Archive for July, 2014

I was enthralled with surfing before I ever held a surfboard in my hands. Having been born and raised in Southern California, my mother would take my brother and me to the beach often during the summer. We lived rather close to the coast so it was the obvious thing to do for a play day. We would fool around in the tide pools trying to catch the tiny crabs that would dart out from their little caves carved in the rocks and then rush back inside as if they were playing peek-a-boo with us. At a young age, I felt a tie with the ocean and the beach. The connection was so strong, inside I felt it beckoning and pulling me to continue returning to it.

When I reached the age of nine, I got hooked on skim boards. It was invigorating waiting for waves to push foam laced water, that was only inches deep, high up onto the sandy embankment, and just as it peaked, I would start running, toss the board onto the water before it rushed back out to the sea, jump on the thin, lacquer finished wooden disc and skim across the water at a high speed. Once I became good at it, I would shoot out to the shore break on top of the skim board and flip into the water by jumping or crashing into an oncoming wave.

By the time I turned eleven, the Morey Boogie Board was born and it would take me from the shore to the waves. No skill was required to ride the rectangular chunk of foam with a rubber leash that attached to the wrist, and in no time at all, I was zipping down four to six foot rolling walls of water. I spent so much time on the Boogie Board that I learned about swells, tide changes, rip currents, and most important, how to read and navigate waves.

A turning point with my young life came during the early 1970’s when everything about me became all about surfing and the beach lifestyle. I purchased the Beach Boys album “Endless Summer” and it never came off the turntable. While my family and friends were getting their musical spiritual uplifting on Sundays at church singing hymns, I was getting mine by the tune of songs like “Surfing USA”, “Catch a Wave”, and dreamed of the “Surfer Girl”. In the morning before school and at night before bed, I would stare at the artwork on the fold out album cover that was adorned with vibrant colors, luscious greenery, bright and bold flowers, a majestic wave in the background and the illustrated Beach Boys, tan, shirtless, and with long hair. I transformed overnight into something that would become the stereotypical surfer image before it was stereotypical. I began wearing Hawaiian print shirts that were bright floral colors. I grew my blonde hair long with ringlet curls past my shoulders, which quickly turned bleach blonde from being in the sun. I was fascinated with the Hawaiian lifestyle and the look and the feel of what was taking place on the tropical islands. I wanted a Puka shell necklace like they wore in Hawaii in the worst way, and believe me, finding one back then was not an easy task. I finally found one that was real hand strung shells and not the cheap imitation like those found today. I wasn’t following a trend, in fact, I was just the opposite of my classmates in school. I was the odd man out so to speak. My friends had posters of Led Zeppelin and marijuana leaves hanging on their bedroom walls whereas mine were covered with pages torn out of Surfing and Surfer magazines.

To get the feel of surfing on land, I started riding a skateboard. I quickly became very proficient at riding it. However, my mother still likes to tell the story about her looking out the front window of the house and seeing me flying through the air like superman when I hit a rock with my skateboard that came to an abrupt stop and sent me hurdling through the air towards a crash landing onto the pavement.

My dreams of surfing came to an unexpected halt. Not for any other reason than a movie that hit the theaters. That movie was Jaws. That summer when we went to the beach, no one was getting into the water because they had visions of the man-eater from the movie chomping them into little pieces. The beaches were almost empty and those that went there went no further into the water than knee deep. People were suddenly aware that the Great White shark was roaming the waters, and the movie instilled a fear of death by being eaten alive. The ocean demands respect and it’s frightening not knowing what lurks below. I on the other hand, began studying the Great White’s. I learned about their migrating pattern, where in the Pacific Ocean they mostly populated, and found out they were mainly concentrated in the cooler water higher up in Northern California. It was very rare for a Great White to be seen in the waters in Southern California. However, research at the time showed that the Great White was slowly migrating south, following a warm jet stream, and they were headed our way to feed on the abundant seal population. Researchers claimed it would be years before they would invade our coastline, so that alleviated the fear created by a fictitious movie, and my goal to be a surfer was back on.

Since I was too young to drive, the skateboard became my main mode of transportation. I rode it everywhere and it became an extension of my body. Then I needed to up the thrill factor and started riding down long winding mountain roads and pools. This was at the same time the Lords of Dogtown/Z-Boys (Tony Alva, Stacy Peralta and Jay Adams) were invading the backyards pools mere miles away from me. At one time, we crossed paths at an empty swimming pool of a house that was vacated for the planned 105 freeway. My friends and I searched for any concrete embankments that would emulate riding waves.

My brother and I built a half pipe out of 2×4’s and plywood in the front yard. This would serve as a training course for riding waves. Down at the riverbed in Downey, someone had painted a large tubular wave on the concrete embankment using several blues, purple, green, white and black spray paint. We would go there with our skateboards and ride up and down the steep wall over the illustration pretending we were riding big surf.

It was time to graduate from the pesky Boogie Boarder that got in the way and was a nuisance to the surfers and do what I truly wanted to do… surf. My dreams were filled with fantasies riding a curved wall of rolling thunder.

I finally saved up the money and was so excited that I could barely contain myself when my mother drove me to Harbour Surfboards in Seal Beach to buy my first surfboard. One of the workers took me to the back room where all the new surfboards were lined up against a wall. I didn’t know what would be best for me. He asked where I would be riding and told me what size would be best for my body height and weight. I picked out a six foot 4 inch single fin board that was lime green with a six inch wide white stripe down the center. I remember it well because it was a first love as I felt the smoothness of the newly laid fiberglass. I caressed it and ran my hands up and down the sides of its firm, thin body. As I walked to the register with my new love under my arms, the smile on my face was bigger than ever before. A trip to Disneyland or Christmas morning with a mountain of presents under the tree couldn’t compare to the excitement I was feeling right then.

My wardrobe changed overnight from Hawaiian shirts and blue jeans to board shorts, OP (Ocean Pacific) pants and t-shirts from every surfboard shop in Southern California. Once again, I didn’t fit in with those wearing designer jeans and shirts adorned with fancy stitching on the back pockets. But I didn’t care to fit in and be just like everyone else. At this time, the music I listened to changed as well. The Beach Boys were replaced by more aggressive and somewhat off kilter groups such as Alice Cooper, Ted Nugent and Kiss to coincide with the increase of aggression as I learned to surf.
I went to school during the week, but come Saturday morning, I would be up before the sun and headed down the street on my skateboard with my surfboard under my arm to catch the bus on Lakewood Boulevard that would take me on a 45 minute ride to Seal Beach. During the summer months, this was known as the Beach Bus as hordes of teenagers from Azusa located at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains, and forward, would take to the beach. The buses would be completely filled with kids every hour and would turn into a social gathering on its own.

All I cared about was practicing and getting better at surfing. Most of the time I would go by myself and made friends with surfers at the beach that had the same love and dedication for the sport as I.

During the week, I hung out with a group of neighborhood kids that I went to school with called “The Marbel Gang”, but when the weekend, summertime or when the days became longer and warmer just before school was over for the year, I was at the beach. I had no interest in going to parties or getting high as my friends did. Many nights while they were out partying, I was swimming laps in a pool. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a loner at all. I had the desire to find that “Surfer Girl” as depicted in the Beach Boys song and dated several girls from school. Also, I would periodically go to hang outs such as Golf & Stuff where large groups of kids my age congregated.

On Saturday, I would go to the beach early in the morning and surf during the tide change when the waves are biggest. When the tide change was complete and the morning swell was gone leaving only unrideable one to two foot “slop” surf for swimmers to play in, I would hang out with friends among the thousands of other teenagers packed onto the sand at the south side of the Seal Beach pier until the late afternoon tide change. At which time, I picked my surfboard up and hit the waves.

I felt most alive at the beach. I loved everything about it. My soul was a peace when I inhaled the smell of the ocean with the traces of salt in the air. My skin came alive by the warmth of the sun and the cool ocean breeze that kissed my sun baked face. To me, I felt the best when I was a little sun burnt, salty, and gritty with sand particles scattered over my skin. The smell of tropical suntan lotion and the sweet scent of surfboard wax were exhilarating to me. The same goes for when I would be repairing dings or cracks in my surfboard; the odor of fiberglass resin was intoxicating to me.

Speaking of surfboard wax, this is an area that all surfers enjoy. Applying a fresh coat of wax to the deck of a surfboard is therapeutic to a surfer and is usually done when not at the beach. It begins with either placing the board on the grass in the front yard or straddling it across the lap. It’s a labor of love performed with forceful pressure and circular motions of the hand and fingers. As a teen with hormones going crazy, the only wax I used was Mr. Zogs Sex Wax “The Best For Your Stick”. That has to be one of the best names for marketing in the industry since surfing in comprised mostly of young males. Seriously… how much more cool can one get with a product name such as Sex Wax? I had the circular label plastered everywhere I could get it to stick.

There was one problem with wax on the deck of a surfboard. It wasn’t an issue during the winter when a wetsuit was required to keep from getting hypothermia, but during the summer when all you wore were shorts, it became a huge problem for those that surfed quite frequently. Rash guards hadn’t been developed yet, and what would happen is grains of sand would get embedded into the wax, especially on hot days when the wax would tend to melt while you were sitting on the beach. After a few days of hard riding, the now sandpaper wax would grind into the torso when paddling in and out of the waves. The next thing to happen is the skin on the stomach and chest looked like road rash, and worst of all, the nipples would become raw and feel as if they had been through a meat grinder. This was almost unbearable going out later in the evening with a shirt on as the fabric painfully scrapped over the tender flesh. However, it was a welcome pain because it came with being a surfer.

I was addicted to everything that encompassed the surfer lifestyle. My addiction grew. There were times that I had enough money to get to the beach on a weekday, but not enough to get back on the bus to go home. I would stand outside the market on Main Street and panhandle enough for the bus fare home.

My riding style became more aggressive than the single fin surfboard could handle. In our area, Robert August surfboards were the cream of the crop at the time and I purchased a six foot two inch swallow tail twin fin. This was a game changer for me. The board matched my aggressive riding style and I was able to do things that I couldn’t on the single fin board. This surfboard became an extension of my body, and I would ride in areas that I couldn’t before, such as the point of the rocks at the Seal Beach Jetty.

On big days, I would take off inside the Jetty and as the wave traveled over the point of the huge boulders, I would cut back, ride over the rocks, and pull out just before slamming into a wall of sharp stone that could cut through my wetsuit. There were a few times when I miscalculated my exit and had to kick my board away from me so it didn’t get damaged as I slammed into the rocks.

They Jetty was a grand place for long rides on big days, and one of the best part about it is also the worst. The water in the Jetty is warm. Factories inland use the water to cool down machinery and that water is forced back into the Jetty which also creates a very strong outward current that makes it very difficult to paddle back in. However, due to the warm water, there is one huge drawback…. Sharks!

One afternoon, about a dozen of us were sitting on top of our surfboards with our legs dangling in the water as we waited for the next swell, when all of a sudden something slammed into my right leg. I was momentarily stunned and frozen in place as I could feel the sandpaper texture of skin scrape my leg as it slowly traveled passed me. I knew I had been grazed by a large shark. I lifted my legs out of the water and nervously waited for a wave to take me back into shore. As I was walking back to the pier that is a mile down the beach, a man asked where I had been surfing. He told me that a shark had been sighted in the Jetty and they were getting everyone out and closing it. My heart dropped even further into my stomach than it already was, but that had no impact on my love for surfing. In fact, it was about to get kicked into overdrive.

It was on a Sunday morning when it happened. The air had a chill to it because the sun was barely up and not warm enough to burn of the marine layer overhead. That morning, there were only six of us out in the Jetty. As I was sitting there waiting for the swells to get bigger, I heard a familiar voice call out my name. I was surprised to one of the coaches from my high school sitting there on a surfboard. We chatted for awhile as we waited. Then the swells started coming in. We paddled further out as they continued growing in size. One set after another. Most of the surfers took the first sets. We could see the oncoming set that was much larger than the first and we paddled as fast as we could to meet them before the peaked. I waited for the third wave, spun my board around and began to paddle as fast as I could. I was at the top of an eight foot wave just before it crest I felt the wave grab hold of my board and force me forward. Being on the inside, I called the wave and the other two surfers backed out of it. I dropped in and sped so fast down the wave that I thought I would get too far ahead of it. I leaned into a slight turn to slow down as the wave caught up and lifted me back to the top. Then I leaned in again and shot down the glass wall of water. Quickly, I began carving the wave gaining momentum by cutting back into it from the base and then executing a perfect cutback on the lip of the wave. Looking up, I could see the wave getting ready to curl over and waterfall in front of me. I forced my right fin deep into the wall of water with my back foot and ducked down as I raced to beat the collapse of wave’s center. The wave curled over my head and I was inside the tube. At that moment, the roaring sound of the wave disappeared. There was a peaceful silence. All I could hear was the sound of my board gliding through the wave and the water between the fingers of my right hand as they skimmed through the wall. It seemed as time froze inside and everything was in slow motion inside the tube. I looked into the wall of bluish green water that was taller than me. I could see its movement as it raised high above me and then roll over my head to waterfall into a cascade of white water. I wanted to stay in this zone for as long as I could, but then it got very loud as I shot out of the tube like a cannon ball. On the outside, was the perfect wave that I rode for all it was worth; cutting back and forth, and gliding like up and down the face of the wave. I could see the end of my ride coming up, and before all was lost, I dropped down to my stomach and went over the backside of what remained of the wave. The two surfers that pulled out of the wave to give me the ride applauded as I paddled back to where they were waiting. I’m sure they could see by the look on my face that even after I exited the wave I was riding a high inside that could not be matched by anything man made. And for that reason, I stayed away from drugs. I knew then and there that nothing could match the high of an adrenalin rush created by that of man and nature connecting as one. Unfortunately, like its manmade synthetic counterpart of internal highs, it became an addiction and I would find myself longing for that state of euphoria in suspended animation that could only be found in another perfect wave; a natural high that I would chase for many years to come.

One of the best aspects of surfing is that it’s never the same. It’s always a new experience no matter how many years you do it. The days of skateboarding to the Beach Bus were over. I got my driver’s license, a car, and surfboard racks that went on the roof of the car. Kid’s… they all do stupid stuff. I wasn’t one the road solo for more than fifteen minutes before I received my first ticket. I was overly excited, boards on top and headed for the beach. I put my foot down on the pedal going around a corner, burned some rubber, and accelerated forward. A police officer that was driving the opposite direction had seen me come around the corner, and he turned his red and blue lights on before we even passed each other. I knew it was me he was after so I pulled over and waited for him to make a u-turn and not have to chase me. I was written up for exhibition of speed. Thankfully, my parents weren’t too upset. I think they were actually expecting it.

My world of surfing was about to expand, and so did my surfboard collection. I purchased a dream team of surfboards, a six foot four inch swallow tail twin fin made by Lightning Bolt Surfboards and tri-fin made by AIPA Surfboards that was designed for speed and shredding a wave into pieces.

During the mid 1970’s Lightning Bolt Surfboards was at the top of the heap in the surfing world and plastered all over the magazines as founder Gerry Lopez became the master of the Pipeline in Hawaii. The “Lightning Bolt” became a symbol of the surfer. At sixteen years old, and to the horror of my parents, I got a tattoo. One night when I was hanging out with a few friends from the Marbel Gang, my friend Russell (another surfer) and I were talking about how we wanted a lightning bolt tattoo. One of the girls said she could do it with Indian ink, a needle and thread. You know… sometimes kids do stupid things, and this was one of them. I asked her to do one for me. I must say that it hurt like hell. My arm felt like a piece of raw meat when it was done. Many years have passed since, but to this day, people still ask me what it is and if it has meaning. At one time, I almost had it covered with another tattoo, but then I decided to keep it. The lightning bolt tattoo on my arm may date me and show my age, but it is a fond symbol of the past when surfing was a lifestyle and not a corporate run trend as it has been for many years now.

I was somewhat of a loner at school because my interests were elsewhere outside of school football games, dances, and getting involved in a click. I knew that I was different than those in the popular crowd, but I had no problem with it. I was focused on my goals and was more into the challenge of conquering the powerful, and sometimes brutal, forces of Mother Nature. Nothing excited me more than it being just me with a shaped chunk of foam and fiberglass taking on and riding unpredictable walls of water. Combined, there was a sense of fear, beauty, and peace. It demanded physical strength, agility, ability, and knowledge. When it all comes together, a person experiences an adrenalin rush that cannot be found anywhere else. Riding waves affects a person entire being, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. All senses come alive, sight, sound, feel, smell, and taste become enhanced and vibrant.
That year, something unexpected happened. I was so different than the others my age with my long blonde curly hair, sun bleached highlights, skin suntanned most of the year, not following the clothing trends, and going to school with surfboards on the roof of my car, and then I suddenly became the popular kid. I was no longer the odd man out. The popular kids came to me wanting to become friends. However, instead of interacting with them where they hung out, I brought them into my world. This included late night beach parties.

Large groups of teenage boys and girls would pile on top of each other into cars, leaving no available space for another body to fit, and we would all drive in a caravan to Huntington Beach Cliffs where there were fire pits on the beach. The beach did not close, there were no rules or regulations, and there was a sense of privacy since this area was not visible from the highway.

Underage kids would bring alcohol such as cheap beer and MD (Mad Dog) 20/20, a red grape wine which was popular among the teenagers at the time. I don’t know why because it’s known as the bum’s wine. I’m guessing because it’s cheap to purchase. I’m not sure where they would get it though. They either raided their parent’s liquor cabinet or convinced someone to buy it for them.
The beach parties quickly became a Saturday night ritual, and as the weeks progressed, more and more people started showing up as word got around. Many of us began bringing sleeping bags and staying the night on the beach. I was having the time of my life at this point with dozens of exciting new friends, drinking beer and getting cheerfully intoxicated on the beach under a blanket of brightly lit stars and a huge bonfire to provide light and warmth.

It was towards the end of July and our beach parties now seemed to have half the school showing up for the festivities. One bonfire turned into four.

Those of us whom had been doing this for the past few weeks had beach chairs lined up in a circle around one of the fire pits. The others had people standing around them in large groups. Someone pulled his four wheel drive truck onto the sand and was blasting music from the stereo inside with the doors wide open that consisted mostly of the hard rock that was popular at the time, Ted Nugent “Cat Scratch Fever”, Aerosmith “Sweet Emotion”, Foghat “Slow Ride” and Led Zeppelin “Kashmir”.

I was sitting in my low to the ground fold out chair, dressed in board shorts with a multi-colored Mexican poncho draped over my shirtless top half. It felt scratchy against my slightly sun and wind burnt skin from surfing all day. I was laughing with friends, drinking cheap bear… and then I saw her as she walked onto the beach. I had seen her at school and knew that her name was Sandy. Her name fit her perfectly. She had the look of the “Surfer Girl” that the Beach Boys sang about in their song. She had light blue eyes and very long blonde curly hair that flowed down to the middle of her back. She was wearing a white cotton summer dress that hugged her petite figure and I could see the outline of the bikini she had on underneath it.

I couldn’t help but to stare as I watched her carefully step through the sand. She went to the bonfire closest to my friends and I. She was talking to a small group of boys and girls that she was friends with a school. Because I couldn’t take my eyes off her, I noticed that she kept looking in my direction. At first, I hoped that she didn’t think I was being a weirdo gawking at her. But then our eyes locked onto each other and she smiled. Her girlfriends looked my direction, one leaned in to whisper in her ear, and then they all giggled. About a half hour went by, and then one of the males in her group came strolling over to our bonfire. He squatted down next to wear I was sitting, and said, “Your name is Steven right?” I replied, “Yes.” He reached out to shake my hand, and said, “Hi, I’m Jason.” I replied with the typical, “Hey, how are you?” “Good,” he said. Jason pointed his finger to the bonfire across from us, and said, “You see that girl over there in the white dress?” I smiled, “Yes… Sandy.” He bumped his shoulder into mine, and said, “Dude, she likes you, and I mean, really, really has a thing for you. You should go over there and talk to her.” I nodded my head, “Cool. I just might do that.” He stood up and gave me the surfer “stoked” hand signal. “Right on,” she said with a grin
My best friend Russell was sitting next to me. Russell and I were not related, but we looked like twin brothers. We had been surfing buddies for the past year and were inseparable. He sat there quietly for a few minutes with a grin on his face nodding his head up and down. I’m sure he was fairly buzzed at this point. He looked over at me, and said, “Well… she’s really cute. Are you going to go for it?” I jump up from my seat, and said, “Hand me two beers.” He reached into the ice chest on the other side of him and pulled out two bottles of beer. I grabbed them in one hand and started walking to where Sandy was with her friends. Russell threw his hands in the air and yelled out, “That’s my boy! Go get her!”

Sandy looked my direction as I approached her. She tilted her head slightly downwards and her hair fell towards the front of her face. I could see her eyes peeking through the hair that partially draped her face like swag curtains. She smiled. She looked like a timid mouse hiding in a corner. The closer I got to her, the harder I tried not to stumble in the sand.

I walked up and said, “Hi Sandy.” She lifted her head and pulled her hair back, “Hello Steven.” I told her that I was pleasantly surprised to see her at the beach party. Our eyes were locked together. I held my hand out with the bottles, and asked, “Would you like a beer?” She giggled, “Sure.” Her friends stood there gawking and giggling. I twisted the cap off the bottle of beer before handing her the beer, and asked, “Would you like to go for a walk down the beach?” She looked at her friends, and then replied, “Yes would.”

As we walked away from the light of the bonfires and into the darkness towards the shoreline, she reached over and took my hand and held it with hers.
We sat on the cool sand at the top of the embankment just out of reach of the water rushing up from the small waves. The moon was bright and its reflection glistened across the surface of the ocean. We talked for a long time. She told me that she had wanted to meet me for a quite awhile, but has been too shy to approach me at school. Then she said something unexpected. She told me about her love for the beach and that she had been learning to surf. I asked, “Have you ever night surfed?” Her eyes got so big that I could see the reflection of the ocean and the moon in them. She seemed bewildered by my question, and said, “No I haven’t. Isn’t that a little scary?” I replied with exuberance, “Not at all. There is a sense of peace out and tranquility out there at night.” She gazed out at the ocean and the consistent three foot swell that was taking place. I could see the gears turning in her head so I asked, “Would you like to go out for a few rides?” I told her that I would stay by her side the entire time. Sandy did have to think about it for very long before saying yes. We walked back to my car together and I took two boards off the rack. We walk in the darkness out of sight of our friends on by the bonfires.

At the top of the embankment, I took off the poncho I was wearing. Sandy lifted the white summer dress over her head to reveal her floral print bikini. I tried my best not to gawk, but wasn’t successful. She smiled, and said, “Do you like?” My eyebrows rose, as I exhaled a scratchy, “Yes I do… very much.”

We ran down the embankment and into the water. The ocean is a pitch black, but the white water and foam light up from the moon. We paddled out past the break and sat on the boards side by side. From there, we could see all our friends gathered around the bonfires, but they could not see us from where they were.

The moon twinkled on the surface of the water. We sat for awhile watching the waves crest from the backside. I said to Sandy, “Listen… you’ll hear things at night that you won’t during the day. You can hear the rumble of the waves. Just then, we could hear the chirping of dolphins nearby. Sandy became a little frightened, “Doesn’t that mean sharks are around?” I calmly explained to her, “No… just the opposite. Dolphins are a shark’s worst enemy. They are too fast for a shark to catch, and a dolphin will ram the side of a shark and burst its sides open. Trust me, if we hear the dolphins, they know we are here and watching over us.” This put her at easy. I asked, “Are you ready for a ride?” She said yes and we paddled in towards the break. When we got there, I said, “This is where it gets fun. You cannot see the waves approaching; you have to listen for them.” I then instructed her to follow my lead, “I’ll stay on the outside and ride right behind you. Don’t worry; I’ll be right there to make sure you are safe.” That made her feel more at ease and able to thoroughly enjoy the experience. We faced the dark horizon together, side by side, and I said, “Listen… Do you here it coming.” She was excited, “Yes I do.” I once again told her to follow my lead. We were able see the fast approaching wave by the light of the moon glistening on the crest. I said, “Ok… now!” In unison, we slid backwards to push down on the back of the boards, grabbed the tips that were in the air, and spun around to face the shore. Leaning forward to level the surfboards with the ocean surface and lay on top of them, we quickly paddled together. We could hear the wave hot on our heels, and then it began to lift up to the top. I watched Sandy closely. As soon as she launched and was dropping into the wave, I gave to hard paddles, and dropped in right behind her. The wave was as glassy as could be. The light from the bonfires on shore lit up the path for us to take. It was a long and slow ride or so it seemed. Slow enough to admire the white water in front of us as it was sucked up into the wave. Slow enough to zone in on the glistening white cap at the lip of the wave as we sped past it to keep it from collapsing on us. I watched her ride up and down the wave as I kept just enough distance to stop in case she fell. I could see the wave beginning to taper down. Our ride would come to an end very soon. I turned into the wave and let it take me to the top, and then I shot down the face to gain momentum and speed. I swung to the outside of Sandy leaned in to ride side by side with her. She turned into the wave and I followed. We both went over the top together and dropped down to lie on the boards. She was beaming with a smile from ear to ear. We repositioned our bodies to sitting on the surfboards. The excitement in her eyes said more than words ever could. However, she sure did try, “Oh my God. That was amazing. That was the best experience of my life. I feel so alive right now.” I grinned, “I know how to make it even better.” She giggled, “Oh yeah… how so?” I put my hands in the water, spun my board in a 180 degree turn until I was facing the opposite direction of her and slowly paddled closer to her until my board was almost on top of hers. I leaned over towards her. I struggled to keep my balance on the board while doing so, and then kissed her on the lips. She reached out with both hands and put her arms around my neck. We kissed as we floated in the darkness. As we kissed, we heard the dolphins chirping again in the distance. I giggled, “It sounds like they approve.” She leaned in to get closer, and it forced us to both fall off the boards and into the water. We laughed about it all the way back to shore. Once we got there, we embraced and kissed each other again. The warmth of our bodies touching eased the chill in the air.

We walked back through the area were the party was taking place. We giggled at the looks we were getting from everyone as we passed through the crowd dripping wet with surfboards under our arms.

We dried off at my car and removed the wet clothes. We then returned to the beach party and snuggled at the bonfire where Russell and a girl he hooked up with were huddled together and drunk off their asses. He looked up at Sandy and me, and slurred the words, “Dude… Chick…. Right on!” In a few hours, the party dwindled down to only a handful of people remaining. Most of them were just hanging around because they were too drunk to drive. Sandy had driven herself and told her friends she was staying with me. I went to the car and brought back a sleeping bag. Sandy and I crawled in it and spent the night together.

We were awakened by the sound of waves crashing. After driving down the road to grab some breakfast from Jack in the Box, we spent the remaining morning hours surfing. Before leaving the beach in the late afternoon, Sandy and I exchanged phone numbers and kissed each other goodbye.

I got into the driver’s seat of my car where Russell was waiting. I was exhausted. My body was sticky and gritty from the salt water, but I felt refreshed and alive all the same. I had to laugh at Russell. He looked as if he had his ass kicked hard. He was beat up from drinking all night and surfing all day. I reached over and slapped him in the stomach, “Dude, are you going to make it?” He just groaned. Then he looked at me with his blood shot eyes and a shit-eating grin. His voice crackled, “So Dude… you finally got your surfer girl.” I put my sunglasses on, inserted the keys into the ignition, turned to look at him with a slight smile on my face trying not to appear too excited, and said, “Yes I do… Yes I do.” He put his sunglasses on to stop the burning in his eyes cause by the sun glaring through the window. We both faced forward as I put the car into drive. He nodded his head, and said, “Cool!”

I couldn’t get enough of surfing during the daytime in the summer months, so night surfing became a favorite of ours when there were good swells. It was hit & miss. Sometimes we would show up and there would be 4 to 6 foot waves crashing down the side of the pier. Other times, we would show up and there wouldn’t even be a ripple in the water. When that happened, we would just wait for a while and then shoot over to Long Beach for the midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

However, when there were good size waves, fun time was on. The best place to surf at night was on the north side of the pier. For some reason, there would always be a perfect break to the left. It was a little tricky because we would have to take off and drop in next to the pillars under the pier. On the nights with big surf, since there were no lifeguards or beach patrol on duty, we would walk out the pier as far as needed to get behind the break, throw our boards over the side and jump in after it. That was almost more fun than cliff diving. Especially when the water seemed much further down at night than it actually was. It was like leaping into a black abyss. What made surfing the pier at night so exciting and different were the lights that lined the first half of the pier. They were bright and illuminated the water below. Many nights we had an audience of those taking a late night stroll out to the end of the pier. They would gather above us at the spot where we would take off, and if it was a good ride with several well executed maneuvers, we would get a hearty applause. My favorite part was taking off and carving a wave in a well lit area that quickly faded into darkness. At first, I was riding in bright light. As the lights from above began to fade the crest of the wave and foamy white water would glow, and then there was nothing but feeling the water below my surfboard.

The sounds of the ocean when surfing at night are much different than those during the day. All of the commotion that takes place when people are out and about, such as boats, planes, cars, people talking, and the general daily noise is nonexistent. In the dark, your senses are heightened and you hear so much more than during the day. That’s when nature and the earth can be clearly heard. The waves have an eerie roar and thunderous rumble to them. Tranquility actually has a sound and so does unseen danger. Wild life and sea creatures can be heard roaming the dark. It’s a little scary, but extremely exhilarating. There is something enchanting about surfing when most people are snuggled up in bed for the night. It sounds strange, but the water feels and tastes different. It feels soft and comforting.

There was no center peak to the waves at the pier and you could not see them coming in. I would sit on my board so close to the concrete break wall that ran parallel with the pier that I would have to use my hand to push away from it. I could feel an oncoming set before it was visible by how the water would roll and lift me higher against the wall. The waves seemed to come in fast since I could not see them approaching and I usually had to quickly paddle out to meet them head on. The waves had to be timed just right before take off. It was a short and fast ride. To get the most out of it, I would launch and drop in only inches from the concrete wall. This would be a problem if the wave tumbled over and collapsed before making a sharp turn away from it. If that happen, whoever was taking off would be slammed into the wall and end up with a severely damaged surfboard, and I witness several boards get screwed up. However, it was worth the risk for the rush.

One night at the pier led me into another sport (outside of surfing) that would become a passion for many years to come. We were walking down the pier to jump off into the water and swim to shore. There was no surf that night so we thought we would have some fun diving off it since it was illegal. You know teenagers, breaking rules because it was fun and exciting getting away with it and the thrill of possibly being caught.
Mid way down the pier, there was the guy shooting arrows into the water with a compound bow. I had never seen a bow like this before and it caught my attention. I went over and talked to him. I noticed a reel attached to the front of the bow and asked if he was fishing with it. He said, “Not for fish.” I watched as he drew back the bow, aimed, and shot an arrow about 50 yards out into the black sea. He yelled, “Damn it!” Then he started reeling in the fishing line attached to the fiberglass arrow. I asked, “Did you miss? I didn’t even see what you were shooting at.” He seemed disappointed when he said, “No – I hit it.” Then I could see the Stingray with an arrow through the center of it as he reeled it up onto the pier. He went on to inform us, “I didn’t want to kill it. I’m trying to clip on in the wing to take home and put in my salt water aquarium.” I was in awe, “How can you see them and know where to shoot? It’s dark out there.” He explained, “Do you see the light from the moon ripple on the surface of the water? If you look close and know what to look for, you can see shadows moving on top of the water.” The first thing that went through my mind was being in the water at night with Stingrays all around us.

After that night, I had to get a compound bow. I was fascinated by it. Not for hunting, fishing or killing anything, it just seemed like something that would be fun to master. I went and purchased one the next week and it was more fun than I had anticipated. With the exception of the learning curve that is. Let me just say this, if the bow string hits you in the forearm after release, it stings like hell. I had welts on inside of my right arm for weeks. Over the years, I’ve gone to many competition ranges which are a blast. It’s like golf with a bow and arrow, but with many more terrain changes.

One aspect of surfing that makes it so alluring, exciting, and challenging, is that it is never the same. As much as those with a passion for it try to master it, the ever changing forces of Mother Nature are always in control.

A good example of how quickly and unexpected surf conditions can change happened on a Saturday morning. My mother used to bring us to the beach when we were children, now that we were older, my brother and I that is, the tables were turned and on this day we brought her with us. She wanted to come with us and watch us surf. We set up beach towels, chairs, and a cooler full of drinks and snacks close to the shore line. It was an overcast morning. The marine layer that blocked the sun from shining was thick but usually disappeared before noon. We arrived early, before the change from high tide to low tide. The surf was between three to four feet with a decent clean break to the right. My brother, Russell, and I put our wetsuits on since it was a little chilly with the sun hidden above the cloud cover. I laid my board down onto the sand and applied a fresh coat of wax to the deck.

There is just something soothing that is felt inside when a new bar of wax is opened. It must be a combination of the sweet scent of the wax and the salt air. I know I brought this up earlier, but it truly is a labor of love. You will never see a person that is passionate about surfing rush through applying wax to their board. They do it slowly and have a personal pattern of application. My preference is to begin at the top, three-quarters up from the bottom where my chest rests when paddling. I press down hard on the wax and use circular motions as I work my way downwards. My goal was to achieve a wax build up that resembles extra large stucco as seen on the outside walls of houses. When I get that, I know that I will not slip on the board while riding.
I attached the rubber leash to my ankle and we walked down to the water looking like surfing’s Three Musketeers. That morning there was more kelp than usual floating in the water and on shore. I reached down and picked up two large handfuls of leafy, yellow kelp and put it on my head like a wig that draped down past my shoulders. Russell laughed and inquired, “Dude… what are you doing.” I chuckled, “Check it out… I look like Sigmund from that show Sigmund and the Sea Monsters.”

We had to step over clumps of kelp being pushed to shore by rushing white foam laced sea water. The water was cold to the touch when my bare feet had first contact. I dreaded going out at this spot when the tide was changing. We always had to walk out a long distance in water that was not even waste deep, and without fail, we always stepped on sand-sharks that bury themselves under a layer of sand on the ocean floor. It scares the crap out of me every time I step on one because they scurry away while my foot is still on top of them, which pulls me to the side and I lose my footing.
We finally got to deeper water and could paddle out. We made our way to the outside of the break and sat on top of our boards. I still had the kelp wig on my head which was dripping salt water down my face and into my mouth. I still had it on during the first wave I rode, but lost it when I exited and went over the top to paddle back out.
As the tide changed, the waves continued to get bigger and were around five to six feet now. This made for some fun, fast rides.

We paddled out further as the waves continued to increase in size, and as we sat on the outside waiting for the next set to roll in, something very strange and eerie happened.
A fog bank mysterious appeared and rolled in over us. The visibility was quickly limited to six feet all around us. We could no longer see the shore or in any direction for that matter. It had a feel to it like the horror movie The Fog. If something bad were to happen while we were out there, no one would see it. It scared my mother to death on shore. Then it got even weirder.

The ocean began to swell and rolled underneath us. There was a deafening silence that was dreadfully spooky. The silence was broken when we could hear the rumble of large waves headed towards us. We knew they were coming, but could not see them. I dropped the nose of my boards and paddle as fast and hard as I could towards the rumbling sound. When I could see the first wave of the set, I was shocked. They had grown to eight plus feet in height. I paddle hard and barely made it of the lip before the wave came crashing down. As far as I could tell, only four of us made it out past the break. We sat still and silent to listen for the next set. I did an immediate 180 degree spin and paddled quickly. I drop in and shot down the face of the wave. I went to the bottom, cutback hard into the wave, and rose to the top. I leaned over lifting my board onto the outer rail. Spray shot out from underneath as I turned to drop back down the wave. I couldn’t see anything more than a few feet in front of me. All of a sudden, there were people on surfboards in my path. I leaned hard into a turn to avoid hitting one of them, and then there was another, and then another. The forth surfer wasn’t as lucky. I didn’t see him in time and went right over the top of him. My board jerked backwards for a split second and I knew one of my fins made contact. I dove into the water to stop, and yelled, “Are you ok!” I couldn’t see him in the fog, but he said, “I’m alright.” I swam towards him to make sure. Thankfully, my fin only had contact with the rear of his surfboard. I was afraid that I may have hit him and the fin cut him open. I was able to find my way back by the roar of the waves to where my brother and Russell were. I said, “Holy Shit! That was one wild ride. It was like trying to navigate an obstacle course, and I ran over one guy, but he’s fine.” We rode several more waves, and thankfully, this time, the other surfers were not in the path. They either went back to shore or paddle out past the break. Then just as quickly as the fog bank rolled in, it was gone, and with it, the large waves went as well.

Russell and I made friends with Jay and Dave, both avid surfers that lived in the same city as us. The four of us decided to start doing road trips. Our goal was to surf every beach from Central California to Mexico. Jay drove a primer grey VW Bug which was not the greatest car for four guys to do road trips in. However, all we needed to carry were a dry set of clothes, towels, wetsuits and an ice cooler. We would strap our boards to the racks on his roof, and away we went.