Before Malibu There Was Nothing

- by Ed Vaughan
Before Malibu There Was Nothing© Ed Vaughan 2007 - All Rights Reserved

When I was 15 years old, my mother, who was an unhappy, abusive, single mom, chased me out of the house one day shouting, “Go get some exercise! Go to the beach or something!” And that’s exactly what I did.

Sending me to the beach, “or something”, did not change my life because I had no life at the time. All I knew was school, food, zits and dreams of sex.

I don’t remember how I got there, I had no transportation of my own and no money, but I do remember arriving in Malibu that day back in 1957 and finding a lifestyle I couldn’t resist.

I saw healthy, painfully sexy beautiful girls, handsome athletic men, sun, sand and surf. I inhaled the sweet smell of suntan oil mixed with sea mist from perfect waves, and it all spoke to me and whispered “Freedom”.

As I look back now, having adopted that lifestyle 50 years ago as a foundation for sculpting a life for myself, I can honestly say that, for me, before Malibu there was nothing.

Ed Vaughan at the wheel
of his ocean going yacht "
Mas Alegre."

Two years later I was a part of it all….at least, I thought I was. I wasn’t a member the inner circle because the inner circle on that beach consisted of the best surfers. Their names were Miki Dora, Lance Carson, Johnny Fain and Kemp Aaberg. Dewey Webber would visit and be accepted into the inner circle without question, but he was always a visitor from "South Bay" not a "Local". These guys seemed to be born to surf. Each had his own effortless style and each seemed to have unlimited access to the most beautiful girls. Miki was handsome, he looked like a movie star, a fantastically talented surfer, mysterious and very, very intimidating. He was always at the center of everything

Outside the inner circle was a group of people who aspired to be accepted by any member of the inner circle especially Miki. Anyone who managed to speak with Dora was given special status in the second circle. Consequently, Dora was courted by virtually everyone. The second circle people had names like Duane King, Bob King, Mike Nader, Larry Shaw and Brian Wilson (not the musician) and his brothers Jeff and Tony.

The third circle was populated by people who knew who the inner circle was, but never got close enough to speak with any of them. These people spoke only to the second circle and emulated the people in that circle. They had names like Dick Jolloff and Colin Gilbert.

The fourth circle was populated by what we called "Kooks". These were people who had driven from somewhere a long way away, like the San Fernando Valley, and were active spectators. They did not know how to surf and never tried to learn, some tried to learn but found it too difficult and reverted to cars and motorcycles.

Finally, the fifth circle was made up of people who rented surfboards from those of us in the inner three circles for $5.00 an hour. We knew that these people returning in 20 minutes, sunburned and exhausted, would not ask for their money back. They were less than kooks, they were tourists from somewhere far, far away, like another state

One day in 1961, when the surf was small, two older men walked down the beach fully clothed and covered with camera equipment. They even had shoes on! The minute I saw them I knew they were there to publicize surfing in some magazine and I saw an opportunity.

I approached them and asked where they were from. The leader said, "Hi, my name is Alan Grant and we’re from Life Magazine. We’re doing an article on surfing, can you help us?" I said, "Sure, what can I do for you?" Grant said, "Well, we’d like to know what you guys do when there is no surf". I thought "My God, I’m going to be famous" and I said, "Oh, I can tell you everything!".

So, during the next two weeks, I created totally imaginary events that we surfers supposedly did while the surf was small. The Life photographers seemed to love it.

I told them we surfed in tuxedos we had bought at thrift shops so the two of them bought us tux’s at a Thrift Shop. I told them we jumped off Malibu pier just for fun and they asked that I organize that. I told them we drove around in old cars with boards in the back just to get noticed and I stage managed that. I told them we had parties on the beach where we got together with the girls and I managed to organize one of those. We staged all of the aforementioned imaginary activities as if we were all movie actors and the two photographers shot away as if they were directors. Truthfully, in reality, we never did any of those things when the surf was small, but it looked great in Life Magazine in 1961.

Here are some of the proofs from that shoot.


Above: jumping from the pier for Life Magazine
Ed is in right there in the middle

Below: Mike Nader on the left, Ed Vaughan on the right.
It was Ed's idea to set up this shot of surfing in a tux, but
it was a photo of Mike Nader alone that was chosen
as the title shot for the article

Above: Dressed to kill

Below: Ed leaves the water

Dick Jolloff gets the push from one of the girls
Couldn't have happened to a more deserving guy ...

The only published photo in which I appeared is the photo of the old truck with two surfers doing the Nazi salute. I’m the guy with the girl in the back just sitting there trying to appear as if I am having fun. Mike Nader and Larry Shaw got full page shots in that article and I imagine those photos changed their lives forever. I lost touch with both of them after that. I know that Nader became a successful actor and Shaw became a successful PH.D. Psychologist in Beverly Hills, California.

I went on to attend San Diego State University, then called San Diego State College. I majored in Television and Film Production, but I spent the majority of my time surfing Wind N Sea, living in La Jolla and studying Flamenco Guitar. By my senior year I was able to perform and teach Flamenco Guitar professionally. Flamenco was the music of the surfers back then, probably because surfing so resembled bullfighting.

Ed playing Flamenco

After that, I had a 25 year career as a TV and Movie Producer.

Finally, to see what I did to create a life of freedom using what I learned back in Malibu in 1959 (see In 1990, I sailed to Cape Town, South Africa aboard my boat Mas Alegre and heard that Miki Dora was living there near Cape St. Francis, so I set out to visit him.

I left my boat in Cape Town and drove the 50 miles to The Cape where I found out from a lady in a local surf shop that Miki had driven to Cape Town that day. Once again we had crossed paths going in opposite directions.

I was disappointed and relieved at the same time. He was always so intimidating and I hadn’t lost my fear of him after almost 40 years.

I asked the lady at the surf shop if she would pass a message on to Miki. She said, "Sure" and I wrote, "Miki, you probably won’t remember me, but I have come here to thank you. I want to thank you for just being there when I needed a hero back in Malibu many, many years ago. Thank you Miki just for being yourself. With affection, Ed Vaughan, Yacht Mas Alegre" Miki died in 2002. To read more about him, Google ‘The Lost Boys Of Malibu Vanity Fair 2006’.

I now live in Phuket, Thailand. 

Ed Vaughan 2007

Before Malibu There Was Nothing© Ed Vaughan 2007 - All Rights Reserved