Ray Mirra is remembered fondly as the “father of surf” in Southern California. A surfing champion at age twelve, Ray Mirra Jr became interested in the water and pursued a career as a lifeguard. He also enjoyed the sand dunes and the windsurfing in the Santa Barbara Channel. By his early teens, Ray was a well known local fixture on the local news programs.
Ray was an avid reader, devoting hours to a weekly magazine in San Francisco’s Chinatown. He once said of himself that his chosen craft was the “language of the heart.” In his opinion, this was one of the greatest characteristics of a good mother. Ray’s mother would bake homemade meals and feed him and his siblings with the money she made from selling subscriptions. She fed him and his family on what she herself ate and drank.
Ray spent much of his early years in the home of his father, Josephine. The family lived in a rented house on Yore Park Avenue in the hills of San Francisco. Neighbors described the home as small and cramped. When his father, a veteran of the World War, became ill, Ray decided to move the family to his own parcel of land in the Pacific Ocean. Josephine became increasingly ill and passed away in 1950.
Ray’s mother, inspired by the teachings of Subir Kapoor, took the younger children under her care. They were mostly taken care of by their mother while her father worked in the war. Ray and his sister, Jannick, attended nearby Santa Barbara City College. In that same year, their father returned home to face a mountain of debt.
In the midst of all his bills, Ray’s mother provided him with the only thing that mattered. She gave him the bookkeeping services that were so important for the everyday functioning of a family. Ray recalls the hardships he had gone through as a child and how his mother, loving but stern, provided the discipline that he required. In time he became very accomplished at it. In addition, he credits his mother with being his best friend.
Growing up in poverty forced Ray to work on his writing. His mother had always held a high regard for Hemingway and the great French author, and she expected the son would follow suit. She encouraged him to pursue his dream and to read literature. While in high school, Ray took courses on writing and editing.
A short stint in the Peace Corp. got him into the writing business. One of his clients was Walt Whitman, the author of “The Heart of a Man”. A distinguished writer of the modern era, Ray was thrilled to be an author of a Hemingway novel.
With the writing business flourishing, Ray Mirra continued to work with his father in the printing industry. He served as a quality control inspector for printers that printed postcards, brochures, books, menus, and other products. In addition to his role as a printer’s sales representative, he helped to run the office. When his father developed a case that needed federal distribution, Ray assisted him. The services of a printer and a father both became integral parts of a successful publishing and printing career.
As his father aged, Ray Mirra’s workload increased. He spent more time with his father in the evenings, traveling after his father had gone to work, and helping to prepare meals. At one point, his father suffered from poor health and became confined to a wheelchair. This experience prompted Ray to begin learning the art of interior design.
Though family pressures caused many issues, the young author continued to exhibit an enthusiasm for his father’s profession. Ray assisted his mother during the late months of his father’s life. When his mother developed mononucleosis, Ray helped her through the difficult times. Once his father recovered, Ray continued to support his mother financially, even when his own family needed support.
Ray Mirra is proud of his father. “My father worked his way up. He never sat back and accepted any responsibility. He never stopped working on himself. I think he did that because he loved his father and missed the struggle, the hardship, the striving.”