by Mike Purpus
Published April 20, 2006

First big contest cost a toenail
Pacific Surf League director John Joseph and Dave Bacon of the Redondo Beach Parks and Recreation Department will hold a surf contest on Saturday at the Knob Hill lifeguard tower in Redondo Beach for high school surfers and body boarders. Beach sign-ups are $7 . The contest starts at 7:30 a.m. Awards will go to the top three finishers in each division. There will be boys and girls short and long board plus an open body board division. All the Pacific High School Surf League coaches will be there to get a look at the talent for their high school surf teams. This will be a great chance to show your surf team coach how much you have improved since last season and the perfect contest for all you first timers to get your board wet for points.
My first big surf contest was the 1963 Ocean Beach Surfing Championships in San Diego. I was 14, about 4-foot-9, 95 pounds, bushy blond hair with a sunburned nose that was brighter than my night light. All my surf bros had girlfriends but I wasn’t going to let this puberty thing get between me and the waves. I would rather sleep with my new surfboard. My friends and I were members of Bay Cities Surf Club.
Bay Cities Surf Club, Dapper Dan Surf Club and Haggarty’s Surf Club were the top clubs in the South Bay and the club met once a week at the Kiwanis Club next to Clark Stadium. We had several hot juniors including Dru Harrison, Sparky Hudson, Pete Briggs, Ken Rocky, Don Craig, Jody Lilly, Alfred Laws, Mike Stevenson, John Baker and Billy Ray James.
The Ocean Beach Surfing Championships was the biggest surf contest in San Diego and was important for rating points in the United States Surfing Association. The Bay Cities Surf Club was going to caravan down to San Diego for the contest. My parents would only let me go if I went down with Don Murray who was a friend of the family that wrote a weekly surfing column for the Los Angeles Times.
Don picked me up bright and early at 4 a.m. and we barely made my first heat at 7:30 a.m. Phil Edwards, Mickey Dora, Mike Doyle, Dewey Weber, Ricky Irons (Bruce and Andy’s uncle), Skip Frye, Mike Hynson, Joey Cabell, Rich Chew, Robert August and Butch Van Artsdallen were just a few of my surfing idols on the beach).
I didn’t know any of the San Diego junior surfers in my division but was impressed with their smooth styles. The surf was three feet and just like a good day in Hermosa Beach so I felt like I was in my own backyard, winning my preliminary and semi-final heats on Saturday, putting me in the junior men’s final on Sunday.
The Bay Cities Surf Club took over this motel with a swimming pool about two blocks from the contest. We did not have much money so about five of us went in on a room. We all had sleeping bags so it was no big deal.
After my semi-final heat I raced back to the motel to find Dru Harrison, Sparky Hudson, Don Craig, Mike Stevenson, Alfred Laws, John Baker and the rest of the club had taken over the pool like a huge school of grunion splashing all over the place. I screamed out, “I am going to take the first shower so what room are we in?” Sparky screamed back “Oh yeah. We are in room 5.” It slipped my mind that Sparky was the biggest practical joker in the surfing world so I ran straight into room 5, not knowing that our motel room was really room 6.
When I entered the room I noticed a cloud of steam coming from the bathroom and could hear the shower running. It was kind of like the opening scene in the Tom Cruise movie “Risky Business.” I was trying to figure out who beat me to the bathroom from the swimming pool as I walked through toward the shower and pulled back the curtain to find a naked lady screaming her head off.
She was in her twenty’s with long black hair and a beautiful tan figure that glistened as the beads of water ran down it. I was caught like a deer in the headlights staring at a woman that was equal or better than any of the Playboy foldouts from my dad’s collection. Then the woman’s screaming snapped me out of my trance. It was the first naked female I had ever seen. She grabbed a towel but didn’t cover herself. She used it to hit me as she chased me out of the room. As I got to the front door I had to turn and get one last look. I got greedy and I paid for it. I turned around at the door as the woman lunged toward me slamming the door with my big toe caught in the door jam. My ecstasy turned to excruciating pain as my big toe was stuck and bled. I had to use my shoulder to slam the door open and remove my throbbing toe.
The entire Bay Cities Surf Club was watching from the pool and laughing so hard that there wasn’t enough chlorine to keep the water from getting a yellow tint. My toe and I were hopping around the parking lot like we were starring in a cartoon. My big toe had tripled in size and the nail was turning purple.
That night the Bay Cities Surf Club went to the Ocean Beach Fun Park to ride one of the scariest rollercoaster’s in California. I went along but couldn’t go on the rollercoaster because I wasn’t tall enough so while everyone got sick on the rollercoaster I got sick eating cotton candy, candy apples, corndogs and everything else that came on a stick. When we got back to the motel my toe was still throbbing so I couldn’t get to sleep. I tried ice and a hot towel but my toe kept getting darker and larger. I fell asleep about an hour before the sun came up with my big toe soaking in the pool.
The surf on Sunday was about four foot and low tide walls for the contest finals. It blew out by the time my loaded junior men’s final hit the water around noon. The junior men’s final had Herbie Fletcher, Billy Hamilton (Laird Hamilton’s father), Jock Southerland from Hawaii, Corky Carroll, David Nuuhiwa and me. My strategy was to get two waves right away and then sit and wait for some good set waves. I caught two small lined up waves and rode them to the beach but there wasn’t much I could do on them. At the same time David and Jock were having a dog fight on some fast four foot lefts getting long nose rides. Corky was doing everything he could including a couple of headstands all the way to the beach. Corky was and still is the perfect contest surfer. Herbie, Billy and I were kind of just sitting waiting for the outside rights that never came. My toe really hurt bad every time I had to paddle. I was just sitting outside daydreaming of that beautiful brunette when the five minutes left in the final horn sounded. There was no sign of a wave so I looked down at my purple toe and saw my toenail float to the surface as the final ended. Jock won, David was second with Corky third and I got last.
Don Murray was upset with me because he heard about Bay Cities Surf Club going wild at the amusement park the night before the final. There was no way that I was going tell him about the beautiful brunette in the shower and my throbbing toe. Don didn’t say a word for the entire three hour trip home. My parents were waiting in front of the house as we pulled into the driveway. My father asked what I got and I told him sixth. He said that was pretty good and I said thanks. Don said that I should’ve won.
My mother looked down at my big toe and said “Oh my God. Look at that toe.” I said “I know; isn’t she beautiful”. To this day that big toe is a pedicurist nightmare and whenever anybody asks what happened I say let me tell you a story. ER