Gordon "Grubby" Clark
Posted on 06 January 2019
My friend the late, great big wave pioneer Buzzy Trent said: “todays top surfers are in better shape, have better equipment, and are better fed”.
Buzzy was in a partial generation ahead of me. By the time I was thirty-three I had three vertebras on my spine fused because I never bothered to get in shape for surfing. My first surfboard weighed ninety pounds. The generation ahead of me ate horsemeat. To spend time surfing I lived in the back of a pickup with a plywood camper I built. Lots of peanut butter sandwiches.
I was a part of the very first generation of surfers who could make a full-time living in surfing or associated with surfing. When I started I doubt there were a dozen people who worked full-time in the surfboard or surfing industry.
My first surfboard job as a teenager was working for Tom Blake – the inventor of the fin for surfboards. My second job was working for Hobie when it was a three-person surfboard factory. Our maximum output was ten balsa boards per week – a goal we rarely met.
I guess my love of surfing and the dream that by being in the surf industry I could go surfing whenever there was good surf sucked me in. From my late teens until I was seventy-two just about my only civilian job was making surfboards. More or less by accident I ended up in probably the least glamorous part of the entire surfboard industry – making blanks. My interface with surfing got fairly remote - but I did follow a lot of what was going on through my customers and surfer friends.
Mike Doyle is one of the first generations of surfers who were “better fed”.
One could claim the great Duke Kahanamoku was the “first” – but his financial start came more from five Olympic Gold Medals than from surfing. In my opinion the great Phil Edwards was actually the first 100% surfer to begin to be better “fed” strictly due to his surfing ability. Phil gained his fame because he was a lot better surfer than anyone else and that, for the first time ever, had economic value.
I can’t remember exactly when Doyle came on my radar. He was really young, really good looking, and really, really a good surfer.
One of my first recollections of Mike was when we were surfing either Swami’s or Trestles. He kindly told me I should bend my knees more when riding a wave. It was probably great advice – but what Mike did not realize is that I did not give a shit how I looked. I, like the vast majority of surfers, was only interested in having a good time. Being “fed” was not a part of the program.
A lot of good surfers are more or less specialists. They surf and do nothing else. Doyle is yet another story. He had done an incredible number of things. His innovations and life experiences are too lengthy to mention.
One of the things I think is overlooked is Mike’s tremendous athletic ability. I will mention a few of my highlights:
When Mike started skiing he was instantly famous. He got really good overnight plus did the single ski innovation.
I got into dirt bike riding big time. Mike started dabbling in dirt bikes many years later. He really pissed me off. Overnight he was a lot better than I was!
In my judgment Mike’s ability surfing hit a high point when he and Tom Morey developed the Morey-Doyle soft board. The early ones were awful pieces of crap. They were very difficult to ride. What did Mike do? As a promotion he rode Pipeline with one. This is a wave that was more or less unrideable until the development of modern specialized shortboards. He not only pulled it off but also got some good photos stunning those of us in the conventional board industry. He essentially was doing the equivalent of making chicken salad out of chicken shit!
As a final example just a few years ago several great surfers mentioned how well the old fart Doyle was surfing in Baja.
Here is to a really cool guy who has basically fought the battle of life and won!
Gordon “Grubby” Clark