LeRoy Grannis, the publisher of International Surfing, one of two national magazines devoted to the sport, says there are 350,000 surfers, almost all of them teen-agers.
Hobie Alter, who is by far the largest manufacturer of custom boards, which account for about 75% of the market, says there are 400,000 surfers. Don Murray, the executive secretary of the United States Surfing Association, says there are more than half a million surfers in California and another half a million in the East. He also says that the rate of growth is 20% a year. The New York Times says the USSA says there are "several million surfers in the United States and the number has been almost doubling annually." If this keeps up, by 1972 the number of surfers in the U.S. will be greater than the population. "Kalabunga!" as someone always yells, obscurely, in the surfing movies.
Two of the foremost figures in this great, uncomputed mass of surfers are a California father and daughter, Walter and Joyce Hoffman. Walter, a vice-president of Hoffman California Fabrics, Inc. of Los Angeles, is a member of surfing's old guard—he was one of the first and best of Hawaii's big-wave riders—that now comprises a small and fairly lunatic fringe. Joyce, who is a freshman history major at Santa Ana Junior College and is considered the finest female surfer of all time, belongs to surfing's new wave. She is a hot-dogger, or small-wave rider, as, of necessity, is practically everyone else on the West, East and Gulf coasts. In southern California, for instance, there are generally only three or four days a year when the surf gets to be 15 feet, compared to 200 days of two-foot surf.
October 17, 1965
In place of the largely neurotic thrills sought by the big-wave riders, hot-doggers indulge in stunts, such as hanging ten (standing on the nose of the board, toes curled over the tip). Hot-doggers have a raunchy reputation among grownups. This is mainly because about five years ago some surfers used to drop their bathing suits, did a bit of breaking and entering and threw rocks at a Sante Fe train or two in order to express their attitude toward society, but this antisocial behavior is largely a thing of the past now that the great, imitative middle class has overrun the sport.
The Hoffmans live in Capistrano Beach, Calif., which is halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego. The Pacific forms what Joyce calls "a crummy beach break"—surf breaking directly against the shore—a few yards in front of their house, which is chiefly decorated with polished abalone shells and the trophies Joyce has won in surfing contests. Before the Hoffmans built a low seawall the waves occasionally broke in their living room. Joyce is 18, 5 feet 7, weighs 125 pounds and has long blonde hair. When she was in Peru for a surfing contest last February she was known as The Blonde Goddess of the Sea. "I'm just beginning to live that down," she says. Joyce is usually known as Boo. "They also call her The Jolly Green Giant," says her sister Dibby, who is 13. "I'm taller than the other girl surfers," says Joyce, "not fatter. Most are real heavyset. I don't want to be an Amazon. I like to be skinny. If I get any bigger I'll die. Do I diet? Oh, boy! It's an advantage to be small. When you're big, you just squoosh the waves." One of the reasons Joyce wears her hair long is that she does not want to be mistaken for a boy when she is surfing far from shore. "If they think that I'm a boy, they'll just think I'm crummy," she says.
The Hoffman household is composed of Walter, his wife Patricia, Joyce, Dibby, Tony, 12, and Robin, 4. Mrs. Hoffman hardly ever goes in the water, but she knits 300 sweaters a year. Walter, who is called Heavy, because he is, is much in demand as a judge in surfing contests, particularly for the tandem event, in which a man and a woman form acrobatic tableaux on an extra-long board. Tony is more interested in karate than surfing; he recently broke his hand trying to split a piece of lumber with it. Dibby gave up surfing because she kept getting injured, and has now taken up the inflatable raft.
Dibby aside, surfing is a surprisingly safe sport, much safer, for instance, than skiing, to which it is closely related. Most surfing accidents are a result of being conked by loose boards. Joyce has been knocked out and had her nose broken by her board, has distinctive knobs on her feet from paddling, and suffers from a pterygium, an eye growth prevalent among those who have prolonged exposure to the sun, which in some cases has to be cut away annually. She was also knocked out when she was thrown by her horse, Shanef, a purebred Arabian. Joyce sold Shanef last year because she no longer had time to ride him. "It wasn't fair to the horse," she says. "It made me feel guilty. We'd gallop on the beach for miles. It was so neat. He'd never want to stop. I'd get up at 4:30 and go riding by myself, then surf all day. It kind of made for a long day, though."
During the summer Joyce surfs in front of her house for at least four, and sometimes as many as eight, hours daily. "After eight hours you can't move," she explains. "I get bathtub pucker. If I didn't put lotion on my legs I'd look like a prune." Sometimes she even surfs at night. "It's scary, with the waves crashing outside," she says. In the winter, when the water is 54°, she goes out for two hours. "You have to do it," she says. "That's all there is to it." Although she wears a wet suit, it doesn't cover her feet. "Your feet are purple for three hours," she says. "They get so numb, you get to the beach and you can't walk."
"Boo surfs a lot longer than other girls," says her boy friend, Joe Lancor, who is 20 and studying architecture at the University of Santa Clara. "They surf for an hour and a half and call it quits—they get tired. She forces herself to go out. I hate to cast aspersions, but most girl surfers are slightly unsavory. Boo's not a prude or a dud, and she's not missing anything else out of her life either—that's the neat thing."
"I'm competitive," Joyce says. "They're not. Of course, anything you do so much, you get sick of it. I keep trying to think of excuses for not going out there, but then I really feel guilty, although I'm good enough now so that I can practice by just sitting in the house thinking about surfing. The worst thing about surfing is you don't have a coach, someone to push you."
"I've tried to coach her," says Walter, whom Joyce occasionally calls The Mouth. "I tell her things she should do, but she never does them."
"I analyze my surfing," Joyce says. "The other girls don't. They're really dummies. The better you get, the harder you have to push yourself. I think I'm going to have an ulcer. You wouldn't enjoy surfing if you did it like I do, but I do. I have to be the best. It's a really big deal with me. I don't know why. You'd have to analyze me, I guess. It's inborn in me. I'm not that good yet. There's no reason I can't be as good as the boys. If I didn't think I was considered the best I'd quit."
Indeed, the gravest disappointment of Joyce's life came in her junior year at San Clemente High, when she lost an election—in fact two elections—for student body president. The first election was declared invalid when it was discovered that her opponent's supporters had stuffed the ballot box. "What a ding he was!" says Joyce. "What a mess! What a scandal!" She says that when the election was rescheduled her supporters were not informed it was taking place and did not vote.
"My daughter's real weird," says Walter. "She wants to win. The other girls couldn't care less."
"I'm the only surfer I know of that trains," Joyce says. "Surfers aren't athletes yet. So far the sport's not that competitive, not that precise. You don't have to be in shape. You can stay up late, smoke, drink and still pull through. Most surfers couldn't make it in any other sport. They don't have that much endurance."
Joyce doesn't drink or smoke and she goes to bed early. She has never been to what she calls a "rock-out" or a "really radical" party. When she was 9 Walter told her he'd give her $500 if she hadn't smoked by the time she was 21. She can earn another $500 by not drinking before 21, except on special occasions.
Joyce doesn't wear baggies or swimsuits adorned with so-called competition stripes or sweat shirts stenciled with HALEIWA STRAINED POI Or 65% FEWER CAVITIES, COORS. (There's a surfer from Huntington Beach, Calif. who wears trunks that his wife made out of an old tablecloth. They feature all the latest fads: stripes, three colors and flowers. He tops off the effect with a full, curly beard.) Joyce's mother makes her daughter's bathing suits out of spinnaker cloth. They are modified bikinis cut low under the arms to preclude chafing. For contests, however, she wears suits made by Catalina, which sponsors her.
Joyce doesn't use surfing jargon, what she calls "all that ridiculous, asinine language you hear in the movies." Its usage is most prevalent among "road surfers," kids who tool up and down the Pacific Coast Highway with their status symbols—surfboards—on top of their cars and rarely get wet. In fact, Joyce doesn't even go to surfing movies. "I wouldn't waste my money on them," she says. "Dibby tells me about them." Joyce says there are only three In terms currently used by "real surfers." These are "stoked," which means very enthusiastic or wound up; "jazzed," which means more or less the same thing; and "bitchin'," which means good, as in "That was a bitchin" wave." An utterance such as, "You wanna go out there and turn on or you wanna go out and catch a mess of little stuff and mess off?" she considers "really too much." Says Joyce: "I've never seen a sport where guys so horrible talk so big. They don't surf much, but they sure talk about it. I surf so much that I don't want to talk about it. Boy, what dings they are!" What are dings? "A ding," she says, "is a doughnut." Oh.
Joyce has little use for the weekly TV surfing programs emanating from Los Angeles, and she doesn't think the surfing magazines are so hot either. "They're hard up for news all the time, I guess," she says. "They're full of stupid stories and stuff."
Surfer has the larger circulation of the two magazines: 90,000. It carries ads for Hang-Ten surf wear, runs fiction in which the hero either rides a monster wave to his death or miraculously survives and, in a house ad, offers a two-by-two-and-a-half-foot mural, for only $1, entitled the Ultimate Journey, which depicts a guy riding this 75-foot wave.
Joyce maintained an A-average at San Clemente High School. "She's not that smart," says Walter. "She was in there all night with the covers over her head and a flashlight. She got so shook when she didn't get a good grade." "My dad doesn't give me any money for A's," says Joyce. "It's horrible! I didn't love any of my classes or anything. English seminar was my favorite, but I thought all those famous old novels were kind of boring. They're all so philosophical. I don't want to be a brain. I want to be the best surfer."
She is. "Joyce could compete successfully against most of the men," says LeRoy Grannis."When she has a good day, the other girls are just along for the ride." Surfer magazine named her Woman Surfer of the Year for 1964, and she is the only surfer, male or female, to have ever won five consecutive USSA contests. In fact, she has won all but three of the last 17 she has entered.
Although surfing is not really suited to competition, contests have proliferated. In 1964 the USSA sanctioned four; this year it is sanctioning nine. The ancient Hawaiians, who named the game, were thought to have held contests in which the idea was to ride waves for distance. Today surfers are judged primarily on their choice of waves, what they do on a wave, when they do it and how well they do it. Only functional maneuvers—such as turning, nose riding and stalling—count, and waves are ridden just as far as they are worth riding. Stunts like standing on one's head and 360° spinners are considered merely ornamental, and therefore worthless.
The surfers paddle out six or so at a time for 12- or 15-minute periods, and the judges score each ride on a point system, as in diving. The number of waves ridden is also a factor—the more the better—which is where Joyce's training pays off. Furthermore, while most girls surf in a fairly sedate fashion, Joyce moves around a lot, trimming her board and turning frequently to get the most out of a wave. She is also the only girl who consistently rides the nose, a feat that greatly enhances her score.
Joyce doesn't hang out with her competitors. "They think I think I'm above them," she says. "But I can't go up and talk to people. I'm a real loner. I'm shy. I never say 'hi.' I've never needed friends. I'm very self-sufficient. The other girls are always trying to get me to go to parties, drink, smoke. It's not worth my explaining it to them. It's better for me if they think I think I'm above them. It helps me psych them out. In the contests I'm always ready way ahead of time. I always have three or four bars of wax. They never have any. They're so disorganized. I drink orange juice and honey beforehand. I'm sure they think it's screwdrivers. I try and fool them. I say, 'Gee, this surf looks pretty good.' Of course, it's lousy. They're biting their nails. The worse the surf, the better I do. They always give the girls the worst surf—early in the morning, when the tide's wrong, or late in the afternoon, after it's blown out. Why waste good surf on girls? Ninety-nine percent of the surf in contests is horrible. But if you can surf a yukky beach break, you can surf anything. That's why it's ideal in front of my house."
The other day Joyce stood on her front porch, sipping Tiger's Milk and watching a great horde of surfers sitting on their boards upon the swells. "They're sheep," she said. "They're beautiful. You pay $50,000 for a house and there's 50 million idiots out there ruining it for you. You'd think in your own front yard you could have a wave to yourself. Up north they're really horrible to girls. They're friendlier down here—they sometimes give you waves. At Malibu it's dog eat dog—shoving, kicking. They're really yuks." When she is asked what advice she has for a youngster who wants to take up surfing, Joyce says, "Don't. There'll be more room."
One of the reasons there are however many surfers there are is the foam surfboard. Before World War II the surfboard was simply a heavy plank, solid or hollow. In those days there were 400 active surfers in southern California, and the sport consisted essentially of standing on a board in a rather stately posture and riding the wave toward the beach, like Venus coming ashore on her half shell. A lot of poetry was written in a largely unsuccessful attempt to describe the sensation. In the late '40s a board made of fiber-glassed balsa was developed. It was lighter, more buoyant and much more maneuverable. It also opened up a great many new surfing beaches, because it could be ridden in beach breaks, which are more common in southern California than point or reef surf. It was not until 1956, however, with the advent of the fiber-glassed polyurethane foam board, that surfing caught on. The foam boards, which generally weigh less than 35 pounds, require almost no maintenance—unlike the balsa boards, which became waterlogged if the "glass" was ruptured—are easier to ride because of an improved shape and are much simpler to manufacture in quantity. Mass-produced foam boards, which are called pop-outs, cost $60 to $130; custom boards run from $120 to $190, depending on size and ornamentation.
Grubby Clark, who has gotten rich in the foam boom, has, in symbolic gratitude, decorated his house with abstract bas-reliefs carved out of pure foam.
Along with the balsa and foam boards, the new style of wave riding evolved—hot-dogging. The board could be readily turned (by some, with practice), and so it could be ridden back and forth along the breaking wave, instead of merely straight in, and various stunts, such as hanging ten, could be performed (by a few, with a lot of practice).
Big-wave riding was, is and probably always will be something else. So were, are and probably always will be its practitioners, who drive unswervingly, and desperately, across giant walls of water. "You got to be a jerk, kind of," says Walter Hoffman. "I saw one picture of Walt surfing," says Fred Van Dyke, a celebrated big-wave rider who teaches math at Oahu's Punahou School, "and I was stoked. Walter's really messed up more guys." Van Dyke spent four years in psychoanalysis as a result of his hang-up on big-wave riding. "I was really jazzed," he says. "I told my analyst, 'I want to be helped, but please don't take away my surfing.'
"Guys ride big waves for ego support, to compensate for something that's lacking in their lives. They're not making it, they can't get involved like the so-called normal person. They have an underlying feeling that they're not doing anything with meaning. Man needs an outlet that's ego-gratifying. Surfing gives you a feeling of accomplishment. But the feeling's gone in four seconds, and then you have to start all over again.
"Surfing should be fun. It's not fun. It's absolute terror. Big-wave riders are scared people. They have to go out there to prove that they're not afraid, to prove their masculinity. Surfing's not masculine; there's nothing left after you've done it. Most big-wave riders are latent homosexuals.
"Once I broke my board in half at Waimea. I was so pumped; I knew I had hit the ultimate. There were all these cameramen on shore, and I knew they got the picture. Then I realized what a complete farce it was. I still surf, because I'm a victim of my culture. I can't transcend it."
Walter Hoffman thinks that big-wave riding is approaching the "ridiculous" stage. "It's getting so now they're going into stuff where some guys will drown," he says. "You can't ride a wave after it gets to be 28 feet—tops 30. But there's a guy sitting right now in the Islands with a special board and a helicopter standing by who's determined he's going to be the first to ride Kaena Point, which is inaccessible and where the surf is 50 feet. You can't catch waves over 30 feet. You can't paddle fast enough to get them."
Nowadays big-wave riders marooned in southern California have become superstroked on motorcycling, and most of them own bikes, which they ride in the hills. Friday nights they all go to the motorcycle races at Ascot Park in Gardena to watch, with awe and passion, their hero, Sammy Tanner, who weighs 115 pounds in his leathers and is called The Flying Flea.
"Hobie wanted to give him a board," Walter said at Ascot the other night, "but the guy can't swim. Sammy Tanner has never made a right turn in his life. I've never seen him go down. He probably doesn't even get jazzed when he's crossed up on the corner at 60 miles per hour. It's unbelievable. He's unreal! He's unreal!"
Walter ran into his brother Philip, known as Flip, who used to be an abalone diver and is now secretary-treasurer of Hoffman California Fabrics. "My brother's gone down 100 feet," Walter said. "He used to live alone for weeks in a box on an 18-foot boat. He was his own tender. He's had the bends so many times he had to quit. My brother would race motorcycles if he could."
"I've ridden the biggest wave that's ridable," Flip said. "Sammy Tanner has more guts."
"My brother's fearless," Walter said. "That's why he digs this."
Mickey Mu√±oz, another big-wave rider, was drinking white wine out of a bottle wrapped in newspaper. "I got to be drunk to watch this," he said. "I'd get a heart attack otherwise."
"These guys are doing something!" said Phil Stubbs, a surfer and lieutenant of lifeguards at San Clemente.
"It's so unbelievable," said Walter Hoffman, "you can't believe it."
According to Dr. Harvey Powelson, the chief psychiatrist at the University of California at Berkeley, members of the middle class have taken over surfing in the last five years because they saw in it an expression of a freedom that they felt they had been deprived of—it seemed to them to be one version of the Great American Dream. Last year Powelson and Erving Goffman, a sociology professor at Berkeley, proposed a surfing study, but it was not approved by the university administration. (Apparently the only scholarly works on the subject are an M.A. thesis in sociology by an ex-safecracker and a dissertation by a Ph. D. candidate in anthropology at Harvard.) Powelson, who wears a beard and a crew cut, was to have been the participant observer, a role for which he is well qualified. He was an occasional surfer until his board was stolen—or, as he admits, until he permitted a situation to exist which made it probable that his board would be stolen. Goffman is renowned for his work as a participant observer. He spent a year incognito as a patient in a mental hospital, and another year as a dealer in a Reno casino.
Powelson and Goffman wanted to study the three distinct surfing subcultures that existed in southern California before the last of them was obliterated by the middle class. Powelson says that the first, which obscurely flowered prior to World War II, was an almost invisible fraternity composed mostly of fairly intellectual young men from the upper middle class. The second Sub culture arose after the war and consisted of discontented ex-athletes ostensibly going to school on the GI Bill. They became a kind of monastic order of beach bums, practically taking vows of poverty and chastity. "They were parallel-play-type guys who shied away from intimacy," Powelson says. "They were inarticulate until they got on their boards. Then they became almost eloquent. They developed a nomadic society based on skill as a surfer, one which had its own myths, mores and folk heroes. They said the hell with the ordinary ways of making it, but they were left with nothing. Surfing seemed to them a bodily statement of what they felt. They were looking for the limits of control—the edge where you feel out of control but are really in control. Surfing put them in this position, but ultimately it didn't involve them in any statement about themselves. For an older guy, this kind of life is no longer meaningful—he has to be committed to something. Nothing's sadder than a 50-year-old surfer."
In the '50s the surfers' way of life became irresistible to the semidelinquent lower-class kids from the beach towns—known as hards—who infiltrated the sport and comprised the third subculture. In turn it was overwhelmed by the middle class. What had once been a means of rebelling against the pressures of society had become a form of social acceptance. "Now it's a way of being with it," says Powelson. "It's the In thing to do and know, like the frug."
"We've been having to rescue surfers the last two or three years," says Lifeguard Stubbs. "They've bought the boards, but they can't swim. They're being pushed socially. You can tell by the faces they make when they're paddling out through the soup [the white water of a broken wave] that they don't enjoy water."
"To surf you just have to swim well enough to get into the beach if you fall off your board," says Joyce Hoffman. "It's not very ladylike to fall, but if you're not falling you're not learning how to surf. Surfing's kind of an art form. It takes more judgment than brute muscle. You can't be a complete spas', though.
"I can't imagine what I'd do if I didn't surf. There's nothing else to do here. It's really a bore. I sure wouldn't work. I have a phobia against work. Get married, that's what I want to do. It sounds so much easier.
"Surfing's convenient, but if it wasn't surfing it would have been something else—I need an outlet for competition." When Joyce was 10 and 11 and living in Newport Beach, Calif., she used to work out with the Orange Coast College track team. In her scrapbook are ribbons for winning the baseball throw and the broad jump; she even owned a shot. "Surfing is more interesting than running around a track," she says.
"I don't like big waves, though. I was in 18-foot surf at Makaha [in Oahu]. It was really scary. I thought I'd have a heart attack. I'm chicken. Girls aren't thrill-seekers like men. My father and his friends sit out there on their boards, talk business and other dumb things and wait for that one big wave an hour."
"My daughter's a performer," says Walter Hoffman, with a little bit of scorn.
Joyce's performances have earned her 36 trophies, most of them featuring statuettes of male surfers. "Look at them," she said the other day. "They break, get corroded. Who wants another? Robin likes them. I got that monstrosity there in the Makaha International. And a lei. And really a spiffy T shirt, yellow. red and black, with writing all over it. A real thing of beauty. Californians are much better surfers than Hawaiians. The Hawaiians are out for fun—not blood."
The pinnacle of Joyce's surfing career was winning the World Contest in Peru. "Surfing's expensive down there," she says. "A board costs $400. Servants wax your board for you and carry it into the water. As soon as you're finished surfing you snap your fingers and a little slave runs out and gets your board. Surfing is a big deal in Peru. The President even invited us to the palace. I stayed with some Peruvian girls. One night I had a Kleenex I wanted to throw away. I asked them where the wastebasket was. They said throw it on the floor and the maid would pick it up in the morning. It's pretty hard to purposely do that. The girls wrote that they were coming up to California to see me. They said they were taking lessons on how to make a bed."
In addition to her trophies, Joyce has won $450 worth of clothes in the Hermosa KHJ-TV contest, $200 worth in the Laguna Sports Masters contest at Redondo Beach and a trip to Hawaii in the U.S. championships at Huntington Beach. Now, the USSA, looking ahead to the day when high school or college teams might regularly compete in surfing, is considering recommending that prizes be limited to merchandise that is worth no more than $75. In fact, Don Murray, the USSA's executive secretary, does not believe in surfing contests. "It's not a competitive sport," he says. "It's too subjective. There are too many variables—tide, wind, waves. I wouldn't go to a contest for anything in the world, except we're pushing this thing in an attempt to put surfing in terms that people will understand, to make it acceptable. Contests are our showcases. People understand contests. You take a bunch of kids throwing rocks at random and people look askance, but if you go and hold a rock-throwing contest—people understand that."
Surfing still retains, perhaps indelibly, a somewhat raffish reputation. "As soon as you put a board under your arm you're labeled a strange creature," says Hobie Alter. There is probably an element of envy involved here, too. "To a middle-aged businessman there's something a little unsavory about a guy who's 18, all tanned and spending all his time surfing," says Joe Lancor. "It's really not that different from sailing, but surfing has no tradition."
This notoriety is, and always has been, greatly exaggerated and sensationalized, but it is not entirely undeserved. For example, in San Clemente every garage freezer is locked, and during the summer the cops check them five times a night. It's not the local kids who break and enter, but out-of-towners who have gotten stoked on perfect, well-formed, glassy tubes (waves, not dope) and decided to stay overnight but have spent all their money.
At the opposite pole is the San Onofre Surf Club, which is at the same time one of the most exclusive and one of the tackiest clubs in the world. Founded in 1951 and located at Camp Pendleton, its facilities seem to consist of little more than a few shacks badly in need of repair, which serve as dressing rooms and toilets, and its existence seems to depend on the whim of the Marine commandant. The SOSC has 800 members, each paying $20 annual dues. Among the more prominent are Otis Chandler, publisher of the Los Angeles Times, Actor Jim Arness, Orange County Superior Court Judge Robert Gardner, Architect Kent Attridge and Don Tillman, assistant chief city engineer for Los Angeles. There are also a lot of members like the Walter Hoffmans. The waiting list numbers 500, and the only prerequisite for joining is the ability, however slight, to surf.
It's mostly an informal family scene at the SOSC, with a volleyball court dividing the martini-and-steak set of the north end (Chandler), which last year threw a catered luau, from the beer-and-hamburger set of the south end (Arness). Elderly men wearing straw hats, smoking cigars and drinking cans of beer sit on the swells astride their boards, occasionally riding a wave in, still seated. One old gentleman says he only surfs on his birthday, of which he has several every summer.
But such clubs are rare. One of the greatest attractions of surfing is that it is an individual sport and you don't have to belong to anything to do it. "Surfers are too damn independent," says LeRoy Grannis. "They can't see beyond the ends of their noses but, like the hot rodders, if they don't get some group that represents them they're going to be trampled on."
"Kids resent organizations," says Don Murray. "In surfing you just pick up your board and go—no rules, no uniforms, no one you have to compete with. Skin diving has a similar appeal, but surfing's cheaper. Sports where the majority of the participants are teen-agers are hard to organize. It's going to take adult and civic cooperation. Kids are too irresponsible. 'What do I get out of it?' they say. 'What do I care about Seal Beach? I live in Malibu.'"
One of the main problems surfing faces is that there is an increasing number of surfers and a decreasing number of good surfing beaches. Many West Coast towns have closed their beaches to surfing or limited it to specific hours. The construction of new harbors has eliminated other surfing areas. The California Fish and Game Department is now building concrete structures underwater to attract fish, and it is the USSA's fond hope that these can be somehow located in places where they will create artificial reef surf.
"Surfing is not controlled by the people in it," says Murray, "but by those who control the beaches. These people are not necessarily interested in the surfer's welfare. The beach cities should make some provision for surfers. We don't question the swimmer's rights; everyone questions the surfer's. Los Angeles and San Diego generally have good attitudes; it is those scrubby little beach towns that are always yelling about the bunch of bums that come down on weekends and louse up their beaches. What do those towns have to offer anyway? Why don't they exploit surfing?"
"The serious surfer isn't any better or worse than the typical teen-ager," says Joyce Hoffman. "Maybe he's a little bit rowdier, that's all. You can find the crumbs in everything. You see what you want to see. Aristotle—one of those big philosophers—said the same thing 2,000 years ago: 'Gee, this new generation is going to pot.' It's just natural, I guess.
"Surfing's really neat. The ocean and the mountains are the neatest—the way the ocean can change so fast, just like the mountains. Every wave is different. Every beach is different. It's really a neat feeling, this big thing between you and nature. You have to outthink the wave, you're mastering nature, you're making the wave give you something. It really kills me to see beginners wasting a wave, not getting anything out of it. If we ever had to move inland I'd run away. I wouldn't want to be one of those inland jerks."