Lorrin “Whitey” Harrison
Whitey was born in Garden Grove in 1913.
In fifth grade he built a 5' long, 18" wide plank that he used to bodysurf in Laguna Beach. He began stand up surfing in 1925 at the age of 12. He would walk 10 miles to Corona Del Mar from Laguna Beach to surf at the jetty. Many early California surfers would leave their surfboards at the bluff above this break, including a pinewood board left there by Duke Kahanamoku that Whitey would use on occasion.
In 1931, Whitey started working for a company called Pacific Ready-Cut Homes in Los Angeles. They built prefabricated homes. As a sideline, they manufactured surfboards. With their equipment, first they would laminate together wooden blanks. Next they would plane and cut out the template for these boards. Lastly, Whitey and crew, including other top surfers such as Pete Peterson and Tulie Clark, would finish these surfboards with hand planes and sand paper.
Whitey would complete four boards a day for a monthly salary of $100. These surfboards were called “Swastika Boards” and they sold for about $25 each. During summer, more than 50 a month would be sent to Hawaii. These boards were typically 10' to 11' long, 23" wide, with a tail that was 22" across. They had redwood stringers and rails and insides made of the lighter balsa wood. They were finished with varnish to protect the wood construction.
In 1932, Whitey stowed away on a cruise ship going to Honolulu but was caught before landing on the shores of the islands. He was sent back to San Francisco. In less than 24 hours he stowed away on another ship.
This time he was allowed to remain in Hawaii where he teamed up with fellow surfer Pete Peterson. They were the first of the hardcore California surfers to surf Waikiki. Here they surfed with Duke’s brothers, Tom Blake, Wally Froiseth, John Kelly and others. In Hawaii, at age 18, Whitey began his career shaping surfboards.
Most of Whitey’s best shaping was done in his barn in Capistrano for such well-known surfers as Joe Quigg and Matt Kivlin. He had influences on both Dale Velzy and Hobie Alter. Whitey was known as one of the best surfers in California and Hawaii during the 1930s and was legendary for surfing large waves at Dana Point.