Michel on an offshore winter afternoon, Topanga Beach
In 1966, while I was a junior at Venice High School, I met fellow surfers John Puklus and Paul Lovas. John’s parents owned a beach house right on the water at Topanga Beach, and this allowed us access to one of the only private point breaks in LA County. We had countless great sessions surfing uncrowded waves with just our friends. During one of these Topanga sessions in the winter of 1967/68, I saw Greg Jackson riding a small board around 7 ½ ‘ long. He got it from San Diego shaper, Bob English, and I was curious since we were all only familiar with boards in excess of 9’ at the time. He let me ride it, but at the time it seemed no more than a novelty, and we all just kept riding our 9’6” boards.
Topanga Point, looking north to Malibu and Point Dume.
My first shorter board was really a fluke. That same winter I had my 9’6” Challenger and while riding 3M’s in Baja I lost my board into the jetty at Middle M’s and broke off about 2 feet of the nose. I reshaped the nose a little and repaired it, and I was ready to go. With less length and volume, I was able to make more radical turns and more vertical roller coasters. My first designed shorter board was an 8’6” Pintail that Tinker shaped for me to take back to California at the end the summer in 1968. Board designs continued to get shorter and shorter, and by 1969 we were in the 6 ft. range. That summer of ’69 I lived in Honolulu with Butch Yamashita and Mike Takahashi and we built boards in the basement of our apartment on Punahou Street. Although Hawaii has always been a desired destination for most surfers to hone their skills, at the beginning of the shortboard era, more people seemed to be giving up surfing than learning to surf. That summer we enjoyed south swell after south swell with just our friends. This haole was in heaven.
Checking the surf at Topanga Beach
Victor Torres and Michel with single fin equipment in 1969
P.O.P. Cove session, winter 1968-69