The Great 1970 HBSA Surf Party

As Remembered by Dr. Bruce "Snake" Gabrielson

This may have been Huntington's greatest local party ever, certainly it stands alone among the greatest surf oriented parties of its day. There are many people still around who attended the party (several who will read this) and each probably has their own view of what happened. I've included both the views from my perspective and also what my father-in-law, Jim Way, told me years later about the city's perspective of what happened.

A little background on Huntington Beach in the late summer will help set the stage. By that time of year the weather is hot and the beach is very popular. Probably several hundred thousand people daily are relaxing around in the sand along the city beach or the state beaches, and many of the out-of-the area kids are looking for something to do. Back then it was a big deal if you lived inland and someone who lived at the beach invited you to a party, particularly if they happened to be part of the local surfing crowd. Unfortunately for me, that's about what happened.

It was in the late summer of 1970. I had been holding smaller Huntington Beach Surfing Association oriented parties at my parent's home on Caroline Street a couple times each month since spring. Our house wasn't that big, but it had a pool table in the garage and a covered area 12' x 24' over the driveway along the left side of the house. We had walled off the covered area with plywood and painted glow-in-the-dark wave and space oriented designs along the walls. My brother put in a black light and a strobe so anyone who sat in there for a short time was dizzy before long. We also had a nice stereo set-up, plus we lived next to a large field so only had neighbors on two sides to worry about. One of the neighbors had a son and daughter who also came to all our parties as did a surf bud from across the street.

Usually only about 20-30 club members would show up at the parties. My dad loves playing pool, so he would open the garage and basically hold a pool shootout for anyone interested while the other partygoers headed towards the back.

HBSA had a well-attended meeting on Tuesday night and I told the crew that I was having an end of summer club party at my place on Saturday. I let my parents and the neighbors know, and then got ready to enjoy.

Well, Saturday morning at the Pier everyone was saying they were going to be there, so I headed home around noon to clean the place and get ready. Early afternoon came around and suddenly I started getting calls from as far away as Oceanside, north to Santa Monica, and inland to Pasadena about directions. At first I thought some of the callers were kidding, but before long I got the message and started to worry. I began telling callers the party was just a local event and not to show up.

It didn't work. Not only was the word getting around the beach, but it made it to the law as well. My father-in-law, HB Beach Director Jim Way, told me a few years later that local and state police had been alerted by 6 p.m. that evening about the party, and they were already planning for their response.

Around 7:00 p.m. the party goers started to show. First it was just the local surfing crew, Chuck Ray, Greg Duzich and company, David Van Druff and a few more. Then others started to arrive, many who lived inland and I didn't know at all. They started filling up all the parking spots along the road, then started to drive around my housing track through the field to park, and finally started parking along Garfield Ave. about a mile away. By 8:30 p.m. there were literally hundreds of kids, with no place left to park, and some kids started parking in the middle of the street slowly filling the street back towards Garfield.

About that time I was sitting in my Wave Trek Surfboard Van in my parents driveway with girlfriend, Anne MacDonnald, listening to music and just enjoying the party goers passing by to visit. My dad was busy in the garage with a huge pool tourney, my mom was somewhere in the house, and my brother was in the backyard covered patio area with a wild strobe-light show and music. Suddenly, the police helicopter swooped overhead, put its spotlight on my front yard, and announced over the speaker that a riot had been declared and the party goers were to disperse immediately. At the same time, up the open path in the street marched about 30 officers in riot gear shoulder to shoulder.

My surf buds were running all over the place, through the fields and who knows where else. I opened my Van door and was greeted by a flashlight in the face and two non-uniformed cops telling me I was going to be arrested and to help them clear the place immediately. I was also told not to make any quick moves or start a full-fledged riot against their authority. I stood there dumfounded while it took another minute of two for the rest of the riot squad to reach me. About that time Charley gave me a reality check by telling me that the club would stand by whatever I wanted to do. All I could say to the police was that I didn't know everyone there and why was it my fault so many people decided to show up?

Some of my neighbors who were at the party, plus my dad, stepped in and basically told them that if I helped clear everyone out, they better let me and my buddies off. After looking around at several hundred edgy kids surrounding them, many good size local surfers, plus knowing that there were still many more kids in the immediate area, the Officer in charge agreed. He said "Clear them out and that's that, just work with us."

Fortunately the surf club was a good group and they all helped me clear the area. It didn't happen immediately, but within about 30 minutes the area was clear. I had to stay on the driveway until well into the night turning late arrivals away as they continued to drive in from all over. The police let me off with a warning, but made sure I understood that I could never have another party there again.

My father-in-law, Huntington's Beach Director Jim Way, told me a few years later that the party caused a third stage riot alert and request for help to be sent as far away as San Clemente. Also, after that day, parties in Huntington were always broken up early before they got very large. The city passed an ordinance against excessive party noise as well soon afterwards.