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Interview with Robert B. Parker II, May 24, 2005 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Robert B. Parker II, May 24, 2005
May 24, 2005
Interview of Mr. Robert V. Parker, arguably the first surfer in Wrightsville Beach, NC. Mr. Parker began surfing in 1963 and was instrumental in the development of the early surf scene in Wrightsville Beach.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Parker, Robert Interviewer:  Fritzler, Peter Date of Interview:  5/24/05 Series:  SENC (Surfing) Length  46:55


Q: My name is Peter Fritzler and I'm a librarian from the University of North Carolina- Wilmington, and I'm here at the home of Robert Parker on May 24, 2005, 205 West Kilarney Road, Wilmington, North Carolina, and the topic of today's interview is the history of surfing on Wrightsville Beach and Mr. Parker's participation in the development of surfing in this area. Tell us a little bit about how surfing kind of evolved on Wrightsville Beach and how you participated, 'cause you were the original of the originals.

Robert Parker: Well, I- I- I guess. I mean, I think there's people that go back earlier than me that- from your research and I think there's been other people that have talked about it, a man named Kidder. Uh.. I can't think of his first name but anyway--

Q: Roddy.

Robert Parker: Roddy Kidder, that's right, uh.. but I would say in the modern era of surfing, uhm.. which really has to do with uhm.. uhm.. plastic surfboards as opposed to wooden surfboards, uh.. myself and uh.. a guy named Jerry King, a guy named Jimmy Shepherd, were the original uh.. three that I remember.

Uh.. How I got started was uhm.. in 1963 I was heavily involved in waterskiing and waterskiing tournaments around the country and uhm.. in August of that year, of 1963, uh.. I was accepted at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill uh.. but right before I had left, about three to four weeks before I left to go to Chapel Hill, I uhm.. discovered a surfboard in my garage, and as it turned out my cousin, uhm.. her name is uh.. Ann Fountain, Ann Heywood Fountain, married a guy named uhm.. uh.. Gary Peterson uhm.. or Pete Peterson, they called him Pete, they called him Gary, and Gary uh.. Peterson was from uh.. Redondo Beach, California, from what I remember, but he was in the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg and he had been a surfer in California, and so when he moved to North Carolina he brought this Greg Knoll uhm.. I think it was a 9-6 uh.. and it had the old logo of Greg Knoll actually standing-, you know, a cartoon logo with him standing with a tripod and a camera on the logo. I remember that, which was pretty distinctive at the time. Uh.. So anyhow--

Q: I think he was into filmmaking too--

Robert Parker: Yeah. He-- Yeah. Greg Knoll was definitely into some of the original filmmaking around the uh.. Bay area and Los Angeles uh.. and in Hawaii uhm.. and then obviously became one of the- uh.. the original surfers to ride uh.. Big Waimea and Big Pipeline uhm.

But anyhow, so I- I discovered this surfboard and since I already had the agility to, uh.. and had been eh.. having agility around the water all my life, uhm.. I don't even remember surfing for the first time. I- I just remember that it obviously came pretty natural and that I paddled out on the north side of Johnny Mercer's Pier, which was a block from my house, I lived at 1103 uh.. North Lumina from 1949 to 1996, at least my parents did. Uh.. So I paddled out and I- eh.. I- uh.. the- the thrill of surfing hit me immediately and so I was pretty much hooked, but I was headed off to Chapel Hill three weeks later.

Uh.. I got up to Chapel Hill, uh.. was not doing well in uh.. Carolina and decided that uh.. I really was not a person to spend a lot of time inland. So I came back to uh.. what at that time was Wilmington College, and this is 19 uh.. 63, 6- 64, so March of '64 I moved back to- uhm.. to Wrightsville Beach and really that's- that summer of '64 is when Jerry, Jimmy, uhm.. and myself really got into surfing. Jerry had gone down to Florida and had discovered a Tiki board, uh.. uh.. it was uh.. from Australia, that he had bought down I think by Ron Jon's or someplace like that. Uh.. In fact, I saw Jerry today and he actually had met uh.. Murph the Surf uh.. down there uhm.. and then actually Jerry met Murph the Surf when he was doing some of his preaching in the last several years when Jerry was in jail in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Uh.. He mentioned that to me today.

But-- Uhm.. So the summer of '64 was just so alive, so energetic, so-- Uh.. It was very surreal looking back at it because we uh.. were listening to Beach Boys music, uh.. we were sitting on the porch at Jerry's house on uhm.. uhm.. uh.. I think it was Heron Street, I'm not sure which street, Seagull Street, whichever it was but uh.. and then, you know, we would pray for surf all day. I mean we would all think that-, you know, go in and burning a surfboard or whatever we did, we were tryin' to get the waves to come up, and- uh.. and- and reading uh.. about California, reading about Hawaii and dreaming about this and from the movies that were coming out at that era, uhm.. the Gidget movies were coming out, even though they were very fake and we knew that they were very fake. The one movie that really kind of set things apart was Ride-- "Ride the Wild Surf," and "Ride the Wild Surf," even though it was a Hollywood rendition of surfing uhm.. it had real surfers in it. Uh.. I think Mickey Dora was in it, uhm.. I think Greg Knoll was in it and a couple of other people. So that really-- You know, we'd go to the movie just to see the surfing part of it, you know.

Q: It was in Hawaii and it had--

Robert Parker: It was in Hawaii, yeah, and California. It was in California in the Malibu area, it was in Hawaii, so there was all this adventure to it.

Uhm.. So during that year uh.. I had discovered also Surfer magazine by John Severson and I was flippin' through it one day and I had sold-- My very- My very first sales job was selling peanuts at Johnny Mercer's Pier. My grandfather raised peanuts in Wallace, North Carolina so I kinda was familiar with selling at the pier.

So I r- I saw this logo in Surfer magazine in the summer of '64, spring or summer of '64, and uhm.. uh.. this logo in the Surfer magazine was Hansen surfboards, owned by a man named Don Hansen. Don had originally been a shaper for Hobie Alter uh.. and then went off on his own in Cardiff uh.. by the Sea, California.

So anyhow, I wrote Don Hansen a letter and I said uh.. I'm a college student, uh.. uhm.. I'd like to open up a surf shop, uh.. in fact I'm planning on opening up a surf shop called Onslow Bay Surf Shop and I would like to carry Hansen surfboards. Don wrote me a letter back and said uhm.. uh.. if you buy three surfboards you're a dealer so uh.. uh.. I sold one of the boards to Alan Rippy, uh.. I bought one of the boards and- uh.. and I sold the other board to somebody and I'm not sure who had the other one. I think maybe it was Joe or somebody, Joe Funderburg possibly, I'm not sure. Uhm.. My mother financed the whole thing through her beauty salon called Parker's uh.. Beau- uh.. Beauty Salon there in Wrightsville which she had for 47 years, supported a lot of my habits of traveling around the world from a beauty salon.

Uh.. So eh.. immediately uh.. I get the marketing thing going and I convince Don Hansen that, you know, he needs to back uh.. a surfing team to promote his brand of surfboards here on the East Coast and so we created a thing called the Onslow Bay Surf Team. Now that may have been '65. I'm not quite sure but I do know that uhm.. in January of '65- uh.. January or February or '65 I am uhm.. going across the bridge where Wings is today, which was called Newell's in those days, and I saw a 1955 custom, really beautiful '55 Chevy two door coupe with California tags on it and a surfboard inside the car. Uh.. Well, I- I- I immediately ran this guy off the road and started talking about surfing and- and- uh.. and uh.. his name was Nayland Wilkins. He was in the- He was in the air force in uh.. Seymour Johnson Air Base in uh.. Goldsboro, but was coming down to the beach every weekend. So he and I became very famous friends, and he would stay at my house on weekends, and basically my parents loved him and he had a k- key to the house and he came and went as he pleased, but we- we went surfing uh.. that summer of '65 uh.. up in Virginia Beach and Hatteras, uh.. all up and down the Carolina coast, uh.. South Carolina, uh.. and Nayland uh.. was from La Jolla, California, and had lived and surfed at Wind and Sea and was a member uhm.. of the Wind and Sea Surf Club.

Uhm.. So in August 9 of 1965, Nayland I jumped in his car, and he had just transitioned out of the air force, and we drove straight across country, never stopping, we stopped for gas only. Uh.. He would drive, I would sleep, I would drive, he would sleep, and we drove across country in three days and drove straight to Wind and Sea parking lot from Johnny Mercer's Pier, never even went to his house to see his mom, we went right to Wind and Sea parking lot.

Uh.. There was a south swell running uh.. and Wind and Sea was about six feet uhm.. uh.. and it was just- it was an incredible uhm. vision is what it was. It was a vision of- of everything that I had dreamed about, everything that I had seen in the movies, everything that, you know, was California. The shack uh.. was there, uh.. down at the bottom of the cliff there at Wind and Sea, uh.., you know, all the crazy people were there and in fact uh.. so we took the surfboards, paddled straight out and uh.. I'll never forget the very first California wave I ever caught. I fell straight off the tail block, the board flipped in the air, almost took this guy's head off uh.. and I went to the beach to get- to retrieve the board and this guy was givin' me a whole lot of grief and as it turned out uh.. this guy was Mike Diffenderfer and he was a shaper and probably one of the most famous shapers uh.. in southern California, and years later I became friends with Mike Diffenderfer and he uh.. was actually on the PGA Senior Tour for a while and he and I played a lot of golf together, we hung out down at a guy's house in Florida (clears throat) named Bill Bringhurst who would cruise through the Carolinas uh.. selling surf-related things as early as 1967.

Q: I think Joe's still in touch with him-

Robert Parker: Yeah. We- We all are in touch with Bill Bringhurst. He's- uhm.. uh.. He's a classic. Uh.. Bill Bringhurst has been in the surf sales business since 1967 and still in it today.

Uhm.. So anyhow, uhm.. I stayed in California that first time in 1965 eh.. in La Jolla. I actually got a ride up to uhm.. Cardiff, which is about 25 miles north, and spent the day with Don Hansen, uhm.. got to know Don, very friendly uh.. man. Uh.. Don's probably f- five or six years older than I am and uh.. he was very accommodating and- and so I kinda made up my mind then that- that the enjoyment of surfing, uh.. the fact it was a healthy sport, uh.. the fact it was something that you could travel doing, uh.. I decided I was gonna move back to California at some point uhm.. but I was- I- I didn't stay long in '65. I was only there about six weeks and then caught a ride back uh.. to Houston, Texas, with a guy from Point Loma who was a friend of Nayland's and also a member down at uh.. Wind and Sea and a surfboard shaper. Uh.. Uh.. His name was Ronnie McLeod [ph?], and Ronnie lived in- in Point Loma uhm.. so- and then I get- when I got to Houston I caught a plane. My mom's exp- sent me some money and I flew the rest of the way home back to Wilmington.

In 1966, as you can see from what you've discovered, uh.. the contest era kinda got started. Uh.. It may have been earlier but that's the year I remember that surfing contests were really happening and uhm.., you know, I was placing third, second, won- won a tournament- or a contest uhm.. here and there, but I discovered very early on that s- so- contests and surfing didn't make sense to me. I was not into the competitive aspects of surfing. So after '66 I pretty much forgot about contest surfing and was back in school, playing on the golf team at Wilmington College, but the bug to go back to California had bit me awful hard and so in March uh.. of 1967, I dropped out of school, which was probably one of the stupidest things you could have done in the early stages of 1967 because if you weren't in school your chances of being drafted in the United States Army and going to Vietnam were very high, but for some reason, the surfing thing overrode that.

Today, looking back, I have no idea why that was uh.. because eventually-- I was there in March through August of '67, I worked- I- and I had a job uh.. working at Hansen Surfboards uh.. rubbing rails, polishing surfboards, boxing 'em and shipping 'em, uhm.. starved my ass off, uh.. but got to really know what the true culture of surfing was about because at that point I was living the lifestyle, uh.. I had befriended- uh.. uh.. and had been befriended by people like Mike Doyle, Rusty Miller, uhm.. other guys, and in fact back in the uh.. '65, '66 era Rusty Miller and Mike used to come back to the East Coast with Hansen surfboards, they would come to Wrightsville Beach, pick me up and we would travel uh.. north mostly- yeah, we would always travel north to Atlantic Beach, Morehead area, and then we'd go to Hatteras and then we'd go to Nagansett and then on up to Virginia Beach, because we would wind up at the East Coast Surfing Championships up there and they would have a big promotion up there, Hobie would be there, Hansen would be there. Uh.. I mean all the surfing luminaries of the time were in uh.. Virginia Beach because they understood one thing, and that was the fact that the East Coast has 1800 miles of coastline that you can surf where really California only has about 400 miles, or at least at that time. Nobody surfed north of, say, Santa Barbara very much in those days because the water was too cold and wet suits weren't really that good.

Uhm.. So in- in '67 while- while living in California uhm.. I surfed my brains out. I mean I m- I hung out with- with Doyle and- and- and- and- and a- a guy named Ryan Dotson uh.. who shaped at Hansen's, Billy Brummitt[ph?] uh.. who was a glasser, uhm.. Clyde DeClaude [ph?], Clyde Goodwin was the uh.. manager there at Hansen Surfboards uh.. in the factory and in fact uhm.. in 1967 the very first uhm.. stone sep- stone steps contest was created. Uhm.. It was called the 33rd annual Stone Steps Surfing Contest and Love-In and uh.. s- so uh..-

(crew talk)

Robert Parker: Well, before we were so rudely interrupted uh.. by one Herbie Walton uhm..-- No. Please stay. Uhm.. Uh.. I was discussing the- the fact of living uh.. uhm.. eh.. in California and living the lifestyle with uh.. the people like Mike Doyle and those people in- in the San Diego area uhm.. so- and- and ironically, like I said, in- in August of '67 uhm.. I got the- the- the letter that a lot of us got uh.. which was greetings from the President of the- of the United States and uh.. I had been drafted and was headed back into the army- or headed into the army uhm.. in October of 1967.

That era of- of '67 to 1970, uh.. I did travel quite a bit uh.. in the army on leave to places like Puerto Rico with Billy Curry uhm.. and in fact uh.. kind of jumping back a- a little bit further uh.. Billy, his brother Mike, a guy named Mike Deep, who is now deceased, uhm.. Joe Funderburg, a few other people, uh.. we were sponsored uh.. uh.. by East Coast Surfboards at one point, Hansen Surfboards at one point, but Billy uh.. and I traveled. Billy really got into the contest aspect of surfing, where I dropped immediately out of it after one year. I didn't surf any contests any further because of the competitive aspect of it. I just didn't think surfing in competition was what I wanted to do, but Billy stayed in it and actually went on uh.. years later uh.. after I drug him up the coast uhm.. a couple of times uh.. but he became a world champion uh.. and today is still one of the best surfers uh.. in the United States if not the world.

Uh.. But ironically, one of the things that we did in '66, kinda regressing again back from the '67 uhm.. in California, is that we were-- At the East Coast Surfing Championships, Billy and I and some other guys, and we had my '56 uhm.. Chevy uhm.. station wagon, uh.. we were on the- on the uh.. ferry, the- the Cape May Lewes ferry going uh.. to another contest from the East Coast Championships up to New Jersey for a contest and we were m- uh.. we were on this ferry and we met this guy named Mickey Gose.[ph?] I think you and I have talked about Mickey Gose, and Mickey Gose was this guy that was the most unusual human being- or one of the most unusual human beings I had ever known. Uh.. He had an old hearse, kinda like what Joe had, and uh.. he had all his camera equipment in there, and he would stand on the top of this hearse at the East Coast Surfing Championships and film all the stuff that was going on, and so when we were on the ferry, Mickey Gose said, "Look. You guys come and stay with me tonight. I live by the Atlantic City steel pier, uh.. I'll film you guys in the morning surfing," blah blah blah. And I said great. So we stayed at his house and he had like six kids and, believe it or not, this man was the high diver off the Atlantic City steel pier and his wife jumped from a 20 foot platform on the back of a horse into the water off the Atlantic City steel pier. Yeah. So we stayed at this man's house and sleep- slept on the floor. We got up the next morning eh.., you know, when we were gonna be filmed by this guy. We were all excited but he wound up spacin' out or doin' somethin' and we didn't want to wait for him any further, and so we took off and kept going further north into New Jersey and uh.. surfing uh.. contests or whatever, but that was just- eh.. that year of '66 was- was full of- of- of traveling with Billy Curry, Mike Curry, Mike Deep, uh.. those guys, and sponsored by either Hansen or East Coast which was uh.. Lank Lancaster down there at Carolina Beach.

Uhm.. Now, jumping back to '67, like I said, I got drafted, went in the army, Billy and I went to Puerto Rico, I- I went to California several times, uhm.. but realistically uhm.. I didn't do that much surfing because in the- in January of '67, I went to Thailand for the army and wound up uh.. over in Thailand playing golf, and obviously there is no surfing in Thailand uh.. but I played golf for the United States Army for a year over there. Uhm.. Peter, I'm not sure how far you want me to continue on with this, 'cause I mean obviously then it goes on into, you know, '70s and then it goes into going back to California for the third time and getting up with OP and- and all of that. So I mean this thing--

Herb Walton: -talked about your sex life yet?

Robert Parker: No, I haven't talked about that so-- I hope you're gonna edit this thing. Yeah. Yeah.

Q: --down to Wrightsville when you guys were just startin' out.

Robert Parker: What now?

Q: When you guys were just startin' out in Wrightsville Beach in '63, '64 or '65, what was the attitude of the town? How did people respond? I mean--

Robert Parker: Well, that's a good question. Uhm.. Eh.. In the beginning down there nobody really knew what it was and you actually had to go find people to go surfing with and it was like myself-, like I said, myself, Jerry King, Jimmy Shepherd, but then there were two lifeguards that started surfing too, but there was this thing with the town now starting to control surfing then in- uh.. by about '65, '66, uhm.. but some of the lifeguards surfed, and two of the ones that I remember most was a guy named Alan Warwick and a guy named Charlie Jones, Roach Jones, and then there was another guy named ch- uh.. Charlie Davis who took the picture of me that was in Surfer magazine uhm.. but the town's attitude, which today still hasn't changed as far as I'm concerned, uh.. was pretty negative toward surfing, because obviously in those days surfing was- uhm.. uh.. it was considered uhm.., you know, just long-haired hippies and drug addicts and non-athletic people, which today uh.. surfing is a very highly athletic endeavor in this country. Uhm..-

Q: How did people react to Murph the Surf down here? Lookin' through the old issues of the Star-News his theft of the-

Robert Parker: Star of India, right.

Q: --Star of India in New York, it made front page news here in the Star News.

Robert Parker: Well, I mean it just-- Obviously, it- uh.. uh.. it cemented the fact that- that surfers were derelicts. Uh.. Murph the Surf was one of the first people to surf uh.. in Florida, not on the East Coast, in Florida, uh.. he was very good friends with Dick DeTrees [ph?], those kind of people, uh.. but Murph the Surf uhm.. pretty much kinda set a standard through the '60s of being, you know, a- a person like a surfer that would be a robber uh.. or, you know, a thief or whatever and so it was a pretty bad image uh.. that Murph the Surf was attached to surfing as far as I'm concerned. People really didn't know-- Eh.. M- Murph the Surf was almost a myth. People really didn't know who Murph the Surf was. Only a group of people in California knew about Murph the Surf.

Uhm.. Another aspect about the- the mid '60s though was that Florida obviously-, given the weather they had, Florida was the really- the germination of some of the first best surfers on the East Coast whether it was Bruce Valuzzi, uh.. Gary Proper, uh.. Mike Tabeling, uh.. all of those guys.

Q: Jeff Crawford?

Robert Parker: Jeff Crawford, part of it. Uhm.. There were some really excellent surfers, but then there were some other guys who were kind of like secondary surfers that were, you know, they were surfers but they were more like the Murph the Surf guy. There were a- a group of guys that came here. There was a guy named Bill- uhm.. Bill Singer whose family-- He was a multimillionaire. His- His father was a multimillionaire and they owned Singer Island in Florida, Bill Singer, a guy named Skinny English, uhm.. some people like that.

Well, they wound up stealing about 50 surfboards uh.. out of Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach uh.. and putting 'em in a truck and a big van, taking 'em back down to Florida, having 'em re-colored and then reselling 'em and I think- and I-- Well, actually I'm not even gonna say who I thought was involved in that but I know that Skinny English and Bill Singer and those guys were involved in that uh.. because I c- caught Skinny English one night uh.. after I'd gone to a surfing movie at the Crest uh.. in the middle of the summer, uh.. I think it was '66, uhm.. I'm walking back home along the beach, and there comes a guy in the middle of the night with my surfboard on his head. I stopped him, I got my surfboard back from him, and he acted like oh, you know, I don't know what- why I had this board or whatever, but uh.. that was Skinny English and so there was just a group of guys who came here and thought they were gonna rip off the- the- the naïve North Carolinians uh.. with surfing. Uh.. So that- that was an era uh.. that was pretty interesting.

The other thing that was kinda interesting that you see very little of today was flipping the bottle caps. People today don't really know how to flip bottle caps, but you would take a bottle cap uh.. from a Pepsi Cola or whatever and you would take and put it in your middle finger and your thumb and you would flip it and it would sail like a Frisbee across the room and so we would actually have contests of trying to hit each other in- in the head and things like that, so that was a lot of fun but- uh.. but again uhm.. surfing in the beginning here in those days was a- was a cross between the good guys and the bad guys. There were people who just- like myself who were just purely into surfing from the water a- a- and- and- and the- and the spirituality and the- uh.. just the pleasure that it gave you. I mean it was just-- It- It is the most pleasurable endeavor I think man can be involved in. You know, I'm obviously pretty prejudiced because I've been in the water ever since I was born. Uh.. Maybe somebody that lived in Ohio or Oklahoma might not think that.

Q: I got into it-

Robert Parker: And you're from Michigan. Yeah.

Q: --Wyoming-

Robert Parker: Wyoming-

Q: --Virginia via Wyoming. I started body boarding at 18 and started surfing in 2002, so I would agree that it is--

Robert Parker: Yeah. I had a--

Q: --most pleasurable endeavor to be involved in.

Robert Parker: I had a guy come in here the other day that was working on some plumbing. Eh.. This guy had to be 40 years old, maybe even more. He had just learned to surf and when I mentioned to him that- about surfing he just spent a half an hour standing in that kitchen telling me about his very first surfing experience and how it just went into his soul and, I mean, he was an excited man, and he actually got his son involved and- and they were getting up at 6 in the morning at sunrise and going surfing every day and- and so you could tell that this man had been bitten by this- this bug or whatever it is that- that enters your- uh.. your consciousness.

Q: How did you guys get to know East Coast Surfboards and Lank Lancaster and Harold Petty? Lank and Harold opened their shop in roughly the late winter of '64, '65, really the first tried-and-true surf shop that actually had a physical building.

Robert Parker: Absolutely. They had-- And in fact it was in Lank's uh.. parents' house- uhm.. or not this h- the house. It was in their uh.. grocery store. Lank's family had a grocery store in- in Carolina Beach called the Kupboard and- but how we met 'em was through this guy Jimmy Shepherd uh.. and- uhm.. and Roach Jones or Charlie Jones uh.. and Alan Warwick. They'd actually gone down there and had Lank make them two surfboards. One was a- a blue panel and one was exactly the same but was a red panel and so we went down and met them and- uh.. and in the summer of '66 I switched uh.. from Hansen Surfboards uh.. uh.. to East Coast Surfboards simply for the fact that I could go right to the factory and they would make exactly what I wanted, whereas with Hansen they just kinda sent me a board out here and I had to ride what- what I got uh.. but uh.. the other thing about Lank though, they would keep the boards. They would loan you the board, you could surf on it all summer but then they would take uh.. the board back, which was fine, whereas Hansen would sell us boards at wholesale uhm.. but Lank Lancaster uh.. and Harold Petty were very, very fair, good people and they- they actually gave us money to travel on and promote their boards, uh.. me and Billy Curry and, like I said, Mike Curry and Deep and those guys. Uhm.. So that's how we met them.

Q: You had said that Roach Jones and Alan Warwick were lifeguards.

Robert Parker: Yeah. They were lifeguards eh.. at Wrightsville Beach, yeah.

Q: So Harold and Lank had both been lifeguards in Carolina Beach and in fact Lank had at one point been the captain of the lifeguards-

Robert Parker: Yeah. See I wasn't-- Yeah. Yeah. That might have-- Yeah. They may have met that way. I'm not sure. Yeah. That-- I- I really don't know how Roach Jones and- and- uh.. and those guys met Lank uhm.. but then Lank went on and like me he went in the military years later and was with- with the CIA or somebody-

Q: Air force.

Robert Parker: He was air force intelligence. That's right. He was. Yeah.

Q: I've talked with Lank and Harold to some extent and--

Robert Parker: Well, you--

Q: --in fact that board that you're on and is behind you still exists and--

Robert Parker: Har-- Did Harold not want to sell that board?

Q: No. He was very protective of it. They have-- As far as I know, they on- there's only two boards that they have between the two of 'em and both of them collectively own the two of them. There's that board in the painting and then there is the very last board that they ever made, which is early '67 that they made it, and it has that Dewey Weber type of hatchet and it has the concave in the nose and with the bing nose that I guess had gotten big the year before-

Robert Parker: They were. Right. Well, this picture came about here. Uh.. Joe Marley, who worked for Lank-- I don't know if you've ever found Joe.

Q: I have. We-

Robert Parker: You have. I'd- I'd love to see this guy, but anyhow, Joe Marley was the guy who sanded this board, uh.. Lank shaped it. Uh.. I think Lank shaped it. It was either Lank or Harold. I don't know who shaped it but--

Q: Lank. Harold I think was more on the business end--

Robert Parker: Yeah, I guess so, but anyhow they- they loaned me the board for the- the summer and one day Charlie Davis uh.. had a camera with a water housing, the first water housing we had ever seen, and uh.. he paddled out with me and I took off on this wave and did a- uhm.. a dropped knee turn and he caught this photograph, and the photograph was sent to Surfer magazine and was in Surfer magazine next- the year after that, in 1967 I believe.

Q: Yeah. The July issue. Billy Yerkes out of Florida actually sent me the photo 'cause we had gotten to know each other through e-mail--

Robert Parker: Yeah. So Harold and those guys-- And it blew my mind that day you came and brought that board to my house. He brought this board--

Herb Walton: It blows my mind when you talk about the Kupboard at Carolina Beach. It's still there--

Robert Parker: Oh, I know. Yeah. Yeah, it's still there.

Herb Walton: The Kupboard was a cool place.

Robert Parker: Yeah, it was, but-- Uhm.. Yeah. But anyhow those g- those guys w- w- they- they were really square- square dealers, they were good people- good people.

Herb Walton: --down there now, the ocean and the beach and the waves, it's moved south now. That used to be a really good place but now it's eroded away, I guess because of the erosion.


Robert Parker: It's eroding away- It's eroding away because of the erosion.

Q: Lank and Harold seem to be pretty fair guys, and in fact, they gave me one of their old T-shirts for the archives so--

Robert Parker: Well, the magazine, your buddy uhm...

Q: Billy Yerkes?

Robert Parker: No. The- The magazine-- I actually bought the magazine several months ago in California, uh.. paid $45 for it and gave it to the guy over at the Wrightsville Beach Museum.

Q: Did you?

Robert Parker: Yeah.

Q: Ryan Pierce.

Robert Parker: Yeah. Ryan's gonna do a surfing exhibition at the museum this summer.

Q: In fact, I gave him a copy of that.

Robert Parker: Right. Well, he's got the magazine now. Yeah, and I'd like-- You know, I don't know if you can get those guys to loan you that board again for the exhibition at Wrightsville Beach but-

Q: It's hard to say 'cause Harold travels a lot. He does some work for the Discovery Channel, or he did, and he had a boat and so he goes in the winter time-

Robert Parker: Yeah. Yeah. I- I did a commercial with him uhm.. about five years ago, uhm.. Frank Capra Jr. Yeah. We did a commercial for cang- Frank Capra Jr. for First Union Bank, and I'm running out from under the surf- under the pier with a surfboard and then Harold is throwing- uh.. uh.. casting a- a fishing rod, and so we were down there hangin' out in the trailer being cool like movie stars. It was- It was kinda fun, you know?

Q: That last board they made-- I was tellin' you that they had two boards left and the last board, like I said, has a hatchet and the concave in the nose but they wrote in the stringer of the board 'the end'--

Robert Parker: I hear ya.

Q: --to indicate that was the last board they ever made, so they've held on to them and they have said that they're to go to their family when they're no longer wanting them. I've kind of in passing mentioned to both of them that if their families should not want them, that they consider either donating them or selling them to the library because they are historic relics and they should be preserved--

Robert Parker: Well, yeah, and they- and they were-- You know, again they were in a- a magazine that's still very big today I guess.

Q: One of my concerns is that some collector will buy them and then you'll never see 'em again and-

Robert Parker: Yeah. I- I-- You know, maybe I'll give Harold a call and see if I can get right of first refusal or something like that, you know. You know, that's what I'd like to do. Yeah.

Q: Mentioning magazines, you were also the-- Was it southern North Carolina rep or North Carolina rep--

Robert Parker: North Carolina rep, North and South Carolina, yeah, for Atlantic Surfing magazine. Yeah. That was when I thought I was gonna be a writer and uhm..

Q: How did that whole thing come about? How'd you come to find out about Atlantic Surfing-

Robert Parker: There was a guy named Paul Chapey[ph?] that was from New York, from Brooklyn, that started this magazine and how I met Paul Chapey I have- I really don't know. I don't remember how I met Paul Chapey, uh.. again probably through correspondence. I've- I've been very good at corresponding through letters and e-mails all my life, you know, obviously e-mails today but- uh.. and then Paul Chapey eventually turned out owning a- a- a- a line of women's clothing in the surf industry in the very beginning uh.. but that's the last contact I had with Paul Chapey was probably in the early '80s maybe or something like that but uh.. yeah, in fact I saw those magazines when I bought the Surfer magazine that my picture's in. Uh.. I saw like three to four uh.. Atlantic Surfing magazines uh.. at this same shop.

Q: At Longboard Grotto--

Robert Parker: Yeah, Longboard- Longboard Grotto. A guy named Sam Ryan owns this--

Q: It's on--

Robert Parker: E-- Leucadia, yeah, and eh.. this- this shop- this surfboard shop is like walking into a surfboard shop in 1965. I mean it's an amazing-- Uh.. It's like a museum and surf shop. I mean he's got pictures of Mickey Dora and I mean he's got all kinds of stuff in this place. I mean you just wa-- Eh.. We spent hours in there last time I was there, you know.

Q: You had mentioned earlier in your correspondence and keeping up with people-- Have you been able to keep up with Frank Sproul in any regard? How did your relationship with him and the Ocean Surf Shop come to be back in--

Robert Parker: Yeah. That's- That's- That's kind of a- not a great story but uhm.. somehow uh.. Frank Sproul and I met, uh.. we formed a- a relationship, uh.. actually a business relationship, uhm.. and we were gonna open a surf shop together. Uh.. He was gonna bring some investment in and I was gonna eh.. bring some investment in. We actually ordered uh.. some boards- or no, we ordered some wet suits, and the wet suits came in and Frank sold some of the first wet suits to some of his friends at wholesale. Well, I immediately severed that relationship. You know, I didn't want to be in business with somebody who was givin' stuff away, so I ended that, and then Frank went on to open up uh.. I guess it was called Ocean Surf Shop, and then Billy was really involved with him and all that, but by that time I was again back- traveling back to California again so- uhm.. so I really never spent a lot of time around Frank Sproul, really didn't- eh.. didn't get to know the guy very well.

Q: What was your involvement with the Wrightsville Beach Surf Club? Did you have an involvement with those guys?

Robert Parker: No. I think Joe started that, uh.. Joe Funderburg stated that, in response to the Onslow Bay Surf Team uh.. and that's a guess. You could probably ask Joe uh.. that but I know we started the first surf team here, which was the Onslow Bay, and then uhm.. he s- he started the Wrightsville Beach thing. There were- There were really-- There were some guys that were kind of going in different directions at the time and uh.. the guys that Joe was hangin' with were pretty- they were a little bit younger than I am. The guys my age were like the- the Alan Warwicks, the Roach Joneses, the Jerry Kings, the Gene Kings, the- uh.. the Jimmy Shepherds. That was the whole first group, and then there was kind of- just like a year or so later there was this other group that came in, and then there was a whole another group that came in right behind that, you know. So there was several stages of- of people coming uh.. to the sport of surfing in Wrightsville.

Q: Would you say Billy Curry was in that second group or was he--

Robert Parker: Billy was in the second group, but he was very immediately accepted by the very first group simply for the fact he was a phenomenal surfer. I mean he's got feet that are about this long. His feet are huge. Yeah, and Mike was there and that was a whole another reason. You know, Mike and he were- were, you know, hangin' together all the time.

Q: Where was Will Allison in this? Was he second or third?

Robert Parker: Well, you know, again I- uh.. I really didn't have a lot of contact with Will until later. Yeah. He might have been in the later- the third era, uh.. uh.., you know, the '70s kind of a thing, you know, not '60s. I don't really remember him a lot and again I was in the army at that point, you know, so I think he was-- Uh.. He- He was definitely in there but I wasn't around, you know.

Q: Some of that do you think may have had to do with the fact that he lived on Middle Sound?

Robert Parker: Well, I'm sure it did. He surfed-- Uh.. He paddled across and went to Figure Eight all the time. Yeah. He didn't surf over here.

Q: Back in those early days, what were some of those hot spots? You had mentioned Mercer's Pier, surfin' at Mercer's--

Robert Parker: Yeah. We-- The surfing began at Mercer's Pier uhm.. but uh.. Stone Street-- In those days there were jetties uh.. about every- every other block or so, uh.. wooden jetties, big pilings, uhm.. but at Stone Street- at the end of Stone Street where Newell's is uh.. there was a huge stone jetty. I don't know. I mean the street was obviously named Stone for some other reason but there was a big rock jetty at the end of Stone Street. That was a very good place because of the sandbars were built up by the- uh.. by the stones there, uhm..

Herb Walton: Why--

Robert Parker: The erosion. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Well, that's what they were supposedly to be but they- they- actually they got rid of the jetties and- uh.. uh.. and- and pumped the sand over that in 1965.

Q: We talked to some extent about the summer of '67 and we'll wrap up the interview now, but do you think you and Joe would be interested in talkin' together about that whole adventure west, the Monterey Pop Festival, the movie "Free and Easy"--

Robert Parker: Yeah. I mean that would be a- that would be a good thing to do with Joe because Joe and I went to California- or I was- I was there and Joe came out. Okay. I was there working at Hansen's, and then we went down to Mexico, uh.. but even before that, uh.. '67 eh.. eh.. is considered the summer of love, and that's when you saw all of the love-ins and all of the- the drugs starting to enter uh.. the culture. Uh.. Quite honestly, uh.. I think that Doyle and- and Miller- Rusty Miller and Mike Doyle and that whole crowd, Jamie Budge uhm.. and all those guys were comin' back here-- and I couldn't swear to it; I think they were smokin' pot in those days. I wasn't. I had no idea what pot was, you know, uh.. later discovered it but didn't- didn't know what it was then.

Herb Walton: You never had--

Robert Parker: Yeah, but those guys, I- I'm pretty sure they did because they were from California, and in fact Rusty eventually left uh.. and moved to Australia, and then I visited him in Australia and uh.. he definitely smoked pot so-- Uh.. But uh.. '67 would be a good year to discuss because there were- uh.. it was probably a turning-- Well, it wasn't probably, it was the turning point in the culture of surfing uh.. as we know it today because it was the transitional period from uh.. long boards to short boards, between '67 and '68, those two summers, transitioned- long boarding went away, short boarding came back in, and then long boarding didn't come back in until the mid '80s from what I- what I know.

Q: In closing, favorite memory or memories of surfing in Wrightsville Beach. Is there one or several things that stand out that just you replay in your mind from time to time?

Robert Parker: The one I play in my mind the most uh.. has to do with my father because he was so uhm.. eh.. at first he was very anti-surfing or.. not anti-surf-- He- He just thought it was gonna be something that would uhm.. take me away from the focus of school, which it did, and he was right, but I remember one time. This was before wet suits. You had these beaver tail uh.. wet suits that were for divers, and Jerry King and I one day when it was snowing uh.. in the middle of January or whatever. I don't even remember what month it was but I know it was freezing cold, it was snowing, and uh.. all the way down on the beach we paddled out-- Uh.. I don't even think Jerry had a wet suit. I had a- uh.. like a jacket with a beaver tail, and I'll never forget it as long as I live. My dad sat up there in the car. You know, it was so cold he never even got out of the car. He laughed and laughed and laughed 'cause when we came out of the water we laid down in the bottom of the car. We couldn't even sit in the seats. We were so cold we just fell in the car and just laid there and shivered and then when we went and got in the shower, the hot water, we're like- it was like needles going into you. The hot water transitioning from cold was like needles going into you. So it wasn't a good memory uhm.. but it was a- it was a memory that- that- that involved my father in it and uh.. that was good uh..-

Q: Thank you for taking some time--

Robert Parker: Sure.

Q: --I know you have a lot of other stuff going on right now with your move to San Diego and--

Robert Parker: Yeah, goin' back to San Diego for the fourth time since 1965, moving back there the fourth time. This time hopefully it's for the right reasons of- of- of uh.. getting a really good job and uh.. so-- Thanks, Peter. I appreciate it. Yeah.

Q: Thank you--

Robert Parker: Yeah.

Q: --and the boys.


Herb Walton: Hey, that was cool, guys. That was a great interview.

Robert Parker: Herb Walton, Herbie Walton, who wished he had surfed because he told me one time, he said he wished he'd surfed 'cause the surfers got all the girls.

Herb Walton: You started talking about ferries. That was a Joe Funderburg here of surfing and that's what I remember most.

Robert Parker: You told me one day, you said, "I really didn't like you because you were a surfer and you got all the chicks."

Herb Walton: I never have liked you. Joe Funderburg--

Robert Parker: Now I'm gonna have a beer.

Herb Walton: You guys were okay. Joe Funderburg, and you can quote me and you can tell me on this, but Joe was not my favorite type of person.

Robert Parker: Joe was a different kind of person.

Herb Walton: When you talked about ferries, remember the ferry part of the interview? That's the way I--

Robert Parker: Joe turned out to be a very good person. Joe had his own idiosyncrasies. I'll put it to you this way. He is the most organized--

Herb Walton: No, he's not.

Robert Parker: He is. He makes you look like--

Q: Herb, any favorite memories of surfing before I close?

Herb Walton: Uh.. Well, I've never surfed but I'm a-- If you mention uh.. any history of southeastern North Carolina, Wrightsville, Carolina, Cape Fear, I can fill ya in 'cause I've- I've been there with him and I w- I spent my childhood at Wrightsville Beach in Carolina-

Robert Parker: I will put it to you this way. Herbie Walton has owned a business and worked every day of his life in Wilmington, North Carolina, for 35 years, 30 or so or more. Well, I'm--

Herb Walton: That was-- before I went in the service, I graduated high school and college here.

Robert Parker: But the continuity and the consistency that this man has had in this community far exceeds uh.. just about anybody I know. I mean he's been here from day one.

Herb Walton: I'm a self-made __________there.

Robert Parker: That's right.

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