SPEECH CLASS 101 WITH CHEER CRITCHLOW
There probably should be some time stamp here. Along with the peak of the Baby Boomer wave, I graduated from Fallbrook Union High School in 1969. “Sixty-nine, Man!”
Before I went to Palomar Junior College, the closest I’d come to hanging with anything that could be called “the North County Surf Community” was when I was on the Fallbrook wrestling team, going against San Dieguito. That school district included Leucadia, Encinitas, Cardiff, maybe even Del Mar; and excluded Carlsbad and Oceanside- separate tribes, separate Junior College. But Fallbrook was included in the Palomar district. Sure, Escondido and Vista were also included. But, what going to Palomar meant…
…it meant a lot to me. Now I knew other surfers ‘from school.’ I could nod to them, maybe, on campus, or, better, at the top of the Swamis stairs; maybe even hang for a while, comparing notes on the surf, they drinking homemade smoothies, some talking about Jesus; me with my chocolate milk, and, having already used a few swear words to describe the crowds, unable to testify, to say I also had a deep love for our living Savior from before it was cool.
I knew who Charles ‘Cheer’ Critchlow was before he showed up in Speech 101, one of the night classes I took to allow more time for work/surf/girlfriend/church, Speech. It was him image, tucked into a little tube, that was on the sign for Hansen Surfboards, A photograph had been in “Surfer” Magazine, tucked into another tube at a contest in Santa Cruz. I’d seen Cheer and Margo Godfrey casually walking out to surf the outside peak at Swamis on a big choppy afternoon when Scotty Sutton and Jeff Officer and I kept to the inside peak.
Mr. Critchlow had actually, though he was also still in high school, been a judge at a North County high school surfing contest at Moonlight Beach. Jeff and Scott and I, though we’d ripped in the warm up, were harshly eliminated in our first round heats. We were gone so quickly that several girls from my school showed up after we’d taken off. Maybe I’d lied about even being in it.
No, Jeff’s Dad took us to 15th Street in Del Mar, near where they had a beach house- and we ripped it up again. No points.
Cheer Critchlow was one of the surfers I viewed, from the shoulder, wailing from fifty yards deeper in the pit during the first day of the swell of 1969. “They (the surfers who were successful) must have some Hawaii experience,” I said at the time.
When I gave a speech on our trip to Mazatlan in my nervous-as-shit, rapid-fire delivery, Cheer Critchlow spoke clearly and calmly, and with some humor, about his first time surfing big Sunset Beach with Mike Doyle.
“So, Mike just told me, ‘If you don’t just go, you’ll never go.’ And I went.”
When I brought in a surfboard I’d shaped and painted as a visual aid, Cheer brought in templates he’d used with and borrowed from, again, Mike Doyle.
When I gave a speech on my future plans, writer, artist; Cheer’s speech revealed school was part of his backup plan. He’d tried very hard to be a professional surfer, and it wasn’t working. Maybe someday, he said, a surfer could make a living from surfing. Very convincing, moving, successful speech.
Still, he could have given me, maybe, a few more points at Moonlight.