Corky Carroll

Surf City forges its identity with help of legends

Part 2

In honor of Huntington Beach turning 100, and that's even older than me, I am in the midst of a little series on my favorite memories of that town. Having been part of the scenery there for more than half of the 100 has been a great thing for me.

Last week I left off talking about my first surfing session at the Huntington Beach Pier sometime around 1958.

In 1959 they started having the big surfing contest every September at the pier. The first few years it was called the "West Coast Surfing Championships." Then it morphed into the full-blown "United States Surfing Championships" and came complete with ABC "Wide World of Sports" television coverage.

That first year the surf was pretty big, or at least it seemed so to me. It was my first surfing contest and I was scared silly. I was like 11 years old and this contest thing was way over my head. Nonetheless I managed a third in my heat in the Junior Men's Division and felt good that at least I beat out three other guys who were all way older than me.

Seal Beach legend Jack Haley won the Men's and a really good local surfer from right there in H.B. named Louie Tarter won the Juniors. I haven't heard anything about Louie in years. The last I heard he was living in Laguna Beach. Jack passed away some years ago followed last year by his younger brother Mike, who won the contest in 1960.

This was the beginning of the big surfing contest years here in California and Huntington Beach was the center of the whole thing.

I went to Mary E. Zoeter Elementary School and J.H. McGaugh Intermediate School in Seal Beach. Surfside, where I lived, was closer to that than to Huntington. When I was in the eighth grade I played on our school's basketball team and we traveled to play Huntington Beach Elementary School.

That is where I met Chris Marseille. Chris was known as the "Gremlin." This kid was the best young surfer on the West Coast at that time. We were the same age and I was dark-green jealous of him, but he was such a cool guy I had to like him. We became pals and surfed together a few times at the pier and later at "Trestles" just south of San Clemente.

He was fantastic to watch. Very thin and small framed and he could ride the nose like nobody could. Later David Nuuhiwa would come along and be the same way. But in the late 50's and early 60's Chris was the hottest kid on the block. When we got into Huntington Beach High School I was expecting to see him there but he had moved to Newport.

For some reason or reasons he kind of faded out of the surfing picture while he was still really young and now hardly anybody even knows who he is or was. But that guy was amazing. Some years ago I saw him again surfing at Blackies in Newport Beach, same good style.

Huntington Beach High School, September 1961. My first memory was of the "Welcome Back to School" assembly in the auditorium. HBHS has a beautiful old auditorium with a big tower. Seniors would sell tickets to freshmen for "tower tours." I was late getting into the assembly that day and when I walked in our student body president was already leading the flag salute.

That would be none other than Robert August himself. Robert was a total "soch" back then and wore a lot of light blue cashmere sweaters and button down madras shirts. When I saw Robert up there on stage I realized that he was the only one in the room that could see me sneaking in the back door. So I did what any normal surfing gremmie would do in that situation. I turned around and mooned him.

Unfortunately for me our vice principal, Mr. Brown, happened along right at that time. He grabbed me by the ears and dragged me out of the auditorium. Robert was doing his best to not crack up right in the middle of the flag salute. "Welcome to High School Mr. Carroll, YOU CAN'T DO THAT HERE!!!"

At that time Jack's Surf Shop was on the opposite corner at Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway from where it is now. Jack Hoganson had turned his drug store into a surf shop when he realized there might be more money in selling surf stuff than aspirin -- especially at that location, possibly the best location for a surf shop on Earth. This was the beginning of the transformation of whatever downtown Huntington Beach had been to "Surf City."

Stay tuned next week for part three.