“Interview: Mickey Dora” ran in the September, 1969, issue of SURFER. Dora himself continued to write the occasional article for the surf press, but this was his final Q&A. All photos: Craig Stecyk.
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What part does surfing play in your life today?
When there’s surf, I’m totally committed; when there’s none, it doesn’t exist.
What are your opinions on the new group of younger surfers and their boards?
I sincerely wish them all the luck in the world. There just might come a time when they’ll need it.
Do you think that you have been slighted or played down by the media over the years?
It’s to be expected; the media is impersonal. They care little whether I live or die. So what? It’s irrelevant. I know what I stand for, and that’s all that’s important.
What is the most important thing to you?
Besides myself, the pursuit of happiness.
What is your general philosophy of life and survival today?
It’s really quite simple. Freedom from affectation and all affiliation. To expound upon the subject will only bring more ridicule upon myself.
How old are you now?
Hmm, now that’s a good question. Well, approximately one year younger than the world renowned aquanaut and international surfing master of ceremony Rick Grigg. Although I’m nine years older than Bunker Spreckels, the genetic space child, who represents the opposite end of the professional spectrum. Neither of the two can I comprehend or dare to understand. So you see the subject matter is as meaningless as the question.
Are you a religious person?
No, I don’t believe so. But I’m deeply concerned with the conceptive and preceptive mysteries of stigmata.
Why did you drop the name Chapin?
That is actually a personal family question, but I can tell you this much, Gard Chapin, a unique surfing frontiersman, either remembered or not, had a profound influence in my life. His untimely premeditated murder in Mexico can only be linked with his individualistic personality. For my own peace of mind I felt it would be safer to use my given name. However, I sometimes have misgivings on this decision.
Are you planning to get married?
Possibly in my ever-vague fantasies of idealism, yes. As a perverse realist, never in California.
Would you enter a contest for $1,000 or $2,000 prize money?
I ride for my pleasure only; no thanks.
Why do you think bombs were planted in your car?
Probably to blow me to bits.
Are you happy?
As long as there’s a Fourth and Fifth Amendment to the Constitution. I’m relatively happy.
What is your relationship with drugs?
It is possible to find pleasure in hallucinatory fantasies, I’m quite sure of it. But I’ve made my peace with reality. Either one, one way I or the other, is going to solve the I acute overpopulation problem.
You’ve followed surfing for years. Who have the greatest surfers been?
This redundant question always comes up. I don’t know, but I could have a real lot of personal satisfaction and enjoyment discussing in detail who I deeply regard to have been the worst. In the long haul, the apologists in the new genesis period are going to have to make these final decisions.
What changes have you witnessed during the course of your surfing career?
First of all, I have no “career.” I was here before, and I’ll be here after. As to the occurrences of change, I’ve observed a multitude. Briefly, I’ve seen the Dead Origins, Genesis, the Hours of Recession, and we are all soon to undergo the sport’s demise in the immediate future.Could you clarify these various periods?
The Dead Origins consisted of the 250 plus redwoods and their wined-out “T” squarebuild grapplers, who fantasized themselves to be the magnates of an illusionary Polynesian culture. Bicep flexes, ukulele playing, tight trunks and body grease typified the period. I’ve only mentioned this era since it is frequently portrayed and glamorized as the birth of the sport, etc. Those guys weren’t concerned with the effective riding of waves, and people today should realize this. The Genesis days were a time of innovation, creation, birth and individuality. The Recession embodies the passage of time from the Genesis period’s end to the present. Essentially, mediocrity and rehashed mediocrity. To the unenlightened eye, things have constantly been progressing; however, close scrutiny reveals the modern world to be a mere illusion of opulence, grandeurs and good feelings. People currently are riding the calm before the storm, and have been lulled into such a false sense of security that they view current occurrences as if they possess some sort of solidified foundation. They are viewing illusions as truth. The Death is the fall of the above mentioned illusionary society, values and prosperity. It will also entail a general shattering of the weak.
Precisely when was this Genesis period, and what made it so important to the sport’s development?
It took place approximately from 1949-1954. This was the period of the only true innovation of design concepts and riding techniques the sport has ever endured. At this point a few beings rebelled against the World War II shellshocked casualties, redwoods, and embarked upon the direction surfing is still on. This departure from the redwoods was led primarily by Bob Simmons. Simmons’ short, lightweight, controlled flow concepts and water release contours set this period up. Simmons’ principles threatened the security of the redwood boys and caused him much ridicule. This scorn only drove Simmons and his adherents to greater heights and stages of development. Apparently, Simmons went too far in shaking up the status quo, since in 1954, Simmons drowned under mysterious and unlikely circumstances, ending the Genesis movement. Of this period, Mat Kivlin’s techniques, riding-wise, were the definite high point. Kivlin’s mellow style and intricate knowledge of wave positioning set him apart from the multitude, past and present. Many have been heavily influenced by the Kivlin technique, myself included; however, none will ever be able to come close to this genius of style. Kivlin retired from surfing immediately after the killing of Simmons, and surfing began a period of intense mediocrity, which has strung out to the near past. Recently, however, a renaissance trend has occurred, resulting from the present reaction against the stagnation of inhibiting designs and wave-riding methods. Unfortunately, this period is going to be cut short by the previously mentioned collapse of surfing. Fortunately, out of the ashes of death, the surviving individualists will start a future “Genesis” period which, hopefully, will get off on a better foot, due to their insight into the causes which fell society and the sport. However, restrictive conservatism may kill off these few survivors just as it once liquidated Simmons.
Exactly what do you mean by this demise of surfing?
Since November 22, 1963, a curse has fallen upon this country. It has affected us internationally, as well as on the home front. Since this tragic date, the mainland breaks have gradually worsened, and the ground swell has been relegated to the ranks of the unlikely. Cities burn, schools are sieged and overseas commitments increase. It’s only a matter of time before this upheaval shall reach endeavors such as surfing. Monetarily, the manufacturers, publishers, clothes companies, and cinematographers will all collapse, due to overextension, insufficient funds and knowledge, just retribution and nature’s cleansing. In short, the creeps who have worked the people over for years are going to fold. The only people to survive this fall will be the true independents, those who will have nothing to do with the upper echelon of this current illusionary prosperity. Any person who complies with the current ruling faction will only provoke his own downfall through corruption and association. People who play ball by reading publications such as this are dooming themselves to extinction.
Why do you feel this fall is going to occur in the near future?
The advent of “professionalism” to the sport will be the final blow. Professionalism will be completely destructive of any control an individual has over the sport at present. These few Wall Street flesh merchants desire to unify surfing only to extract the wealth. Under this “professional” regime, the wave rider will be forced into being totally subservient to the few in control in order to survive. The organizers will call the shots, collect the profits, while the wave rider does all the labor and receives little. Also, since surfing’s alliance with the decadent big business interests is designed only as a temporary damper to complete fiscal collapse, the completion of such a partnership will serve only to accelerate the art’s demise. A surfer should think carefully before selling his being to these “people,” since he’s signing his own death warrant as a personal entity.
What will you be doing when you’re 64?
If I’m to be so blessed. Probably, the odds are slight that I shall ever reach 64. If, however, any of you are so fortunate to survive the cataclysmic cave-in, I shall be more than glad to discuss it with you at that time.
Practically speaking, if any of this makes sense to someone, all my mail will be forwarded to my retreat in Madagascar, or Queensland. P.O. Box 25173, Los Angeles, California 90025. If you’re sincere, I shall be honored to assist in the rebuilding of the new Genesis. Period.
(Photo: Brad Barrett)