Bill Urbany goes off the lip at The Cove, P.O.P. circa 1973
I am 56 years old. I still ride a short board (6’4”) out at Rincon. I surf almost every day mostly at Rincon. There are a lot of other guys out there in my age group surfing regularly at Rincon, some on short boards, some on long boards. We are a very competitive group and very respectful of each other as well as the younger crew. I have learned a lot from the younger crew and really admire their surfing and have been schooled on many occasions by young, hot surfers. They inspire me as well as my contemporaries.
I started surfing in 1966 at the age of 12 on the north side of the Santa Monica Pier. I started making surfboards at the age of 15 in my friend’s backyard and selling them by the age of 16. I began working as a shaper at Jeff Ho, Zephyr Productions in 1973 where I received my professional training from Jeff Ho. I left Jeff Ho, Zephyr Productions in January of 1976 and traveled to New Zealand, Australia, Japan and Hawaii. I returned to Venice in 1978 and worked for Con Surfboards, Natural Progression Surfboards and Graphlite Surfboards. I became a real estate agent in 1979 in Venice. I continued shaping as well as being a full time real estate agent. I spent several winters on the North Shore of Oahu and owned a property at Rocky Point on Oahu from 1987 to 1994. I moved to Santa Barbara in 1994 to become part of a very rich surfing community and to surf the “Jewel of the Coast, Rincon” and to raise a family. I have a wife. Lara and four kids, Sean 18, Devin 16, Cassidy 11, and Kai 6. The whole family surfs. I am a full time real estate agent at Prudential California Realty here in Santa Barbara. I stopped shaping surfboards in 1995. I still think like a shaper and I will probably shape surfboards later in my life.
The Zephyr Surf Team and Skate Team are where the name “Dog Town” came from, they are my roots. I am one of the original Pacific Ocean Park (“P.O.P.”) Cove Locals. P.O.P is an amusement Park that was like Cony Island and was located at the beach in Ocean Park, the boarder line of Venice and Santa Monica. P.O.P. was built in the early 1900’s and was closed and abandoned sometime in the mid 60’s. There was an area of water below the amusement park which was surrounded by pilings with rides above it that made for a very good right breaking wave. It was enclosed by the pilings and impossible to see from the beach. The surrounding area was run down and largely ignored by the police which made it very seedy and ghetto like. There were two well known gangs, the Bloods and the Crips along with countless bums, all of whom occupied the area. There was graffiti everywhere along with many vacant bombed out looking buildings. This was the landscape we surfed in front of. It is said that Micky Dora discovered the Cove and we all surfed there with him on many occasions. One funny story is about a time that Johnny Fain showed up at the Cove looking for Mickey. Mickey was Johnny’s nemesis from the long board days, specifically at Malibu. Johnny asked me if Mickey was out there and then he asked where to paddle out. This was a funny question to me since it was coming from a historical, famous surfer. I gave him directions and told him to watch out for the pilings.
P.O.P. was burned down sometime in the winter of 74/75 and removed completely by the end of 1975, our surf spot was gone. At about the same time the Zephyr skate team was started and with the new wheels and trucks, a revolution began. The Zephyr Skate Team changed the way skating was done at a contest, the Del Mar Nationals, held in California in March 1975. Sometime in 1976 the Jeff Ho, Zephyr Surf Team, Skate Team and and Surf Shop was disbanded with all of it’s members going in different directions, some with sponsorships and lucrative skateboard contracts. Soon after, the name “Dog Town” was created and became synonymous with the area and “Ghetto” surf/skate style that began at the end of the road, at the beach inside a maize of pilings with abandoned, “Fun Park” rides above. Jeff Ho continues to make surfboards and skateboards under the Jeff Ho, Zephyr label. The original Jeff Ho, Zephyr surf shop on Bay and Main in Santa Monica was designated a historical landmark in 2007 in honor of the surfing and skating history that began there.
So, maybe it will be interesting for people here in SB to read a little about the Dog Town story along with hearing that some “Old Guys” still ride short boards, take good care of their bodies and still compete with each other in a respectful but aggressive way, every day at one on of the best surf spots in the world, Rincon. Also, the old guys reading a story about another old guy that won the Legends Division at the Rincon Classic might be interested in knowing the specs on what I rode in the contest, a 6’4” x 20” x 2 3/4” Channel Islands, Kelly Slater, Black Flag Whip, with the quad fin set up. The surf was head high with good conditions, the finals were 20 minutes in length and the judges scored us on our top 2 waves.
Rincon Classic 2011
P.O.P. on Fire
»wrote on 03.02.11 @ 12:45 PM
hey..super article….hi bill….i was a Santa Monica girl…i remember P.O.P, loved it, remember my friends surfing the ‘cove’. i was in Wyoming when the fire took out the park…it was devastating to those of us who had come of age there on that turf. Was never the same afterward. thanks for posting this…i have some pics of you in Costa Rico surfing at the end of the Osa…our families were there at the same time. Great you are surfing and your family joins you! VEry very cool! see you on the beach!
»wrote on 03.02.11 @ 05:49 PM
Hey Bill - thanks for sharing that history. I had a foggy idea that it was your board company and I recognized the name from back in the day didn’t realize you had moved to SB. South Bay and Malibu were foreign countries to
us in the 70’s. Lots of guys from there coming to surf Rincon then. Some of them even turned out to be good guys although we wouldn’t have admitted it back then when localism was at it’s peak, for around here anyway. One
day last winter on one of the really good days I saw Davey Hilton, Glen Kennedy and Alan Sarlo in the water, all friends now. And now that you set the bar for us other old guys the pressure is on. Look forward to seeing you in the water.
»wrote on 03.02.11 @ 07:37 PM
Bill, Congrats on the win AND on your award at Prudential yesterday!
It’s inspiring to hear about your success in all areas, family, business, and surfing!
»wrote on 03.03.11 @ 03:35 AM
Hey Bill, Great article and fun to read. I remember P.O.P. growing up. It was there that I rode on my first roller coaster. Care free living back then. Congratulations on your surfing title and your award with Prudential.
»wrote on 03.03.11 @ 09:46 PM
Bill good story.
I used to deliver press courier news paper and we would win trips to P.O.P. for selling subscriptions. I can stillsee those rides going out over the water. Talk about a dumpy area that place was scary around there. bums and biker hangout. The late 60’s and early 70’s was a great
time to be a surfer n skater in the area between Santa
Barbara and Santa Monica.
»wrote on 03.06.11 @ 03:42 AM
Great article, Bill. I grew up in Palos Verdes, surfing at Rat Beach in Redondo/Torrance. We would walk down from my grandmother’s house, two of us carrying those heavy, wooden boards, and helping each other in and out of the water. POP was a lot of fun and a great playground. Thanks for the memories and I hope we can surf together sometime in Costa Rica! Pura vida.
»wrote on 03.07.11 @ 05:00 PM
You guys are still bigger than life. I worked for Sarlo Realty in 1980 for Chuck,Shirley,Mike and Alan (Wave killer). Great to hear that you are alive and well in S.B. Great story Bill thanks for telling it.
»wrote on 03.12.11 @ 10:51 PM
What a great story! I’m proud of being a part of Jeff Ho/Zephyr crew and learned a lot from all the team mates as well as enjoying my student life in Santa Monica. Today, I’m riding 7’4” Super Fish shaped by Jeff Ho as shown in my profile photo of LinkedIn. I still have one 7’4” diamond tail gun that you shaped and I airbrushed.
I’m missing the cove and Venice Breakwater. How’s Wayne Inoue?
Do you remember that his board hit me in the head while surfing at Holywood-by-the-sea?
»wrote on 07.06.11 @ 12:27 PM
“The second T is breaking!” Low tide on a summer day down at station #2, we could see the T from there and it was firing… me and Craig Precon and Skip Engblom running down the beach… Outside,we could see Billy Hamilton (Laird’s father I believe) cranking a huge cutback. We paddled out and it was pumping. I was on my paipo-like bodyboard and as I turned around to paddle into a double overhead screamer Skip was yelling “Go Drewbart! Go!” ....
»wrote on 08.03.11 @ 04:35 PM
Wow what a fun story..loved it
»wrote on 02.12.12 @ 03:37 PM
Great story…...thanks for sharing !!!!!!
Much respect keep charging .
»wrote on 02.13.12 @ 05:38 AM
Hi Bill you and Allan sold us our 1st house in Venice , Hope all is well
Myron and Laura Hyman
»wrote on 02.15.12 @ 10:34 PM
Hi Bill, its been years since we’ve spoken and I felt bad after the Dogtown Fest was cancelled because of the promoter. I hope all is well with you and I’m glad that Jimmy posted this link on Facebook. I run a Vintage Dogtown page on Facebook and many of our friends are on there and post pics of you from the old days. I really enjoyed this story, thanks for writing it.
»wrote on 08.14.12 @ 03:19 AM
Interesing perspective on the cove a hand full of us know the ones that were there 2olderhot surfers and 3 upcoming kids from class of1972 venice high take care old friend t
»wrote on 10.04.12 @ 09:01 PM
Thanks for the memories. mike
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