Last week’s History of Surfing chapter was “The Impossible Wave,” sketching in the early years at Pipeline. Butch Van Artsdalen is featured in a big way, which sent me back to this blog post about Butch’s surf-hard drink-hard rise to the top, which in turn inspired me to take another cut at his EOS video. Make your list of surfing’s greatest natural athletes, and if Van Artsdalen isn’t in your top five drop me a personal email so we can hash it out. The man was a physical wonder. Incredible fast-twitch muscle response, innate balance nearly on par with Nuuhiwa, and fearless. Plus a switch-footer for the ages. Butch is the guy who, had fate had been nudged a half-inch to the right, would have batted third for the Tigers and hit dingers with alcohol on his breath, causing Al Kaline to shake his head in affectionate disgust.
Big Willy Morris died last week of a heart attack, at age 56. Willy and I met while surfing in WSA contests during the early ’70s. I was in District 4, Willy and his older brother Steve were in District 5, just to the north, and I always looked forward to seeing them during the Open events. It was a family affair with the Morris boys, as their mom and dad were always on the beach with towels and a cooler and quiet encouragement (nobody else’s parents, as I recall, were part of the scene), and in general they were a stoked-up, surf-van-driving gang, slightly hippie, always leaving for or coming back from a Baja adventure, which made the rest of us kids jealous. Willy grew up and became California’s premier power surfer of the 1980s. Good-looking, friendly and funny, and 56 is just too damn young. RIP Willy, you were, and always will be, one of the best.
Starting in early May, a limited number of Encyclopedia of Surfing clips will be featured on NobodySurf, a surf video website and app. For two or three years I’ve been in contact with NobodySurf founder Hideyuki Okada—another surfer-data geek, like myself—and we both believe that with a place on the NobodySurf platform, the EOS good word will be spread further afield.
Meanwhile, last week I broke ground on two new Encyclopedia of Surfing add-on projects. First, a surfboard database featuring everything from Duke’s favorite redwood plank to whatever hot-rodding Jon Pyzel has on the racks at this very moment. Dimensions, photos, ads, reviews, all fully searchable. The other project is more or less the same thing, but for surf contests. Pro and amateur Tom Blake to Tomas Hermes.
More details on these new sites as the project moves forward. Hoping to have both up and running by midsummer. They’ll be included in the price of your subscription, along with EOS, History, and Roar.
Thanks everybody, and I’ll be back next week.
[Butch photo by Judy Rohloff]