Mike Hynson, Co-Star of 'The Endless Summer,' Resurfaces With Tales of the Brotherhood

The Surfer Who Came In From the Cold
Whatever happened to The Endless Summer co-star Mike Hynson? A lot, much of it bad, starting when he got mixed up with the notorious Laguna Beach drug-smuggling ring known as the Brotherhood of Eternal Love

It’s 2 a.m. in New Delhi, halfway through a hot night in August 1967, and Mike Hynson is still awake and sweating in his hotel room. The pressure is on—it’s a feeling of impending doom that Hynson, a fearless surfer whose quest for the perfect wave had been captured in the 1966 cult classic The Endless Summer, has never encountered before, certainly never while simply working on a surfboard. But this is no normal surfboard-repair job.

Using a spoon he borrowed from the hotel restaurant, Hynson has carved a giant chunk of foam out of the bottom of one of the boards he’d delivered to India a few weeks earlier. He’s filled the hole with a watertight bag of hashish oil that he and a friend from Laguna Beach obtained in Kathmandu. He seals the compartment shut with carefully concealed tape and resin. But time is conspiring against Hynson. He still has two more boards to go before dawn, when he has to catch a return flight to California. The trio of hash-laden boards he’s busy preparing are supposed to arrive on a cargo flight a few days after him.

Mike Hynson near his home in Encinitas
John Gilhooley
Mike Hynson near his home in Encinitas
From left to right, Hynson with director Bruce Brown, co-star Joey Cabell, Corky Carroll, Hobie Alter, Phil Edwards (and assorted wives and girlfriends) at San Onofre State Beach, about to embark on a nationwide promotional tour for The Endless Summer, 1966
Courtesy Mike Hynson
From left to right, Hynson with director Bruce Brown, co-star Joey Cabell, Corky Carroll, Hobie Alter, Phil Edwards (and assorted wives and girlfriends) at San Onofre State Beach, about to embark on a nationwide promotional tour for The Endless Summer, 1966

His brown wig and fake mustache—which he wore for the photograph that adorns his phony passport—await his attention. He must not forget to wear them to the airport. As Hynson hunches over his hollowed-out board, a thought keeps parading through his brain, over and over like a mantra, until he feels as if every nerve in his body is about to snap.

“Uh-oh,” says the voice in Hynson’s head. “I’m really doing this. This is really fucking real.”

*     *     *

Stepping inside Hynson’s garage at his house in Encinitas is like entering a strange world where Southern California surfing history, 1960s counterculture and Hynson’s renegade sense of humor all compete for surface space. There’s the red pirate flag hanging over the door with the words “Prepare to be Boarded” splashed above a skull and crossbones. Faded portraits of Hindu swamis hang above a tray of expired incense, next to a blown-up photograph of a 24-year-old Hynson with a bunch of his friends—Robert August, Bruce Brown, Hobie Alter, Corky Carroll and Phil Edwards—posing in front of a Winnebago at San Onofre State Beach with a trio of then-wives and -girlfriends.

The photo captures Hynson on the cusp of greatness, about to embark on a nationwide tour to promote the film he’d just starred in, Bruce Brown’s The Endless Summer. On an opposite wall is a black-and-white Warner Brothers production still from the acid-drenched 1972 Jimi Hendrix “concert” film Rainbow Bridge, in which Hynson surfs waves in Maui and cracks open a surfboard to reveal a bag of smuggled hashish. Other photos of Hynson surfing in the early 1970s adorn the walls: molten energy captured in freeze frame, gold locks flowing in the wind, a pair of intensely focused eyes, arms spread out in a yoga-style stretch.

What’s missing from this Technicolor trip down memory lane are the past 20 or so years of his life. It’s a stretch of time Hynson doesn’t talk about much, partly because he’s not proud of it, but mostly because he doesn’t remember it well, even less so than the heady days of the late-1960s, when he was dropping acid nearly every day with his friends in the Laguna Beach-based band of smugglers known as the Brotherhood of Eternal Love (see “Lords of Acid,” July 8, 2005). Those were strange times indeed, but a lot of fun compared to what came next. In the early 1980s, life went downhill for Hynson when John Gale, one of the Brotherhood’s best surfers and Laguna Beach’s most legendary outlaws, died in a mysterious car crash, thus ruining Hynson emotionally and financially.

Gale was Hynson’s business partner in Rainbow Surfboards, which the two founded in Laguna Beach in 1969, as well as his best friend. Hynson’s drug-addled, rebellious lifestyle had already led to a divorce from wife Melinda Merryweather, a Ford Agency model, actress and art designer, but Gale’s death seemed to push him over the edge from reckless to beyond help. He descended into a depression and drug addiction that lasted decades, ruining his surfing career and alienating him from everyone but his closest friends until only a few years ago.

Now 67, Hynson is muscular and trim from long days spent shaping boards for mostly Japanese customers. He still has a full head of hair, which is pulled back over his scalp into a short Native American-style braid. He’s wearing a black T-shirt adorned with a red Chinese dragon, dusty black jeans and rugged work boots. His face is full of color and breaks easily into a self-deprecating grin. Gone are the gaunt physique and haggard expression on display in photographs taken of him just a decade ago, when People profiled him in an embarrassing article titled “The Endless Bummer.” (The story noted that just a few weeks before Endless Summer 2 was released, Hynson was serving jail time for drug possession.)

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