Corky Carroll

Surfboards elevated to art by Pattersons

When I wrote the piece about the crew at Doheny State Park in the early 1960's a couple of weeks ago it brought back memories of a whole slew of other people that were around that area in those days.

There were so many that I could not include them all so I decided to save a few that I could dedicate an entire column to. The Patterson brothers are at the top of this list.

Bobby, Ronald and Raymond Patterson came from their native Hawaii to work in the surfboard industry. Each one was skilled in a different area of surfboard construction and each one was a master of his craft. And each one was a great surfer.

It was only natural that they would all end up living in Dana Point and working in the Hobie Surfboards program. In those days this was the state-of-the-art surfboard manufacturing facility in the world.

Bobby was a glasser. I can remember walking into the factory and seeing Bobby leaning over a board that he was in the middle of fiberglassing, with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, a bucket of freshly mixed resin in one hand and a squeegee in the other. I asked somebody, I think it was Mickey Munoz, what happened if the ashes from the cigarette fell into the board. His answer was that they became part of the glass job and the eventual owner would be getting a "really smokin' board."

I could go along with that but it always amazed me that this practice didn't result in the whole place burning to the ground.

As a surfer Bobby was amazing. They called him the "Flying Flea" due to his small stature and ability to obtain great speeds on a board. He won the prestigious Malibu Surfing Invitational one year and was recognized as one of the great surfers on the planet.

Raymond was a "glosser." That's the guy who applies the finish coat to a board. In those days he was also the guy who did all of the color work. Raymond was an artist. In 1966 when the Batman television series was popular he put together a "Bat-board" for me. It had a life-sized Batman painted on the bottom and a custom inlayed "Bat-fin." It all had to be taped off and was a radical undertaking.

That board is in the Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum today, or at least it was the last time I saw it. I rode it in the finals of the 1966 World Championships in San Diego and then retired it.

Raymond was also an amazing surfer and one of the great Hawaiian style "slack key" guitar players of all time. He won a number of surfing events up and down the coast and was a regular at all of the surf spots in southern Orange County.

Ronald was a sander. This is known as the worst job in the surfboard building business. Sanding fiberglass is really not a whole lot of fun and it was hard to find sanders in those days, let alone good ones. Ronald was the best and he loved it. He would go in that little sanding room for hours and hours without the extreme protection that most used to keep away the dreaded "glass itch." It didn't seem to bother him a bit.

Ronald was also kind of the "crazy one." There used to be a photo of him skiing at Alta, Utah pasted on one of the walls in the surfboard factory. He was about 20 feet in the air, going extremely fast and upside down.

He was also an expert at karate. I remember one day I was over at his house for a barbeque in his back yard and I kinda casually asked him if he would show me some karate moves. He smiled really big and kicked me in the chest, sending me flying across the yard and into a hedge. "Whadda think of that?" he laughed. It wasn't exactly what I had in mind but it definitely made an impression on me. Literally.

These guys were really classic dudes and a huge part of the surfing culture of that time. Each one is a legend in his own right and deserves to be remembered as such. Unfortunately they have all passed away now. If ever there is a "surfboard builders' hall of fame" these three brothers should be among the first to be inducted.