Kevin Cody

‘Old number 13’ Scott Daley joins Hermosa Surfer Walk of Fame

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Scott Daley (second from right) with fellow Body Glove team members Peter Townend, Ian Cairns and Matt Warshaw in 1981, after winning the Katin Challenge at the Huntington Beach pier. Photo courtesy of Matt Warshaw/Encyclopedia of Surfing. EOS.Surfby Kevin Cody

All week on the North Shore, Scott Daley “blocked” for his boss Robbie Meistrell, the president of Body Glove.

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“We went out at Sunset one day, and another day at Pinballs when it was 10 to 15-feet. I caught a lot of waves. But if Scott hadn’t blocked for me the Hawaiians wouldn’t have let me get any,” Meistrell recalled.

The two were in Hawaii for the North Shore stop of the 1988 Bud Pro Tour, which Body Glove ran and Daley competed on. Winds the day the contest was scheduled at Haleiwa forced its cancellation. So Daley took his boss to Jocko’s, a North Shore break protected from the wind, but still exposed to the building swell.

Scott Daley at a spot called Daley’s Vapors in El Porto on a rainy day if February, 2017. Photo by Lucio Gomes (Photo Portosurfer)

There was no need to block. Only one other surfer was out.

After the two caught a few modest-sized waves, the first set of the growing swell arrived.

“Scott made it to the top while I was still paddling up the face, which was starting to crumble,” Meistrell recalled.

“Then I heard Scott yell, ‘Whip it.’ It was the biggest wave I’d ever been on. If I had thought about it, I wouldn’t have gone. I made the drop, made another turn off the top and rode it to the beach.”

Body Glove photographer Mike Balzer was waiting for him.

He told Meistrell to paddle back out for more photos.

“I said, ‘No dude. I’m retired from big wave riding.’”

A large, three-panel photograph of the “Whip it” wave, mounted in Meistrell’s  office, would reinforce the bond between the Body Glove president and his future marketing director for the next three decades.

Daley was allowed to block for his boss because of the respect awarded him by the Hawaiians and fellow pro surfers. That same respect would help him clear the way for Body Glove and its black and yellow hand logo to become the world’s most recognized water sports brand, rivaled only by Speedo.

“There’s probably no pro surfer, certainly not in California, who isn’t indebted to Scott because of a favor he did for them,” said Jani Lange, a surf industry rep and member of the Hermosa Parks and Recreation  Commission, which oversees the Surfer Walk of Fame.

“The pros all liked Scott. There was a lot of genuine hatred out there, but Scott wouldn’t have any part of that,” recalled fellow Body Glove team rider and future Encyclopedia of Surfing author Matt Warshaw.

But even respect has its limits.

“In the water, Scott was the most feared guy on the pro tour. No one wanted him in their heat because he was big for a surfer, 6-foot-2, and a monster paddler. Guys would be moving into position for a wave and he’d blast right past them,” recalled Ronnie Meistrell, who managed the Bud Pro Tour.

Ronnie, along with brothers Robbie and Randy and cousin Billy ran Body Glove and its parent company Dive N’ Surf, which were founded by their twin dads Bob and Bill Meistrell.

Daley’s longboard childhood was reflected in his deep barrel rides and powerful, flared elbow, top turns leading into sweeping face carves.

 

Scott Daley competing in a South Bay Boardriders contest. Easy Reader file photo

“Surfing is about timing and positioning. Too early or too late and you miss your chance. Positioning is critical for reading the wave,” he said in explaining his competition style. “It’s the same in life,” he added.

Mental toughness was another of his competitive characteristics.

“Your mindset has to be, ‘I can do this.’ If you think you’re losing, you’re losing. If you think you’re winning, you probably are,” he said.

On Saturday, April 28, Daley will be inducted into the Hermosa Beach Surfers Walk of Fame, along with retired lifeguard Kip Jerger and ‘60s era pro surfer Candy Woodward.

Daley will join previous Walk of Fame inductees Mike Purpus, Chris Frohoff, Kelly Gibson and Ted Robinson as members from an era when South Bay’s surfers were a significant force on the pro tour.

In 1985, Daley advanced to the semi finals of the World Cup of Surfing at Sunset and the quarter finals of the Pipe Masters. He also was a member of three Body Glove team Katin Challenge championships, in 1982, 1985 and 1988.

Daley retired from the pro tour in 1992, after finishing third at the tour’s Santa Cruz stop.

“I was 35. Kids on the tour were calling me ‘grandpa’ and I realized I wasn’t going to get to the finals anymore. Bill Meistrell started calling me ‘Ol’ number 13’ because 13th is the place you get when you make it to the quarterfinals.” Presumably, the nickname was meant goodnaturedly. Bill’s son Billy, named his son Daley.

From JG to Westside

Daley began surfing in 1967 when he was a 10-year-old Manhattan Beach Junior Lifeguard.

“The lifeguards would yell at us for standing on the paddleboards because we were only supposed to paddle them,” he recalled.

That year he anchored the winning Junior Lifeguard Taplin team and was named MVP.

“We called ourselves ‘Henry’s Hustlers’ because Henry Henderson, our JG instructor, was always yelling at us to hustle.”

That summer he paid $25 for his first surfboard,  a 9-foot-6 Greg Noll.

“My mom Doretta and sister Karen helped me carry it to the beach from our house on 23rd. I pearled on my first wave and the board came down on my head. I learned to cover my head,” Daley said.

He and his friends lit boards on fire with lighter fluid, believing it would wake the wave gods, and stole longboards they cut in half and reshaped in a water heater closet under a friend’s outdoor staircase. On birthdays, they’d talk a parent into driving them to Malibu. On one of those trips, he heard a Malibu local say to another local, ‘I think that kid is riding half of your board.’”

Daley didn’t learn to read until fifth grade, a fact he attributes to trying to be the “man of the house” for his working mom and older sister. Dad was out of the picture.

After graduating from Grand View Elementary School, his family moved to Benedict Canyon.

“It was bad. The Manson murders took place down the street and actress Yvette Mimieux (“Where the Boys Are,” “Platinum High School,”) lived across the street. Her boyfriend was a lion tamer with an ocelot who used to get loose and run through the neighborhood.”

No one at Emerson Junior High in West LA surfed. But when he got to Uni High in Santa Monica, a friend took him to a little known jetty south of Sunset Boulevard whose only other regular was “The Black Knight” Mickey Dora. Dora was famously aggressive toward other surfers, but Daley said he always was friendly so long as there were just the three of them.

Daley’s first surf contest was in 1976 at Salt Creek for the Orange Coast College surf team.

“Bud Llamas was the hot guy at the time. I beat him in an early heat. Then he beat me in the finals. I got second. Until then, I had no clue about what my ability was.” Llamas won the NSSA Championship the following year.

Money forced Daley to drop out of college and work jobs ranging from orderly in convalescent homes to interior design assistant. Surfing in local contests led to a job with Ocean Surfboards in Santa Monica, doing ding repairs, board polishing and board sales.

In 1979, he entered the Sunkist Pro at Malibu, won by Hawaiian Buttons Kaluhiokalani.

“Buttons was doing 360s in the tube and other maneuvers we’d never seen before,” Daley recalled.

Daley’s surprise quarterfinal finish earned him a congratulatory phone call from South Bay pro Mike Purpus and an invitation to Hawaii from Hawaiian big wave surfer and board builder Ben Aipa. Ocean sold Aipa boards.

Aipa met Daley at the Honolulu airport with a big wave gun he had shaped for him, and drove him straight to Sunset.

“It was 10- to 15-feet and I was scared to death. I caught two waves,” Daley said.

Then Aipa dropped him at Mad John’s Court, a collection of former military quonset huts on the beach at Backyards, up the beach from Sunset. Daley lived there for the next three months with high school friend Hall Danon and Danon’s wife.

He surfed two to three times a day and earned money doing ding repairs for Aipa. He ran in the soft sand from Velzyland to Sunset and practiced holding his breath in the pool at the Turtle Bay resort, where Danon was a waiter. Sunday brunch was free so long as he tipped well.

When the winter season ended, he returned to California and resumed repairing and selling boards for Ocean, where he caught the attention of Billy Meistrell.

“Billy wanted me to sell Body Glove accessories — fins, fin tethers, hand guns… But they didn’t have anyone selling wetsuits between San Diego and LA, so I convinced them to let me sell wetsuits,” Daley said. When he started earning more in commissions than the Meistrell cousins were earning, they restructured his commission.

Surfing on the Body Glove team was part of the job.

At the 1980 U.S. Open at County Line, he met Hawaiian Larry Bertlemann in his first heat. Bertlemann was known as “Rubberman” for an attack style that was the antithesis of Daley’s  soulful barrel rides and carves.

Bertlemann asked Daley where he was from.

“I turned and pointed to Yerba Buena Road, which winds up the hill from Pacific Coast Highway,” he recalled. “Bertlemann looked at the other Hawaiians in our heat and said, ‘Uh oh guys, he lives right there.’”

“After I won the heat, I told the TV announcer I was going to take down the old guy in my next heat.”

The old guy was Australian Peter “PT” Townend, who four years earlier won surfing’s first world championship.

“After we paddled out, PT schooled me in hassling and won the heat,” Daley said. “When we got to the beach he told me, ‘Never talk shit about anyone.’ Then he invited me to spend the winter with him and Ian Cairns and their wives at Turtle Bay. Cairns was another Australian pro who, like Daley, was big by surfer standards.

“It was only my second winter in Hawaii and PT and Ian kicked my ass. On the biggest day of the year I had a clogged right ear and had to hide from them because I knew if they found me they’d make me surf.”

That spring the two Aussies invited him home with them. In Australia, he advanced through the prelims to the main event at both the Stubbies, where he was eliminated by eventual winner Hawaiian Cheyne Horan and the Bells Easter Classic, won by that year’s World Champion Mark Richards.

When he returned to California for the summer, he told Robbie Meistrell he wanted to go back to polishing boards and doing ding repairs.

“Robbie told me to take three months off,” Daley said. “Five months later and I ran into him at a contest in Oceanside.”

Meistrell recalled meeting up with his former star sales rep and and team rider and asking,  “What’s the deal? We said three months. You can’t be a surf bum the rest of your life.”

Daley, who was newly divorced, answered, “Do you really want me back?” Meistrell said, “Start Monday.”

In 1985, Daley’s professional aspirations were boosted by a win at the Rancho Cota Pro Am at K38 in Baja and he decided to return to Hawaii.

“I told Robbie, ‘I’m selling my van to buy an airline ticket.’ He said, ‘Don’t sell your van. Here’s ticket money. When you land, call Mark Foo.” Foo was Body Glove’s Hawaii rep and a renowned big wave rider. He lost his life at Maverick’s in 1994.

That winter Daley advanced to the quarter finals at the Pipeline Masters and the semifinals of the World Cup at Sunset riding boards shaped for him by Ben Aipa.

Wetsuits and ties

When age ended his professional surfing career, Daley focused his efforts on Body Glove’s marketing and, more broadly on the surf industry, as a board member of SIMA (Surf Industry of Manufacturers Association).

His longboard era sensibility made him a contrarian among the young high flyers.

“The surf industry was founded by people who loved to surf and who took care of other people who loved to surf by giving them jobs,” he said. “Once the surf companies went public, the non-surfers turned surf shops into clothing stores, with surfboards stashed in the back, where the milk goes in a grocery story.”

Overexpansion, Daley said, led to manufacturers being crushed by store leases during downturns in the economy. Body Glove, he noted was less susceptible to the downturns because of its widely diversified licensing agreements.

Body Glove CEO Russ Lesser credited Daley during the licensing era, which began for the company in 1997, with protecting Body Glove’s core image when publicly traded surf brands were becoming diluted.

The one bright spot Daley sees in surfing’s future is its inclusion in the 2020 Olympics. Surfing will be held at Shida, a barreling, south facing beach break, 40 miles from Tokyo.

Daley helped set the stage for the Olympic berth when he helped bring together competing U.S. surf tours in 2000. The U.S. surf team was doing poorly in international competition. So he and other surf industry leaders, including Townend and Surfing Magazine editor Bill Sharp, created an umbrella, governing body for the East Coast, West Coast, Gulf Coast and Hawaiian surfing associations.

“On Tuesday, a lottery for surf contest permits was held in San Clemente. The August 17, 2000 Los Angeles Times reported. “The winner was Scott Daley, vice president of marketing for Body Glove who was representing Surfing America, a nonprofit organization supported by the Surf Industry Manufacturers Assn., which is working to unify amateur and pro factions in this country.”

Daley served as president of Surfing America from 2002 to 2008. In 2016, Surfing America worked with the ISA (International Surfing Association) to make surfing an Olympic sport. Surfing America will help select the surfers who will represent the U.S. at Shida.

Daley left Body Glove in 2016, after the Meistrell family sold a majority interest in the company to New York-based Marquee Brands, a licensing and development fund.

But he didn’t leave the ocean. He sells boats in King Harbor with former Dive N’ Surf SCUBA instructor Vaughn Allen and surfs Daley Surfboards — shaped, not stolen — by his son Grayson.

“In my head, I know I can catch every wave,” he said. ER

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