“IN THE BEGINNING”
The So Cal Woodie Club Story
By: The Pirate
Out of the darkness, Mark heard his buddy Doug whisper, “push, push”, as the ’48 Ford woodie rolled silently out of the garage, down the long driveway, past the lighted window of his mom’s kitchen where she was up early making coffee. The woodie rolled out onto the deserted street as Mark jumped into the passenger seat and Doug slipped, lost his footing and barely made it into the driver’s seat. He popped the clutch and with a roar the eight cylinder flathead came to life. They stopped at the vacant lot down the street and picked up their boards that were stashed in the weeds and finally they were headed for the beach!
The year was 1983 and Mark Gansel and his best buddy, Doug Keyzers had just borrowed Doug’s dad’s 1948 Ford woodie ( possibly without permission) and were headed for San Onofre State Beach. It was 4am, Friday, June 21 and the sun was just rising as they hit the gate at Sano. The guard opened the gate and they were first in the water at “old Mans” surf break. The water was still cool but the waves were epic, breaking overhead with the first big swell of the summer. They surfed Sano until 2 pm and with rubber arms and a bad sunburn, Doug insisted they get the woodie home and back in the garage before his dad arrived home from work.
Mark Gansel, THE BIG KAHUNA, founder of the So Cal Woodie Club, was born in 1967 in Tustin, California. His family was involved in all types of water sports and his Dad would hall all the kids in the neighborhood to the beach. Mark started surfing in the late ‘70s and in 1985, the family moved to San Clement. Mark surfed all thru high school and attended college in Seattle, where he surfed in the frigid water of the North West!
In 1994 Mark graduated college and settled back in So Cal.
One day he was riding his beach cruiser down the strand in Newport Beach and happened onto a car show. There were many cool rides, parked neatly in a row, but the one that caught his eye was a 1946 Ford woodie, bright yellow in color that just happened to belong to Bud Legg, long time woodie owner and a legend in the woodie world.
Mark started work in the medical sales field and vowed to own a woodie in the near future. The time came in 1996, Mark purchased a 1946 Ford woodie, well kind of a woodie, it was just minus the wood! The frame, cowl and pan were usable and he began the task of disassembly and restoration.
Now Mark was looking for a club to join; only problem was, there were no woodie clubs in Southern California! Mark thought, why not start one? Another problem, he had no idea how to!
The year was 1996; he needed to come up with a name. He thought, “Doheny Woodie Club” no, how about “San Clemente Woodie Club”, no, too local. Ah, Southern California Woodie Club that would include a larger geographical area, as there was a Santa Cruz Woodie Club already established that covered Northern California. So it was settled, SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA WOODIE CLUB, for short So Cal Woodie Club. Mark attended the woodie meet at Doheny that John Siragusa and Jim Cocores had organized three years earlier. The woodie get- together boasted no organization, no trophies and no T shirts, just a bunch of woodie lovers hanging out for the day. Mark signed up a few new members and the ball was rolling. Then came L.A. Wood, more new members. He then attended Wavecrest 1997, set up a booth and signed up a number of eager members. Enter myself, looking for a local woodie club, I was very impressed with this individual with the wonderful personality, that was easy to talk to and was extremely eager to expand and improve this new club. I signed my named and thus began a valued friendship with the BIG KAHUNA.
Mark now had enough members to apply for a chapter of the National Woodie Club. Only problem, now he needed officers! A call to John Siragusa for V.P., Mick Carolan for treasurer and Jim Cocores for secretary. This was all on paper and the above board members were not required to participate as Mark would handle the running of the club.
On June 20, 1997, President Lee Kidwell of the National Woodie Club informed Mark that The So Cal Woodie Club had been accepted as a new chapter. This is very important, as all woodie events by SoCal Woodies are covered under the National’s insurance policy.
Now a venue was needed for a gathering of all these woodie lovers of the fledgling club.
Mark called myself and asked that I perform the functional part of Vice President of the club. I jokingly asked how much did it pay and Mark just laughed!
We established a location, the old woodie gathering that Cocores and Siragusa had started three years earlier. We established permission from them to use the location and set about planning the event. We meet with Doheny State Park officials and was meet with a guarded reception, but they conceded and charged a whopping $115.00 for the permit with the stipulation of “NO PROBLEMS! “
Mark also needed a name for the club’s yearly event and for some reason “Doheny Wood” sounded right!
The very first Doheny Wood was scheduled for March 28, 1998. The Double Tree Hotel had just opened and was chosen for the host hotel. It had an underground parking structure and was secure for the woodies.
Now imagine!!!!!!!! March is still the RAINY SEASON!!!!!!
March 27 arrived with ominous black clouds covering Southern California and rain threatening the weekend and OUR FIRST DOHENY WOOD. THE HOROR OF ALL HORORS!!!
Mark and I meet Friday evening to discuss the possibility of rain on Saturday, and should the event go forward. The decision was made to postpone the event for a month and hope for NO RAIN. The word was put out to postpone the event for a month but unfortunately there were still 17 Woodies that showed on Saturday with rain and cold weather. The woodie owners would not let little rain dampen their enthusiasm and held a mini Doheny Wood in the parking structure of the host hotel!
Now every President of the Southern California Woodie Club has pondered the possibility of our dilemma. What to do with a rained out event! Believe me, we had egg on our face and it took a long time to live down the postponement of the very first event.
The new date was established as April 25, 1998. As some of you know, my wife is a witch (October 31 birthday) and she consulted her crystal ball and for safe measures the Farmer’s Almanac and assured us it WOULD NOT RAIN!
Well, the weekend of April 25 rolled around and the first cocktail party was held Friday night at the Doubletree Hotel with hopes of wonderful whether on Saturday. Our prayers were answered as the dawn broke with sunshine and cool breezes.
The first Doheny Wood was a resounding success with a whopping 36 woodies and to the relief of everyone, nice weather.
This is the anniversary of the first 10 years of the club (1997-1998 to 2007-2008). We are the largest Chapter of the National Woodie Club with almost 300 members. Doheny Wood has had an average of 180 woodies of all makes and descriptions throughout its 10 year run and has experienced rain and beautiful blue skies. There is one element that cannot be dampened by weather and that is the spirit of the woodie people. The ultimate compliment paid about the club is the wonderful people it comprises. As we have always said, the cars are a catalyst to bring some of the most special people together to enjoy each others company. We have all made cherished friendships and life long friends among the woodie members.
Mark Gansel founded a very special club and his fondest thought is PEOPLE GIVING OF THEMSELVES TO THE CLUB WITHOUT ASKING FOR ANYTHING IN RETURN.
The club has a very bright future with new members joining monthly. We can look forward to many years of new experiences and people to enjoy them with.
The club would not be a successful without the leadership of the following Presidents:
Mark Gansel (1997-1999), Dan & Val Simmons (1999-2000), Mike Chase(2000-2001), Jay & Betty Nordgren(2001-2003 two years), Joel & Bev Cincotta(2003-2004), Doug & Pat Blashingham(2004-2005), Terry & Baer Rogers(2005-2006), Johnny & Gay Fotsch(2006-2007), Tom & Lisa MacDonald(2007-2008)
Many other gracious members have given of themselves and are to be congratulated for their effort.
ALOHA AND MAHALO