By Matt Coker
By R. Scott Moxley
By Charles Lam
By Nick Schou
By Gustavo Arellano
By Gustavo Arellano
By Steve Lowery
By R. Scott Moxley
Not surprisingly, much of the late 1960s is a blur to Hynson. “It’s a fog,” he says. “There are a few years when I know I was there, but I don’t know what happened.” Although Griggs’ untimely death saddened Hynson, he’d already become best friends with a talented young surfer who also happened to be Dodge City’s biggest drug dealer, John Gale. In 1969, the two opened their own company, Rainbow Surfboards. Theirs were among the first truly shredding shortboards to hit the waves in Southern California and Hawaii. “Mike was one of the surfboard shapers in the 1960s who could make boards that worked,” recalls Carroll. “There were better craftsmen around, guys who could make ‘perfect boards,’ but Mike had the gift to make ones that just rode great.’”
Rainbow Surfboards got an unexpected publicity boost from Jimi Hendrix and Chuck Wein, a member of Andy Warhol’s so-called Factory whom Merryweather had befriended while working as a model in New York. In 1972, while Hynson and Merryweather were living in Maui—where most of the Brotherhood had relocated after Laguna Beach became too hot—Merryweather suggested to Wein that he direct a Jimi Hendrix concert movie in Maui and even introduced him to Hendrix’s manager, Michael Jefferey.
“Chuck wanted to make a movie that was going to have surfing, healers, vegetarians, New Age people, even a space woman,” Merryweather says. “Jimi was going to play the music because he was at the top of his game, and Michael was going to surf because he was at the top of his game.” The result, 1972’s Rainbow Bridge, was billed as a Hendrix concert film because the concert Hendrix played in Maui provides the ending of the movie, much of which actually features surfing by Hynson and his friends, goofy-foot hotshot Dave Nuuhiwa and Leslie Potts. “Gale refused to be in the movie, because he didn’t want to have his face on camera,” Hynson recalls.
The film’s most notorious scene features Hynson and Potts ripping open a Rainbow Surfboard to reveal a stash of hash, a stunt that takes place under a Richard Nixon poster that reads, “Would You Buy a Used Car From This Man?” When the film opened in Laguna Beach, Hynson gave Gale all the tickets as a birthday present. Half of the audience was rumored to be narcs. “The room smoked up so much you couldn’t see the stage,” Hynson says. “We had all these Rainbow Surfboards up on the stage, and when the movie showed the board being opened up, it got the police crazy. They were constantly on our ass. Anybody who had a Rainbow Surfboard got pulled over.”
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A few months after Rainbow Bridge came out, a multi-agency task force arrested dozens of members of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love in California, Oregon and Maui, including Gale, who spent the next several months in prison. “He wasn’t in for long,” Hynson says. “He was like a rabbit.” But thanks in part to the Brotherhood’s legendary secrecy, the police never knew Hynson’s role in the group. Once Gale got out of prison, the two continued to sell surfboards and market the Rainbow brand by opening a Rainbow Juice bar in La Jolla with help from Merryweather. But the business folded after just a few years. “We didn’t shortchange anything,” Merryweather says. “We got an accounting firm and figured out we were paying people 25 cents to eat the avocado sandwiches.”
Meanwhile, Gale had become the biggest cocaine broker in California. Hynson says he didn’t know the full extent of Gale’s business dealings, but he does recall visiting his friend’s house one time when Gale suddenly remembered that a truck full of Colombian marijuana was on its way from Florida. He also recalls that whenever he rode in Gale’s car, someone always seemed to be following them. “Not for long, though,” Hynson says. “Gale didn’t stick around long enough for anyone to chase him.”
On June 2, 1982, Gale perished when the car he was driving, Hynson’s Mercedes, went off the road in Dana Point. Hynson remains convinced someone—either the cops or rival criminals—was chasing his friend. The tragedy ended Rainbow Surfboards (it’s recently been reincarnated under new ownership) and left Hynson financially strapped. “If you ever had a business project and you’re wondering whatever happened to it, it’s probably because the other guy is dead,” Hynson jokes.
Gale’s death devastated Hynson, says Merryweather. “I wasn’t with him at the time, but people told me they’d never seen Michael take anything so bad. He just really went sideways.”