“No one rides for free.” As if we needed reminding, this trucker adage can be found plastered on the bumpers of questionable vehicles alongside icons of a gas pump, weed leaf and Mudflap Girl—each presumably an accepted fare for a lift. Creepy highway creatures aside, there’s always a cost for getting somewhere worth going—you know, like a place where there are waves? Unless, of course, your name is Miki Dora.
In the ’60s, before computers and credit cards, airplane tickets were written by hand. Dora obtained a stack of these hand-written tickets from a girlfriend who worked for Pan Am. In his new book, “Church of the Open Sky”, Nat Young shares this story. “Miki was a master forger,” Young writes. “He had a perfect set-up for working on documents in his apartment in Brentwood – a draftsman’s board with powerful lights.” Young even flew from Australia to Europe using one of Dora’s tickets.
Imagine Dora, sitting in his forging den, disillusioned by the hoards of “clones” burning each other at Malibu, spinning a globe and putting his finger on some far-flung locale. Then announcing to Scooter, his beloved King Charles Cocker Spaniel, that they were going to Europe, Africa, Costa Rica, or wherever the hell he wanted. Yes, according to Young, Dora took his dog with him on these fraudulent flights, stowed away inside his big black trench coat. Scooter Boy was even plane-broken and could use the toilet onboard—the duo must’ve really racked up a lot of miles to learn that trick.
While Dora may have been chasing waves the world over on Pan Am’s dime, he eventually paid a different price for his “Catch Me If You Can” exploits. “Paranoia and loneliness followed Miki wherever he went,” Joel Tudor wrote in Surfer Magazine in 2009. “He always felt someone was after him, which may have been true. A life of defiance can age a man very quickly, and after years of giving everyone the finger, Miki succumbed to jail time and living in seclusion.”
Dora’s airplane ticket scam barely scratches the surface of why he’s surfing’s most loved and hated antihero. The fact that Dora “got over” on the airline industry, one that’s been known to price gouge surfers and break boards, surely sounds like doing the lord’s work to some. But then again, maybe Dora’s exploitation is partly responsible for why airlines have been known to treat surfers so shitty—it’s the type of conundrum symbolic of Dora’s whole, conflicted life.
Nowadays, the only way to scam a free flight is to roll the dice as a wheel-well stowaway, where there’s hardly enough room for your body let alone your surfboard. At least there’s a trend among the airlines right now of doing away with board bag fees. So even though you probably won’t be flying for free like Dora anytime soon, at least your boards will.