"I don't like big waves, though. I was in 18-foot surf at Makaha [in Oahu]. It was really scary. I thought I'd have a heart attack. I'm chicken. Girls aren't thrill-seekers like men. My father and his friends sit out there on their boards, talk business and other dumb things and wait for that one big wave an hour."
"My daughter's a performer," says Walter Hoffman, with a little bit of scorn.
Joyce's performances have earned her 36 trophies, most of them featuring statuettes of male surfers. "Look at them," she said the other day. "They break, get corroded. Who wants another? Robin likes them. I got that monstrosity there in the Makaha International. And a lei. And really a spiffy T shirt, yellow. red and black, with writing all over it. A real thing of beauty. Californians are much better surfers than Hawaiians. The Hawaiians are out for fun—not blood."
The pinnacle of Joyce's surfing career was winning the World Contest in Peru. "Surfing's expensive down there," she says. "A board costs $400. Servants wax your board for you and carry it into the water. As soon as you're finished surfing you snap your fingers and a little slave runs out and gets your board. Surfing is a big deal in Peru. The President even invited us to the palace. I stayed with some Peruvian girls. One night I had a Kleenex I wanted to throw away. I asked them where the wastebasket was. They said throw it on the floor and the maid would pick it up in the morning. It's pretty hard to purposely do that. The girls wrote that they were coming up to California to see me. They said they were taking lessons on how to make a bed."
In addition to her trophies, Joyce has won $450 worth of clothes in the Hermosa KHJ-TV contest, $200 worth in the Laguna Sports Masters contest at Redondo Beach and a trip to Hawaii in the U.S. championships at Huntington Beach. Now, the USSA, looking ahead to the day when high school or college teams might regularly compete in surfing, is considering recommending that prizes be limited to merchandise that is worth no more than $75. In fact, Don Murray, the USSA's executive secretary, does not believe in surfing contests. "It's not a competitive sport," he says. "It's too subjective. There are too many variables—tide, wind, waves. I wouldn't go to a contest for anything in the world, except we're pushing this thing in an attempt to put surfing in terms that people will understand, to make it acceptable. Contests are our showcases. People understand contests. You take a bunch of kids throwing rocks at random and people look askance, but if you go and hold a rock-throwing contest—people understand that."
Surfing still retains, perhaps indelibly, a somewhat raffish reputation. "As soon as you put a board under your arm you're labeled a strange creature," says Hobie Alter. There is probably an element of envy involved here, too. "To a middle-aged businessman there's something a little unsavory about a guy who's 18, all tanned and spending all his time surfing," says Joe Lancor. "It's really not that different from sailing, but surfing has no tradition."
This notoriety is, and always has been, greatly exaggerated and sensationalized, but it is not entirely undeserved. For example, in San Clemente every garage freezer is locked, and during the summer the cops check them five times a night. It's not the local kids who break and enter, but out-of-towners who have gotten stoked on perfect, well-formed, glassy tubes (waves, not dope) and decided to stay overnight but have spent all their money.
At the opposite pole is the San Onofre Surf 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. Among the more prominent are Otis Chandler, publisher of the
Los Angeles Times
, Actor Jim Arness, Orange County Superior Court Judge Robert Gardner, Architect Kent Attridge and Don Tillman, assistant chief city engineer for Los Angeles. There are also a lot of members like the Walter Hoffmans. The waiting list numbers 500, and the only prerequisite for joining is the ability, however slight, to surf.
It's mostly an informal family scene at the SOSC, with a volleyball court dividing the martini-and-steak set of the north end (Chandler), which last year threw a catered luau, from the beer-and-hamburger set of the south end (Arness). 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.
But such clubs are rare. One of the greatest attractions of surfing is that it is an individual sport and you don't have to belong to anything to do it. "Surfers are too damn independent," says LeRoy Grannis. "They can't see beyond the ends of their noses but, like the hot rodders, if they don't get some group that represents them they're going to be trampled on."