Surfing Vancouver Island  

Foondroppings 10c  



A Small Comfort for victims of TWA Flt. 800

07 July 1996

I was in San Francisco last week when I saw the first reports of this tragedy. Instantly I knew exactly where the plane had gone down. I had surfed the same beaches for 10 years and was very familiar with the area.

For days after the crash reports said the area was closed so searchers could look for remains. There were many film reports showing glassy and tranquil conditions. I was glad the ocean was at peace so the Coast Guard and others could do their grim but necessary job. I knew during this time of year that area could be difficult with storm swells and tricky currents.

To help the families of the victims find peace, a memorial service was held at Smiths Point, Fire Island. I had surfed this beach many times and seen it at it's best and worst. On that day a translucent light grey sky shrouded the solemn occasion in weak sunlight. There was little wind, the ocean was light green and glassy and only small waves accented the quiet of the moment.

There was film of the event I will never forget as a lone couple embraced by the waters edge mourning the loss of their daughter. In the distance the ocean gave up one perfect, small, A-frame wave which broke in almond eyed precision, slowly near the shore. This was a gift of perfection which let every relative there, at this sorrowful moment, believe this was the most beautiful beach in the world.

Many said later that the beautiful and tranquil setting gave them such comfort to know their loved one was at rest in the ocean. I know I will never surf those waters again, and not think of those people.

On the way back we got stuck in Chicago's O'Hare Airport due to a bomb scare. We were held over night and the next day many passengers were extremely angry at the delay. I wanted to tell them I was willing to let them dismantle the whole plane to make sure it was safe.

As I looked at the film of that couple on the beach I prayed that if have to go out some way, please let it be in a beautiful spot like that, hopefully surfing, and not under the wheels of some runaway garbage truck.

-Foondoggy (Feeling a little mortal today)

"I'm not afraid of dying, I just don't want to be there when it happens."
Woody Allen


"Jason" the swell that would not DIE!

08 July 1996

It's very rare in the summer on the Right Coast, when a swell that is not Hurricane or Tropical Depression generated amounts to much or hangs around very long. In this case, just maybe it was the ritual sacrifice of a live pepperoni pizza at my pre-vacation surf vigil that turned the trick. I don't know what caused it, but from the very day I got to the Foondoggy Surf Palace and funky old beach break, our Mid- Atlantic beach was giving it up to the tune of waist to headhigh longlined walls, some peeling two city blocks long.

Some would say it was the "Blue Moon" phenomenon (two fulls in a month) in concert with the astrological configuration that caused extreme tides, added to a big lazy low pressure area that idled way out in the Atlantic for many days. These things have occurred before and never accounted for "the Swell that Would Not DIE!"

I'd like to say that what we got on my vacation was a weeklong orgy of "all time" surf; I cannot. But for days we did receive an incredibly consistent and benevolent swell that resulted in nearly perfect waist to headhigh 3-5 wave sets interspersed with lakelike calmness. It was almost bizarre!

Sure, the variables of wind and tides made some days better than others, but rarely in my thirty years of Right Coast riding have I averaged two 3-hour sessions per day for five days straight. We started to call the swell, "Jason", because it was killing us with consistency and would not die regardless of the conditions.

Thanks, I think, to the extreme tides and a violent line of T-storms that rolled through one morning, "Jason" gave up what will forever be known to me and a kid named Brian as "that July 3rd"! The day broke with the beach being closed due to lightning. The storm whipped and lashed the swell into slatelike walls. As the storm moved out to sea the surf cleaned up and lit up, as the sun came out. Buckets of rain and a wonderful offshore breeze groomed "Jason" into a surfing paradise with only Brian and I to ignore the warning whistles of the lifeguards and paddle out.

I found out Brian was from a town just North and he'd spent the early morning riding his bike in the storm to check out other breaks. (my kind of kid!)He declared our street to be the best. His first ride was a tunnel hugging 2 block jet ride that literally left him limp and pop-eyed! I scored right after him with a long steep wall that had me fighting for edge the whole way even as it forced me out of the pocket twice until I fought my way back in for a final shore pounding dump. I'm happy to say that what we shared by ourselves for the next two hours was arguably some of the best beach break surfing I've ever experienced as an adult! Brian and I would trade waves, each seemingly deeper and faster than the other. As the extreme low tide showed its influence and the offshores made the vertical that much more powerful, the outside sandbars, which usually only work on a bigger swell, were shaping and spewing some visually very sweet walls that came with some serious "suck and pound"!

Brian, though only 14 and skinny, was absolutely fearless and seemed to thrive on getting way inside the monster and he didn't much care how he got out. Being older, wiser and more brittle, I chose waves that would not only challenge my skills, but would leave me in one piece if I failed. Rarely has a day at our beach break gone through two tide cycles and the surf stayed good or gotten better. July 3rd, 1996 was just such a day and the only reason I left the water hours later is I could physically no longer ride. (Plus my sinuses had a gallon of water in them). Eight hours later at dusk, I tried to ride some more. But after my first two rides, Jason reared up and axed me one more time, and this time he wasn't wearing a hockey mask!

I have not recently been able to surf 9 days in a row. The physical toll is considerable - but I'm not complaining. I just hope I heal up in time for my new best friend "Hurricane Bertha" soon, we hope, visiting a beach near you (and me).

-Foondoggy (By day 5 I was beyond pain, into numbness)

"Happiness is the light on the water. The water is cold and dark and deep."
William Maxwell


"Jake" the coolest Surf Dog, Hit by a Jetski!!

09 July 1996

One evening last week, Mrs.Foondoggy and I were just setting up our beach chairs on the stretch of sand we like to call our own for an impromptu dinner picnic of eggplant parmesan from DeVito's Authentic Italian Deli (Est.1934) The extreme low tide had exposed wide areas of sand bar and you could wade out 50 yards and still only be in knee-deep water.

About a half dozen surfers continued to milk a very consistent but small swell that had been working all week. Down the beach two jetskiers wheeled their machines on trailers down to the waters edge. Some of the surfers immediately came in knowing what would happen.

For a few days the Hotdog skiboys had been launching their craft in the evening and proceeding to tear up the waves on the shallow sandbars, in spite of local laws prohibiting such activity. Calls to the police were usually ignored since they were busy keeping 250,000 vacationers under control down island. The skiers would jump waves and buzz surfers with impunity, eventually clearing the water for their dangerous and annoying behavior.

On this beautiful evening we were watching "Jake", a 200 lb, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, the coolest surf dog, and our beaches unofficial mascot, play fetch the 2x4 with his owner "Tank". All of a sudden one of the skiboys raced straight for the beach attempting to jump a wave from the back despite Tank's desperate efforts to wave him off. The skier came over the wave and hit Jake on his massive head and shoulders. Though only a glancing blow, the dog yelped and went down. The skiboy, realizing what he'd done, cowardly attempted to turn and escape out to sea. This was a huge tactical error.

As the jetskier turned he came within arms reach of Tank, who at 6'6", 280 lbs, and a Viet Nam vet, could move like a runaway train. The skiboy never saw the clothesline forearm coming that caught him full in the chest and popped him off the back like a sack of wet laundry. Four people immediately went to the bleeding and groggy dog and as soon as Tank could see he wasn't too badly hurt, he turned his attention to the hated machine. In short order he tore off the engine cowling and performed $500 worth of radical and permanent surgery on some vital components. It took several people to restrain him from making the driver eat some of the engine parts

Epilogue:

It was decided that Jake needed stitches, so when the police arrived he was taken away to the local Vet (wearing a very stylish towel Turban, BTW). The jetskier was fined over $350 worth of water safety violations. Tank received a ticket for not having his dog on a leash, but strangely both copies of the ticket were seen later in a garbage can (Officer Fenegan and Tank are on the same softball team).

After the cop left the jetskier threatened Tank with a law suit. He replied in Tank style, "Think about it kid, considering you could have killed my dog, is a broken toy worth having to look over your shoulder the rest of your life." Skiboy turned white and wide-eyed at the not too subtle threat.

Jake had a concussion and about 10 stitches. The Vet said the scar would show up nice and pink through his light brown fur for awhile. He added that the dog was very lucky to have survived. We're thinking of changing his named to "Ironhead".

The eggplant had to be reheated the next night, Jake got half, and thereafter there was a big crackdown on the jetskiers, Hey! Surfers Rule!

-Foondoggy (Sorry this got split up, after a week off I'm not to good at running this thing.)


Bertha Blows Chuck's theory of Market as Predictor of Waves out of the Water

12 Jul 1996

Some of you may remember my friend Chuck's theory that the Stock Market reflected the occurrence of surf at his beach. This was based on last years Hurricane season and the Markets upward trend.

I just got off the phone with Chuck. His house is on an island beach a quarter mile from a prominent point of North Carolina called Cape Fear. The island lies in the approximate strike area for Bertha to hit today. Yesterday they evacuated the island of all tourists and most residents. Chuck and his wife have stayed because they belong to the Emergency fire and rescue squad, and if things get bad, they have access to a lighthouse that has been on the island since 1861. Also yesterday the stock market took a 100 point dip and today continues to go in the toilet.

I asked Chuck, "How much of a beating did you take yesterday?" He said, "About 20 grand, but I'm looking out at Frying Pan Shoals right now and I can see 8-12 foot waves all the way to the horizon." I offered, "I guess this blows the theory of Market as a surf predictor out the window."

He laughed and said, "I guess so, but in the next few days I'll have access to 6 miles of some of the best North Carolina beach break surf that Bertha can produce, and since of the 24 people left on the island I'm the only one who surfs, I'll be riding BY MYSELF!"

I said, "Too bad you can't take the surf to the bank." (Clever comeback)

He replied, "True enough Foonboy, but I'm not the one that's leaving for San Francisco tomorrow, missing one of the best surf opportunities of the summer. Just think where you'd be if you didn't have to go."

I hate Chuck.

Foondoggy (I hope the Bay Area is good to me this time)


A Visit to Norte Cal, pt 2. Santa Cruz

24 July 1996

It is 7:30 am, Saturday, July 20th, and I'm heading South on Rt.17 from Scotts Valley to Santa Cruz with two little boys lashed into seats in my cousins Minivan. The boys, Zack and Sean, are my cousin Raymoondo's kids and they've been up since dawn yammering about "Uncle Foony's" promise to take them to the beach. Since the minute I arrived at their home the day before, they've reminded me about the promise I made to teach them how to surf last year, about every 2 minutes. My cousin smiles solemnly and says it's all they've talked about since they learned I was coming to visit.

So here I am, driving slowly with a huge hangover thanks to Raymoondo's good Tequila and ok cigars, and two gleefully squawking boys talking at 100 mph. My head hurts and I AM SCREWED, since I already know there is no surf. (I checked a few reports). Ray, his wife, and Mrs.Foondoggy are happily off to KPIG's "Fat Fry" music festival in Aptos for the day and the boy's Mom is giddy with the prospect of a day off from momming, and some good music, food and sun. I, on the other hand, am responsible for entertaining two little boys for the whole day and I am woefully underwhelmed and unprepared for the task.

From the back seat comes, "Uncle Foony, tell us again about the time you rode Makaha Point on a Dick Brewer Gun, in 20 foot surf."

"Uh, is that what I told you? Uh, actually it was Montauk Point, I was 16 years old, riding a Hobie Eastern Star, and it was only 6 feet.

"Uh Uhnh Uncle Foony, that's not what you said last year."

"Yeah, well Uncle Foony's getting old and sometimes the details get a little fuzzy."

It is going to be a long day, but strangely these are delightful boys to be around. They attend the Waldorf alternative school and are not allowed to watch any TV except for certain movies and parent selected programs (all educational). Interestingly they are totally devoid of the bratty sitcom induced backtalk so prevalent among kids today. But also they are endlessly curious and ask questions about everything and challenge any answer they feel does not fully satisfy their thirst for knowledge. I am determined to teach them as much about the sport as I can in one day, so early on this Saturday morning we are munching donuts and heading for Natural Bridges State Park. It's flat. I decide we will systematically check every street from the Park to 41st street, to fill the day. As a result we take in the Surfing Museum and memorial statue along W. Cliff Drive.

Sean begs me to let him show me the "naked beach" which is rumored to be at the foot of one of the streets and supposedly is frequented by sunbathers. We look and thankfully there are none. Not that I have anything against sunbathers, but I just didn't want the boys to tell their Mom they had duped me into looking.

By 10:30 am we are touring the Pier where we find out about sharks, fish, sea lions and clothes. To make up for the lack of waves Uncle Foony buys the boys their first Rusty caps and surfing t-shirts! ("Thank you Uncle Foony." "You're welcome boys.") I purchase one that appropriately says, "The older I get, the better I was." My second choice was one which said, "One Tequila, Two Tequila, Three Tequila, Floor."

By midafternoon we've covered the entire coast to 41st street and dropped in on Freeline surf shop. At this point I remembered someone writing here that Cowells always has something for beginners to ride. I double back and we stop to check the North side which is slightly shielded from a delightful, sunny, onshore breeze. Sure enough, the tide is now coming in and there is a one foot shorebreak, pathetic by even Right Coast standards. The boys cannot accept the idea of not going surfing so with their boogies and little spring suits I wade in with them up to my waist and for the next ball-chilling hour, alternately push each of them into whatever micro waves arrive. I expected they would tire of this quickly but they are having a blast. I notice too others are doing the same thing and some people have actually rented big Morey sponge boards which they wind up paddling around.

By 3:30 the only way I can get them out of the water is to bribe them with chocolate covered strawberries from the Pier. I find out later from Mom sweets are strictly controlled and rarely given which explains why they both gulp down five each.

We arrive home just minutes before their parents at which time both boys shout and scream about all we did and to show off their new clothes. (Mom is not impressed) The boys go into great detail about what I taught them about waves, wind, tides, and surfing and how I actually taught them to surf! Then Zack declares, "Daddy, did you know Uncle Foony rode Makaha Point on a Hobie Brewer Star in 16 foot waves when he was only 6!!" Raymoondo looks at me and says, "Was that Uncle Foony or Jose Cuervo?" I tell the boy, "Close enough, Zack, I like your version."

"I hope you and your brother remember all that Uncle Foony has done for you today so someday when he comes back and you're old enough to drive, you can take him to all the good surf spots in Santa Cruz." They reply together, "Yes, Uncle Foony." I look up and smile. My work here is done. Then I look at their Mom who silently mouths the words, "Fat Chance Foonboy!"

I loved Santa Cruz.

-Foondoggy


When the Town says, "You're NOT a Surfer!"

29 July 1996

"What do you mean I'm NOT a Surfer?" I'm looking down with every inch of my 6'2", 210 lb size into the sweetest blue eyes of a lifeguard named Christi, who just whistled me out of the water during my first session since July 8th. And I was having a REAL good time, too.

It seems the town, in it's infinite wisdom, during the summer, rotates the location of the "official surfing Beach" among all the streets. Christi has just yanked me out promptly at 10 am from my home break because, under the rules, since I bodyboard, I am NOT a surfer!

"Look Christi, you know me, I'm here all the time. I "own" this break. There's nothing out here but kids on potato chip boards anyway, and none are even riding. I'm surfing circles around 'em."

"Yes sir," she says sweetly. "I've been watching you all summer and I must say sir, on any given day, you're one of our best riders."

Oh this one's good, very good, and dangerous. I recognize right off page 28 of the Lifeguards Handbook, the chapter on "Dealing with the Public."

"When faced with a balding, pudgy, middle-aged male using surfing to solve his mid-life crisis, and who's throwing a tantrum 'cause you won't let him surf, smile sweetly and flatter the shit outta him." Yeah, I've got her number.

Christi goes on, "I also remember the day you and some boy repeatedly ignored my warning whistles about lightning conditions to paddle out on what was admittedly one of the better days of the summer. The alert was just about over, so I cut you some slack then, but I can't let you by on this one, sir. According to the rules, you are not a surfer." "Besides, you don't seem to mind not being called a surfer when I have to call all the standups in every morning at 10, leaving the waves to you and your boogie crew, do you?"

"Your logic is irrefutable, whistle-girl and in fact, I really enjoy it when you do that. It's probably the second most important reason I took up bodyboarding."

"What's the first, sir?"

"I love it, and uh, I'm a lazy lard-ass." This got her laughing, but I knew she was only doing her job.

"Honestly sir, this happens just once a summer. Every day these surfers have to go to a new beach, most of which stink. Where are they going to go practice and get better?" She was right of course. The future of the sport depended on it.

So with the words, "NOT a surfer" stinging my ears, I shuffled (fin-walking) down the beach dragging my sorry butt and my leash behind me.

I stopped and shouted back, "You just wait and see, whistle- girl. When this place is mackin in Rocktober, how many of those chip riders will be out there then?!!"

She said, "I'm sure you'll be the only one, sir. G'day."

oooooo, she's really good at this stuff.

What really pisses me off was not the humiliation (people have called me worse) but the fact that our girlfriend, Bertha, had taken a nice large chunk of beach and deposited neatly out on the sandbar, sculpting it today into a wave making machine. Today was my first chance to sample the new contours on the Foondoggy homebreak and it was smokin!. Visions of Rocktober magic were forming in my head.

Now where did I stash that long board, and maybe I should start practicing them popups. Am I a goofy foot or what? Geez, it's been so long......

-Foondoggy (the mind is first to go)

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