A Surfer’s Journey, 1960-1971

By Herb Torrens

I love the title of this book – puts me right into the proper space-time coordinates. And what a fresh, intimate, and exquisitely-detailed coming-of-age surf story this is! From his first encounter with surfing in the summer of ’60 and his relegation to the status of “third ringer” to his flight from Maui’s green pastures to South Africa in 1971, Herb is our fly on the wall to those seminal surf times, as he recounts: hanging out at Joe Quigg’s Newport shop, the formation of the Windansea Surf Club, early Makaha contests, the heydays of amateur surf competition, hangin’ with Butch Van Artsdalen, hangin’ with David Nuuhiwa, the Morey Invitational Noseriding Contest, hangin’ with Gary Propper in Florida, and then California at the dawn of the psychedelic years.

From there Torrens’ rollercoaster ride takes us to mellow days on Kauai, heavy days on Kauai, lean and lonely days on Kauai, mellow days on Maui … and a ringside seat at the birth of the shortboard revolution with the legendary Honolua crew (Dick Brewer et al.) … right up to the hardening of the island culture with the emergence of mafia elements (at one point Herb had a gun stuck in his face) and thick crowds at once deserted breaks.

Although sanitized (I mean, Herb was riding a board called Purple Haze during the winter of ’69-’70), Torrens brings a lot of new information and understanding to the great surfing decade of the 1960s. Although he’s no literary genius and tends to get a little repetitious (I was initially allured by the smell of Charburgers, but after a while I had to say, “I get it, I get it!”), his recall of so many details, as well as the roll-call of familiar but now-forgotten names (many misspelled, but you get the idea), makes this book an easy but also very rewarding read. I enjoyed it big time, and so will you.

Words DK