Then, at about 3 p.m. the surf began to build from five to 10, to what some observers estimated as an astonishing 16 feet. More than 5,000 stoked spectators arrayed along the cliff tops watched as the finalists paddled out. Immediately, one surfer disappeared under a 15-foot wave, and it seemed minutes before he reappeared, bobbing to the surface like a soap chip in a child's bath. Everyone stuck to smaller waves after that.
An agile young surfer named Dru Harrison won the $800 second prize, but tall, slim David Nuuhiwa (pronounced, appropriately, new-wave-uh), who took $500 for third place, was perhaps the meet's most graceful performer. Unlike Corky Carroll, he rarely moves on his board. Rather he moves the board itself, up and down waves, turning in and out of the breaking edge. Nuuhiwa, 22, is one of the most unusual-looking young men in sport; his father is German-Hawaiian, his mother is Japanese and he has the imperious look of an Aztec king.
Still, Corky Carroll delivered the weekend's most memorable performance. His tanned, gremlin face is familiar to surfers everywhere. He is the Puck of surfing, and ashore he dressed accordingly: a red and blue wet suit, a corduroy jacket and a black felt Indian hat. During amateur and junior competition he filled in on the announcer's stand. He was the first to take on the surf crashers. "Out there are a few doo wa diddie squiggly wigglies," came the high voice over the crowd. "We'd really dig it if you left. Pleasure Point's better anyway. Eight feet, perfect shape, naked girls, dealers." When someone took a bad wipeout in the kelp at low tide he said: "A little soup, a little kelp, leaves you swimming and yelling for help."
Corky Carroll began this dual role early, riding his first wave in 1956, when he was 8. "I was the cockiest bigmouthed gremmie on the coast," he says of his days in Surfside Colony, Calif., where he was brought up. He didn't win his first contest until 1962, but the next year he took the U.S. Junior Championship, and he has won the Seniors three times. At the world championships he finished third in 1966 and eighth in 1968. In all he has won more than 50 contests. As a youngster Carroll lived acoss the street from the beach, on low land, and more than one winter high tide flooded his living room. "Living room surf is lousy," he says. "When I wiped out I'd have to stand in the back door, wait for my board to come by, then paddle back across the street."
Living room surf may be a product of Corky Carroll's imagination, but soon, he fears, there may be no surfing at all. Each year there are fewer California surfing areas open to the public. "You may be seeing the end of an era right now," he says, "the pre-surfatorium era."
For Corky Carroll, though, such periods of doomsday thinking are rare. Out on the waves he lives in the present, which is how he likes it. Recently he got tired of knowing what time it was, so he threw his watch away. "I looked at it one day," he said, "and didn't know why. Surfing sure is a weird trip."