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March 11, 2022

As a 1960’s surfer, I always remember feet. We would get to them in a hurry while catching waves, we beat them in retreat and we marveled at their injuries. Feet were the most important aspect of surfing back then.

Back in the day, we had to keep our feet, including our knees in great shape to surf. Competition and leisure surfing did not allow for either to be sore or out of shape. Our feet could not have calluses as we needed to feel every small sensation beneath our legs. We were also always aware of surfer knots, yet we wore them like a badge of courage.  There were these strange things called knee pads that were supposed to keep you from getting surfer’s knots, those boney protrusions on the knees caused by knee paddling a surfboard for years. They really didn’t work too well so most of us just opted to become crippled in future years. We learned to get to our feet very quickly as one never knew what to expect in the next seconds. The foot play on the board was an important regimen of any afternoon. We learned to treat our feet well.

We would often beat feet in retreat of threats that ranged from too many people in the water to simply calling it a day. We regularly beat feet from Malibu to Secos for the former reason and headed back to the San Fernando Valley for the latter. Feet were always important in those days. Beat feet was also a term used lazily for describing heading to a lunch break or a party or just leaving any given scene. We did a lot of feet beating back in the day.

Ultimately we did take care of our feet, often practicing maneuvers on dry ground before trying them in the water. However, once in the water there were the ever present dangers of rocks and sea urchins to deal with. In our group, I was often the chief surgeon, removing spines and the like from my friends’ feet. I remember pouring whiskey on many feet before carving them open with a sharp sea shell. An injured foot was the downfall of every surfer and we tried to avoid foot injuries every day. After my surgeries, I would offer a swig for good luck and off they went again into the water.

I still recall early mornings when I walked my surfboard in the driveway after a fresh hot wax. My neighbors thought it odd that a teenage was walking up and down on a stationary surfboard in the pre-dawn. I wanted to be 100% sure that my feet were working in concert with my brain. Once I entered the water, the whole feet thing became sort of an autopilot experience. The feet were told what to do by the brain and it all seemed satisfactory enough in the end.

Oddly I recall a guy who camped with us at Malibu. (My friend says it was San Onofre; he may be right.) He had the odd habit of “toe-banging” sea enemies with his big toe. The odd fellow kind of got off on having the enemy close around his toe. It was crazy even for back then when everything was a little crazy. He claimed it was to refine his balance but the rest of us just thought he was a pervert of sorts. I remember that we chased him out of our camp and threw rocks at him. As we sat by a campfire later eating chicken noodle soup, we imagined him off banging away at low tide. It may just have been the ultimate use of feet but I sincerely doubt it.

Feet: Those were the most important things nearly 60 years ago. Today? Now I can barely get to mine!

Read my book: Fifty Years Ago – A Surfing Trilogy: And Other Surfing Stories from the 1960’s for more tales from the 1960’s surfing scene.

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  1. Cool memories.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Allen, what haven’t you done. Did they have those really long surf boards then? I never heard of the foot thing before. How interesting. I am sure the technology with today’s surf boards make them easier to ride. We went barefoot all summer long but I
    didn’t know about the slang either. Very interesting post. Big hugs 🤗 to you both. Love Joni

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Joni – Yes, I confess I was a professional surfer in my youth back in the Triassic. Yes, long boards. I surfed for the Jacobs Competition Team as well as being the president of the Rising Sons Surf Club. I assure you this was a long, long time ago. 😂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Wow, still that is super cool Allen. You have certainly lived a colorful and interesting life. So many accomplishments. I bet you were something else back then surfing your way all over those waves and catching a lot of girls too. Big hugs my friend. ❤️

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Fun post, Allen. Enjoyed it!

    Liked by 1 person

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