Miki Dora

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Miki "Da Cat" Dora, a.k.a. Mickey Dora, a.k.a. "The Black Knight," (b. Miklos Sandor Dora 11 August 1934, Budapest, Hungary - d. 3 January 2002, Montecito, California, ) was an iconic Malibu surfer of the 1950s and 1960s. He had a unique style, in and out of the water, and was generally considered rather iconoclastic. He is featured in the seminal surf movie The Endless Summer, and is credited in several beach party films - specifically Beach Party (1963), Surf Party (1964), Muscle Beach Party (1964), Bikini Beach (1964), Beach Blanket Bingo (1965), Ski Party (1965) and How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965).

Life[edit]

Dora was introduced to surfing by his father, Miklos, in the late 1930s:

"Mr. Dora returned and invited us into the den where the walls were covered with photos. Pointing to an image on the wall, he explained the young boy and young man in surf trunks standing on the sand in front of a bluff. "Here I am with Miki on our first day at San Onofre in 1940. Miki is six in the photo." Surprised, Munoz asks, "Did you surf?" Miklos answers, "Oh, yes. I wasn't ever that good, but I frequented the Cove and San Onofre back in the '30s and '40s. I took Miki to the Cove for his first surf at age four." We had both always assumed that it was Miki's stepdad, Gard Chapin, who launched his surfing, that his real father was more the city sophisticate, removed from the beach scene. But, no, not at all." - Steve Pezman, The Surfers Journal, volume 11, number two. Spring 2002.

At the height of his surfing popularity, he decided to flee the U.S. in 1970 after a warrant was issued against him for credit card and check fraud. He traveled around the globe surfing for a living before returning to California in 1973 and facing probation, which he broke. He was in and out of jail twice and spent much of his later years in France. He resurfaced in the documentary Surfers: The Movie (1990) and became the subject of his own film In Search of da Cat (1996) (TV).

“Da Cat” was the best Malibu surfer of the 50′s and 60′s. As paradoxical and unpredictable on dry land as he was consistently brilliant in the water, he led the charge of Californian surfers during this period. He was the perfect antidote to the clean-cut All American image the surfing establishment was attempting to cultivate – arrogant and aggressive, he shunned competitions and media coverage (although he wasn’t above decrying these “vices” in the media. And sometimes at competitions), making his elegance and skill in the water an even sharper contrast to his troubled personality.

Dora was the creator and prodigy of the Malibu Mystique, high-performance pioneer, standard bearer of the surf rebel, prophet of surfing's apocalypse and angry icon to an ever-expanding audience he unwittingly helped to create...Mickey Dora has led a life dedicated to the ultimate free ride. Yet, in many ways, Dora has paid a high price for his philosophies of freedom: harassment and incarceration, gossip, notoriety and blatant commercial rip-offs have proved to be a relentless nemesis. He dropped off the public surf scene in 1974. “Real secrets will get you dead. I always forget to remember anything. I am a waterlogged, sun-baked old surf bum and that act always ends the inquisition. I wanted to be left alone. So I left alone. Now I don’t want anything.” -The Black Knight of Malibu.Legend. Miki Dora.

Miki Dora died on January 3, 2002, at age 67 at his father's home in Montecito, California after a six-month battle with pancreatic cancer.

"... If you took James Dean’s cool, Muhammad Ali’s poetics, Harry Houdini’s slipperiness, James Bond’s jet-setting, George Carlin’s irony and Kwai Chang Caine’s Zen, and rolled them into one man with a longboard under his arm, you’d come up with something like Miki Dora, surfing’s mythical antihero, otherwise known as the Black Knight of Malibu.... His surfboard was his magic carpet and his wits were his wings, and from the late ’60s up until his death in 2002, excepting a couple brief prison stints, Dora lived the Endless Summer lifestyle, defining what it means to be a surfer ...."[1]

Controversy: "Described by friends as smart, witty and iconoclastic, the charismatic Dora was also known for being standoffish, secretive and something of a scam artist.

The latter trait backfired after he returned to America from France in 1981. He was arrested by the FBI for having fled the country in 1975 in violation of his parole after pleading guilty to writing a bad check for the purchase of ski equipment.

While serving time for that, he was sentenced to six months in federal prison after a Denver grand jury indicted him in 1982 for altering a credit card and using it on a two-year spending spree through Europe and Asia.

Dora, who painted a swastika on his board, "had no mercy on those around him," Pezman said. "He'd push them off. He was always [angry] at the crowds and the Valley kooks." [2]

"Existing surf books have presented the heroic side. Dora, dubbed the king of Malibu, was infamous for painting a swastika on his surfboard. The guy was a fantastic surfer, but he was a bigot. He was charismatic and a lot of people loved him. But you have to call him out when he’s just spouting racist garbage." [3]

Miki was once asked a question- Would you enter a contest for $1,000-$2,000 prize money? His answer- "I ride for my pleasure only: no thanks. Professionalism will be completely destructive to any control an individual has over the sport at present. The organizers will call the shots, collect the profits, while the waverider does all the labor and receives little. Also, since surfing's alliance with the decadent big-business interests is designed only as a temporary damper to complete fiscal collapse, the completion of such a partnership will serve only to accelerate the art's demise. A surfer should think carefully before selling his being to these "people”, since he's signing his own death warrant as a personal entity."

Despite his perceived mistrust towards the commercialization of surfing, Dora did enter into a profit sharing arrangement with legendary surfer and shaper Greg Noll to release a limited number of Miki Dora "da cat" surfboards, during which time he personally authored magazine ads promoting the boards.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Jamie Brisick: Requiem for Surfing's Black Knight - The sanctioned Miki Dora, LA Weekly, Mar 2 2006
  2. ^ http://articles.latimes.com/2002/jan/05/local/me-20528
  3. ^ http://tfm.usc.edu/autumn-2014/dawn-patrol
  4. ^ Rensin, David (March 2008). All for a Few Perfect Waves - The Audacious Life and Legend of Rebel Surfer Miki Dora. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. pp. 892–899. ISBN 9780061868160. 

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