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© Drew Kampion 1966, 2015 - All Rights Reserved

Recluse on a crowded Day

by Drew Kampion * Malibu beach, a Sunday afternoon in late August, 1963.  You can just about walk the  beach from pier to point without touching sand.  Out in the water, you can walk the same stretch and not get wet.  The Vals are in full bloom. Five-wave sets of perfect five- foot swells wrap down the point every five minutes, each wave lifting a few tons of boards and surfers onto its shoulder as it peels along the cobbled mid-tide shore.  To the casual observer, it's ugly and more than a little bit dull. Suddenly there's a different movement out at Second Point.  A rider is fading far into the hook of a beautiful four-footer, his weight held long and steady over his back foot as he stalls the bottom turn, allowing the wave to wall up into a long, unmakable section.  On the other side of this section a pack of surfers are scratching to catch the same wave. Still the rider holds the fade as the wave hollows and the energy gathers. Finally, pulling the trigger, he sinks the tail into a sudden, deep turn, comes off the bottom in a carving arc that sends him flying on a lifting trajectory across the fringing wave.  You can tell by the relaxed concentration and casual precision, it can only be Mickey Dora. Four others have caught the wave.  None see him coming. The closest rider drops low as Dora rockets in from above, just ahead of the collapsing 25-yard-long section.  The Cat whips an cutback, folding a curtain of spray over the guy that shocks him into a wipeout, then carves a deep bottom around the loose board and hurtles toward the next surfer. Taking a precise trim line he smoothly slides up below and shoves this second surfer face-first into the wave, gathers up his abandoned board, and pitches it over his head toward the beach. Swooping toward the third surfer, Dora stalls as he comes up parallel.  The guy does a double take and drops into a kind of half-crouch.  The Cat - in perfect trim - lifts his back foot stomps down on the other hapless surfer's tail block.  The board stalls and side-slips over the back of the wave as Dora almost runs over the falling rider. Now, halfway down the point, Mickey zeroes in on the last guy, a goofy-foot.  It looks like he's going to come in high, but he banks off the lip and comes way down low.  After one brief moment of contemplation - during which the surfer registers surprise and dread - Dora pounces off the bottom and rams his board right over the other guy's board, just ahead of his lead foot.  Briefly entangled, Mickey turns back, looks the guy in the eye, and gives him a quick, sharp push backwards off his board.  As the victim's board is peeled away by the curling wave, Dora drops back down the face one last time. The pier is fast approaching.  The wave goes dark and hollow, fringing all the way through the pilings.  Alone at last, Dora gathers speed.  Streaking first along the middle of the face, he suddenly cat-walks to the nose and angles down line.  Then, scarcely a dozen feet from the pier, he carves a square turn off the bottom, shooting his board straight up the face and high into the air.  It hangs there - high above the folding wave - for an unreasonably long time - poised, slowly twisting - pointed (intentionally it seems) directly at the sun. * * * * * * Written in 1966, "Recluse on a Crowded Day" was the first article that Drew Kampion submitted to Surfer Magazine.  It was returned with a form-letter rejection signed by John Severson.  A year later, John hired Drew as Editor. Years later it was published in Surfer’s Path Magazine.
Photo sequence: Brad Barrett
Photo: LeRoy Grannis
Photo: LeRoy Grannis