Johnny Fain is now in Above the Roar, and here’s a new Fain clip I made last week. For all that Johnny Fain is regarded as the last and maybe best of the original hotdoggers, with quicksilver feet and a bullwhip cutback, watching the footage again the thing that most impressed me was the Fain’s trim work. Wave after wave, Johnny finds and holds a perfect line. In fact, you can almost view the glam stuff—the noseriding and the turns—as gleeful punctuation between the real business of trimming out.
Fain is remembered, in part, for two things: as foil to Miki Dora, and as a Dewey Weber knockoff. Both of these notions are worth poking at. The Dora-Fain rivalry was as much for show as it was for real. More show, maybe. In the interview noted above, Fain says that Dora (nine years older) was his mentor and idol, and always will be. But their beef at the ’65 Malibu Invitational went from put-on to serious. “Miki came in third in the finals, I came in second, and he was furious. He hurled his trophy into a trash can and left the beach. I understood. What did these senile surf freak judges know? He figured they swindled him out of first. Just because he tried to decapitate Johnny Fain, they shouldn’t hold it against him. Anyway, it really didn’t matter who should have won that contest—Miki was still the best at Malibu.”
As for the Weber comparison, fair enough, Fain bit hard on Dewey’s style and never really let go. Fain’s wave-riding gift, I think, was actually greater than Weber’s. But Dewey did it first, and we tend to thing (correctly, mostly) that First is Best, so it’s not unfair that Fair remains in Weber’s shadow. There’s something about Fain, I don’t what it is exactly, a kind of conscious or unconscious self-sabotaging, where he seemed destined to be a background guy.
Thanks for reading, everybody, and here’s hoping you trim through the upcoming week like Johnny Fain on a glassy midafternoon First Point wall.
[Fain and Dora surf pic by LeRoy Grannis]