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09-28-2019   #1
: Jun 2019
: 5,794
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Opinion | The Long, Strange Tale of California’s Surf Nazis

In “The History of Surfing” by Matt Warshaw, Noll, the legendary big-wave rider and filmmaker behind the “Search for Surf” films,shrugged off accusations of latent Nazi sympathy by saying, “We’d paint a swastika on something for no other reason than to piss people off. Which it did. So next time we’d paint two swastikas, just to piss ’em off more.”
Putting a swastika on something to anger people means you know that it angers them and very likely why. Allied troops liberated Auschwitz 14 years before Noll made his film. Southern California was full of veterans who’d seen death camps with their own eyes, as well as Jewish families who’d lost relatives and families of all kinds whose sons died in the fight. Angering those people for kicks meant that the slaughter of six million Jews didn’t strike you as a big deal.
As for Dora and the Malibu crew, according to Matt Warshaw, they eventually figured out that Kathy Kohner, the real-life inspiration for the character Gidget, was Jewish. Her father, Frederick Kohner, fled Nazi Germany for California and, when his daughter took up surfing, wrote the novel that became the film. A member of the Malibu crew responded to the news about the Kohners’ ethnicity by planting a burning cross in their driveway.
According to the book “All for a Few Perfect Waves: The Audacious Life and Legend of Rebel Surfer Miki Dora,” by David Rensin, Dora often used racial slurs and advised acquaintances to put all their money in gold before Mexicans and blacks poured over the borders and ruined the economy. While serving prison time, Dora (who had been convicted of both check and credit-card fraud) wrote to a friend that he loved American Nazis. Dora eventually relocated to apartheid-era South Africa.
The famed surfboard designer Dale Velzy told Mr. Rensin that he recalled Dora boasting, in that period: “I have a black man who wakes me up in the morning, gives me my orange juice, gives me my robe, carries my board to the beach. Everybody ought to live in Africa. I have a coolie for everything I do. Everyone should own a coolie.” In a later letter, as the anti-apartheid movement grew, Dora wrote that black South Africans were “flesh-eaters,” adding, “Give these guys the rights and you’ll get white-man jerky for export.”
Nat Young, world surfing champion in 1966 and 1970, knew Dora. As Young told an interviewer: “Dora’s take is push the black man under. He’s a supreme racist, always has been. When I was younger, I believed it was all just in mirth, that he was just jivin’ it all; but no, he believes absolutely in white supremacy.”
So it doesn’t take much imagination to recognize the blue-eyed, blond surfer ideal for what it is: a white racial fantasy rooted, like most such tropes, in spurious claims of authentic connection to land. Indigenous wave-riding cultures are known to have emerged in several places around the world, including Peru, Polynesia and West Africa. Not one is in Europe. California, furthermore, was one of the most densely populated places in North America when Spaniards came in the 18th century, and was part of Spain and Mexico for nearly 80 years before the United States claimed it in the Mexican-American War. Before the 1848 Gold Rush, out of a total California population of about 150,000, there were perhaps 1,000 Anglos in the entire state.

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