Corky Carroll

Remembering the legend that never was

I get many of the ideas of what to write about here from email from you, the most sophisticated and fine-tuned readers on the planet. The other day an older dude who had been a lifeguard in Huntington Beach wrote to me and suggested that I tell the story of J.J. Moon.

I had done that many years ago in my column that comes out in the Wave section of this paper in that city on Thursdays. Telling it here at this time seemed like a great idea. So here it is.

This story sort of underlines the old adage, "never underestimate the power of the press." It started out as an experiment. There was this dude named Ned Eckert who we all liked that worked at the Chart House in Newport Beach when it first opened in the early-mid 1960's. Ned was the basketball coach at Chapman College in Orange at that time and also had a gig picking winning horses for the paper. His column was called "Moonshots" and he went by the pen name of J.J. Moon.

The idea was hatched that it would be interesting to see if SURFER magazine could actually create a surf star out of an unknown, and truthfully not very good, surfer. The Moon could stand up and go both ways but that was about the extent of it. Mickey Munoz, Joey Cable, Mickey Dora myself and a couple other dudes were in on it. John Severson, the publisher of SURFER, thought it would be fun to try it and agreed to publish a story about the "world's best unknown surfer."

They took Ned out and got some shots of him surfing. You can actually make chicken salad out of chicken something else if you are creative enough with a camera and cropping. In the story there were quotes from all of us about the secret legend of J.J. Moon. We all claimed that either he was the best in the world or close to it. Mickey Dora picked him second or third on his top 10 list. He put himself as number one of course.

Then the magazine started using his name for every great unidentified picture it printed. The story was that Moon had 11 toes and was the only surfer on Earth who was capable of "hanging eleven." Soon the deal expanded to start a small business -- The "J.J. Moon fan club."

There were T-shirts, towels, badges, coffee mugs, autographed photos and membership cards. It was totally amazing. People ate it up and he was selling a ton of product. Rumors sprang up about Moon sightings up and down the coast and tales about him mysteriously showing up at some spot and totally ripping the place apart and then disappearing as suddenly as he arrived.

At first we instigated these tales but pretty soon the thing took on a life of its own and tales were actually emerging on their own.

Then John Severson had the idea to fuel the fire even more and came up with the idea of a controversial article titled "Corky vs. J.J. Moon." In it I challenge the Moon to monumental surf off or he challenges me, I can't remember which. Lots of pro wrestling kinda jargon is tossed out, it was really funny coming up with that stuff.

Over the course of about a year or so J.J. Moon was featured in all kinds of press, a couple documentaries and was a "plays himself" character in a play about surfing. He was nominated for the SURFER POLL and actually got enough votes to make it into the top 20 in the world.

My personal favorite part of the whole J.J. Moon deal was when I was 16 I applied for a Union Oil Credit Card so I could buy gas at the 76 station in Dana Point. I used the J.J. Moon Corp. as a credit reference. The phone number was the Chart House.

When they called to check on me it was Moon who was working clean up that morning and answered the phone. He gave me an "unlimited up to 500k" credit rating and Union Oil sent me a Gold Card.

Somewhere along the line it got out that the whole thing was a joke and the hoax sort of ended. But it was classic how it totally blew up and for a short time J.J. Moon was considered one of the greatest surfers ever to ride a wave and the master of hanging 11.