Tom Morey remembers Malibu surfer Kenny Price
Surfer and artist showed up at Malibu one day in 1962 with a brief case full of varnished plywood skegs
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 13 April, 2012 : - - Like with many surfer pals, you don't quite know where you met. Maybe in the water at Malibu. Or was I standing by a fire in the pit, watching when someone said, "Hey, there goes Green Water!" "So what? Who the }#%^^ is Green Water?" - "Kenny Price, that's who!" - "Why do they call him 'Green Water'?" "Just watch. See... he's stalling. Stalling and stalling, waiting for the wave to get just right, then, VIP!... and he'll scamper to the nose for a tip ride.
"But sometimes, he never makes his move, stalls on the edge of the soup for the whole wave. Never makes it to the green. That's why he's called 'Green Water'." So from then on I kept an eye on 'Green Water. And often found him getting a really good tip ride.
You gotta realize that circa 1954, tip riding was IT... the Mt. Everest of surfing. Kenny was one of the best. Although, like other rare birds, he was only occasionally seen. Bobby Patterson, Mickeys Munoz and Dora dominated the scene. That is, in the shadow of the clear king of Malibu, Matt Kivilin. To get to the tip required some scrambling. Kivilin, was many measures of cool beyond scuffling for anything so I never saw him there.
But the hot shots, the innovators were all about nose riding: Munoz, Bobby Patterson, Freddie Fowler, Kenny, John Anning, and Doo Doo Wee Wee (Dewey Weber...'The Little man On Wheels'). Then one day, I came out of a class at USC where I was going through the motions of being a student. Returning to my grungy green '49 Chevy with board roped to the top, I find a note stuffed under the windshield wiper blade, "I'll give you $100,000 for this rig but not a penny more. " Kenny.
Funny, I thought, but who the heck would be Kenny in this neck of the woods? I only knew Kenny Price, a Malibu guy... Ragged cut off Levis for a bathing suit, drove a worm eaten old Ford woodie which clearly he slept in. Oh well.
Then a couple weeks later I stopped in at a fraternity house, the Delts where I was going to pick up our piano player, Dick Walker, for a gig. As I walked in I heard from a distant room, the noodling of a Jazz pianist. Surprise, instead of Dick... seated at the ivories, teeth sparkling clean, wearing a black tuxedo sat Kenny 'Green Water' Price!
Ken's ceramic artwork : image courtesy Tom Morey
Well, years passed. And we got along. Not that we ever went any where or did any thing together. However, one day circa 1962 he changed all of our surfing lives. He showed up at Malibu with an brief case full of varnished plywood skegs, all different sizes. Velzy later told me he'd spent the entire day before cutting them out on the shop ban saw.
Along with the skegs, he'd brought a board in which he had cut a slot that went all the way through the tail. At four places, two near the front, two near the rear, he'd glassed right angle shelf brackets. Each skeg had two holes. Two bolts closable with wing nuts enabled attaching the skegs to the brckets numerous ways: upside down, backwards and right side up. The water was quite cold that day. It was before wet suites. Ken would go out, try a skeg for a few waves then come in, warm by the fire and change fins. Then go out again.
Because I showed great interest, he let me take the board out. I too froze out after a few waves on different skegs. But it was enough to show me the light.
Because of this, and years earlier using Hobie's version of George Downing's wood skeg and wood skeg box attempts... and after seeing the Jerry Williamson Molded Malibu surfboard with its a huge injection molded polyethylene skeg and tail block combo, I was driven to go into business as Morey's Skeg Works building the first (semi-) practical plastic removable skeg systems.
I chose Ventura to hang out my shingle, and Price let John 'The Bucker' Anning and me stay with him for several months while I got it together. We lived in a great antique house right at the end of California Street. Some times we'd drive way up around the point with one of our cars then surf back to the house. First guy back got the first bath tub of hot water.
Price would spend late into the wee hours of most mornings at his studio, drinking way too much coffee, smoking zillions of cigarettes, playing great jazz 33 LP records in the back ground while working on his 'specimens' he'd call them.
I would have been working most of most day getting together the interior of my two funky surf shop buildings at the end of Santa Clara St. (buildings Yavonne Chinard would later start his business in, Patagonia). Then meet up with Ken for some dinner or just hang out there drumming along on a chair or something as he worked until I'd zone out.
And so these were the good times, then... Often too buried beneth the overhead, worries and struggles to make ends meet, fend off health issues and keep up with the usual social run arounds.
Morey Skeg evolveded into the W.A.V.E. skeg system which from 1965-68 was embraced by almost every surfboard maker in the world. Today, removable, replaceable, interchangeable skegs are pretty much standard stuff world wide.
Author: Tom Morey
Tags: Tom Morey, Malibu, Kenny Price, Green Water, Art