by Robert Nichols and his wife Megan
Nothing slows down my father Don Nichols! Surfer, pilot, tennis player, and world traveler at 90 years old.
Born in 1930 in Pamona, California, Donald Nichols, Jr. graduated from UCLA in 1953, immediately enlisted in the Navy, and served as a commissioned officer on the USS Boxer. It was on this carrier that he realized his childhood dream of becoming a Naval Aviator.
During the Korean war, Dad flew reconnaissance missions over Korea and China in an F9F-8P. He was awarded several medals for his service and retired with the rank of Commander.
After a short stint as a helicopter test pilot, Dad moved to Laguna Beach in 1970 and formed Heli-Mart, a helicopter business that became one of the largest parts distributorships in the world. He retired in 2016 at 86 years old, and still lives in Laguna Beach.
Dad has two sons, my brother Steven lives in Nashville, Tennessee and I have been living in Leucadia for 20 years.
When I was five years old, dad took us to Waikiki and introduced us to the joys of surfing. This progressed into years of regular “dawn patrol” ventures with Dad before school, and today we are still surfing together.
I followed in Dad’s footsteps and joined the Navy as well, ultimately becoming a commercial pilot. Later, my wife, Megan, and I partnered with Mark Patterson to create the Surfing Madonna Oceans Project (SMOP) in Encinitas.
Dad and his wife, Georgia, loved to drive down to Encinitas to volunteer at the SMOP Camp for Special Needs Children as well as help us with the two running events, the Beach Run and Half Marathon.
Dad turned 90 years old on August 8, and when asked what his secret is he said, “You just have to keep moving. Stay active and challenge your body and mind.” He’s certainly providing proof of concept as he is still flying his Great Lakes biplane, traveling to Oregon for salmon fishing, surfing regularly, as well as playing tennis and golf!
Dad knows how to relax too. He and Georgia enjoy a chilled martini while hanging out with their beloved schnauzer, Cassie. And, they’re not too old for date night once a week at their favorite Italian restaurant.
They say “age is just a number” and my dad is a great example of that!
Publisher note: All Surfing Madonna events were cancelled by the City of Encinitas earlier this year. There is a pending lawsuit over the issue, so the fate of the special needs beach camps and the two races are unknown at this time.