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The Epic Saga of the Surfers - Part Two

How Three Bucks- Down Geeks Single-Handedly put top Fuel on Its Collective Head

By Cole Coonce

"Skinner always had some skateboards to play with because we didn't work on the car a lot like everybody else did," Jobe says. To compensate for the a lack of fiscal horsepower, the ingenuity of The Surfers manifested itself in psychological warfare; the boys occasionally deployed the skateboards as a weapon to combat their opponents' deeper pockets and cubic dollars.

As Jobe tells it, "On the way to the dragstrip we would talk about 'What can we do to them today? What weird thing can we lay on 'em?' in ways they wouldn't even figure out. We needed all the advantages we could get. A lot of the guys we had to compete against were well funded...The Lou Baneys and the Keith Blacks. "All of those guys had really nice stuff. They had, like, new parts."

Jobe remembers a particular Sunday afternoon race at Fontana. All the bad guys from back East were gonna show up," he says. "They were all puttin' the mouth on us in the press, saying what they were going to do to us West Coast guys. It was about an hour's drive to Fontana from Santa Monica, and we were talking and riding along and thinking, 'What should we do today? Let's not work on the car. We'll come down and pick up the car at the other end, and while Mike and his girlfriend pack the parachutes, we'll service the thing.' We could service the whole thing in about five minutes. We said, 'We'll push right past the pits, and we'll put it right back in line, and we'll get out the skateboards, and we'll go torture 'em in their pit area.' So we did that—fortunately we didn't break any lifters or anything," Jobe remembers. "So we'd get the skateboards out. We go over and watch these guys [tear down], and we'd say, 'Man, you guys sure are smart; you guys know how to work on these things and everything. Man, you guys are good!' They didn't know what to think of all that. By about the third round one of these East Coast hitters said, 'Damn, don't you guys ever work on that thing?' We said, 'N-o-o, we don't work on it because we really don't know that much about it. We'd just screw it up, it's better just to leave it alone.' And this guy is like, 'What the fuck is this all about?' In the last round we got the mouthiest of the bunch, Bobby Vodnick, and we beat him and left 'em all shaking their heads."

"Nobody ever found out about the mind games, because we never talked about it," he concludes.


To: Joe Buysee, Lansing Michigan
From: Mike Sorokin, Mar Vista, CA

Hi Joe,

We will NOT be at Union Grove until June 25th. You can bet we will be trying to beat the Goose [Tom McEwen]; we haven't run the car for a month, and I'm forgetting how to drive the darn thing. I hope your pal loses his buck. I think he will. We still have a few tricks to try.

I have been married for about a month. I like it.

We are not worried about the strip conditions. The car handles good, and it has two chutes. We actually made No. 1 on the Drag Racing Magazine poll for the West. We were very happy about that. We are planning on running the U.S. Nationals.

We didn't get any color pictures in the article because our car isn't pretty enough.

You don't have to thank us. It's a pleasure to meet fans like you. I just hope our future performance doesn't let you down.

Well, I'll see you later.

Mike


"Sorokin was a real high strung kind of guy, very nervous," says Jobe. "He kept to himself, and he loved to race." On a typical Sunday morning, after rendezvousing at the Red Apple Motel (owned by Skinner's mom), The Surfers would stop for breakfast en route to San Fernando Raceway. Once seated, Jobe describes Sork's hyperactivity thusly: "Mike would be sitting there and he could not keep from bouncing his feet, jumping up and down, and vibrating at the table.

"The guy was so high strung that nobody could beat him at the starting line. And if you wanted him to be just a little bit quicker, you could just wind him up: You know, 'Mike, so-and-so was saying that their driver could whip you,' and that would really make him vibrate. And if somebody actually pissed him off, they could forget trying to be beat him. I don't know if he went into higher revolutions per minute or what, but he would really be quick," Jobe remembers.

"He would just drive anything, but fortunately by the time we got rolling, he was getting tired of all the coupes and roadsters, and he wanted to drive something fast—and make some money too."

By Cole Coonce
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