Friday, January 11, 2013

"WHO AM I? #3", by Cal Porter

                                                       WHO AM I?

Photo by Don James. Courtesy of Cal Porter.

Old timers should not have much trouble in guessing the identity of this legendary lifeguard, surfer, and all time waterman of yesterday.   For younger guys it may take a bit longer (unless you’ve been reading the works of Professor, Lifeguard, Art Verge lately).  He is seen here reshaping my own Pacific Systems, balsa-redwood surfboard (or one just like mine) in the late 1930’s or early 40’s, over seventy years ago.  Twice during those years he had me bring it to him at his workshop under the pier to “reshape it a bit and make it faster”, he said.  That board that I bought from County Lifeguard, Chauncey Granstrom in 1939 is now bolted to the wall in the Zuma Headquarters where it has rested for fifty years or so with all our names engraved on it.   

Cal's trophy board referenced above in text. Photo by Will Maguire.

He was an idol of mine and many others from the time I was a teen-age, high school kid, lifeguard in the old Venice Salt Water Plunge that was on the beach where the present day skate board park is.  He would often come to the plunge in the late afternoon after his beach shift along with a few lifeguard buddies for a workout swim in the warm salt water that was pumped into the pool from the ocean.  He had become a lifeguard when his section of Santa Monica Bay first organized its beach force in 1932.  During his over thirty years of service he invented the yellow, inflatable rescue tube with a snap hook, line and harness in 1935; it was named for him ever after.  He created and built lifeguard rescue dories and rescue paddleboards, and also built surfboards of all kinds: fiberglass hollow boards, foam boards, plywood, balsa and redwood boards.  He was the premier waterman of his era; he could do it all, swimming, diving, surfing.  One of his contemporaries summed it up best:  “He was muscular and lean, but didn’t look like anything special, but when he got in the water he was the best”. 

Most old guys have guessed by now, but for others: 

He was the four-time winner of the Pacific Coast Surf Riding Championships in 1932, 1936, 1938, and 1941.  Nobody else won more than one.  He was recognized as the best surfer in the United States at the time and was inducted into the International Surfing Hall of Fame in 1966.  He won almost all of the tandem surfing contests he entered, and with many different partners, even well into his fifties including the 1966 world championships when he was 53 years old.  He was a master paddler setting marks in all categories from 100 yard sprints to 26 mile open-ocean marathons; this was when paddleboard racing and lifeguarding were closely allied.  He was part of the first wave of surfers to go to Hawaii in 1932.  He was the first to paddle from the mainland to Catalina, and he paddled the 30 miles from Anacapa Island to Santa Monica.  His photo was the first ever publicized of a surfer riding a wave at Malibu, the photo appearing in the Los Angeles Times in September, 1934.  He was in great demand in Hollywood movies for many years as the best aquatic stunt man around, and he starred in short documentary films featuring his aquatic exploits.  This lifeguard was the consummate waterman, he could do it all, and better than any. 

Photo by Tom Blake.  Courtesy of Cal Porter



("Who Am I? #3" Copyright Cal Porter 2013. Published here with permission.)

*** Many Thanks to Cal for another great story about this 20th Century Lifeguard-Waterman Extraordinaire ! ***

And lest we forget, our readership is again encouraged to contribute stories, photos, rescues, etc. from their lifeguarding days to share with their colleagues.  To those of our readership who have contributed we say "Thanks Very Much!"  


Until next time.....

"County Recurrent" News

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