The almost-true, partially-true Surf Route 101 short story is only partially written, but, with a few moments to screw around before I have to go to work, I did some searching for a photo that might work as a temporary illustration.
If I can share the thought process: Thanks. The story is about a woman who shows up at Windansea as the tide comes in, possibly twice a day. She never saw a body and refuses to believe her man would drown. I initially looked up ‘habeas corpus,’ thinking it means, “show us the body.” Close. It means “You (should) have the body.” The definition varies.
I decided, when I couldn’t find the Latin for “I should have the body,” that Spanish might make more sense. Windansea seemed like a likely location, partially based on Bob Simmons famously having drowned near there (and this thought may have been pushed further forward in my mind because I was just talking about a Port Townsend surfer also named Bob Simmons). I believe his body was found, but the body of Dickie Cross, from the famous 1943 Wiamea Bay story, never was washed ashore.
And I have some history at Windansea. Almost ancient history now. 1970s. And I have some history in getting into situations in surf where I told myself I wouldn’t drown. No; not me. Never. So I wrote some phrases for the woman, in English, google translated them into Spanish; started writing.
Forty-some-odd years later; have to wonder if the woman still shows up. Oh, yeah; it’s mostly fiction; but still, it has to be real in my mind. Working on it. I took a few too many minutes.
I am John Elwell, Simmons friend who was surfing with him the day of his accident and witnessed his last ride and last to speak to him. He took off on a rogue set that almost caught us inside. He was late getting in a wave twice the length of his board which was new and poorly wax and slipped fallen feet first with the board coming down from the top of the wave like a guillotine. He disappeared. Even the lifeguard on duty did not see it as it was so quick.
Every day friends search for his body. A lady on the fourth day at dawn strolling down the beach at dawn saw an arm in the shallow water shorebreak and rushed to a home nearby and called the police. Police arrived and the body disappeared. Fellow SDCO, lifeguard friend came down and asked to point where she saw the arm. He put on his diving mask and the body was a short distance away and was in decomposing stages. It was identified later by his sister. Bob’s mother requested no autopsy done. They will not reveal where he was buried. Several others died that day from drowning. A rogue set caught fisherman off Point Loma and he drowned. Another swimmer died off Rosarita Mexico in strong currents. Don Oakie old timer at Windansea went to Bird Rock and some 20 foot sets came in after long wait intervals.
Bob was a brilliant mathematics major with a full scholarship at Caltech, championship ping ball player, power endurance and bicycle racer, was unbeatable marble player, who was gifted with a photographic mind. He never took a book home with him at Caltech and got straight A’s. He was an expert boomerang maker and thrower and could keep 5 boomerangs in the air at the same time catching and rethrowing them. He was an expert in aerodynamics and hydrodynamics and was employed at Douglas Aircraft in wing design and before his death at Leiberscope, a top secret aero space lab. Bob introduced surfing architecture to the modern surfboard with his knowledge of the Bernoulli Law of Lift, the standard equation for wings, and planing hulls that forever changed the form of surfboards. This application and understanding defined a surfboard, a plate, as a “simple machine”, and the form was interfaced into the anatomy of the wave. Surfboard makers,(shapers), and surfers don’t fully understand fully understand the complexity of the surfboard and wave, but copy modify the basic Simmons design.
Bob’s bother, Edward also brilliant Caltech Electric Engineer invented the electric gauge an engineer tool to measure resistance for planing aircraft, sea craft, and all structures, consider one of the greatest inventions.
Bob’s class mate at Caltech Edward Munk, world famous geo-physicist became the world’s expert on ocean waves at Scripps in La Jolla. Another colleaque, Huge Bradner, physicist, atomic bomb scientist who later came to Scripps
invented the wet suit. Bob Simmons researched waves at Scripps and studied Munk’s works. Bob talked of riding
100 foot waves off South America with a wet suits before anyone knew about them and small breathing devices before his death. He gave up on 100 waves after his North Shore experiences and said we would never be able to get in them and if we did we wouldn’t be able to get down them by paddling in. This was from his calculations of trajectory and speed of the wave, the board, and molecular activity of energy pattern in the wave
Simmons did surf the North Shore before his death mostly alone and with Flippy Hoffman and was the first known surfer to surf Banzai Beach long before others surfed it. His comment was in 1954 on his return, “It has real possibilities”. Flippy was angry with Bob because he could ever beat Bob in chess and also Bob told him he was over estimating wave height! Flippy was pissed all of his life about that.
Bob;s new designs first appeared in 1948 which he said were “hydrodynamic planing hulls” were engineered
from the Bernoulli Principle (the standard equation for flight for the FAA), first announced in the early 1700’s, Archemidies equation of displacement, Newton Laws,and other principles with Lindsay Lord’s work on at MIT for the Navy on Naval Architecture of Planing Hulls in Hawaii. Simply explained a plate much have adequate aspect ratio (length and width), proper flotation for load, (the rider) have rounded rails for deflection (all planing hulls hulls are deflectors), weight should be balanced, with a thinner tail for attack angle. All surfboards today have this to some degree and is estimated, not calculated because “shapers” copy things and construct from “rule of thumb”
Simmons was so far ahead as some said, “light years” ahead. He had flow slots to reduce resistance and dual fins
(skegs) for directional stabilizers. He would disagree we surf on fins, or you need deep fins, or more than two small fins. He could prove this by using his brother’s marvelous strain gauges for data in towing tests.
I am Simmons biographer if you would like to have any more information on him. He was an indeed a most unusual surf character, and the most surf board architect. John Elwell email@example.com
PS Simmons was in process of building a sail boat to sail away with his boards around the world. He said all he would need was sacks soya beans and water and….a fishing pole. the ship yard went bankrupt and he lost his boat
before it was finished. He helped Bev Morgan, of diving helmet fame, design a speed boat that was the fastest boat on Santa Monicia Bay in 1950. Such are stories about Simmons. You would have really loved to meet this guy!