Corky Carroll

Talent pool spread across decades

Today is the start of the huger than huge Hurley U.S. Open of Surfing taking place at the Huntington Beach Pier. It runs through July 26th.

I have been doing a series on local talent; surfers who were mostly unknown to the world at large yet were a big part of a certain surf scene in an Orange County beach town at a certain time in our recent history. (The recent history being the years that I have memory of.)

In respect to the big contest going on in Huntington Beach I thought I might just give a little running history of great local surfers who came out of Huntington Beach through the years.  

Going back to the late 1950's and early 1960's there were some very good guys surfing the Huntington Beach Pier. Louie Tarter was a hot young kid in '59 and he won the Junior Men's division at the first "West Coast Surfing Championships" that year. Naturally the contest became the "United States Championship" a couple of years later and has now become the U.S. Open of Surfing. This year is the 50th anniversary of the event.

There was also Chuck "Chucker" Burgess. The hot young kid was Chris Marseille. Chris would move to Newport when he started high school but at one time was THE hot guy at the pier. 

In the early to mid sixties there was a very solid group of guys surfing there -- John Boozer, Tommy Leonardo, Blind Lee Beltz and John Overmyer to name a few. John Boozer would have been the top dog at that time and he went on to win a few major surfing contests up and down the coast. 

Tom Leonardo, known as "Leo the Lip" and "Top Mouth on the Coast," was an excellent surfer but was known more for his caustic verbiage than his talent in the water. He passed that along to Chuck Dent in later years. There were also the "Frog," the "Turtle," and "Rebel." Frog has been a local at the pier forever it seems. The dude is still there. 

Somewhere in the mid 60's David Nuuhiwa moved into town. Obviously he was far from "local" talent. His surfing in the late 1960's and early 1970's at Huntington Beach would go down as some of the best surfing ever done anywhere at anytime. David is one of the greatest surfers of all time.

Also in town those years was a hot young guy named Herbie Fletcher. Herb was really good and went on to be pretty well known not only as a surfer but as a surf industry guy as well as the father of Christian and Nathan Fletcher.  

Then there were the Hawk brothers. Sammy Hawk went to Hawaii for a few years and became one of the leading surfers on the North Shore. His brothers Chris and Tom were both talented riders as well as very cool guys. 

Then came Buddy Llamas. I don't know how to describe Bud other than to say that this kid could flat-out surf. He made a little mark on the world surf scene for awhile but was more known here in Orange County and in Huntington Beach particularly. Buddy was "da Man" at the Pier for a long time. 

Even later when he was older and had gained a few extra pounds the guy was outstanding out there. I remember one day in the mid 90's I was paddling out on the north side of the pier and I saw this guy just get covered by a huge wave on the south side coming through the pier. When he came flying out of the curl I saw that it was Buddy Llamas, way past his prime and way overweight. And WAY GOOD. 

Maybe it was Bud that gave me the confidence to just go ahead and get chubby and not worry about not being able to still surf. Thanks Bud. Now I am old and fat and at least "think" I can still surf. Who cares about reality after a certain point anyway?  

In the 90's, which is as far as I am going to go with this one, there were a whole slew of amazing surfers in town. I would watch these guys day in and day out and just marvel at how good they were and yet other than here in town ( did I mention I lived there too), they were almost unknown. 

Ryan and Timmy Turner. Timmy was the hot young up-and-comer and their parents own the "Sugar Shack" restaurant up on Main Street. That is the main breakfast hangout in town. 

Also Danny Nichols. Danny was one of those just really stoked guys who loved to surf and had a wonderful personality. A true surf gremmie if there ever was one. I loved to watch him come off the lip on big days in the winter on the north side with this huge Cheshire cat grin on his face. 

Then there was, and always is, George "Mayor of Main Street" Lambert. Gboy. George is like everybody on Earth's best pal. We worked together for a few years at Huntington Surf 'n Sport and I have never known anybody who knew more people than George. Or maybe it was that they knew HIM. For every one person who came in the shop or called on the phone for me there were 50 for George. He not only was a great surfer but he would win the Mr. Personality award if living in a town with a pageant.