The Surfers—Bob Skinner, Tom Jobe, and Mike Sorokin—Implemented their Lifestyles Philosophies to the Dragstrip
Zen philosophy states that there’s an interconnection of all issues bodily and religious, that there’s a team spirit at a profound degree, and that our movements have endless repercussions. Within the mid-1960s, this self-discipline used to be integral to the machinations of an offbeat trio of nitro bums from the west facet of Los Angeles: Bob Skinner, Tom Jobe, and Mike Sorokin, aka “The Surfers.” It outlined their solution to the applying of nitromethane vis-à-vis compression ratios and blower speeds. Additional, it outlined who they had been as folks.
That is the tale of ways those 3 stood the arena of drag racing on its ear by means of their theoretical way of living as carried out to a Best Gas dragster. It’s the parable of 2 summary but linear thinkers, Skinner and Jobe, and their driving force, Sorokin, and the way they found out that the trail to Drag Town and the trophy queen used to be additionally the trail to nirvana and enlightenment.
For those shrewd and mischievous nitromaniacs, the dragstrips of Southern California had been a clean slate upon which to challenge their needs and sensibilities in a lot the similar method a Zen grasp approaches the mysteries of lifestyles: Head First. With No Rear View Mirrors. This used to be no longer about kissing a trophy queen on Saturday evening. This used to be an workout in awareness enlargement. It used to be a adventure.
And it used to be the best time to catch a wave, with the intention to discuss. The chance to specific one’s self within the state of California used to be at the moment as vast open because the blue waters of the Pacific. The one limits had been one’s resourcefulness and ingenuity. And for about 3 revolutions across the solar, it used to be completely prime tide for the collaboration between Skinner, Jobe, and Sorokin. The Surfers dominated.
Even if those younger males made the universe shudder with their distinctive solution to each Best Gas racing and lifestyles itself, the genesis in their racing endeavors used to be a lot more prosaic than you could believe. It germinated within the days of Ozzy & Harriet and it in particular took root at the nook of Jefferson and Sepulveda in Culver Town, California. There stood a burger joint referred to as The Nineteen. Named after its 19-cent hamburgers, it used to be the epicenter for cafe society as interpreted by way of side road racin’ Southern California sizzling rodders. And its surroundings, vibrations, and “extracurricular actions” resonated deep within the soul of Mike Sorokin, on the time a Venice Prime College pupil with an acute case of Lead Foot.
“The article about The Nineteen used to be, no longer best did they have got reasonable meals,” recollects native digger driving force and one-time side road racer Ron Hier, “they’d a super large parking space. We used to hold available in the market as a result of we used to side road race, and ‘Sork’ used to be probably the most guys who used to be there.
“After we first began placing out with Sorokin at The Nineteen, there in reality wasn’t any dragstrips—aside from for Lions and the only the entire method out in Santa Ana, and there have been no freeways in the ones days. It used to be Gene Adams, Craig Breedlove and his ’34, Leonard Harris, Mickey Brown, and John Peters. What were given Sorokin into racing used to be placing out at The Nineteen and side road racing with the fellows. I will’t imagine none folks were given installed prison.”
Hier, who offered Sorokin a ’34 Ford that used to be used to pull down Sepulveda Street, mentions that Sork’s need to race result in an ego combat together with his outdated guy, a struggle stereotypical of the technology’s teenage riot. “His dad didn’t like side road racing; he didn’t like drag racing; he didn’t need Mike riding. He would come over and check out and communicate all folks out of racing.” Suffice to mention that Ben Sorokin’s admonishment fell on deaf ears, most commonly as a result of he couldn’t be heard over the roar of unmuffled engines and squealing tires of the automobiles that roared down Lincoln Street.
Concurrent to Sork polishing his reflexes at the malt store circuit in addition to in fuel coupes and a D/Gas dragster at the strip, Santa Monica Town School scholars Bob Skinner and Tom Jobe started tinkering mischievously in academia with a double main in chemical mischief and the speculation and alertness of nitromethane. And as Southern California’s dragstrips and freeways skilled a parallel growth, those two brainiacs pooled their grey topic with an area development employee named Jim Crosser and postulated operating a Best Gas automobile out of a motel storage. It used to be the easiest alternative to use their research to the true international….
“Skinner and Jobe, after they put the auto in combination,” Hier recollects with bemusement, “…it used to be only a harebrained thought.” Skinner doesn’t dispute Hier’s overview. “I had dabbled in side road racing. I in short ran a B or C/Gasoline automobile,” he recollects. “I had simply were given again from a three-month holiday and Jobe and Crosser stated to me, ‘OK, we wish to construct a gasoline automobile.’ And I simply stated, ‘OK.’ Maximum issues that I’ve executed alongside the best way had been type of spontaneous impulse with out numerous eager about it. So once I got here again they usually stated, ‘We wish to construct this automobile,’ I simply stated ‘Nice,’ and we simply more or less were given into it.”
Hier recalls how the workforce raised its undertaking capital: “Skinner and Jobe were given along with Skinner’s mom—who owned the Pink Apple Motel there on Wilshire Street in Santa Monica—and were given her to signal for a ‘furnishings mortgage’ for one thing like $5,000.” Skinner and Jobe straight away cashed the test and started collecting items for his or her AA/Gas Dragster, which they stored in a storage on the Pink Apple.
Jobe sums up their rationale for operating a Best Gas dragster out of his mother’s motel’s storage thusly: “It used to be a time when any one may just take part. After we began, all we had used to be enthusiasm. We didn’t know nuthin’. We had been only a bunch of side road racers from Santa Monica,” he says. “My brother raced in a inventory elegance with a Chevy, and I used to be his motor guy. He side road raced six days per week and would pass to the drags on Saturday evening, however we simply were given uninterested in the ‘elegance’ deal. He received the Winternationals in ’60 and runner-upped on the Indy Nationals, however he used to be at all times getting torn down and all that crap. All of us kinda’ dabbled with C/Gasoline Willys, and Mike drove a (C/Altered) coupe with George Bacilek,” he recalls. “Anyway, all folks had messed with other categories, and we in the end stated: ‘Categories? That sucks! Let’s construct a dragster,’ however we didn’t know the way to construct one, you understand.” In different phrases, the one pageant elegance the place Skinner and Jobe may just reside as free-thinkers used to be a category whose construction had no actual construction: Best Gas.
So the pair started tugging at the store apron strings of the native chassis developers and fabricators like a few hyperactive nephews who forgot to take their Ritalin. “There have been numerous (dragster) guys round right here,” Jobe notes. “On a daily basis after paintings we’d hit the entire garages—there used to be a number of them in Mar Vista—we’d pass to each one in all them and ask some questions ’til they’d throw us out after which we’d pass right down to the following one. We (in the end) came upon sufficient stuff as a result of we needed to construct the entire thing ourselves; we didn’t have any cash to shop for the rest.”
They may had been strapped for money, however Skinner and Jobe had been loaded with an mental camaraderie that couldn’t be purchased. “Tom and I had a super talent to paintings in combination,” Skinner recognizes in connection with the sculpting in their brief, scruffy, minimalist dragster. However Crosser had a reasonably much less theoretical tackle drag racing and consistent with Jobe, “Our different spouse simply dropped out quickly once we were given the object operating.”
However simply getting their selfmade dragster to fireside used to be an excruciating studying curve, consistent with SoCal drag racing fixture Tom Hunnicutt, who used to be crewing for good friend Jim Boyd’s “Pink Turkey” AA/Gas Dragster the day The Surfers unveiled their advent at Lions Drag Strip in early 1964.
Hunnicutt says of that afternoon, “They stored pushing up and down looking to get the auto to fireside, and it wouldn’t hearth. I don’t know if they’d the magneto in incorrect or what, however they stored pushing it at the go back highway for a very long time—it wasn’t simply as soon as. It used to be a number of laps.” About this preliminary impact, Hunnicutt recollects considering derisively, “‘Those guys aren’t drag racers; who’re they?’ They had been kinda’ geeky.”
This used to be the segment the place Skinner and Jobe had been enduring the scorn in their warring parties as a result of their selfmade, homely digger used to be an actual backmarker. Even supposing they may get the motor to fireside, a part of the men’ catch 22 situation used to be that they’d but to choose a shoe who may just viscerally and intuitively interpret their cerebral solution to Best Gas racing and run it in the course of the lighting fixtures with the butterflies horizontal. Sooner than Skinner and Jobe in the long run settled on Sorokin, there used to be a litany of drivers who tried to “grasp ten” within the cockpit, together with “Lotus John” Morton, a journeyman sports activities automobile racer who used to be sweeping the ground at Carroll Shelby’s (the place Skinner additionally punched a clock). Morton had a name as being completely fearless and ready to take care of the rest that had a throttle.
“The dragster experience came about when I used to be at Shelby’s,” Morton writes of his one-day tenure as shoe of The Surfers’ AA/Fueler in a passage from his biography, The Stainless Metal Carrot. “I were given within the automobile on the strip. In point of fact were given packed in. I used to be sitting there in that factor considering, ‘I’ve in reality were given myself into one thing.’ Right here I used to be a sports-car racer and had by no means pushed the rest down a dragstrip earlier than, no longer even my dad’s automobile, and I used to be about to pressure the quickest factor they made. I used to be scared shitless. The article used to be so tough the centrifugal power of the take hold of used to be looking to push itself out. I revved the engine, and the sound ripped out like an explosion. My complete leg used to be trembling at the take hold of.
“I let it out. The whole lot used to be a blur, the entire international went fuzzy. I let off for a 2nd, only a tiny bit, and were given frustrated at myself and floored it once more. On my different runs I by no means let off but it surely didn’t topic; the object used to be so rapid I did 100 my first run and that used to be it, by no means any sooner. I put the take hold of in on the finish of the run and waited for the object to prevent. By the point it did, I may just really feel my leg used to be nonetheless shaking, like a canine shitting razor blades. However I did it. One thing made me do it.”
Morton’s account unearths one thing concerning the state of The Surfers’ racing effort: For a few geeks, abruptly Skinner and Jobe had been making beau coup horsepower. However they lacked the overall piece to their puzzle: a driving force who may just harness all of it and experience the bulbous yellow system bareback. After which Sorokin handed Skinner’s reflex take a look at of catching a chain of falling cash, hopped within the saddle and historical past used to be about to be capsized.
In line with Skinner, “It’s exhausting to mention the way it all advanced as a result of we had [Bob] Muravez riding, and we had Roy Tuller riding, then ‘Lotus John’ drove, then we had Mike riding for us, and we removed him and had different drivers riding for us. By hook or by crook we got here again to him [Sorokin] and issues began to paintings higher for us. Perhaps we were given the auto operating higher; possibly he were given higher, however I believe like all of us more or less advanced in combination.”
For Sorokin, this used to be nirvana certainly. His ambition used to be to be a certified dragster driving force, and right here used to be a chance to hammer the throttle, kick out the jams—and receives a commission. Notoriously hyperactive and fast as an outhouse mouse at the X-mas tree, Sorokin used to be a fearless tablet monkey who thrived on going into orbit regardless of how sketchy the stipulations at the launchpad. Sorokin had Cross! Fever as unhealthy as any Southern California boy, and he used to be keen to get himself strapped right into a nitro-burning rattletrap rocket it doesn’t matter what the cases.
“He used to be so rattling excellent at what he did. And all he sought after to do used to be win,” recalls Jobe. “He wasn’t enthusiastic about arguing concerning the nuts and bolts, ‘that’s your drawback;’ he didn’t even care.” This unnerved the contest—a few Surf Town hodads had been killing ’em at Drag Town—but it surely extremely joyful the railbirds, and it gave the media a human passion hook to ratchet up their race studies.
The entire “Surf” factor, on the other hand, used to be a ruse: “None of the ones guys surfed,” recalls Hier. “None of ’em had a board.”
Sorokin attempted to stay the picture of seaside bums in point of view. “Surfing more or less scares me,” he confessed somewhat dryly to Drag Global. However his droll backpedaling used to be too overdue. The die have been forged.
Jobe, musing on The Surfers’ sartorial ensemble of Pendelton shirts, deck footwear, and skateboards, says, “They didn’t know what to think about us; we had been considered simply…this used to be earlier than hippies…however we had been considered only a few long-haired freaks from the seaside.”
“They had been surely other,” remembers Roland Leong, in this day and age the pit boss on Don Prudhomme’s Humorous Automobile however then owner of the notorious “Hawaiian” AA/Gas Dragster that claimed Best Gas Eliminator on the ’65 and ’66 Winternationals. “I be mindful seeing those guys at Fontana and Bakersfield they usually pulled in there with an open trailer with a ’55 Chevrolet and uhh, like uhh, ‘Who’re those guys?’ They known as themselves ‘The Surfers,’ proper? And me, coming from Hawaii, that wasn’t my thought of a surfer; you understand what I imply? I assume in California phrases they gave the look of ‘seaside’ kinda’ guys, however in my eyes….
“Whilst you take into consideration it, on the time we had been all younger, and the phrase ‘nerd’ wasn’t in our vocabulary. However taking a look again, they gave the look of the intellectual-type as adversarial to a few greasy drag racers, which is what we had been all recognized for on the time.”
In regards to the belief of The Surfers as seaside bum misfits and oddballs, Skinner—who now solutions to the title “Roberto”—used to be oblivious. He says, “Some other folks are living their lives, and folks are living their lives however on the identical time it’s like they’re status off at a distance and gazing themselves. I’ve by no means been that observer.”
Skinner maintains there used to be no contrived symbol, however others theorize that the character of seaside buffoons with sand of their snorkels used to be a calculated, theatrical pink herring. However arch rival Leong noticed in the course of the skullduggery of the Surf Town minstrel display. “All of ’em had been lovely good guys,” he says. “With the finances they needed to run on, they did a very good task. They didn’t have the budget, so numerous their stuff they needed to make or spend the cash very properly. They didn’t have numerous what we name perks, you understand what I imply?”
“It wasn’t very lengthy earlier than they had been lovely dialed in,” Hunnicutt corroborates. Certainly, quickly the dragstrip international used to be speaking concerning the beatniks from the bay, no longer out of bemusement however out of admire. It used to be obtrusive The Surfers had been onto one thing…simply ask the denizens and the vanquished drivers of San Fernando, Lengthy Seashore, Fontana Drag Town, Riverside, Bakersfield, Irwindale, Pomona, Fremont, Amarillo, Salt Lake Town, Pocatello, Union Grove, Rockford, Maple Grove, Atco, and Denver. At each this sort of venues, The Surfers both bagged Best Eliminator, recorded Low Elapsed Time, or became Best Pace of the Meet—and occasionally all 3. (In Amarillo, they received two fit races at the identical day. Leong’s “Hawaiian” AA/FD used to be bongoed in a towing twist of fate so the monitor supervisor enjoined The Surfers to move best-two-out-of-three in opposition to native hitters Eddie Hill and Vance Hunt…the Californians swept each fits.) They had been not geeky gremmies. They had been heros.
The wave persevered to crest. Skinner asserted, “At that time in lifestyles, I’d say that we had been utterly involved in our deal.” In a separate dialog, Jobe agreed after which elaborated on The Surfers’ solution to conquering Best Gas. “We went at it in an excessively typical model,” he says. “The entire guys that had the goofy mixtures had been by no means gonna do it…[and] for those who had a mainstream deal you couldn’t get banned. We had an excessively transparent view of that. ‘We’ve were given to assault this from a mainstream perspective.’ That method your benefit is invisible.”
Hier explains one instance in their focal point and aversion to “goofy mixtures” used to be to take away portions they regarded as superfluous. “They by no means had run an loafer belt on their blower,” he muses, “as a result of Tom Jobe felt that it used to be simply any other accent that they may have an issue with, one thing else that would spoil. So after they put the motor in combination they usually sought after to switch belts, they might unbolt the blower and tilt it ahead till the pulley used to be beneath the belt after which push it down onto the manifold and bolt it down. All all through the time they had been operating that automobile, they by no means misplaced a blower belt.”
To: Joe Buysee, Lansing, Michigan
From: Mike Sorokin, Mar Vista, CA
Thank you for the good letter. I’m happy we didn’t disappoint you at Bakersfield. It’s enthusiasts such as you that make our efforts profitable.
I’m sending you a T-shirt. It’s used, however blank. I’m sorry I’ve to ship you a used one, however there are not any new ones round. I don’t suppose we will be able to be within the Michigan space this yr, however possibly subsequent season.
Mike Sorokin & The Surfers
At the absence of the loafer pulley, Skinner is nonplussed. “We figured shall we simply get alongside with out it; so why have it for those who don’t want it?”
In 1966, Leong’s engine czar Keith Black went on report in HOT ROD as defining a mix of 75 p.c nitromethane as “heavy.” Ergo, 100 p.c used to be no longer simply risky—it used to be certifiably insane. After all, this used to be the share that Skinner and Jobe regarded as best for his or her tune-up. To The Mighty Surfers, slicing the nitromethane with alcohol used to be much more absurd and non-linear than the usage of a blower pulley. Extra is excellent; an excessive amount of is healthier, proper? However had been those yin and yang yahoo alchemists pushing the envelope of inside combustion past its stress threshold? Had they long gone too a long way?
To the contrary: At this second, The Surfers had been the manifestation of a phenomenon that occurs in physics always. When envelopes are driven, the parallel strains of, say, means and insanity, bend and deform, and sooner or later they’re not parallel; sooner or later they in truth intersect. Approach and insanity grow to be the similar factor…Insanity turns into rational. The Surfers had reached that lucid intersection.
What’s taking place? Now not an excessive amount of occurring round right here. We’re development a coated trailer for our excursion, and we don’t have a lot time for racing at the moment. Our race with the Goose (Tom McEwen) shall be our final native race.
Our automobile isn’t precisely gorgeous, however it’s purposeful. Good looks doesn’t at all times get the task executed. We’re development a brand new automobile, which will have to be lovely great taking a look. Complete frame and all that trick stuff.
Neatly, possibly I’ll see you lovely quickly.
Hier depicts “the lunacy” of Skinner and Jobe’s gasoline combination: “They initially began at about 50 p.c nitro, however Jobe didn’t just like the (loss of) accuracy of the hydrometers. He concept they had been a number of crap as a result of they couldn’t get the fitting combination on them, you had been by no means certain what it in reality used to be so he stated, ‘Should you simply pour it out of the are we able to may just get rid of that (uncertainty).’ That used to be Jobe: Get rid of the entire errors. So as a substitute of blending it and getting a nasty combine he stated, ‘We’ll run a 100 p.c.’”
Any other concept used to be that the beakers had been too dear for The Surfers’ finances. Mockingly, it is a rumor Skinner and Jobe perpetuated. It used to be in reality slightly unnerving to peer Sorokin gleefully pouring natural, undiluted nitromethane into the tank—all as a result of his workforce couldn’t have the funds for any further beakers. Skinner expounds at the “no hydrometers” rule this manner, “What we used to mention used to be that we didn’t wish to spoil the hydrometer,” he says, “however mainly what we had been looking to do used to be get as a lot power out of the gasoline as imaginable. Our sport plan used to be about potency…to check out and maximize the possible energy that used to be to be had within the gasoline. It took a very long time to do this.”
So what used to be the components? “100 p.c,” he solutions. “Neatly no longer 100, however shut…we had some stuff we installed there, y’know? We had some components that took some share, one thing any one may just purchase to stabilize issues a bit bit…locally of 1 or two p.c.”
Jobe has the same opinion concerning the combine, however provides that the verdict to make use of it used to be strategic on quite a lot of ranges; most significantly, it shrewdly negated The Surfers from falling prey to their very own pranksterish ways. “Since maximum of the ones guys may just upload nitro and kill their motors—we couldn’t upload any further as a result of we already had the entire thing, proper? We had it deliberate that you simply couldn’t spoil the object nearly it doesn’t matter what you probably did. The opposite guys would most often run 70 to 80 p.c nitro, and if it is advisable to get them panicked, they might upload any other Five or 10 p.c and blow the object up.”