Carroll, Barahona, Saltzman in Blue Mango
At 71, Corky Carroll is still the coolest surfer around. The three-time International Surfing Champion, his lovely wife Raquel, Blue Mango Surfboards founder Joel Saltzman, and old friends John Joseph, Joey Lombardo and I had lunch at the HT Grill in Redondo Beach last month. I hadn’t seen Corky for 19 years, but as soon as we sat down sharing surf stories, everyone was listening instead of eating.
Corky was in town to meet with Saltzman and Jose Barahona, who is shaping longboards Corky and I are designing for the new Blue Mango label. Some of the boards will also have Corky’s paintings laminated on the decks.
Corky was the Kelly Slater of the ‘60s. He thrived off surfing competition. The only way to beat him was staying away from him and hope you got a good ride when he was paddling back out.
Corky was born in Alhambra, but moved to Surfside Beach at an early age. He started surfing on when he was 7 years old.
“I was lucky to have a lot of good surfers out there with me,” he said. “Tim Dorsey took me under his wing. Mark Martinson, Bill Fury, and Denny Lenahan were also out there. I learned to surf riding surf mats. If I saw a board on the beach I grabbed it and ran out there until the owner tracked me down. The police had a talk with my dad, so he bought me an old board. My first board was an 8-foot-7 balsa wood board that weighed 47 pounds. Hell, I weighed 44 pounds and had to carry it on my head. I couldn’t fit it under my arm.”
The 1959 United States Surfing Championships at Huntington Beach was the first surf contest Corky competed in.
“I didn’t make it out of my first heat. But in ‘62 I won the U.S. Open Boys Division,” he recalled.
Corky would go on to win The U.S.Open once more in the Boys division and three times in the Men’s Division. After the U.S. Open wins, Corky went on to win the ‘67 International Surfing Championships in Peru. He was an excellent paddler, as well. He won the United States Open All Around Duke Kahanamoku Award five times.
Corky’s guitar player earned him guest appearances on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show and shows at the Lighthouse Cafe in Hermosa Beach. He was a good guitar player and funny at the same time. He told Johnny Carson, “I forgot my music so I stopped at every gas station on the way here and wrote down lyrics off the men’s bathroom walls.”
In the early ‘70s, Corky did TV ads for Miller Lite Beer at the Poop Deck on The Strand in Hermosa. He also did TV ads for Ocean Spray, Coca Cola, Chrysler, and Jantzen Sportswear.
About 20 years ago Corky was surfing Kauai’s Hanalei Bay on a big day.
“I straightened out on a 10-foot wave and prone rode toward the beach when the lip came down in the middle of my back, breaking my board beneath me and sending me to the hospital. I couldn’t get up from the prone position on a surfboard anymore. So I began riding stand-ups, using all my same surfboard skills. I have been in love with stand-ups ever since and I am out there every day to prove it.”
In 2002, Corky found his perfect left point break, Saladias, Mexico. (Corky is a goofyfooter, standing with his right foot forward).
“It’s a left point break, similar to Malibu. The ride is so long it takes 10 minutes to paddle back out. It breaks all year round with more waves in the summer, but better weather in the winter.” Corky and Raquel have a house on the point with a celebrity surf camp atmosphere. “People pay to stay and surf for a price. Raquel makes all the meals and everything is included,” he said.
“One day I was out by myself when the swell picked up to 20-feet and got gnarly. I had just caught a big one, but got caught inside by a bigger one that snapped my leash. I feel that the older you get the heavier your bones get. I was held under forever. It took me all afternoon to swim in. When I walked through the front door I passed out until the next morning.”