By Adam Kaye
Corbin Taylor, a longtime Del Mar resident and classic car collector who became an accomplished surfer before an accident left him paralyzed, died Dec. 1 in Encinitas. He was 64.
Taylor’s parents owned a beach home at 23rd Street, called Luce Ends, which young Corbin visited often before his family moved to Del Mar permanently.
As a grade-schooler, he gravitated to the ocean and by an early age became a skilled surfer.
He belonged to the Del Mar Surf Club, which competed often against rival clubs in La Jolla and Encinitas. His fellow club members recall that Taylor brought home many trophies.
“He had his own style,” said Grant Larson, a former Del Mar lifeguard captain and a childhood friend of Taylor’s. “His trim and his nose-riding ability – it was something you couldn’t miss.”
When Taylor was at his peak, he won a paddleboard race in which Larson and other lifeguards competed.
“We had a great race,” Larson said.
Taylor’s surfing ended when he was paralyzed in an automobile accident at age 19. But his life as a waterman continued for many decades thereafter.
Despite being confined to a wheelchair, he launched his catamaran frequently from 23rd Street beach. The 16-foot “Hobie Cat” was designed for launching from the shore, and as shown by the number on its sail, the boat was the 99th of its kind to be manufactured.
On summer afternoons, Taylor rolled his wheelchair through the deep sand to the water’s edge. From there, he would lower himself to the water and swim in the shallows.
In the company of friends and dogs, Taylor caravanned deep into Baja California and camped on desolate beaches, where he enjoyed sailing and swimming and snorkeling.
On dry land, Taylor was an avid collector of early, wood-paneled station wagons known commonly as “woodies.” He was a founding member of the National Woodie Club, which held its first meetings at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas.
Taylor oversaw the restoration of more than a dozen woodies and traveled as far as Colorado to bring the vehicles back to a shop on Del Mar Mesa he shared with George Taylor, who is not related to Corbin.
“Just being on the road with Corbin was a really cool thing,” George Taylor said. “Both of us were just two peas in a pod as far as looking for old wood and old metal. We collected a couple of dozen of those things.”
One of their jaunts took them to Bishop, where they purchased a bright green woodie with a purple bird painted on the hood and flowers painted on the dash.
“We were digging around in it and found a bunch of paraphernalia – hippie stuff,” George Taylor said.
The friends paid $1,200 for the vehicle.
Corbin Taylor looked on as George put a charged battery into the wagon and primed its carburetor.
“I pumped it and it just went off,” George Taylor said. “Corbin just lit up when I started it.”
Another woodie collector, Richard Clement, said Corbin Taylor bought his first woodie before he had a driver’s license. The 1949 woodie was painted in Hawaiian bronze. Taylor used the same color for a 1951 Ford woodie he would keep for himself. Its license plate reflected one of his favorite pastimes: CRUZPCH.
Taylor restored, outfitted and painted in matching Hawaiian bronze a “teardrop” camper trailer for voyages up and down the coast highway.
“He knew all of the people throughout Southern California who had woodies and they all knew Corbin,” Clement said. “When he was in the woodie pulling the teardrop, people would say, ‘There’s Corbin!’”
In addition to the National Woodie Club, Taylor belonged to the Early Ford V8 Club and of the Over the Hill Gang.
He supported the California Surf Museum and the Surfrider Foundation.
Taylor was something of a sage to dozens of friends and admirers, as shown by some of the many remembrances posted to his Facebook page:
“Just remembering how kind-hearted you are,” wrote Scott Bass. “You lent me your '64 BING Nuuwiha Noserider for Seymour's contest at San O -- two years in a row! You let my new bride and I use your vintage woodie for our wedding day! Your classic vehicle is many wedding day photos!”
Rocky Brown wrote: “The car club meetings won't be the same without him.”
Eleanor Ripoll wrote that Corbin taught her a lot of surfing tricks.
Maitri Cathleen Gould-Turetsky wrote that she can picture Taylor seated at his favorite table at El Pescador Fish Market, where she worked.
“So many times I would swim at 25th Street and see you there and we would sit and watch the sunset,” Gould-Turetsky wrote. “I could bring my troubles and talk them out with you.”
And this from Sheri Ball-Garcia: “I do not know if you know what a great impact you have made on so many of us.”
Corbin Luce Taylor was born on July 29, 1948, in Bakersfield.
He is survived by a brother, Bill Taylor, of San Diego; a son, Tony Porter, of Littleton, Colorado, and two grandchildren.
He graduated from San Dieguito High School in 1965 and attended Palomar College. He was an avid reader and his love for learning continued to his final days.