Solana Beach is not the first place that comes to mind when it comes to big-wave surfing. In fact, it may not come to mind at all.
When it comes to big-wave surfing, most surfers think about the mammoth 50-foot waves of Waimea Bay in Hawaii, Mavericks near San Francisco or Todos Santos off the Baja Mexican coast, not humble little Solana Beach where waves rarely exceed five feet. Nevertheless, as unlikely as it may be, Solana Beach is connected to big-wave surfing, as the following true story reveals.
Way back before Interstate 5 was built, before a little dusty two-lane road called Skyline Drive became busy thoroughfare Lomas Santa Fe Drive, before houses sold for millions of dollars and the sea bluffs were still untouched and pristine, Solana Beach was a sleepy little town. Virtually no one had heard of Solana Beach, let alone surfing in Solana Beach.
Being a small town, there were not a whole lot of people living in Solana Beach, and there certainly were not a whole lot of surfers. But the surfers who did surf in Solana Beach were hearty and talented. There was Chuck Cockle, a graceful and super-stylish surfer who to this day still lives and surfs in Solana Beach. Cockle would take his long surfboard and ride the waves like a pro, except there was no professional surfing at the time. Cheer Critchlow, whose image can still be seen gracing the Hansen Surfboards logo, was another top surfer at the time. And then there were the two twin brothers, Milton and Michael.
Exposed to surfing at an early age, Milton and Michael, along with John Harloff, Joey Burks, Allen Barbin and Bill Fairbrother, were amongst the youngest of surfers in Solana Beach.
Mark Snyder, a classmate of the twins in the forth or fifth grade, was the one who officially introduced the twins to surfing. Mark’s older brother had a solid balsa wood surfboard with a rounded wooden skeg that Mark could use.
At he beginning, the twins and Mark Snyder would take turns surfing the cold, six-inch whitewater waves, until everyone got cold and turned blue or the sun went down, whichever came first.
No surfer starts out surfing big waves right away. There are dues to pay - time and energy.
And so it was with the twins from Solana Beach. They put time and energy into the small waves before advancing on to the bigger waves. Before long, they started surfing more challenging waves like Swami’s, Cardiff Reef, Black’s and Big Rock near WindanSea in La Jolla.
It did not happen overnight, but with heartfelt dedication and desire combined with accurate knowledge and experience, the twins began to rise in the ranks of big-wave surfing. From surfing Solana Beach they went on to surf Sunset Beach and Pipeline, and then onto surfing the giant waves of Makaha, Kahana Bay and Waimea Bay.
At the time, no one would dream waves larger than those at Waimea Bay could actually be surfed. For decades, Waimea was the king of all big-wave surf spots. Until one year, that is, when waves over double the size of those at Waimea Bay were surfed, and the entire definition of big-wave surfing was redefined.
After years of paying dues and never giving up, the twins from Solana Beach went on to surf those giant waves. No matter who you are or where you are from, if you have a dream, no matter how big it is, you can make it happen. Aloha.