"Just different shades of asshole," says surf historian.
Two days ago, The New York Times ran a piece by the surf writer Daniel Duane called The Long Strange Tale of California’s Surf Nazis.
It takes seven hundred or so words to get into it, but it centres around that nineteen-sixties-era taste for Nazi memorabilia among Californian surfers, writes emotionally about entrenched racism in surfing (“A hundred and fifty years of white people like myself have helped make white-supremacist racism as Californian as panning for gold and hanging ten”), and holds Miki Dora as the poster-boy for white supremacism in surfing.
Dora often used racial slurs and advised acquaintances to put all their money in gold before Mexicans and blacks poured over the borders and ruined the economy. While serving prison time, Dora (who had been convicted of both check and credit-card fraud) wrote to a friend that he loved American Nazis. Dora eventually relocated to apartheid-era South Africa.
The famed surfboard designer Dale Velzy told Mr. Rensin that he recalled Dora boasting, in that period: “I have a black man who wakes me up in the morning, gives me my orange juice, gives me my robe, carries my board to the beach. Everybody ought to live in Africa. I have a coolie for everything I do. Everyone should own a coolie.” In a later letter, as the anti-apartheid movement grew, Dora wrote that black South Africans were “flesh-eaters,” adding, “Give these guys the rights and you’ll get white-man jerky for export.”
Nat Young, world surfing champion in 1966 and 1970, knew Dora. As Young told an interviewer: “Dora’s take is push the black man under. He’s a supreme racist, always has been. When I was younger, I believed it was all just in mirth, that he was just jivin’ it all; but no, he believes absolutely in white supremacy.”
Dora, who was born in Budapest, Hungary, and died of pancreatic cancer, aged sixty-seven in 2002, didn’t appear to like Jews much either.
In a 1975 interview with Phil Jarratt, Dora, who acted as a surf double on a couple of Hollywood beach films said, “The Jews come down to the beach, they shoot their movie, sell it to the Kikes and they all make a pile of money.”
Was he or wasn’t he? Nazi bastard or button pusher?
Who else to ask but Matt Warshaw, the sole historian of surf history.
“I’m not even sure it’s worth trying to parse out the difference between saying things like that to push buttons, versus saying them more out of deep-held belief,” he told me a few moments ago. “Bad either way. Just different shades of asshole.”