Sharing surf stories with Last Wave customers has to be the best part of my job. I can’t explain how much I enjoy hearing stories and learning bits of surf trivia from all of you. Just last week I got a call from a guy who had recently stumbled upon the Last Wave website, looking for Natural Progression t-shirts.

Turns out he was a rider of NP boards shaped by Robbie Dick back in the early ‘70s, and therefore knows more about the early history of the brand than I ever will. We had a GREAT conversation. We shared a number of stories, but one he told really jumped out at me…you’ll see why later in this narrative.

surf contest

It turns out my new friend (and now a Last Wave customer) grew up surfing with Rolf Aurness, a Southern California surfer who went on to win the 1970 World Surfing Championships in Australia.  I definitely remember reading about him back in the day.  My friend said Rolf was an incredible surfer, a natural goofyfooter who could switch stance with ease.  He won the championship at the age of 18, then quietly dropped out of the contest scene shortly thereafter.

As some of you probably know, Rolf is the son of the late James Arness, who starred for 20 years as Marshall Matt Dillon in the television series Gunsmoke.  Note the difference in spelling of the last name…apparently James shortened the family name “Aurness” early in his acting career.

jim arnessMy friend said that James Arness was a fervent surfer himself, and would fly Rolf and him to Baja in his private plane to go surfing.  Not a bad life for a young teenager…flying to Mexico to go surfing with your best friend, and James Arness just happens to be the pilot!
My friend told me about surfing one day with Rolf in 1973. It happened to be Easter Sunday morning and a solid south swell was running. They were out at Government Point, the westernmost spot at “The Ranch” here on the California coast. Rolf was going backside on a six-foot right as my friend was paddling back into the lineup with Greg Alker, a kid from Newport Beach.

Suddenly, a “large fish” (as my friend described it) appeared from behind the wave Rolf was riding.  It came from over his left shoulder, then went over his head before landing in front of him, past his right shoulder.  Greg and my friend couldn’t believe what they had just seen…my friend remembers Greg yelling, “Thresher shark!  Thresher shark!” While my friend said he still isn’t sure it was a shark, he modestly said it was a “really big fish.”  Thresher sharks can reach 20 feet in length and The Ranch can get sharky, but seeing a fish actually breach like that would be memorable – to say the least.
souvenir programme austrailia 1970Such a great story!  It’s fun to share surf experiences with Last Wave customers…I always look forward to it.  Here’s a short video of the 1970 World Surfing Championships (contest program cover pictured right)…the conditions were less than ideal that year, but you’ll love seeing how surfing styles have changed and listening to the background music.  It’s a Buddy Holly song recorded by Blind Faith in 1969…who can forget Steve Winwood!
Until next time,