Saturday, 16 June 2012

Palos Verdes Surfing Club


Fenton Scholes and Richard Meine, both 93 years old, are the only two members remaining of a group that used to meet for lunch every Tuesday at Hennessey's Tavern in Redondo Beach.

The group, which numbered five as recently as August of 2010, once included Adolph "Adie" Bayer, LeRoy Grannis, Lewis Earl "Hoppy" Swartz (shown at right in a 1988 Daily Breeze file photo), E. Calvin "Tulie" Clark, Cliff Tucker and others whose membership in the Palos Verdes Surfing Club dated as far back as the 1930s.
One of the first and most enduring mainland surfing clubs in the U.S., the Palos Verdes Surfing Club began in the mid-1930s, in either 1934 or 1935 depending on the account, by Hermosa Beach dentist John Heath "Doc" Ball and Adolph "Adie" Bayer. It held its regular meetings in a back room at Ball's dentist office on Vermont Avenue in Los Angeles.

The Palos Verdes Surf Club had its own distinctive green club jackets. Smoking was forbidden during meetings, and the group had its own creed, in which members swore to "at all times strive to conduct myself as a club member and a gentleman." In addition to its own activities, the PVSC organized and conducted surfing contests and popular paddleboard race events between themselves and other clubs that had begun to spring up along the Southern California coast in Santa Monica, Venice, San Onofre and Del Mar.
The club's members were part of a a fairly small group of surfers in that era, 25 years before surfing started to become a national phenomenon. Its members say there were so few surfers back then that if a car went by on the highway with a surfboard sticking out, chances were better than good that both parties knew each other.

The surfing culture was new, and there was much more of a fraternal feeling than there is now. As Scholes tells it, "When we surfed, everyone who went for the wave got it. There wasn't any 'This is my wave' stuff. Everybody rode together, four or five guys on a wave. If some guy was next to you, you pulled his board in (onto the wave). You didn't pull him out."

The Palos Verdes Surfing Club used Bluff Cove in Palos Verdes Estates as its home surfing base. In the 1930s, an access road led about three-quarters of the way down to the beach. This made life easier for the surfers, who usually were carting 9-to-12 foot surfboards that could weigh over 100 pounds.

The road was closed off from the beach during World War II for security reasons, and never reopened. Fortunately, the boards had grown somewhat lighter by then, weighing more in the 40-pound range.

Palos Verdes Surfing Club member LeRoy Grannis surfing with his waterproof Nikonos camera in Hermosa Beach in 1969. Copyright 2006, San Diego Union-Tribune/Zuma Press.




Ball, a Hermosa Beach dentist, was a pioneering surfing photographer. When the surf was up, he would grab his Graflex camera strap between his teeth, paddle out, stand up and snap away. He also used a 16mm movie camera, with which he once recorded footage of members of the PVSC taking Oscar the Surfing Snake, the club's one-time mascot gopher snake, for a ride during which he was filmed "hanging 10" on a surfboard.

His 1946 photo collection, California Surfriders, 1946, was a landmark work, and has been reprinted twice since its initial publication. (The most recent reprint came out in 1995 under the title Early California Surfriders.)

Ball also is credited with encouraging legendary surfing photographer LeRoy Grannis to pursue seriously his practice of shooting surfing photos as a way to relieve stress from his day job with Pacific Bell.

Grannis, who died at 93 on Feb. 3, 2011, went on to become the sport's premier photographer during its golden age in the 1960s.

As for Doc Ball, he later moved to Eureka, where he continued to ride waves - and skateboards in the July 1987 Daily Breeze file photo at left - well into his 80s. Ball died on Dec. 5, 2001.
Historical groups such as the Surfing Heritage Foundation have kept this era alive through a series of oral histories with those who were there in the 1930s. Check out this clip from an oral history session with PVSC members Fenton Scholes and Tulie Clark. Clark, shown at right in a July 2006 Daily Breeze file photo, died on April 30, 2010.

The Surfing Heritage Foundation website also hosts "Legendary Surfers," a treasure trove of surfing history essays by Malcolm Gault-Williams that is a must-read for Tulie Clark and Fenton Scholes discuss the history of the Palos Verdes Surfing Club, founded in the 1930s, recorded by the Oral History Committee of the Surfing Heritage Foundation, San Clemente CA.
thanks to http://www.insidesocal.com for the nice article

Sources:

Daily Breeze files.

"Surf club founded in 1930s has home in Redondo," by Annie Lubinsky, The Beach Reporter,
http://www.tbrnews.com/articles/2010/08/09/redondo_beach_news/news13.txt

"Legendary Surfers: A Definitive History of Surfing's Culture and Heroes," by Malcom Gault-Williams, http://www.legendarysurfers.com/.

4 comments:

  1. Fenton and Mo will be inducted in to the Walk of fame on April 5, 2015 in Hermosa Beach. Way to go guys!!

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