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Corky Carroll on kites & the Huntington Harbor swamp..



Corky Carroll wants to know where his kite is

Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 4 May, 2009 : - - The other day I was sitting on the beach watching a kite surfer screaming along the waves and getting big airs.  I was thinking that it really looked like a lot of fun.  My dentist, Bob Levin, has been doing it for years and has told me about it many times while drilling huge gold mines in my teeth.  Sitting there in the sand brought back a vivid memory of a kite that I once had when I was a kid growing up in Surfside.

I remember this particular kite very clearly.  I was in the sixth grade at J.H. McGaugh Intermediate School in Seal Beach.  There were two sixth grade teachers there at that time.  Mr. Richmond and Mrs. Schliker.  Mr. Richmond was the cool one.  He surfed.  All the cool kids got put in his class.  I had Mrs. Schliker.  She had a bad habit of kinda drooling when she talked and if you had the misfortune to sit in the front row you got wet some of the time.  I sat in the front row.  Life was dark that year.  Mr. Richmond’s class got to build kites.  Our class didn’t get to do anything except dry off after school. 

I wanted to build a kite too, so I went out with my dad and bought all the stuff I would need to make my own kite.  It came out great and I painted a big wave on it with the words “Corky’s Custom Surf Kites” under it.  When it was finally ready to fly I hooked up a roll of string to it and took it out on the beach for its maiden flight.  It worked.  In fact it worked really good.  But I needed more string as I had visions of this baby entering the stratasphere or beyond.  So I rode my bike over to Seal Beach and bought about ten miles of kite string and hooked it all together and rolled it around a piece of driftwood I found on the beach in front of my house.  Now I was ready to put that puppy into orbit.

The afternoon of the big flight the wind was howling out of the west like it normally does on the beach at Surfside almost every afternoon.  I launched my custom surf kite and just kept letting out the string.  It just got higher and higher and higher, almost out of sight.  I was very happy and was thinking in my little mind, “Yeah, eat your hearts out Mr. Richmond’s class…hahahahaha.”

But right at the height of my mirth the string broke.  I  could just make out my amazingly cool kite drifting off towards the east and eventually disappearing somewhere far on the other side of Pacific Coast Highway.  Somewhere out in what was then called “the slews.”  That area is now Huntington Harbor but back then was just a huge swamp.

Oh man, I had to go rescue my kite.  But how was I gonna get out there in the slews?  I enlisted the help of one of the other kids that lived in Surfside at the time but I can’t remember which one.  Might have been Steve Rowe.  Another kid who lived there, Joe Johnson, had this old plywood hydroplane without a motor.  And Joe wasn’t home but his hydroplane was.  Perfect.  We snuck Joes hydroplane out and got a couple of oars from somebody’s patio display and set out into the swamp to find my cool surf kite.

After a little while we were way deep into the back of the slews and I was getting kinda scared.  Scared not only that my cool surf kite was lost but also because there was a rumor that giant octopus and squids lived in the back area of the slews.  It had been on my mind.  And then Steve had to mention it.  “I hope the giant octopus don’t see us.”  (Cue the music from Jaws).  Ah man, I wish he hadn’t have said that.  Now we were watching out for tentacles coming out of the water more than we were for my cool surf kite.

A few minutes later we both agreed that the kite had probably landed somewhere out in the desert and we booked it out of those slews as fast as our little arms could row.

Mr. Richmond later became a good friend and is a concert violinist and ukulele player.  He occasionally sends me violin charts to help me with my lifelong struggle to be able to play that ridiculously difficult instrument.  I have no idea where my cool surf kite ended up.

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