Or how the most enduring sex symbol in the world almost inspired the modern shortboard …
The story bounces in a strange way.
Opportunities are missed, opportunities are created, people zigzag when they should zag, sometimes they end up in the mud, sometimes they make history.
Around Malibu there are a lot of surfers who ride many different surfboards, but all of them (except the alaia flyahs) can trace their ancestors back to a time in the late 1940s when California surfers were flying. straight and fast on 11 feet. boards that weighed up to 100 pounds – but they wanted something different.
This Something Different was inspired by a woman surfing around Malibu and if the story had rebounded a little differently, this woman could have been Marilyn Monroe.
sweet sixteen is my title for a found reel of late 1940s surf footage that was discovered in Malibu in 2004. Sweet Sixteen is the 16 minute 16mm film shot by a Malibu / Latigo Shores resident named John Larronde, well that surf historians who saw the footage believe it was shot by God, because anyone who filmed those epic glimpses of empty and perfect Malibu and Rincon and the double Overhead Ventura Overhead back and forth, not only knew how manipulating a camera, they also knew what surfers and spots and boards and cars and girls would do backflips to surf historians sixty years later.
sweet sixteen has several shots of a tall, strong Nordic man doing a tandem from the top of First Point to the beach with a slender pretty woman in a swimming cap standing on his shoulders.
The man is Pete Peterson, and the woman…. Well it’s not Marilyn Monroe and it’s a shame, because it could have been.
What if things had worked out a little differently back then – and some guys had dated certain girls – Marilyn Monroe could have had a profound effect on surfboard design as the girl who inspired the short board.
Gerry Lopez called Tommy Zahn, “the greatest surfer in the world … because he fucked Marilyn Monroe”.
It’s true that Zahn and Marilyn were in close contact. Zahn was a first-rate waterman who was handsome like a movie star – the Laird Hamilton of the thirties and forties. He and Norma Jean Baker were hired at 20th Century Fox at the same time, and some say it was a love triangle between Zahn, Norma Jean and Darrilyn Zanuck – the daughter of studio manager Darryl Zanuck – that fired Norma Jean and Zahn. the lot.
Regarding Norma Jean Baker, Tommy Zahn was quoted in the book Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe by Anthony Summers,
“She was in perfect condition. Extremely fit. I used to take him surfing at Malibu-tandem surf: you know, two riders on the same surfboard. I would take it later, in the middle of winter when it was cold, and she didn’t mind at all; she was lying in the cold water, waiting for the waves. She was very good in the water, very robust, therefore in good health, a very good attitude towards life. I was twenty-two when I met her and I guess she was twenty. My God, I really liked him.
Craig Stecyk told a similar story in The Surfer’s Journal,
“A strikingly beautiful woman walks up to Dave Rochlen on the beach and asks him who the manufacturer of his surfboard is. He informs her that he is building his own and she replies that she would like to place an order. That evening, the lady shows up in the Rochlen board building area (located in his girlfriend Honey Bear Warren’s garage) with her husband in tow. The man also orders one and is the friendly type. This man finds it interesting that Rochlen makes surfboards in the garage of the Governor of the State of California. Dave finds it remarkable that the guy is none other than the idol of the morning, Gary Cooper.
Another story goes that Tommy Zahn and Dave Rochlen were surfing Malibu Point on August 16, 1947; a continuation of the story of Marilyn Monroe,
“The point. Evening, full moon. Two surf dogs make a double date in a 1934 Ford Roadster, with boards in the back,” wrote Craig Stecyk. “The men: Tom Zahn and Dave Rochlen. The Women: Darrylin Zanuck (daughter of “Cinema Czar” Richard Zanuck) and Norma Jean Baker Tom and Darrylin arranged ‘Rocky’ with Norma Jean Baker, who would later be better known as Marilyn Monroe.
Apparently, Zahn, Norma Jean and Zanuck fixed this love triangle, so it’s Darrilyn Zanuck and not Norma Jean Baker / Marilyn Monroe who will turn out to be the day before the modern shortboard.
In sweet sixteen, there is a shot of three people sitting on the beach, two men playing the ukulele and a girl between them, looking at the guy on the left. He is Tommy Zahn, tanned and fit and looks like a movie star. After that, there’s a photo of a woman paddling an indoor wave in Malibu on a shorter board, awkwardly getting to her feet and then descending in style to the beach.
Is that Darrilyn?
And is that Darrilyn’s advice?
In the summer of 1947, Tommy Zahn commissioned Joe Quigg to do a “Girl Novice Painting” for Darrilyn. It had to be short and light, easy for a girl to carry, and it had to fit in the back of a Town and Country convertible.
Thinking of Darrilyn Zanuck many years later, Joe Quigg said to Malcolm Gault-Williams,
“She probably thinks of herself as the original Gidget. She was in Malibu, really the first girl to buy a surfboard and buy a convertible and stick the surfboard in the back and drive up to Malibu and hike the coast and learn to surf. Among the Malibu Girls, she was the first Malibu girl to actually do this.
This was a special board for his best friend’s daughter, so Quigg picked the best redwood and balsa from five different lumberyards and made a 10 ‘2 “redwood / balsa tree with 50/50 rails, rocker curved rail, a flat planning bottom and a fin.
The board was quickly named “the loosest board on the west coast” and you wonder how much Darrilyn actually got to ride it. As the story goes, after Zahn and Darrilyn went their separate ways, Darrilyn launched a commando raid on Zahn’s garage to retrieve the board.
In August 1947, the Los Angeles Surf Team took a surfari to San Onofre. Dave Rochlen, Kivlin, and Pete Peterson borrowed this “newbie girl board” and started inventing the California hotdog, right away.
The board was faster and more maneuverable than anything else in the water.
“It is immediately evident that Rochlen is turning four times faster and throwing himself into situations that would have been previously unthinkable,” wrote Craig Stecyk. “Pete Peterson then takes the board and instantly tilts and spins in an obvious deviation from his patented runaway style. Kivlin is intrigued and quickly decides to get one for his girlfriend.
The board is even lighter than the more advanced Simmons model – perhaps because Simmons always believed heavier boards were better.
Quigg said the board had “the full suit” and called it The Easy Rider,
“I’ve been building girls’ boards since the start of ’47,” Quigg told surf reporter Paul Holmes. “It helped the girls keep their tails wide. I would put in what I called an “easy-rider” rocker. They were really easy to drive. Many girls learned to surf these boards in just a few months.
The Darrilyn Board is considered the forerunner of modern shortboards because that’s when the best surfers in California realized that less was more, that they didn’t need 11ft, 100lb boards for. wave masts at the pier.
That same year, Quigg, Kivlin and Zahn made their first trip to Hawaii. Along the way, Quigg sketched out a narrow plank with a pintail, which Quigg said could be good for speed in those more important days in Malibu and Rincon.
From there, surfboards quickly turned into boards and inevitably plastics.
And if Tommy Zahn had changed his dating habits a bit, the mother of all modern shortboards could have been one of America’s biggest movie stars.