Remember When… the ’80s flashback edition

Remember When

… the ’80s flashback edition

By Neal Kearney

Fluorescent wetsuits, webbed paddling gloves, hardcore territorialism, eccentric characters … The 1980s were a special era here in Santa Cruz. The invention of the modern, three-fin thruster design by Australian shaper Simon Anderson ushered in a new era of progression, and Santa Cruz surfers were at the forefront of this innovative new approach. Meanwhile, locals like Kevin Reed and Steve Price were pioneering aerial surfing, while guys like Richard Schmidt pushed the big-wave envelope both at home and in Hawaii. It was an era when lineups were heavily localized, enforced by a rigid pecking order that ensured the groms got the scraps and the top dogs got the pick of the litter. Waves recently unearthed some archival slides of five Santa Cruz surfers back in the day and asked them to take us on a walk down memory lane.

JUSTIN BURNS
44 years old 
Senior software engineer at SchoolMessenger in Scotts Valley
Former National Scholastic Surfing Association national champion

Justin Burns“It was a pretty amazing, memorable, and often humbling time to be a surfer in Santa Cruz back in the ’80s. Back in those days the crowds were a mere fraction of what they are today and the lineups were generally ruled by short boarders in tight-knit packs who would vibe and often heckle anyone they didn’t know or like that paddled into the bowl or got in the way. There was a far more localized and often hostile vibe at nearly every spot across town—East, Midtown, or West—with a solid totem pole of characters at each spot, and it would take years to work your way up the totem pole at a given spot and in the pole position in the bowl. Nowadays, respect, etiquette in the lineup, and the idea of a totem pole seems like a thing of the past; it’s become a free for all at every spot. Beginners on Wavestorms, longboarders, and standup paddleboarders have taken over the lineups, outnumbering the endangered species of the shortboard pack rats. I miss those days—the days of discovering the surf was pumping after riding my bike down with my board to surf after school, not from an online forecast a week in advance; the days of small, tight-knit crowds of friends in the bowl at First Peak or Sewers, heckling and pushing each other.”

 

 

 


MARCEL SOROSMarcel Soros
49 years old
Sales representative
Former O’Neill poster boy and amateur contest slayer

 

“This photo represents my focus during the ’80s. I was surfing a contest every weekend back when this picture was taken. I made a lot of good friends up and down the coast of California during this era. This was around the time I stepped into my current career as a sales rep, so I’m really appreciative for all these experiences. Surfing in the ’80s was super fun. Innovation was in the air and there was intense localism. We went from riding single fins to twin fins in the matter of three years. Then thrusters came in and changed the game forever. Power surfing became my primary focus. We also started to explore more, venturing up north more, finding new spots to avoid the increasingly crowded lineups.”

 

 

 


BENJY JAMESON
43 years old
Commercial fisherman and construction worker
Lifelong Pleasure Point local and legendary tube rider

Benjy Jameson

“Santa Cruz … what a great place to grow up as a surfer! Surfing is a lifestyle in Santa Cruz, although it’s a bit different now than it was then. When I was growing up, if someone was out of line, the older locals would clear the lineup. As a young local grom living on Pleasure Point, this was awesome, but also intimidating. That’s just how it was back then. Getting my introduction to surfing the Point in the mid ’80s was really special to me—there were so many great surfers on any given day that it was a privilege to be able to be out there. The older boys wouldn’t let me surf First Peak for years, so I started sitting on Suicide Bowl so I could watch them getting these radical lefts. Then, one day, the boys let me come over and surf the Peak with them. For me, a 16-year-old grom, surfing the Peak with all of the Point boys was the greatest feeling—hands down the most awesome day at my life up to that point. Much respect to all of my elders: I thank [them] all for taking me in and showing me the ropes.”


KEITH MEEK
53 years old
Head vigilante at Creative Vigilante Design Studio
Former pro skater, punk rocker, and underground surfer

Keith Meeks

“Well, first off, I’m sure everyone thinks that their youth or a certain decade was better than another. Now that I’m older, I can see the point of view. For instance, when I worked for Jim Phillips back in the mid to late ’80s, I asked him why he wasn’t surfing much anymore. He replied, ‘Why, so I can surf with all you knuckleheads?’ I didn’t understand what he was saying until later on in life when everything in the lineup was changing for me and my generation.
For me, the ’80s were a golden era. We still had tons of respect for the older guys that forged the way, we learned the old-school etiquette—the unwritten laws of the lineup—the equipment was improving, and there was a new statement being made. Rail-to-rail surfing, going straight up into the lip, and the aerial movement was taking off. I was a skater who learned to surf, so I appreciated this progressive movement. I also remember it taking years to work your way up in the lineup to get the set waves, even just to move from one surf spot to the next. We never expected to get the best waves of the set; those were awarded to the guys that had already paid their dues. Back then the locals outnumbered the invaders and held their spots tight. I feel fortunate to have been brought up surfing in that era, pre surf cams, pre cell phones, pre surf schools and pre industry blowout.”


STEVE COLETTA
68 years old
Surfboard shaper, 1967-present
Sewer Peak standout and go-to shaper for some of the area’s finest talentSteve Coletta

“Change is a constant. The ’80s didn’t escape change. Boards went from boats to glass slippers, clear to disco fluorescent, then back to clear. Fins went from single fins to twins to thrusters. Surf reports transitioned from the ‘squawk box’ to the SurfFax and then Surfline. Crowds went from manageable to anarchy. The Rivermouth had a once-in-lifetime sandbar winter of ’82-’83. The Eastside didn’t have a seawall. The ‘trail’ to the Point was a muddy mess. The ‘trail’ to The Hook was the roots of trees. Once a year we all surfed in the St Patrick’s Day “Yeah Now!” contest, a no-cord event for Santa Cruz locals. Groms were strapped to telephone poles with their cords as the local crew accepted them into the tribe. In ’85 [Anthony] Ruffo won the first [O’Neill] Coldwater Classic, part of the Professional Surfing Association of America Tour. The Coldwater ran three years as a Championship Tour event. Richie Collins won in ’87, Martin Potter in ’89, and Tom Curren in ’90. The surf industry evolved from mom-and-pop shops to the ‘Surfing Industrial Complex.’ At the start of the decade, all you needed to surf was a board and a wetsuit. By the end of the decade, did we really need all those accessories to surf?”


Waves


3 comments on “Remember When… the ’80s flashback edition


  1. How about hearing from some of the women surfing In the 80s? I knew at least a handful when I lived in SC from 86-93.

  2. An outsiders perspective…couldn’t help but think about surfing this morning as on December 26, 2017 I rolled up to one of my favorite spots and found gorgeous dark blue walls topped by sparking silver and white feathers, groomed by gentle offshores . What a feast….

    The superabundant rainfall of the preceding winter left the beach at River Mouth with a supply of driftwood so great that one never really had to walk to collect it. Once ensconced we’d have to go only a few yards from our spot to pick it up; it was like manna on the ground. We’d prop up our boogie boards by placing them on-edge, digging the rails slightly in the sand with a see-saw motion and piling the sand up against them to hold them at a ninety-degree angle, and arranging them end-to-end to form a semi-circle. This we did to block the wind and provide a more-or-less private enclosure on an oftentimes extremely populated beach; keeping a watchful eye out for lifeguards and other authorities, we would do certain things that were not legal, at least not back in that day. I ain’t proud of it, but that’s part of the story; may I interject here and say THANK GOD that I have been clean and sober for 17 years now.

    A line of light brown and greyish-white mudstone cliff led from the raiload bridge out to the point where the river really did touch the ocean, tapering down to a finger of land about ten feet in height, or less, where it terminated into the sea. This cliff was on the other side of the river from where we would approach and for about a quarter-mile past the railroad bridge, it loomed over us and had houses on top with huge windows. It was also lined with ice plant formations that hung over the edges, green in color, but dominated by pink flowers that must have really loved the rain; so dense and numerous were they that year, forming a pink rug that looked vaguely like icing on a cake, drooping off the edge of the cliff and dangling down by as much as six feet.

    But the most amazing product of all that rain fall was the sand bar. The insane El Nino winter of ’82- ’83 might have been what caused it to form. Or was it the drought period which preceded it? I don’t know. All I did know was that at that time in my life, the summer of 1983, only one thing mattered and only one thing was done, and needed to be done, without a second thought, each day: get there. Nothing else. Either my mom would take me (which she loved to do but only could on weekends) or some friends of mine and I, or I by myself, would jump on that bus literally every day. The walk beneath the rail road bridge was like entering a magic world into the most pleasant experiences that could be had on Earth (and looking back now, had to be pretty darned close to being that); a whiff of creosote, emanating from the hot rail road tracks, then first glimpses of the surf (which for some reason was pumping every day!), and then the cool air coming off the sea, effervescent and refreshing and life-giving, and now seeing the waves standing up and breaking far outside in slo-mo, brilliant in the late-morning sun with blue and green and white and golden shifting colors and flashes of light. The warmth and the beauty and the pleasantness was so wonderful and inviting, and for some strange reason there was nothing getting in the way of our enjoyment: the heavy locals weren’t here; strangely the tourist hordes on the beach didn’t bother us either. They were but shadows, placeholders, totally peripheral and really not at all part of our experience. The lineup was completely ours because the life guards black-balled the place: that meant no surfboards! What lay before us amounted to nothing less than an amazing smorgasbord of surf, a beautiful two-way peak that was oftentimes double and even triple-overhead (or bigger!), allowing superfast rides up to a football field long. The attractions on the infamous Boardwalk were totally ignored. Not one time did we line up for the Big Dipper or any of the other great rides lurking just above our all-summer-long hangout; of course, we occasionally went for lunch, stomping through deep, soft, charcoal-laden burning sand. The painfulness on our bare feet invariably escalated to the point of being unbearable before we reached the wooden stairs, causing us to run the final 200 feet or so like a few guys who decided to try firewalking but immediately discovered they just didn’t have what it takes.

    A hot dog, a 22-oz soda, some chili fries and various like items could be had for a song. My mom was generous with my allowances once I finally became wise enough to at least take care of my schoolwork; doing enough (barely) to pass, at least. She did not mind me going to the beach every day. It was a heck of a lot better for me to be there than constantly hanging out in the neighborhood we were at. So, lunch…me and a couple other dudes I’d met on the bus sat down after doing the march through the hot sand and within seconds, chain-reaction style, I dropped my hot dog in the sand; Mike dropped his 22oz soda and it exploded in his lap; then finally his pal (forgot what his name was) put his cigarette in his mouth backwards. We had such a laughing fit the the whole beach must’ve figured we’d gone nuts.

    No matter how hot it got we always had a fire with that driftwood. I mean sometimes it was blazing hot, well over one hundred degrees (where we were sitting at; away from the wind, in the midst of hot sand), and we had that fire going. But there was nothing quite like coming out of that cold water, shivering for a good long twenty minutes or so, and feeling the warmth gradually penetrate our bodies. The relaxation and the loafing actually was a major part of the goodness of the experience, now that I think about it.

    Once I’d seen the most particularly AWESOME set of waves. This was some time late that summer, maybe mid to late August. My mom and I were sitting right at the edge of the water. I’d gone out earlier that day and got kicked around a bit. By now I was a very strong swimmer and not afraid of big surf, even then on this day I was overwhelmed and I did not want to venture out far enough to pick off the biggest waves. So as my mom and I watched, three or four big green lines appeared on the horizon, like a staircase. The first two or three waves broke and they were easily four times overhead in size. Then– the behemoth came. This wave stood alone, breaking far outside the first two or three. It was perfectly clean and I kid you not, the face of this thing had to be at least twenty-five feet. It completely filled the horizon, broke top-to-bottom with an incredible show of power, and peeled both ways – I remember hearing a low-pitch roar coming from far outside as it broke, I mean this thing was massive! I was smitten, this was perhaps the biggest and best wave I’d seen in my life — it certainly was, up until then. I said, “MOM, GET UP!!” In a hurry we snatched up our towels and sundry and moved away from the water. Those who did not follow our lead paid for their indifference by getting blasted with the deluge; right where we were sitting at became waist-deep water, soon filled with all types of debris as our fellow beachgoers were forced to scramble and try to recover their stuff.

    July 5, 1983 was another one of those huge surf days. A lifeguard warned us not to go out. Of course, out we went. But on this day too (which began with some light fog; as I remember, it remained hazy all day long) I really got batted down. I took off on a few monsters but spent most of the day dodging the biggest sets, not willing to paddle way outside and go for the biggest ones. It was an extraordinary day with huge, consistent, overpowering surf. Easily four times overhead! I am not even joking.

    One day early that summer (or maybe the summer before) a fellow named Russell who went to school with me, let me borrow his short-john wet suit. He saw my stoke and let me borrow it for two long sessions. Thanks to his generosity, I really got hooked on the surf that day. Yes, I owe him a HUGE debt!

    We got started riding those air mattresses and small inflatable rafts. Due to the cleanness and perfection of the waves it was easily possible to get real rides with these things if you had swim fins (flippers) on your feet. Finally though one time I caught a really nice sized wave, tried to angle the raft down the face (so I could keep riding alongside the wave as it peeled off, going left) but the thing folded in half and I shot forward like a stone from a sling shot, losing the raft in the process. Disgusted, I finally decided to get a boogie board. It was a tiny orange sponge called an “Aussie” and for some reason I put red plastic fins (“Surf More” brand) on the bottom of the thing. A silly contraption this, with a wrist leash that broke almost immediately. I had to rig my own leash, a real surfboard leash with a beefy collar that also broke! Finally I put one together with some experimentation that withstood the day-to-day serious, heavy use. There were some real waves of size.

    That summer was like a continous dream that I did not care to wake from. But I didn’t mind starting my freshman year at Blackford High School. My head was buried in the experience of that summer, my hair had turned white, and I remember the sun burn on my face was severe to the point that several layers of my skin had been taken off. The tip of my nose was white – no skin left!

    The effect of that summers’ worth of surf was like a main-line injection. I was deeply hooked, along with my friend Jon Hellman, and we needed more. Sad thing was, the sand bar deteriorated gradually from about the time school started. The River Mouth was no good at handling the waves of winter; these waves were coming in from a northern angle and not forming up right. And often the weather was lousy, which meant that the waves were not clean during these stormy periods. What to do then? We had to go looking for other places to surf.

    One of these places was called Pleasure Point; a kid named Adam introduced me one day. He and I had been fishing buddies but had recently taken up surfing. His parents drove us out there one day and there was basically no surf; it was all but flat, the biggest wave we saw was maybe chest-high at best. There were no surfers out there, except maybe one or two here or there all day long. What was intriguing, though, were the late-afternoon murky green and brown colors that came on the water as a result of strong southeast winds that blew and combed back the waves. There were some beautiful and sublime moments during that first day there, that’s for sure.

    While we were waiting outside the Little Super Market for Adams’ parents to come get us we saw an empty cardboard box in the middle of the road. Along comes this little old lady and she doesn’t see it, she proceeds to drive right over the thing, pinning it to the underside of her car and scraping it along. Adam said, “Watch, when she comes back, that box will still be there beneath her car.” Sure enough, the lady comes back twenty minutes later with….the box still beneath her car.

    Another spot we discovered — I believe this was during the late summer or early autumn of 1984 — was Steamer Lane. The first day I’d visited it, it was flat. I met a couple of local kids who’d told me that there wasn’t much surf during the summer. Yes, as I remember, Summer of 1984 was not that great – I’d started a job at Jack-in-the-Box if I remember correctly. And the sandbar at River Mouth was gone. But these guys said that the two or three south swells that came through that summer were ‘killer.’ Somehow I’d missed them.

    Basically after the Summer of 1983 my surfing career continued on with occasional flashes of brilliance here and there, especially during the winter months (most other spots were best during the winter) since River Mouth was gone. Indeed following that blazing white-hot center of mad surf stoke, even the greatest surfing moments that came thereafter were hard-pressed to match up. Oh, but there were a few good, great, and awesome (or just plain fun) times in the surf for me throughout the rest of the ’80’s…quite a few, actually…

    One dreary November morning I made the four-mile bike ride to Jon Hellman’s house as cold rain drops lashed my face. I expected we would play with the fire place all day long since we were into doing that at that time and for all we knew, the surf was junk. As I’ve said the River Mouth was gone after Summer 1983 and it never really resuscitated — at least not into the incredible form that it had attained back in the good days (some good rain storms had allowed an okay sandbar to form in the winter of 1986 if I remember right; this did not last long). Instead of gagging on fireplace smoke (we had a habit of making a mess with the wood pieces), it just so happened that his mothers’ boyfriend (whose name was Richard) was headed to Monterrey, would you guys like to be dropped off in Santa Cruz? YEAH, heck yeah (said our 14 or 15 year-old brains)! Gear was somehow assembled and we were off.

    This scenario presented several problems, but what did we care? We were goin’! We figured Pleasure Point might be clean enough and have something to offer. We were wrong. The surf was absolute garbage. A strong Southwest wind — the worst wind direction possible, straight onshore — reduced whatever waves there were to unrideable mush. There was not one rideable wave in sight. And Richard had to leave for Monterrey. That meant we’d be stuck out there in our wet suits until he returned. I kept chit-chatting with Richard even after Jon went out towards Sewer Peak, because I was in no rush to get in the cold water given that the surf was completely lousy. Indeed, a sight you will almost never see presented itself to us – Pleasure Point with nobody out. Even on the worst days there’s usually a crowd. Heck, I went out there during Super Bowl Sunday one time thinking I was clever. I ended up sharing waves that were but waist-high on the biggest sets – with ten other guys. Lame.

    Finally I got out there, not noticing that the wind had actually stopped blowing. I looked for Jon, who was way out at Sewer Peak. I started that way when I noticed a fairly decent set wave at 1st Peak. Whoa, what’s this? I was surprized because it seemed like just minutes ago there was nothing but slop. However, it already began to happen — within minutes, the wind stalled, then blew the exact opposite way, a gentle Northeast breeze that transformed the surf from garbage into gems of the finest variety! Shocked, I wheeled into one set wave after another, no waiting; the waves were not big (the biggest sets were maybe a foot or two overhead) but they were very punchy and fast and hugged the innermost section of the reef because it was still high tide. It was hard to imagine funner waves than these, I gobbled up about 40 of them before some kids finally noticed what was going on. But nobody slowed down, there were so many waves that nobody had to wait. The setup was like a miniature Laniakea with fast ruler-edged black walls topped by silver feathers from the steady offshore breeze.

    Finally the tide changed to low and the waves developed sections, they were still very clean but had lost their speed and thickness. At long last, the rest of the planet noticed the change in conditions and paddled out. We’d had more than our fill, so we were happy to bail at that point, leaving the usual crowd to jockey for leftovers, basically. We’d had a feast right beneath their noses!

    Very fortunately, Richard somehow made the trip from Monterrey and was waiting for us at the top of the cliff…so, Jon and Marc rode Back to the Valley with Richard after thankfully donning some warm clothes. Later on they enjoyed a nice fat meal, and spent the evening basking in bliss. Uh…no. That is not how the story ends. You see, Richards’ VW bug had problems throughout the trip. On the way in, just before the summit (between Santa Clara and Santa Cruz County on Highway 17), the poor bug slowed to a crawl, maxing out at around 15mph. That was probably a good thing, since we could not see out the windows. We were shaken by a big diesel horn blast as a startled big-rig came behind us, from around a bend. The monstrous vehicle, forced to decelerate from a high rate of speed, almost crushed us like an empty coke can. Eventually somehow, our sick, heavy-laden, and desperate vehicle gasped over the summit, potentially committing us to a real sticky situation since we had to re-climb the mountain on our return trip to get home.

    Sure enough, the poor VW bug continued to sputter and lurch and jolt and show other signs of obvious sickness as we left Pleasure Point, deciding Richard to go through Watsonville instead of attempting the climb up Highway 17, because the road was much less steep. We backed into a garage, with the rear end of the car inside the garage, facing the mechanic. The front end of the car faced the alleyway. For a while the mechanic tinkered with the motor (the motor on old WV bugs was in the rear), then Richard said in a hushed voice, “Hey, I don’t have any money, I can’t pay this guy. Hold your pants,” or something like that. I blanched and clutched my seat as my heart began to race. Suddenly Richard popped the clutch and blasted down the alleyway! I could see the mechanic running after us with what looked like the biggest wrench I’d ever seen! At the end of the alleyway a perpendicular row of cars was halted by the traffic signal, barring our way. We were facing a dead stop! The furious mechanic got closer and closer! Finally, the light changed to green and we squirted into the line of traffic which finally began to move just seconds before the mechanic caught up with us, like a rat getting away from a hungry coyote by squeezing through a gap just in the nick of time!

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    So during this period (roughly between ’84 and ’86) we were still riding bodyboards, and, mostly, taking the bus to get to Santa Cruz. It was very convenient to get to Steamer Lane. Indeed it was a special thing to walk to the end of Pacific Avenue, up that short hill catching the first view of the surf just beside the wharf. Then to walk around Cowells and see Indicator; when it was big our hearts would begin to really pump and a mix of fear and anticipation would kick in. Steamer Lane is flanked by the Pacific Ocean on its West aspect; you could really sense its raw power on the big days, and the feeling you got when you were sitting out there dodging the big sets was that of remoteness — similar to what you might feel way up on a mountain peak or way out on a backcountry trail, far, far, away from the car and any ties to civilization, with the sense that if there was major trouble then nobody could really help.

    The problem with the Lane was that it was no good for us in the Summer. During mid-to-high tide, all of the action was focused on the Point. This lineup was very limited in breadth and extremely competitive. Teenage bodyboarders from out of town could not expect to get much, if anything. We basically got nothing. The Alphas who were in charge of the lineup pretty much saw to that. We were therefore confined to whatever came through Middle Peak, which during a South Swell, was not much at all, except on the biggest swells during low tide. Some of these sessions were fantastic, however. Since we were on bodyboards the kelp patches at low tide, resembling a flooded lawn, did not slow us down but were a hassle for surfboards with fins on the bottom which had a tendency to get caught in the kelp.

    We would also take the city bus to Pleasure Point and we gravitated toward Sewer Peak (and in the Winter) Rockview, especially. One standout session from this period was a splendid midwinter late afternoon with double-to-triple overhead, glassy surf. Rockview was about as good as it gets and accordingly, quite busy. But this sea otter came around and started biting everybodys’ feet. He bit me too, but since I had swim fins on it didn’t bother me any. Everybody else freaked out about it and went away. So the lineup was basically mine! I racked up 20 or more excellent waves.

    Riding the bus was not altogether bad, and since the thing was absolutely packed during the busy season, we could not help but bump into some interesting folk. One newly-released fellow mimicked the police radios to such a degree of perfection that I was in stitches during the entire trip. Then when I got off the bus and went to get my stuff an older gentleman complained, “some moron had his radio on the whole time,” and I busted out laughing like a crazy man. The guy just looked at me in wonder.

    I remember outstanding summer days at 2nd Peak, Pleasure Point, from back then. The waves consisted of big, glassy, perfect straight walls. Spectacular! Some of these sets were so beautiful that the pictures of them are still very clear in my mind. Anyway, somehow the crowd let me get away with sitting way, way outside where I would often pick off one of the best waves in each set. Outside of some biting comments occasionally hollered at me from guys paddling over the shoulder, I wasn’t hassled. During that summer I had a beater bicycle I would ride to and from Pleasure Point, from nearby the main bus station. I would ride the whole way with backpack and bodyboard somehow, and was able to avoid detection. At least, no one trashed my bike. It didn’t last long, though. I would ditch it in the bushes on that hill at the end of Pacific Avenue but after two months the pathetic thing had vanished.

    Another means was hitchhiking, which was alternately pleasant, okay, or downright terrifying. I will never forget the guy who ate a bowl of cereal as we did the winding ascent of Highway 17 toward the summit. I practically got sick as the VW bus we were travelling in almost wrecked at least three times!

    In ’86 I finally bought a surfboard from a very nice fellow who picked me hitchhiking. It was a Canyon twin-fin, maybe 5’11”, not the easiest thing to learn on. He sold it to me for almost nothing, $40.00 if I remember right. One thing I remembered is the conversation during the day he’d sold me the board. He told me a bit of his story and had recently suffered a bad break-up. The last words that his lady said to him were very not nice, and certainly not repeatable in a (relatively) wholesome story like this!

    Learning on a surfboard was difficult despite the obvious advantage of years of experience in the dynamic (and sometimes demanding and scary) ocean environment. Never did I get very good. By that I mean acquiring the ability to take off on the really thick, fast and powerful waves, such as the best set waves at Sewer Peak. I could take off on larger but mushier waves. But my reflexes were too slow to overcome the really tricky aspects of surfing, and after a time I stopped progressing while other kids in my age group would just keep getting better and better.

    Lack of prowess did not prevent me from experiencing the awesomeness of Thanksgiving Day 1987, however. Ocean Beach was said to be twenty feet and perfect! I couldn’t believe that Ocean Beach would hold a swell of that size. I was surfing just north of Santa Cruz and the waves were easily triple overhead, yet so clean, even I with only one year (in fact, exactly one year – I finally got my first long, fast ride on a surfboard on Thanksgiving Day 1986) of experience could take off on these beasts.

    Summer of 1987 (pardon me for going backward a bit) provided another stunning day with respect to amazing orderliness and beauty of wave forms. What a gift was this day of late summer! In the early part of Summer, I was kept busy, I worked two jobs, one I liked and one I got bored with and later quit. Anyway, one hot afternoon I’d had a few beers and I decided to cool off by jumping from the bridge on Leigh Avenue (San Jose) above Los Gatos Creek, which was about a 25-foot drop. It’s too bad I couldn’t see the bottom…if I had been able to, I wouldn’t have jumped. The water was only three feet deep! POW!! A foot sprain followed. I remember crawling painfully up the embankment, up steep dirt through dry, straw-colored fox tails, and eventually hobbling into my truck. The end result of such well-thought-out planning and execution was that my right foot swelled up to about the size of a Nerf football, and a four-week marathon of back-to-back soap opera viewing consumed those normally wondrous, long-awaited-for days of high summer. I waited too long before having my cast taken off. My doctor told me to stand up immediately! My mom said the incident reminded her of those faith-healing services on TV where divinely healed folks just get up and jettison their wheelchairs and crutches…anyway, not long afterward I went to my favorite spot for that summer and lo and behold, waves that were maybe a foot or two overhead and so clean and perfect, it was like a video game. Nobody around! Maybe I’ve seen waves that clean once or twice before, I don’t know. I made up for the preceding lack of that summer, all in one session.

    So what else do I think of when surfing in the late ’80’s is mentioned? Welllll…remember, I am a strange case in the surfing world, a guy who grew up in the Valley…so I would duck and dart in and out of the surf scene, trying to stay hidden more or less. This I did well. I surfed up North of Santa Cruz alot at this time, and into the early 90’s. What kept me going? For instance…those glorious, high-tide winter mornings…nobody around, I am out at one of my favorite ‘secret’ spots (where the hippies in the parking lot snaked one of my surboards; later, they saw my friend ditch the keys to his beemer, in the wheel well…the beemer went missing. It was found just days later a couple miles down the road — with the battery missing. These boys could not sell a BMW.). Critical, steep drops and weaving through the bowl at high speed, then…shooting down the line through another fun section, each wave markedly different than the last one, because of the way this reef is…taking in the sparkling deep-blue and golden ocean surface and walking slowly backwards, shivering, after that intense session, up the hill, watching one beautiful set after another hit the reef as the tide goes low. Firing up the car, blasting the heater, and KBOQ radio — wouldn’t you know it, just as you leave the parking lot and drive that glorious stretch of road between Waddell Creek and Davenport, here comes Piano Concerto 21 from Mozart…green fields on the left and, from several hundred feet above, a panoramic view of the ocean on the right…you run by another one of your favorite spots and nobody’s there! You make a dash for it and spend the afternoon engulfed in the beauty feeling loose and fast, like somebody who can actually surf. A gorgeous sunset to cap it off.

  3. uuuuuuhhhh. December 26, 1987 I mean. as the story I’ve submitted indicates (feel free to use it) I am certainly not among the brightest. My memory is even shorter than my attention span, so this is expected.


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