Before Rick Griffin made his more well-known contributions to Surfer magazine and the psychedelic poster art scene, he was just another kid doodling waves in his high school notebooks. Even then, his distinct renderings, and the possibility that he would graduate beyond rank-and-file notebook sketching, seemed evident to those around him. Classmate and fellow surfer Randy Nauert—who in those years played with ’60s surf rock band the Bel-Airs—recognized the potential in Griffin’s work. While the pair helped form Haggerty’s Surf Club, Nauert held on to Griffin’s early cartoons, which are published here, along with Nauert’s account of how Haggerty’s was formed.
In 1958, during my first year of high school, I was teaching Rick Griffin to surf on my 9’6” Hobie balsa surfboard in Palos Verdes. We thought balsa wood was the state of the art until my friend Charlie Couch showed up with a coral-colored Hobie foam surfboard. Charlie let me try his new board. It floated nice and high in the water, paddled well, and caught waves easier. I liked the new board, but a part of me also thought, “This is the end of surfing. Now anyone can have a surfboard.” Since they were plastic and popped out of a mold, you would no longer need to borrow a board from a friend in order to get started. I learned to surf on borrowed redwood and pine boards, paddleboards, or anything on the beach that wasn’t being used. Then I saved up enough money to buy that first Hobie balsa board and I was on my way.
As surfing became a fad, poor care for the local beaches threatened to close many of our favorite surf spots. The San Onofre Surf Club had already dealt with this problem so we looked to them for guidance on how to organize effectively. When deciding on the name for our group, we chose a spot that took guts to ride—a spot that only broke in winter, next to the PV Pool and the old JJ Haggarty mansion. We elected to call the club “Haggerty’s”—with the unique spelling—so that we could own the name. Rick drew up a logo, clothing design, patch, and we published it with the Nauert Griffin Card Company. Rick’s poster read:
Attention Surfers “These are the times that try men’s souls”…. All surfers are faced with the threat of loosing our surfing beaches due to GREMLIN ACTIVITIES…. It is your duty… as a True Surfer… to help in the campaign to Wipe Out The Gremlin Element. Keep surfing the wonderful sport it is… Don’t be a gremlin. Campaign Sponsored By: Haggerty’s Surfing Club… Bing Surfboards, Walmar Productions.
Placing those posters on all the car windshields of the Narbonne High parking lot almost got us suspended, but the club grew rapidly.
For more on Rick Griffin, check out “The Anatomy of a Surf Fink,” in issue 23.3 of TSJ, chronicling his most famous surf character.
Images: Randy Nauert Collection/Rick Griffin