LOS ANGELES - He was an outlaw, a swindler and a con man, not to mention a shiftless vagrant who lived to avoid work.
All that would have made Miki Dora just another small-time crook with a penchant for traveling the world on forged credit cards and passports had he not also been the greatest surfer to ride a wave all the way into the beach at Malibu.
Without Dora, the surfing explosion that erupted in Southern California in the 1960s and swept around the world would still have occurred, according to David Rensin, author of "All for a Few Perfect Waves: The Audacious Life and Legend of Rebel Surfer Miki Dora."
But surfing might not have arrived on the world stage with quite the same swagger if Dora hadn't accompanied it, bringing with him the image of the surfer as the solitary anti-hero.
"All Miki did was surf," the 58-year-old author said during a recent interview on the outdoor veranda of a Los Angeles restaurant several miles east of the shore Dora once ruled. "But between his rebel heart, between his localism, between his style, between his being in the right place at the right time, his ethos pervades surf culture to this day."
Six years after his death at age 67 from pancreatic cancer, Dora still has his name scrawled on seawalls along California's coast, and his reputation among surfers remains known around the world. In New Zealand, the Mount Surf Museum proudly houses many of his artifacts.
To get to know Dora, Rensin interviewed more than 300 people, constructing the book as an "oral history" in which both friends and enemies weigh in with their remembrances. *