“When Jay was on, he was almost unbeatable with his soulful cheater five on the nose then huge extended drop knee arching cutback.”
In the mid 60’s, Jay Riddle and I were both eager juniors trying our hardest to shake up the surfing world. We both were similar surfers from different areas. Phil Edwards was considered world’s best surfer and Mickey Dora was the indisputable king of Malibu. Being regular footers Jay and I idolized both of them, trying to copy their progressive style. Jay had the advantage living in Santa Monica and surfing Malibu with Mickey everyday. I was a South Bay guy making mental notes watching Phil and Mickey in all the surfing movies.
Jay and I surfed in all the United States Surfing Association and Western Surfing Association surf contests. He has a reputation of being a progressive surfer, smooth yet radical, and a wild card that nobody wanted in their heat. When Jay was on he was almost unbeatable with his soulful cheater five on the nose then huge extended drop knee arching cutback. Being a local of Malibu, Jay wasn’t allowed to fraternize with us South Bay surfers. We didn’t hang much, but sure had fun surfing together. We were like two playful dolphins jumping through hoops in the line-up.
All of Jay’s friends hated me and my surfing buddies, throwing tantrums every time we came up. His fellow Natural Progression Surfboard teamriders, Terry Lucoff, Robbie Dick, Davey Hilton and Woody Woodworth would throw rocks at my friends while Hal Jepson would be setting up his camera on the beach to catch Jay and me going at it in the water. Ronnie Roman, a Kiwi friend, was with me one 5’ day at Topanga when everybody stoned his new surfboard while he was swimming in. He started crying while retrieving the board on the beach. I told the locals that if they planned on surfing in New Zealand they should forget it. Jay paddled up to me and apologized for their behavior.
The next time I saw Jay was at a casting call for The Dating Game in 67’. My friends and I were sitting next to Jay and his friends playing a mock version of the top rated TV hit game show in front of the producers trying to get on the air to win a serious trip with a hot looking chick. After partying the night before, my friends and I were suffering from terminal hangovers. Jay said he didn’t feel much better.
In 1970 Jay Riddle and I took the fin-slide that Jock Sutherland and Gerry Lopez were doing and tweaked it into a 360. Jay would do his patented cheater five until his fin would start to drift. He stuck his right arm in the lip and slid down the face backwards until it caught at the bottom. He would scamper back while the board was spinning around pulling right back up the face into the hook. I just threw the nose in the lip and free fell down the face backwards until the fin caught at the bottom. This was the start of the skateboard like 360 which led to the big airs and other big skateboard like moves all the pros do today.
By the early 70’s Jay Riddle was one of a handful of California surfers to successfully make the transition from top longboarder to a good shortboarder. He was the only surfers not to change his longboard style to conform to the new shortboard surfing. Jay still grabbed hold of the waves face while leaning down, coming out of his bottom turn sliding straight to the nose with a full trim cheater five flying high near the lip gaining speed to go into his full arching drop knee round house cutback. I don’t know how he made his longboard package look so good on his shortboad. When Dewey Weber and John Fain did the same, they looked like they were trying to surf a shortboard like a longboard. Jay looked smooth sliding into precise shortboard maneuvers while Dewey and Johnny looked jerky and out of their elements on the new shortboards.
Jay Riddle quickly became a popular name whenever surfers talked about who was ripping. In 72’ he was on the cover of both Surfing and Surfer in the same month. Hal Jepsen became one of Jay’s best friends after staring in Hal’s popular surf movie, “Cosmic Children.” He went on to star in “A Sea for Yourself” and then “Super Sessions.” After Scott Dietrich’s “Fluid Drive,” he started to suddenly slow down by shying away from the contest scene sticking mostly to Malibu, Topanga and sneaking down to Baja’s ScorpionBay before anyone knew where it was.
In 78’ I was surprised to see Jay surfing big Sunset on Hawaii’s North Shore. While I spent every winter in Hawaii since puberty, Jay shied away from Hawaii’s big waves. It was the first time I ever saw Jay in Hawaii. Jay came up and said “Hi” explaining to me that he was Jan Michael Vincent’s stunt double for the Warner Brothers film, “Big Wednesday.” Sunset was over 12’ and Jay and I were once again going at it one on one like a couple of frisky dolphins surfing 6’ Malibu. The following week, we were in the same heat for the Pipeline Masters as two California wild cards. It was a loaded first round heat with Reno Abellira, Fast Eddie Rothman and a few other hot locals. Jay and I both advanced to the semis.
Jay Riddle has always been a good longboarder that transcended into a radical shortboarder and fierce competitor. Jay was always a good guy that was fun to surf with. DZ