Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"1987 Zuma Crew", by Greg Pfeifer

Editor's note: The following blog post came about quite by chance when I happened to focus in on the names on the longboard in the photo above at Zuma HQ recently from the year 1987. That year of 1987 turns out to have been quite a 'pivotal' year for the Zuma competition crew, however, and rather than try to tell it ourselves, we are very pleased to bring you the remarks of Greg Pfeifer, a LACo OLS now, and a seasoned Ocean Lifeguard competitor even back then.


"1987 Zuma Crew", by Greg Pfeifer

"It was the best of times and it was the worst of times! In 1987 we had a great crew at Zuma. We were a real team with great camaraderie. We worked together, made rescues together, surfed together, trained together, competed together and partied hard together.

The sport of lifeguard competition, or surf lifesaving, was invented in Southern California, but by 1980 the Australians had taken the ball and run away with it. Top surf lifesaving "ironman" champions in Australia were sponsored, well paid and respected professional athletes who graced the cover of "Wheaties" boxes. They were basically kicking our butts whenever we competed.

Zuma recurrent lifeguard Scott Hubbell decided it was time to try to do something about that so he started hustling sponsors, created the "Professional Surf Lifesaving Association" and started putting on surf lifesaving competitions up and down the Southern California coast. By 1987 this had evolved into the "Bud Light Tour" also known as the "burn tour" because by the end of summer you were completely burned out from racing every weekend!

In the spring of 1983
, Scott put together an L.A. County team to compete in the World Surf Lifesaving Champioships in Hawaii. The team consisted of veteran ironmen like Mike Stevenson, Dan Mathies, and John Baker, guys who were a little younger like Kip Jerger and Mike Newman and young up and comers like Paul Donohue and myself. I took spring quarter off from UCSB, rented a room in my old SMC teammate John O'Rourke's house in Oxnard and trained hard. O'Rourke was rowing with Pete Desimone at that time and they ended up winning the NDA championship that year. O'Rourke and I were so fired up on competition we got everybody at Zuma fired up to win the Taplin.

Taplin night 1983 the late great Paul Donohue led off for our team and blew everyone out of the water! Nobody came close to challenging us, we won by a very comfortable margin! We were all so stoked, we really bonded as a team and that team spirit carried us to victories in 1984, 1985 and 1986. So going into 1987 we had won four years in a row.

Meanwhile, down south in Huntington Beach, John O'Rourke was hired as a permanent lifeguard for the State in 1984. He formed the Orange Coast Dory Club and got the crew down there fired up to beat his old team and win the Taplin. In 1987 he put together a State South All-Star team that featured ironman champion Mitch Kahn swimming, paddling and rowing! Long story longer, they beat us and this lead to the "Mitch Kahn" rule in the Taplin outlawing doubling and tripling up and requiring a 16 man team.

In those days they used to give plaques to each member of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place Taplin teams. Our motto at Zuma was "there is no second place!" and those 2nd place plaques were frisbees!

The U.S.L.A. nationals were held in Honolulu for the first and only time that summer after the Taplin.
The surf was pumping and the competition was epic. I ended up beating Mitch Kahn to win the American ironman championship. That was sweet, but the whole Zuma crew had a bitter taste in our mouths from losing the Taplin because we were all about the team.

We re-grouped, trained hard and ended up winning the Taplin for the next five years in a row, making it a run of nine out of ten years before the dynasty ended!

A partial list of the Zuma crew that were part of that dynasty includes: Paul Donohue (R.I.P.), Scott Hubbell, Craig Mattox, Craig Rond, Bob Janis, John Baker, Alf Laws, Mark Valance, Greg Lee, David Clarke, Joe Everett, Simon Snyder, John O'Rourke, Pete Desimone, Jim Jacobson, Dale Hast, Randy DiGregory, Roger Smith, Steve Snyder, Eldin Onsgard, Jim Doman, Norton Wisdom, Gene Rink, Frank Brooks, Kerry O'Brien, Trace Nieland and myself."


*** Photo below shows Greg Pfeifer, at right, with LACo Lifeguard Capt., Ret., John Baker, at left; August 2008 at Jake's retirement party. Photo by & courtesy of Will Maguire.

Pfeifer Postscript: "I saw legendary waterman Peter Cole on the North Shore last month and had a nice chat. He talked about the L.A. City team that he was on in the the 1950's that was the first, and up to that time the only team to beat the County in the Taplin. He swam and paddled, Buzzy Trent doubled up, Ed Perry was on that team. He was surprised when I told him about the "Mitch Kahn rule!"

He is 80 years old now and has had some health and shoulder issues that have prevented him from surfing the last few years. He did, however surf big Sunset Beach, without a leash until he was 76! He was one of the first to surf Waimea Bay and surfed it big, never with a leash, well into his 60's.

He once asked me about J.J. He said he was a really nice guy and told me how he graduated early from Samohi in 1950 and worked out with J.J. at City College and even swam a meet for him. He had a swimming scholarship to Stanford where he went on to be an All American and he said swimming in that meet cost him a year of eligibility at Stanford!

Copyright Greg Pfeifer 2011. All Rights Reserved. Used here with permission.


Many Thanks to Greg for taking the time to write down these remarks that tell the tale of Zuma Domination in the 1980's. Thanks as well for the Johnny Joseph (JJ) shout out and Peter Cole postscript.

And below is a complete list of the names that appear on the longboard trophy at Zuma HQ for the year 1987:

Capt. Steve Saylors
Lt. R. Buchanan
Lt. J. Campbell
Lt. P. Cocke
Lt. J. Richards
Lt. R. Smith
Lt. R. Walker
J. Baker
B. Barker
G. Dexter
J. Doman
B. Ingersoll
J. Jacobson
A. Laws
C. Mattox (*Lifeguard of the Year)
R. McGowen
D. Olson
J. Renaud
B. Turnbull
N. Wisdom
H. Suskin
S. Beck
J. Nugent
T. Peters
R. Mark
B. Janis
B. Mount
B. Fickerson
P. Desimone
K. O'Brien
B. Hughes
B. Wolfe
C. Hammond
S. Fisher
K. Paulson
W. Krauss
S. Snyder
T. Harwick
S. Sandlin
G. Huebner
E. Onsgard
D. Heinrich
J. Sayer
S. Hubbell
G. Pfeifer (*National Ironman Champ)
J. Heinrich
D. Hast
D. Van Doren
T. Olson
M. Moses
R. Allen
M. Stuart

Right Now, top to bottom:

M. Valance
S. Buchanan
B. Street
P. Padilla
K. Lynn
C. Nelson
F. Brooks
K. McVerry
M. Temkin
C. Makanui
J. Arwine
T. Katsouleas
S. Mulroney
C. Howley
M. Lange
T. Egan
M. Carpenter
E. Heinrich
L. Barate
B. Huey
P. Dennis
S. Perkins
D. Clarke
M. Solberg
B. Rono
P. Silka
R. Wiemann
S. Vinnedge
S. Kirkland
M. Krup
G. Rink
P. Donohue
M. Nava
D. Marchetti
G. Youssef
C. Douille
G. Shorey
S. Sturdivant
N. Skorge
S. Grigsby
D. Hurst
R. Shorey
D. Koehler
S. Warren
J. Edge
M. Willick
K. Honey
C. Ro
A. Jackson
B. Stevens
L. Dempsey (*Rookie of the Year)
B. Honey
C. Stromsoe
B. Heinrich
B. Karron
G. Merritt

*** Many Thanks to No. Section Chief Fernando Boiteux for assisting in providing us with this complete list of the 1987 Zuma Crew. 10-4.

*** *** ***

Additional Editor's Note:

Hey! Did you notice the last name, HEINRICH, on the list above. Well it appears four (4) times on that list and here is the explanation for this family of lifeguards, just in from Jerry Heinrich:

From: Jerry Heinrich
Subject: RE: ZUMA Crew: 1987
Date: March 21, 2011

There were only 4 Heinrich’s guarding Zuma back then; my older brother Ed, myself, my younger brother Dick, and Ed’s son Brad.

For approx the last 6 yrs, there has been 7 Heinrich’s working the Zuma Towers. The new comers are my two sons Chris and Tim, and Dick’s son Kyle.

Unfortunately, there are no more in the wings though Brad has 2 sons, the youngest being 1 ½ yrs old, so who knows. However, Ed & I are in our 60’s and don’t know how much longer we can keep pulling victims out of the Zuma surf and rips.

Ed’s a retired airline captain for Delta, and Dick is a retired school teacher. They have both been working full summer schedules, and living in the Village for a number of years now. I’m able to make it down there most summer weekends in order to work, surf, and see my family.

It’s been fun, and as you know, it’s more than just a job. Many of my lifelong best friends are a product of working alongside each other along the So Cal coastline.



*** Thanks Jerry!

Until next time.....

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