Mike Purpus sent in a unique perspective on the late Dru Harrison. I first heard about Dru’s passing via the Surfermag.com message board and obviously I was saddened. I never knew Dru Harrison. I don’t know Mike Purpus. Nevertheless, as a grom in the late 70’s, I devoured everything that was surfing. This meant scouring the pages of old Surfer magazines, and thus the connection I have with these two is based solely on grom idolatry — distant, one-sided, and yet somehow quite personal.
The thoughts expressed below (from Mike Purpus) say a lot about not only what a great surfer and person Dru Harrison was, but also about the mature nature and wisdom of Mike Purpus. Purpus was often portrayed, and rightly so I’m told, as a sort of playboy/prankster. His piece below, although not a Pulitzer finalist, conveys a different side of Purpus — introspective, romantic, and melancholy.
Surfing has lost one of it’s best. Dru Harrison was a charismatic, soulful, smooth and radical surfer. It made him a champion and a legend. We surfed in countless contests and had even more surf sessions from the early 60’s until last year. Funny thing is, we never hung out together and, truthfully, we didn’t get along. But we had great respect for each other. Dru was the Ying to my Yang, and every time we hit the water together it was an exciting surf jam.
It wasn’t planned, but I would be paired up with Dru for the rest of my surfing career. In the 60’s, Dru and I were on both the Jacobs Surf Team and Bay Cities Surf Club, and we were the first and only two surfers from the South Bay drafted by the Windansea Surf Club. We made our first trip to Hawaii and wound up in the finals of The Makaha International Surfing Championships together. Dru beat me.
Growing up Dru lived in a big house right by the Strand on 14th Street in Hermosa Beach. Dru was the youngest and the smallest of four boys. Dru, Dane, Drake and Derrick were all varsity wrestlers on the Mira Costa High School team. Dru might have only been a few inches above five feet but he was tough and never backed down. Dru’s father owned a few cement trucks and was successful in the construction industry. At California surf meets, Dru’s Mom and Dad would sit next to my parents, as well as the parents of Corky Carroll, David Nuuhiwa and Jericho Poppler.
The Harrison house was sort of a surfing youth hostel for surfers from around the world. David Nuuhiwa spent his first year on the mainland there. Everyone hung out because the best surfers were there. Tiger Makin and Eddie Underwood were two of about thirty kids that kept boards there. When Dru’s parents sold the house in the early 70’s, and as luck would have it, I moved in and lived there for the next seven years. You could feel kind of a surfing poltergeist throughout the large, four-bedroom home.
In the 60’s while I was climbing the competitive surfing ladder, Dru was already sitting on top. He was almost two years younger but already the top rated boys and junior in The United States Surfing Association. Dru would walk to the nose, hang ten, pick his right foot up and kick it past the tip, scamper back, and just cruise. In the late 60’s it was shortboards and Dru was equally impressive. He would carve up the face, switch stance at the lip, and float back down. He was great. We had some terrific battles for the next five years, and although joined at the hip by circumstance, we never saw eye-to-eye.
Nancy Katin was only about 4’10” and the only one that called him “Little Dru”. She loved Dru and me, and along with Jericho Poppler, Nancy ran five years of advertisements with the three of us. She got a kick out of the friction between Dru and I. She was just like a favorite grandmother to us.