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Mickey's Cactus Stick – Munoz Builds a Unique Craft for a Unique Event

| posted on July 22, 2010

Wes Brown (grandson of Bruce who made that little film called The Endless Summer) along with filmmaking partner T.J. Barrack, won $100,000 from FUEL TV to make a documentary. The two lensmen assembled Mickey Munoz, Marc Andreini, and Wingnut for a short feature titled Chasing Dora, based on Da Cat’s “The Aquatic Ape”—his concept for a surfing competition published in the venerable pages of The Surfer’s Journal in Spring 2003.

The “engagement,” as Dora called it, calls for surfers to shape their own boards out of purely biodegradable, ozone-friendly materials and surf for speed and distance on the world’s finest right-hander, J-Bay.

Mickey Munoz, no stranger to the shaping bay, devised an 8’ 10” agave cactus board to meet Dora’s specifications that boards be no longer than 9’ 6”, have a single fin, and a tail squared off at 10”. Mr. Dora was not a man to hold back on his opinions concerning what constitutes proper surfing (if you use a Jet Ski his ghost will haunt you). “A clean stick is essential,” Malibu’s most infamous denizen declared. No traction pads, no leashes—wax only.

Taking liberties with the rules (as Dora himself surely would have), the surfers each used leashes (understandable at 8-foot J-Bay) and finished their boards in either epoxy resin, or varnish—neither material passing the environmentally friendly criteria of the event.

Still, Munoz’s craft represents a triumph of surfboard engineering, as the ultra-soft century plant stock would be structurally unable to handle a fin box assembly. To overcome this obstacle Mickey laid in a two-foot wedge of balsa in the tail and built the fin box from five-layer birch marine ply. Using block planes and Japanese pole planes, with a drawknife for “showbiz,” Munoz made his dimensions 15” in the nose, 21” wide, and 10” in the tail with a thickness of 2 ”. A polished piece of abalone shell epoxied to the deck served as a leash plug and strips of bamboo in the rails protected the board from the leash.

And how did this strange craft perform? “I got into the wave,” Mickey related, “and made the drop. I went through Boneyards (at the top of the point) and then I was committed—it’s not a wave you can just kick out of. Made it through Supertubes and it was thick and barreling, had to commit, and damn if it held! The wave was so thick and gnarly and felt so good that I didn’t pull out.” But he should have, since the wave passed him by and gave him a heroic drubbing, and subsequent ledge-dragging that left the 67-year-old charger cut up and bleeding. Undaunted, Mickey came through laughing. Surfing after all, is his thing—all of it, the glory rides as well as the wipeouts.

With one wave, Mickey “The Mongoose” Munoz took the top prize, which Dora said would be nothing more than “the esteem of the day,” passing on the “tents, food stalls, rock music, T-shirts, judging stands, bull horns, fat hangers-on, groupies, pretenders, or any other commercial rip offs.”

Thank you, Mr. Dora.