Surfer Phil Edwards tells how to ride a curl, cure complexes and lock in on life

June 12, 1967
June 12, 1967

Table of Contents
June 12, 1967

Junk Your Engines
Italian Blues
The 1967 U.S. Open
  • The young man at right, Frank Beard, is under the wary gaze of some older competitors as he comes into golf's most esteemed event with an opportunity to upset the favorites. On succeeding pages an artist depicts the epic moments of the Palmer-Casper struggle a year ago and Jack Nicklaus assesses the historic site of this year's Open, Baltusrol Golf Club

U.S. Open
Secret Athletes
  • They are the decathlon men, who live in obscurity three out of every four years. Then come the Olympics, and these masters of all trades are acclaimed as the finest athletes in the world. They are, too. And they are also marvelously diverting fellows, as any visitor to the swinging pad near Santa Barbara can readily see. It is the home, training headquarters, friendly meeting place and haven from Psychedelia of most of the world's best of a singular breed

Baseball's Week
19th Hole: The Readers Take Over

Surfer Phil Edwards tells how to ride a curl, cure complexes and lock in on life

Phil Edwards is 28 years old, blond and barrel-chested. He lives in southern California with Heidi, his 97-pound Hawaiian born wife, in a house overlooking Dana Point and some of the finest surf in North America. This is good, because Phil Edwards is the finest surfer anywhere around. In a soon-to-be-published book called, You Should Have Been Here an Hour Ago (Harper & Row, New York, $6.95), Edwards and SPORTS ILLUSTRATED Associate Editor Bob Ottum tell about it.

This is an article from the June 12, 1967 issue

Edwards' surfing career began one day in his 10th summer, when he dragged a paddle-board into the water, stroked out beyond the surf and somehow caught a wave. With all the water gods of classical mythology watching over him, he rode it to shore. "I was," he writes, "plugged in for the next 18 years. Which is right up until this moment."

During the late 1940s, surf boarding was pretty much a simple, uncomplicated affair. You caught a wave, stood up, rode it in until you found the shore, stopped, and that was it. But slowly Edwards and other innovators found there was more to the game. One day, quite by accident, he rode into the curl of a wave, and modern "hot dog" surfing was born.

After conquering the best surf on America's West Coast, Edwards moved on to the Banzai Pipeline, the big surf that curls off the northwest edge of Oahu, in Hawaii, in perfect 15-foot waves that present the surfer with a million prickly problems—most of them jagged razor-sharp spires of coral that sit not more than five feet below the surface of the water. After seeing this surf for the first time, Edwards wrote, "I paddled out into it and looked down into a sort of blue-green coral horror.... I kept looking down into it and thinking, 'Oh, God, and I've got to do it, too.' "

He not only did it, but he tells about it in words that are almost existential, an attitude he frequently falls into in relation to his sport, e.g., his Second Law of Surfing:

"I'll tell you what neat is: The force of a monster wave can pin you right down to the bottom. You lie there on your back—spread-eagled and heavy and helpless—and if you look up you can see those spinning fingers of turbulence reaching down to get you. They scoop you up inside of them and you roll yourself up into a ball and for a few seconds you are spinning around crazily in a world that is neither land nor sea nor air. The hell with psychiatry and its cracked-leather couches. This is real back to the womb stuff; this is how you get locked in on life, and this is the kick that can cure you of your complexes."