Hollywood-born surf pioneer Marge Calhoun died last weekend, at age 91. A wonderful, warm, sunny person; I’ve never heard an unkind word said about her. Andrea Gabbard’s book Girl in the Curl has a great chapter about Marge, in which she talks about her attraction to surfing: “The water was safe and curative. If I had a problem, I’d go out surfing and look back at the land, and forget what was bothering me.” At the same time, she also craved the rough push and pull of it. “I was always good in big surf. That’s where I felt most comfortable, that’s where I wanted to be. I was a big, strong woman, and I loved the takeoff and the drop down the face of a big wave. I’ve never experienced fear in the water.” My own short tribute to Marge can be read here.
I posted two History of Surfing chapters this week, one on Dick Dale, the other on the Beach Boys. I remember going to a West Coast Live show at Fort Mason with Mark Renneker in, I’m guessing, 1994. West Coast Live was San Francisco’s version of Prairie Home Companion, and it taped on Saturday mornings. Dick Dale was one of the guests this particular Saturday, and he came onstage barefoot, looking serious, plugged in, approached the mic and in a low voice said, “We are here to wake you up.” Fucker just tore into “Misirlou” with the amps set to 11. The oldsters in the crowd, and even a good many of the young folks—West Coast Live was a mellow affair as a rule; the guests were mostly authors and old-timey musicians—were two-thirds outraged and one-third stoked. Mark and I looked at each other broke into laughter that nobody could possibly hear. It was fantastic.
In Above the Roar, I posted a Scott Hulet interview with Donald Takayama, and followed up with a little riff on the day I met DT, in 1970, at his place in Encinitas, when he handed off a brand new stick to Jay Adams. I was 10, Jay was 9. I burned with jealously, but cooled off once we ran down to surf Pipes. Swami’s was still a little out of our league.
And please send positive thoughts in the direction of Florida. We spend our surfing lives checking the maps for storms, following storms, hoping storms get bigger, then you get a week like this past week [Hurrican Irma] and it makes you feel dizzy and a little sick. I was in Florida last month and met so many great people, and I hope they’re all elevated and dry and sitting on a huge cooler of food.
[Marge Calhoun photo by Don James]