Author: bradbarrett

SUNDAY JOINT, 10-18-2020

Hey All, Sydney surf-industry pioneer Barry Bennett, 89, dropped through the ceiling of his Bennett Surfboards factory last month, broke his fall on an unfinished longboard, and apparently is going to be okay. It was an uncharacteristically spectacular move for Bennett, who has spent the better part of seven decades (not a typo) producing high-quality...

SUNDAY JOINT, 10-11-2020: GIDGET, “NINTH WAVE,” HERMAN MELVILLE

Hey All, There’s a lot of surf fiction out there, short and long, and damned if I can recall a single passage that gets anywhere close to a bullseye in terms of actual wave-riding. Tim Winton’s Breath, maybe—the early chapters, before it all goes big-wave-life-or-death-psycho-sexual-triangle. But as a rule, you will sooner lasso a cat with...

SUNDAY JOINT, 10-4-2020: RIP SURFER MAGAZINE

Hey All, In 1972, at age 12, I wanted to grow up and be Jeff Hakman or Jerry West, flip a coin. Instead, I grew up to be the editor of SURFER, which is one of those consolation prizes that turns out to be better than the thing you wanted in the first place. I was hired...

SUNDAY JOINT, 9-27-2020: DUKE BOYD, HANG TEN, JACKIE K, SOFIA MULANOVICH

Hey All, Hang Ten beachwear cofounder Duke Boyd died last week at age 85. I never met Duke, but from the photos you can tell that his former business partner was on the money when she called him a “handsome California surfer,” and by all accounts Boyd was a smart, creative, generous, good-humored man. His...

1971: EXCERPT FROM “A NATIVE SON OF THE GOLDEN WEST,” BY JAMES HOUSTON

A Native Son of the Golden West, California writer James Houston’s first novel, was published in 1971; he went on to write several other well-received fiction and nonfiction books, and his essays appeared in the New Yorker and the New York Times. Native Son is set in the mid-1950s, and opens with California surfer Hooper...

“JOCK’S NIGHT TRIP,” BY ALLAN WEISBECKER. 1969, BIG WAVES, SHORT BOARDS, ORANGE SUNSHINE

New York-born writer Allan Weisbecker was a screenwriter for NBC’s Miami Vice, and later wrote articles for Men’s Journal, Smithsonian, and Popular Photography. “In Search of Captain Zero” (2001), Weisbecker’s second book, details his life as a 1970s hardcore surfer and oceangoing pot smuggler. “Jock’s Night Trip” was originally published in a 1992 issue of...

SUNDAY JOINT, 9-20-2020: MURF THE SURF, ’84 J-BAY, TEENAGE OCCY

Hey All, Jack Murphy, the handsome surfer-playboy jewel thief—that’s what Nora Ephron would have you think, anyway—died last week at age 83, from heart failure. Murphy was born in L.A. but belongs to Florida. That’s where he made his mark as a surfer, winning the ’62 Daytona Championships and briefly running Murf’s Surf Shop in Indialantic....

1957: EXCERPT FROM “GIDGET,” BY FREDERICK KOHNER

Frederick Kohner (1905–86) studied at the Sorbonne, received a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Vienna, worked as a screenwriter in Berlin, then fled Europe just ahead of the Nazis. He arrived in Southern California and began working in Hollywood, and his screenplay for 1938’s Mad About Music was nominated for an Academy Award....

1849: “RARE SPORT AT OHONOO,” BY HERMAN MELVILLE

American novelist Herman Melville (1819–1891) went to sea at age 18 as a merchant marine, worked on a whaler, served with the U.S. Navy, lived with a native tribe in the Marquesas, and was jailed in Tahiti as a mutineer. He began writing after his return to New York. “Mardi: and a Voyage Thither” was...

SUNDAY JOINT, 9-13-2020: GEORGE FREETH AND MAE WEST, TOGETHER AT LAST

Hey All, Fire and plague and a dozen other gloom-inducing recent events have led me to George Freeth, just as surely as romantic heartbreak used to lead me to Otis Redding’s ballads. Sometimes you fight the sadness, other times you melt into it, and I’ve always viewed Freeth as our sport’s top-ranked melancholic—or possibly #2,...

1867: “A GREAT SEA CAUGHT ME,” BY JAMES CHALMERS

Scottish-born missionary and adventurer James Chalmers was posted to the South Pacific in 1866. The following year, while on the island Niue James, Chalmers tried his hand at surfing. He continued throughout his life to explore, colonize, and proselytize, and gained fame in Europe as “The Livingston of New Guinea. In 1901, however, Chalmers and...

SUNDAY JOINT, 9-6-2020: BREDEN MARGIESON, JAMES MICHENER’S “HAWAII”

Hey All, Big waves put the wind right up me, big books do not, and to explain we must return to Venice Beach, 1972. The Breakwater that year kicked my prepubescent 7th-grade ass so hard one morning that Allen Sarlo—just three years older, but covered head to toe in muscle and hair—swam over to rescue...

1953: “SURF BOARDING FROM MOLOKAI TO WAIKIKI,” BY TOMMY ZAHN

Tommy Zahn, along with Bob Simmons, Matt Kivlin, and Joe Quigg, invented the “Malibu chip” board in the 1940s—the first step on the long road leading to performance surfing as we know it today. Zahn was also the best paddleboarder of his generation. The article below, describing his nine-hour paddle from Molokai to Oahu, was originally...

1917: “THEY HAILED ME AS THE REVIVER OF THE LOST ART,” BY GEORGE FREETH

This untitled piece by George Freeth was found in typescript form in Honolulu’s Bishop Museum. “Evening Herald” was included in the header, which almost certainly means the Los Angeles Evening Herald. In 2008, surf historian Patrick Moser wrote that “evidence suggests it appeared [in print] between 1917 and 1919.”  A two-paragraph introduction reads as follows:...

SUNDAY JOINT, 8-30-2020: JACK & CHARMIAN LONDON RIDE “BULL-MOUTHED MONSTERS”

“A little ditty about Jack and Charmian. . . .” Hey All, In the Spring of 1907, writer Jack London, along with a crew of five, including his cheerful free-loving socialist wife Charmian, set forth out of San Francisco bound for Hawaii on the Snark, Jack’s leaky DIY yacht. A few hours out of port somebody asked “Who’s...

1917: “O, THE WILD JOY OF IT!” BY M. LEOLA CRAWFORD

“Seven Weeks in Hawaii,” a short illustrated book by Washington state writer and stenographer M. Leola Crawford, was published in 1913. Visitors to Waikiki by this time were encouraged to take surfing lessons from hotel-employed beachboys; Crawford was fortunate enough to go riding with Duke Kahanamoku.  *  *  *  At three o’clock they dropped me...

“WORK WAS OFTEN NEGLECTED FOR THE PROSECUTION OF THIS SPORT”: AN EXCERPT FROM THRUM’S ANNUAL, 1896

Australian-born Thomas G. Thrum moved with his family to Hawaii at age 11. He worked as a whaler and a store clerk, and in 1875 began publishing The Hawaiian Almanac and Annual, which he described as “a handbook of valuable and statistical information relating to the Hawaiian Islands.” Thrum died in 1932, but the Annual...

SUNDAY JOINT, 8-23-2020: MIKE DOYLE, DIANA ROSS, RENO ABELLIRA, WEBER PERFORMER

Hey All, Remember that uptempo Joint a few weeks back where Bo Diddley, Henry Mancini, Chubby Checker and others jumped on the surf music bandwagon and, to one degree or another, rocked? Afterward, some of you sent me links to other kindred salty-sweet tracks, and sweetest by far was “Surfer Boy,” by the Supremes, which...

1890: “I WAS INITIATED IN THE MYSTERIES OF SURF-RIDING,” HENRY CARRINGTON BOLTON, FAMOUS CHEMIST, REPORTS FROM NIIHAU

New York-born chemist and bibliographer Henry Carrington Bolton visited Hawaii’s Niihau, the privately-owned “Forbidden Isle,” in 1890. The text below is from Bolton’s academic article “Some Hawaiian Pastimes,” published in the January 1891 issue of The Journal of American Folk-Lore. Surfing at this stage was at or near its low point; the revival would begin...

1873: “THE MORE DARING RIDERS STOOD ON THEIR SURF-BOARDS, WAVING THEIR ARMS AND UTTERING EXULTANT CRIES,” BY ISABELLA BIRD

British explorer and writer Isabella Bird, the first woman elected to the Royal Geographical Society, visited Hawaii in 1873. Six Months in the Sandwich Islands, Bird’s 1875-published book, was immensely popular in its day, and for decades to follow. In his book Pacific Passages, however, surf historian Patrick Moser notes that Bird’s account of surfing...

1868: TSUNAMI DESTROYS BIG ISLAND TOWNS, CREATES BIG-WAVE LEGEND

The 7.9 magnitude earthquake that hit Hawaii on April 2, 1868, centered near the southern tip of the Big Island, was the largest to ever strike the island chain. The resulting landslide and tsunami killed 77 people. The account below is from History of the Hawaiian Islands (1872), by James Jackson Jarves. It has been...

1865: “SUCH RIDING OF MAN AND WOMAN ON THE SAME WAVE RESULTS IN SEXUAL INDULGENCE,” J. WAIAMAU

“Ancient Sports of Hawaii Such as Surfing, Jumping, Sledding, Betting and Boxing,”  by J. Waiamau, was published in the missionary-funded Hawaiian language weekly newspaper Ka Nupepa Kuokoa on December 23, 1865. Little is known of Waiamau, but the purpose of the Kuokoa itself, according to founder and publisher Henry Whitney, was “the publication of all...

SUNDAY JOINT, 8-16-2020: PETER CRAWFORD, SURFING ST. CHRISTOPHER MEDALS

Hey All, I don’t know if Australian Surfing Hall of Fame photographer-kneeboarder-whirling dervish Peter Crawford really was a genius, as his aging but enthusiastic supporters claim, but he for sure had a formidable talent for head-fuckery. Which was annoying as hell to anyone on the receiving end of a Crawford verbal barrage of jabs, japes,...

1861: “THEY CAN SPRING UPRIGHT ON THE SURFBOARD AND COME IN ERECT!” AN EXCERPT FROM “THE VICTORIAN VISITORS,” BY SOPHIA CRACROFT

Sophia Cracroft, an adventurous and well-connected upper-class Londoner, visited Hawaii for two months in 1861 and wrote about her experiences in a book of letters titled The Victorian Visitors. While there, Cracroft and her traveling partner, Lady Jane Franklin, were guests of King Kamehameha IV. The scene below takes place in Kailua, on the Big...

1849: “TRUELY A FAMOUS AND ANIMATING DIVERSION,” EXCERPT FROM “TRAVELS IN THE SANDWICH AND SOCIETY ISLANDS,” BY SAMUEL S. HILL

British travel writer Samuel Hill spent six months in Hawaii, starting in December 1848, and visited areas well off the beaten track, including the Keauhua village on the Big Island, where Hill was introduced to surfing. As noted by surf historian Patrick Moser, Hill’s observation as to the level of engagement here with the ancient...