History Of Surfing: Miki Dora’s Final Q&A

"Freedom from affectation and all affiliation," and other eloquent kernels from Da Cat

Miki Dora’s HOS entry landed this week, and Matt Warshaw pulled out all the stops for surfing’s magnetic bandit, our rebel for all times. Dora’s style at mid-’50s Malibu was a thorough mix of forces: the aggression of stepfather Gard Chapin, the incremental gracework of Matt Kivlin, the regality of Tubesteak and Billy Bengston with little of their social pomp out of the water. But regardless of how well you thought you knew him, or how much you like his legacy, you see Dora’s smudged fingerprint on surfing every day. Here’s Warshaw, from the chapter:

Most surfers, though, admired Dora, many to the point of zealotry, believing that Dora lied, stole, and scammed because that was the only way a genuine surfing purist could get by. Even those who regarded Dora as little more than an charismatic sociopath felt a kinship with him. Few played the rebel with Dora’s commitment, but nearly all surfers embraced the concept and lived the part in smaller ways. Maybe they’d never commit felonies in the name of wave-riding, but for a few extra hours in the surf they’d ditch class or leave work early; or lie to their parents, their boss, their wife; or speed through red lights just to get to the beach two minutes quicker. Dora’s transgressions were everyone’s, writ large. By championing him, surfers championed themselves.

Don’t miss reading this chapter. Click here to read it in full.

There’s also a bonus from Warshaw, from his HOS blog (Didn’t know about it? Click here. It’s where Warshaw rounds out each week’s chapter with added insight, archival content, and more): A Miki Dora interview with SURFER, and his final Q&A, from September of 1969, conducted by editor Drew Kampion. Below is a portion of their conversation:

***

DK: What part does surfing play in your life today?

MD: When there’s surf, I’m totally committed; when there’s none, it doesn’t exist.

What are your opinions on the new group of younger surfers and their boards?

I sincerely wish them all the luck in the world. There just might come a time when they’ll need it.

Do you think that you have been slighted or played down by the media over the years?

It’s to be expected; the media is impersonal. They care little whether I live or die. So what? It’s irrelevant. I know what I stand for, and that’s all that’s important.

What is the most important thing to you?

Besides myself, the pursuit of happiness.

What is your general philosophy of life and survival today?

It’s really quite simple. Freedom from affectation and all affiliation. To expound upon the subject will only bring more ridicule upon myself.

How old are you now?

Hmm, now that’s a good question. Well, approximately one year younger than the world renowned aquanaut and international surfing master of ceremony Rick Grigg. Although I’m nine years older than Bunker Spreckels, the genetic space child, who represents the opposite end of the professional spectrum. Neither of the two can I comprehend or dare to understand. So you see the subject matter is as meaningless as the question.

Are you a religious person?

No, I don’t believe so. But I’m deeply concerned with the conceptive and preceptive mysteries of stigmata.

Why did you drop the name Chapin?

That is actually a personal family question, but I can tell you this much, Gard Chapin, a unique surfing frontiersman, either remembered or not, had a profound influence in my life. His untimely premeditated murder in Mexico can only be linked with his individualistic personality. For my own peace of mind I felt it would be safer to use my given name. However, I sometimes have misgivings on this decision.

Are you planning to get married?

Possibly in my ever-vague fantasies of idealism, yes. As a perverse realist, never in California.

Would you enter a contest for $1,000 or $2,000 prize money?

I ride for my pleasure only; no thanks.

Why do you think bombs were planted in your car?

Probably to blow me to bits.

Are you happy?

As long as there’s a Fourth and Fifth Amendment to the Constitution. I’m relatively happy.

***

Read the rest here!

Below is Dora’s “Cataclysm” graph, drawn by Dora himself, that pictorially describes his view on surfing’s Genesis period and its flaming demise from “professionalism.” Don’t like context-free graphs? Read the interview!

For more, visit the History of Surfing website here.

Featured Image: Severson