“Skip should have won,” one person said. “He was just TOO smooth,” another said, “He made it look TOO easy.” “North County judges,” a third San Diegan added. Their boards already loaded, each of them, two guys, one girl, dressed in 1965’s appropriate après surf uniform of Levis, t shirt, windbreaker; they looked at me long enough for me to realize I was part of the North County surfing audience intended to hear the criticism.
Really? No, I was a chunky just-turned-fourteen year old kook walking from the far end of Tamarack’s lower parking lot carrying my ridiculous, used, already-an-antique Velzy/Jacobs balsa wood board, wearing some sort of unfashionable and stretchy trunks that were, in reality, a compromise between the Hawaiian print jams I wanted and the Australian bunhuggers (like my Dad wore) that my mom had purchased for my trips to the beach two years earlier.
Sure, I’d have preferred to be carrying a newer board, wearing Kanvas by Katins trunks; those had surf integrity; or the colorful striped nylon trunks featured in “Surfer.” Jantzen, maybe. Nope. Later, after appropriate whining, I’d get some jams. After catching several times on my knees, they ripped out.
While still not quite past the San Diego visitors, Skip Frye himself, dressed, carrying his board, walked close to the group. “You should have won, Skip.” “It wasn’t… fair.” The criticism and the support were shrugged/brushed off with a cool nod and a sort of awkward smile that said, “I’m not really a contest surfer.” (Actually, he was… then, and quite successfully so)
Still, to shrug off a near-win/loss was stylish.
Though he was featured in many a classic Ron Stoner photograph, arching or crouching in the tube at The Ranch, sliding across crystal waves at Blacks, and scored well for years in the annual “Surfer Poll,” Skip Frye wasn’t a flashy sprinter.
He was in it for the long run; super marathon; steadily, consistently sliding.
Skip Frye has been quietly ruling the waves between Pacific Beach Point and Crystal Pier, and, of course, beyond, for what is forever in the lives of most surfers. Already well known in the mid-sixties, he continues to surf with style somewhere beyond his mid sixties.
I’ve written about Mr. Frye before, how I, probably in my lucky Hang Ten trunks, walked past him at Tourmaline Canyon in the early seventies. I was carrying my brand new, pirated version of the Waterskate he had been working on for Gordon and Smith in conjunction with Tom Morey.
It seems I’ve always had a connection with, not surf shops with snarky, judgmental, guaranteed-to-be-good-surfers-because-they-work-at-a-surf-shop sales people, but those back rooms where shapers shape and glassers glass. So it was, on some pretense or need, resin or cloth, I visited the G&S factory on the other side of I-5 (over by the dog pound) a few times. Skip Frye was the guy not to be bothered, not that I would be so bold. He was busy. “So, what was it you wanted?”
“Um, uh, some resin, maybe.”
Information, insight, some connection to the craft.
In a crowded Saturday morning lineup north of Crystal Pier in the early seventies, all of us scrapping on our short boards, Skip, on some almost-a-joke-at-the-time longboard, would paddle laterally, then ease toward shore, picking up some unseen wave-between-waves, stand, ease into a perfect little peak.
When my friend Archie Endo lived in P.B. in the eighties, while attending UCSD, Skip Frye was, he says, with proper respect, “The Emperor of Pacific Beach.”
And, this many years after that, he still is.
Check the previous piece for apologies and disclaimers.