Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Traditional Hawaiian Surfboards


Four different types of surfboards came out of the Polynesian settlement of Hawaii and the evolution of Hawaiian culture which occurred during the period of the Long Voyages (300-1000 A.D.). Hawaiian surfboards had their beginning around or after this time. It is unknown how much the Hawaiian boards stemmed from the Polynesian.



(illustration from Finney and Houston's A History of the Ancient Hawaiian Sport)


The four types of Hawaiian surfboards were, in order of their length: the Olo, Kiko`o, Alaia and Kioe (aka Pae Po or Paipo). This chapter documents as much as is known about these boards and comprises the world's most complete information on the subject.

This LEGENDARY SURFERS eBooklet on Traditional Hawaiian Surfboards (aka "Ancient Hawaiian Surfboards") focuses strictly on the boards, their construction, composition and rituals surrounding their making and dedication. It is enhanced with additional material and images which make this eBooklet the best and most concise, detailed single-source on the Hawaiian surfboard of the pre-European contact period.

This original LEGENDARY SURFERS eBooklet was first published in 2003 and then revised in 2005 to include additional material.

Total pages: 18 (585 KB), including three pages of footnotes.


To order your eBooklet for just $2.95, please click on a Pay Pal icon:



All order fulfillment is done manually, so please be patient in the case there may be a delay. Should you have any problems with your order, please comment at the bottom of this posting and I will be sure to get it.

Aloha and Thank You for Your Interest in My Writings,



Malcolm Gault-Williams





CONTENTS of What You Will Receive:

  Papa He`e Nalu
  The Olo
  The Kiko`o
  The Alaia
  The Paipo (Kioe)
  Wood Types, Collection, Shaping and Rituals
  Board Consecration and Ceremonies


Friday, May 11, 2018

San Diego Surfing, 1910s-1960s


In 2006, Jeannette De Wyze's history of San Diego area surfing, 1910s into the 1960s, was published in the San Diego Reader.

As with all history -- and especially surfing history -- there are errors, but all-in-all this is a fine contribution to Southern California surf history. Since it's publication, it's been one of the most popular posts in the LEGENDARY SURFERS Collection.

George Freeth, circa 1918


90 Years of Curl
By Jeannette De Wyze
San Diego Reader, December 14, 2006.

... There's a good chance Ralph Noisat caught the first wave in San Diego. He died in 1980, and as he wasn't a man to brag, his pioneering role might have been lost were it not for his board. He made it himself when he was a boy, and it was still in the Noisat family home in 1998 when Ralph's daughter, Margie Chamberlain, was preparing to sell the Mission Hills residence. Chamberlain realized the heavy wooden board might have historic value, so she called the California Surf Museum in Oceanside. No one there knew anything about Noisat, but the museum staff was thrilled to accept the board when they heard what Chamberlain had to say about her father. Chamberlain, who has lived in Williamsburg, Virginia, for more than 30 years, doesn't know the whole story. What she does know is that her father's maternal grandfather worked on the construction of the Pioneer Sugar Mill in Lahaina, Maui. Her father's mother spent at least part of her childhood there, before moving to the San Francisco Bay Area, marrying, and having Ralph in 1896. From what her father later told her, Chamberlain got the impression he was close to his grandfather; he may have even visited him in Hawaii, where the older man lived for many years. "My dad knew some of the Hawaiian royal family members," Chamberlain says. "He had a lot of the sense of Hawaiian history, which I can only imagine he got from his grandfather."

Although Chamberlain doesn't know how her father came to make the seven-foot-long, square-tailed board, "He always talked about the wood being koa," she says. She has the impression he may have surfed on it in Northern California before 1910, the year he and his mother moved to San Diego. He would have turned 14 that year. Noisat enrolled as a freshman at San Diego High School and got involved with track and field and student government; he managed the football team. He also surfed from 1910 to 1914, he told his daughter years later. Chamberlain doesn't know where he surfed, but he wasn't riding the waves alone. "When he was telling me these stories of his youth, it always sounded like he had this little circle of friends," his daughter says. Whether his pals borrowed his board or fashioned copies is another detail that's been lost.

Before he reached his 18th birthday in 1914, Noisat enlisted in the Navy, embarking on a military career that would last 30 years. Chances are he wasn't here when one of the most famous surfers in the world arrived.

George Freeth, born in Oahu in 1883, was the son of an Englishman and a half-Hawaiian woman. A champion swimmer and high diver, Freeth taught himself the ancient Hawaiian art of riding waves, a skill that by the end of the 19th Century had almost disappeared from the islands. By 1907 he was so adept he caught the eye of writer and travel adventurer Jack London, who later described Freeth's aquatic prowess in The Cruise of the Snark. London was among those who provided letters of introduction to the young Hawaiian as he prepared to sail to California, where he hoped to make his fortune promoting surfing and other water sports.

Less than three weeks after departing Oahu (on July 3, 1907), Freeth was surfing at Venice Beach. The spectacle attracted the attention of at least one newspaper reporter and has since inspired the claim that Freeth was the first person to surf in California. (This seems unlikely, according to the staff at the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum. They point to a newspaper article that details how, in 1885, three members of the royal Hawaiian family who attended a military school in San Mateo surfed at the mouth of the San Lorenzo River in Santa Cruz.) Freeth's water skills distinguished him from most Americans of that era. Drownings were so commonplace they were scaring away tourists from resorts in Venice and Redondo Beach. To counteract the negative publicity, railroad magnate and Redondo developer Henry Huntington hired Freeth to show off his surfing skills, and the developer of Venice followed suit. Freeth's performances included standing on his head while riding the waves. And in the years that followed, he improved water safety off Southern California, teaching fundamental water-rescue skills to a cadre of young men who later formed the lifeguard services of Los Angeles County, Long Beach, and San Diego. At times Freeth took a more hands-on approach to lifesaving, most notably when he rescued 11 Japanese fishermen during a violent winter storm in December 1908. Eighteen months later, the United State Congress saluted his bravery by giving him a Congressional Gold Medal.

For all the acclaim, Freeth struggled to make a living. He got a break in 1915 when the moneyed and well-connected San Diego Rowing Club asked him to coach the club's swim team. Freeth took the job, and it seems likely he would have surfed in San Diego at least in the summer months, when to earn extra money he taught swimming in Coronado. By May 1918, after 13 men died in a single day in rip currents off Ocean Beach, that community had secured Freeth's services as a lifeguard, and as a July 17, 1918, San Diego Union article attests, he couldn't resist showing off. "Four thousand beachgoers received a surprise and enjoyed a succession of thrills and healthy laughs yesterday at Ocean Beach when George Freeth, lifeguard, presented his unannounced surfboard dive," the paper reported. "Riding on the crest of the wave in the usual manner, Freeth suddenly leaped, clearing the board by at least three feet, turned a somersault, regained his balance on the board again, then completed his stunt with a dive."

That was around 1916 or 1917, according to local amateur surfing historian John Elwell. Elwell says Kahanamoku surfed the OB Pier, and when he did, he asked a teenaged lifeguard named Charlie Wright if he could store his board in Wright's beach shack. Elwell, who interviewed Wright a few years before his death in 1994, says Wright encouraged Kahanamoku to use the shack but asked if he might try the board. "So Charlie surfed the board and also got the dimensions and later copied it," Elwell says.

By the mid-1920s, Wright, who was something of a showman as well as an entrepreneur, was putting on surfing demonstrations at special events. The California Surf Museum has one photograph of Wright surfing on New Year's Eve of 1925 next to the Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach; on his shoulders he bears a young woman wielding a torch.

But by the late 1920s, Wright wasn't using his board for much besides the occasional exhibition. Emil Sigler says he found it near the Mission Beach lifeguard station when he went there the day after his arrival in San Diego in 1928. "It was two pieces of thick pine, bolted together. And it had an iron tip," recalls Sigler, now 96 and still living in his Normal Heights home of many years. He asked whom the board belonged to and then tracked down Wright, who told him he could use it as much as he wanted. "Just put it back where you found it. Lean it against the seawall," Sigler says Wright instructed him.

Born in San Francisco, Sigler had wanted to become a fisherman, and since school didn't interest him, he often ditched classes to hang out at the Fleischacker Pool. Some of the pool's lifeguards were Hawaiian, and Sigler says one day during an outing to the beach they gave him a couple of rides on their boards. That triggered his interest in surfing. Like the Hawaiians' boards, Wright's 125-pound behemoth "was so heavy, it was steady, real steady," Sigler recalls. "It was a lot more steady than the other boards later on." It was so massive, in fact, that a rider couldn't make it turn in the water, and the varnish was so worn "you had to be careful you didn't get any splinters," Sigler says. Still, he enjoyed riding the combers off Queenstown Court in Mission Beach.

Sigler says Wright warned him away from surfing at Ocean Beach, claiming that the outflow from Mission Bay, which at that time streamed under a bridge rather than through the present channel, could be tricky. "You could get knocked out or something, and the tide'll take you out," he says Wright told him. One day while jogging on the beach, Sigler noticed another spot that looked promising. At the north end of Pacific Beach, just south of Pacific Beach Point, the waves seemed particularly well formed. The board was too heavy for Sigler to carry that distance, so he hauled it aboard a ten-foot wooden dory and rowed north from Mission Beach. He unloaded Wright's board at the beach that's now known as Tourmaline and caught some impressive rides. He never saw anyone else surf there for years; he thinks he was the first.

Sigler will tell you he was the first serious local surfer, but Lloyd Baker dismisses that claim with a snort. Sigler "surfed a little bit," Baker acknowledges, "but he was not very agile. Not that he wasn't strong and not that he couldn't have become a better surfer, but he and Don Pritchard and Dempsey Holder [two other early surfers] were never, ever stylists. They went out and tried, but when they got up it was like you never thought they were going to last for more than 20 feet before they fell off or something."

Baker says he and his pal Dorian Paskowitz and a handful of other teenagers from Point Loma and La Jolla were the first true San Diego surfers, so obsessed with riding the waves, they developed confidence and elegance though their boards were primitive. At 85, Baker's a big man who moves with an easy grace. He and his wife live in a house tucked into the hillside above the Morena Boulevard Costco, overlooking a communal tennis court. He used to be a tennis addict too, but the cement surface wreaked havoc with his knees, so 20 years ago he switched from tennis to golf. He plays that almost every day. He gave up surfing about 1975, when tennis and skiing had become all-consuming.

Born in San Diego, Baker and his family moved around California in his early childhood, but in 1934, when Lloyd was 13, they settled into a house at Portsmouth Court in Mission Beach. Dorian Paskowitz lived a couple of blocks away. In the years that followed, "We went to school every day together," Baker says. "We swam in the morning before school. We ran together. We dated together. We did everything together."

School was Point Loma High, which they reached by riding the streetcar that ran south on Mission Boulevard and over the bridge to Ocean Beach. (That bridge was later torn down when the Mission Bay jetty was created.) "On the other side of the bridge, we'd get off and take a bus up to school." In their sophomore year they built paddleboards in the high school woodshop. Paddleboards had been invented in the late 1920s by a Wisconsin native named Tom Blake who had found his way to Hawaii and become fascinated by the ancient Hawaiian boards in Honolulu's Bishop Museum. In an attempt to devise something that would work like the old planks (as surfboards were called) but be lighter, he had come up with a design that was essentially a surfboard-shaped hollow box. Dubbed a cigar box or a kook box, paddleboards became popular with lifeguards for rescue work, but they could also be used to ride waves. Baker and Paskowitz copied this design and learned to stand up on the boards in the surf that sometimes formed at the entrance to Mission Bay. "Those boards probably lasted a year, year and a half," Baker estimates.

Besides being unwieldy, the boards "were a pain in the ass, because as soon as they got just a little warped or they got in the sunshine or whatever, why, they started leaking," Baker says. When a fellow named Pete Peterson moved from Hawaii to San Diego, where he got a job at the Mission Beach Plunge, he brought with him a couple of square-tailed solid-wood Hawaiian boards, and the boys studied these with interest. About the same time, they learned about boards that promised to work better than paddleboards or Hawaiian planks.

Around 1930, a Los Angeles-based manufacturer of prefabricated homes started building surfboards as a sideline. Although the company used solid redwood at first, it later began importing lightweight balsa from South America for use in both the home-building and surfboard-manufacturing businesses. The balsa "was beautiful stuff!" Baker recalls. "They had it all milled, and it was very pretty." But a surfer couldn't simply order a finished board. He had to request that a block of wood be manufactured to the shape and dimensions he specified. "They'd put it together in any configuration you want," Baker says. "You could actually go through their bins and pick out the pieces you were going to have them glue up." Some pieces were harder, some softer; they also varied in weight. "You could pick them out so the board balanced. You'd pick out redwood pieces with pretty grains of wood." If you wanted a "runner" of redwood glued down the middle of the board to stiffen it or along the sides (the rails) or tip (the nose) to protect the softer wood, you could order that too. You drove up to L.A. to pick up your order, then took it home, where with woodworking tools you shaped the simple geometry into a board that planed over water with power and speed. Or if you had a friend who was good at shaping, you might press him into service.

Baker became renowned for his skill at shaping the Pacific Systems Homes boards. Today he downplays his ability; he says he wasn't great compared to subsequent generations of shapers. But for a few years in the late 1930s, he worked on probably 40 or 50 boards. Baker worked on boards for Paskowitz and for the small gang of Ocean Beach and La Jolla boys who had started surfing, as well as others. He did it for free. "We were happy to do the work and pass the board on to somebody that would use it." Because they were lighter, weighing 45 to 65 pounds, the balsa/redwood boards were more responsive in the water, and with the addition of a fin (introduced by Tom Blake in 1935), they became more maneuverable.

Kimball Daun, one of the Ocean Beach boys, doesn't remember when or where he met Lloyd Baker, but he says it didn't take long to realize they were kindred spirits. Born in a house on Larkspur Street 83 years ago, Daun remembers wandering over to the water, unsupervised, when he was six or seven, and teaching himself to swim. Not long after that, he became friends with another kid named Skeeter Malcolm, who lived a few blocks away on Voltaire and shared his love of the ocean. By the time they were eight or nine, they were bodysurfing on "the big beach." Somehow they heard that Duke Kahanamoku had surfed the Mission Bay channel back in the 1920s, and that piqued their interest.

Their first attempt at following his example involved a paddleboard owned by an older teenager named Bob Sterling. "He would take it out on the ocean, usually on calm days, and paddle round on it." Sterling was willing to lend his board to the younger duo. Daun says he and Malcolm took it to an area of Ocean Beach where few swimmers were in the water; they didn't have to worry about other surf- or paddleboards, because there weren't any. They took turns pushing each other into the shore break, and while the nose would sometimes take a dive and the board come to an abrupt halt, at other times the board surged forward. Then whoever was on it would pop up into a crouch, balancing for a couple of seconds before tumbling off.

They couldn't steer at all, but they had fun on Sterling's board, Daun says, until the day one of them caught a good-sized wave and nosed in hard enough to hit the bottom. "All of a sudden, the board was just sunk, which was unusual." When they got it onto the sand, they realized "four feet of the plywood bottom of the board had peeled off and was just hanging under it. We thought, 'Oh my God, this is ruined.' " Sterling was a hulking fellow, and they quaked at the thought of his reaction. They loaded the casualty on a wagon and hauled it to Daun's house. "I said, 'Well, we gotta glue it,' but we didn't have any glue. So we went on Green Street, which was the next block over, and dug the tar out of the cracks in the street. We put it in a can, melted it, and poured the seam all the way around. We scraped off the excess and nailed it down with the tar in there. When we got finished, you could see the black here and there." It seemed to hold, though Daun and Malcolm never pressed their luck by borrowing the board again.

A bit of larceny enabled them to get a board of their own. This happened one night when the boys were walking home from the high school. "Out around Coronado Avenue, someone was building a new house," Daun says. On the building site, they spotted "six magnificent redwood boards that they were using for the window frames. They were about 12 feet long. No one was around, and in those days no one stole anything." Daun and Malcolm hoisted the boards on their shoulders and headed down the hill for the home of a friend who had a big basement. He refused to harbor their plunder, so they continued on to Sunset Cliffs Boulevard. "The boards would bounce because of the distance between us. We were walking along, and a couple of Ocean Beach cops drove around the corner, and oh my God, I thought we were going to die right there. I said, 'Don't look, don't look, don't look!' " The police slowed down but didn't stop the boys, who reached the safety of the garage adjoining the café and barbershop on Voltaire operated by Malcolm's parents. Later, "Skeeter told his dad that my father had bought the wood, and I told my dad that his father had bought it," Daun says. The only problem with this was that "when my dad went down to get a haircut, one of us always had to be in the damn barbershop to keep the talk away from the surfboard."

Somehow that worked. Three-quarters of an inch thick, the boards were far too thin to be made into a solid surfboard, so Daun and Malcolm set about building another box with cross-members. For this they needed screws and plywood, which cost little -- but more than they had. "But Skeeter got 20 cents a day for lunch money, which was unheard of for me," Daun says. "I had my mom make three sandwiches for me, and I'd take two and give Skeeter one. That way he could save his lunch money." They earned a bit more from chores. "We finally got the board built, and at 11 feet long, it was slow in turning, just like all big boards. But for a hollow board made at minimal expense, it was easy to catch waves."

Daun says he and Malcolm (who died in 1993 after a long career as a teacher, coach, and principal) later graduated to boards fabricated from the Pacific Systems Homes balsa/redwood blanks and shaped by Lloyd Baker. So did three other Ocean Beach friends of theirs. They all attended Point Loma High. Baker could look out from his music-appreciation class and assess the surf conditions. If the day looked good, he would sweep through the building, poking his head into the other boys' classrooms and catching their attention. They'd get up and leave. Someone always had an old Model A or some other vehicle they could pile into. "The teachers didn't like it," Daun acknowledges. "But that's how much we were into surfing." Every minute of their waking lives, they were either doing it or thinking about doing it.

The weight of the boards limited the choices of where these first hard-core surfers surfed. "See, in those days, those boards were nose-heavy," explains Bill "Hadji" Hein, who by the late 1930s had joined the small band of regulars at Mission Beach and at 88 continues to surf today. Because of the boards' tendency to "pearl" (or plunge beneath the water), "You had to be selective in where you could go. You had to have a wave at least four to five feet high, and it had to have slope in front of it, not a curl," he says. In San Diego County, the most reliable places to find those conditions were San Onofre, Windansea (in La Jolla), Pacific Beach Point, Sunset Cliffs (south of OB), and Imperial Beach.

Often compared to Waikiki in Hawaii, San Onofre began luring Southern California surfers as early as the 1920s.

According to Emil Sigler, the location's remoteness encouraged some at the all-male gatherings to swim naked, in a day when men wore bathing suits that covered them from neck to knee. By the 1930s, San Onofre was the setting for the Pacific Coast Surfriding Championships, the first organized surfing contests in the world. These were not cutthroat affairs, according to Jane Schmauss, the director of the California Surf Museum in Oceanside. "Those guys didn't care a feather or a fig about who was the best surfer," she says. But they were curious about each other's boards and techniques, and the San Onofre gatherings provided an opportunity to compare notes. "We had campfires and luaus," Hein recalls. "It was the Hawaiian Islands spirit."

San Onofre was too far away for everyday surfing. So was Imperial Beach for all but the few guys who lived there, and most of the time the IB surf wasn't great anyway, Baker says. But in the winter, when the surf came up at Tijuana Sloughs, "Then Dempsey [Holder] would call, and we'd go down." It might happen only three times a year, Baker says, "usually for three to four days. Then there wouldn't be any other surf for a month or so. And the beach surf [in Imperial Beach] wasn't any different than the beach surf at Mission Beach or anywhere else" -- unpropitious for boards that might weigh 70 pounds or more.

The waves off Sunset Cliffs were excellent year-round, although access to them wasn't easy. A fellow could make the long paddle south from Ocean Beach or approach from the cliff top or the Theosophical Society. "We used to take our surfboards and just leave 'em in the brush and carry them down the little trail and surf there day in, day out," Baker says.

At Windansea, the reef causes the swell to break abruptly, creating powerful waves that often have a tubular shape. But no one rode Windansea until 1937. One day a young glider pilot named Woody Brown, riding a homemade hollow board, and a handful of other young men from La Jolla "found great surf at Bird Rock and Pacific Beach Point, where we rode 20-foot waves, taking off right on the edge of the kelp," Brown recalled in a 2000 Surfer's Journal article. He and his buddies then ventured out at Windansea. After that, Ocean and Mission Beach surfers began joining them, at least on occasion.

Most, however, considered PB Point "the absolute best for us," according to Kimball Daun. "You always had a long right slide. When the surf was really big, you could actually ride all the way over to Tourmaline." As at Sunset Cliffs, access to the water off the headland wasn't easy. "You had to drive up La Jolla Boulevard and jump the curb," Hadji Hein recalls. Japanese-American farmers were growing fruits and vegetables on the bluff, and the surfers would drive through an opening in their fence and down a mud road leading south to a canyon. They'd park their jalopies there and walk the rest of the way to the beach. "There were beautiful oleander trees all along there," Hein says. The surfers would pick the blossoms, bring them home to their girlfriends, and they would make leis. "That was the spirit we had in those days. We'd play Hawaiian music and all that sort of thing."

One other way at least a few people reached Tourmaline Beach was via a City of San Diego lifeguard truck. By 1935, Emil Sigler had overcome the handicap of being blind in his right eye (the result of an early childhood accident) to come in second on the city's lifeguard-screening exam. He wound up working at the Mission Beach lifeguard station, which had an old Model A. Sigler says he would often rise early and load up a couple of the local kids like Baker and Paskowitz with their boards. He would drive north along the sand, going under Crystal Pier, to Tourmaline Beach. The group would surf, then return in time for Sigler to start his work shift by 9:30 a.m.

An encounter on that truck resulted in the Ocean Beach boys getting their nickname. As Kimball Daun recalls it, Sigler had driven up to Crystal Pier and stopped to chat with Daun, Malcolm, and a couple of their OB cohorts. Finally Sigler started the engine to drive back to the lifeguard station. "Well, Skeeter and I were going to have to walk down to Old Mission Beach," about a mile south of the pier. "So we jumped on the back of the truck. It had handles to hold on to. When we did that, the truck bottomed out." Emil Sigler chastised them, "So we jumped off and Emil worked the thing out of the sand, then we'd jump on again. Pretty soon it was 'You goddamned vandals!' He picked up big rocks and started flinging them at us! That was the first time we were called the Vandals." The name stuck.

Were the Vandals the first San Diego surf club? They weren't an organization. The Mission Beach surfers formed the first formal association of local wave riders around 1938, with the support of a city councilman named Fred Simpson. Lloyd Baker was the first president, and the group held meetings in a little room on the north end of the bathhouse that was located at the Mission Beach seawall, near Queenstown Court. But the club "dropped into oblivion when the war came along," says Hein, who was one of the first members. "Everybody had to go into the service, and it just went kaput."

World War II took a heavy toll.

One casualty was San Diego's first surf shack, constructed around 1938 on the cliff top overlooking PB Point. "Don Okey was the instigator," recalls Hadji Hein. "His father was a manager at a lumber company in La Jolla." The small band of young men who surfed Ocean Beach, Pacific Beach, and La Jolla built it. "We stored our surfboards in there; left them overnight," Hein says. "Nobody bothered them. Sometimes there'd be as many as six, eight, nine boards in there." But around 1940 the federal government confiscated the land and bulldozed the bluff top. The local citizenry rechristened the site Gunnery Point "because the sailors had machine guns along the bluffs. Airplanes would tow targets out over the ocean, and the gunners would shoot at the targets," Hein says.

Almost all the men over 18 went into the military service, leaving behind only youngsters and those few people who'd gotten a deferment. Among the former was Woody Ekstrom, who moved with his family into the house at 349 Gravilla Street, in southern La Jolla, in the fall of 1940, the year Ekstrom turned 13. He taught himself to swim and soon made friends with a 14-year-old named Bill Isenhouer. By the following summer, Ekstrom and Isenhouer were spending whole days at Little Cove, not far from Ekstrom's house. Other times, Ekstrom would catch a ride with a lifeguard going up to La Jolla Shores. "I took my mother's ironing board with me and used it to ride the soup," Ekstrom says. "It was wood, about five or six feet long, and I'd just push off into the soup, standing up. That was really the beginning of my surfing."

The United States had entered the war by the time Ekstrom bought a board intended for use in the ocean. "It was a paddleboard that I got for 25 cents from a fellow by the name of Phil Barber. Grandma had given me a dollar for my birthday, so 25 cents of it went to buying that board." It was almost 13 feet long. "Then in late 1943, I got my first real surfboard for $7.50 from a guy I went to high school with. He had found it on the beach. The war was going on, and I think it was just lying on the sand." Ekstrom says he soon figured out who had shaped it. "In those days, there were so few surfers, it wasn't long before somebody said, 'Oh, that's a [Lloyd] Baker shape.' It was balsa and redwood and was 11 foot 2 inches long and 72 pounds -- in very good shape."

Ekstrom thinks he used that board on the afternoon of December 31, 1943, a day that still shines in his memory. The previous summer, he'd borrowed a board and spent a month living on the beach at San Onofre, but Ekstrom says his La Jolla pals hadn't noticed how much he'd improved. That New Year's Eve day, a group of them were out at Windansea. "They got slaughtered. They lost their boards into the rocks, and everything was bad." Ekstrom, who'd been practicing south of there, at Big Rock, announced that he was going to Big Rock instead. "It was a north swell, and it was just right," he recalls. "So the guys said, 'All right, Woody. Let's see you go out.' So I went out at Big Rock, and I rode one wave after another. At the New Year's party that night, I was the center of attention, because I had really learned a lot," he says. He continued to improve, and by 1945 and 1946, he'd acquired a reputation as one of the best surfers in Southern California.

Men were returning home from the war by then, but the beaches still felt empty, according to John Elwell. Elwell was almost 13 on V-J Day. He'd grown up on E Avenue in Coronado listening to his father's stories about Hawaii in the 1920s. The senior Elwell had brought back pictures of Hawaiians surfing that made John marvel. He says his father taught him how to bodysurf, "and the other thing we did is listen to a great radio program called Hawaii Calls. It was the most fantastic program! They'd start with the drumbeats, and you could hear the wind blowing in the palm trees and the swishing of the girls' skirts." He moans at the memory. "You could hear the surf on the beach. Hawaii was wa-a-a-ay out there." Surfing was one way to connect with it.

He was 14 or 15 when he tried surfing himself, using paddleboards that the lifeguards at North Island had abandoned. "They were just terrible!" he says. "They had little plugs in them to drain them. The older they got, the more they leaked. After every third ride, you had to go let the water out." He got his own board after a while, and he says spending time on it had more allure than the workaday world. "Of course, the government put all this fear into you that the Russians had the Bomb, and we had the Cold War, and at any time we could have a nuclear attack." Duck-and-cover drills were a common interruption at Coronado High School. Elwell says he and his peers resolved to enjoy life while they could. "We felt, 'Let's get as much surfing as we can.' "

Radical breakthroughs in surfboard design and construction were made around the beginning of the 1950s, including the notion of wrapping balsa in fiberglass (which was invented just before the war), then coating it with polyester resin. This made the balsa waterproof so it no longer soaked up water. It also protected the fragile wood well enough that surfers could stop using weighty redwood rails, noses, and runners. The result was boards that were much lighter and more responsive.

Bob Simmons is generally credited with perfecting this innovation. A native of L.A., Simmons had a strong incentive to make surfboards lighter: as a teenager he'd collided with a car while riding his bike and permanently injured one elbow. He'd taken up surfing as a form of physical therapy and had fallen in love with the sport, but the heavy redwood/balsa planks were hard for him to lug around. Eccentric and brilliant, Simmons had studied both aerodynamics and hydrodynamics at the California Institute of Technology; then he'd dropped out during his senior year to work on the war effort. He'd moved to San Diego in 1949 to finish up a mathematics degree at San Diego State. But designing and riding boards engaged most of his attention.

Simmons was the first to use Styrofoam in a surfboard, according to Elwell, who's writing a book about Simmons. Because polyester resin melted the Styrofoam, Simmons encased the foam in plywood and balsa, and the result worked so well he made and sold about 100 boards throughout 1949. Simmons also applied hydrodynamic principles to shaping all-balsa boards, giving their noses a spoonlike shape, adding twin fins and concavity to their tails, and making their rails more rounded.

But Simmons was hardly the only creative designer. The first all-foam boards, reportedly used at Windansea in 1951, were invented by La Jolla surfer John Blankenship. And hundreds of surfers shaping elsewhere in Southern California added to the potential for ideas to emerge.

Carl Ekstrom's birth in 1941 was perfectly timed for him to enjoy the ensuing renaissance. Thirteen years younger than his brother Woody, Carl remembers being plunked down on a surfboard, riding tandem, at Windansea when he was 6 or 7. He couldn't swim, and when he got washed off the board, "It was a scary deal," he recalls. On more than one occasion, he almost drowned. But his fascination with surfing overcame the early traumas. Before he learned to swim, at 11, he rode homemade skateboards. Ekstrom believes the first skateboard in the world was created in La Jolla by another La Jolla boy named Peter Parkins. "That was in '47," he says, adding that Parkins was "a real hot surfer at Windansea. A lot of boards were being built in his garage. We called it Parkins' Palace. It was just a dirt floor and shop out behind the house."

To make the skateboards, Ekstrom says he and the other kids removed the steel wheels from old-fashioned roller skates and attached them to two-by-fours. "And we were riding down the steepest, biggest hills in La Jolla. That was the name of the game. It was like big-wave riding. But it was scary because you'd go so fast you couldn't step off, and the boards would get the wobbles." The hill leading down to the Cove was one of the bigger challenges. "We'd see how high we could get on it and still make that turn at the bottom." Ekstrom says the cobblestone pattern imprinted into the concrete increased the hazard. "We were always looking for smooth cement because of the steel wheels. The steel wheels would really slide too. They weren't grippy enough."

Once he learned to swim, he borrowed surfboards and practiced on the waves in front of the Marine Room at La Jolla Shores and at Little Point, just north of Windansea. "Boards were bigger back then. You could get some real floaty thing that you could almost stand up on in still water." Although there were "quite a few" older teenage boys surfing by then, preteens were scarce. But before Ekstrom turned 12, he had his own board, and he joined the crew at Windansea.

Ekstrom says that board was a balsa/redwood hybrid that had been shortened. He and another kid bought it from Fat Wally Robinson. "We went in doubles, and we were doing lawn work to pay for it. It didn't cost much, and it wasn't worth much. We called it the Box. It knocked out one of my front teeth almost immediately, root and all, at Windansea. It came back in the whitewater, and it got me." After another year or two, he wanted something better, but he didn't have much money. So Ekstrom says he started hanging out with Al Nelson, helping him glass -- apply fiberglass and resin to boards. Nelson "was coming onto the scene as an early shaper. He was doing most of the boards for the guys in La Jolla. People came from up and down the coast for his boards." Ekstrom says for a while Nelson was shaping on the beach at Windansea, under the landmark palm-frond-topped shack that was erected there in 1946. David Cheney and Pat Curren, also excellent surfers, shaped boards there too. "But there were lots of balsa shavings, and one day someone threw a match in, and there was a fire." The blaze didn't destroy the shack, but the shapers moved their operations elsewhere.

"We were always looking for places to build boards -- in garages or wherever. You'd go from friend to friend."

When Ekstrom was 15, he was glassing boards in a garage that he rented across the street from the shell shop overlooking La Jolla Cove. He says one day Nelson discovered a couple of vacant dirt-floored garages behind Al's Market, in the alley between Nautilus and Westbourne. Nelson set up shop in one, using extension cords to bring in electricity from a nearby house. When it seemed that this arrangement might be stable, "I moved into the garage next to him," Ekstrom recalls. "We were paying nothing, because no one even knew who owned the buildings. There were no locks on anything." One day a bulldozer showed up, "and it was time to get out." But it was idyllic while it lasted.

Much about the surfing scene was idyllic. "People call the '60s kind of the golden era of surfing. Well, to me, it was the '50s because of the balsa boards," says Skip 8. "That's when things really lightened up, and younger people and women could start taking advantage of [the sport] because the boards were light enough to take down to the beach. That's when [surfers] really started maneuvering and turning. The boards even kind of looked gold." Frye says he wishes he'd started surfing when he was 11 or 12, in the early '50s. "I would have liked to experience that whole era. It was such a neat time. The environment was so much simpler and purer, and the freeway wasn't happening -- it was just old 101."

Frye grew up in Bay Park. He swam a lot and was in the Boy Scouts, but he didn't spend much time at the beach because his parents "weren't real beachy." During his junior year at Mission Bay High School, a neighbor with a balsa board took him to Pacific Beach between Grand and Thomas avenues. "Right south of the lifeguard tower is where I caught my first soup. It wasn't actually a swell. We shared the board, and that was that. I just became totally fascinated with it."

Frye and his best friend, Mike Hynson, haunted the beach. "I'm not sure exactly who started first, but we kind of grew up together in the sport," Frye says. "He was really a type-A personality -- he would go for it. I was kind of a shy guy, so I'd just tag along.... When Mike knew there was a big name around, he'd go see what the guy was all about, learn from the guy, and try to outdo him." Shadowing his friend, "I was exposed to a lot of people and places I probably normally wouldn't have gotten exposed to." In later years, both Hynson and Frye became legends for their surfing and board-shaping, and in the winter of 1963, filmmaker Bruce Brown took Hynson around the world to costar in The Endless Summer. Upon its release in 1966, the film helped propel surfing into the cultural mainstream.

Before the sport made that transition, though, crowds and competition weren't part of the landscape, Frye recalls. "The information age wasn't anything like it is now, so we never knew where swells came from." A few individuals like Bob Simmons understood the relationship between storms and surf and studied the patterns, but to most surfers, the appearance of a big swell seemed almost mystical.

If Pacific Beach and the La Jolla beaches felt uncrowded in the 1950s, the North County beaches were Edenic. Jens Morrison says when his family moved to Leucadia from Palo Alto in 1955, "All these beach towns were just little hillbilly Podunk places, with no entertainment other than the La Paloma Theatre. There was nothing happening at all. It was tomato fields, flower fields. Lots of animal husbandry."

The Morrison family settled into a house on an acre of land at 910 Normandy Road, where 15-year-old Jens acquired two horses, two goats, a cow, and an assortment of sheep, chickens, ducks. At San Dieguito High School, he became friends with a boy named John Hunt, who told him he should check out Moonlight Beach. "I had no car, no transportation except my horse. But I would just get on Midnight and ride bareback down Normandy Road to Orpheus to Vulcan." In those days, the Pacific Coast Highway was easy to cross, and Morrison would ride parallel to the railroad tracks for a while, then turn right to go down to the beach. "I would tie my horse up near the lifeguard tower. John was the one that first got me on a surfboard."

At first Morrison and Hunt borrowed boards from county lifeguards (whose numbers by then included John Elwell). "We would just fiddle-diddle around in the inshore. Then eventually in the summer we would paddle out to the kelp beds and spearfish. There was no word for pollution. It didn't exist." Morrison says as he and Hunt improved in their surfing and acquired their own boards, they became aware that a handful of older guys were surfing around the old pier (later demolished) in Del Mar. Cardiff, too, commanded the allegiance of a small local crew. "There were some other little places in-between."

Morrison says eventually the better surfers from Moonlight Beach and other North County surf spots discovered Swami's, the stretch of sand below Encinitas' Self-Realization Fellowship Temple. Spending most of their time there is "how we got to be really good surfers. Because it's a reef break. It's way harder. We were the first people to really surf Swami's and surf it well," he says. The regulars at Swami's scorned those who rode the waves "Adolph straight-off," making a beeline for the beach. Instead, everybody wanted to surf like Oceanside's Phil Edwards. "He was a huge influence on a whole generation of people." Emulating him, the Swami's group started turning in a variety of ways, "and also nose-riding was a major, major big deal. Basically, moving around on the board."

The experimentation went on summer and winter, despite the icy water. Wet suits didn't become ubiquitous until the early 1960s. "People now are wimps," Morrison sneers. He says the '50s were a time "when men were men, and you just did it." A handful of girls did it too, among them a blond pixie from Encinitas named Linda Benson. She became so accomplished that she won the women's championship title in the Huntington Beach contest held in 1959, then captured the women's world title in Makaha, Hawaii, the following spring.

Most pleasures were more commonplace, Morrison says. The Swami's crew ignited old tires, creating blazing bonfires, and the local fire department, with a benevolent nod, would caution the kids to be careful. Being hassled for sleeping on the beach was unimaginable. "There were no cops!" Morrison exclaims. "Nobody got you for anything! Nobody arrested you. Nobody kicked you off the beach." The beach was uncorrupted by strife or vice, as Morrison remembers it. He wasn't fond of school, and he recalls days when he'd ditch and head to Swami's, knowing he could find a board in the bamboo at the top of the stairs. "If it wasn't mine, there'd be somebody else's. We used to leave them overnight." He recalls standing on the cliff on winter mornings, looking down upon perfect conditions: five- to six-foot waves, no hint of a breeze. "And I wouldn't go out because there was no one to go out with. I'd be too scared. We would wait for one or two other guys to come down; then we'd all go surfing." When he drove up to Malibu to surf in the summer of 1958, he was stunned. "Some guy ran over me on a big wave. I'd never seen so many people on surfboards in my life."

In June 1958, the first modern polyurethane foam boards began appearing. At first these inspired scorn. "We used to call the guys that rode them Spastic on Plastic because the boards were kind of bendy," recalls Skip Frye. "They had a funny feel," concurs Pacific Beach surfer Larry Gordon. "They vibrated a little bit, whereas balsa was nice and sturdy and stiff, and it didn't flex at all."

It didn't take long for surfers to realize that flexibility was a good thing. A flexible board could bend into a turn, flow through it better. The result was greater speed and maneuverability. Foam had other advantages: it wasn't porous like balsa, and it didn't have to be harvested from the forests of Ecuador. It could be created, as if by magic, from a couple of easy-to-obtain chemicals.

The first individuals to master this alchemy were a Laguna Beach surfer and shaper named Hobie Alter and his associate, Gordon ("Grubby") Clark .

But Larry Gordon and his buddy from Pacific Beach Junior High, Floyd Smith, followed quickly in Hobie Alter's footsteps. The San Diego pair had started surfing together in the fall of 1955, and within months, Larry Gordon was going out up to three times a day.

The first board he owned was heavy, and since his dad was a chemist who had started a San Diego plastics company, Gordon felt comfortable taking a do-it-himself approach to improving the wood. He peeled off the fiberglass and reshaped the board, drilling holes in the deck to remove weight and gluing veneer over the holes; then he reglassed the board with epoxy, rather than polyester resin. This saved him only three or four pounds, he recalls today. "But it gave me the experience of working on a board."

He later ordered a balsa-wood blank, which he got someone to shape. He glassed it himself and used it for a year or two. But the new foam boards were making a stir. They were also tough to obtain. If you wanted one, you had to drive to Dana Point to place an order with Hobie Alter. "Then you had to start calling after three weeks. Finally it'd be finished, and you had to go back to pick it up." Gordon says he and Smith realized if they could figure out how to make the foam boards, they'd have no trouble finding San Diego buyers.

They needed a "plug," or model, from which to create a mold, so in the spring of 1959, they ordered a board from Hobie, specifying a width, thickness, and length big enough so that smaller boards could be shaped from it. (They didn't let on what they wanted it for.) They built the mold in a corner of Gordon's dad's factory. "At the time, he was building car bodies for an electric car, so he was making a lot of molds." All the materials for mold-making were on hand.

They ordered the necessary chemical components, then bought large paper ice cream containers, "the kind you see in 31 Flavors," Gordon says. "You get the two components in there, and you mix them really well. Then you line the mold with paper and pour in the mixture as evenly as possible. It's kind of the same principle as cooking a waffle." Heat generated by the interaction of the two components, along with a foaming agent, makes the glop expand and fill the mold. "But there's a lot of technique," Gordon says. On his and Smith's first try, the mold yielded only three small, shapeless blobs, and subsequent attempts also resulted in disaster. Gordon says it took a couple of weeks before he and Smith were producing serviceable foam blanks. To each of these they added a thin strip of redwood down the centerline (a "stringer," to give the board stiffness). They then shaped the blank with the tools in common use for working on balsa, covered it with fiberglass and colored resin, and polished it.

By the fall of 1959, Gordon and Smith were making and selling boards out of the garage at Smith's apartment (in an alley off Balboa Avenue, between Grand and Garnet). "People would seek us out and want boards," Gordon says. "It was a constant stream of people." This increased at such a brisk pace that the duo moved in January 1960 to bigger quarters at 763 Turquoise Street. For a few months, they had no competition in San Diego, and when it did appear, Gordon says, "We had better team riders and better promotion." Gordon and Smith's volume grew steadily throughout the 1960s, peaking at about 3000 to 4000 boards a year, and when the shortboard revolution appeared in 1968 like a tsunami on the horizon, the San Diego firm was the only U.S. surfboard manufacturer to ride out the huge changes that followed. The company emerged in the '70s as the largest surfboard maker in the world, a position it held for several years. (Although Gordon and Smith still manufactures boards here today, another San Diego company, Rusty Surfboards, now ranks as the largest maker in San Diego and the second or third largest in the world.)

Gordon says even in the earliest days of the company, his partner's marketing skills were evident. "One day in 1960 or '61, he came up with the idea that if kids would bring in their T-shirts, he would silkscreen 'Surfboards by Gordon & Smith' on the back of them. When we announced that, we had a line around the shop down the street. Every Saturday we'd do it." Kids brought in their shirts, usually Towncrafts purchased at JCPenney, three for a dollar, and walked away with one of the world's first items of surf apparel. The Turquoise Street store might also have sold paraffin for waxing boards, Gordon says.

Woody Ekstrom says a case can be made that the first local surf shop was McCall's, a long-extinct La Jolla store on Prospect between Herschel and Girard. During the early 1940s, it sold paddleboards along with other sports gear. Others like John Elwell argue that the first true surf shops were surfers' garages. Shapers would be in business for a while, then disappear, and during the short lives of their operations, most of them sold nothing but surfboards.

A retail surf shop that preceded Gordon and Smith's storefront was an enterprise known as Burland. By the spring of 1958, it was operating out of a single-story building at 853 Turquoise (the current site of a VFW hall), a joint venture of Billy Burgener (the son of Clairemont developer and later congressman Claire Burgener) and Windansea regular Wayne Land. "They were kind of working on a different plane. A lot of what happened there revolved around humor," says Carl Ekstrom. Someone might spontaneously pick up a $50 bill and burn it. It was the Hawaiian influence, Ekstrom says. "The main thing was take care of your friends and not hold back." Burland didn't last long before going bankrupt.

In 1965, on the day before Tourmaline Surfing Park's official dedication, San Diego Union sportswriter Jack Murphy described it as the first surfing park in the United States. The sport by then had attracted 10,000 surfers in San Diego alone, and they'd formed 30 surfing clubs, according to Murphy. The boom had created tensions. "A surfer, by popular definition, has long, bleached hair, the physique of a lifeguard, and the manners of a juvenile delinquent," Murphy wrote. "He violates property rights, litters beaches, drinks excessively, smokes pot, stages wild parties, surrounds himself with adoring beach bunnies, and earnestly avoids work in all forms."

In the water, encounters between surfers and nonsurfers could be harrowing. When he started out, Larry Gordon recalls dodging and kicking out and surfing right through the swimmers at Pacific Beach. "And I can remember thinking, 'This is pretty unsafe. I wonder why they don't do something about it.' " Anytime there was a good north swell, surfers jammed the streets of the Sun Gold Point subdivision above PB Point, Gordon says. They'd lay their boards down in the street; some of them changed into their trunks in the open. Gordon chuckles at the memory of one newspaper article describing irate property owners, who believed such behavior threatened the value of their $25,000 homes.

Bo Smith says the mayor of San Diego finally responded by convening a group of swimmers, surfers, and other water users. Smith was a surfer who defied the popular stereotype. Now 84 and residing in a nursing home, he was in his late 30s at the time, a secondary school administrator and otherwise upstanding citizen. He says the advisory group met every other week for months, planning ways to designate areas that would satisfy the various interest groups. The idea for the surfing park arose out of this process, he says.

Many surfers hated that idea, Gordon says. "There was a lot of mistrust between the surfers and the authorities.... We thought for sure they would build that surfing park for us, and once it was built, it would be the only spot they would really let us surf in; that we would be considered ungrateful spoiled brats if we still wanted to continue surfing at Bird Rock or Crystal Pier or the Mission Beach jetty or all the other spots we had been surfing at." Despite their opposition, the park was dedicated on May 29, 1965. One irony is that although surfing today remains legal at dozens of places along the coast, Gordon surfs at Tourmaline 90 to 95 percent of the time. Everything turned out well, he says. "I was wrong."

By 1966, Windansea Beach was more famous than Tourmaline, thanks in part to Tom Wolfe's article "The Pump House Gang." The hard-core Windansea surfers were not impressed. Those guys were winning surfing championships and partying so hard they made the average pack of frat boys look like a Boy Scout troop. Wolfe wouldn't have been accepted in the parking lot where they hung out, according to Carl Ekstrom, who at the time belonged to the Windansea Surf Club and was creating custom boards beautiful enough to hang in an art gallery. (In 1968, in fact, Andy Warhol purchased an Ekstrom board for that purpose.)

The young kids who talked to the New York writer were members of "a side group," Ekstrom says. Although some of them surfed at Windansea, they by no means made up the heart and soul of the place, as Wolfe's article suggested. The story involved "a lot of artistic license. He wasn't telling it quite the way it was." And Wolfe's account of Bob Simmons's death was so ludicrous, it's no wonder spray-painted letters appeared on the pump house declaring, "Tom Wolfe is a Dork."

More than anything, what Wolfe offered his readers was a glimpse into an age-segregated society of ultra-cool, lean, tan surfer-teens. In the article, they sneer at the "black panthers," an older couple (almost 50!) who dare to sit on their beach, she wearing black street shoes, "out of which stick a pair of old veiny white ankles, which lead up like a senile cone to a fudge of tallowy, edematous flesh, her thighs, squeezing out of their bathing suit, with old faded yellow bruises on them, which she probably got from running eight feet to catch a bus or something." The gang intimidates the woman and her husband into leaving. The teens can't conceive of ever growing up and turning into such revolting creatures themselves.

What impresses these kids, what they talk about, according to Wolfe, is the story of Bob Simmons's wipeout. Simmons, according to Wolfe, was "a fantastic surfer" who rode "the really big waves" and wiped out at Windansea one day. "His board came in but he never came back and they never found his body." Although that was "very mysterioso," the most mysterioso thing "was how he could have died at all. If he had been one of the old pan-thuhs, hell, sure he could have got killed. But Simmons was, well, one's own age, he was the kind of guy who could have been in the Pump House gang." The truth, as most of the Windansea crew knew, was that Simmons had died a dozen years before, when many of Wolfe's Pump House gang members had not yet started kindergarten. And at the time he wiped out, he was 35 years old, far beyond "the horror age of 25, the horror dividing line."

John Elwell was in the water the afternoon Bob Simmons died. "I rode the wave before him, and I was swimming back out. I saw it happen. He took off real late, and the board came over the top. It was, like, the biggest wave of the day, what we call a rogue wave. He took it and went off of his board, and the board came over like a guillotine. Hit him right on top of the skull."

Elwell didn't see the blow; he later surmised that this was what happened. At the time, Simmons's fall just looked like a bad wipeout. Other witnesses saw what happened next. Carl Ekstrom and Ronald Patterson and Mike Diffenderfer were standing on the cliff, watching the waves, which had been growing bigger all afternoon. Ekstrom remembers Diffenderfer saying, "Look, Simmons is bodysurfing." That was odd. "He was a guy you'd never see without his board," Ekstrom recalls. "And I remember looking out and not seeing anybody, just seeing white water, water water, white water. It was a great big set." Ekstrom didn't think any more about it until later, when Simmons's friend Bev Morgan showed up and asked about him. A local kid by then had retrieved Simmons's board and hauled it up on the beach. More ominous was what Morgan pointed out. Simmons was in the habit of stashing his clothes in one corner of the surf shack. When he finished surfing, he always got them immediately. "But the clothes were still up there."

Although people looked for the body that night, it washed up a few days later. A woman glimpsed it early in the morning and called police. Ekstrom says Don Okey was standing in the parking lot, speculating where it would come in, based on how the waves were breaking, when a body appeared in the top of a wave. A third Ekstrom brother, Bob, raced into the water and grabbed it.


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Traditional Hawaiian Surf Culture


Traditional Hawaiian Surf Culture collects together in one small ebook all that we know about early surfing culture -- at least prior to and immediately following European contact in Hawaii, in the late 1770s. This chapter is the most concise, detailed information on the subject available anywhere, excepting Volume 1 of LEGENDARY SURFERS, itself.



This original LEGENDARY SURFERS chapter was written in 1999. The eBooklet version -- written in 2004 -- was revised at that time to include additional material.

Word count: 11,069; Total pages: 26 (888 kb)

To order your eBooklet for just $2.95, please click on a Pay Pal icon below:



All my PayPal order fulfillment is done manually, so please be patient in the case there may be a delay. Should you have any problems with your order, please comment at the bottom of this posting and I will be sure to get it.

Aloha and Thank You for Your Interest in My Writings,



Malcolm Gault-Williams



CONTENTS of What You Will Receive:


Sunday, August 27, 2017

John Severson (1933-2017)

Drew Kampion wrote an obituary for John Severson... for John's family:


John Hugh Severson
December 12, 1933 – May 26, 2017


John Severson, the artist, filmmaker, and founder of Surfer Magazine, died on Maui last Friday morning after an accelerating battle with a rare form of leukemia. 

Louise, his wife and lifelong companion, wrote: “John died here in Napili, in the house he loved, at the surf spot he loved. It was a beautiful sunny morning and four of his girls were around him.”

And so John’s planetary journey came to an end, peacefully and with apparent acceptance, but probably wishing for more of what he loved most: life.

His life was full, and full-on, right from the start. As a Southern California kid who grew up at the beach and lived to surf, a conventional life was probably not in the cards. His academic career curved towards the arts and, finally, to Long Beach State, where he earned a Master’s degree (’56) in Art Education. That was where, following the advice of a perceptive instructor, he began to paint the world he knew: the beach, surfers, and waves. He found voice in a bold, bright, modern style that somehow seemed all his own. He embarked on a career as an art teacher.

However, he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1957. He was bound for Germany when an unexpected shift in assignment sent him instead to Oahu, the birthplace of surfing. There, his mastery of pen and ink got him assigned to map-making, and his skills in the ocean put him on the U.S. Army surfing team.

 John Severson, image courtesy of Encyclopedia of Surfing

John had been taking pictures of his friends at the beach and in the water since his father moved the family to San Clemente in the late forties; now in the right place at the right time, armed with a 16mm Keystone movie camera, he turned his attention to the exploits of the rag-tag crew of young men who were drawn to the North Shore’s big winter surf. The footage from that first winter became his first film, Surf! The film’s showings in Hawaii and back in California (thanks to big-wave surfer Fred Van Dyke, who toured the film) earned enough to exchange his Keystone for a Bolex and buy more film for another movie, Surf Safari, which led to another, Surf Fever. Using enlarged frames from his films, he created a 36-page booklet to promote the shows. He titled that booklet The Surfer, which became The Surfer Quarterly, and then Surfer, a bi-monthly then a monthly magazine, known as “the Bible of the Sport.”

By the mid-1960s, John was at the helm of a successful business, with a full magazine staff and plenty of advertisers, plus two daughters and a home at the beach in a gated community at the southern end of Orange County. And then Richard Nixon bought the house next door.

It was the peak of the national crisis precipitated by the Vietnam war and a counterculture that had been building since the fifties, back when those North Shore surfers were very much a part of a growing rebellion against conventional living & societal norms. So it made sense that, amidst this generational shift in consciousness, John’s life took a turn. He returned to his cameras and pulled together a team of polite revolutionaries to create the first environmental surf film, Pacific Vibrations, which soon made its way to the big screen as a Warner Bros. release.

After that he sold Surfer Magazine and the house and bought land upcountry on Maui. He built a home, planted a garden, and set out with the family on a Swiss Family Robinson journey through the South Pacific before settling down, back on Maui, to build, garden, and paint. The word “transformation” would apply.

Back at Surfer, in 1969, John had titled a two-page spread of his paintings “Surf Art,” perhaps coining the term, and certainly defining his ongoing life path, which was always about creating a unique and engaging beauty. On Maui, in the seventies and eighties, he built his own homes, and those creations were every bit as imaginative and beautiful as the art works that began to issue from his studio. John’s paintings of island beauty, depicting the balance and drama of ocean waves and the thrill of surfing, remain as powerful testimony to the artistic vision and joy that was fundamental to everything he created.

By following his own love of life, and expressing it in whatever media he put his heart and hands into, John became one of the most positive, affirmative, inspirational people of our lifetimes. He felt, understood, and translated the magnificent power of ocean waves into food for all our souls. What a great gift to humanity!

One of John's greatest goals was to spread awareness about protecting the ocean and restoring its coral reefs. We all need to be aware of the toxic products that run off into our oceans. We can start by using "reef safe" sunscreen in the water, so we can revive the reefs that have been bleached by the chemicals in the creams we put on our skin.

In addition to Louise and his daughters, Jenna and Anna, John leaves one brother, Joey, and his grand-daughters: Jenna’s children Alizé, Luna, Kea, Aleia, and Anna's daughter Zoë (all girls!) to carry on the positive power.

– Drew Kampion

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The Surfer's Journal Filmmakers half hour episode on John and his movies:


Sunday, August 6, 2017

John Heath "Doc" Ball (1907-2001)


In 1998, I had the honor of interviewing Doc Ball, then at age 91. Subsequently, much of that interview appeared in an article I collaborated with Gary Lynch on. Printed in LONGBOARD magazine, Volume 6, Number 4 (August 1998), "Doc Ball, Through the Master's Eye" contained not only Doc's story, but a number of images he took during the 1930s. Five years or so later, I wrote a fuller bio of Doc which is still on line here: Doc Ball: Surfing's First Dedicated Photographer. This latest chapter on Doc is a further expansion of that biographical sketch.

Doc Ball was tremendously influential in the growth of surfing in California, especially between the 1930s and 1950s. To his very last day, December 5, 2001, he remained a source of inspiration to all of us.




A man who would become one of Tom Blake’s best friends of all time and one of the most influential surfers of the 1930s was “Doc” Ball.  Born John Heath Ball on January 25, 1907,[1] Doc was a key guy in two very important areas: Firstly, he, along with Adie Bayer, organized and lead surfing’s first great surf club, the Palos Verdes Surfing Club (PVSC), a group whose legacy is still felt today.  Secondly and as importantly, Doc became surfing’s first truly dedicated surf photographer.  Although others had shot surfers and surfing before him – most notably Blake – it was not until Doc Ball that surf photography rightly came into its own.[2]

Doc grew up in Redlands, California, the son of Genevieve – a natural child psychologist – and Archibald E. Ball, DDS, a graduate of the University Of Michigan School Of Dentistry.[3]  While as a boy, photography became part of John Heath’s life.

“Most of my lifetime, I guess,” he told me, “I’d had a camera for some reason or another… I started with a little thing about four or five inches; maybe less than that; a little tiny camera box that they made.  I guess it was for kids or something.  It was black and white stuff.  Take it on bike hikes and everything.  That was when I was about eight years old.  I got started ‘photography’ that way.”[4]

Doc’s introduction to the Pacific Ocean also came early in his life.  Out at Catalina Island, “at age 4,” Doc wrote, “I was taken along with my parents on a Redlands Elks Club party.  On arriving, my mom decides to take a swim in the little bay.  She also carried me out there and met another club member, Jake Suess (owner of a grocery in Redlands).  He says, ‘Let me take little Jack.  I’ll teach him to swim.’  She handed me over to him.  He wades out to hip depth and plops me down in that cold H20.  I went clear under before he grabbed me up.  And I start screaming ‘It’s salty!’  Anyway, that did not blot out my interest in the old salty, as our family vacationed at Hermosa Beach.  I learned to bodysurf, here.  Also, to make a few dimes catching and selling sand crabs to be bait for fishermen.”[5]

Doc’s water direction was kept alive, back in the Redlands during the school year, when he later became a junior lifeguard at the Redlands Municipal Pool.  Duke Kahanamoku visited the pool as a master of ceremonies for an inauguration and made an impression on Doc that was never lost.[6]

By 1924, Doc held the Redlands High School pole vault record of 11-feet 6-inches, using a bamboo pole.  He continued playing sports in school when he played left end on the University of Redlands football team (1928).[7]  “The next wild experience here,” Doc wrote about the aquatic side of high school sports, “was learning how to do a one-and-a-half flip over from the 20-foot high diving platform.  It was a blast!”[8]

Following his father’s profession, Doc enrolled at the University of Southern California Dental School in 1929.  “This is where I learned to put my hands in people’s mouths,” Doc recalled, “and not get bit.”  It’s also where Doc got his nickname.[9]

“By this time,” Doc added, “I also set another record.  A 20-foot exhaust pipe for my strip-down Model T Ford (rode the thing on the gas tank) – was given the thing for cleaning up a friend’s backyard of weed overgrowth.  Weeds had almost swallowed the old T.  It had no body or fenders or front tires.  I drove it home and got it in shape to drive.  When they did some repair work on the Kingsbury Grade School roofing was when I got that 20-foot pipe – put the end of it on skate wheels and attached it to my Model T Ford.  Got a blast when classmates went to look at the skate wheel towing attachment.  I would pop the thing [pop the clutch] with a backfire which caused them to jump sky high.”[10]

Doc recalled that “when I went down to USC Dental College, I had a little canoe I used to ride up in the Redlands area, in the lakes and rivers and whatever – canals [even].  So, I figured, ‘why not?’ [try it in the ocean].  Oh, we had lived in Hermosa Beach, there, in the summertime, way back [beginning in] 1920-21.  So, I knew the beach and I was interested in salt water and so –” he laughed, “I took that canoe, went out and paddled around; finally found out I could catch some waves with it!”[11]

When we think of a “canoe” nowadays, an image of a nicely constructed, mass-produced, well-marketed product comes to mind.  But, back then, a canoe could mean something you bought, but most likely meant something you made.  Doc’s was a custom job he called “The Bull Squid.”[12]

“I made it with bicycle rims – wooden rims, in those days,” Doc told me.  “The canoe was mostly made – what they had were some [train] car strips that they would use for packing oranges; great big orange boxes in the flat cars in the freight trains; just big long strips [of wood].  They just fit together perfect.

“So, I made the sides out of wood and put a little canvas covering over the front and back and that kept the waves from crashing over both the bow and, ah – stern.

“Anyway, it was a pretty good little surfing canoe; 6-foot, 6-inches long.”[13]

With The Bull Squid, Doc not only spent time sliding the surf, but diving for abalone.  The rest of the time was spent on classes and studying.[14]

“Remember your first surfboard?” I asked Doc.

“Pretty much.  It wasn’t mine, but it was one we could use.  There was a guy who came down to the beach, there, to go surfin’.  He’d been to Hawai‘i and he brought this board back.  A big 10-foot redwood.  He didn’t know what to do with it during the week, cuz he knew he’d only come down on the weekend.  So, by that time I had another buddy whose mother and father owned a restaurant right on the beach – right on the cement walk, there, on the ocean front.

“We went in and made a deal with him.  If the guy would let Norm [Brown] and I use his board during the week, they’d let him store it in their restaurant (‘Walt & Mize Hamburgers’).  It was kind of an attraction!  It helped them out and it helped us out.  That was the first board.”[15]

Encouraged by Sam Apoliana, a Hawaiian classmate,[16] Doc went on to build a plank-style surfboard.  He carved it out of a large slab of redwood, hewn with an adze.[17]

“Then,” Doc told me of this development, “Norm and I decided we better have one of our own, so we went down and got some lumber.”  Doc paused and asked me if I knew what an adze is.  “You have to stand with your legs spread pretty good,” Doc cautioned about use of the adze.  “Some of the guys we’d been told – in the logging industry – they’d pretty near chopped their ankle off.

“It’s a horizontal [blade, as opposed to an axe’s vertical].  Well, we hacked us out a couple of boards with that.  That was really the first one [we made ourselves and were our own].”[18]

In the late 1980s, Doc passed this same adze on to big wave legend Greg Noll, appointing him as “keeper of the flame.”  As for Doc’s first surfboard when he first hacked it out, he colored it white and decorated it with copper sheeting in the shape form of a shield with the words “Na Alii,” Hawaiian for “The King.”[19]  Copper studs kept it solidly pressed to the board’s surface.  “In time,” Doc said with some regret, “it was stolen out of our Hermosa Beach house backyard.”[20]

“Then ole Norm,” Doc told me, “he decides he’s gonna make one after Blake’s type [hollow paddleboard].  He started making 14-foot paddleboards.  I bought one of those from him and that was my board for a long time.”

“You liked the increased flotation?” I surmised.

“Oh, definitely,” Doc agreed.  “Yeah!”[21]


Early Heroes & Influences


Like many surfers of his time, Doc revered Duke Paoa Kahanamoku.  “He was one of our heroes in that time,” Doc told me.  “He came here and toured around a little bit, but I didn’t get to see him too much.”[22]

About a year or two after he got started surfing, Doc had an opportunity to surf with Duke down at Corona del Mar.[23]  One of Doc’s most vivid memories of Duke was in the early 1930s, at a surf contest at Santa Monica:

“They had a big thing at Santa Monica – a whole gathering of surfers giving out awards from the contest they’d had,” Doc recalled.  “Ol’ Duke was in there.  And, son-of-a-gun, when I got in there and sat down, here’s Duke.  He’s sitting right in front of me.”  Doc was laughing about it as he remembered the day.  “And I said, ‘Duke… Duke… Duke…’ [trying to engage him in conversation].  Never even turned his head.”  To get Duke’s attention, Doc resorted to the little Hawaiian lingo he knew.  In Hawaiian, Doc said, loud enough for Duke to hear: ‘To the up righteousness of the State.’[24]  “And, man, he whipped around like a shot!”  Doc laughed some more, then told me they got into active conversation.  “We had a blast…”[25]

A hero more accessible and even a close friend was Tom Blake.[26]  “He was my surfin’ buddy for all those years,” Doc told me of the 1930s and ’40s.  “We rejoiced together in the picture shootin’ [photography] and everything.”[27]

I mentioned to Doc that I’d heard there were only about 30 surfers in Southern California at the end of the 1920s.[28]

“That sounds a little extra, to me,” he responded.  “When I started, there were probably 15 or 20 around the whole coast.  But, they were mostly all in Southern California where the water was warm.”

I asked Doc who the earliest surfers were that he could remember.

“Some of the local guys.  Johnny Kerwin and his family, Jim Bailey [and] lifeguards.  They had a big pier there [Hermosa], ya know.  You go out there and that’s where you run into the lifeguards.  Most of the time, some of these other guys were out there; goin’ fishin’ or just checkin’ the situation out.”[29]

Most respected of these lifeguards was Rusty Williams.  “Anytime the waves got good, why, he’d be out there.  He was the one who was always telling us to watch out for the pilings on the pier.”[30]

About Johnny Kerwin, Doc said, “He was one of the first, there, at Hermosa Beach; the Kerwin family.  He had three brothers and a sister… We used to get together to go surfing, abalone diving, lobster diving and, boy, you name it.  His folks had a big bakery down there at Hermosa Beach and so that’s where we went to get all our cookies, bread, cakes… it was really an ‘in’ thing.
“He was a real friend...”[31]


First Dedicated Surf Photographer


John “Doc” Ball certainly was not the first person to photograph surfers.  One has only to visit any surfing museum to see evidence of predecessors.  There are shots taken of surfers going back to the late 1800s.  Frenchmen Auguste and Louis Lumiere invented the motion-picture camera in 1895[32] and by 1898, motion pictures of surfers at Waikiki were taken by Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb and the phonograph.[33]

Notable during the 1910s was Alfred Gurrey, Jr., in Honolulu.  Sometime shortly after 1903, he opened Gurrey’s Ltd: Fine and Oriental Art, which became a hub of Honolulu’s art scene; “the haunt of artists and patrons,” as a Honolulu Commercial Advertiser later put it.[34]

It was while operating the gallery that Gurrey photographed surfers and then had some of his surfing photographs published in magazines like Alexander Hume Ford’s Mid-Pacific Magazine.[35]  It was Gurrey’s photographs of Duke, especially, that gained a large audience not only in the Islands, but on the U.S. Mainland and in Australia.  His best work can be seen in one of surfing’s most scarce collectibles: The Surf Riders of Hawaii.

Surf Riders of Hawaii was originally self-published by Gurrey as a handmade booklet photo compilation of surfing photographs in 1914.  It was later reprinted in St. Nicholas Magazine, Volume XLII, Number 10, August 1915.  The booklet combined artistically-rendered prints with romantic poetry from Lord Byron and also prose by Gurrey himself.[i]

Unfortunately, Gurrey quit photography shortly after publication of Surf Riders of HawaiiHis art gallery struggled financially through the second half of the 1910s and on into the 1920s, finally shutting its doors in 1923.  After a year of unemployment, Alfred, Jr. joined his father in the insurance business.  He died a few years later at the relatively young age of 53.[36]

Photographs of surfers continued to be taken through the first two decades of the century – the beginning two decades of the rebirth of surfing.  Surfer, inventor and philosopher Tom Blake took many photographs, some of which can be seen in his first book Hawaiian Surfboard.  And, in a notable milestone, Blake had the first surf layout printed in an edition of National Geographic., published the same year (1935).  Like Doc Ball, Don James also began surf photography in the 1930s, shooting many a photo between the ‘30s and 1960s.[37]

The significant role Doc Ball plays in surf photography, however, is that he was the first truly dedicated “surf photog,” as he called himself.  His surfing experience was framed by the camera’s lens from many angles.  Sure, he surfed and spearheaded the Palos Verdes Surfing Club, but more than that, he took photographs of surfers, surfing and surf culture.  He was the first to take this approach as his primary focus.  It began like this:

In 1926, Doc was given a Kodak Autographic camera by his father’s dental assistant.  “My dad was a dentist,” he reminded me, “and his office gal brought in a folding Autographic.  She didn’t want it anymore, so she gave it to my dad and he gave it to me.  I took that down to the beach, there, and when I went to school.”[38]

“I started [taking pictures of surfers surfing] after we started going down to the beach.  I said, ‘Oh, man, I gotta take a picture of some of these guys.’  That’s when I started using that folding Autographic.”[39]

One of Doc’s earliest surf-related photographs was taken the same time he started riding waves with a canoe and then a surfboard.  Around 1929, Doc took some pictures of his mother on a board at Palos Verdes Cove.  “My mother was a beautiful chicken,” is how he put it to Gary Lynch, “you have to admit it, a natural child psychologist.  She raised us right,” he added in appreciation.[40]

The year 1931 was when Doc really hit a turning point in his life; a turn that would unite his recreational time with both surfing and photography.  At the start of the year, the Los Angeles Times printed a sepia-toned, full spread rotogravure photograph of four surfers at Waikiki.  Taken by Tom Blake with his new waterproof camera housing, “Riders of Sunset Seas” grabbed hold of Doc’s imagination at the same time it provided viewers with a unique perspective of waves and surfers at an angle never before.[41]

From that point on, “Doc became dedicated,” surf historian Gary Lynch wrote, “to the pursuit of artistically recording the California surfing scene.”[42]

About the Kodak folding Autographic and why it was called that, Doc told me: “You could sign the thing and it registered right on the film; had a little place down at the bottom of the camera case.  I used to carry that out to the Palos Verdes Cove… I finally got to the point where I carried it in my teeth with a towel around my neck, getting’ drowned an’ everything.”[43]

“Doc started,” Gary Lynch wrote, “producing photographs of surfers surfing, their boards, cars, girlfriends, parties, surf board construction, living quarters, club houses and just about all activities related to this new breed of Californian.  Comedy often played a part in the composition of Doc photographs.”[44]


Palos Verdes Surfing Club, 1935-1941


Doc graduated from the USC Dental College in 1933.  Shortly afterward, on Monday, March 19, 1934, he opened an office at 4010 1/2 South Vermont Avenue, in Los Angeles.  “He rented a second story, five room suite above a movie theatre that then stood at that address,” wrote Gary Lynch. “On a surviving photograph of the office and theatre beneath, the marquee clearly informs us that the movie ‘Algiers’ was showing, starring Charles Boyer and Hedy Lamarr.  One room was dedicated to working on his patients and one room served as his bedroom, office, darkroom, and laboratory.”[45]  A third room constituted the Palos Verdes Surfing Club, after it was formed in 1935.[46]  The landlord gave Doc the first two months rent free, due to the Depression, and charged forty dollars a month thereafter.[47]

“In those days,” Doc told Gary, “I didn’t have enough money to rent another building to sleep in.  We made our own boards and swimming trunks, camera tripods, and copy stands.  We bought very little.  It was good for you.  After all that, you really knew how to get there from here.  It was a do-it-yourself age.”[48]

A year after he got going in his dentist practice, Doc got together with Adie Bayer to found the Palos Verdes Surfing Club.  “He was one of the big ones,” Doc told me, referring to Adie Bayer as one of the top surfers of the era.[49]  Bayer was a champion platform diver, swimmer, tennis player, as well as surfer.[50]

“He was real energetic and everything,” Doc affirmed. “He helped do organizings, too.”[51]

Because it helped sponsor the first annual Pacific Coast Surfing Championship, the Corona del Mar Surf Board Club was probably the first surf club to form on the U.S. Mainland. It was “the largest club of this kind in America,” according to The Santa Ana Daily Register, July 31, 1928.[52]  The Hermosa Beach Surfing Club was probably second, organizing around 1934.  They had about 18 members, including “the old ones plus Don Grannis, Ted Davies, and others.”[53]

The following year was “A banner year,” “Chuck A Luck” Ehlers recalled of 1935.  To the south, “the Palos Verdes Surfing Club was formed – with Tulie Clark, ‘Doc’ Ball, Hoppy Swarts, LeRoy Grannis, along with transferred surfers Matt Davies, Jim Bailey, Johnny Gates, Tom Blake, Gard Chapin and others.”[54]

Doc remembered that it was Johnny Kerwin who got the Hermosa Beach Surfing Club going, but he said it was “a little after we formed.  Palos Verdes was one of the first ones that organized.  After that was Hermosa and then Manhattan and then Santa Monica.  From there on it went up the coast and kept going after that.”[55]

I asked Doc if there were any significant differences between the surf clubs that sprang up in this period.  “Not especially, as far as I know,” he responded.  “They all had their little banquets here and there and times of celebration; same things we did, too, in our Palos Verdes [club].”[56]

Doc was being typically modest in his comparison of the PVSC to other surf clubs.  The fact was that the Palos Verdes Surfing Club was more sophisticated and organized than any other club.  It’s organization would be impressive even compared to today’s standards.  Certainly, Doc’s photography played a large part in establishing the PVSC as the dominant surf club of the decade.[57]

“We also had, among the clubs,” Doc added, “the Catalina Island-to-Santa Monica Paddle Race.  It was on those [hollow Blake-style] 14-foot paddleboards.  Whew!  That was a long paddle, but [at least] it was a relay.”[58]  What Blake, Peterson and Burton had started had evidently continued.

Soon after forming, the Palos Verdes Surfing Club moved its headquarters into one of the rooms Doc rented.  A small room that separated the clubhouse from the dental office was Doc’s storeroom, bedroom and darkroom.[59]

“The interior of the club room,” reconstructed Gary from Doc’s personal photographs, “was elaborately decorated with photographs of all members with their boards, trophies won by club members, surfing paintings, a president’s desk with gavel, and a set of shark’s jaws that housed the club creed.”[60]

The Palos Verdes Surfing Club creed went like this:

I as a member of the Palos Verdes Surfing Club, Do solemnly swear:
“To be ever steadfast in my allegiance to the club and to its members,
“To respect and adhere to the aims and ideals set forth in its constitution,
“To cheerfully meet and accept my responsibilities hereby incurred,
“And at all times strive to conduct myself as a club member and a gentleman,
“So help me God.”[61]

For non-members, entrance into the PVSC club room was by invitation only.  The club had a sergeant-at-arms and no smoking was allowed in the club room.  “We forbid any cigarette smoking in the club,” Doc explained for me.  “There were some that did, though.  One was [Gene] Hornbeck and another was Jean [Depue].  They never did have any cigarettes when they came to the club, but once in a while, outside, you’d catch ‘em.  Finally, Jean – he tried to go out Hermosa Beach in the big surf and he couldn’t make it out; couldn’t punch through like the rest of us.  He ran out of breath.  That slew the cigarettes on his behalf; never touched ‘em again.”[62]

“The Palos Verdes club members were just regular guys,” remembered LeRoy Grannis of his own participation.  “We worked or went to school, and were pretty much on our own.  We were all like little animals.  Nobody had much or any money, so there was no incentive to go looking for places to spend money and have fun.  We just stayed on the beach and everybody was happy.  I was an apprentice carpenter for my dad, building houses along the oceanfront in Hermosa.  If the surf was good and my friend Hoppy Swarts came by, ready to go, and my dad wasn’t there, it was really hard for me to stay on the job.  Three days later I’d come back and my dad would be madder than hell.”[63]

The PVSC went on to organize paddling races, paddleboard water polo matches, and surfing contests.[64]  The club’s influence went far beyond Palos Verdes.  “When the surf was flat there in Southern Cal,” Doc said of the surf safaris club members would take and the PVSC influence on the rebirth of surfing in Santa Cruz, “we’d make these trips out around, up the coast and down.  One of them went up to Santa Cruz.  They’d not seen that activity (surfing) up there [before]!  Our guys were the ones who initiated it in Santa Cruz.”[65]

E.J. Oshier was the main PVSC guy to help get surfing going again in Santa Cruz.[66]

“The sport quickly took hold at Long Beach, Corona del Mar, San Onofre, Dana Point, and many Santa Monica Bay areas,” confirmed Duke Kahanamoku, “like Redondo, Hermosa, Manhattan and Palos Verdes Cove.  To thousands and thousands it has become a way of life.”[67]

In his limited edition California Surfriders, 1941 – later republished as California Surfriders and still in print – Doc documented “How All This Started.”  Below the title, the photo shows Doc “snapping one in the good old days when the camera was carried out by holding it between his teeth.  Towel was there just in case.”[68]  The photo below it, entitled “Straight Off,” featured “Paddleboards, hats and paddles, constituted the cove surfing gear back in 1934.”[69]

“Life was grand around the California beaches even though the Great Depression had drained the savings and expectations of many,” Gary Lynch wrote.  “For as little as $15-$25 one could build a hollow board or plank style surf board, sew a pair of swim trunks out of canvas and feel like a king at the beach.  When the swell was small, Palos Verdes Cove provided food as well as recreation for the surfers.  A number of interesting photographs taken by Doc demonstrate that a paddle board could be used as an abalone diving platform.  Green abalones were abundant and the limit was twenty a day.  Diving for abalone in combination with fishing made for a pleasant existence.  Driftwood still existed on the Southern California beaches and a warm fire often was the centerpiece for the daily gatherings.”[70]

One particular time stands out in Doc’s memory and it was less than pleasant.  “I was diving for abalones and every time I get down there – oh, about 8-feet of water – I had an abalone beneath a rock.  The thing was anchored there pretty solid.  Each time I’d get my iron in there to loosen him up, he’d get re-anchored.  I stayed down and stayed down – I plumb ran out of air!  Man, I began to black out and so I just dropped everything and came up and started to inhale a little water before I hit to where my surfboard was anchored up there.  I kinda flopped over onto the board and here comes this guy around the corner, at the Palos Verdes Cove.

“‘Hey, Doc – What’re you tryin’ ta do?  Drown yourself?!’

“Holy mackeral!  Then it hit me; what was happening.  That was a wild experience.

“I had another one, too, down diving like that when a big shadow come over the top.  I look up and there’s this great big – 6-7-foot, white belly – leopard shark came swimming across.  Holy cow!  I got outta there!”[71]

Up until Tom Blake began drilling holes in redwood boards in 1926,[72] surfboard size and weight had remained the same since early on in the 1800s.  Further innovations in surfboard design and components continued during Doc’s time.  By the time the PVSC was underway, Blake had already gone to chambered hollow boards that reduced the weight even further.

Blake’s “Hawaiian Hollow Board” – the board that had begun this period of innovation – became known more commonly as “Blake’s Cigar.”[73]  Even though it was nearly laughed off the beach at first, almost every surfer in California and the budding East Coast began turning in their old spruce pine and redwood planks for the lighter, “Blake-style” boards once he went to a chambered hollow design.  “The trend [in surfing] soon changed,” noted a surfside analyst of the late 1930s, “due to its [the hollow board’s] extreme lightness, strength, durability and the greater ease in gaining speed, with much less effort.”[74]

Delbert “Bud” Higgins, a Huntington Beach lifeguard of those times, described the solid boards during this period.  “The “redwoods were really too heavy, about 125 pounds, plus another 10 pounds or so when they got wet.”  Yet, Higgins, who was the first man to ride through the pilings of the Huntington Beach Pier while standing on his head, swore by the old boards, saying they were, “so big and stable [that] you could do almost anything.”[75]

It was true that compared to the heavier solid wood boards, hollow boards had more steering and stability problems.  The hollows tended to “slide tail” or “slide ass,” in large part because the rails were not rounded and caught water rather than released it.  Except for simple angle turns – accomplished either by dragging one’s foot “Hawaiian style” off a board’s inside rail, or by stepping back and tilt-dancing the board around and out of its old course and into a new one – the hollow boards were still awkward and cumbersome.[76]

This situation ended later on in the decade, thanks to superior construction techniques.  By then, even hollow board rails incorporated a rounded edge.  Also, although they would not completely be embraced until the 1940s, keels (skegs, bottom fins) on surfboards eventually were universally accepted.[77]

The fixed fin was invented by Blake in 1935 in an effort to solve the problem of the hollow board’s tendency to “slide ass.”[78]  The skeg allowed surfers to track and pivot more freely and gave the board more lateral stability.  As a result, terms like “dead ahead,” “slide ass,” “all together now, turn,” and “straight off, Adolph,” gradually faded from surfers’ vocabularies.[79]

By 1937, Doc’s reputation as a surf photographer was well established.  That year, he built his first waterproof camera housing.  The watertight “shoots box” housed Doc’s replacement for the Kodak folding Autographic – a stripped down Series D Graflex.  Not only could he get closer to his wave sliding buddies, but the images were clearer.[80]

“By that time,” Doc told me, “I made a water box. I got a stripped down Series D Graflex camera – 3 ¼ x 4 ¼ – and put a water box around it.  So, that way, you could open it up and make your shot and then shut it up real quick and it didn’t get all wet.”  Doc laughed.  “That thing really did work.  I got some terrific shots with it.”[81]

Doc’s water box had a large brass handle attached so that when he was caught inside, large sets would not wrest it from his grasp.  Although the Graflex was big and bulky compared to today’s camera bodies used for surf photography, it used large format cut sheet film – 3 ¼ X 4 ¼ – which made for sharp enlargements.[82]  “I traded the chief of photography in the Los Angeles fire department arson squad for one of my Graflex cameras,” Doc told Gary.  “I made him a three-unit gold inlaid bridge,” in exchange.[83]

In the late 1930s, Doc shot a small amount of 16mm movie film and, later on, some 8mm.  “I finally got rigged-up with a Keystone.  It was a 16mm.  Take that out on the board and I got – man, I just got pack after pack.  I’ve got it here in the house, all stored up… it’s got some wild stuff in there.”[84]

Doc didn’t pursue this aspect of his photography, but what he did shoot documents the heyday of prewar Southern California surfing.  The films, themselves, contain one very unique segment shot from a bi-winged airplane.  “During the aerial photography shoot,” Gary wrote, having seen the footage, himself, “Doc turns the camera on the pilot.  With his leather cap slapping in the wind, the pilot’s eyes grow wide from behind his goggles and a large grin appears on his startled face.  Other notable footage includes Martha Chapin, sister of pioneer surfer Gard Chapin, and step-aunt to Miki Dora.  Martha stands in front of an enlarged map of Los Angeles wearing an eye-catching swim suit.  Looking like a Hollywood film actress, she points out the way from Hollywood to Palos Verdes Estates.  This was a promotion device for the new Palos Verdes Estates subdivision.

On this rare footage is recorded both an astonishing look at what the surfer sees while sliding a comber and the first-known surfing snake.  While surfing with his hollow board – named ‘The Wonder Board’ because of its paddling and surfing qualities – Doc hand-held his 16mm camera while filming.  On the deck of the board, the Palos Verdes Surf Club logo is clearly visible along with Oscar the surfing gopher snake!  “With water splashing off the rails and ocean whizzing by, the club pet snake lies on the nose of the board, head and upper third of body erect, apparently enjoying the ride.”[85]

Doc had “The Wonder Board” during much of the 1930s and on into the 1940s.  Then, he had a Blake paddleboard that he would later regret trading for a skateboard.  Doc called the Blake paddleboard his “X-1.”  It was a chopped-down foam paddleboard originally shaped by Tom and Doc.[86]  “Dog-gone-it, I did the worst thing I’ve ever done when I traded my paddleboard [the X-1] – he [Blake] gave it to me after he left the country [for Hawai‘i].  I traded it to a Keith Newcomer, up here [in Northern California] for a skateboard.  It was really a good skateboard!”[87]

As for the original Wonder Board, it’s now in the hands of Doc’s old Palos Verdes Surfing Club member Tulie Clark.[88]

Demand for Doc’s photographs by fellow surfers, surfboard manufacturers, newspapers and magazines continued to grow.  “When arriving at distant surf breaks such as San Onofre,” Gary Lynch wrote, “Doc was besieged by the crowds, demanding a look at the most recent prints that he had produced in his small darkroom.  Amused by the interest (which at times became a burden), Doc on one occasion handed a group of young Nofre surfers his newest spiral bound photo book titled Beach Stuff and stepped back to record the image with his new Graflex camera.  The photograph that resulted still survives and clearly shows the enthusiasm of the group.  Piled head over head, shoulder to shoulder, everyone eagerly scanned the pages looking for that special image that would portray them as masters of the rolling comber.  ‘Obviously these boys were interested in surf photography,’ smiles Doc.  A surfing book with photographic illustrations was inevitable.  There was no way to satisfy demand without one.”[89]

The Los Angeles Times published many Doc Ball photographs.  “Doc became friends with many of the Times photographers and the newspaper often relied on Doc’s images when huge storm surf or surfing contests made news at the beaches.  His creative eye caught the imagination of many.  Eventually Doc’s photographs would find their way into Life magazine, Look magazine, Encyclopedia Britannica, news magazines and papers, art galleries, national and international photography competitions, surf board brochures, advertisements, documentaries, foreign publications, and National Geographic magazine.”[90]


Late 1930s


Surfing continued to gain in popularity, as demonstrated by not only surfing photographs making it into newspapers, but articles about surfing, as well.  One such recognition of the interest in wave sliding was a September 1936 newspaper article by Andy Hamilton entitled “Surfboards, Ahoy!”[91]

Doc documented notable big swell conditions the following year:

“This is Big Surf,” wrote and photographically documented Doc of March 13, 1937.  Pete Peterson “of Santa Monica” is identified riding the “wave of the day.”  Also featured: LeRoy Grannis and Jean Depue.[92]

“Pete Peterson – he was one of the big ones who could really paddle,” fondly recalled Doc.  “He was expert at taking gals up on his shoulders and everything and riding.  He was one of the big surfers in those days… He was a big wave rider.  He used to be able to cut across a wave almost like they do, now; get in the tunnel and get out; just an extraordinary surf hound.  That’s what we thought.”[93]

As for LeRoy “Granny” Grannis, aka “Scrobble Noggin,” he continued to be a close friend of Doc’s to the day Doc kicked out.  Most notably, Granny took up the photographic banner that Doc started and became one of surfing’s great photographers after Doc gave it up.  “He’d get shook up every once in a while,” explained Doc about LeRoy’s nickname of Scrobble Noggin, “and he’d get an ornery look on his face [at those times].”[94]

Later on in 1937, Doc documented more big surf, this time at Hermosa: “Twenty Footers Roll In” shows Doc, himself (“having deserted his Graflex”), on a big, sloping overheader on Turkey Day, 1937.  Another of Doc’s bro’s, Kay Murray was also out that day.[95]  “He was a big guy; an athletic instructor; taught classes on body building and exercising.”[96]

The following month, there was more big surf.  In “Storm Surf of December 12th, 1937,” Doc’s photo, “Taken during a drizzling mist... shows the cove in the throes of a zero break.  Johnny Gates vowed ‘he’d get a ride on one of those or else.’  Credit is hereby extended him that he did reach the half way point, only to be wiped out by a monstrous cleanup and forced to swim in through devastating currents, rocks, etc., to retrieve his battered redwood plank.  Purple hardly described his color when he finally got out of that freezing blast.”[97]

“Zero Break at Hermosa,” wrote Doc of the term used for maximum surf.  “Perhaps twice a year this remarkable surf will hump up a good half mile offshore and keep all ‘malihinis’ on the beach.  Strictly for the ‘kamaaina,’ this stuff comes upon one out there with a long steamy hiss, and fills him at first with the apprehensive thought of, ‘Mebe I better wait for the second one.’”[98]

That winter swell continued to crank out good sized surf.  January 7, 1938 was “The day when the newsreel boys came down to shoot the damage done by the big seas – packed up and left when we came out with our surfboards.”  Surfers identified: “Tulie” Clark, Hal Pearson, Al Holland, Adie Bayer and LeRoy Grannis.[99]

Tulie “was one of our big guys in the surfin’ club,” Doc said, laughing at the thought of his old friend.  “We got together a lot of times at Hermosa Beach… we’d always stack our boards all together in the back of my car or back ‘a his, or whatever, and take off for where we thought the surf was up!

“He was one of the guys… not poverty-stricken, but very down, financially, in his early days.  Everybody used to get after me about him: ‘What are you doing – a doctor! – messing around with those bums; those surf bums?!’  Holy cow; about flipped my lid!

“The guy winds up being a millionaire – got a big house down at Palos Verdes Estates; lives in Palm Springs.  He went from a ‘surf bum’ to a millionaire.”[100]


Multiple Methods


“Through the years,” Gary Lynch wrote, “Doc tried many methods of surf photography.  Holding the camera by hand, by teeth, strapped to body parts and surfboard, and shooting off piers and rocks, from airplanes and towers, automobiles and trees, from boats and rubber rafts and cliffs and caves, Doc tried to expand both perspective and perception in the minds of his viewers.  The main objective was to keep the camera dry while making exposures close enough to provide a large clear image on the negative.  Salt water, dust, sand, and bright sun light became intruders, always lurking close by and waiting for a chance to foul the shot.”[101]

“Doc also created surf posters using his photographs,” Gary wrote.  “These quality posters used the images of surfers and waves to beckon all who viewed them.  The majority of these posters announced that the Palos Verdes Surfing Club was holding a Hula Luau.  Hawaiian music, food and drink, female companionship, and of course, the newest surfing photographic images to leave the darkroom were the rewards if one attended the event.  These posters, photographically printed, one by one, by Doc, and ranging in size from wallet size (used to gain entrance to the event) to 8” X 10” posters, have become the rarest California surf posters for collectors to obtain.”[102]

A real rarity was a Doc Ball surf poster displayed in a place of business.  Such was the case with a Los Angeles night club called the Zamboanga.  “That was a place where they had one of my pictures in there,” Doc told me.  “They got excited about it.  I gave them a print and they had it blown up to a 5’ X 6’ or something like that and put it up on their wall.”[103]

The picture was of Jim Bailey and his cocker spaniel Rusty surfing together.  “A real friendly guy,” Doc remembered of Jim Bailey.  “He was one of our originals from Hermosa Beach.

“Movie gal gave him that dog,” Doc continued.  “Then, I got that picture of them out there at Palos Verdes.  They published that over in England and France and, son of a gun, the English guys were all over me about torturing that little dog.  That dog, [actually, would] about scratch your ears off trying to get on your board to go out and ride!”[104]

Gary Lynch continued his writing about Doc’s surf posters and even post cards: “Fine glossy photographically printed post cards that the Palos Verdes Drug Store published also boasted Doc Ball surfing images.  These post cards were sold inside the drug store to help promote the new subdivision being built in the area.  Action shots of surfers such as Hoppy Swarts or Tom Blake caught the eye of the customers as they passed by the post card rack, demonstrating the pleasures of beach life.”[105]

Doc had high praise for Hoppy Swarts.  “He was one of our big guys in the place [PVSC].  He’s the one who had that characteristic finger tips thing riding a board.  He’d have ‘em all stretched out.  You could tell who it was just by lookin’ at his hands while he was ridin’.  Yeah, he helped us organize the club… also judging on contests and all that kind of thing.  He was a graduate from Occidental College.  That’s where he was going when he got stuck on surfin’.”[106]

I asked Doc what was the most memorable moment he recalled of Hoppy.  “When I got [shot] him comin’ right, next to the pier, there.”  Doc laughed.  “Oh, he was real active… I always used to try and get him to grab one of those big waves out there cuz he could handle it pretty good.

“Those days, we had to steer with our feet; stick your foot in the water, either right or left, whichever way you wanted to turn.  He was an expert at that.”[107]

Doc Ball set himself apart from many surf photographers by shooting images of surf culture, along with actual wave riding.  A perfect example is a shot Doc made of the ‘Nofre crew still sleeping.  The caption read: “Six A.M. of a ‘flat’ day and everybody still in the bag.  Had the surf been humping they probably would have stayed up all night.”[108]  “When it was good down there,” Doc told me, “you couldn’t deny.  You could go in and stay all night on the beach.  Now, you gotta pay a fee and can’t [even] sleep on the beach.  If it was good on the weekend, why, that was it!”[109]

He shot night time photos, too, like the night of April 9, 1939, around a bonfire: “Super surf… kept the boys in the water til dark.  Tired but surf satiated they are seen warming up here prior to carrying their waterlogged planks up the trail.”[110]  Another shot showed a “Pre-war device for warming up in a hurry what gets coldest while shooting these pictures,” showed a surfer – none other than Doc, himself – squatting over a small burning tire on the beach.[111]

I asked Doc about music.  “What were you guys into?”

“If anything,” he replied, “they had a guitar or ukelele [for surfaris at the beach].  In our surfing club, whenever we’d have one of our [more formal] get-togethers, we’d hire a band from Hollywood.  They’d come over and do the dance music.”[112]

“What kind of roles did women have in surfing, in those days?”

“Mostly, if they had a boyfriend in it [surfing], they’d come down and eventually they’d say, ‘Hey, let’s get out in the water together.’  So, they’d have a tandem ride and finally started to get in the real deal.”[113]

Tandem riding was a common sight, particularly at San O.  In “Tandem Rides Are Popular With the Boys,” Doc Ball showed a picture of “Benny Merrill and wahini slicing along neat as anything.  Most of the female sex, however,” Doc noted in 1946, “prefer to sit on the beach.”[114]

Some of the notable exceptions to the “sit on the beach” mode for women were Mary Ann Hawkins and Ethal Harrison, at Corona del Mar.  Mary Ann Hawkins was an outstanding woman surfer of the 1930s.  Ethal Harrison later won the Makaha Championship in 1955.[115]  Of Mary Ann Hawkins, Doc attested: “She was one of the first surfers down there at Palos Verdes Cove.  She was a friend of E.J. Oshier, at the time, and he got her into the water there.  She got excited.  Then she was about to get a job with the movies, but she needed a portrait or photograph, so I took a picture of her down on the rocks, there, in her bathing suit at Palos Verdes and she got the job.”[116]

Patty Godsave and Marion Cook were two other early California woman surfers.  Patty Godsave, Doc recalled, “used to ride tandem with one of the guys, either Pete Peterson or E.J. Oshier.”  Marion Cook: “I don’t remember too much about her.  We called her Cookie.”[117]


WW II and After


On April 19, 1941, less than a year before the United States entered the war, Doc married Evelyn Young, an attractive registered nurse.  Their first child Norman was born in 1942 and their second child John Jr. followed in 1943.[118]

“When the United States declared war in December 1941,” wrote Gary Lynch, “it broke the back of the California surfers’ life-style.  The California surf clubs disbanded and almost every able-bodied man enlisted in the armed services.  Many of the fascinating personalities of the 1930s would never be seen again.  The war took some of the best men surfing had to offer, leaving a trail of waste and broken dreams.  If not for the persistent efforts of Doc with his camera we may never have known what the life and times of the first wave of California surfers was like.”[119]

World War II certainly “Shut it out for a while,” Doc agreed.  He, himself, joined the Coast Guard and became ship’s dentist on the U.S.S. General Hugh Scott, AP136.  “His photographic skills soon became known,” Gary wrote, “and he was given a new Speed Graphic camera.  As the official ship’s photographer he photographed much of the South Pacific.”[120]

“During September 1944,” Doc recalled a memorable moment during the war, “I got a big surprise.  While I was out on the South Pacific someone said the new issue of National Geographic had my surfing photographs in it.  Sure enough, there they were.”[121]

Doc credits Owen Churchill for helping provide some enjoyment during those war years, through his invention of the Churchill swim fins.  “He was the one that did it,” Doc told me when I asked him if it was Frank Roedecker or Churchill who first invented the swim fin.  “He [Churchill] came over here during World War II and I got acquainted with the guy.  I got a couple of original fins from him.”  He invented the swim fin “just before World War II,” Doc added, saying, “I think he was more of a diver than a surfer.  He was of French origin, I believe… We’d take ‘em [swim fins] aboard ship.  When I’d get out into that hot water of the South Pacific, why, I’d go diving and swimming and riding a wave or two; body surfin’.  They were somethin’ else!”[122]

After the war, “It just kinda exploded, again,” Doc said about Southern California surfing.  “Guys’d get back and they’d been hungry for surf.  It’d come natural that you’d want to get back… The ones who survived – we had an outlet and surf was it.”

“Thank goodness for that,” I said.

“You better believe it,” Doc affirmed.[123]

Surfer servicemen “started coming back in late ‘45 and early ‘46,” also recalled Duke Kahanamoku.  With their return, “surfing once again took an upturn,” not just in Southern California.  “But it was slow, for the military returnees were occupied with finding jobs or returning to their interrupted education chores.”[124]

“… when the war ended – Boom – we were back in the environment,” confirmed 1940s surfer Dave Rochlen.  “It was devotion, like seeing a girl again… like, ‘I’m never gonna leave!’  We gave ourselves over to it entirely.  I think it was because we spent four or five years in the war and we had survived.  And it had all been bad.  Now there was no question about what had us by the throat.  It was the ocean.  Everything else was secondary.”[125]

Doc and his brood was just one of many families to regroup and attempt to restart life where it had ended in 1941.  Doc opened a dental office in Hermosa Beach and, rejoining his wife Evelyn, concentrated on raising their two sons, “Norman (man of the sea) and John (God has been gracious).”[126]

It didn’t take Doc long to get back to his surf photography, either.  “Demand was still so great for Doc’s surfing photographs,” Gary Lynch wrote, “that he published the book, California Surfriders 1946.  The idea behind this was to satisfy the California surfers, giving many a portrait in the book as well as showing the major surfing locations.”  California Surfriders 1946 was first published in a limited edition of 510.  “Original cost for the first edition,” Gary noted, “was $7.25 a book.  Doc kept a complete and detailed list of who bought his book.  This list still survives and provides an astonishing array of Who’s Who in the world of California surfing.  Names only hard core surf historians would recognize such as Bob French and Jamison Handy to other more familiar names like Preston Peterson and Peanuts Larsen fill the pages.”[127]

“Oh, Peanuts!” Doc livened up even more than he normally did at the mention of Peanuts Larsen.  “He was one of the main ones down at San Onofre [before the war].  He lived in Laguna Beach, at that time, so he went to surf down at San Onofre and any time it looked good at Laguna.  That son-of-a-gun – I loaned him some stuff to publish and he never gave it back!  Well, I forgave him for that.  Old Peanuts – he was quite a guy.”[128]

Eventually, the fifth and final edition of California Surfriders 1946 published by Doc went out of circulation.  Ventura’s Jim Feuling copied the original and published Early California Surfriders in 1995.[129]  The images used for this latest edition were shot from the pages of Doc’s first edition and then enhanced by computer.[130]

“He did that without my permission,” Doc admitted to me with a laugh.  “That’s a classic.  It’s patented.  So, I told him as much as he’d printed it, we needed to get the message out for surfers, anyway, and keep it going [knowledge of the California surf heritage].  And, so I said, ‘I won’t sue ya or anything.’  So, he sends me a royalty, now.”[131]  That kind of reaction, on Doc’s part, was typical of the man.  As surf historian Gary Lynch put it, Doc was the quintessential “troubadour of good will.”[132]

“By the mid 1940s,” Gary wrote, “Doc Ball’s photographs had been published world wide.  National Geographic (September 1944), Encyclopedia Britannica (1952), photography magazines, news magazines, art galleries, and newspapers were among the places a Doc Ball photograph could be found.”[133]

An image Doc labeled as “The Mighty Ski Jump Roars in – December 22, 1940” showcases one of the best surf days of the year.  “Al Holland, Oshier, Grannis and Bayer riding the 30-foot grinders that arrive here on an average of twice a year and rattle windows over a mile inland with their heavy concussion.”  Doc, writing in 1946 in the third person, added, “This picture published in an Australian magazine, made its appearance in far away Noumea, New Caledonia.  Was discovered there by a very surprised Doc Ball.”[134]


Northern California


“In 1950,” surf writer Gary Lynch wrote, “Doc was almost killed when he drove his new Ford Woody into a eucalyptus tree.  It was during this period that Doc first received and followed Christ.”[135] 

“Which caused me to start bible reading, cover to cover – my first time ever – because I had a vision, you might say, of me standing before the Judgement Seat of our Maker and He asking me, ‘Doc, did you read my book while you were down there?’  Having no sort of excuse, I just flipped and reading cover to cover began.  Took one full year to midnight the last day, but I finished the job.”[136]

“In 1953, the pressure from the Southern California population explosion resulted in the Ball family’s exodus to Garberville, Northern California, where he opened up a new dental office.”[137]  “Plus, the words of the Book [Bible], Genesis 12:1.  Also, the surfing at Shelter Cove [close by] attracted me.”[138]  Although he was now in Northern California and inland, “This move,” Gary wrote, “provided him with a more peaceful environment in which to live and work.”[139]

When he made the move, Doc had a chance to surf with his long-time surfing pal Johnny Kerwin at Shelter Cove, 18 miles from Garberville.  “We were spoken of as being the very first ever seen doing that in the Cove,” Doc recalled.[140]  “They had a Shelter Cove Surf Club, there.  They had a room – a kind of shack – right on the beach where you could go in and get your clothes changed; get your swimsuit on and get out in the water.”[141]  The 1953 surf session with Johnny Kerwin remained a special memory to Doc.  When asked about his surfing life overall, Doc always mentioned it.[142] 

“Kerwin came to visit us in our new location,” Doc explained to me, “and he brought two boards along with him.”[143]

Photographic tragedy struck in 1964 when Doc Ball’s photo collection, film archives, and historical material was swept away in a devastating flood.  Yet, because Doc gave copies of most of his images away – approximately 900 of them – it would be entirely possible for someone to, with the cooperation of the Ball Family, reconstruct Doc’s archives by copying Doc Ball photos from the collections of others.[144]  We can only hope that that someday occurs.

Doc’s friendships through his life changes never altered.  He and his friends would still make time to hang together.  After “we moved north – Tom Blake lived on the East Coast, up there in Minnesota I think it was – he used to come out West,” Doc told me, “and just come out and have some fun with the surfers and get re-acquainted again.  Every time he’d come up, why, he’d stop here at our place.  We’d keep him overnight a couple of days or so.”[145]

After Blake had written Hawaiian Surfriders 1935 (aka Hawaiian Surfboard), “he gave me the last copy he had on that and then every time he’d come by, he’d sign it, again, with the date he’d visited with us; kind of a treasure, there.”[146]

I asked him when Blake, who died in 1993, visited him for the last time.

“That’s a hard one,” he admitted.  “It was after 1971, anyway.  We moved to Eureka, here in ‘71 and we kept him over in the place here.”

I asked if Blake surfed at that time.

“I don’t think so.  He might have gone in a little down at Shelter Cove.  The water’s warmer down there, but he was getting pretty up in the age, then.  Wow, what a guy!”[147]

In 1971, Doc retired from dentistry and moved his family back closer to the beach, to Eureka, remaining in Northern California.  “With more time to spend on hobbies,” Gary wrote, “Doc soon became infatuated with bird carving.  A combination of skillful maneuvering of his hands and fingers in the dental trade, and a life long love of birds, has produced one of the West Coast’s finest bird carvers.”[148]

I asked Doc when it was that he stopped photographing.

“I guess when I lost my camera,” Doc replied.  “I went out, one day, up here, at Eureka.  I was going to the North Jetty cuz the surf was huge out there that day.  I took my camera – Grannis gave me a Nikon camera with a – it had a great big telephoto lens.  I rushed out to my truck, there, set the thing down on my rear bumper and rushed back to the house – I’d forgotten something – went and got that, got back in the truck and took off.  I got to the North Jetty and reached for the camera box and nothing was there.  That thing just spilled off somewhere.  I’ve never heard anything about it…”[149]

“I got one here; one of the last ones I ever got with that telephoto. Patrick Edgar out at the North Jetty.  There was this great big – must’ve been a 22 or 23-foot big ole overhang comin’ down; soup on both sides.  It was obvious he was gonna get the axe.  I call it ‘Neptune’s Breakfast.’”[150]

Doc was still surfing shortly up to the time of his passing, but his real exercise in his last years was skateboarding.  “That’s how I stay in shape,” Doc declared, proudly.  “You gotta keep your reflexes sharpened up.  That’s one of the best ways to find out how old you’re getting.”[151]

For 18 years, Doc did the local surf report.  More importantly, he wanted to share the Christian experience with others, so he served in Gideons International.  Because of that, Doc regularly visited “churches, community organizations, care homes and schools, helping to provide both young and old with a positive direction and a meaningful future.”[152]

Doc Ball remained a dedicated beachcomber.  Every morning at daybreak he could be found at water’s edge, checking the tides and swells.  Beach combing also provided him with a supply of driftwood perches and body parts for his hobby of bird carving.[153]  “Latest rage,” Doc wrote me in reviewing the draft of an article Gary Lynch and I wrote about his life, “is knife cleaning up of common driftwood.  It’s amazing what images will appear when it’s cleaned and developed – knifed down to the original stuff.  It is full of very fascinating images.  It also makes the clock go like lightening.”[154]

“There was always an exciting ending with each visit to the Ball residence,” Gary Lynch recalled.  “As you depart, you get into your car and start to pull away from his home.  A glance back at the front porch reveals a smiling Doc giving you the ‘thumbs up’ and yelling, ‘Hang in there!’  Returning the gesture, you feel privileged he has given you his blessing to enjoy surfing, and most of all, to keep the tradition alive.”[155]

On December 5th, 2001, at 1:02 am – at age 94 – Doc “caught and rode his last wave into the waiting arms of his beloved Savior, Jesus Christ,” read his obituary in the Eureka Times Standard, “thus ending a legendary and inspirational life here among us and beginning a new, wonderful one in Heaven.”[156]

Doc Ball gave his own kind of obituary when he quoted in ending his classic California Surfriders 1946 – aka Early California Surfriders:

“When Old King Neptune’s raising Hell
And the breakers roll sky high,
Let’s drink to those who can ride that stuff
And to the rest who are willing to try.”[157]



[1] Eureka Times Standard, December 7, 2001; obituary.
[2] Gault-Williams, Malcolm and Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball: Through The Master’s Eye,” ©1998 Longboard Magazine, Volume 6, Number 4, August 1998.  Base material for this chapter.
[3] Lynch, Gary.  “Biograhical Sketch of Dr. John Heath Ball,” February 2, 1989 and Lynch, Gary, “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[4] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[5] Ball, John “Doc.”  Notes to the draft, May 19-21, 1998.
[6] Lynch, Gary.  “Biograhical Sketch of Dr. John Heath Ball,” February 2, 1989 and Lynch, Gary, “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[7] Lynch, Gary.  “Biograhical Sketch of Dr. John Heath Ball,” February 2, 1989.
[8] Ball, John “Doc.”  Notes to the draft, May 19-21, 1998.
[9] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[10] Ball, John “Doc.”  Notes to the draft, May 19-21, 1998.
[11] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[12] Lynch, Gary.  “Biograhical Sketch of Dr. John Heath Ball,” February 2, 1989.
[13] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[14] Lynch, Gary.  “Biograhical Sketch of Dr. John Heath Ball,” February 2, 1989.
[15] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.  Of Norm Brown, Doc said, “He was one of our best buddies down there.”  When they got hungry, they hit Norm’s family’s restaurant.  See also Ball, John “Doc,” Notes to the draft, May 19-21, 1998.
[16] Ball, John “Doc.”  Notes to the draft, May 19-21, 1998.
[17] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[18] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[19] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.  “Keeper of the flame” is how Gary put it.
[20] Ball, John “Doc.”  Notes to the draft, May 19-21, 1998.
[21] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[22] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[23] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[24] Ball, John “Doc.” Notes to the draft, May 19-21, 1998.
[25] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[26] Gault-Williams, Malcolm. “Tom Blake and The Hollows,” Longboard, Volume 3, Number 3, August/September 1995.
[27] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[28] Ehlers, Charles (“Chuck A Luck”).  “Log Jam 1922,” The Surfer’s Journal, Volume 1, Number 2, May 1992.
[29] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.  Also Doc’s Notes to the draft, May 19-21, 1998.
[30] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[31] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[32] Grun, ©1991, p. 449.
[33] Source unknown.  See Gault-Williams, “The Revival.”
[34] Smith, Joel T. and Hall, Sandra Kimberly.  “A. R. Gurrey Jr.: The Genesis of Surf Photography,” The Surfer’s Journal, ©2005, Volume 14, Number 2, April-May 2005, pp. 52-53.  Honolulu Commercial Advertiser of March 26, 1928 quoted.  See also Gault-Williams, LEGENDARY SURFERS Volume 2: Early 20th Century Surfing and Tom Blake.
[35] Mid-Pacific Magazine, January and February issues, 1911.
[36] Smith, Joel T. and Hall, Sandra Kimberly.  “A. R. Gurrey Jr.: The Genesis of Surf Photography,” The Surfer’s Journal, ©2005, Volume 14, Number 2, April-May 2005, pp. 54-55.
[37]  Lynch, Gary.  Notes on draft of Doc Ball, Early California Surf Photog, May 1998.  Dr. Don James kicked-out in 1997.
[38] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[39] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[40] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[41] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.  Rotogravure (roh-toh-gra-vyoor) is a photogravure printed on a rotary machine.  A photogravure (foh-toh-gra-vyoor) is a picture produced from a photographic negative that has been transferred to a metal plate and etched in.
[42] Lynch, Gary.  “Biograhical Sketch of Dr. John Heath Ball,” February 2, 1989.
[43] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[44] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[45] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.  Also Doc’s Notes on the Draft, May 19-21, 1998.  There was a waiting room, office, laboratory, darkroom, large room (PVSC room) and toilet.
[46] Lynch, Gary.  Notes on draft of Doc Ball, Early California Surf Photog, May 1998.
[47] Lynch, Gary.  “Biograhical Sketch of Dr. John Heath Ball,” February 2, 1989.
[48] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[49] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[50] Lynch, Gary.  Notes on draft of Doc Ball, Early California Surf Photog, May 1998.
[51] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[52] The Santa Ana Daily Register, July 31, 1928.  See Lueras, 1984, p. 107.
[53] Ehlers, Charles (“Chuck A Luck”).  “Log Jam 1922,” The Surfer’s Journal, Volume 1, Number 2, May 1992, p. 46; classic photos.
[54] Ehlers, 1992, p. 46.
[55] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[56] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[57] Lynch, Gary.  Notes on draft of Doc Ball, Early California Surf Photog, May 1998.
[58] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[59] Lynch, Gary.  “Biograhical Sketch of Dr. John Heath Ball,” February 2, 1989.
[60] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[61] Palos Verdes Surfing Club Creed documented in Lynch, Gary, “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[62] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.  See Also Doc’s Notes on the Draft, May 19-21, 1998.
[63] Rensin, David.  All For A Few Perfect Waves: The Audacious Life and Legend of Rebel Surfer Miki Dora, ©2008, p. 36.  LeRoy Grannis quoted.
[64] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[65] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.  Actually, this was the rebirth of surfing in Santa Cruz, as Santa Cruz had been the very first place surfing had started on the U.S. Mainland in the late 1800s.  See Gault-Williams, LEGENDARY SURFERS Volume 1: 2500 B.C. to 1910 A.D., ©2005.
[66] Lynch, Gary.  Notes on draft of Doc Ball, Early California Surf Photog, May 1998.  See also Gault-Williams, “E.J. Oshier: Living the Life,” ©2003.
[67] Kahanamoku, Duke (1890-1968).  World of Surfing, ©1968, by Duke Kahanamoku with Joe Brennan, Grosset & Dunlap, New York, p. 37.
[68] Ball, 1946, 1979, 1995, pp. 44-45.  “He has since [1937] devised a waterproof job which he calls the ‘Waterbox.’  It’s a stripdown Graflex in a watertight case.”
[69] Ball, 1946, 1979, 1995, pp. 44-45.
[70] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[71] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[72] Lynch, Gary.  Notes on draft of Doc Ball, Early California Surf Photog, May 1998.
[73] Lynch, Gary.  Notes on draft of Doc Ball, Early California Surf Photog, May 1998.  “Only his first racing paddleboard was called that,” Gary wrote.
[74] Lueras, 1984, p. 107.  “… a surfside analyst of the late 1930s” quoted.
[75] Lueras, 1984, p. 107.  Quotes Los Angeles Times article by Jack Boettner, late 1970s/early 1980s.
[76] Lueras, 1984, p. 107.
[77] Lynch, Gary.  Notes on draft of Doc Ball, Early California Surf Photog, May 1998.  See also the definitive Blake biography: TOM BLAKE: The Uncommon Journey of a Pioneer Waterman, ©2001.
[78] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  “Woody Brown: Pilot, Surfer, Sailor,” Volume 1 of LEGENDARY SURFERS.  Based on interviews, November 22, 1994.
[79] Lueras, 1984, p. 107 and 109.
[80] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.  See also Lynch, Gary.  “Biograhical Sketch of Dr. John Heath Ball,” February 2, 1989.
[81] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[82] Ball, John “Doc.”  Notes to the draft, May 19-21, 1998.
[83] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[84] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[85] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[86] Lynch, Gary.  Notes on draft of Doc Ball, Early California Surf Photog, May 1998.
[87] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.  14-feet long, plywood covering foam.  Also Doc’s Notes on the Draft, May 19-21, 1998.
[88] Lynch, Gary.  Notes on draft of Doc Ball, Early California Surf Photog, May 1998.  Gary verified the correct spelling of “Tulie” (not “Tule”).  “I have his autograph,” Gary wrote me, “this is how he spells it.”
[89] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[90] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[91] Ball, 1946, 1979, 1995, pp. 48-49.  See also Ehlers, 1992, p. 47.  “September 1936,” remembered Chuck A Luck of the landmark moment in SoCal publishing, “Surfing made the Brown Section (Rotogravure) in the L.A. Times.”
[92] Ball, 1946, 1979, 1995, pp. 42-43.
[93] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[94] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[95] Ball, 1946, 1979, 1995, pp. 26-27.  Kay Murray and his wife used to visit the Balls in Northern California on up to Doc’s passing.  “He’s into square dancing, now,” Doc told me when I interviewed him in 1998.  “He and his wife go all over the United States where they have these square dance clubs.”
[96] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.  Also Doc’s Notes on the Draft, May 19-21, 1998.
[97] Ball, 1946, 1979, 1995, pp. 50-51.  “We’re in contact, now, with Johnny,” Doc told me in 1998.  “He just wrote me a neat letter; he and his wife Shirley.  They’re still goin’.  He gets in the water whenever he can, [but] we’re all getting’ old! (laughs)”
[98] Ball, 1946, 1979, 1995, pp. 28-29.  Possibly December 16, 1937.  Mali-hini = stranger, foreigner, newcomer, tourist, guest, company; one unfamiliar with a place or custom. Kama‘aina = native-born, one born in a place, host, acquainted, familiar.
[99] Ball, 1946, 1979, 1995, pp. 20-21.
[100] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.  Steve Pezman told me he made his money in real estate and lived in Palm Springs.
[101] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[102] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[103] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.  See also Ball, 1946, p. 55, where he wrote:  “So captured by this picture was Joe Chastek, owner of the Los Angeles night club ‘Zamboanga,’ that he immediately procured a copy and had a 3 by 5-feet enlargement made for the adornment of his bar.” The poster grew with time.
[104] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.  Note water-sled shaped board.
[105] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[106] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[107] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[108] Ball, 1946, 1979, 1995, pp. 82-83.  “Down at San Onofre,” Doc told me, “we used to have sea lions would come.  I had those things surfin’ right beside me… hard to believe, but that was in those days when everything was going real good – early ‘30s.”
[109] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[110] Ball, 1946, 1979, 1995, pp. 60-61.
[111] Ball, 1946, 1979, 1995, pp. 56-57.  Also Doc’s Notes on the Draft, May 19-21, 1998.
[112] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.  See also Ball, 1946, 1979, 1995, pp. 82-83:  “A couple of guitars and a ‘uke’ will always draw a crowd.”  Gary said E.J. Oshier was one of their main musicians (May 1998).
[113] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[114] Ball, 1946, 1979, 1995, pp. 84-85.
[115] Lynch, Gary.  Notes on draft of Doc Ball, Early California Surf Photog, May 1998.  Gary thinks Ethal Harrison may have won the Makaha Championship twice.
[116] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.  Mary Ann Hawkins was later married to Bud Morrisey for a while.
[117] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[118] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[119] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[120] Lynch, Gary.  “Biograhical Sketch of Dr. John Heath Ball,” February 2, 1989.  See also Gault-Williams.  Doc was very specific on the vessel number.  He said he’d never forget it: U.S.S. General Hugh Scott AP136.
[121] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.  Doc Ball quoted.
[122] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[123] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[124] Kahanamoku, 1968, p. 45.
[125] John Grissim, Pure Stoke, 1982, p. 20.  Dave Rochlen quoted.
[126] Lynch, Gary.  “Biograhical Sketch of Dr. John Heath Ball,” February 2, 1989.  Also Doc’s Notes on the Draft, May 19-21, 1998.
[127] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.  In his Notes on the Draft to this chapter, Doc noted about the $7.25 price: “hardback, yet!”
[128] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[129] Ball, John “Doc”.  Early California Surfriders, 1995, reissued California Surfriders 1946, 1946, 1979.  Published by Jim Feuling, 1995, Pacific Publishing, 2521 Palma Drive, Ventura, California 93003.
[130] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Surfing, Volume 32, Number 10, October 1996, p. 64.  Book review.
[131] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[132] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[133] Lynch, Gary.  “Biograhical Sketch of Dr. John Heath Ball,” February 2, 1989.
[134] Ball, 1946, 1979, 1995, pp. 52-53.
[135] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[136] Ball, John “Doc.”  Notes to the draft, May 19-21, 1998.
[137] Lynch, Gary.  “Biograhical Sketch of Dr. John Heath Ball,” February 2, 1989.
[138] Ball, John “Doc.”  Notes to the draft, May 19-21, 1998.
[139] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[140] Ball, John “Doc.”  Notes to the draft, May 19-21, 1998.
[141] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[142] Lynch, Gary.  “Biograhical Sketch of Dr. John Heath Ball,” February 2, 1989.
[143] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[144] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.  See also Lynch, Gary, “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.  Much of the location work has been done, already, by Gary Lynch.  Unfortunately, the Ball Family has not shown an interest in pursuing such a project either directly or through proxy.
[145] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[146] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[147] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[148] Lynch, Gary.  “Biograhical Sketch of Dr. John Heath Ball,” February 2, 1989.
[149] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[150] Gault-Williams, Malcolm and Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball: Through The Master’s Eye,” ©1998 Longboard Magazine, Volume 6, Number 4, August 1998.  Base material for this chapter.
[151] Gault-Williams, Malcolm.  Interview with John “Doc” Ball, January 10, 1998.
[152] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.  See also Lynch, Gary.  “Biograhical Sketch of Dr. John Heath Ball,” February 2, 1989.
[153] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[154] Ball, John “Doc.”  Notes to the draft, May 19-21, 1998.
[155] Lynch, Gary.  “Doc Ball, Legendary Lensman,” April 10, 1990.
[156] Eureka Times Standard, December 7, 2001.  Obituary.
[157] Ball, John “Doc”.  California Surfriders 1946, 1946, 1979, p. 1.