Merv Larson : The New Adam
Surfer: First Annual End of the World Issue.
Volume 11 Number 2,May 1970, pages 54- 9.
The First Annual End of the World Issuewas a
highpoint under the editorship of Drew Kampion, Pages
"Ladies and gentlemen ... in our audience
tonight we have a man you all have heard about... a truly
great American ... a mild-mannered individual ... a credit to
his community . . . let's have a big hand for our special
guest tonight. . . stand up and take a bow, Superman."
You can see for yourself when Rincon's breaking good, or Secos
and Huntington when they're on. He works out through the lineup on his butt, sitting on a
foam cushion, buckled into his seat belt, working a double-ended
paddle, with his feet stuck out in front of him and fastened
into the stirrups of his surf ski. If you paddle up to him and ask him what kind of a board
that is, chances are he won't answer you.
Not because he's uptight.
Because he doesn't hear you.
For within the plastic shell of his helmet, Joe Cocker is
wailing through "Hitchcock Railway."
And when he's listening to "Hitchcock Railway," Merv Larson
ain't pickin' up nothin' else.
Merv Larson is a lifeguard.
He's been doing it for fifteen years, since he was fourteen.
He likes it.
Spends his life in his Ford Vanette, a large mobile unit that he
has outfitted to suit the needs of himself and his German
At present, Merv is stationed at the Leo Carrillo State Beach
Ranger Office, right where Mulholland hits the Coast Highway
He has attained the ranking of Lifeguard Supervisor.
Merv Larson is no less amazed than you are that you haven't
heard of him.
"I've been doing these things on the surf ski for four years,
and all of a sudden everybody
is beginning to notice."
What Merv Larson does on his surf ski is as visually exciting,
maybe even more so, than what Greenough is doing on his
knee-board, or the top conventional surfers on their surfboards.
You might say that Nat Young and Jock Sutherland probe the outer
limits of performance on their feet.
Greenough does it on his knees.
And Merv Larson?
He does it on his ass.
Merv Larson, the new Adam,
gets compressed from the excessive
"G" forces of this typically radical
The surf-ski at work at Rincon.
Not to take anything away from it either,
because for high-performance wave riding, nothing can quite top
the ass as a good place to sit while riding a surf ski.
In fact, says Merv, "In three years, I've never had to swim.
Some people are afraid of these things because you're strapped
in, but the effect of a wipe-out is a lot less than it would be
on a surfboard.
"Merv surfed standing up from
the time he began lifeguarding at fourteen until he took up the
ski a little over three years ago.
And he became quite a good surfer.
Then he discovered the ski and found that whole new worlds of
performance opened up.
"I still haven't found out all the places this thing will go
He has, however, discovered quite a few.
"Skiing," says Merv, "is wetter than surfing; once you're on a
wave you become a lot more involved.
Actually it's a cross between mat riding, belly-boarding and
surfing. The only thing
Page 57 the ski can't do
as effectively as any of these is to change directions as
quickly in some instances." Still, the ski (at least as operated by Mr.
Larson) can make turns of sufficient intensity to boggle your
With the aid of the double-ended paddle, Merv can get into waves
early, gain extra acceleration with the aid of the paddle, and
come into his bottom turn with more G's working than anybody
else in the water.
The ski is fin-less, so turning becomes a matter of masterful
use of the paddle combined with clean edge control.
Merv's ski is all edge in the rear, and it works.
The closest thing to Merv bottom turning is Reno Abellira on his
best day: low, deep and with ruler-straight water flow off the
bottom of the board because of the high speed/high G
The ski then draws a line straight out of the pocket to the
Here Larson throws paddle and edge back into action, brings the
ski screaming back around (shades of Nat) and charges back at
the tube, banks off the underside of the lip (Billy Hamilton?),
comes over with the crashing tube (much like Greenough), then
drives out from under the white water, even when the wave seems
impossibly far ahead of him, picking up speed in the flat out in
front of the turbulence (ala Joey Cabell) which brings him back
up into the pocket (Jock Sutherland).
And all without exaggeration, dear
reader (is it any wonder Merv Larson is the sole passenger
aboard SURFER'S Time Capsule???
Without exaggeration. "The thing that's going to eventually make it for the
skis," Larson says, "will be the man-made wave.
Then this'll turn into more of an acrobatic act.
You see, all these things that I'm doing were invented
three or four years ago: tumble turns, one-eighty turns, Eskimo
Eskimo rolls? (Could've have sworn that was Eskimo Pies .
The Eskimo roll is one of the amazing things that Merv Larson
does in very critical wave-riding situations:
"It's done at the top of the wave so that , speed is minimized
and my sinuses don't get filled with water.
It's not actually riding inside the tube; it's letting the wave roll you over."
The result is freaky: Merv jamming off the bottom blasting into the lip (Brad McCaul),
Actually, surf skiing
started with is the Australians, but they never thought of the
seat belt bit, so they were always getting blasted off their
skis and sel-iec the lip
comes over, Merv goes upside down, the tube collapses,
squirts, and spits Merv out the end.
Conventional board riders
tear out their hair.
All , quite simple.
dom made it out as far as the lineup, a The seat belt was
Merv's idea, and is now used on all California surf skis.
As far as we know, Australians are still getting blasted off
Merv in the
middle of a flailing,
windmill 360° turn.
Strobes flashing, Larson carves far
out on the shoulder. Photos: Glenn
Page 59 One of the hang-ups with surf skis is that
paddling back out to the lineup is super fast.
This causes trouble with the prototype artisans:
"Five skis would fill Rincon on a good day," Merv laments.
"It's hard for ski riders to exist where there is a heavy
If a skier isn't careful, he rides too much and guys get
You have to hold yourself back and let the surfers ride their
share of the waves."
Merv Larson is also very concerned about preserving his amateur
standing as a waterman.
He shuns commercialism, professionalism, and all the other dank
corners of sell-out in order to maintain his amateur standing so
he can compete in the Olympics in the Kl and K4 Kayak Flat Water
The Olympics is as important to him as anything in his life.
Yet Merv Larson considers his own greatest contributions to
Twentieth Century Living to be his sound system.
The one that makes it impossible for you to get his attention in
He carries a small waterproof pack with a super-quality
transistor radio encased, runs a plastic tube into each ear
pocket of the helmet with special ear insertion mechanism, and
the rest of the world is replaced by Joe Cocker in his finest
"Having the music," says Merv, "is so fine.
Like last week at Rincon.
It was small; there was a heavy crowd, and a lot of people were
But I had my music on, and it
was running right, and everything else was separate from me.
I even got hit twice with other guys' boards and didn't mind.
The secret is to eliminate all outside sound.
It's not just enough to have the music.
You have to have only the music.
Then everything is fine.
Except when you roll a wave and the sound turns into a static
fuzz while you're under water.
Then it's back onto music when you come up.
It has to be a fantastic experience to surf in a world of
beautiful sound, with harmony, lyricism, and melody flowing over
and reinterpreting all that goes on outside of your head.
It must be.
What is especially exciting about Merv Larson is that he is a
man alone in a world of tension, strife, conflict and chaos.
What is especially exciting is that he has created his own place
in that world, both within himself and within his environment.
In fact, he has produced his own environment.
One in which he can operate free from hassles.
One in which his independence is the most important thing.
That's why, when you see him at Rincon on a good day, flowing
with it all, you shouldn't get uptight if he doesn't respond to
You are simply not part of his environment.
You are not part of his life until he wants you to be.
What better man to survive the perils of the Time Capsule?
The perils of life in a New World?
deep scars may never heal from this Rincon wall.
Photo: Glenn Fye.
opens up a track in the side of one of the thickest, heaviest Pipeline waves of the
winter. He was eaten. (Brewer)
racing under the perilous threat of Velzyland's
hungry teeth. (Brewer)
on one of his more casual bottom turns this
particular day at V-land. (Brewer)
at Pipeline backdoor, foot in the slot and high out of the water he
Sutherland carving his initials
into a Pupekea face. (Brewer)
Keith Paull like a rubber bird airborne in the
Makaha backwash. (Brewer)
Full Color Murals
Approximately 20" x 26"
Tax and Postage Included in
all Mural Prices
#18. Stockton Avenue (1966)
Nat Young at Sunset Beach (1969)
#27. Greenough Tube. (1967,
Russell Hughes, Pt. Cartwright)
#38 Tom Stone Tube
(1970) Later a cover photo.
Other articles in
this issue include:
article, photographs of GG surfing at night and from TheInnermost Limits of Pure Fun. Toward
Unencumbered Flight: Kneeboards, Spoons & Paipos..
and the Silent World,4 pages.
Keyo Surfboards: Fin
Hansen S/b with
Lopez, Hobie S/b with Micky Munoz, Bing S/b Maui Foil.
Noll Sbs: Johnny Fain.
Australia, San Diego.
Volume 11 Number 2May 1970
Annual End of the World Issue.
Russell falls victim to spatial relationships
this Pupukea pocket. Photo: