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A Paipo Interview with Don Long

Father and son riding paipo

A Paipo Interview with Don Long
January 30 and February 21, 2011 - Colorado (USA)
E-mail interview by Bob Green
Photos courtesy of Don Long

Don and his son, David, both ride paipo boards. Now living in Colorado, Don skis in winter and fly fishes in summer. He is a collector of not only paipo boards, but also swim fins and snow boards.
1. How did you get into riding paipo boards? When and where was this?
In 1966, I was living on the "B" Row in the hip southern California beach town of Surfside Colony (south of Seal Beach, CA) while working and attending nearby Long Beach State College. Rent: $120 per month. A few of us in the colony were riding paipo boards instead of bulky surfboards and loving this type of surfing.

Don at San Clemente with his Noll 'Egg' and other boards.

Photo by David Long.
2. Who made the board that you first rode? What was it like?
One of my Surfside roommates, Bruce Williams, designed my first custom, very fast, plywood paipo. Bruce learned how to make the boards while living on the North Shore of Oahu. This particular paipo had small cut out handles on both sides of the 44" board. Prior to 1966, I rode waves via small, home made plywood paipos or hand guns. In 1963, there was a surfboard rental shack at the Cliffs in Huntington Beach where I rented belly boards, canvas surf mats, or beat up surfboards. Tom Morey had not yet invented the Morey Boogie. When I wasn't riding my paipo I was body surfing.
3. Who did you surf with? How long did you ride these boards for?
I surfed with a few Pasadena High School buddies and fellow body surfers who as "flat-landers" actually believed we dominated the groins of Newport Beach during the summer months and on weekends. We'd venture further south and sneak into Trestles where the Marines would run us off if we slept on the beach. Our cars would be towed and the powers that be threatened us with jail time for surfing the restricted stretch of beach with near perfect waves. In my late 30's, I returned to Newport Beach where I was an integral part of the Newport Beach 40th Street body boarding crew. "Dr. 360" was at the helm along with Gary Bear, Steve Conklin, and two dozen other riders who enjoyed the strict Blackball restrictions. Once in a while Mike Stewart and Pat Caldwell would show up and put on a show for us. When I moved to San Clemente in 1994, I surfed with the T-Street crew (too many to name), and continued to surf up and down the coast with my son David and his best friend, Stanley Ohara. David and I picked up a few sponsors after we were the only father/son team to ever finish in the finals of the Morey Boogie Nationals held in Oceanside. I loved the annual Big Dogs clothing allotment and the discounted wet suits from the Frog House in Newport Beach. David won a ton of body boards and fins over the years. Whenever I judged various surfing events I would get free boards.
4. Where else have you ridden paipo? When was this? What board were you riding at this time?
I discovered the coves of Laguna Beach during the summer of 1963, when my Dad was transferred back to the Los Angeles office from the Midwest. He had been riding Laguna Beach waves since the early 1940's with his best friend Ben Herpick who owned a summer beach house in Laguna. Ben's two sons were best friends with Tom Morey at the time. The three teenage surfers used to take me down to the main beach where they placed me on their surfboards in the calm white water when I was 4 years old. I hooked up with Tom Morey and one of the Herpick brothers again in late 1999, while living in San Clemente. All of us had come full circle so to speak.

I've ridden paipos from Lower Baja to Santa Cruz and just about every beach break in-between, from 1963 through 2001. I prefer the El Paipo Knee Machine 54, or a hand gun. I'll take the Noll Egg out in glassy shore break; however, I'd hate to damage the board in huge set waves. The Noll Egg continues to deserve a prominent wall space in my home office.

The Greg Noll 'Egg' and Grand Master Bodyboard Division Gold medals awarded at Police and Fire Games

Photo courtesy Don Long.
5. Did you see other paipo riders around?
I think the first time I ever saw George Greenough on his spoon at Rincon Point in the early 1960s, made me realize just how much faster a paipo was than a surfboard. I'd try to minic his speed run. It was rare to see other paipo riders in the early 1960's. Joey Higgs, Gary Bear, and the true Master of the paipo, Guy Lewis (see Note 1), were the riders I recall tearing up waves from southern California to Hawaii. I can still visualize the late Mr. Guy Lewis, getting consistent 5 to 8 second tube rides on one of his vintage paipos while surfing the shore break at Zuma Beach. Guy taught so many of us timing and wave position. His son Kevin and David get together in Santa Cruz whenever possible. The two of them have been catching waves together since they were both competing in the 12-under division of the Morey Boogie Body Board contests.

Guy Lewis relaxing at Zeroes, 1989.

Photo courtesy Kevin Lewis.
6. What has been your contact with Black Sheep Paipo?
David met Rick Boufford in Orange County after I moved to Colorado in 2001. Rick and he talked paipos and during their second meeting, Rick presented David with a small hand gun and two Black Sheep Paipos (BSP) for our family collection. David loves to ride his BSP at Pt. Mugu. I'd love to hook up with Rick for the first time during my next visit to Southern CA. The Black Sheep Paipos are truly a positive extention of the sport. Thank you, Rick. I look forward to paddling out with you during the summer of 2011.
7. How did you get into collecting paipo boards? What bellyboards have you had in your collection?
I started collecting paipos in 1994, when my wife and I moved to San Clemente. I'd hit all the garage sales every weekend and bought just about every bellyboard and vintage long board I came across. My neighbor, John Urbanoski, introduced me to the Longboard Collectors group that still holds a well organized swap meet every December at Doheny State Beach. The group would roast a pig and many of the legends of the surfing industry would show up. Dozens of high priced surfboards and a few bellyboards would end up for sale or display on the grassy area of the park. I noticed the price of bellyboards and early paipos were increasing in price every year. I decided early on that I could not let a significant piece of surfing history disappear or fall into the hands of collectors who had never even ridden a paipo board or a belly board. The hunt for vintage or new paipos continues until this day.
8. Have you surfed each of these boards? If so, what have been the best performers?
I've surfed my entire collection at one time or another. I like to ride the Newport Beach El Paipo on big glassy days. Hand gunning and paipo riding the left point break next to the cliff at our favorite OC "secret spot" is truly a fun day.

El Paipo Knee Machine 54

Photo by Don Long.
9. In terms of a collector what are your favourite paipo boards and why?
Again, I'll have to defer to the Noll Egg since there are so few left. I believe Greg had a North Shore surfer named Val Valentine make them and apply the Noll logo. The concave design and the egg-shape of the board makes this paipo a fast board to ride.
10. I believe you also collect snowboards and swim fins (flippers). What are some of the fins you have in your collection? Any favourites?
Older Duck Feet, UDT's, and a few swim pool type models. I cherish the old green gum rubber Churchill fins. I am always on the lookout for another pair of these. Owen Churchill was a genius.

Early gum rubber green Churchill fins with the Gardena P.O. Box stamp and patent numbers

Photo by Don Long.
11. Do you still ride a paipo? Where do you surf and what boards do you ride?
Since I live in Colorado, I fly fish in the summer and ski during the winter. David and I are headed to Molokai in October of 2011, so I'll ask him to pack a Black Sheep Paipo in with the body boards.
12. Any waves or surfs stand out over the years?
Yes. Most people who travel to Puerto Escondido never catch the cove breaking at Playa Carrizalillo which is north of town. David and I caught perfect 4-6 ft. clean left and right point break for 3-4 days in a row. The wave seemed to alternate every few hours. I will never forget taking off a little deeper than I should have on a huge spitting Puerto Escondido tubular wave in the early 1990's, and "making it" out the other side. The wave jacked up all of a sudden and turned into a speed run over the rocks below. Dig in and pray you make it. I was deep into the Green Room as they say. Time stood still. David was paddling out and witnessed my most memorable ride ever. We still laugh about it.
13. Any other comments?
Hot tip for collectors: I'd be buying up all the Romanosky Spoons (fiber glass) I could get my hands on. They are piece of art and a kick to ride. I know Steve Pezman, of Surfer's Journal, had Ron make him one before I moved to Colorado.

I'd like to thank retired Judge Robert Gardner for showing this kid from Iowa how to really body surf when I moved to Corona del Mar in 1967. You could always find Bob and his daughter Nancy at Little Corona Beach catching the best little tube rides or skin diving the rocky shore line. I visited with him at his residence in 2001, and told him how much his advice had influenced my career in law enforcement. He presented me with one of his very last copies of his purist book, The Art of Bodysurfing. I understand Bob passed on in 2005, at the age of 93. I am certain he is catching perfect waves in heaven with his old friend, John Wayne.

A 13-year-old David Long on the left and Australia's "Wingnut" on the right. Pipeline.

Photo courtesy Don Long.

David, Don's son, has been riding a boogie board for many years. In more recent times he has been riding one of Rick Boufford's Black Sheep paipo [see Note 2]. A few words from David follow:
Bob Green: David, I read that you also ride paipo. I'd also be interested to hear about your experience riding a paipo and what you enjoy about it.
Being a body boarder and body surfer the vast majority of my life, it was a smooth transition to the paipo. No other vehicle provides you with such a natural sensation as you're cranking a bottom turn into a wedging section. It's quite a kick in the ass watching heads turn in the lineup, trying to figure out what the heck you're riding.

In Southern California, I have found the coves of Laguna to be best suited for paipo riding, as well as Point Mugu. My old man got me into it years ago when we used to take his Greg Noll egg out and let 'er buck. Good times!

David B. Long, 34, Santa Clarita, California

David at Wedge.

Photos by Ron Romanosky.

David Long on his 1960s Wind N Sea paipo -- sequence at Pt. Mugu, CA.

Photos by Ron Johnson.

Guy and Kevin Lewis with their vintage Morey collection

Photo courtesy Kevin Lewis.

Note 1: Guy was a high school teacher in Califronia, a college championship swimmer, and also held long distance swimming records while an over-55 competitor in southern CA open-ocean swimming events. He lost a leg to a blood clot, had medical complications, and died a few days later. A prince of a man.

Note 2. See the Black Sheep Paipo Interview with Rick Boufford.

Feel free to send me suggestions, comments and additional information to: The Paipo Interviews

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Last updated on: 06/20/11