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Feasting and Surfing Have a Long, Distinguished Relationship

By Jake Howard

Somehow, the Pacific always seems to have a way of delivering A-plus surf on Thanksgiving Day.

When I was a kid, I remember going to my grandma’s house in San Francisco, and from the dining room windows, one could survey the scene at Ocean Beach. From the Cliff House to Sloat Street, it always seemed to be double overhead and firing.

A few years back, we roasted a turkey on a spit at San Onofre on a blue bird day with idyllic 4- to 6-foot combers pouring through. It was so nice, I surfed in trunks all day. And then there were all the years spent on the North Shore of Oahu, enjoying a day of thanks along the Seven-Mile Miracle.

On one particular Thanksgiving in Hawaii, I vividly remember watching three-time world champ Tom Curren at Pipeline. He’d paddle out and pull into a few bombs, then run back up the beach to baste the turkey at John John Florence’s house. He repeated the cycle all day until it was time to eat. We ended up putting a photo of Tom from that day on the cover of Surfer magazine.

This brings me to one of my absolute favorite episodes in surf lore: Pat Curren and the Meade Hall. An early big-wave pioneer, Pat, the father of Tom, and some of his La Jolla cohorts had a unique solution when it came to dining together.

Big-wave pioneer and master craftsman Pat Curren stands with a glued-up wooden surfboard blank and template for creating the board’s eventual outline. Photo: Courtesy of Bev Morgan

The story goes that in 1958, Pat secured a three-bedroom, fully furnished house near Ke Iki Road (just down the beach from Pipeline and Off The Wall) for $65 a month.

Along with partners in crime Mike Diffenderfer, Al Nelson, Wayne Land and a few others, they gutted the inside of the house and used the recycled lumber to build surfboard racks along the outside and a giant table for eating down the middle of the room. Inspired by King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, the facility was dubbed “Meade Hall.”

“When it was finished, Pat stood back. ‘I think this will do,’ ” recalled Fred Van Dyke in surf historian Malcolm Gault-Williams’ telling of the tale.

“With that, Pat strolled into the backyard, picked up a machete, and hacked a couple of branches from a Hale Koa tree,” Van Dyke continued. “He tied these to the top of his battered car and secured his board to the new rack. Pat disappeared in a cloud of fumes, headed toward Sunset.”

“Ricky Grigg said Curren would sit at the head of the table, often wearing a mock Viking helmet, and he’d pound on the table, going, ‘Ahh! Eat! We hungry! Gotta surf big waves tomorrow!’ ” continued Van Dyke.

Of course, like most classic surf digs, the existence of the Meade Hall was brief. In fact, it didn’t even last the entirety of the winter season.

“There’s no way to express the look on the owner’s face when he came the next month to collect the rent,” Van Dyke added. “Needless to say, Meade Hall was short-lived.”

As we sit down to Thanksgiving this year, it’s worth pausing to consider that we’ve all been through a lot the last couple of years, and if you and your family are fortunate enough to make it through everything in good health, there’s plenty for which to be thankful.

And whatever you’re doing this holiday, whoever you’re celebrating with and wherever you are, bang on the tables, toast to friends, surf your brains out and make the most of it, like Pat Curren and the gang at the Meade Hall—because time is fleeting, and you never know when the landlord’s going to show up.

Jake Howard is local surfer and freelance writer who lives in San Clemente. A former editor at Surfer Magazine, The Surfer’s Journal and ESPN, today he writes for a number of publications, including Picket Fence Media, Surfline and the World Surf League. He also works with philanthropic organizations such as the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center and the Positive Vibe Warriors Foundation.

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comments (2)

  • Jake – Thanksgiving surf has indeed evaporated from Ocean Beach. Instead of cold offshore winds grooming long period groundswells throughout November, it is now typically messy short period swell mixing in with plenty of onshore wind. Go electric, plant some tress, everybody! Climate change is not a liberal conspiracy.

    • “Go electric…”

      And where do you plan to get the electricity? From rainbows and unicorn farts? If you believe in the climate hysteria, you should have supported San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station which produced zero GHGs.

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