Remember When?…with Harry Mayo

A true Santa Cruz legend

A true Santa Cruz legend

The Santa Cruz Surfing Club

An original member dishes about early Santa Cruz surfing

Previously featured in Santa Cruz Waves Magazine

Santa Cruz hasn’t always been a surf town. The sport came to Santa Cruz, originally, with the visit of three Hawaiian princes in July of 1885, but it didn’t become popular until the 1930’s, when surfers from Southern California visited the area and discovered the bounty of cold, yet perfect, surf.

A group of local teenagers took notice and subsequently caught “surf fever,” borrowing the visitors’ boards and gathering as much advice as possible. These youngsters began shaping their own surfboards in high school wood shop, and a fledgling surf community was born, culminating in 1936 with the establishment of the Santa Cruz Surfing Club. Ninety-one-year-old Harry Mayo was one of those youngsters, and is the last surviving original member. Waves sat down with him to hear about his memories from that era.

Mayo at the clubhouse

Mayo at the clubhouse

The Club: “Locally, nobody else was surfing. Members of the Santa Cruz Surfing Club were the ones who started it. It was a mixed group—some of us lived on the Westside, some of us downtown and some of us lived on the Eastside. I started at about age 14 in junior high at Mission Hill Junior High. It was just us youngsters at first, but then a few older guys from out of town [Burlingame and San Mateo] started coming around, and between them and us we formed the club around 1936.
In ’38, the Junior Chamber of Commerce built the clubhouse board house for us. We had keys [and] charged guys from out of town a buck to store their boards in there. The Club was social and became more popular with time. We started charging dues, so in ‘38 it became more organized. We had a president, a secretary and a treasurer. We had our own bank account. During the war we leased a hamburger stand for our clubhouse and we bought it later.
We had our logo on the T-shirts and then we got some big heavy parkas—hoodies is what we called them, and we got the logo on them, too.”

Mayo, as a grommet

Mayo, as a grommet

The Equipment: “We had basically two types of boards. We had the planks—solid planks—and the rest were hollow paddleboards. I made mine in high school in 1939, at Santa Cruz High School. We had skegs, like on a rowboat. Tom Blake [the inventor of the surfboard fin] came and visited us one time. He used an umbrella to sail around Cowell’s. First windsurfer. [Laughs] No wetsuits or leashes, we wore bathing suits, and we used paraffin wax.”

Mayo and crew hiking the bluff where the Dream Inn now stands

Mayo and crew hiking the bluff where the Dream Inn now stands

The Surfing: “You didn’t go out alone. If we were able to get down to the clubhouse early or something, and there was nobody around, we’d wait for somebody to show up to go out with.
Then we’d surf for approximately an hour and come in. If it was the wintertime, we’d come into the clubhouse to warm up—we had a pot-bellied stove. We’d get it goin’ with wood, try to warm up, take off our wet bathing suits, put a warm one on, or put our pants back on. Or, if the weather was halfway decent, we’d sit in front of the clubhouse facing the east and warm up with the sun.”

Mayo, surfing for the first time in 62 years, with Richard Schmidt

Mayo, surfing for the first time in 62 years, with Richard Schmidt

The Culture: “I don’t know exactly what the girls at that time thought about us. We had plenty of women hanging around. We even had a couple gals surfin’ with us. But folks didn’t like them surfing cause they could fall and get black and blue marks if they got hit with a board.
If you weren’t a big football player, or a big basketball player, you were out. Surfing was nothing, it wasn’t even counted. It’s changed. But still, some girls hung around at the beach with us. We weren’t looked on very highly because we weren’t winning any big games for the old alma matter. You had to be a football jock or something, so we more or less flew under the radar.”

No suits, primitive boards-but no lack of stoke.  Indicators

No suits, primitive boards-but no lack of stoke. Indicators

The War and Decline of The Original Club: “Originally, in the SC surf club, you couldn’t get in if you drank or smoked. But that changed during the war, I’m sorry to say it did, but it did. It was a different attitude. We didn’t know if tomorrow we’d be in the service. It was a kind of feeling of “what the hell?” We did no drugs, to my knowledge.
All of us went into the service: Army, Navy, Air Force. I went into the Coast Guard. We all came back- one guy had a knee problem, but we all came back.
By then, the club started breaking up, we were older, going to college, married with kids, workin’, etc. By the fifties I was done, I was workin’ three jobs, and I joined the Fire Department in ‘49. Then I was married and had a baby. Didn’t have the time to go surfin’ no more!”

Mayo, present day, checking out the recreated Clubhouse

Mayo, present day, checking out the recreated Clubhouse

Mr. Matthew Myers…The Manager

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Matty, loving life as usual

“Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes (turn and face the strain) Ch-ch-changes“…One minute you’re getting shots in the mags and travelling around the world as a pro surfer, and next thing you know, you’re the guy behind the scenes orchestrating the careers of others. Matthew Myers is one of my best friends– we’ve shared some of the best experiences of our lives together, namely a magical day surfing a secret thundering reef in Bali in the morning, heaving tubes at Keramas for lunch, and a magic afternoon session at Padang Padang accompanied by one of our idols, Benji Weatherly. We were like stoned out teenagers at Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

It seems like yesterday that we were chasing the dream of being professional surfers; but life changes, sometimes we have to accept the fact that the industry has transformed and it’s time to grow up. Mr. Myers has definitely grown up and strapped on his big boy boots, giving up a cozy existence here in Santa Cruz to pursue a career in the surf industry. A few years ago Myers got the seemingly dreamy position as team manager for Rip Curl, packed up his shit, and moved to Newport. While getting to travel the world and surf with guys like Tom Curren and Mick Fanning may seem just as groovy as a professional surfing career, Myers is constantly working behind the scenes to facilitate the careers of a bevy of grommets and grown men, a hectic task to say the least.

I can’t express how proud I am of this kid. He’s such a positive and awesome person, and it stokes me out beyond belief to see what he’s done for himself. I caught up with him recently to chat about this new lifestyle and how he deals with the daily grind down South.

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Mr. Myers and Mr. Knox

Going from pro surfer to someone who manages pro surfers…how was this transition?

The transition from Pro Surfer to Managing Pro Surfers, was definitely a tricky transition at first. However, over time it’s became easier and easier. Just like any job I’d suppose.

He's still got it! Photo-Watts

He’s still got it! Photo-Watts

What are your job duties? How do you find time to surf and relax amidst the chaos?

This isn’t always the easiest question to answer, as my job duties range pretty far and wide. I think they call it “wearing a lot of hats”. My official job title is Team & Promotions Manager, so there’s plenty that fall into those categories.

For example; Looking after the roster of 40+ Rip Curl sponsored surfers in North America, from 10 year old groms to Tom Curren. Surfers from California, Hawaii, up & down the East Coast, Canada, Puerto Rico, and Costa Rica. Running the GromSearch surf series as a contest director; 5 events across the US. Scouting new talent to add to the team. Managing team & event budgets, schedules, flights, and contest entries. I also help run Rip Curl USA’s social media handles; Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. I help host grassroots events like the wetsuit demo tour, promos, team signings, movie premieres, and other local events. I attend and help coach many junior/grom events up and down the coastline. I help organize photo shoots for our team riders with our staff photogs and filmers. I make sure to keep a great relationship between our brand and the media outlets. I also help host junior/grom camps that focus on raising the level of our team and offering support to help guide their futures. Finally to wrap this way too long paragraph up, I help out with the WCT team roster when they’re in Cali/Hawaii and make sure things run smoothly during their time in our region.

Find time to surf and relax in this chaos? Shoot… not much relaxation, but I do get a fair amount of water time!

Taking time to mentor the groms

Taking time to mentor the groms

You must be privy to a lot of insider knowledge/rumors about the world of surfing?   Were you shocked at anything you learned about the inner workings of the surf industry and all the players?

To be honest, nothing comes to mind as far as things that are shocking. Everyone for the most part is super cool that I’ve worked with. The only insider info that I try to utilize is around the WCT events while picking my Fantasy Surfer teams.

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                             M.Fanno and M. Myyo

Who are you currently managing under Rip Curl?

Are you asking who’s on our surf team? If so here’s a link to our North American team list, And this is our A-Team plus Mason Ho, my newest team addition.

Taking a time out to tee-off

                              Taking a time out to tee-off

What’s the most difficult part of your job? Being away from Santa Cruz? Dealing with lazy and or difficult team riders? Time management?

You pretty much nailed it. By far the two most difficult items is being away from SC. Santa Cruz is where my heart is. It’s where my family is. It’s where all my best friends are. Luckily I have an amazing girlfriend from Santa Cruz, that lives with me here and that makes a world of difference.

Secondly time management is really tricky. I hardly find time for myself, doing my own surf trips, or just getting away from technology. I spend so much time staring at my computer, or phone. I miss “losing” my phone for a day and unplugging. Not to mention how many hours a day I spend answering emails or team rider requests.

Lazy or difficult team riders aren’t much of an issue. It’s so hard to keep a sponsor these days, if you have one you’re generally pretty on top of it.

Living vicariously, luxuriously

Living vicariously, luxuriously

People must tag you as a punching bag for Rip Curl and it’s team riders. How do you deal with controversy and or scorn from others? Is it hard to balance your allegiance to your employer and your own personal beliefs?

Yeah that’s pretty funny. I know of a few instances I believe you are bringing up. If people are talking shit to me personally because of something a Rip Curl team rider did, than they must not have much going for them.

I try not to be biased, but I’m always pulling for Santa Cruz surfers, especially Nat Young, he’s probably the only friend of mine that will ever surf on the WCT; I mean like someone I actually grew up with.

Balancing the allegiance vs personal beliefs comes easy for me. The RC team has some of my favorite surfers, well from before I started working here.

"Hey Curren, goin right!"

                                                  “Hey Curren, goin right!”

What is your favorite part of the job?

I love traveling for work, I love offering my knowledge to young team riders and running great events. I work with a great crew of people who are all friends of mine, and my boss is incredibly smart and a great mentor to learn from. There’s a lot of favorite parts to my job, but nothing can beat sharing a lineup with Curren or Fanning and have them call you into one of the waves of the day.

The Surfing Historian…Matt Warshaw

A man, a library, and a cat.  Smells like History to me!

          A scholarly man, a library, and a cat. Smells like History to me.

Historians have a pretty damn hard job. They have to sift through documents, journals, periodicals, legends, and myths; working like detectives to present a fair and balanced account of the past. Now picture this…a SURFING historian? Surfing history is chalk full of zany characters, unbelievable antics, and monumental sessions.. Before webcasts, Go Pro’s, and RED cameras, there wasn’t much to rely on for information but first-hand accounts, grainy footage, hearsay, whispers and mutterings. How in God’s name could someone compile all these stories and watershed moments in surfing history, especially considering all the swollen egos, bitter rivalries, and hazy memories of surfers who’ve bounced off the reef a few too many times or voluntarily fried their brains?

It’s a tough gig, but luckily for us we have a special individual devoted to decoding our surfing heritage, Mr. Matt Warshaw.   Warshaw has tasked himself with compiling surfing history into an online database, The Encyclopedia of Surfing.

From the Air-Drop, to Captain Good Vibes, Warshaw has toiled endlessly to allow the public a peek into everything surfing. As a fellow historian and surf scribe, I find this dedication and bounty of knowledge nothing short of amazing. Well, today is Matt’s birthday, so I thought of no better time to let him tell his story, and explain what compelled him to take on such a monumental task…

Early days with fellow surf rat, Jay Adams.  Photo Booth fun 1971

Early days with fellow surf rat, Jay Adams. Photo Booth fun 1971

Can you tell me briefly how you were introduced to surfing? Did you ever compete, or was it strictly a passion?

My uncle pushed my brother and me across our swimming pool on his huge Hansen surfboard. This was in Tarzana, California, probably 1965. Uncle Dan was coolest person I knew, I already loved the water, so the hook was set. We just had to get out of the Valley, which we did a couple years later when my family moved to Venice. I got my first board in 1969.

Oh yeah, he shreds

Oh yeah, he shreds

I know that editing a magazine can be a tiresome and thankless job at times. It must have also been a thrill to have access to so many colorful characters…How would you describe your tenure at the helm of Surfer Magazine?

There was this long and amazing series of lucky breaks that helped get me to the editor’s chair. Just one thing after the other. On the other hand, I’m driven and ambitious and scheming, and made a lot of things happen as well. I was at SURFER for six years, and only in the last year or so, maybe the last 18 months, did I do anything that I’m proud of. Before that it was me learning the ropes in public, and most of what I did—my own writing anyway—I’m really deeply embarrassed about.

Another thing I remember was, when I got to SURFER, in 1985, everyone on staff was still using typewriters. I was the first person in the building to get a word processor, I think it was 1986. The year after that we all got word processors, and the art director got some primitive designing software, and some of the issues from the late ‘80s have this horrible sort of Nintendo-y design look.

On the plus side, I got to work with Derek Hynd, Jeff Divine, Matt George, Warren Bolster, Steve Pezman, Paul Holmes, and lots of other really talented people. I was only actually editor for maybe six months, but that position set up everything that followed in my work life. I’m really proud and honored to be a SURFER guy.

After Surfer, what was next on your agenda? Did you continue to freelance, or did you look at other avenues outside the realm of surfing to make ends meet?

After SURFER I went to UC Berkeley to finish college, and I funded that by selling my house in San Clemente and by sponging off my family. I did a bit of freelancing too. Actually I got some good assignments. I did a short piece for Esquire, and a couple things for Interview. Again, all those doors opened because of my skillful playing of the SURFER card.

Warshaw and vestiges of the past

Warshaw and vestiges of the past

I’m sure that as Editor at Surfer you established ties with countless extraordinarily interesting cats…did these personalities and their stories compel you to start the Encyclopedia of Surfing–a sort of time capsule to bring all the legends and monumental events to the public in a familiar (Encyclopedia) and digestible format?

After college I mostly did articles for Surfer’s Journal and SURFER, then did a couple of books. One morning I made some random comment to my dad about knowing more about surfing than anybody in the world, and he said “So write an encyclopedia,” and a half-million words later it was done. The making of EOS is too boring to get into, but I’ll just say that I spent all of 2000 doing data entry prior to actually starting on the book. The whole year, loading up a Filemaker Pro database. You can’t spin that into anything gonzo. It’s drudgery, plain and simple.

What surfer doesn't relish the tube.  Matt, tucked in all cozy like

What surfer doesn’t relish the tube. Matt, tucked in all cozy like

Expanding on the last question, was there any “Eureka!” moment when you realized the importance of saving these stories and compiling them for public consumption?

No, never. None of this ever seemed important in any kind of good-for-the-world sense. It gives me something to do. It makes use of this ridiculous among of very particular information I’ve got stored in my head and my various hard drives. I love the work. To a fault, almost. I wake up and can’t wait to start working. But never have I kidded myself into thinking that it’s important. It’s nice that I’ve been able to organize and archive and present the sport in some way. It is useful. Some of it is entertaining. But your surfing experience, my surfing experience—nobody’s surfing experience is affected by it.

The book that started it all

The book that started it all

How do you go about gathering information for your EOS entries? There are so many legends, showdowns/rivalries, design breakthrough, and epic stories to document–it must be a bit overwhelming!!

EOS will never be complete, and will never be finished. It’s a permanent work in progress. I knew that from the minute I started the book version, and 15 years later this remains the greatest comfort. I’m actually not overwhelmed. I do have a responsibility to surf history, but at some level what I do, what any historian or archivist does, is arbitrary. Especially with the website, where I need photos and video. There are entries in the book that aren’t on the website because I don’t have photos. There are huge holes on EOS. All I can do is post pages when they’re ready. And meanwhile fix all the typos, and update John John Florence’s page every month, and clown around endlessly on social media to try and get people to my site.

Surfers can have some pretty inflated egos…how do you deal with rejection and or avoidance while contacting sources for information? Has anyone called you out for something you’ve written about them? Also, have you ever had anyone call you out for not including them and their exploits/contributions in the EOS?

EOS is a 501c3 non-profit organization, and the entire “company” is me, working in my guest room for less money than I made as a surf shop clerk in 1983. When people call me out for whatever—it doesn’t happen that often, maybe once or twice a month—I throw my hands up and play the little man card. I can only do so much. I’ll get there when I can. Thanks for the patience. Which isn’t bullshit. But it’s also a way to deflect.



This must be a tough one to answer, but what has been the most enjoyable entry for you to include in the EOS thus far?

No single entry stands out. But what’s surprised me is much I enjoy flogging the site on Facebook and Twitter, and doing the EOS blog posts. I was late to social media, and was dragged there in chains, but once I signed on I really loved it. When I’m doing something for publication, a book or an article, I write the shit out of it, draft after draft after draft. Writing for the web has loosened me up. My writing is better for it. I’m learning from guys who are better at it than I am. I love my job because, even though I’ve been doing it for 30-something years, in one form or the other, I really seriously feel like I’m just now getting the hang of it.

Follow Matt on instagram- encyclopedia_of_surfing and be sure to check out