Saturday, March 17 , 2018, 4:23 am | Fair 44º


Santa Barbara Surf Club Rides a Storied History

Hollister Ranch roots run true and deep, even as club's territory and reputation expand

[Noozhawk’s note: This article is republished with permission from Santa Barbara Surfer, a Noozhawk affiliate site.]

More than 100 miles beyond the sprawling acropolis of Los Angeles, with its ever north-creeping fringe communities, the greater Santa Barbara area has a long and storied surf history.  This is not surprising given the many picturesque right-hand point breaks that can be found along the stretch of land that starts just north of Ventura. While at times the region’s geography makes it a surfer’s paradise, the fickle seasonal nature of its waves can make being a surfer in Santa Barbara as frustrating as it is rewarding. The average Santa Barbara surfer regards the winter months as primo surf season and the spring and summer as the long down time of waiting and remembering the swells of yesterday.

It was within this realm that in the year 1960 the Santa Barbara County Surf Club (SBCSC) was originally formed by a group of locals that included, among others, Arlen Knight; Tim Knight; the Perko brothers, Bob and John (after whom the surf spot “Perkos” is named); Stu Fredricks; Rennie Yater; Ken Kesson; Jerry Shalhoob; John Bradbury; George Greenough; Don Bittleston, and Willy Norland. Joining this original group in the early 1960s were the second generation of club members that included, among others, Andy Neumann, Alan Hazard, Dan Hazard; Michael Cundith; and Shaun Claffey. Like a 10-year-old boy’s tree house, there were no girls in this original club. This was not a sexist arrangementi instead, it was indicative of the small number of female surfers in the area at the time. As an organization, the SBCSC has its roots in one of the most prestigious surf destinations in Southern California: Hollister Ranch.

In the early 1960s, before the magazines and the big surf companies arose and began to mold “surf culture,” the Santa Barbara County Surf Club had entered into an informal marriage of sorts with the Ranch; the club members, who numbered 60 in all, served as the security force for Clinton Hollister. In return for their service, SBCSC members gained the right to surf the many points along this remote coastal stretch west of Gaviota. This arrangement grew out of what the founding members of the SBCSC called Clinton Hollister’s “open attitude” toward surfers and surfing, which first became apparent to them in the late 1950s.

Bob Perko’s first waves at the Ranch came in the summer of 1957, when his surf buddy, Ken Kesson, suggested a trek north to look for waves instead of their normal southern jaunt to the beaches of Ventura and Oxnard. After this first session, Ranch trips became more frequent for Perko and the other Santa Barbara locals with whom he rode. As surfing boomed in the late 1950s and early ‘60s, stories of the gold to be found up beyond Gaviota spread. By 1962 Clinton Hollister had become increasingly concerned with the havoc and antics being carried out on his land by out-of-town surfers from places like Los Angeles and the vast beyond of Southern California. This is when the partnership between the SBCSC and Hollister occurred.

The arrangement was simple; the club would police itself and its members while at the Ranch, as well as monitor closely the visiting surfers who passed through. Older members of the SBCSC remember Arlen Knight as the enforcer back in these days, a role he took on, perhaps, due to the major part he played in the club’s arrangement with the Ranch. That is, it was Knight who first approached Clinton Hollister with the idea of starting a club to police Hollister Ranch land. When Hollister agreed to the idea, Arlen Knight, a founding member of the SBCSC, decided to assign his surf club with this new security detail. The deal elevated the SBCSC from being a small informal association of young surfers, to a larger most prestigious organization as, to many local Santa Barbara surfers, gaining club membership meant gaining access to the Ranch. By 1962, as the original SBCSC members completed the development of the rules and regulations for the Ranch, a decision to limit club membership to a maximum of 60 people also was made. Soon after, as the club began to formally enforce the newly created surfing rules and regulations of the Hollister Ranch, there was already a waiting list of more than 100 people hoping to join the club. Rules, regulations and quotas aside, these early members of the SBCSC talk fondly about their days of surfing and policing the Ranch and enjoying its year-round walls. Nothing lasts forever, however, and the union between SBCSC and the Ranch spanned a mere 10 years, 1962-1972. These were the salad days of the Santa Barbara County Surf Club.

During the 1960s another area that many club members were involved in was competition; however, the SBCSC itself did not have a surf team. Most of the big-name surf clubs of this period differed from the SBCSC in this respect. The Malibu Surfing Association, for example, was formed in 1961 by a group of surfers that included its first president, Butch Linden, a member of the Santa Barbara Surf Club since 1988. In 1963, the MSA hosted its first Classic at First Point Malibu, a contest that is still held each September. The WindanSea Surf Club is said to have been formed in the mid-1960s to allow its members to compete in the MSA Classic; among its roster of surfers at this time was local Santa Barbara goofy foot Mike Haskell. Many of the SBCSC’s contest-oriented surfers attended events up and down the coast under the flag of the Hope Ranch Surf Club (HRSC), an organization with a storied, yet often forgotten, place within California surf history. In 1965, the HRSC’s team roster for the 3rd annual MSA Classic included Denny Aaberg, Bob Baron, John Bradbury, Lance Carson, Ross Cave, Shaun Claffey, Alan Hazard, Andy Neumann, Kevin Sears and Rennie Yater. Kathy Beck, Terri Gillard, Linda Merrill, Kathy Moutner and Sheri Stump represented the HRSC within the girl’s divisions of this contest, while listed as alternates for the men were Dan Hazard, Michael Cundith, Tim Donovan, Stanley Donovan and Bob Cooper.

Things are never stagnant and when change occurs it often has long-lasting effects. Such was the case when surfing underwent its “shortboard revolution” in the late 1960s. By the early ‘70s, with the sale of the Hollister Ranch (1972), the movement of surfboards toward becoming smaller and smaller, and the trend of big-name shapers of the 1960s being replaced by backyard/garage shapers, the Santa Barbara County Surf Club entered into a long hibernation period. A generation or so later, in 1988, a new club (re)emerged, the Santa Barbara Surf Club (SBSC), under the leadership of SBCSC members Andy Neumann, Gary Ross, Craig Angell, Shawn White, Dick Lovell and Jeff Kruthers.

Since then the SBSC has been a vibrant part of the local surf scene. Over the past 21 years, surfers Andy Neumann, Burt Davis, Debbie Trauntvein, Kenji Webb, Simone Reddingus, Dean Ehler and Jason MacMurray have all served as club president and helped guide it along. Trauntvein, the current president, is in her second reign at the top of the club, and has devoted more than 10 years to the position. Ironically, while those who helped recreate the SBSC in 1988 made the decision to drop the “County” from the club’s name, they at the same time, opted to use the logo of the original SBCSC for its decal — a design created by Dick Lovell in the early ‘60s. This was done to make clear that while it was a new outfit, it was nonetheless very much rooted within its ‘60s-born predecessor.

Since 1988, the Santa Barbara Surf Club has been involved in a variety of causes and events, in and out of the water. Its dry-land endeavors have included such things as beach cleanups at local spots like Bates Beach, Ledbetter and Rincon. Some years have also seen the club adopt portions of Highway 101. In the water, the club has also had an active history of service. From 1997 to 2006, for example, the SBSC was a constant participant in the Groundswell Society’s Rincon Cleanwater Classic, winning the event within the Surf Club Division from 2003 to 2006, while raising considerable money toward clean water. The club also supports a variety of causes and organizations throughout California via its involvement in the various contests hosted by the many clubs that make up the Coalition of Surfing Clubs (CSC). Even though one of the main reasons the club was (re)formed in the late 1980s was to allow local surfers to compete in these contests, its participation has for many years been spotty.

Since 2003 or so, however, the club has become more involved in these events, focusing on attending more events and selecting competitive, full rosters as much as possible. There are a lot of great surfers in the Santa Barbara area, a fact that both locals and nonlocals have become increasingly aware of with the SBSC’s increased participation in CSC contests. The last six years or so have also seen the SBSC consistently moving up the CSC ladder, finishing in 11th place overall in 2003, ninth in 2004, seventh in 2005, fifth in 2006 and tied for third with MSA in 2007. That same year, the club competition team’s growing presence was underscored when it won the team title at the MSA Classic. Not only did this break the SBSC’s streak of being runner-up for three straight years at MSA (2004-2006), but it was also only the third time in 20 years that MSA failed to win its own event. Alongside this increased focus on attending contests, the SBSC has remained committed to providing as many of its members as possible the opportunity to compete. In 2007, 92 different club members represented the SBSC in CSC-associated contests.

Amusingly in 2007, while in the midst of completing its best overall year of competition in its history, a little piece of the Santa Barbara surfing personality reared its ugly head. Going into the final event of the CSC season, the club had had strong showings in all the events attended for the year (ending up in sixth place finish at DLSA, third at the Logjam in Santa Cruz, fourth place at the Memorial Day contest in Santa Cruz, third at Call to the Wall at Malibu, and first place at the MSA Classic). This created a situation in which heading into the WindanSea’s San Miguel Contest, the SBSC, DLSA, MSA and the OLSC were all in the running for the overall 2007 team title. To win the title, the SBSC needed to merely attend the San Miguel contest and do one better than its second-place team finish at the 2006; a task that seemed very doable. However, each of the past years the SBSC had attended this contest getting surfers to attend had never been easy. The reason is simple; it’s not that it’s in Mexico and would require a long drive to attend, it is that it is held in November, a time when the northwest swells might start showing up. So, while the competing clubs gathered in Mexico on Nov. 23-24, 2007, they did so without the SBSC in attendance. Instead, many club members joined their fellow Santa Barbara surfers in view of the waves, perched on their lookout posts up and down the coast awaiting the arrival of a northwest swell. Yeah, it’s hard to make a Santa Barbara surfer leave home when the Aleutians start to show life.


» The club meets on the last Thursday of every month at Rusty’s Pizza, 232 W. Carrillo St.

» Club dues are $30 a year for individual or $40 for families.

» In 2008, the SBSC followed up its exceptional 2007 results with an even stronger year of competition within the Coalition of Surfing Clubs contest series, ending the year tied for second place in the overall standings with the Doheny Longboard Surfing Association and the Windansea Surf Club.

» For more information about the club or membership contact Deb Trauntvein at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or Andrew Buck at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Please make sure to include reference to the club in the subject heading of your e-mail to ensure your inquiry isn’t thought to be spam.

— Lance Etem is a contributor to Santa Barbara Surfer, a Noozhawk affiliate site.

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