I delete a varying number of spam comments every day. Most of them seem to come from one source, and, I have checked them out, they seem to make little to no sense. Perhaps they do to the many writers, each with the last name of Jerry. The comments have nothing to do with surfing or surfers, real or otherwise. I am happy word press determines the relative spam-iness, and have stopped going through them to determine if even one is real and relevant and… and, even if a comment is less than complimentary, I do appreciate that someone went to the trouble of writing and sending it through the not-so-easy process.
The other day I got a comment on one of several pieces I have posted concerning my ongoing battle with completing my manuscript, “Swamis.” It was sent by, the note said, a college student who “grew up at Swamis.” Perhaps he meant “in the vicinity of Swamis.” No biggie. He wanted to know more about the place in the late 60s and early 70s (exactly the time in which I most frequently surfed Swamis). “Did I ever surf with Skip Frye? Ron Stoner?”
The truth is… Skip Frye, definitely. Mr. Stoner, maybe. Probably.
“SURF WITH,” though only two words, is kind of loaded. There is an implication of togetherness, that the esteemed, known surfer might actually have some sort of knowledge of or relationship with the lowly surfer. Additionally, there is an expectation that, in a crowded (for the time) lineup, a fourteen-year old might just hear, “Holy shit! Someone said L.J. Richards is out! (Pipes, 1966),” and respond by asking, “Who?” And then look around to see if L.J. Richards surfs so fantastically much better than the other surfers out at that particular place and time.
If I became aware that L.J. Richards was out, he wasn’t aware of me.
The revelation, on the beach or in the water, that someone with a reputation is considering going out, is out, or was just or recently out, has been repeated, um, repeatedly: Mike Doyle at Stone Steps or Swamis or the little jetty at Oceanside Harbor with Reno Abellira (neither of whom went out); Mike Purpus at Grandview; Mike Hynson at La Jolla Shores (and those are just the Mikes).
The more common surf celebrity session sharing involves recognizing someone you had seen in magazines or surf circuit movies, then, or YouTube clips, other social media content producers, more recently. I recognized Corky Carroll and Billy Hamilton at Swamis on a day (in 1967) in which I believed my own performance in the water was my best ever. Instant realization that my best was not even close to mediocre for Mr. Hamilton (Corky was on the stairs, pointing out Billy to someone he was with). I recognized Herbie Fletcher at Lower Trestles (1975) by his stance and because he was sideslipping from the nose. I recognized Donald Takayama at Seaside Trailer Park (1969- oops, going backward) because he was Donald Takayama.
Then there are the local (only or mostly local) stars, rippers and assholes, surfers one runs into repeatedly. When I was a true local in Encinitas and Pacific Beach, there were ‘regulars,’ surfers I knew by their performance in the water, and had no real relationship with otherwise. Joe Roper at P.B. is an example, as is, yes, Skip Frye. As far as, to answer the question originally asked, surfing with legendary surf photographer Ron Stoner- don’t know. Maybe. I did get burned once, severely and purposefully, by noted surf and skate photographer Warren Bolster, Swamis. It was okay; I caught the next wave.
It is probably worthwhile to remember that for every surfer one recognizes, there are legions of non-legends, and that legends are, by definition, history. History, the stories in time, is the ultimate cleanup set. It moves on. I realize, in writing this, and somewhat sadly, that some of the surfers whose names I am dropping are gone.
My motto has always been, “I’m here to surf.” Explains something. My more recent motto is, “That wave is gone.” The unspoken second part might be, “I’m looking for the next one.”
What every real surfer has, I believe, is a memory of several best rides, best moments, best waves. Stories. Images. What we all want to do is add to that mental list, those stories, that legend.
Feel free to comment.