Dick Metz and a surf life well lived

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The Lifetime Achievement Award recipient’s impact on surfing is vast and inspiring

By Jake Howard

For all my money, I don’t think there is anyone in surfing with more great stories to tell than Dick Metz. At 92, he’s certainly seen and done it all, and he absolutely relishes the opportunity to share his experiences.

Metz, the founder of the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center (SHACC) in San Clemente, will be honored on Saturday August 14 with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association’s Waterman’s Ball.

To get the party started early, however, over 100 friends gathered at SHACC this past weekend to toast the man they know and love.

Born in Laguna Beach in 1929, Metz’s history dates back to the beginnings of Californian surfing. Her father ran a restaurant in Laguna Beach, and when Hollywood stars of the day hit the beach for a long weekend, the Metz family served them.

“I used to play with Shirley Temple on the beach on the weekends,” Metz recalls. “She was the same age as me and her parents stopped by a restaurant.”

Metz didn’t take too long to find his way on a surfboard. At age 7, he was hooked up in San Onofre with Peanuts legends Larson and Hevs McClelland. He eventually graduated from Santa Barbara State College in 1953 before serving in the military.

Enjoying a party in his honor at the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center on Saturday, August 7, museum founder Dick Metz chats with John Parlette, 80, of Laguna Beach and Marta Maxwell, 70, a resident of San Clemente. Photo: Shawn Raymundo

Returning to Laguna in 1954, when the post-war surf scene was booming, Metz teamed up with his pal Hobie Alter to launch the Hobie Surf Shop at Dana Point. He would become the model for the way of life and culture that would soon flourish around the planet.

In 1958, he jumped on a Californian freighter and landed in Tahiti. From there he spent the next three years wandering and looking for waves. Finally landing in Africa, one evening, he arrived at Victoria Falls.

“I looked out the window, it’s 1 am, there have been a few fires and two or three small huts. Of course, no light, no one around, no buildings of any kind, just small huts, ”Metz remembers.

It is in this part of the history of Metz that chance intervenes. His driver was bound for Cape Town, and rather than sit alone in the dark, he headed for the coast.

By teaming up with John Whitmore, widely regarded as the father of South African surfing, Metz ended up discovering a lonely spot called Cape Saint Francis. The waves weren’t spectacular, but he recorded the information in his memory bank.

Dick Metz, the founder of the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center in San Clemente, participates in a question-and-answer session with Steve Morris, the executive director of the Surf Museum, who hosted a special evening on Saturday August 7 in honor of Metz, who will receive the SIMA Lifetime Achievement Award this weekend. Photo: Shawn Raymundo

Back in California, another friend of Metz, filmmaker Bruce Brown, whose studio was based in Dana Point (in the building where the French restaurant Bonjour Café is now located), was about to embark on a film project around the world.

Metz casually suggested that Brown give Cape Saint Francis a check as most South African surf cards had not yet been completed at that time.

“If we had made it to Victoria Falls in the middle of the day I might have gone out and stayed and not been to Cape Town, and Mike (Hyson) and Robert (August) might not have scored the perfect cape Saint-François in Endless summer”Metz said with a smile. “It’s funny the way the ball bounces.”

Metz spent much of the 1960s in Hawaii running the Hobie store in Honolulu. He also started Surfline Hawaii with Dave Rochlen, as well as other Hobie stores on the West and East Coasts. And as mentioned, he also founded SHACC, along with Spencer Croul.

Jake Howard is a local surfer and freelance writer who lives in San Clemente. Former editor-in-chief of Surfer Magazine, The Surfer’s Journal and ESPN, he now writes for a number of publications including Picket Fence Media, Surfline and the World Surf League. He also works with philanthropic organizations such as the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center and the Positive Vibe Warriors Foundation.

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