“You have to meet this guy. He’s a surfer. Like you. He’s a real goofball. Like you.” George Hoppe, in reference to Raphael Reda.
It seems I should write these things in reverse order; starting with the most recent event. Then, as they’re posted, a reader could come forward in time.
Actually, one story, even in the planning/remembering phase, leads to another. Once I had written that I’d visited Al Perlee’s surf shop more than twenty years ago, I now feel compelled to mention the circumstances and who I was with when we were told that we could not enter The Surf Shop in Westport in our wetsuits. No way.
It was 1988. Raphael Reda actually put up an argument. “It’s a surf shop.” He looked around as if suggesting the building was not all that fancy. “And we’re surfers.”
“And we’re planning on going back out again.”
The shop, two disheveled surfers at the door, looked, and looks, kind of like it was a converted garage, with another converted garage added on, not necessarily built by professionals. Still, it was filled with boards and wetsuits and magazines and stuff surfers find fascinating. Mostly it offered the chance, out of a parking lot, to lean on a counter and regale whoever’s there with stories; hopefully enlighten and entertain someone who hears surf stories pretty much non-stop during business hours. “Epic! All time! Classic!”
But we were outside.
“We tried the jetty; now we’re going to try the groins.”
“Well, then (nodding as if the groins might be a better choice); come back after that. (appropriate pause) Dressed.”
Raphael and I were in Westport to practice- not just to surf- we were practicing for the upcoming Westport Longboard Contest. The annual event had been started several years earlier by Ricky Young. A former top rated competitive surfer, he sold surfboards in Bellevue, a city across Lake Washington from Seattle, commonly called the “Eastside.” Still, Ricky was able to line up sponsors, organize volunteers, line up surfers and judges.
At this time, I was still working as a sign painter at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. While the real work was on ships, I worked mostly in a shop, making me a “Shop Pogue.” I don’t think Pogue is a term of endearment.
My friend George Hoppe had also moved from the discomfort of the ships to the relative grandeur of operating a spray booth in a large building. He, evidently, had paid enough shipboard dues to not suffer ridicule for his plusher surroundings free of bilges and tanks and endless wireways and pipes.
Besides, George was not a person to be messed with. He was confrontational, a master of blue collar repartee, a sort of Don Rickles of the paint shop, with, merely as an example, a creative list of responses to ‘fuck you.’ George and I got along, perhaps, because I laughed at any putdowns directed towards me, and I could talk way faster than he could, and, well, I could keep up in the repartee department.
George, frequently would get me started on a subject, then stand back, say, “He’s on a roll now.”
Raphael was a carpenter, and, since I didn’t go over to the Shop 64 building to meet him, George brought Raph over to my desk/drawing table.
With George observing, Raphael and I did the “Surfer Sizeup.”
This process begins with an exchange of experience; where and when and how one ended up at this location. “South Bay.” “North County.” “Dewey Weber.” “Surfboards Hawaii.” “Malibu, a few times.” “Swamis, all around; Doheny, before the breakwater.” “Had to get away. Didn’t’ want to raise kids there.” “Yeah, same thing.”
Soon enough, with George having gathered a couple of other non-surfers to witness, Raphael and I got appropriately goofy. “Epic!” “All time!” “Classic!”
“Next,” George said, “They’ll be doing the surfing poses.”
I don’t recall seeing Raphael when he wasn’t enthusiastic, supportive. Somewhere after I left the shipyard, he (or his wife, Grace, not actually clear on this) inherited a large sum of money, moved to the canyons of Topanga, near Malibu. What George (or I) would say is that he had so much money he had to get divorced. Through another shipyard/surfer, Jim Kennedy, someone I run into every now and again, out at Westport, up on the Straits, Ralph (Jim’s version of Raphael) bought land (new land from lava) on the Big Island.
It was either that or his land was covered by lava. The last time I heard from Raphael, he, knowing I’d written several screenplays, sent me his. It had a good story, mostly bad dialogue. One line was excellent- I stole it for one of my probably-never-to-be-sold scripts. Then he sent me a link to a YouTube video of him, captain of his own tour sailboat, crashing through several waves closing out the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor.
I wrote back asking if he was the Captain, at the wheel, or the guy hanging on to something at the bow; and if it was a “three hour tour; a three hour tour.”
“The Captain, of course. You know, Hoppe always said you were goofy.”