Last week, while we were tearing into the boys on “American Pickers,” we noticed that Mike pulled an old longboard out of a shed in southern Illinois. If a D-finned longboard wasn’t a strange enough pick, the fact that it was a fat-stringered Velzy just made us fucking jealous. And that’s all there is to that.
The boys didn’t know what they’d found, but we ain’t holding it against them; they’re not hotrodders or surfers, so how would they know? Dale “Hawk” Velzy – the guy who’s name was on that board – pretty much invented the multi-gajillion dollar industry responsible for PacSun stores in Midwestern malls on any given Wednesday. The guy single-handedly transformed surfing from a strange, rare sight of a few guys riding 100-pound boards hacked out of redwood planks on the head-highs of Southern California into a culture-slash-industry that has influenced music, car culture, fashion, literature, film and television.
Even though Dale was born up here in Oaktown, he grew up in the So-Cal burg of Hermosa Beach. And in pre-War Southern California, the beach was a small, tight-knit community that Dale learned how to surf and build his own boards in. While there has been much written about Hawk and his contributions to surfing and board-shaping and the concept of a surf shop (among many, many other things), it’s important to know that he was also a hotrodder…
Dale was in his early twenties by the time WWII was over and he returned home to So-Cal for good. Not only was it a bubbling pot of budding surf pioneers, it was also the early days of the hot rod and custom scene. While it ain’t necessarily known exactly how many roadsters and chopped customs he owned, there are more than a few old snapshots of Dale surrounded by them in his early shaping and surfing career. In the early Fifties, he drove a ’40 Mercury custom that he bought from a guy named Al Andril that was chopped and restyled by none other than Barris Kustom – a shop that had just recently opened after the brothers Barris got back together in L.A. and decided to go into the automotive restyling business together.
Dale would go on to work with surf filmmaker, Bruce Brown, in the Sixties, continue to define surfboard evolution, fuse car culture and outlaw motorcycle culture and surf culture and the California ranch flavor all together into one glorious example of the American Way Of Life. He had it all, lost it all and got it all back in grand style and we look up to the man for that.
We lost The Hawk in 2005, but everything he did and everything he contributed to the lifestyle of cars, surfing, choppers and the California Way is the cool shit we love so much. And he even made an impression on two dudes from Iowa who happened to have a reality show that brought us all along on their discovery of a Velzy somewhere in southern Illinois. That’s power, right there, kids.