Jack O'Neill's First Surf Shop

01/28/18 - posted by Bill Watson - bill<at>accessasiabiz.com

It was good reading about my adolescence, wow good memories. Kelly's was High Church for me, and I often cut swimming team practice to surf Fleishacker's with team mates. I bought my first board--a 9'6" pin tail balsa from John Holm in 1958 (I was year 10 at Lincoln HS); weighed a ton. A year later I had Jack O'Neill shape a board for me, block tail, laminated skeg, split stringer with green foam insert. Re: the pic that was in the SF Chron of mate Jim Bonaldi on a nose ride at Kelly's, that's me paddling out in the foreground (no wetsuit--couldn't afford one and wasn't much bothered by cold water then). I rode with Bill Hickey and Hal Suttler, who not only could kick a telephone pole out of a wave, but was the most friendly and modest of the crew. Other Kelly regulars I recall (that was 60 years ago!) were Gary (the germ) Cefalu, Bill Henderson, John Vida (also Lincoln HS swim team), Jim Dillon, Mike Lewis, Joe Flahaven. I was also a life guard at several SF pools & China beach, and Joe and I swam with the Dolphin Club for many years. And yes, there was no surf shop in Santa Cruz in the 50s, but Steamer Lane was pumping and we used to patrol the coast looking for good breaks. So I was surfing North Coast from 1958-62, then spent 6 months in Mazatlan riding Cannons and Lupe's Left, and wound up sanding and glassing for Jeff White in Santa Barbara (White Owl surfboards), just below Rennie Yater's shop in Summerland. I now reside in Karekare, New Zealand and at 75 surf almost every day; Karekare beach is where the movie "The Piano" was filmed, it's a 10 min. drive to Piha, which is where the NZ Surf Championships are held each year.

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