By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Who they are is inexorably tied to where they came from. "Let me put it like this," says Chris. "My brothers and I literally came out of the sticks. We grew up with pigs and horses and chickens and goats. It was a few acres up in Ojai at the base of Los Padres National Forest."
Back then Ojai wasn’t the New Age spa getaway for well-heeled Westsiders that it has since become. The Malloy lineage goes back five generations in these parts. Their great-great-grandfather was a muleskinner and worked the oil fields. Throughout the ’50s and ’60s, their father, Mike, was a fixture on a long board at Topanga Beach’s right-breaking point. Topanga Beach was different then, too. It wasn’t a state beach, but an eclectic beachside community, home to colorful characters, dropouts, derelicts and Miki Dora when the break was working. Mike Malloy felt comfortable there.
But change came quickly in the early ’70s. Los Angeles was getting more and more crowded, the Topanga community was razed, a state beach was put in its place, and Mike Malloy, a construction worker with a little cowboy in him, moved his fledgling family up to Ojai, where they had roots and the land was cheap.
Although the father was turned off by the short-board revolution that came with the late ’60s, he encouraged his boys to surf. They’d get dropped off or hitchhike the 15 miles over the mountain to the beaches where they still surf today.
"When he wanted us to start surfing, he gave us this equipment that was like 1965 equipment," says Chris. "I remember the first contest we ever went to. Keith made the finals and he was on a single fin and all the other kids were on these little -thrusters. I remember Keith was waiting for the semifinals and was almost crying because all the kids were making fun of his big, single-fin board."
"He didn’t know what he was doing," says Dan.
I suggest that it was so old-school it was new-school.
"Yeah, but it was so long ago, it wasn’t cool at all," says Keith. The brothers laugh at the memory. But Keith made the finals and finished second.
"I made all these enemies," says Keith. "They were like, ‘I can’t believe you beat us on that piece of shit.’ "
"When we were kids, we only had one wetsuit," recalls Dan. "So, two of us would be in trunks and the other one would get the wetsuit. I remember the first suit I got was a short john, and I remember I was out there in the winter thinking how warm it was."
"The first day he got his wetsuit, he slept in it," adds Keith.
During the summer months, after their father put them through a couple weeks of working on the ranch and on construction sites, he would drop them off at the beach. "We’d have a tepee set up and my dad would come once a day and drop food off and we’d stay there the whole summer. I was probably in eighth grade," says Chris. "People would come and take pictures. We thought they were taking picture of the waves. We’d always be like, ‘It’s shitty out there; why are they taking pictures?’ And they’d be -taking pictures of these kids staying in a tepee on the beach.
"It was really unconventional growing up," he adds.
The boys were so out of the culture of the competitive-surfing world — a culture so cutthroat it would make Little League dads blush — that there’d be competitions right around the point from their tepee and they wouldn’t even know about it.
Still, they managed to do well enough with their hand-me-down gear that the surfing Malloy brothers started to get talked about around Ventura. Soon they caught the eye of local board-shaping legend and surf guru Al Merrick, whose Channel Islands Surfboards was the industry standard at the time. Merrick was among the first to recognize the talents of such revolutionary modern surfers as local boy Tom Curren and Kelly Slater. Merrick anointed the Malloys all at once, together.
"Al Merrick was the first person who ever had faith in us as far as sponsoring us, and at that time he had the best surfing team in the world," Chris says. "We were these kids from Ojai, and he saw that same hunger to surf in all of us."
For the Malloy brothers, family became a brand, not a word. "It made sense and it was easier going that way than not. It was rare that anybody would say, ‘We want Keith or we want Dan or we want Chris,’ " says Keith. "It was always like, ‘Hey, we want to talk to you guys about working together.’ "
"I think the sponsors knew how tight we were," Chris adds. "It would seem inorganic to do it any other way."