When Maynard Heatherly was asked, “What he thought of the Sip n Surf?” all he could do was shake his head. Fact remains, he hated the joint, even though he was friends with the owner, Burt Alderson.
“Its not the competition,” he said, God knows he already had a ton of customers, he hated the place adding, “If you can’t find a place at the bar, or even be able to rest your arms on the bar rail, why bother.”
In 1952, attorney Max “Big Max” Ruffcorn was having breakfast with Burt and the conversation went to auctioning some bar equipment from this closed down pub. Big Max mentioned the pub, and jokingly suggested Burt to buy the place.
Mac Meda Editors Note: Attorney Max “Big Max” Ruffcorn was an La Jolla character. At 250 plus pounds, a huge handle bar mustache and boisterous voice, always dressed in loud clothes. He was one of the original owners of the the Surfer Hotel in Pacific Beach. His daughter Nora was one of the survivors of the the La Jolla Laughing Gas tragedy. In early 1970, a well known La Jolla anesthesiologist, Dr. Cornellius (oldest son Larry was one of the survivors of the Cave Cliff Plunge and seen in the Long Bar picture) and his youngest son were killed in a airline crash during a hunting/fishing trip in Alaska. Big Max was the attorney that sued the airlines and won. He retired and moved to Cabo San Lucas (with his wife, girlfriend, BJ … humm … wonder how she got those initials?) and died in the late 1980s.
Within a week Burt had leased the place for $150 a month. Alderson decorated the windows of the Sip ‘n’ Surf with burlap bags and hired La Jolla artist Michael Dormer to draw Tiki gods on the wall and paint a 27-foot Polynesian mural. He purchased some tables constructed from old surfboards, and the atmosphere was set for La Jolla’s Bird Rocks first iconic bar.
Alderson had a knack for surrounding himself with colorful, entertaining people. In his prime, he was a personality magnet. His penchant for recreation and leisure attracted celebrities and success wherever he went.
The Sip and Surf followed in the footsteps as Pacific Beaches Coral Inn and Night Owl, and opened for business every day beginning at 6 a.m. It gained almost instant success with a steady flow of mixed breed customers like surfers, secretaries, Navy pilots and football players, college students, resort owners and an occasional movie star. Yes, movie stars like Lee Marvin, Cliff Robertson (who later bought a home in La Jolla) and Keenan Wynn. It was even rumored that Richard Burton stopped in and powered down a half bottle and left a $100 tip, which back in the late 50s was like getting a $1000 tip.
Other customers included, Harry Handlery, (owner of the Stardust Hotel and Country Club) in Mission Valley, Pat Curren and Mike Diffenderfer (RIP), two Windansea surfers who later pioneered big wave surfing on the north shore of Oahu. Diffenderfer used to shape surfboards right down the street.
The biggest problem with the Sip n’ Surf was its size, the legal capacity was only 50. One night, Alderson claimed, the fire marshal counted 250 people sardined into his canned establishment when it popularity increased and was getting the overflow from the Red Mountain Inn across the street.
It was pretty common to see on Friday afternoon between 20- 25 kegs around the wall; by Monday, they were all empty. If any of the patrons ever got out of line, they had to answer to a pair of efficient yet eccentric bouncers: Big Frank, a former longshoreman from Honolulu, and a female body builder named “Tinkerbelle.”
As time went on, Sip n Surf got the nickname Slurp and Burp and soon it changed hands to many characters during the 1970s. At one time its name was changed to the Hungry Horse and then back to Slurp n Burp, excuse me Sip n Surf. For a while there it seemed owners changed faster then one could pop another keg until it finally closed down for good in the mid 1980s.
Historical content by Hoyt on WindanSea Facebook and Dean Burriston.