Surfing's anti-hero Mickey Dora!
When BeachGrit’s Derek Rielly and surfing’s grand vizier Matt Warshaw get together laughs, and knowledge, flow like a river. Their last tete a tete, titled Who’s the World’s Most Overrated Surfer had me doubled up on the floor. If you missed, please, give yourself a gift here.
The two started in the present, bandying about names like Matt Banting, Italo Ferrari, Glenn Hall. Funny but the juices really got gushing when the conversational turned historical. Derek asked, “In history, and according to your readings, who is the most overrated surfer of all time?” Matt responded, “Not a chance.”
They continued, with much, hilarity but didn’t really or truly land on a name. I wonder if it is because Matt has so much knowledge that it is difficult for him to be definitive? Complete certitude about something subjective is a game for historical novices.
Well, I am a historical novice. And so I say, with complete certitude, that the most overrated surfer of all time is one Miklos “Mickey” Dora!
Mickey was smooth, true, but so is Joel Parkinson (the second most overrated surfer of all time). He was handsome, yes, but handsome amongst surfers is almost a non-starter (hello, Ron Blakey). No, the reason that Mickey is propped up, or so it seems, is his rebellion. His flaunting of tradition. His too-cool-for-school lurking on the fringes. Matt Warshaw posts The London Times Mickey Dora obit in his Encyclopedia of Surfing entry. It reads, Mickey was the “West Coast archetype and antihero . . . the siren voice of a nonconformist surfing lifestyle.” And this is at what I take offense. This is bullshit.
Mickey’s rebellion involved whining about Malibu’s overcrowding while, at the same time, appearing in the Beach Blanket Bingo films responsible for surfing’s exploding popularity as an extra. I love self-contradiction, don’t get me wrong, but only self-contradiction on a grand scale. He probably got paid tens of dollars for being in the background of these films. He should have starred in them.
His rebellion involved check and credit card fraud, both low, impersonal and weak forms of crime. My cousin robbed 2o-some odd banks a few years back and he surfs. Mickey should have gone on a wild, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid bank robbing spree through California, France and Australia before being brought low under a hail of bullets in Bolivia.
His rebellion involved not working, living instead off the largess of his friends. There are many stories floating about how this “living” often involved stealing from them. And son of a bitch. If there is one trait that stinks worse than all others it is narcissistic selfishness.
The nonconformist, anti-hero, outlaw narrative has been accepted as fact. The Inertia listed Mickey Dora as the second most-influential surfer of all-time writing, “Miki Dora is, in large part, responsible for the rebel-side of surfing.” Which is exactly the problem. If The Inertia thinks something is rebellious then it very clearly ain’t.