Mick Lowe was a World Tour surfer from the '90s and '00s. Smart and funny and always smiling beneath the clumsiest, most endearing do-it-yourself haircut ever seen outside a Dumb and Dumber movie. Loads of talent. Occy-level power. Beat Andy Irons in the finals at Snapper one year. Mick was also husky, and well-endowed around the midsection, and was thus known, not unkindly, as either "Keg with Legs" or "Keg on Legs," take your pick.
We do nicknames, and we do them well. Always have. Those dick-swinging barefoot playboys strumming ukes and giving "surf lessons" (wink wink) to the rich visiting wahines in front of the Royal Hawaiian—they didn't even know each other's real names. It was just "Ho, Steamboat!" or "Eh, Chick!" or "Dat one buggah, Turkey Love!"
I took a stroll around the neighborhood after posting Keg on Legs' EOS page last week, thinking about the arrangement and taxonomy of surfer nicknames, and came up with this starter list:
SCARY ANIMALS: the Bull, the Snake, Bear, Bronco, Beast, Dingo, Kong
POTENTIALLY SCARY ANIMALS: the Dog, the Cat, the Mongoose, Kanga, Hog
NOT-SCARY ANIMALS: Seabass, Beaver, Impala, Prawn, Rabbit, Gopher, Sandcrab
BLACK OR WHITE: White Fijian, Black Knight, White Lightning, Black Butch, Whitey, Blackout
CHEERFULLY REPELLENT: Grubby, Greasy, Cheese, Smelly, Funky
MOBBED-UP: Tiny Brain, Surf Muscle, the Enforcer, and of course, Mob
BUGS: Flea, Fly, Roach
BIRDS THAT I MYSELF HAVE BEEN SEEN LESS THAN FIVE MILES FROM MY HOUSE: Owl, Hawk, Condor
HEADSHOTS: Bonehead, Burrhead, Jughead, Panhead, Tiny Brain
CARTOON CHARACTERS / LESSER SUPERHEROES: Antman, Iceman, Bam-Bam, Mr. X, Enforcer, Skeletor, Daffy
EMASCULATING: Midget, Micro, Noodles
Boozer is my favorite nickname that isn't actually a nickname. The radical OG Huntington Beach goofyfooter was just was straight-up christened John Boozer
Malibu, our most fecund of surfing locations, not only gave us Tubesteak, that flawless two-syllable pearl of nickname perfection, but also Gidget, the surfer nickname heard 'round the the world.
Raging Bull. Yeah it does a nice bump and grind leaving your month, but given Mark Occhilupo's sweet disposition, as well as his love of the couch, Ferdinand the Bull would have been a better fit (Remember Ferdinand? Kids' story about the bull who wouldn't fight? Ghandi loved it. Hitler burned it).
I also gave some thought to famous surfers who don't have nicknames. In many cases I suppose the nickname finger simply ignores you for no real reason. But there are also people whose bearing and demeanor and reputation are more or less nickname-proof. Lopez and Curren. Tom Blake. The Duke. Their halos burn a little brighter than your average Hall of Famer. A little too bright, maybe. You may love and revere these surfers, but you will not easily imagine splitting a pizza with them, or watching the game on Sunday at their place. On the other hand, Heineken-scented flecks of Rabbit Bartholomew's spittle bedewed my cheeks as he leaned in, clasped my shoulder, and scream-laughed a punchline at me during a North Shore house party in the winter of 1988. I barely knew the man. That kind of thing is scientifically proven to be 10,000-times more likely to happen to you while talking to a nicknamed-legend surfer, than to one without.