SUNDAY JOINT, 5-10-2018: HOT CURL, GEORGE DOWNING, LITTLE RICHARD, CARDIFF KOOK

Hey All,

Last week’s hot curl exploration began with high surf-history purpose. The Depression Age design breakthrough got its long-overdue EOS page. Hot curl inventor John Kelly describes the board’s origin story. Froiseth, Downing, Kekai, and Quigg all chip in, and surf historian Mark Fragale wraps things up here.

No doubt, the hot curl is a bright red chisel-tip Sharpie moment on our board design timeline. The hot curl begat George Downing, and Downing begat big-wave surfing, which means no hot curl no Kai Lenny, and that is unthinkable. Still, the hot curl as a piece of surfcraft doesn’t tickle my desire in the least. The Malibu chip, yes—put me in the time machine, set the dial for 1949, and see you later alligator. The hot curl’s only advantage, really, is that it’s not a plank. Watch George Downing in his magnificent prime struggle with his hot curl in this 1968 clip. No, drop me off in Honolulu in ’39 I’m gonna dig a scrap of plywood from the Royal Hawaiian basement and hope the kids let me hang out down at Walls.

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No doubt, the hot curl is a bright red chisel-tip Sharpie moment on our board design timeline. The hot curl begat George Downing, and Downing begat big-wave surfing, which means no hot curl no Kai Lenny, and that is unthinkable. Still, the hot curl as a piece of surfcraft doesn’t tickle my desire in the least. The Malibu chip, yes—put me in the time machine, set the dial for 1949, and see you later alligator. The hot curl’s only advantage, really, is that it’s not a plank. Watch George Downing in his magnificent prime struggle with his hot curl in this 1968 clip. No, drop me off in Honolulu in ’39 I’m gonna dig a scrap of plywood from the Royal Hawaiian basement and hope the kids let me hang out down at Walls.

I gladly jumped from hot curl to Hot Curl, the cartoon-turned-statue slacker god who for a few weeks in the early ’60s defined Windansea the way Laffing Sal defined the westernmost corner of San Francisco. But there’s more. Read the Hot Curl page here, then spend a minute or two with the Cardiff Kook, and see if you don’t agree that San Diego has backed its way into laying claim to the world’s two most representative—most surfy—surf statues.

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The Kook, of course, went through the looking glass from serious to comic the moment it was unveiled, and local surfers turned it into a wildly inventive running joke. Hot Curl, on the other hand, was on the right track when he appeared just in front of the Windansea shack in 1963—beer in hand, long hair, homemade jams hanging down, every bit Jeff Spicoli’s spirit animal. Hot Curl, technically, was not a great surf statue. But it was the only honest surf statue, given that our other choices are thisthis, and this. Even so, the nihilist in me, and the surfer in me as well, approves of Hot Curl’s violent and mysterious late-night demise, just two weeks later, when he was knocked from his cheap cement pedestal and summarily beheaded. A fitting end? The wave must recede. The ride is ephemeral. And of course our sport’s past is bespattered with all manner of such rat-fuckery. “Three of my friends and I tore down Hot Curl,” an anonymous person wrote in a comments thread in 2019. “I am not one bit contrite or regretful. It was great fun and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. To the best of my knowledge, when [name redacted] died, he still had Hot Curl’s head on his bedroom dresser.” Vale Hot Curl.

And Vale Little Richard, who fueled a million midcentury go-outs. For joyous rock-shock value, Elvis, Kiss, Prince, the Pistols, and GWAR were all forelock-tugging schoolboys compared to the screaming Billboard Chart arrival of Richard Penniman in 1955, and while his career was built for speed, not distance, we are still living and dancing in the global rock-and-roll club he helped create. This clip will always slay me. And if you’ve never seen Richard’s 1989 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction speech for Macon homeboy Otis Redding, treat yourself to this 15-minute show of preening incandescence.

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Thanks for reading, everybody. And know that if I ever race into a burning building and save many orphans and am thus rendered in heroic bronze (see if is this sculptor is available but in a better mood), you have permission to remove my head and place it on the bureau, dresser, mantle, or countertop of your choice. Dress me in Christmas lights and plastic sunglasses, and stick a lit cigar in my mouth when guests are over, thanks.

Matt

[Buffalo Keaulana photo by Clarence Maki]