Thanks to the Internet, Goleta Surfing reconnected with an old high school friend, Tom Keeler.
Tommy was very excited about this site and was eager to share some of his photos and stories.
His memories give newcomers some background on why Haskells Beach is so precious to so
many Goleta locals. To some, it will never be, ” just another beach.”
Turns out he’s a heck of a good writer, so we’ll let his own words tell his story.
“Haskell’s local Tom Altavilla took many of the pictures on this page.
This picture is one of his best.
If you surfed Haskell’s prior to nineteen-eighty, you remember this view from under that large
Cypress, with the ice plant growing just at the edge of the bluff. There used to be a twin Cypress
of equal size on the bluff on the south side of the Haskell’s creek. To the right of this vantage
point were two or three cement building foundations, a wooden water tower, and a flag pole.
This picture is very comforting. It has been framed and in my house for the past thirty-five years.
When friends occasionally ask, “A picture of an oil pier…Why?” I just smile, shrug my shoulders,
and tell them it was something important from my childhood.
Haskell’s Beach is a story of exploitation, survival, self-recovery, and continued exploitation.
Exploited for its natural resources (oil) during the first half of the twentieth century,
Haskell’s Beach recovered briefly, only to be exploited later for its natural beauty during the
nineteen-nineties. My generation was lucky to get it during that brief window of recovery during
the seventies and eighties.
Although I was very young, I remember there used to be a dilapidated sister pier to this iconic
one, to the north, before it was dismantled during the late sixties.
The original support legs of the piers were made from steel wrapped in black tape.
The ocean and Mother Nature had the last word on their longevity. If you look
at the support legs of the pier in this picture and compare it to a photo
of the pier today, you can see the differences, metal vs. wood. The
biggest danger when walking bare foot out to the end of this pier to
explore, fish, and dive into the ocean, were the massive splinters.
…Sand dunes all the way up to the pier, sand dollars and abalone shells on
the beach, Volleyball net, Haskell’s Hiltons constructed out of driftwood
on the bluff, hiding surfboards in the licorice plants during the week, a
dead cow washes ashore during the winter and stinks up the beach for an
entire summer… surfing Haskell’s during the seventies was a unique and
wonderful opportunity for a kid.”
“Back in the seventies, we were still surfing relatively long surfboards. That is a 7’6” pintail. It wasn’t until the mid to late seventies that we started surfing shorter six foot boards at the H. The first two guys to ride shorter boards, thrusters, at Haskells were ironically two of the best surfers of the previous generation, Steve Donnell and Norman Grazianno.
Steve was the first to surf a thruster here. He had glassed in a third fin on his 6’4″ twin fin. We all gave him grief for ‘selling out’ and breaking the long standing tradition of sticking to the old school roots of Haskells Soul Surfing. But honestly, he was just way out in front of our surfing learning curve. He ripped on that board.
One winter day after school my friend Dave Harris and I went down to Haskells. The parking lot was empty except for one car. It was a waist high closeout day, the kind of swell that broke all at once in a mile long wave, up and down the beach. As we walked up the beach, we saw Steve Donnell, so we sat and watched.
Steve was doing something I had never seen before. He was taking off, making a deep overextended bottom turn, and cracking the lip hard. We used to call this a ‘re-entry’. The re-entry wasn’t unusual, but the fact that he was doing it wave after wave, the same sequence over and over, twenty, thirty waves in a row. He was doing what all great athletes do, practicing a specific skill. Like a basketball player who shoots 500 free-throws in a row. Steve was practicing one specific surf skill, over and over, trying to perfect it. I had never thought of or seen surfing performed from that perspective. It changed the way I surfed.”
“It is funny how you can see a guy surfing a quarter mile up the beach and be able to identify him by his surfing stance. The most classic and iconic surf style of my generation was Gary Taggert’s power stance. He looked like he was pressing a three hundred pound weight over his head as he surfed. A very effective and classic surf style to be sure. The Galtes brothers had a similar classic style. I personally watched Gary clear out a path in the lineup at Jalama a few times back in the seventies. I witnessed Dale Powers do this same thing at Rincon on a hugely over crowded day back in the early eighties. Everyone gave Gary, Dale and the Galtes brothers their own space. Good friends to have in the lineup for sure. Good men with a deep well of style, as well.
I tried to emulate the forward stance of Paul Crippa, Steven Donnell, and Brad Blue. Knees bent, facing forward, hands waist high out in front, like they were about to receive a basketball pass.
I always enjoyed watching them surf. Guys who surfed Haskell’s from my generation like Mike Jones, Greg, Wayne, and Brian Glasby, Pete, Dave, and Eric Galtes, Dale Powers, Bill Taylor, Dino Crippa, Mike Iovino, Dave Harris, Tom Corlett, Dougle and Danny House, Tim Connell, Tim Aspenwall, Paul Woyak, Joe Coffee, Elliott Harris, Harry Moffet, Stan Miller, Mitch Murdock, Tom Altavilla, Johnny Stephens, Tyler Richardson, Jeff Smith, Andy Holland, and Mike Farmer; they all had great and unique Haskell’s surfing styles.”
Haskell’s ’78 Winter/Summer double photo: “We did not have high school surf teams during the seventies…but if we had, our Dos Pueblos High class of ’79 would have done very well. Guys like Brad Blue, Jay Carlson, Danny House, Tom Altavilla, Dennis Sheperd, Kevin Mallen, Timmy Eneim, John Linden, John Fleisher, Barry Waters, Greg Berlin, Mark Smith, Eddie Spira, Ritchie Prigge, and David Nigh. Any combination of these cats would have “brought home the cup!” for DP. When I went to college at Humboldt State, I was lucky enough to share a house with Jay Carlson. Upon arrival to Humboldt County, as I pulled up to Jay’s driveway, Jay burst out of his house and yells, ”Keeler! Let’s go! You won’t believe this spot!” Jay was a very good surfer in high school, but years of surfing the huge surf and cold waters of Humboldt County had transformed Jay into an amazing waterman. Jay was the king of Humboldt County during the eighties. People are still talking about him up here–he made that big of an impact on this surfing community (that spot Jay took
me to that first day was the mouth of the Klamath River, an unbelievable right barrel breaking in the heart of amazing wildlife). Jay graduated with a degree in Geography in 1989 from Humboldt State!”
“My mom was reluctant to buy new surfboards, but was willing to pay for the
materials to make a board…you see the result of that logic.
I don’t know which looks worse.
Eighth grade was a challenging time.
I surfed the snot out of this board. It was asymmetrical, way too thin in
the tail, and didn’t float well (the lack of thickness in the tail), but
I loved it. I surfed Mexico with my neighbor Jim Carbone later that year
with this surfboard. I wish I still had that board. Too cool.
In ninth grade I was still trying to break my way into the lineup at the H
on the big days. Most of the older generation was cool about allowing us
younger guys work our way into the line-up, but there were one or two
knuckleheads who were less than cool. One evening after a nice session on
a good wind swell day, the youngest brother (ten years older than me) of a
well established Haskell’s local family, came over and picked up this
surfboard and began to tell me how “ugly” it was. His older brother was
watching, could see the anguish in my eyes, and what a complete tool his
brother was being, walked over, handed me his surfboard and said I could
have it. “Give me $35.00 the next time you see me,” he says, and walks
“This is my best friend Tim Brian and his 7’1” Andreini . Tim was one of
those guys who was good at everything. An All League football player,
could throw a lemon through a rock wall, married the head cheerleader, and
could surf well with limited water time. A great friend to travel through
childhood with. This is my second garage made board. Minutes before this
photo, Tim’s uncle had just cut the fin box in my board. All I had to do
next was glass the fin box in and give it a thin finish coat.
A $55.00 surfboard.”
This was a big day on the Gaviota coastline. A couple of things
to look at in this picture are the two different swell directions, the
comparative size of the waves vs. the bluff, and that inside section at
the lower left side of this picture. How big is that inside wave, ten,
fifteen…? Look at the offshore spray and compare that to the face of that wave.
It seems like it broke this big once a winter. There are two reefs in this
picture. But there is also a third reef further out to the upper left of
this picture. Where would you paddle out from? We tried to paddle out from
that middle section, but were swept into the rocks in the bottom of this
picture…all except one…Harry Moffet. Harry magically found a window and
got out to the second reef this day. Incredible!”
I got held under water and my cord stretched out forever on another big day.
Mike Jones and I were the only ones out after school one winter day. We used to
get it like that. Anyway, my board came shooting back right at my face. The nose of
my board poked me right in the nose. When I was under water I truly thought my
eye had popped out. My nose has been forever crooked since.”
Seemed like I always had hand-me-down wetsuits.
I had four. A vest, a “beaver tail” jacket, an Oneil Animal Skin and a short-john.
A hand full of older locals never wore wetsuits at all, summer or winter. True
pioneers. It made you feel weak if you wore a wetsuit in their presence.”
My pop was a mountain of a man. He was a true outdoorsman and a Santa Barbara High grad. Each
summer we camped at either El Capitan or Refugio or both for a week. These pictures were taken at
El Cap. Back in the day, you were allowed to try-out surfboards before you bought them. If you look
closely you can see my pop is surfing three different boards this day. I remember he chose the
longest one because it floated him the best, important criteria for a big man! He would be
completely honored and humbled to know we posted a few of his pictures on a Goleta Surfing page.”
Curiously, my Pop preferred to surf some remote spots during the summer months of
the sixties. He used to park off the freeway next to the 101, and we would walk a
well worn path down alongside a creek to a wonderful spot.”
“Winchester Canyon Boys! An emergency room doctor, an elementary school
teacher(me, back left), and a golf pro? This day was well organized by
Alan Pritchard (bottom right).
When there wasn’t surf, a kid had to find other things to do.
Alan had read a story in “Skateboard Magazine” about some guy in L.A.
(Leather Skin Larry) who had set a world’s record by skateboarding thirty miles.
Alan said,”We can do this. We’ll be by at 6:00am tomorrow to get you!”
We skated from Winchester Canyon to Montecito and back. Forty-five miles
later we had set a very short lived world’s record. Sadly, “Leather Skin”
read about our new world’s record in “Skateboard Magazine” the following
month, and crushed it a few weeks later.
My fifteen minutes of fame…Oh, well.
The tall kid in the middle is Dave Harris. He, Mike Jones, and I surfed
Haskell’s probably more than anyone during the middle-to-late seventies.
We lived about a mile away from the H. With a lunch and wetsuit in our
packs, and surfboard under arm, we could ride our bikes down to the H in a
couple of minutes after school. The thought of crossing that highway on my
bicycle today sends chills through this old father’s body. “
“Best big brother in the whole world! We won’t talk about the haircuts…
Danny taught me how to surf during our summer camping trips at Refugio and El Cap.
Dan inherited that Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser from Grandpa. This wagon did
great doughnuts through Doty’s lemon and walnut orchards in Winchester
Canyon (before the housing development). We fired countless lemon bombs at
that streetlight across the street over the years. Darn those lemon trees!
Haskell’s locals Paul and Dino Crippa lived three houses to the right.
Mike Iovino and Dave Harris lived up the street to the left. “
“You are probably tired of hearing about how much sand we had on the beach
back in the day. But I’m just sayin’, I could ride my bike from Haskells all
the way up to El Cap on the sand, with my surfboard under my arm. You could
find this wave at many Goleta point breaks during the sixties and
seventies. A lot of sand made many of the Goleta point breaks very similar.
On big days, this spot had three sections. It wasn’t easy to connect them.
One day after school Mike Jones and I paddled out and joined Norman
Graziano in the line-up. It was one of those wonderful big winter days
with no crowd. Norman was shredding, making all three section easily by
surfing high on the upper half of the face of the wave. Mike and I tried
to copy Norman, but were unable to pull it off. Norman was one of those
guys surfing way out in front of the pack.”
This is the closest thing I have to a group surf photo. This picture was
taken either just before or just after a tuxedo fitting for our best
friend and Haskell’s local Mike Iovino’s wedding. This was a very long day of
celebrating. There is a bunch of local Goleta surf heritage in this photo.
Left to right: Paul Crippa, Steve Donnell, Tom Keeler, Johnny Stevens, and
Dino Crippa. This group, more or less, lived together in the “Crippa
Goleta Surf House” for a couple of years. Many parties and endless fun… ”
“This is my 1964 Dewey Weber 10’1” Pre-Performer. It is one of those
surfboards that everyone wanted to surf. As one person brought it in from
the surf, another was waiting to take it back out to surf. An endless list
of Haskell’s regulars and friends surfed this board. One of my favorite
memories with this board was watching Ritchie Priggie stretching out some
ridiculous soul arch cutbacks at Refugio one wonderful knee high summer afternoon.
The best and most fluid longboard sessions I had ever seen, anywhere.
I used to take this board down to Rincon during the flat days of summer
and often catch some fun ankle high waves. Driving down the highway with
this board strapped to my roof was half the fun. Too cool. On one of
those days, before Internet surf reports, I took a chance and headed down
to Rincon with my fingers crossed. As I turned the corner at Summerland, I
could see some lines. The Rincon parking lot was full. There was a solid
waist high south sweeping through. I set up camp at the creek and surfed
Haskell’s style, no wetsuit, no leash, no doubt…”
Surfing at Haskell’s Beach during the seventies was an unique experience.
There always seemed to be an equal distribution of talent and personalities at Haskell’s Beach. To a
young kid, the eclectic combinations of characters and personalities were fascinating. Some of
these guys were larger than life. At times it was a bit difficult to differentiate how these dudes
behaved at the beach, and in real life, but my generation revelled in it. We looked forward to it. A surf
session at Haskell’s Beach, no matter how long your visit, was always interesting.
Three qualities were valued on the beach, and a strength in any one of them earned your acceptance
in this tight knit northern Goleta surf community. They were: Could you surf within the confines of the
70s paradigm of soul surfers, were you a nice person, and could you defend the beach. I realize
numbers two and three seem to be at opposition, but how you behaved amongst friends and how you
treated unwelcomed visitors in the water were two different skill-sets.
There was a real sense of brotherhood amongst the locals on the beach, and in the community. We
were a sharing community of friends–we shared lunches, rides to-and-from the beach, nights and
meals at each other’s homes, notes in school, surf equipment, and even clothes. The core group of
locals and even the outliers had a strong sense of community–however naive that may have been at
that time. We were just kids.
“Whenever I hear someone telling ‘Haskell’s Welcoming Committee’
stories, at times it makes my eyes gloss over. Many times it comes across
as bragging, other times these stories appear to be half truths.
Nevertheless, here are my two cents on Haskell’s beach fights:
They were real. All the heavy hitters you have read about on previous pages are true, mostly.
My perspective and interpretation of the Haskell’s welcoming committee has
changed over the years. I’m pretty sure it was a new phenomena to the
seventies. I don’t think the Talley generation of the sixties policed the
waters the way ours did. Maybe there was no need to. There were always
enough waves for all of us during the seventies
There does seem to be a correlation between the pictures and stories we
saw and read in “Surfer Magazine” about beach fights, and the beach fight
scenes we saw in surf movies like “Five Summer Stories”, with the onset of
bare bones Haskell’s localism. They appeared to happen simultaneously.
Beach fights are a real part of Haskell’s history,
the jury is still out on their value.”
This is Jeff Smith. My grandfather would describe Jeff as a rascal.
Although you may not guess this, Jeff was the essence of Haskell ‘s localism.
Jeff lived all the definitions. Jeff ‘s sense of ownership to Haskell’s pride
extended beyond the boundaries of Goleta. From Rincon to Jalama, Jeff quietly
defended those traditions. Jeff got us into a couple scrapes, the price of being
his wingman. The only time I was called into the principal’s office in high
school–because of Jeff’s shenanigans.
That is Jeff behind the wheel, Tim Brian in the back seat, and me riding
shotgun. Jeff made that surfboard in his garage.”
Check out this classic shot of Refugio back in the day.
Look at those cute little palm trees! And all that sand!
This was before they moved the highway up the hill. We’ve heard stories about lots of
gnarly accidents on that curve.
This is one of my top five surf spots. Refugio has a long shoulder and an easy
take-off spot. My family camped at El Cap and Refugio for a week every summer.
Spent many fun summer days with family and friends here. On one of those summer
camping days my brother and I surfed with world champion Margo Oberg on a nice
August knee high south swell. One of the most enjoyable days at the beach in my life.
Love all that sand. ”
Three generations of Keelers surfing.
Grandpa and Grandson
It must be a genetic thing, Grandfather and Grandson buns-up!
Thank goodness it skipped a generation.”
Father and son, Frank and Tom Keeler.
Frank instilled a deep love for Goleta into Tommy’s veins.
Thank you for reading my stories. Growing up in Goleta was a blessing. Having access to Haskell’s
Beach as a child was priceless. I like to believe a small piece of Haskell’s beach, its good traditions,
and its beauty, lives in all of us. That is a good thing!”
I would also like to thank high school friend, Haskell’s local, and Goleta boy, Tom Modugno for allowing
me the amazing opportunity to share a few surf pictures of my Pop, my son, and me from the “old” days
and today. I am so honored and forever indebted to Tom for momentarily bringing my dad back to life on
this page. Thanks Tom, my dad would be so happy.”
Goleta Surfing thanks you, Tom Keeler.