Dogtown to Rincon: Bill Urbany


Bill Urbany
Bill Urbany has been riding our boards since the mid 90s.

I am 56 years old. I still ride a short board (6’4″) out at Rincon. I surf almost every day mostly at Rincon. There are a lot of other guys out there in my age group surfing regularly at Rincon, some on short boards, some on long boards. We are a very competitive group and very respectful of each other as well as the younger crew. I have learned a lot from the younger crew and really admire their surfing and have been schooled on many occasions by young, hot surfers. They inspire me as well as my contemporaries.

I started surfing in 1966 at the age of 12 on the north side of the Santa Monica Pier. I started making surfboards at the age of 15 in my friend’s backyard and selling them by the age of 16. I began working as a shaper at Jeff Ho, Zephyr Productions in 1973 where I received my professional training from Jeff Ho. I left Jeff Ho, Zephyr Productions in January of 1976 and traveled to New Zealand, Australia, Japan and Hawaii. I returned to Venice in 1978 and worked for Con Surfboards, Natural Progression Surfboards and Graphlite Surfboards. I became a real estate agent in 1979 in Venice. I continued shaping as well as being a full time real estate agent. I spent several winters on the North Shore of Oahu and owned a property at Rocky Point on Oahu from 1987 to 1994. I moved to Santa Barbara in 1994 to become part of a very rich surfing community and to surf the “Jewel of the Coast, Rincon” and to raise a family. I have a wife. Lara and four kids, Sean 18, Devin 16, Cassidy 11, and Kai 6. The whole family surfs. I am a full time real estate agent at Prudential California Realty here in Santa Barbara. I stopped shaping surfboards in 1995. I still think like a shaper and I will probably shape surfboards later in my life.

The Zephyr Surf Team and Skate Team are where the name “Dog Town” came from, they are my roots. I am one of the original Pacific Ocean Park (“P.O.P.”) Cove Locals. P.O.P is an amusement Park that was like Cony Island and was located at the beach in Ocean Park, the boarder line of Venice and Santa Monica. P.O.P. was built in the early 1900’s and was closed and abandoned sometime in the mid 60’s. There was an area of water below the amusement park which was surrounded by pilings with rides above it that made for a very good right breaking wave. It was enclosed by the pilings and impossible to see from the beach. The surrounding area was run down and largely ignored by the police which made it very seedy and ghetto like. There were two well known gangs, the Bloods and the Crips along with countless bums, all of whom occupied the area. There was graffiti everywhere along with many vacant bombed out looking buildings. This was the landscape we surfed in front of. It is said that Micky Dora discovered the Cove and we all surfed there with him on many occasions. One funny story is about a time that Johnny Fain showed up at the Cove looking for Mickey. Mickey was Johnny’s nemesis from the long board days, specifically at Malibu. Johnny asked me if Mickey was out there and then he asked where to paddle out. This was a funny question to me since it was coming from a historical, famous surfer. I gave him directions and told him to watch out for the pilings.

P.O.P. was burned down sometime in the winter of 74/75 and removed completely by the end of 1975, our surf spot was gone. At about the same time the Zephyr skate team was started and with the new wheels and trucks, a revolution began. The Zephyr Skate Team changed the way skating was done at a contest, the Del Mar Nationals, held in California in March 1975. Sometime in 1976 the Jeff Ho, Zephyr Surf Team, Skate Team and and Surf Shop was disbanded with all of it’s members going in different directions, some with sponsorships and lucrative skateboard contracts. Soon after, the name “Dog Town” was created and became synonymous with the area and “Ghetto” surf/skate style that began at the end of the road, at the beach inside a maize of pilings with abandoned, “Fun Park” rides above. Jeff Ho continues to make surfboards and skateboards under the Jeff Ho, Zephyr label. The original Jeff Ho, Zephyr surf shop on Bay and Main in Santa Monica was designated a historical landmark in 2007 in honor of the surfing and skating history that began there.

So, maybe it will be interesting for people here in SB to read a little about the Dog Town story along with hearing that some “Old Guys” still ride short boards, take good care of their bodies and still compete with each other in a respectful but aggressive way, every day at one on of the best surf spots in the world, Rincon. Also, the old guys reading a story about another old guy that won the Legends Division at the Rincon Classic might be interested in knowing the specs on what I rode in the contest, a 6’4″ x 20″ x 2 3/4″ Channel Islands, Kelly Slater, Black Flag Whip, with the quad fin set up. The surf was head high with good conditions, the finals were 20 minutes in length and the judges scored us on our top 2 waves.

From Santa Barbara Surfer