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Ocean APRIL / MAY 2021

Intrepid Photographer Aquanaut

Ron Church

chuck o’grady, windansea 1961 photograph ©ron church trust / tani church bell


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INTREPID PHOTOGRAPHER AQUANAUT

RON CHURCH OCEANMAG.SURF


Windansea 1961

all photographs

© ron

church trust / tani church

It has been nearly 50 years since the untimely passing of photographer and aquanaut Ron Church, yet the legacy of his work and pioneering spirit live on. With a photo library of over 100,000 images, Church continues to influence and inspire generations of ocean photographers around the globe. His vision held no boundaries. A fearless expeditionary, Church is held high regard amongst his colleagues and peers, past and present, including that of legendary ocean explorer, Jacques-Yves Cousteau (1910-1997). The photographs presented here sample the work Church produced during the early 1960’s, documenting surfers in California, Hawaii, his ocean spearfishing and daring deep sea photo expeditions.

R

onald Ellsworth Church was born in Denver, Colorado in 1934, migrating with his family to San Diego in 1945. His family would subsequently move to the greater Los Angeles area where Church attended John C. Fremont High School and became the school’s photographer. Living in close proximity to the ocean, Church began diving the pristine waters of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. He soon hooked up with the local spear fishing club, The Aquamen. Church was a natural in the water, and won many spearfishing competitions held in the SoCal area, and soon became familiar with the all diving clubs from Point Conception to the Mexican border. While in high school, he learned of the Addicts Spearfishing Club in La Jolla. Impressed by the excellent fishing and ocean opportunities in San Diego, Church joined the Addicts

Club, driving to San Diego on weekends off to dive with his buddies. Church was introduced to, and began diving with Lamar Boren, a professional photographer in San Diego, who was a member of the original Bottom Scratchers dive club. Boren was also a successful underwater cinematographer working on Hollywood television and film productions, including shooting sequences for the television series Sea Hunt. Becoming friends, Boren took Church under his wing, teaching him the finer points of underwater photography. These activities led Church to designing and building his own underwater camera housings, a skill he would continue to perfect throughout his life. During his time with the Addicts, Church designed and built the famous Addict Spear Gun, an extremely accurate underwater weapon made of laminated hardwood and surgical tubing. Not only was it a fantastic gun, Church turned it into a work of art, and demonstrated early on his innate talent as an engineer and artist. With this new gun, Church captured titles to three world-record fish. In September of ‘54 he speared the first Blue Fin Tuna ever taken by a diver on the West Coast. While diving the Coronado Islands with his friend and fellow Addict member, Bill Howard, Church landed a 464.5 pound Black Sea Bass for yet another world record title. He also nailed a world-record 43-pound Roosterfish off the shores of Baja California. In the late ‘50s, Church earned a scholarship to the prestigious Art Center School of Design in Pasadena, where he began nurturing his technical and creative approach to photography. After a period APRIL / MAY 2021

Young Ron Church ‘50s


Jeff Hakman, Waimea Bay 1962

Joyce Hoffman, Ocean Beach 1964

of deep submersion at Art Center, Church was ready to break out on his own. He had no problem finding work as a photographer in Los Angeles’ burgeoning aerospace industry. For the intrepid Church, the time had arrived and he took advantage of the opportunities before him. “After attending the Art Center School of Design, Ron worked as a photographer on high-speed test aircraft for North American Aviation (NAA),” said Ed Cargile, a long-time friend and colleague. “Ron was in the Los Angeles Division of NAA. I started working for the NAA Space Division in 1963 as a Research Engineer on the Apollo Spacecraft. We did a lot of work on the NAA sister division high-speed aircraft, such as the X-15, F-100 and other aircraft. Ron did all the in-aircraft and chase

plane photography for NAA, at speeds of up to Mach 2 (twice the speed of sound), and up to 50,000 feet altitude. On weekends, we dove the ocean together.” 1958. Church returned to the San Diego area and settled down in Pacific Beach. He continued to dive and began to surf with his friend Chuck O’Grady. Church nailed down a full-time job working at the Diving Locker in Pacific Beach, teaching safe diving and the art of underwater photography. He would also pick up freelance jobs San Diego aerospace industry giants Convair and General Dynamics. In other words, there was no shortage of work for Church, and this was just the beginning. Through business contacts and diving activities, Church became involved with two pioneers of IT HAS BEEN THIRTY-FOUR YEARS since the untimely passing of Ron Church, yet the legacy of his work and pioneering spirit live on. With a photographic library of over 100,000 images, Church continues to influence and inspire generations of ocean artists around the globe. His vision holds no boundaries. Possessed with the qualities of a brilliant expeditionary, Church is held in the highest regard amongst his colleagues and peers, including that of legendary ocean explorer, Jacques-Yves Cousteau (1910-1997). With the cooperation of his daughter, Tani Church Bell, his widow, Shirley Richards, and his long-time friend and colleague, Edward C. Cargile, the following profile on one of the most prolific figures in the history of ocean exploration, surfing history, and underwater photography was made possible. * Ronald Ellsworth Church was born in Denver, Colorado in 1934, migrating with his family to San Diego in 1945. His family would subsequently move to the greater Los Angeles area where Church attended John C. Fremont High School and became the school’s photographer.

Flag planted by Aquanaut Ron Church • Pilot of Deepstar 4000 Submersible Depth 4,128 feet • San Diego, 1965

Addicts Dive Club, La Jolla 1950s

OCEANMAG.SURF


Rabbit Kekai, Hawaii 1964

free diving and spearfishing—Conrad Limbaugh, Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s (SIO) first dive master, and Andreas Rechnitzer, Limbaugh’s associate, and later a leader in the U.S. Navy’s manned submersible program. Limbaugh and Rechnitzer were instrumental in initiating the first research diving program at SIO in 1951, and the nation’s first civilian diving course in SCUBA (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus). It was through Limbaugh’s company, Scientific Diving Consultants, that Church found his way. Limbaugh taught him the true meaning of what it took to be a pioneer and leader. They worked together in the South Pacific positioning seismic instruments monitoring the impact of atomic

Moonlight Beach 1964

bomb testing. Dangerous stuff. Ironically, tragically, through all the diving safety techniques Limbaugh had developed and passed along to others, he himself fell victim to the inherent dangers of diving—killed in a cave-diving accident in France in 1960. He was only 35 years old. Church’s reputation as both a fearless diver and photographer captured the attention of researchers at Scripps. It wasn’t long before he would become SIO’s go-to-guy when it came to both underwater photography and species collection. Not only could SIO depend on Church for any given mission, he would prove to be equally valuable as a diving buddy and faithful friend.

“Ron did a lot of marine biology research and underwater photography with SIO,” Cargile recalls. “Jim Stewart, Scripps’ Diving Officer, did much of the diving with Church during photographic ocean research assignments. Several of these diving operations were held in the South Pacific. On March 8, 1961, Church and Stewart were installing a new addition to a long-period wave recorder off Wake Island. After being eyed by a six-foot gray reef shark for a number of minutes, the shark unexpectedly attacked Stewart, striking him twice in the arm at the elbow. Heroically, Church managed to fend the shark off, pulling Stewart out of the water to safety. Severely injured and bleeding, Stewart was flown to the closest

hospital that could help him, in Hawaii, 2,000 miles away. Church made the 11-hour flight, at his friend’s side, on a C-124 transport plane to Trippler Army Hospital in Honolulu. The medical team was able to save Stewart’s arm, which allowed him to continue to contribute greatly to diving over the next thirty years as Diving Officer at Scripps.” It was during Church’s expeditions to the South Pacific and Hawaii (1960-61) that he met legendary surfers John Severson and Rick Grigg. They introduced Church to the classic big waves and surf culture of the North Shore of Oahu. As a result, Church jumped on the opportunity to record surfing during the early ‘60s. In addition to assisting Severson on

Oceanside Pier 1964 APRIL / MAY 2021


Dick Brewer & Kemp, Waimea Bay 1962

Tandem Teams, Makaha 1964

producing a film titled The Angry Sea, Church would write and publish his first book Skin Diving Guide To Hawaii (1961). Shortly thereafter, Church and Grigg collaborated on the book Surfer’s Guide To Hawaii (1962). Grigg, also from San Diego, received his Doctorate Degree at SIO, and was an Aquanaut on the U.S. Navy’s Sealab, an undersea habitat experiment off Scripp’s Pier. Church would go on to author several more books on underwater photography, including Secrets of the Sea (1963), Beginner’s Guide To Underwater Photography (1971/1973), Education On Underwater Photography (1972), and Underwater Photo Data & Log Book (1973).

Surf Check, Hawaii 1963

Blacks 1965

1964. Ensconced in a world of underwater photography, scientific research, engineering and now a well-known diver and risk-taker, Church’s services were in high demand. Westinghouse Electric Corporation, whom had just purchased a deep submersible vehicle developed by Jacques Cousteau, made Church an offer to serve as chief pilot and photographer of this new deep submersible, named Deepstar 4000. Church accepted, knowing that this opportunity would take his photo and diving experiences even deeper. He made over 250 dives in this vehicle, including an extremely dangerous descent to 4,128 feet deep off the San Diego coast. The following entry is from Church’s log after he had made contact with

the deep, dark bottom: Bottom covered with brittle stars and ophiaroids, a few of the same big eyed rock fish, quite an abundance of sea cucumbers, some almost gelatinous in texture and clear with tall horns. Saw several very large sable fish one nearly three feet long. Occasional medium sized shrimp, dark red in color about 4” to 6” long. Saw several hog fish, most of them larger ones we’d seen in shallower waters. Saw a great number of small rat tails about 4” to 6” long, almost like a runnula, small pointed fish-like head with a thin filament-like eel tail, pointed. Quite shiny. In fact, most of the fishes are shiny, silver in color. Saw one very beautiful, delicate chimera, ratfish about 8” to 10” long, hovering about 8’ to 10’ off the bottom. Hairy

OCEANMAG.SURF

suspended tail down about 45 degrees. Was able to get to within about 4 feet of him and shot a few pictures. Bottom holding characteristics were excellent, was able to hold course better than any time before, even at speed 4 for a while. The biggest problem is trying to stop and photograph or sample, when you reverse motors you stir up bottom sediment and cloud up the entire area. Sample taking is same problem, the minute you dig the claw into the bottom, clouds of silt arise and obliterate everything. Tried to obtain a shellfish sample but bottom got stirred up too much. When balance is just right it’s hard to set the boat still. It was extremely sensitive and responded very well to almost every touch or movement. Even speed one was effective.

Mike Hynson, Sunset Beach Hawaii 1962


www.shacc.org Butch Van Artsdalen, Little Point 1963

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Gary Cooke, Crystal Pier, PB 1963

Celebrated the occasion by opening and drinking a small bottle of Champaign on the bottom. To record the event for history, we piped the “pop” of the cork to topside crew via underwater telephone. They said they heard the cork 6 or 7 times because of the echo involved, it went “pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop!” As a result of his deep submersible and photographic experience, Church was selected to be the first American to work on Jacques Cousteau’s legendary Calypso diving team. He piloted Cousteau’s’ undersea vehicles, Diving Saucer, and his one-man mini-sub, the Puce (Sea Flea). In addition, Church filmed many of the segments for Cousteau’s television series, The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, and contributed images for several of Cousteau’s books on life under the sea.

Church also participated as an Aquanaut in the Sealab underwater habitat experiment, and the sand falls of Cabo San Lucas. Many of Church’s artifacts and deep-sea photos from these historical missions are displayed in several museums and published in many books and periodicals. The heaviest challenge facing any photographer is finding fresh, exciting subject matter, under any conditions, to photograph. Church accepted this challenge with vigor. He dove and filmed beneath the icy waters of Alaska, swimming with salmon and baby walruses. He penetrated to 350 feet deep off the coast of Corsica searching for red coral. He tracked killer whales. He studied sea otters off Monterrey, manatees in Florida, and giant octopus in the Puget Sound. He traveled and filmed in South America, the Mediterra-

Sunset Beach 1962

Ron Church San Diego 1950s

Jeanne 1962 OCEANMAG.SURF


Aka Hemmings, Makaha 1964

Memorial Day Pacific Beach 1963

Skip Frye, PB 1964 APRIL / MAY 2021

Hobie Alter, Ocean Beach 1964


Father of Surf Film: Bud Browne, Hawaii 1962

nean, Galapagos Islands, the Bahama Blue Holes, as well as many other locations worldwide. In technology, Church founded and presided over Seacor, Inc., based in San Diego. Seacor, which stood for Sea Equipment Advancement Corporation, developed, manufactured, and distributed high-quality underwater photographic lenses, Hasselblad underwater housings, strobe light arms, viewfinders, and several other types of underwater photo equipment. Needless to say, everyone on the planet that had anything to do with underwater photography was happy to have Seacor around. In education Church developed and founded the Ron Church School of Underwater Photography. Countless people benefited from his sharing his firsthand experiences in the sea, his many photos, cinema, articles, books and seminars. Co-founder of the San Diego Chapter of the Underwater Photographic Society with his long-time friend Chuck Nicklin,

Sunset Beach 1962

Group Therapy, La Jolla 1964

Buzzy Trent, Sunset Beach 1962

OCEANMAG.SURF

Addicts Dive Club, La Jolla Cove 1950s


Bobby Challenger Thomas, La Jolla 1964

Church also founded the Underwater Photographers of America. As part of the United States Pavilion at the 1974 World’s Fair in Spokane, Washington, Church, along with colleagues John Skadberg and Ed Cargile, shot underwater footage of sea otters off Monterrey with a 70mm IMAX camera for the U.S. State Department. This was the first underwater IMAX film ever shot. As a photo-journalist, Church’s articles and photos appeared in just about every major periodical on the planet, including National Geographic, Surfer Magazine, Surfing Illustrated, Life, Holiday, Scientific American, Skin Diver, International Wildlife, Oceans, Aquarius, Diving World, Industrial Photography, Surfing, Time Magazine, Sea Frontiers, Marine Technology Journal, U.S. Camera, as well as numerous other publications. On top of this work load Church accepted photo assignments, both still and cinematic, for Sea World of San Diego, the U.S. Department of Interior, Eastman Kodak, North American Aviation, General Dynamics, Convair, Jacques Cousteau, and Ivan Tors Productions. He would also go on to launch a

full-service cinematography company, Ron Church Productions, and produce several of his own underwater feature films, including: Full Fathom Five, Deep Blue World and Secrets of the Sea. During his impressive career, Church received many major awards and honors including: Underwater Photographer of the Year at the International Underwater Film Festival in Santa Monica, CA (1963); NOGI Award for Arts from The Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences (1973); the first Scott Carpenter Award from the Diving Equipment Manufacturers Association (1973); and many others. Tragically, Church succumbed to a brain tumor on October 20, 1973. He was only 39 years old. Today, Ron Church’s photographs continue to be pursued by collectors around the world. For more information on Church’s work, current exhibitions, and availability of his books and photographic prints, including the book produced by Surfers Journal, California to Hawaii 1960 . . .

Tani.Church@gmail.com

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Winners of Mission Bay Aqua Fair Surf Contest, Crystal Pier 1963 Back row: Dale Keillor, John Close, Skip Frye, Butch Van Artsdalen Front row: Billy Brummett, Hank Warner, Judy Dibble


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Lifeguard OB OCEANMAG.SURF


Ocean Beach Gremmie

Robert Wald Photo

Honors Lifeguard with a Sculpture A. Lee Brown

I by

t is normal to reminiscence about one’s youth and experiences. Some memories are, of course, blurred, others deliberately extinguished or burnished indelibly by time. For my dough, however, being a kid and learning to surf during a golden age of southern California beach communities is incomparable. I say this not only in terms of wonderful times, but with respect to the attitudes, humor, social values, respect for the sea, and sense of justice that became my life’s compass. The ancient Greeks had four different words for love, one of which, Philos, referred to the bond between friends or brotherly love. I think the best way I can explain what it was like to grow up in Ocean Beach, California is to share what I learned with, and from, my best friend: Richard Arnold. Richard and I originally crossed paths in 1952. At that moment, we were both Peagreens---the sobriquet for 7th graders---at

Richard Arnold at work

Dana Junior High located atop Point Loma. Since that time, we have been best pals for seven decades and despite geographic separation, have never been out of touch. We gravitated toward the Pacific Ocean for similar reasons: to fill big holes in our lives. Richard’s Dad died when he was only five and my father was such an alcoholic I rarely spoke with him after nightfall. And so it was that we were born again, baptized if you will, in what I call the “Cradle of Bitchin-ness.” The location of that nest still exists at the foot of Santa Monica Street in Ocean Beach; a coastal community on the western side of Point Loma. Only a few hardy souls surfed in the early 1950s and, in our case, it was a struggle for two 12 year olds to carry a 50 pound redwood plank to the shoreline, much less get it beyond the shore break. For us to pick up a wave was nearly impossible which is why we would knee paddle and, if successful, one would jump off while the other rode the soup. In a word, I was drawn to Richard’s wit, APRIL / MAY 2021

charm, and friendliness. We both aspired to be more than surfers and become watermen like the older beach boys and lifeguards who were at home in the sea and its bounty. Dick and I played football and other sports at Point Loma High. While I got a job as a boxboy, Richard became a Junior Lifeguard for the City of San Diego; a smart decision as it put him on the fast track for acceptance with elders. The 1950s were intoxicating for two teens. We could go up the coast with guys who had cars, learn to dive for Abs at San Onofre, and spearfish off Sunset Cliffs. Although we were the same age, Richard, in turn, became my mentor for things he was learning from lifeguards like Bob Baxley, Bud Caldwell, Bill Norton, Marsh Malcolm, Jim Richards, Doug Smith, Jim Robb, and Don Mellon. All these men were members of the Sunset Cliffs Surf Club and thus possessed the cherished key to the locked gate of surfing heaven. If we were lucky, we could tag along to Cliff breaks of Sub, Abb, or Garbage.


Eagle by Richard Arnold

Sometimes, Richard’s creativity would have unanticipated results. For example, he invited me to join him to go with some of the older fellows for an overnight at San Onofre; a popular surfing area to the north. As dusk approached, Richard talked me into trying his new dish---octopus soup cooked in a Folgers Coffee can. God it was awful, as I realized I was the brunt of a cruel initiation prank. Yes, membership to hang with the older guys required certain rites and Richard and I endured far too many pink bellies than I’d like to remember. In exchange, we were taught respect for the ocean along with lessons about rip currents, shoals, and dangerous sand stone cliffs and how to handle ourselves in cold water and big waves before wet shirts or goon cords were known. Mellon and Baxley lived in a small beach cottage not 20 feet from the OB lifeguard station. It was the cradle of bitchiness. This is where Richard and I were allowed to attend luaus, listen to ukulele music, sip a little beer, and watch the daily poker and pinochle games. Best of all, we could listen to the stories of surfing in the Islands or off the coast of Puerto Malabrigo, Peru.

By the time we graduated from Point Loma High, the southern California surfing lifestyle was already being reshaped by Hollywood and morphing into commercialism. At the same moment, a new horde of migrants began arriving in OB, contributing to an encampment similar to San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury. Dick and I went to work for Scripps Institute of Oceanography as our lives began to subtly drift away from the Cradle. Of course, we still surfed but not as often or with the same passion and part of that was due to the discovery of skiing. Like his surfing skill, Richard’s skiing soon became excellent and little did we know it would eventually draw each of us to the mountains: him to Aspen, me to Sun Valley. For a while my friend moved to Hawaii to enjoy warm water and bigger surf while I became a fulltime ocean lifeguard for the City of San Diego. Vietnam was growing more ominous daily. Richard joined the Army after being told he could serve at the Army’s ski recreation area in Germany—they lied, he was sent to Vietnam. OCEANMAG.SURF

Fireman

One of Arnold’s most alluring traits is that, far and away, he is the most creative of the bunch; so much so, his gizmos could lead to trouble. For example, he once made a wooden fin that could be attached around his chest with the point downwards. Its purpose was to allow him to stay in steep waves while body surfing. Soon, however, the physics of displacement became apparent. Aghast, we watched from shore as the device inverted him and Richard nearly drowned. Although similar episodes occurred, he was never daunted and with a shoulder shrug he’d move on to the next adventure. Dick’s inventiveness manifested in other ways like weaving Hawaiian palm frond Hilo hats or designing new contests. Contests and silly games were the way of the beach including sand eating and bottle cap flipping contests, or kite fights with razor blades. Not far south of the OB lifeguard station is the Silver Spray Hotel. One flat surf morning, Arnold conned four of us into sneaking onto the inn’s four story roof to see who would be the last to be run off by the aging manager. Following the Pied Piper, we were led up a back stairway and through a hatch. In the midst of our party, sure enough the lid opened and out came No Neck,


Soldier Memorial

Lifeguard OB

Surfers Cutback

Richard Arnold at work

the manager’s son locking the escape route behind him. Suddenly, we knew we were goners. This guy had to be Les Richter for the Rams as he began collecting wigglers under massive arms. Like most things in youth, we were wrong. In the end, he let us go. From then on, no one followed Dick’s challenges. Such creativity was never better exemplified than his tour in Vietnam. China beach was dangerous, not just from rip currents but incoming mortar rounds. Corporal Arnold convinced the Special Services commander of the need for a professional lifeguard at China beach which also allowed him time to enjoy the warm water and surf of a combat zone. Over the years, Richard taught skiing for Stein Erickson, was a charter pilot, general contractor, airport manager, and found perAPRIL / MAY 2021

haps his best outlet of creativity---working in bronze sculpture. Richard’s art is well-known in America and rests in faraway places. Out of respect for all the wonderful lessons and memories passed along by the beach boys and lifeguards who nurtured us, he molded and delivered the bronze sculpture that now stands next to the OB lifeguard station, facing the shoreline and guarding the waves of our cradle of bitchin-ness. “And now,” as Paul Harvey used to say, “you know the rest of the story.” *

*

*

For more info

www.ArnoldTellurideStudio.com


PatCurren I SURFING’S SINGULAR

mpenetrable surfer and surfboard shaper from La Jolla, California; generally regarded as the best big-wave rider of the late 1950s and early ‘60s, as well as the era’s finest big-wave surfboard craftsman; father of three-time world champion Tom Curren. Pat Curren was born (1932) in Carlsbad, California, the son of a surveyor, and grew up in San Diego’s Mission Beach. At 18, two years after dropping out of high school, he moved to La Jolla and began surfing; he later became an original member of the La Jolla–based Windansea Surf Club, the loudest and rowdiest group of its kind in the nation. Curren first visited Hawaii in 1955, and two years later was among the first group of surfers to ride Waimea Bay; the slim regularfooter wiped out on nearly all his rides, as did the rest of the half-dozen surfers out that day, largely because their surfboards were unsuited to the conditions. Curren had been shaping boards for less than two years at that time; he returned to La Jolla and dedicated himself to making specialized big-wave equipment, and before the end of the decade he’d become the acknowledged master of the big-wave board. “Pat was the first guy to produce the ultimate gun,” California-born surfer Fred Van Dyke later said. “Others were making nice all-around boards, but Pat made the stiletto, specifically for Waimea, where all you want to do is make it alive from Point A to B.” Curren had meanwhile become the most patient of the big-wave surfers, and would often sit quietly for two hours or longer waiting for the right wave. He took off on fewer Waimea waves than any of his companions, but invariably got the one that everybody remembered. Once up and riding, Curren kept his feet and legs fairly close together and used a medium crouch, with a ramrod- straight back, his arms swept out like wings. Nearly mute at times, Curren nonetheless had a fully developed sense of humor. In the winter of 1958, inspired by the Anglo-Saxon legend of Beowulf, he rented a three-bedroom house on the North Shore along with eight other La Jolla surfers, gutted the interior so that it was essentially one high-ceilinged room with a surfboard rack along the wall, and built a giant communal table down the center. Curren called it Meade Hall, and presided over dinners with a Viking helmet jammed down over his close-cropped black hair. He meanwhile showed little or no interest in the surf media, and responded as follows to a 1963 Surfer magazine questionnaire: What do you like about surfing? Curren: No answer Club affiliation: None Personal surfing history: No answer Hobbies: No answer

Pat Curren & Daughter, Oceanside 2005 Robert Wald Photo

Other sports of interest to you: Diving Future plans: No answer Outlook for surfing: No answer Curren had a midday wedding in Hawaii, in 1961, and surfed Waimea that afternoon. He and his wife, Jeanine, moved to California the following year, where Curren worked mainly as a diver and board-builder. Tom Curren, the couple’s first son, was born in 1964; second son Joe was born in 1974. Pat left the family in 1981 and moved to Costa Rica; he and Jeanine were soon divorced. Curren moved to the southern tip of Baja in 1988, near San Jose del Cabo. Pat and Tom surfed together in Costa Rica in 1985, while Joe joined his father and older brother for a surf trip to Ireland and France in 2000, but Curren OCEANMAG.SURF

family members have for the most part gone their own ways. Curren has had almost nothing to do with the nostalgia-tinged “surf legends” revival of the ‘90s and ‘00s, but he did visit California to produce six full-size replica balsa guns in 1994 and made 10 more in 1996, selling them for an average price of $3,500; in 2000 he announced that he would start making two or three $10,000 boards per year. In 2000, the 68-year-old Curren had a baby daughter Featured in many first-generation surf movies, including Surf Crazy (1959), Barefoot Adventure (1960), Cavalcade of Surf (1962), and Gun Ho! (1963) . . . and Pat Curren continues to this day. bio courtesy www.EOS.Surf


surfing heritage 1960 raIL / FIN PrOFILE

pat curren

hawaiian gun BaLSa & rEDWOOD • 11’ 2” • 42 LBS

History

Pat Curren, Hawaii Pat Curren & Daughter, O’side 2007 robert Wald Photo

Pat Curren was a little older than most of the coast haoles that came over in the late 1950s. His lifestyle honed by La Jolla surf culture (heavy Mexico/tequila emphasis), Curren set the tone for the establishment of transplanted Californian North Shore surf culture. (Excerpt from the Legendary Surfers website) This “Elephant Gun” was made for Chuck “Gunker” Quinn by Pat Curren in Encinitas, California. It was shaped for the big surf on the North Shore and Makaha and was used by Quinn at Sunset Beach, Waimea Bay, Laniakea, and Makaha Point Surf from October through December 1960. “It was a very fast down-the-line surfboard. Because of its shape, weight, lack of tail rocker, hard rails at the tail, and large deep skeg, Quinn was able to take off deep in the hook, and stay high on the steep faces, eliminating sweeping bottom turns. This is the way it was in the fall of 1960.”– Chuck “Gunker” Quinn, Jan. 2010 SHACC Collection. Donated by Dick Metz via Chuck Quinn, in 2003

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