In every surf town in America there was an Otto’s. You remember the Otto’s, a rental shop, a new board shop, a haven for stolen surfboards, a repair shop, a decal shop and an anything surf you wanted shop. He was cashing in on the latest teenage craze! Otto’s in Santa Cruz was an old Texaco Gas Station on the end of front street with a great sign over the non unusable gas pumps “Follow the Washington Senators”. God forbid if you got caught doing business with Otto. However, many heavy Santa Cruz Locals worked for Otto. Some learned the surfboard trade from Otto. Otto had a monkey in a cage on the North entrance to the property. Someone killed the monkey out of contempt for Otto’s eagerness to do business with every grom and hodad from Sacramento to Fresno!
The first surfboard I rented was from the O’Neill rental shop beneath the Dream Inn Hotel. Rick “Frosty” Hesson forbid me in buying an O’Neill T Shirt. Otto’s was just across the street. There was no way Rick was letting rent from Otto! The rumors were ramped that he would have local kids steal out of towner’s surfboards and cover up the logo with his own. I do not know this to be a fact but they sure were fun to believe.
So fast forward to the late seventies, my return to full time surfing. I wanted to the surf old sixties boards. The old boards just floated me better. At the same time I was starting my surfboard collection. As previously mentioned my old junior high school buddy owned Portola Surf Shop. I was buying old boards from people at Barney’s Shop for as little as $5. Once I traded a Portola Surf Shop T Shirt for a 9-8 Gordie. Barney made me pay for the T Shirt it was $2.50. Otto who was sitting on literally hundred of old surfboards wanted a fortune. He wanted $50 to a $100. Otto also had old water transfer decals. Otto was a shrewd trader/business man. The price started off at $.25. When Otto finally figured out I was collecting the price went up to a $1 a decal. Well, I wanted an Olson Surfboard. Otto told me he had a perfect one but wanted a $100 for it and but he had to dig it out of his stash. Later next week I went to see Otto. He had a beautiful, lily white 10-8 Olson for me. Now remember at this time in history in Santa Cruz no one but me wanted these old surfboards. Otto Started at a $150 and I started at $25. To make a long story short I paid just what Otto wanted me to pay $85. I was stoked! I surfed the hello out of that surfboard until I lent it to my brother to display at Newport Surf n Sport.
Years later I bought two Hansen’s from the sixties with the work order from Hansen’s to Otto’s. The two surfboards were in Otto’s basement and sold after his death. The Hansen with the work order in Surf’s Up is that board. They were brand new! I traded one for a perfect Hickey of San Francisco. Both the Hansen and Hickey are on display at the On the Beach Classic Surfboard Museum in Monterey Ca.
Every one of you had an Otto in your town. Finding these photos was not easy. Who was the Otto of your Surf Town? What surfboards did he carry? What kind of things went on with his or her business dealings? Remember if you can send pictures with you’re reply it is worth a 1000 words.
Keep Surfing, da Coach
PS: Otto was a catcher for the Washington Senators, he had to wear stockings for support of his bad veins in his calves, as did I in later years, I looked like Otto!