Hippie, Blueballs, Glueballs, and Me (AKA- Asshole)


The first person I identified as being the dominant surfer at a particular spot was nicknamed “Hippie.” This was before Hippie Hippies. The story was he got the name early because of the relative size of his butt.  I did once know his real name. What I knew was he wasn’t someone to take off in front of. Undoubtedly influenced by the wave positioning and smooth transitions between a regular (pivot foot back) to a parallel stance of surfers like Phil Edwards and Miki Dora, Hippie would takeoff on an angle, use an in-line bottom turn to move high on the wave and forward of the middle of the board. His right hand acted as a baton as he rhythmically dropped and moved higher across a wave face, smoothly backpedalling to pullout on the shoulder.

Tamarack was a perfect spot for Hippie’s style of surfing. There was, back in 1965 (and I assume is), a peak that forms straight out from the bathrooms on the bluff. The left varies in shape and makeability, but the right, though not offering a long ride, is almost always makeable; even bigger waves have an out.

The problem with this is there’s really a small takeoff zone, and it can seem crowded without much of a crowd.  Still, when I was learning, I headed for the main peak, and, head down, blind to the wave behind me, stroked like I meant it.

We hung out at Tamarack enough to start getting familiar with some of the others who surfed there on this or other Sundays. Suellen would make a fire while I was using her board. Cold surfers, strangers or not, would stand around it.

There was the guy with striped blue and white trunks who someone called, my sister thought, “Glueballs,” though it may have been “Blueballs.” So we called him that. Not to his face. Others were identified by their boards, “Yellow Nose,” “Popout,” or whatever vehicle they arrived in. If I said, “Woody,” you’d know I’m making some of these up. I am, though Glueballs is real.

Because I abused the borrowing of my sister’s board, and seemed so serious about being a surfer, my parents, without my being there, or my input, visited the old Hanson Surf Shop across the street from Cardiff Reef. I’m sure budget was a factor, but I would never have approved the board they bought for me.

But, there I was, paddling out to the main peak on a Velzy/Jacobs balsa surfboard from, probably, 1957- too narrow, no real rocker. I did know enough to be embarrassed. Since I had been making advances in my knee paddling on Suellen’s 9’4” Hobie, I tried it on this board. Quite shaky. Fall. Try again.

Now, there was another guy who always seemed to be out when we were there. I never really got a name to go with him, but his nickname for me seemed to be “Asshole,” such as, “Hey, Asshole; my wave!”  This time it was, “Hey, look; asshole got himself a really screwed up old balsa board. Where’d you find that, Asshole?”

Actually, the main peak at Tamarack might have been a friendlier place for groms and kooks if real surfers just surfed somewhere else. We groms and kooks would actually hoot each other into waves, watch, root for other groms and kooks. “Haul A!” I remember one kid saying as we all watched as the kid hauled A into the shorebreak.

This was not my tormentor’s method. “Hey, Asshole; maybe you should practice knee paddling over in the slough, come back when you know how,” he’d say, perfectly balanced on his knees and motionless. Then I’d fall. Then I’d get back on the board, back on my knees, shakily.

Maybe to practice, I paddled farther out, taking a break from the peak and the ridicule. Of course an outside peak formed. I spun around, head down, paddling; moved to my knees, stroke. The entire rest of the group was inside, eyes on me, each surfer scratching to get over the wave I was about to… stroke… I felt the lift, I was on it, dropping, straight… straight down. My Velzy/Jacobs pearled, totally, I went ‘over the handlebars.’ Everyone paddling out turned-turtle or bailed. The balsa wood weapon popped straight back up, tail first.

No one had to call me Asshole. I paddled in, prone, banished to the crappy waves in front of the lower parking lot.

A year or so later, I was now riding a popout my Dad had purchased ‘on base’ from an auction of boards taken by Marine Military Police from surfers attempting to surf Trestles. One attempting such a beach assault would not take his best board. This particular bargain popout also featured a huge delaminated spot on the nose.

Okay, I’d fix that. Phillip and I made a cut, ripped off the de-lam and some surrounding glass, reglassed it. Then, coming in from surfing Swamis, waiting for my turn to stack my board on the roof of the car, I dropped it mere inches onto the grass. Snap!

Okay, so now we got some dowels, stuck it back together, put a fiberglass bandage around it. As a bonus, it now it had even more kick up, more rocker.

This was the board I was riding, my surf bumps now visible (even to others), on one after school afternoon at Tamarack; an afternoon a little crowded with kooks and grems and groms and Hippie. It was, perhaps, out of frustration that I did not give way, paddled stroke for stroke, took off even with but in front of Hippie. I gave him room, drove across the peak, kicked my board out hard.

My board was spinning, straight up, next to me. Beside and just behind it was Hippie’s board, twins in the spinning.

“I’m sorry” I said, the first words I’d ever spoken to Hippie.

“No you’re not,” he said; both of us climbing onto our boards.

“Okay then, I’m not.”

Perhaps I saw this as a rite of passage. Perhaps it was. No, still not sorry.


Surfing With Donald Takayama

                        Surfing ‘With’ Donald Takayama

“I try to meet up with Donald every time I go to California.”

This remark came from a guy who worked for NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). I was doing some painting for the property management company overseeing the house he and his wife were renting in Port Townsend, a house with several Donald Takayama surfboards in the garage.

The surfer/renter/NOAA guy’s remark was in response to my, checking out his enviable stash, and having said, “Oh, I surfed with Donald Takayama once; Seaside Reef, back in, probably, 1969.”

So, now I felt I had to explain what I meant by ‘surfing with.’

“I meant we were out at the same time; not like we, like, went there together.”

Too late; I’d already sinned. I was just making it worse.

My girlfriend, Trish, was supposed to go on this trip, on a Sunday afternoon, to her brother’s house in Solana Beach. Jim Scott, recently out of the Marine Corps as a Captain, having only-recently returned from a tour of Vietnam as a Second Lieutenant, number one target. His tour had also aligned with the Tet Offensive of January 1968. Tough time, life-changing; Jim resigned from a definitely-promising military career

Jim and his first wife, Chris, had a house with a sweeping view of that curve of coast from Seaside Reef to Cardiff Reef and beyond.

Meanwhile, Trisha’s father, Major W.M. Scott, U.S.M.C., was in Vietnam.

Trish punked-out at some point after my surf racks had been transferred to her mother’s Corvair, my board secured. “It’s not weird,” she said, “she’ll just drop you off; pick you up when she’s done visiting.”

“That’s weird,” Trish said as I asked her for a few details while writing this.

Weird or not, Maureen and I were off.

I never called her Maureen, or her husband Wilkens, or Bill, or Dad; always Irene and George- Maureen’s nickname for herself, Trisha’s nickname for her father- or, later Grandmother and Grandfather- formal.

Knowing Irene (from the old song, “Good Night Irene,” one she would quote to stop Trish and I from making out, and/or to send me home) really didn’t consider me a great candidate, or even on the high end of acceptable, for someone dating her daughter, and a bit intimidated by my driver, I tried to make some conversation. “Yeah, Seventh Day Adventist.” “No, not a cult.” “Yeah, I guess; poor man’s Jew.” “Yeah, three brothers, three sisters.” “Yes, my Dad was a Marine; World War II and Korea.” “Sure; they probably ran into each other somewhere. Guadacanal?”

Somewhere before we got to the coast, my future mother-in-law, grandmother to three children her daughter had with me, two Jim had with his second wife, Greer, said, concerning one of the women she’d worked with at one of several jobs she’d had before meeting W.M. Scott; “She was so dumb she didn’t know the difference between Kleenex and Kotex.”

Then she went quiet for a while; maybe a little check in the rear view mirror to catch my reaction without actually looking over.

The waves just weren’t working at the spots we passed. Seaside Reef was the last chance. It was mid-afternoon, lined-up but pre-glassoff lefts breaking out from one of the last remaining trailer parks on the North County coast. There was one other surfer out. We didn’t actually speak much, but we did trade off empty waves for a while. I gave him at least a nod or two; had to. Donald Takayama, wunderkind surfer, had been known in the surfing world since appearing in a Bruce Brown film as a Hawaiian teenager pre-“Endless Summer,” pre-1960, surfing at Velzyland, named after board maker Dale Velzy, for whom Mr. Takayama would shape balsa, and later foam boards.  

This, 1969, was the era, pre-jail time, pre-restoration as a preeminent shaper and builder of long boards, Donald remembered most fondly when featured in “The Surfers’ Journal” sometime before he died in 2012.

I, of course, tried very hard, too hard, to impress him. He just seemed to be enjoying surfing decent lefts with only some random kid out; a kid constantly scanning the parking area for an ugly Corvair with racks on it; someone who looked like he wanted to say something; just didn’t know what.

This was also the only time I ever surfed Seaside Reef or with Donald Takayama. By the time those who waited for the afternoon glassoff arrived, we were both gone.