Sea Notes

My first surf hero

Daryl Diamond, North Shore, Oahu, 1969. Courtesy photo
Daryl Diamond only needed one name when I first heard of him in 1962. He was Daryl, the best surfer in Montebello, which is not much of a title, but there was something else about him that made him stand out in any lineup.I was a kook then, hunched low, shuffling and awkwardly slashing across wave faces. I had never met Daryl but there he was on a small wave at Doheny, a beautiful beach before the harbor cut it in two. He’s just standing there, I recall thinking, before he slinked forward like water rolling over beach stones. Hands at his sides, he was soon hanging 10, before walking back and laying into a perfect cutback. On my next wave I tried “just standing there,” which was about as easy as just playing one perfect note on a trumpet.

In time most of the surfers at Doheny were Daryl Diamond copies — perfectly combed sandy blond hair, pressed trunks and Taryeton cigarettes smoked like he was doing a commercial, which he certainly could have, if anybody had been smart enough to hire him as a model.

Every guy wanted to surf like him and every girl wanted to date him, calling him the Doheny Dreamboat. He had the perfect quip for all occasions.

I had been sentenced to yard work that day in the early 1960s when Daryl picked up my youngest brother Dave and offered to drive him to the beach. Later that day I had to hear all about how they had picked up rising star Sam Hawk at Seaside and gone to the Gordon and Smith Shop in Dana Point to visit with Bill Andrews, who was on the cover of Surfer Magazine that month.

That was 50 years ago, and Dave recalls it as “one of the greatest moments of my youth.” It was probably one of the worst of mine.

By the mid-1960s I was becoming more involved in surfing and surfboards and began hanging out with Daryl at the beach, before paddling out where he casually dominated his way through the growing crowds on the shorter boards that were becoming popular at the time.

To me Daryl was synonymous with Dana Point and the building of Dana Point Harbor in 1969 broke his heart. By then he had moved to Dana Point with his new wife, the woman he loved more than all others, the beautiful Shirlene. One day at the beach he expressed his disgust that “ the best waves in the area were being destroyed and those beautiful cliffs being dynamited.”

For years he was the delivery driver for Clark Foam, carrying his board in the truck for a quick surf at Trestles, or Swami’s or Windansea. He was welcome in any of those lineups with his hard, clean turns and deep tube rides.

Soon Daryl and Shirlene had a son, Eric, who would eventually ride his father’s wake in matters of grace and style. Seeing the place he loved being trampled for nothing more than the love of money by developers, Daryl moved his family first to Hawaii, then to Park City, dressed in all black, fast smoking, Smokey Robinson on his cassette player.

In time Daryl seemed to lose touch with the surfing world and the surfing world lost touch with him. There were rumors that he had been in the water again, paddling out at San Onofre or hanging on the beach trading stories with his countless friends.

Recently I got the news that Daryl had passed. With him goes a large portion our dreams, and the best of us. The surfing world is invited to celebrate the life of the legend at 1 p.m. Feb. 22 at Doheny State Park.


1 comment

Tom W March 8, 2015 at 7:50 am

I can’t believe there are no comments. I’ve admired your work and photography since the “Breakout” days Chris. I for one love your column.

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