My great friend Jeff Barney sent me this picture of himself as a young man the other day. A few years older than I am, Jeff grew up in Monarch Bay. Jeff is the tall guy in the foreground. His best friend, the late Scott Nesbit, is behind him.
He was pulling up a moray eel in the picture. The man in the hat behind him is a legendary waterman, Lorrin Harrison (1913-1993.) Jeff said that he and Lorrin aka "Whitey" got gunny sacks of lobster that day. Jeff did a lot of canoeing with Whitey. He told me that Whitey was an incredible swimmer and diver, he would often grab sixty lbs. of lead and drop straight down to the bottom to catch his abalone and lobster.
Harrison was one of the most famous and accomplished of watermen. Groundbreaking, I think. He stowed away on cruise ships in the 1930's so that he could surf the big waves in Hawaii. He was one of the first Californians to surf Waikiki and one of the first surfers ever to surf the legendary North Shore of Oahu. He traveled to Laguna Beach from his native Garden Grove in a horse and wagon. He won the 1933 Pacific Coast Surf Riding Championships and was reportedly one of the first people ever to surf San Onofre.
He was a long time life guard as well as a lobster and abalone diver. My friend Bob Booth, the father of noted Pro surfer Jeff Booth, was also a long time Orange County lifeguard. He said that Whitey would catch the most outside wave at Killer Dana and ride it all the way in tandem on his legendary blue board. Said Whitey would only show up to surf when it got really big. He told me that even as an old man, Harrison didn't have an ounce of body fat on him.
He was one of the first board builders. Somehow Jeff Barney ended up with Whitey's famous board when he was a kid and he says that it was not really blue but was actually ice green. He accidentally destroyed it in a cavalcade of errors after borrowing it and then getting stopped by a policeman and crashing and then finally finishing the job by letting a friend convince him to turn it into a shorter board. Pissed Whitey off I think.
Anyway, Jeff sent me the picture above and it is so classic I had to share it with you. Jeff hung around a lot of the old timers. James Arness, Sizemore, Hobie and many others. Has a lot of stories.
I have known a lot of older retired lifeguards from the early days. My old friend and neighbor Gib Lee was an early Hermosa Beach lifeguard, did it for 33 years, watched Greg Noll and Dewey Weber grow up at the beach. Southern California must have been wonderful back then and it also must have been great to meet men like Whitey.