Paul Judge Interview


Paul Judge Interview

Introduction | Judge interview

Paul Judge
Habitué of Kelly’s Cove at
Ocean Beach, San Francisco, California
Interview conducted by
Stephen “Woody” LaBounty
April 29, 2013

Interview Description — Paul Judge


Paul Judge in 2011 - Photograph by David Gallagher.

Paul Judge lived in the Outer Richmond District from the 1950s into the 1970s with a back-window view of the Pacific Ocean. A love of nature and maritime life, passed down by his father, drew Paul to the activities and people at Ocean Beach’s Kelly’s Cove.

Born in 1950, Mr. Judge went to Richmond District parochial and public schools before graduating from Washington High School. Family outings and walks with his father took him all over the city and Bay Area, and Paul made his own childhood ventures from Golden Gate Park to China and Bakers Beaches, to the seawall at Fort Point. Beginning in the mid 1960s he followed friends to Kelly’s Cove to hang around the bonfire and the wall with surfers, skateboarders, musicians, and philosophers. Mr. Judge is a volunteer and frequent attendee of the annual Kelly’s Cove reunion. He still has a love of the natural world and the ocean and volunteers for the National Park Service as a docent at the Lands End lookout.

The interview took place in the backyard of Mr. Judge’s house in Sebastopol, California and was conducted with other former Kelly’s Cove denizens, Dennis O’Rorke and Patrick F. Cunneen. It was recorded on a digital recorder, transcribed, and audited, with Mr. Judge’s memories edited from the group discussion. Mr. Judge reviewed the interview and offered clarifying edits for incorporation.

Kelly's Cove has been a retreat for fitness-oriented San Franciscans from at least the 1940s. Tucked under the famous Cliff House restaurant, the curve of sand at the north end of Ocean Beach became a meeting place for cold-water swimmers, runners, and practitioners of calisthenics who used rocky outcrops and a nearby iron pier to exercise. After World War II, Kelly's Cove became an early body and board surfing spot. A dedication to physical development in a natural environment kept company with a companionable party atmosphere. One Kelly's bodysurfer, Jack O'Neill, opened a surf shop at the beach in 1952, and developed the first commercially available wetsuit in response to the frigid water of Ocean Beach. The O'Neill Company is now a leader in beach lifestyle sportswear and sells the majority of the world's wetsuits.

Beyond the roots of surf technology and commerce, Kelly's Cove visitors reflected and developed a California surfing ethos with roots in Polynesian culture as well as alternative and counterculture movements developing in postwar San Francisco.

Western Neighborhoods Project launched Tales from Kelly’s Cove to bring about a greater public understanding of the role a cold-water cove in San Francisco had in creating the world's view of surfing, and by association, California life.


Western Neighborhoods Project (WNP) is a California nonprofit organization formed in 1999 to preserve and share the history of western San Francisco. In 2013, WNP initiated the Tales from Kelly’s Cove project to collect and share the oral histories of men and women who have frequented the northernmost corner of San Francisco's Ocean Beach, an early surfing and community gathering spot. The primary objective of Tales from Kelly’s Cove is to increase public awareness of the area's nascent role in the history of California's surfing, fitness, and counterculture movements. More information on the project, photographs, and other Kelly’s Cove interviews can be found on this website.

This project was made possible with support from Cal Humanities, an independent non-profit state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. For more information, visit www.calhum.org. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this interview do not necessarily represent those of Cal Humanities or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

About Oral History

Oral history is a field of study and a method of gathering, preserving and interpreting the voices and memories of people, communities, and participants in past events. Firsthand historical information is collected through recorded interviews between a subject and interviewer. The recordings are transcribed, edited for clarity, and reviewed by the interviewee for a final edit. The recordings and corrected manuscripts for the Tales from Kelly’s Cove interviews are held at Western Neighborhoods Project and other research collections for review and scholarly use. More on oral history principles and best practices can be found on the website of the Oral History Association: www.oralhistory.org

Citation and Use

All uses of this manuscript are covered by a legal agreement between Western Neighborhoods Project and Paul Judge dated April 29, 2013. Copyright is shared between Paul Judge and Western Neighborhoods Project. The manuscript is available for research purposes. Excerpts up to 1000 words from this interview may be quoted for publication without seeking permission as long as the use is non-commercial and properly cited. Requests for permission to quote should be sent to Western Neighborhoods Project.

Recommended citation:

Paul Judge “Habitué of Kelly’s Cove at Ocean Beach, San Francisco, California” conducted by Stephen “Woody” LaBounty, Western Neighborhoods Project, San Francisco, California, 2013.

The digital recording files and transcript of this interview are available for research use at the Western Neighborhoods Project office. A copy of the transcript has also been deposited at the San Francisco History Center at the San Francisco Public Library.

Stephen “Woody” LaBounty
Western Neighborhoods Project
San Francisco, California
August 2014

[Begin reading the interview.]

Introduction | Judge interview




This project was made possible with support from Cal Humanities, an independent non-profit state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. For more information, visit www.calhum.org.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this Web site do not necessarily represent those of Cal Humanities or the National Endowment for the Humanities.


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