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Corky Carroll on just what the deal is with Paul Strauch..



Corky Carroll on just what the deal is with Paul Strauch Jr

Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 21 April, 2009 : - - The other night I was sitting around with my pal the Iguana and a couple of young surfers who were in town to catch the swell that was about to hit.  As tends to be the case when young guys are around they like to ask questions about the old days and 'did you know so and so' and 'what was so and so like' etc etc. 

The Iguana was one of the great surfers of the era just before mine and is really good at remembering things that I have forgotten.  But one of the kids asked, “So what was the deal with Paul Strauch?”

Right exactly at the same millisecond we both answered, “What a great guy!”  Then we had to laugh because we had said it right together and with the same cadence and in perfect harmony.  It was like a little bit of music.  Right then a little light bulb went off over my head and the thought rang out, “Hey, Paul would be a great subject for this weeks column.”

Paul Strauch Jr. is one of the truly great surfers of our time.  At one point during the early 1960’s he was more likely than not the best surfer on the planet.  And he has always been one of the most wonderful guys you could ever want to meet.  This is a guy who surfs with a giant smile on his face and seems to go through life with the smoothness of warm honey on a piece of toast. 

In the fifty years since I have been aware of him I have never heard anybody say anything other than the highest praises for him both as a surfer and as a person.  The dude is as cool as it gets in and out of the water.  I always said that if I couldn’t be me I would want to be Jimmy Buffet.  But in either case I wish I could be as smooth Paul Strauch.

The first time I met Paul I was fifteen years old and surfing at a spot in Hawaii called Ala Moana.  That place was known for its heavy lineup of “locals,” all of which were hot surfers.  Most of them were not so friendly to brash young California wanna be hotshots, such as was me at the time.  But a few of them looked past that and extended friendship to me.  George Downing, the Aikau family, and Paul among them.  My first memory of Paul was late one afternoon when the surf was really big.  I managed to hook into a large set wave and was a little bit too deep. 

All I remember was this massive wave starting to curl over my head and when I realized I was about to eat it worse than I ever had before I screamed like a little girl just as it engulfed me.  When I came up both George Downing and Paul were laughing so hard they were almost falling off their boards. 

At first the temptation to be indignant flashed into my mind.  But I realized it was good-natured laughter and it made me laugh too.  That moment sort of started a friendship with both those dudes that I still cherish today.  George and Paul are two of the guys I most respect in the surfing world.

Paul is half Hawaiian.  His Hawaiian name is Kalakimau, meaning “the lucky one.”  Paul’s dad was an excellent surfer and they lived near Waikiki.  His dad got him surfing when he was just a little kid.  Like many of us back then he started on air matts and paipo boards and eventually got a real surfboard.  His first board was an 8’6” solid balsawood made by Tom Blake. 

Under the guidance of his father and then George Downing he grew into a fine surfer at an early age.  In 1959, at the age of 15, he won the Junior Men’s division at the Makaha International Surfing Championships.  He capped off a credible competitive career ten years later taking the Men’s crown.

Surf legend Gerry Lopez tells stories of seeing Strauch in the early days at Sunset Beach.  “He would fade so that he was almost going left, lying down all the way to the bottom and then just doing this huge bottom turn, and walking up.  And this was on a terrible, heavy plank.”

Barry Kaniaupuni, other of the greats, has said, “He was the best surfer in the world.  Nobody else even came close. His bottom turn was the most radical there was.  He could make his board talk and play music.”  That is heavy praise coming from a dude who had one of the most radical bottom turns in history.

Today Paul lives in San Clemente and surfs a lot in the south county area.  He is active in the Hawaiian Surf Club and can be found carving big turns at San Onofre on any given afternoon.  Still great, still cool and still smiling.

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