Joe Tabler -

What do you love about surfing?
I’m a bodysurfer….tried board surfing almost never…..too much trouble dragging a board out when I could swim out more easily. water is wonderful, it feels wonderful, it feels wonderful going thru it, there’s a flow of body thru it turning splashing…..yes, it is not very describable….that is indescribable

Who/what inspires you?
I don’t know why we all thought we had to go down to the beach….we had been playing in the pool, but….a couple friends got surfboards and the ocean was calling…..Bikini clad girls maybe …..that certainly was a point in going….they looked ….well, we looked :>) We all wanted to ride well…..and got better at it….and started voyaging…um, travelling to other beachs, when the main beach was not very welcoming…..there weren’t any waves anywhere else, but we eventually rode some in other beaches as well…….Moved from South PB (pacific beach) to North PB …..then other places til Boomer Beach.

Great writers inspired me…..books……I was quite the snob. Loved books. Loved the water. Went bodysurfing every day I could…..most days in the summer for 15+ years….. and other days too…..didn’t like wetsuits, almost drowned wearing one.

What are you most proud of?
I'm proud of being very good….of doing Seal Spinners and a Russian Spinner (only once… arms folded) …. I would watch the seals at zoo and think about moving like them. I was mentioned more times than anyone in a little publication called A Place in the Sun. About bodysurfing at Boomer Beach and La Jolla Cove environs. I named the Cornerstones of Democracy (a Boomer reef) … A great bodysurfer after me (Dean ‘Sky’ King) called me his Mentor when I saw him recently. Chris ‘Parrot’ Sadler reminded me how I cut thru white water to get back to the green water…..that’s pretty special.

Nowadays….I am rather proud that I have found some forgotten surfing history in old newspaper files…it is always a wow when I have found something while doing research (I started out doing research on the Red Rest and Red Roost cottages at La Jolla Cove build in 1894. (1974-5).

And also proud of the Surf Blurb (an email newsletter that I send out every Monday)…..I don’t go look for any of it….just what people send me (that alone is a wow….they trust me and I get a couple thankyous every week). I’ve been fortunate to meet many many collectors and writers, editors, surfers, photographers, etc. I love hearing their stories…

Of all the places you have travelled to, what place in particular stands out? And why?
Well, I haven’t traveled very much….. Brazil and New Zealand and Canada….all were very special….Traveling is a mind opening activity.

What sort of education have you had?
San Diego State University … BA in English….and 4 years of evading the draft…..then got a high number when the lottery came along…..(Viet Nam period).

What was your very first job?
Real job: Lifeguard for the summer.

What is your current job and what does it entail?
Almost retired Bookseller, but probably won’t ever stop completely. I keep a website … I load books and magazines for sale (a little)….that is: scan and add to site…. When one sells, I pack it up and ship it off. I buy mainly from collectors now …

How did you get into the position you are today?
I love books and lists of books and bookstores (not so many left now) …… eventually (1982) started bookscouting….going to garage sales, thrift stores, library sales …..buying books and then selling them to bookstores. Began specializing in Art, Architecture, Decorative Art, Landscape Gardening a little… and anything special……Then: moved into Otento Books and renamed it Joseph Tabler Books (1989)….10 years there… in Hillcrest, San Diego, California……did well…. I had started specializing in Surfing Books and Magazines in 1987….

What do you like most about your job?
I’ll give you the old saw: Getting the right book for the right person (at the right time) at the right price. It is a pleasure to make money giving someone what they want. To start with, I worked for 12 hours a day……but it wasn’t work…..lots of it was pouring over lists of books…. heaven. Still enjoyable.

Where can we find you online?


Posted by: Troy Roennfeldt, on July 30, 2013
Categories: Interviews