3. San Onofre Surfing Club

“I’ve learned that simple walks with my father around the block on summer nights when I was a child did wonders for me as an adult.”
Andy Rooney

(art by Jim Krogle)

While Corona del Mar provided an ideal beach community for growing up, it was my time with Dad at San Onofre that most influenced my views on balancing work and life later in my career. Just mention the words “San Onofre Surfing Club (SOSC)” and it brings on a rush of heart-felt memories of living an unencumbered life on the beach doing what I enjoyed most, surfing. San Onofre (“SanO” or “Nofre” as the locals called it) was a slice of heaven.

The story of how the San Onofre Surfing Club was formed and later impacted by the 37th President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, is one of the more colorful stories of surfing history. Looking back on it today, it seems inconceivable that a group of surfers could arrange to lease a pristine and secluded surfing beach in Southern California from the U.S. Marine Corps for $1 a year!

San Onofre History
As the crowds converged on Malibu, a unique surfing beach emerged 90 miles south near the San Onofre railroad station. Originally known as a fishing camp, it was soon discovered that this beach had a unique environment for surfing. The collection of bottom rocks mixed with sand on the seabed produced strikingly consistent waves with a long peeling and gently sloping nature, like those at famed Waikiki Beach in Hawaii. Word quickly spread among the surfing crowd of this gem of a surfing beach called San Onofre.

Lorrin “Whitey” Harrison and Pete Peterson were two of the first regulars at San Onofre in the mid-1930s, after the new jetties in CdM had destroyed the surf there. Both had traveled to Hawaii and brought back that aloha spirit to San Onofre. It was a perfect fit for this secluded stretch of beach, over a half-mile long and backed by dirt cliffs to maintain a sense of exclusivity. There was even a palm thatch shack on the sand left behind by a film shoot from a Hollywood movie company.

By the late 1930s, San Onofre had become the place to go to enjoy the surfer’s lifestyle with an unbeatable combination of good fishing, excellent surfing, and a community atmosphere. World War II was soon to disrupt all that, changing everyone’s lives.

In 1942 the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) announced that San Onofre beach would become part of Camp Pendleton, the largest Marine Corps base in the country. It was officially dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt later that year to train U.S. Marines for service in World War II.

During those years Dad described how they would tape paper over their headlights when driving PCH between San Clemente and Oceanside for fear the Japanese were going to attack. For those lucky enough to return home from the war in late 1945, the USMC began to allow access to the beach again for surfing. The Marines in charge of Camp Pendleton were willing to work out an agreement with these surfers, understanding the sacrifices they had made for our country. [1]

(SOSC decals were a prized possession back then!)

In a startling story of cooperation between civilians and the U.S. military, the SOSC was loosely formed in 1951 to provide a group of surfers exclusive access to the beach. The SOSC gained responsibility to maintain membership, keep the beach clean and orderly, and pay a $1-a-year annual lease. Dr. A.H. “Barney” Wilkes (a San Clemente dentist), and Andre “Frenchy” Jahan (SOSC’s first president) are two heroes who finessed the USMC into the agreement.  

In the end, it was brilliant, but it did not come without some turbulent times between the two. [2] Club bylaws, membership cards, auto decals, and rules of conduct were established at the first formal SOSC meeting on the beach on April 24, 1952. Dad was fortunate enough to be a part of that early membership crowd.

This was the beginning of an era at SanO that had roots firmly planted in a simple lifestyle of a surfing society which soon became a way of life for raising your kids at the beach in SoCal. There were no lifeguards, no running water, no paved roads, and no way to take a phone call; just an idyllic world of sun and surf in a serene setting, free of life’s challenges with plenty of time for rest. These traditions would be passed on for generations to come.

Waiting
I waited all week with great anticipation for the trip to SanO with Dad on weekends. Getting that official military salute at the gate to Camp Pendleton was like gaining entrance to Main Street at Disneyland. Those windshield decals that got us by the USMC guard became a source of great pride to signify our status as a member of the San Onofre Surfing Club.

The Infamous USMC Salute to Secure Passage to San Onofre

However, getting to San Onofre was another matter. What should have been a 45-minute drive took forever! We left CdM onto PCH in mid-morning with our two Dave Sweet boards bungee corded on top of our ’64 Chevy Nova Wagon. Our first stop was the Laguna Beach Arts Festival, where Dad would play a couple sets of tennis with his good friend Jack Upton. I would try and pass the time digging holes, killing bugs, and throwing rocks, constantly hoping it was match point, no matter who was winning. After what seemed like half the day, I knew they were finally done when the Tab came out over ice in the metal tennis cans. I sprinted to the car.

“Aahhhh!” Dad would belt out with each sip while working the three-speed column shift through the maze of Laguna Beach traffic and hills while juggling the tennis can of Tab.

We were on our way! My first marker was the “Laguna Beach Greeter” (Eiler Larsen) in his bright red coat, who always recognized me, I was sure, giving me that wink and pointing right at me. Next, I watched for a wrecked car that was overturned up a cliff by Poche Beach along PCH. Getting close.

We made a final stop off the 5 freeway (Avenida Calafia) at the El Camino Market to buy some Mug Root Beer, Paraffin wax, the LA Times, and a small cluster of grapes for nutrition. The owner of the El Camino Market, Tony Duynstee, was always there to cheerfully greet us at the cash register and update us on the surf report.

The Basilone Road offramp was where we got our first view of the waves overlooking the renowned surf break—Trestles. Regardless of the conditions, my pulse spiked at just the sight of the waves; I could not wait to get in. The fancy hand wave by the USMC guard at Camp Pendleton was our final green light. We bounced down the rutted dirt road and parked at “Old Man’s” to set up base camp; a Coast Hardware beach chair, beach towel, and small Styrofoam ice chest to preserve the Mug Root Beer and grapes (no other food). Once the boards were moved off the car to the palm shack, the next hiatus began. In my younger years, Dad would not let me go in the water until he got out. He wanted to keep an eye on me in the water. Although, every time I looked to see if he saw my ride, he was immersed in the LA Times . . .

The SanO Scene at Old Man’s in the 1960s

After chatting it up with friends about the wind, tide, water temp, and Dodgers, Dad would finally wax up and paddle out. I knew he would not stay in the water long (he never wore a wetsuit), so at least the clock had started.

Jeez . . .

Dad was easy to pick out riding waves as he would drag a foot on his turns, which I now understand was from his days riding the heavy balsa wood boards at Malibu where you used your foot as a rudder to turn. My only distraction beyond watching his every move was keeping an eye out for Candy McCue to walk by. Anyone on the beach in those days would surely confirm that.

After what seemed like a 16-inning scoreless baseball game, I raced to get my board and wax up as soon as I saw Dad coming in. The water at SanO was always like dipping into a familiar bath—I never wanted to get out. Old Man’s is one of the more consistent breaks in Southern California, so there were always waves to ride, regardless of the conditions. Once I hit double digits in age, we could finally paddle out together. Surfing with Dad was about as good as it got.

SanO was a unique environment in the water. People looked out after each other, brought loose boards back out (before the leash), and took care of anyone in need. When I was ten years old, I wiped out and got hit hard in the head by my board. It opened a good slice next to my left eye, so there was lots of blood. Amazingly, Dad was right there and able to carry me to shore over the rocks on a low tide day (cutting up his feet badly in the process).

The next thing I knew, I was lying in a van chewing on European black licorice while getting eight stitches to close the gash (“It’s your Novocain,” the doc told me). I will always remember our doctor back home telling us what a good job he had done stitching it up. Only years later did I find out it was Dr. Dorian Paskowitz who had done the good deed. I remember Dad carrying a bottle of champagne in the car on the next trip down for the doc. That was how things worked at San Onofre—life in harmony.

The magic of the SOCS soon got out among the surfing crowd, and membership soared to 1,000 members by 1971 with a waiting list of 2,000. It was almost too good to be true, and many of my friends were begging me to take them. Having exclusive access to one of southern California’s most consistent surfing breaks with a built-in social community lifestyle was hard to beat. The SOSC had become a mini-civilization built around surfing with luaus, horseshoes, surfing and volleyball contests, fishing, Bocce ball, and even a Sunday school for kids! The SOSC was even mentioned in an October 18, 1965 issue of Sports Illustrated about surfing. [3]

President Nixon
As progress would have it, change was imminent with the SOSC. Construction of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station began in 1968. Just a half-mile south of Old Man’s beach, this plant employed over 2,200 people and became a prominent landmark with its twin spherical containment buildings designed to contain any unexpected releases of radiation.

OK.

In 1969 Richard Nixon became the 37th U.S. president, setting up his summer White House residence near Trestles (1.5 miles north of San Onofre), at the La Casa Pacifica. When President Nixon was in town, Trestles was off-limits to everyone, especially to surfers! Armed military police would be patrolling the beach in jeeps, helicopters flew overhead, and an 85-foot Coast Guard ship sat just outside the surf line. The SOSC was just far enough south to be unaffected.

Having President Nixon flying by in his helicopter was a sure sign the tide was about to turn. I will never forget the day in 1971 when I heard the devastating news that the entire SOSC beach had been leased to the state of California for use as a state park. It appeared to be the end of the SOSC and my dream of passing on the San Onofre baton.

The story we heard was that President Nixon looked down from his presidential helicopter at the SOSC members and asked how they had arranged to gain exclusive access to that beach on a U.S. military base. I can imagine how that conversation went! Soon, talks were in process around the creation of a new California state park, and it was believed that President Nixon wanted it to be named after him. In the end, it was deemed a presidential gift from Richard M. Nixon—but at least “San Onofre” took the name slot.

Whew!

As has been the history with the SOSC, a few heroes again emerged to keep the club alive and thriving into a new era. One was SOSC President Doug Craig, who provided the dedicated leadership and guidance for the club to stay together and work with the state of California to preserve the beach and surfing culture for future generations. The story of President Nixon meeting with the SOSC to gain his personal SOSC membership is documented in the 50th Anniversary Commemorative Album and is good for a chuckle. [4]

San Onofre Surfing Contest
Next to Christmas and my birthday, the most coveted time of the year for me was the annual SOSC surfing contest at the end of summer. I thought about it every day I was in the water at SanO, replaying in my mind what the announcer would say after a good ride. It was a family fun event with something for everyone, no matter what your age or skill level. The club members who orchestrated it were the early pioneers of the sport and knew how to run a first-class surfing contest. The trophies for the finalists were right up there with the Heisman in terms of star power.

For me, it was all about my desire to surf like Erik Hops, who was in my age group. Erik surfed at a level I could only dream about.  He won 1st place every year (as far as I know) and was the best surfer in the entire club in my view. I never saw anyone at SanO who had total board control and walked the nose as smoothly as Erik. He was even famous—the very first surfing book I was given (Modern Surfing by John Severson – 1964) had a picture of Erik surfing in it. When I ordered my first custom Doug Haut surfboard in Santa Cruz years later, I fulfilled my dream of having a solid red pigment board, just like the one Erik rode at SanO.

The highlight of the contest each year was announcer Jim Irwin, who was appropriately labeled “the Vin Scully of surfing contests”. Jim’s booming voice made you feel like you were a world champion, even if you were just barely navigating an ankle biter. His enthusiasm was extreme, and his joy of the sport leaped out as he described each ride with fantastic detail and emotion. When announcing the “8-year-old and under” kids, who were barely 25 yards offshore, he made it sound like they were dropping into 25-footers at Waimea Bay:

“The white water is thundering down as he streaks across the massive face of a turbulent curl and cranks a bottom turn just in time!” 

Hearing Jim describe each contestant was like reading a character description in a Steinbeck novel. He was an artist in motion. God bless that man; I am praying that he will be announcing my rides in Heaven.

The Prized SanO Trophy with My Dave Sweet in Front of 507 Marguerite (1966)

SanO Today
It has been a great joy to live out my dream of taking my family down to SanO to experience much of what I had growing up. The SOSC leadership has done an amazing job keeping the original structure of the beach intact and maintaining the culture I became so fond of as a kid. We now arrive at 6 a.m. to get in (Dad would not have approved!), but once I park the car and collapse into my beach chair, the familiarness of it all comes right back like a favorite song from that era.

I always wanted to experience SanO like the many families who camped there all summer in vans with lots of food and drink. We started making an annual trek from northern California to SanO in a fully equipped RV, which allowed us to spend entire days into darkness soaking in the San Onofre aroma of a healthy simplicity of life. The kids loved it and I was thrilled to finally barbecue that meat I always smelled as a child among the many camper vans. We even catch the SOSC surfing contest when we can, which has maintained the same all-inclusive aloha spirit. Jim Irwin has passed on, but his legacy continues from the announcer’s booth; those “8-year-old and under” kids are still a personal highlight for me.

On one trip down I took our kids on a sightseeing tour to see the tennis court at the Arts Festival (still there), the Laguna Beach Greeter (a new one!), and we even pulled off at Avenida Calafia to find El Camino Market for some last-minute wax and ice. Incredibly, I found Tony Duynstee still at the counter almost 50 years later! Tony finally sold the store to a developer after 75 years at that location.

Fab Four Under the Grass Shack at Old Man’s in 2012

Today, as I reflect on growing up at SanO and watch my kids in the water at Old Man’s, I dig my toes into the sand and think how fortunate I am now, and was to have such a wonderful place to grow up. It is a joy to share with my wife and children. I always believed life at SanO was the way things were supposed to be. It made an indelible impression on me.

This quote from the San Onofre 1973 Cookbook for Surfers, captures the essence of SanO (unedited):

“Say San Onofre and you hear the sound of surf rolling in a long way, and smooth stones chuckling together in the shore break. As a place name, San Onofre has come to have deep meaning for a large group of men and their families who have surfed together for as long as thirty years at the same lovely, wild stretch of beach. The constancy of both surf and friendship has distilled a camaraderie that is as strong as the surfers are different… All this time, the beach has remained unspoiled, as delightful on a wind-swept winter’s day, as it is on July 4th, awash with dogs, kids, and cold drinks. Improvements in the name of comfort were avoided; no showers, no blacktop, no running water, no lifeguard stands. Out on the water, the surfers took care of each other. All problems could be brought to an open forum, a circle of beach chairs. Access to San Onofre depended on the good spirit of cooperation with the Marine Corps, and two more unlikely groups never lived side by side.”

Marion Haines, Polly Buckingham, Claire Shaver
San Onofre Cookbook, 1973

_________________

Footnotes:
[1] The San Onofre Surfing Club, 1952 – 2002: 50th Anniversary Commemorative Album, this book is a treasure of pictures and stories of the 50-year history of the club. Page 36 describes the new world order at San Onofre following WW II (unedited):

THE FORTIES – A Changed World

“World War II changed America in profound ways. It ended the Depression, unified and equalized the country, restarted the economic engine and opened doors to new lifestyles. Those who had never seen the beach till they shipped out of California [from Camp Pendleton] knew they wanted to go back there. Those who had grown up with the beach knew just how good they had it.

In 1946 a bunch of us lived down there at ‘Nofre: Glen Fisher, Wild Ass Wiley, [James] Arness, Bob Card Hammerhead – we’d go to the dump and get old furniture and set it up and live like a hobo camp. We called ourselves the “52-twenty club,” cause for the first 52 weeks after the war they paid us $20 a week as veterans. You could live like kings at ‘Nofre for that. We all enrolled in college to get better jobs and surfed every day.”
Jim ‘Burrhead’ Drever

[2] The San Onofre Surfing Club, 1952 – 2002: 50th Anniversary Commemorative Album, A summary of the struggles between SOSC members and the USMC in the 1950s are neatly summarized on page 41 of this book: “The Fifties – Birth Of The Cool”. The net of the story is that the USMC notified the SOSC in 1955 that they would no longer have exclusive access to the beach. Total chaos followed (unedited):

Things went downhill almost immediately. Irresponsible surfers set fire to the brush in the San Mateo Creek estuary and nearly burned down the railroad trestle. Burning wood thrown at the commuter train and piled debris on the tracks once caused a passenger train to grind to an emergency stop. Parking and other regulatory signs were used as firewood. The grass shack was torched. A cave on the cliffs was filled with old tires and gasoline. The fire was so intense the Marines couldn’t reach it with the fire truck. Occasionally the M.P.s were so provoked that they fired rifles and pistols at the trestle surfers. Some surfers set up camp overnight on the beach in defiance of patrolling M.P.s. The Marine Corps demanded the Club maintain order or all civilians would be restricted from the beach. The Club, of course, disclaimed responsibility, since the Marines had allowed free and uncontrolled public use of the area.

[3] San Onofre – Memories of a Legendary Surfing Beach by David Matuszak, is the encyclopedia on San Onofre, weighing in at an astounding 1,561 pages (not kidding).  One must see this book to believe it. Page 702 has an excerpt from the Sports Illustrated article in 1965 which included the following (unedited):

“At the opposite pole is the San Onofre Surfing Club, which is at the same time one of the most exclusive and one of the tackiest clubs in the world. Founded in 1951 and located at Camp Pendleton, its facilities seem to consist of little more than a few shacks badly in need of repair, which serve as dressing rooms and toilets, and its existence seems to depend on the whim of the Marine commandant. The SOSC has 800 members, each paying $20 annual dues… Elderly men wearing straw hats, smoking cigars and drinking cans of beer sit on the swells astride their boards, occasionally riding a wave in, still seated. One old gentleman says he only surfs on his birthday, of which he has several every summer.”

[4] The San Onofre Surfing Club, 1952 – 2002: 50th Anniversary Commemorative Album, A fitting close to this era is summarized on page 64 (unedited): 

Tricky Dick Goes Surfing
“When Richard Nixon moved the “Western White House” to Cotton’s Point (north of The Trestle) in ’69, ‘Nofre was put in the spotlight more than ever. As a result, the Club was now on the verge of being stripped of its beach due to the all out political battle waged against it. Members had no choice but to play their hand. Bob Mardian (Nixon’s Attorney General at that time), was an enthusiastic and active member of the Club, and was considered an ace in the hole. Members increased the clean-up detail and suspended members who trespassed on Marine property at Trestles, trying to put on the very best face to the outside world. The SOSC even went so far as to make Nixon an “honorary member” with hopes of wooing his support for a status quo approach to ‘Nofre. Tricky Dick was scheduled to meet with them down at the SOSC beach, but, for unknown reasons, he never showed. In 1970, then Club president Doug Craig was permitted a 15-minute meeting with Nixon at the Western White House after Bob Mardian had pulled some strings. Craig believed he had Nixon’s backing after their talk. But a year later, Nixon did an about-face and handed San Onofre over to the state as a “Presidential Gift”. The San Onofre Surfing Club’s little-known book for members only, published in ’74, has a special tribute to Nixon in its closing pages: a picture of Craig standing next to an upright, driftwood log, with a giant middle finger carved into it. “He betrayed us,” says Craig.”

This picture was taken the day Nixon was given his honorary membership to the SOSC in 1970. Left to right:
Robert Mardian (Nixon’s Attorney General), Mike Hops (Erik’s older brother), President Richard M. Nixon, Dick Hoover, Julie Brown, Tony Mardian, Denise Tkach, Tom Turner, Billy Mardian, Rolf Arness (son of James Arness of Gunsmoke fame), Tom Craig, and Doug Craig (SOSC President).

The Future Is Secure

“No time is lost waiting on God.”
― Amish Proverb

Article title: “Surfers are anything but up with most San Diego beaches closed”…

These are gnarly times!
This reminds me of 1969 when Richard Nixon became the 37th U.S. president and set up his “Western White House” at La Casa Pacifica overlooking one of Southern California’s top surfing spots, Trestles. When Nixon was in town, the entire beach was off-limits to everyone, especially to surfers! (see: Surfer in Chief)

The Coronavirus Pandemic May Be Causing an Anxiety Pandemic. COVID-19 is taking the wind out of our sails. It is the great equalizer. Regardless of our culture, religion, occupation, fame, or financial standing, COVID-19 has brought our world to a screeching halt. We all are threatened and yet all united in a battle of epic proportions to eliminate this devastating virus. I received an email today from Union Bank “Perspectives” which did not exactly ease the pain we are feeling:

“Surgeon General Jerome Adams said Sunday that this would be the hardest and saddest week of most Americans’ lives as cases are expected to peak in some of the hardest-hit cities …”

In 1942 my dad and his best friend enlisted in the U.S. Navy after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Both of them lied about their age (they were 15!), signed each other’s enlistment forms, and headed to the U.S. Naval Training Station in San Diego for basic training to fight for our country (see: Malibu and “The Greatest Generation”).

We are all signed up for Basic Training in this battle.

It’s ironic that as I write this during Holy Week we are preparing to celebrate Easter this Sunday (from home), which is the most important event on the Christian calendar. Easter is a celebration of the day Christ rose from the dead. To a Christian, this assurance of our eternal life in heaven is the big deal! Death is not the end of the story. Our future is secure.

The New World Order

Children have been banned from the playgrounds!

In our house, the new world order created by COVID-19 boils our daily routine down to the basic necessities of life: our next meal, decontamination activities of the house, interactions of family members (“did you wash your hands?!”), and walking our dog, Redwood. The neighborhood has come together to support and care for each other. I can stand in the middle of the street and have a conversation with a neighbor (six feet apart) without worrying about cars coming. I even hear the birds singing. It reminds me of Christmas day, every day!

This whole experience has brought our family closer. We pray, eat, watch church services (on TV), do puzzles, watch movies, and laugh together. It’s allowed us to rediscover family time. Best of all, I suddenly have margin back in my life. If an unexpected need arises, I’ve actually got time to deal with it. Today! What a difference that makes.

COVID-19 has forced us to slow down.

Our dog is the big winner. He would like this shelter-in-place to continue forever. This past month Redwood has had enough love and attention to last him a lifetime. It’s a dog dream come true!

Redwood after his eighth walk for the day …

Trader Joe’s

I joined Trader Joe’s almost two years ago to ease my transition out of the high technology world (see: “We don’t do email”). I love Trader Joes and could not say enough about how they do the right things for their employees and customers in the midst of this crisis. I hope other companies will follow their example.

It’s an intriguing time to be working in a grocery store. The fear and anxiety of our customers has been palpable since this all hit on March 9th when Mountain View had its first death from COVID-19 at El Camino Hospital. Instantly the store transformed from the happiest place in town to ground zero for the Friday night fights. Yes, we did have a couple punches thrown. It’s much better now, but those first couple weeks were nothing short of pandemonium.

We are feeling a part of the greater cause to conquer COVID-19

Limiting the number of customers in the store has greatly relaxed the mood, but the store still has a bit of a surreal feel to it. Most customers are wearing hats, glasses, gloves, and masks. A few have dressed like Apollo 11 astronauts. It’s very hard to communicate, so our conversation at the cash register resembles a Darth Vader style of interaction with me nodding like I understand.

When I reach out to hand customers their receipt, some quickly jump back as if I am sticking a knife at them. That is the craziness of all this. I could be the COVID-19 carrier and passing it on without knowing it. When asked how I am doing I will sometimes reply half kiddingly: “check back on me in 12 days”! We hear Plexiglas barriers will soon arrive at the cash registers, so that will help. But until then, they are right to jump back. This is serious stuff.

Fear of Death

The fear of death is of course the primary anxiety with COVID-19. And for good reason, death tends to scare us all. Prior to becoming a Christian I had a phobia I called “permanent lights-out”. For just a few seconds I would contemplate my own death and this thought of complete nothingness and darkness would envelope me. It scared the daylights out of me (pun intended).

The Beatles John Lennon spoke to this fear quite clearly in his famous song “Imagine” (1971). It is a beautiful song, but pay attention to what Lennon is saying:

 

“Imagine there’s no Heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people — living for today”

Lennon is addressing that fear of death! If we can just “live for today” we won’t have to consider what comes next. I sense that before COVID-19 many of us (Christians included) were living like that. We were living for today, and not thinking about tomorrow.

Here’s the deal.
Our future is secure. The Bible is very clear on that.
Sickness and death are not the end of the story. There really is a place called heaven and it will be better than anything we can possibly imagine here on earth.
Keep that hope!

God’s Wisdom

I co-teach a Bible class of third through fifth grade kids on Tuesday’s (BSF Children’s Program). Recently we showed them a chart that speaks to this hope. We were talking about making decisions in life that guide them toward God’s wisdom. The kids get it. They can see the deep wisdom the Bible offers to guide their life on earth toward heaven. As Jesus said, unless we become like little children, we will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3).

The coronavirus is trying to drag us into the abyss of a “lights out” mentality. It wants us to lose hope, telling us that death is on our doorstep. If the coronavirus does not get us, something else eventually will. We can bet on it.

The Future is Secure

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
― 2 Corinthians 4:18

Life is a sacred gift from God. The Bible lays out a crystal clear path to free us from darkness. I am not sure there has ever been a more important time to be reading the best selling book of all time. The world needs Jesus now more than ever.

“Those who hope in me will not be disappointed.”
― Isaiah 49:23

The historical evidence for Jesus’ life on earth is well documented. Within a few decades of his lifetime, he is mentioned by Jewish and Roman historians, as well as by dozens of Christian writings (The Guardian, April 2017). The dispute is whether Jesus conquered death with his resurrection. I get that. I was on the fence myself for the first half of my life. But I will go head-to-head with anyone about lives that were transformed by Jesus. That’s the deal-breaker for me. Roger Williams is one example of that.

Prayer unlocked the safe for me when I was in my thirties. My grandmother prayed for my salvation for years. She even sent me letters of prayer. One day I woke up and believed. I showed up on my friend’s doorstep Sunday morning and invited myself to church with them. I was in a suit and tie. He laughed at me!

Hope is now in the picture for me. COVID-19 has surely scared me and made me worry at times. But it won’t take away my hope! My future is secure in Jesus Christ.

Let me know if I can pray for you.

I can’t wait for my opening day in paradise. I plan to be surfing in heaven soon after!

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
― John 16:33

Authors Note:

Just three days before his crucifixion, Jesus spoke these words (John 16:33) to his twelve disciples at The Last Supper. This meal was Jesus’ final teaching before his death on the cross. Even as He was facing his own death, Jesus was intent on preparing His disciples for their task ahead once He is gone.

The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci (1495 – 1498)

** Resources **

Pray as you go (application)

Available in English, Spanish, Dutch, French: https://pray-as-you-go.org/

iPhone version: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/pray-as-you-go/id865934048

 This is a wonderful way to start your day in prayer. Published by the Jesuits in Britain, it is ~15 minutes of scripture (Old and New Testament), music (for prayer), and narration to help you apply the scripture reading to your life. It is a daily habit for me that I look very forward to.

The Hope Quotient by Ray Johnston

If you are struggling with hope, this book is guaranteed to get you moving in the right direction. Ray is the founding pastor of Bayside Church in the Sacramento, California area and he strikes this topic with a passion. My wife and I are reading it together and finding his story telling to be both encouraging and boosting our overall level of hope.

Online church services:

There are two churches we are enjoying in our home while we are sheltering in:

Menlo Church: senior pastor John Ortberg
Saturday/Sunday services (as well as Good Friday and Easter): https://menlo.church/messages

Twin Lakes Church: Lead Pastor Rene’ Schlaepfer
Saturday/Sunday services (as well as Good Friday and Easter): https://www.tlc.org/resources/sermons/

Kona Jack (October 30, 1926 – June 20, 2016)

June 20, 2016
This post is in honor of our father, grandfather, and good friend,
Jack B Mulkey *

U.S. Navy recruit for WWII Jack B Mulkey

On the night of a full Strawberry Moon, Kona Jack, as he was known on the big island of Hawaii for the past 27 years, passed away peacefully in his sleep, just 4 months shy of his 90th birthday, and after spending Father’s Day with his daughter Terry, and her husband, Bob Hankenson. He was in fact doing fantastic that entire week, still living the independent life he loved at the Keahou Surf and Racquet Club in unit #29. But he always told us that he never did want to reach 90.

Kona Jack ready for sunset at the Keahou Surf & Racquet Club

I should add that his Father’s Day included Terry washing his feet (they needed it!), his favorite meal, fish and chips; and his favorite cocktail, a Rob Roy, served “up with a twist”. He even completed the day’s crossword puzzle in the Honolulu Advertiser!
It’s safe to say he passed on exactly as he would have wanted.

Father and daughter out for breakfast just a few days before Father’s Day.

Today’s Crossword Puzzle

* Dad will be laid to rest in a ceremony at the West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery on Friday, October 28th (9am).  A celebration of his life will be held on Saturday, October 29th at the Keahou Surf & Racquet Club in the late afternoon.  Please let me know if you would like to join us! (m1mulkey@gmail.com).

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Dad and the 1936 Ford Cabriolet Convertible he used working for a fried chicken delivery business following the war

The following obituary ran in the Hawaii local newspapers on July 15, 2016:

Jack “Kona Jack” B Mulkey, 89, of Keauhou died June 20 at home. Born Oct. 30 in Santa Monica, Calif., he was a maintenance helper for the Keauhou Surf & Racquet Club, retired right of way agent for General Telephone Co. in California, surfing pioneer and U.S. Navy World War II veteran. Service information at surfingforbalance.com. For info, call 650-799-3292 or 805-252-5376. Survived by daughter, Terry (Robert) Hankenson of California; son, Michael (Marla) Mulkey of California; four grandchildren. Arrangements by Cremation Services of West Hawaii.

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These blog posts below are dedicated to dad’s memory, for all the wonderful lessons in life I learned from him through the sport of surfing and balancing life. If you would like to read more about the blog, click on “About”. And if you would like to read more on dad’s history with surfing in California, click on “Malibu and The Greatest Generation”.

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Dad was a huge John Wooden fan from the day he took the helm as head coach of the UCLA men’s basketball team in 1948 when dad was attending there on the GI bill from WWII.  As I was looking through some of the hand-written notes dad had sent me over the years, I found this one in response to reading one of Wooden’s books I had sent to him:

“Mike: It all boils down to preparation, details and work, work, work. No wonder I was never successful! Everything the man says makes so much sense that I can’t believe so few coaches have followed his philosophy. I suspect because it involves too much work.”

This post below (Peace of Mind) was in queue for dad’s review at the time of his passing.
I am publishing it today in his memory.

San Onofre Surfing Club

“I’ve learned that simple walks with my father around the block on summer nights when I was a child did wonders for me as an adult.”
Andy Rooney

Prologue (Part 3 of 4)

San Onofre by Jim Krogle (http://jimkrogle.com/)

While Corona del Mar provided a near ideal beach community for a young grom growing up in the 60’s, it was my time with Dad on the weekends at San Onofre that most influenced my views on work/life balance today in Silicon Valley. Just mention the words San Onofre Surfing Club (SOSC) and it brings on a rush of heart-felt memories of my childhood, living an unencumbered life on the beach in Southern California. San Onofre (“SanO” or “Nofre” as the locals called it) was truly a slice of heaven. The story of how the San Onofre Surfing Club was formed, the growth of membership through the 60’s and 70’s, and how its future was directly impacted by the 37th President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, is in one of the more colorful and engaging stories of surfing history in California. Looking back on it today, it seems completely inconceivable that a group of surfers could arrange to lease a pristine and secluded surfing and fishing beach from the U.S. Marine Corps for exclusive access (surfers only) for an annual lease of $1 a year!

Following is a quick overview on how this came about, along with a perspective on the lifestyle that greatly influenced me.

The sudden attention brought on to Malibu in the post World War II era (see “Malibu and The Greatest Generation” post below) by Columbia Pictures’ blockbuster film “Gidget” was beginning to overrun Surfrider’s Beach with crowds of surfer “wannabes”. The days of sharing Malibu among a small crowd of friends in the water were gone forever. However, 90 miles south of Malibu near the San Onofre railroad station, a unique surfing beach environment was beginning to evolve, which drew the attention of many of Malibu’s original surfing crowd. Dad was fortunate enough to be a part of that crowd, and we started surfing San Onofre in the early 1960’s, after moving south from Santa Monica to Corona del Mar in 1959.

This all started with the San Onofre fishing camp, which had been leased from the Santa Margarita Ranch for day usage in the 1930s. And while the corbina, sea bass and halibut fishing were excellent, it was soon discovered that this beach had a very unique environment for surfing. The seabed is a collection of bottom rocks mixed with sand that produced amazingly consistent waves for surfing. The waves were of a long peeling and gently sloping nature, similar to those at famed Waikiki beach in Hawaii. Word quickly spread among the surfing crowd of this gem of a surfing beach down south.

Lorrin “Whitey” Harrison, a long-time SanO regular, tells the story of how he started surfing San Onofre regularly in the mid-1930’s after the new jetties in CdM had destroyed the surf there. Harrison, along with Pete Peterson, had traveled to Hawaii and brought back a slice of the aloha-spirit to San Onofre. It was a perfect fit for the setting on this secluded stretch of beach, over a half mile long, and backed up by dirt cliffs to maintain a sense of exclusivity. There was even a palm thatch shack right on the sand, which had been left behind by a film shoot from a Hollywood movie company. By the late 1930’s San Onofre had become the place to go to enjoy the surfer’s lifestyle, with an unbeatable combination of good fishing, excellent surfing, and a true community atmosphere.

But the approaching storm of World War II was soon to disrupt this idyllic community on the beach, changing everyone’s life.

In February of 1942, the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) announced that Santa Margarita Ranch would become the largest Marine Corps base in the country. It was named Camp Pendleton, after Major General Joseph Henry Pendleton (1860–1942), and on September 25, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt officially dedicated the base to train U.S. Marines for service in World War II.

Surfing and fishing at San Onofre was mostly curtailed during the war years. Dad told me how even just driving that part of Coast Highway between Oceanside and San Clemente required one to tape paper over the headlights at night for fear the Japanese were going to attack. Soon after the war in late 1945, the USMC began to allow access to the beach again for surfing. Most of these surfers were the lucky ones who had just returned home from World War II (over 400,000 U.S. soldiers lost their lives in WWII). These guys had just saved the world from Japan and Germany! It seems quite reasonable that the U.S. Marines in charge of Camp Pendleton might have been willing to work with them, understanding the sacrifices they had made to preserve the freedom of our country. There were even a few stories documenting the Commanding Officers (CO’s) on the base having a ‘look the other way’ approach to it. It’s like the dog that fought off the fox to save the hen house – surely you are going to let the dog in now and then to have a free egg or two.

Yet, that is also when things got interesting, as even surfers back then were prone to stretching the rules a bit. There are some very funny stories of the shenanigans that took place in those early years between the surfers and the CO’s of Camp Pendleton as they worked out their differences over access and care of the beach. The San Onofre Surfing Club published a 50th Anniversary Commemorative Album in 2002 that has the best accounting of what went on during those early years leading up to 1951 when the club was first formed, including some amazing photos of the lifestyle that was forming on the beach there. I highly recommend it if you are interested to learn more.

(Following is a quote [p. 36], which sets the tone for life at SanO during that time)

THE FORTIES – A Changed World

“World War II changed America in profound ways. It ended the Depression, unified and equalized the country, restarted the economic engine and opened doors to new lifestyles. Those who had never seen the beach till they shipped out of California [from Camp Pendleton] knew they wanted to go back there. Those who had grown up with the beach knew just how good they had it.
In 1946 a bunch of us lived down there at ‘Nofre: Glen Fisher, Wild Ass Wiley, [James] Arness, Bob Card Hammerhead – we’d go to the dump and get old furniture and set it up and live like a hobo camp. We called ourselves the “52-twenty club,” cause for the first 52 weeks after the war they paid us $20 a week as veterans. You could live like kings at ‘Nofre for that. We all enrolled in college to get better jobs and surfed every day.”
Jim ‘Burrhead’ Drever

The shack at Old Mans – circa 1949

In one of the more amazing stories of collaboration and cooperation between civilians and the U.S. Military, the SOSC was loosely formed in 1951 to provide a group of surfers exclusive access to the beach. The agreement was that they would take responsibility to maintain the membership, keep the beach clean and orderly, and pay what turned into a $1-a-year lease with the USMC. Two long-time San Onofre surfers, Dr. A.H. “Barney” Wilkes (a San Clemente Dentist), and Andre “Frenchy” Jahan (SOSC’s first President), are two of the hero’s that made it happen. Club by-laws, membership cards, auto decals, and rules of conduct were established at the first formal SOSC meeting on the beach on April 24, 1952.

San Onofre Surfing Club 50th Anniversary Decal

This was the beginning of an era at SanO that had roots firmly planted in a simple lifestyle of community, surfing, group games and contests, good food, and lots of rest. These would become traditions that would continue to represent the overall lifestyle at SanO for decades to come.

To quote from the 50th Anniversary Commemorative Album (p. 44):

“The simplest way to describe San Onofre is a way of life”, says pre-WWII surfer and longtime Nofre observer, Art Beard. “We were all just raising our families, and it was a cheap, easy and fun way to do it.”

The SOSC was officially off and running with its own surfing beach and soon-to-be, well-entrenched “big family” lifestyle. There were no lifeguards, no running water, and no way to take a phone call – just an idyllic world of sun and surf and good friends at the beach in a serene setting.

Entrance To San Onofre Surfing Club via the U.S. Marine Corps Guard

There was nothing I looked more forward to on the drive south from Corona del Mar than that guard giving you the official military salute to gain entrance to Camp Pendleton. My friend Johnny Park and I used to laugh hysterically at each other as we attempted to duplicate that fancy salute he would make with the hand to signal us by the USMC entrance. As shown, those windshield decals became a source great pride among the surfing crowd to signify your status as a member of the SOSC over the years.

Dad had a routine we would usually follow on the weekends — leaving CdM in the morning in his 1948 Plymouth Woodie with the boards on top (Dad’s 10’+ Simmons Foam Sandwich and my 8’+ Dave Sweet “pop out”). Our first stop was the Laguna Beach Arts Festival grounds in Laguna Canyon, where Dad would play a couple sets of tennis with his good friend Jack Upton. I would pass that time somehow, constantly hoping it was match point. I knew they were done when the cold Tab came out over ice in the metal tennis cans.

Terry, Mike, Charlene, and Jack loading up the Woodie for a trip back home from Salt Lake City

“Aahhhh!” Dad would belt out after each gulp of Tab while working the three-speed column shift through the maze of Laguna Beach traffic. We were on our way to SanO! I would always keep a look out for the Laguna Beach Greeter in his red coat, who I just knew recognized me, as he would always give me that wink and point right at me. Then there was the car overturned up on a cliff by Poche Beach along Coast Highway, which I’d use as a marker that we were getting close. We made one final stop off the 5 freeway (Avenida Calafia) at the El Camino Market to buy some Mug Root Beer, Paraffin wax, the LA Times, and maybe a couple of grapes for nutrition. Tony Duynstee, the owner of the El Camino Market, was always there to cheerfully greet us at the cash register. Amazingly, I found Tony still there as if he never left when we took our kids in to show them the market almost fifty years later!
Here is an article on Tony and the market – which he finally sold to a real estate developer in 2013.

Tony Duynstee at the counter of El Camino Market summer 2012

Basilone Road was where we got our first taste of the surf overlooking trestles, and regardless of the conditions, my blood really started flowing at that point. Then the final hand wave by the USMC guard at the Camp Pendleton entrance and we were in! We parked at Old Man’s, where Dad knew the crowd, and set up base camp, which consisted of a “Coast Hardware” insignia beach chair, beach towels, the LA Times, and a foam ice chest preserving the Mug Root Beer and a couple of grapes.

Dad usually would check in with a few friends before suiting up to go in the water.  Charley French is one we would often see. Both Charley and Dad were part of the Malibu crowd, who had survived WWII, and came back to surf at SanO in the summer months.  There were no wetsuits back then, both of them worked together as Ski Patrolmen at Mount Waterman on weekends in the winter to get some free local skiing in.

Mom and her sister Kathryn suiting up [with Dad] for a powder day at Alta. Not quite sure how our Plymouth Woodie got there — but from the parking job it looks like there were other priorities.

Charley was my saving grace one day at SanO when I showed up, only to realize I had forgotten to put my surfboard on top of the car. He was nice enough to loan me one for the day without asking questions (about the new girlfriend I had brought along)…

In my younger days I had to wait even longer, as dad to go in surfing first, so he could watch me while I went in after. He was easy to pick out as he often would drag a foot on his turns, which I only now understood was from his days riding the heavy balsa wood boards, where you could literally use your foot as a rudder to help you turn. Not having much interest in reading the newspaper, my only distraction while waiting FOREVER for dad to get out of the water, was keeping an eye out for Lollie McCue’s daughter Candy to walk by. Anyone who was on the beach in those days would surely confirm that.

Once I got in the water I never wanted to get out, regardless of the surf conditions. But Old Man’s always seemed to have something to ride, as it is one of the more consistent breaks in Southern California, regardless of the tide. I don’t actually recall learning to surf, but can remember going out with Dad on his board and kneeling on the nose as he stood up and surfed when I was small. At times he would fall off and lose his board in to shore. He would tell me to dog paddle around until he swam in to get it and paddled back out to pick me up. Surfing with Dad was about as good as it got.

Back in those days SanO was a very unique environment in the water. People looked out after each other, brought loose boards back out (before the leash), talked socially in the water, and generally took care of anyone in need. One day when I was about ten years old I got hit in the head by my board and opened up a good cut next to my left eye. Dad carried me to shore over the rocks (cutting up his feet), and next thing I knew I was laying down in a van chewing on some kind of special black licorice (Novocain apparently not available) and getting eight stitches from a fellow surfer to close it up. I will always remember our doctor back home telling us what a good job they had done when he pulled the stiches out a week or so later. Only years later did I find out it was Dorian Paskowitz who had done the good work. I do remember Dad carrying a bottle of champagne in the car the next trip down for the Doc. That was just kind of how things worked at San Onofre – life in harmony.

Sunday School – San Onofre style

Word about the magic of the SOCS soon got out among the surfing community, and membership boomed to 508 members in 1958, 800 members in 1961, and topped out at 1,000 members in 1971 with a waiting list of 2,000. It was almost too good to be true, and many of my friends were bribing me to take them down with us. Having exclusive access to one of southern California’s most consistent surfing beach with a built-in social community lifestyle was pretty hard to beat. The SOSC was sort of a mini-civilization, with luaus, surfing and volleyball contests, good fishing off the surfboards, Bocce ball games, and even a Sunday school for the little ones! Everyone knew everyone, and they all watched out for each other. I remember Dad leaving the keys to our car in the ignition in the case someone had to move it to get in our out, and sometimes they would do just that!


Looking back now, it is easy to see that change was imminent. It really was too good to last in the midst of what was going on in our country at the time. First was the building of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in 1968, just about a half mile south of Old Man’s beach. When fully functional, this plant had employed over 2,200 people, and became a prominent landmark because of its twin spherical containment buildings, designed to contain any unexpected releases of radiation.

Then, in 1969 Richard Nixon became the 37th U.S. president, setting up a residence near the famed surfing spot Trestles (about 1.5 miles north of Old Man’s), at the old Cotton’s estate (La Casa Pacifica). When Nixon was in town, the beach was off limits to everyone, especially to surfers. The SOSC was just far enough south to be safe to go in the water. There were a few surfers who could surf Trestles when Nixon was in town. One was Rolf Arness, son of SOSC member James Arness from the TV show Gunsmoke, who lived at Cottons Estate. Another was Corky Carroll, who apparently wrote a letter to the Secret Service explaining that he was a U.S. Surfing Champion and that he did his training there. And Surfer magazine founder John Severson happened to live in the house next door to Nixon!

I can remember being down on the beach at Trestles when Nixon was not in town and cameras had been set up on the beach near the railroad tracks (years ahead of the web cam) to keep an eye on us. We of course had lots of fun with that one, trying to keep our swim shorts on! But when Nixon was there the place was off-limits, no matter how good the surf. Armed Military Police (MPs) would be patrolling the beach in jeeps; a helicopter flying overhead, and an 85 foot Coast Guard ship was sitting just outside the surf line. It seemed to me Nixon always came to town when the good south swells were hitting.

Having Richard Nixon flying by the SOSC in his presidential helicopter on a regular basis was a sure sign national politics would get involved. The story I heard is that President Nixon looked down at SOSC members on the beach one day in flight and asked how these surfers had arranged to gain exclusive access to that beach, which happened to be on a U.S. Military base. I can imagine how that conversation went! Soon talks were in process around the creation of a new California State Park, and it was generally believed that President Nixon wanted it to be named after him.

I will never forget the day in 1971 when it was announced in that certain parcels of Camp Pendleton, including the entire SOSC beach, had been leased to the State of California for use as a state park and beach. It was deemed a presidential gift from Richard M. Nixon – but at least “San Onofre” took the name slot in place of Nixon…

I was a sophomore in High School at the time and felt like my world had just ended, as this surely meant the end of the SOSC as I knew it. My immediate thoughts were of the “valley tourists” (as we called them) who flooded Big Corona State beach in the summer, suddenly hanging out under the palm thatched shack at Old Mans with their boom boxes playing The Jackson 5, and no surfboard on the car. The dream of raising a family on that beach the way I had been raised, seemed to suddenly disappear like snow on a hot spring day.

As has been the history with the SOSC, a few heroes emerged to keep the club alive. One was then SOSC President Doug Craig, along with a small group of club members, who provided the dedicated leadership and guidance for the club to stay together and work with the State of California to preserve the beach for future generations. This story is well documented in the 50th Anniversary Commemorative Album (p. 59), “The End Of An Era”. But it gives me great pleasure to I take my kids down there today, and enjoy much of what we had growing up there in the 1960s.

Fab Four at SanO – Summer 2012

A fitting close to this era is a written in the 50th Commemorative Album on (p. 64): Tricky Dick Goes Surfing

“When Richard Nixon moved the “Western White House” to Cotton’s Point (north of The Trestle) in ’69, ‘Nofre was put in the spotlight more than ever. As a result, the Club was now on the verge of being stripped of its beach due to the all out political battle waged against it. Members had no choice but to play their hand. Bob Mardian (Nixon’s Attorney General at that time), was an enthusiastic and active member of the Club, and was considered an ace in the hole. Members increased the clean-up detail and suspended members who trespassed on Marine property at Trestles, trying to put on the very best face to the outside world. The SOSC even went so far as to make Nixon an “honorary member” with hopes of wooing his support for a status quo approach to ‘Nofre. Tricky Dick was scheduled to meet with them down at the SOSC beach, but, for unknown reasons, he never showed. In 1970, then Club president Doug Craig was permitted a 15-minute meeting with Nixon at the Western White House after Bob Mardian had pulled some strings. Craig believed he had Nixon’s backing after their talk. But a year later, Nixon did an about-face and handed San Onofre over to the state as a “Presidential Gift”. The San Onofre Surfing Club’s little-known book for members only, published in ’74, has a special tribute to Nixon in its closing pages: a picture of Craig standing next to an upright, driftwood log, with a giant middle finger carved into it. “He betrayed us,” says Craig.

Whatever viewpoint one takes on the decision, Nixon’s presence in the Western White House, just a short walk up the beach, brought a unique historical legacy to the Club. And it changed San Onofre forever.”

Here is a historical picture of the day Nixon was given his honorary membership to the SOSC in 1970 (L to R) Robert Mardian, Mike Hops, Richard Nixon, Dick Hoover, Julie Brown, Tony Mardian, Denise Tkach, Tom Turner, Billy Mardian, Rolf Arness, Tom Craig, and Doug Craig

Nixon’s honorary membership card and decal

Today, as I reflect on growing up at SanO and look at my children in the water at Old Mans, I dig my toes into the sand and appreciate how fortunate I was to have such a wonderful place to grow up. I always believed life at SanO was the way things were supposed to be. Looking back today, it was truly a remarkable experience.

A good way to sum up what San Onofre meant to me, is to quote from the Introduction to the “San Onofre Cookbook For Surfers”, which was published in 1973 to capture the essence of the many tailgate feasts. These took place to satisfy the enormous appetites, which naturally come about from a day in the water at SanO.

“Say San Onofre and you hear the sound of surf rolling in a long way, and smooth stones chuckling together in the shore break. As a place name, San Onofre has come to have deep meaning for a large group of men and their families who have surfed together for as long as thirty years at the same lovely, wild stretch of beach. The constancy of both surf and friendship has distilled a camaraderie that is as strong as the surfers are different… All this time, the beach has remained unspoiled, as delightful on a wind-swept winter’s day, as it is on July 4th, awash with dogs, kids, and cold drinks. Improvements in the name of comfort were avoided; no showers, no blacktop, no running water, no lifeguard stands. Out on the water, the surfers took care of each other. All problems could be brought to an open forum, a circle of beach chairs. Access to San Onofre depended on the good spirit of corporation with the Marine Corps, and two more unlikely groups never lived side by side.”
Marion Haines, Polly Buckingham, Claire Shaver
San Onofre Cookbook, 1973

**Resources**

As referenced several times above, The San Onofre Surfing Club, 1952 – 2002: 50th Anniversary Commemorative Album is a treasure grove of pictures and stories and various tid-bits of what it was like to be a part of the 50 year history of SOSC.  And amazingly, it is now available on Amazon.