I was 13 years old when I started surfing. In those days, I was too young to drive and only made it out to the beach when I could beg a ride from one of my sister’s boyfriends or convince my parents to take me. Eventually I made enough friends who were surf buddies and I got out more often. When I wasn’t surfing I enjoyed reading about it. My early heroes were Phil Edwards and Micky Munoz both peers of Hobie Alter , the innovator of the Hobie Surfboard and Hobie Cat Sailboat.
One of the first issues of Surfer Magazine that I’d ever read was the ’73 June issue. Inside was an article featuring two world class surfers telling their tale of surfing a sailboat – a high performance catamaran, on the faces of Oahu’s North Shore waves at Sunset Beach.
The photos in the mag planted seeds that steered me through the early years of my young adult life. I imagined that someday the combination of surfing and sailing would transport me to other locales, fantasy spots where the water was warm and every wave was a perfect hollow peeling right with nobody else in the water but my friends.
Even in the mid-seventies, California surf spots were plagued with crowds and an evil concept that became known as “localism”. Localism meant that if an outsider showed up to surf at a particular spot, they would be “managed” in a way so hey would never want to return to that spot. In spite of the “Aloha” spirit of Hawaiian culture, I felt the same vibe while surfing the Northern Shores of Kauai in the mid and late ’70s. I quickly learned that playing by the rules and showing respect for the local surfers eventually resulted in becoming a recipient of the Aloha spirit, all leading toward an opportunity to share unique experiences with exceptional people.
My travel adventures to “The Islands” were rare and expensive. Many odd jobs and seasons of lifeguarding paid for my trips. With my ’64 Fleetwood, I still managed to make it to the shores of Northern California “secret spots” on at least, a weekly basis. I still chuckle over the attempt the surf journals make when assigning captions to their photos. Each of them are written to disguise the actual locations of the fabulous waves captured in the photograph. This observation was especially evident when the images were taken somewhere between Asilomar Beach (Southern corner of Monterey Bay) and Point Arena (well North of Mendocino). Were those places secret spots? Maybe, but forget anything south of Point Conception – we called every one of those places a zoo back then and I don’t think anything has changed.
Like so many others in the populated state of California who sought after the “secret – unknown surf spot”, I knew the bottom contour of every square mile of California’s central coast. I’d scouted it in the days after every major seasonal Pacific storm. I realized then that there aren’t any secrets when it comes to California surf spots (not even Mavericks – though he was the first, that place was well known long before Clark ever surfed it ). The real secret remained in the knowledge that catching any one of those spots when the conditions are right, required persistence, patience and an awareness of all the components that result in excellent conditions. Some might get lucky, but the knowledgeable surfer will ultimately obtain their prize. It is indeed a lot to pay attention to in this work-a-day world.
You may wonder why the extended tale of such a quest and perhaps even the dilemma of keeping something to yourself believing it is a secret when it really isn’t. Well, one day I was returning from a surf session at Muir Beach, just north of San Francisco (yes it has good waves when the conditions are right – in fact I’d wager it is now a regular crowded spot with “locals”). On that trip home at a stoplight in Richmond on the East end of the San Rafael Bridge, I guy a few years older than me, driving a big shiny car saw my surfboard and motioned for me to roll down my window. In a short exchange we had one another’s contact information.
It turned out this guy was new to Northern California and loved to surf. He didn’t want to venture out on his own, and somehow I became his local guide. He had a sailboat. We cultivated a dream. He had a ball and chain kind of lifestyle and I didn’t. Eventually it became my personal dream to sail away and seek what the boys from the “Endless Summer” did in the mid ’60s.