Of all the surf spots silenced in the name of "progress" (Stanley's in Ventura, Magic Island in Hawaii, Petacalco in Mexico), none was as significant and thoroughly rippable as Southern California's late Killer Dana. A sometimes huge right-hander of disputed power, the break was officially put to death on August 29, 1966, when the Army Corp of Engineers closed it to all "marine activities" so they could get to their joyous task of building a recreational harbor. On that date, a handful of longtime locals -- George "Peanuts" Larson and Ron Drummond among them -- rode their beloved break one last time.
Along with Windansea, San Onofre, Palos Verdes Cove and Malibu, Killer Dana (in the town of Dana Point, midway between San Clemente and Laguna Beach) boasted one of California's most vital local scenes from the '30s through the '60s. Legends such as Lorrin "Whitey" Harrison, Bruce Brown, Hobie Alter, Billy Hamilton and Corky Carroll thrived on the punchy rights, as did the aforementioned Peanuts, who some say rode one of the largest waves ever attempted along the West Coast in 1939 (this, of course, being the pre-Todos Santos/Maverick's era).
Another regular at the point was a grommet named Phil Edwards. Called the Guayule Kid for his native cove near Oceanside, Edwards was a Kelly Slater of yesteryear, seemingly genetically designed to rip. In the summer of 1953, a then 13-year-old Edwards put on what many point to as the first true display of hotdog surfing. Collecting bottles and cans at nearby Doheny each day, he eventually saved enough cash to buy an 8'9" balsa "potato chip." Hauling it down to the beach one mammoth hurricane swell, he was told he would hardly get down the face. Instead, in a stunning window to a future he'd help define, the Guayule Kid dropped all jaws with his silky fades and radical redirections.
If something of a misnomer itself, several of the breaks that surrounded Killer Dana, all similarly deceased, were known to pack a nasty wallop. Most notable among these was a mysto-reef called "Fisherman's." Visiting from the Islands in 1965, Jock Sutherland paddled back from a solo session at the cloudbreak, ranting out how the place was California's response to Ala Moana.
Rumors first circulated in 1964 that the Dana Point Chamber of Commerce was seeking government and military assistance for the instillation of a harbor. One year later, congress doled out one million clams for the project, an allotment that triggered three days of celebrations in Dana Point. One year after that, the first 10-ton boulder was laid to the delight of a few thousand clapping onlookers, many of them stuffy yacht dorks in topsiders. Today, it's nothing but tricked-out sailboats, bad Mexican food and an oversize parking lot with only gutless Doheny left for your longboarding pleasure.
Among the surfers there was a general sense of helplessness -- a sense that the project was inevitable. Longtime local and noted surf scribe Chris Ahrens says of the spot's demise, "It was like a sudden death that you couldn't talk about. I couldn't even look at it for probably 10 years, just the most painful thing you can imagine. It was a whole world, a whole history erased. I knew I'd never feel at home in Southern California again. If they can do that, they can do anything."
In those pre-Surfrider Organization days, battling big government in the name of an occasionally epic right-hander wasn't even a pipedream, but it should be noted that local Ron Drummond, in an unheralded act of proto surf activism, put up quite a stink before the city and state councils.
In the previously quoted, 1967 Surfer story, Drummond somewhat idealistically envisioned a day when Killer Dana might one day roar anew if slightly altered. "Only when the majority of our government officials are surfers will the tragic loss of Dana Cove be fully realized. And the people will vote to go to the great, but worthwhile, expense and remodel the harbor. By building a smooth, vertical-sided concrete section of breakwater at the correct angle of waves on the east side of the cove, we can create larger waves, probably the world's most enjoyable surf."
This final note on Killer Dana: that first boulder dropped in 1966 was fitted for a time capsule. Among other era bric-a-brac sealed inside the rock was a photograph (rumored to be taken by Doc Ball) of the Killer Dana crew preparing for one of their final go-outs. Those who've seen the shot say the guys look fairly pissed off. The capsule is slated to be opened on August 29, 2016, 50 years after a really good pointbreak bit the big one. -- Greg Heller, November 2000
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