Ray Hicks is my surfing contact with Southern California. He is, in fact, my oldest friend from there I still have regular (more like any) contact with. He has to be, in all the time since we first met in sixth grade, the coolest person I’ve known, in that I never saw him lose his cool, even when those around him totally lost ours.
He is also, and I’d love to have some sort of modifying disclaimer here, but, other than that I never thought I wasn’t a surfer, the main reason I got back into surfing at fifty years old plus.
Well, let’s say Ray getting back into surfing and my own petty jealousy.
I was always a better surfer than Ray (okay, there could be several disclaimers here, but I’m the one making the claim). After all, I’d stuck with surfing after high school, when he went to some inland junior college, moved to Barstow, then went into the Air Force (mostly stationed in Italy, cruising in a Porsche), then got out and managed the Radio Shack in Fallbrook (Radio Shack Ray).
But, in 2004, down for my father’s 80th birthday, Ray was a better surfer than me. Way better. It’s been about nine years of me trying to catch up, he and I exchanging e-mails on surf sessions, occasionally surfing together (never up here- yet), and I still haven’t caught up.
Not sure I will.
This is Ray and his Surfboards Hawaii Model A back in 1969 (or so).
Ray now lives and works in Carlsbad, pretty much surfs Pipes exclusively. The regulars there are mostly longboarders in our age category; some with boonie hats strapped on, sun screen (mostly too late) slathered on, forming a little pack at the main peak. It’s all very mellow and polite, but it’s not like everyone is invited to join the pack.
Even with the prevailing crowd/ghetto mentality of Southern California, longevity has some rewards. If Ray doesn’t know everyone’s names (or appropriate nicknames) and histories (as he would, say, on the Straits of Juan de Fuca), there is a mutual recognition. And, sometimes, consequences.
On one occasion, Ray wrote me, he paddled for an outside wave; someone farther in took off behind him. Because Ray felt he had priority, he didn’t give way. The other surfer took offense, may have bumped my friend on the inside.
So, the local peeksters held a little conference, a trial of sorts, and decided Ray was in the wrong.
“If I’d been there,” I wrote, “I’d have defended you. Next time, run over the inside guy.”
No, probably not. Still, in deference to his surf spot mates, the second time he and I surfed there in our current carnations, he allowed us to go to the main peak, as long as we sat to one side. Fine; always been an inside prowler. But, somewhere in that session, shoulder-hopping and scrap-chasing, I saw a great wave, yelled “Outside!” and, when the pack responded, caught the wave.
It’s a trick you can get away with… once.
“Hopefully you didn’t hear about it” I wrote from the relative safety of the Northwest. “Oh, I think somebody said something. Don’t worry about it. It’s cool.”