Big Dave Sets the Record Strait

Let me trace back the rumor: I heard it from Adam ‘Wipeout’ James, who heard it from Frank Crippen, owner of the North by Northwest Surf Shop, the local shop for the Olympic Peninsula; Big Dave had been hit in the face during an altercation at one of the (frequently overly) popular individual surfing spots at a rivermouth/point/beach surf playground that [legally-required disclaimer] actually very rarely breaks.

Wait! Wait! “Big”  Dave, the guy who rides a standup paddleboard like a regular longboard?

So, today, Keith Darrock and I got to a different rivermouth/reef break [that even more rarely breaks], ran into Tim Nolan, a kid named Cooper, there with him, and, down the beach a ways, there was the very same Big Dave, the guy who was a 15 year old surfer at Crystal Pier when I moved to Pacific Beach in 1971. Keith said he very rarely surfs this spot [partially because of the already-mentioned fact that it so rarely breaks], “But, every time I do, there’s Big Dave.”


The record had to be set straight. I asked, out in the water, but Dave (hey, it’s not like I know him well enough to know his last name- for all I know ‘Big’ is his first name) repeated the story for Keith as we left. He’s eating, like, I don’t know, hummus.


DAVE’S STORY, paraphrased extensively: “Things got out of hand.” “Yeah, but, specifically to the allegation that you were punched in the face…” “He just sort of grazed me.” It seems Dave was surfing alone for a while; and then it got crowded,and this one guy was turning and cutting other surfers off. Dave took offense. [insert grazing punch here; I think]. However, somehow Dave came into possession of the younger guy’s short board, which he used to stab the fellow in the chest with, then slash at the guy (I’m imagining a big-ass sword here), then threw the board, sort of sideways, I’m guessing, striking the guy about the shoulders, head, and chest. Going back to his own board, Dave then came close to running the guy over on the next set wave.  “It was pretty unnecessary,” Dave said.

Now I’m forgetting everything about the alleged incident at an unnamed spot that very rarely, if ever has waves. But, meanwhile, librarian Keith Darrock pointed out that I constantly say ‘Straits of Juan de Fuca.’ “There’s only one strait. Singular. It’s the ‘Strait’ of Juan de Fuca.”

I stand corrected.

alternate arch

alternate arch

I wasn’t totally pleased with the illustration for the story on the classic Hawaiian Arch. So, here’s another attempt. I’ll wait until my sister, Melissa Lynch, an awesome artist, gives me some imput.
I should mention she’s my younger sister, but, artwise, I’m intimidated by her. And, I have a story that is waiting for her illustration. It’ll be great. No pressure, Melissa.
Whether I use this drawing or the other, or another, I’ll delete the others.
Yeah, my scanner seems to produce those ‘burn marks.’
Not in black and white.

Classic Arch Pose in 1972 Blackball Session

Image                        CLASSIC ARCH POSE IN 1972 BLACKBALL SESSION 

 It would have to be categorized as summer ‘fun surf;’ early afternoon, pre-glassoff texture, the lines broken up enough to offer some peaks with workable shoulders; nothing scary, nothing great, just, fun.

 The surfing area in Pacific Beach gets pushed, each summer, well north of the Crystal Pier, the black ball flags and lifeguards making sure the swimmers have a chance at rolling and tumbling. It was one of those days where the crew of painters I was working with, having finished our day’s assignment, headed for this bar or that strip club. Trish still at work, I headed for the beach.

 The whole purpose of telling this story is to justify the classic Hawaiian arch. Pose? Maybe. Fun? Oh, yes. A tradition worthy of passing on? Indeed.

 I would argue that the move, leaning back, reaching your hands heavenward  to thank God, the Universe, or whatever Deity you recognize for allowing you to be racing across some wave face is a surfer’s praise position, a moving Hallelujah.   

 And it’s a natural reaction to the joy of a particularly enjoyable moment, like rotating your stance just slightly to place your hand into the curl or wall of a breaking wave, maybe out of some sense of respect, maybe just to feel the rush of water.

 But, there is the ‘look at me’ argument. It is a pose. Hang five. Hold it. Backpeddle.

 I don’t know where my ride fits in. I was wailing across a wave, sneaking my left foot forward on my roundy-nosed six foot board… arching, possibly even letting out a ‘eeeooowww!’ as if I were surfing with just a few friends.  I wasn’t. The other surfers out were a couple of school kids, strangers, both of them wading out, witnessing.

 They shared a laugh between themselves. Some grownups. Geez.

 Yet, on the next ride, one of the kids, still laughing his ass off, kind of timidly slid his front foot forward, kind of awkwardly leaned back. “Eeeeeooowwww!”

 Another tradition passed on. Another moment held, held a little longer… and backpedal, drop down, pull back up and onward, rotating just slightly…



Joe Roper Surfed Crystal Pier Like it was Pipeline



Joe Roper was the standout surfer among a group of kids who hung around and mostly surfed the Pacific Beach (PB) side of Crystal Pier.  By kids, I mean younger than I was when Trish and I got married in November of 1971, moved to a one bedroom apartment within easy walking distance. I was twenty, Trish barely nineteen. Two months later we moved to a two bedroom up Mission Boulevard, easy biking or skateboarding distance.

The stretch of beach from PB Point and Tourmaline Canyon to the pier was my new locale, I was a local; sometimes venturing to the reefs of Sunset Cliffs, sometimes the breaks of La Jolla.  

A Local. It didn’t mean a lot to Trish; meant a whole lot to me.

Joe and his cronies were in the early years of high school. Rather small in stature, driving across or tucking into the lefts off the pier, Joe made it look like getting barreled at the Bonsai Pipeline. And Joe got consistently barreled.

My two years plus tenure in PB seemed to line up with the “Dogtown” resurgence of skateboarding, and, while I was lettering new prices on the menu board for the little sandwich shop that shared space with the P.B. Surf Shop, close to the pier, trading some graphics for a wetsuit vest, trying to sell some original surf art at the Select Surf Shop on Mission, Joe and his buddies were doing low Larry Bertlemann spins on skateboards on the street, one gloved hand centering the turn, scraping across the pavement.

Just to further time stamp this tale, “Maggie Mae” and “American Pie” were hits on the radio, and surf leashes were still called kook straps.

I had yet to purchase one.

To someone who learned to fall on his board if he fell, how to swim in if he couldn’t, it was quite annoying when some grom dropped in, and, when it got hairy, simply bailed.


One afternoon, sitting just a little farther outside, I witnessed Joe, on a left, ride it into the shorebreak. He could have avoided contact with the equally-young surfer approaching on the right. Nope. Rather than kick out, he kicked into a full board-to-body board slam, followed not with an apology but a version of the classic, “Get fucked and go back to the valley.”

I actually asked Joe why he had behaved so violently. It seems the recipient of the slam was guilty of being from Clairemont, just on the other side of I-5, the real setting for fictional “Ridgemont High,” as in “Fast Times At…”

What this meant is the territorially-attacked inland cowboy lived within five miles, ten max, of the beach being so vigorously defended.


I started surfing in Western Surfing Association (Ray Allen, to drop another name, was local head at the time) sanctioned contests, beginning with the first one held early in the 1972 season. Because I did well enough in that contest, I was seeded into the second round of the next event. This, and the contests to follow, featured more contestants, but, being seeded, I could avoid the first round.

Though I never won an event, somehow my surfing was adequate to maintain a somewhere-between-seventh-and-third-place performance level. Oh, yes, I was moving up. 2A, amassing points toward 3A.

Each contest provided another lesson in hurrying-up-and-waiting. On a particular Saturday, the contest was to be held at Crystal Pier. My heat was scheduled for about 10:30, which meant sometime later, I cruised down in Trisha’s VW bug to check it out.

There was Joe Roper, signed up to compete, and two or three of his buddies, standing around, and no contest. “It’s been moved to La Jolla Shores,” one of the kids said. A few minutes later, their boards on the rack, mine secured with my surf leash (yeah, I’d joined the kook strap set), it holding my almost new, custom painted (by me) surfboard.

This particular board was shaped and glassed by the local surf shop, the design pirated/copied/stolen from a photo accompanying an ad in “Surfer” announcing the Tom Morey-designed, Gordon & Smith-built model, the “Waterskate.”  Just like the original, mine featured a concave deck that rose up, side to side, from the stringer, to some thick downrails. It was probably about six-two..  

So, going down that last swooping hill from La Jolla proper to La Jolla Shores, the part of the leash holding the nose of my board popped off, the board sliding down the passenger side, the rail of the nose bouncing on the pavement, once- slow down- twice, three times- “Somebody grab it!”- steady scraping- pull over- Stop. Wince. Re-tie.

“Sorry, man,” Joe said in the parking lot, running off to join his friends.



After moving into a condo in University City (north of Clairemont and East of I-5- inland cowboy territory) the south end of my surfing grounds was probably Windansea. It was probably sometime after we moved to Encinitas in 1975 that I picked up a copy of “Surfer,” saw a photo of Joe Roper in a Gordon and Smith ad, tucked into a wailing wave at Pipeline that could have been, a bit smaller, one of those lefts off Crystal Pier.

Joe is and has been the owner of a surfboard repair shop in, I think, Mission Beach (other side of the pier). No, he didn’t repair the ripped up rail on my ripped-off/fake Waterskate, but… well, maybe there’s no ironic connection here.

However, in the karma-will-get-you department, the first or second time I waxed the board, climbing over the rocks to go out at Tourmaline, Skip Frye, test rider and surfboard designer and shaper at Gordon & Smith, was heading the other way.

Skip Frye was already a legend who could find a wave between waves in a crowd, who quietly ruled the range between PB Point and Crystal Pier; I was just another after-work-and-weekends surfer, but, this time, I was the weekend warrior with a pirate’s board, trying to hold it so Mr. Frye didn’t see the top. Unsuccessfully, though he didn’t say anything.

Once the board developed dangerous cracks along the spines on the deck, I ripped the glass off (my painting was mostly on the bottom), shaped it down to a saner, flatter shape, reglassed. Along with a board I got back in my Oceanside days, one that had a sort of bad-surgery-technique removal of the mid-section popular in the rush to move into the short board revolution, it was one of my favorite boards of all time.

As, maybe, more irony than karma, and not because I was tying it down with a surf leash, the former fake-waterskate blew off on I-5, nowhere to be found by the time I got back to the area.

It was between the onramp from Grand/Garnett in PB and the first exit to Mission Bay- 1973ish- just in case, maybe…


There’s a guy who I’ve seen many times at my favorite break on the Straits. Big guy, rides, without a paddle, the same SUP model I own. We’ve spoken several times in the water. On this occasion, he was out at my, and his, backup spot.

Just about to get out, the break suddenly crowded (northwest version- 7 or 8 others) with also-skunked-elsewhere-surfers, I must have said something about San Diego. “Where?”

“Different parts,”

It turns out Dave (that’s all the name I’ve gotten so far) was part of that Pacific Beach brat pack. Dave’s father was a chef at Maynard’s, a restaurant near the pier, and, while I was just over 20, Dave, in 1972, was in middle school.

Yes, he knew Joe Roper. Yes, Joe was the best of his contemporaries. No, they didn’t like anyone from east of I-5.  Dave filled me in on a few P.B. details. He said Phil (Italian last name- Dave knows it), the owner of the Select Surf Shop, had died. 

 “Oh. I tried to sell some art work there. You punks didn’t buy any, just pawed through them.”

“We didn’t have money for artwork,” Dave said.

“That’s what Phil told me. Oh, and he tried to pick up on my wife.”

“Well.” Dave smiled and nodded. “Great place to be raised.”

I smiled and nodded. “Great place to be twenty years old.”