Skip Frye Should Have Won



“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.


Skip Frye slides from there to here

Skip Frye slides from there to here

“Then take me disappearin’ through the smoke rings of my mind;
Down the foggy ruins of time; Far past the frozen leaves,
The haunted, frightened trees, Out to the windy beach,
Far from the twisted reach… of crazy sorrow.
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free;
Silhouetted by the sea, Circled by the circus sands,
With all memory and fate, Driven deep beneath the waves;
Let me forget about today… until tomorrow.”
Bob Dylan
This drawing was taken from one of a series of photos taken by Harold Gee in 1965 at Pacific Beach Point. At about the same time, Dylan’s song, “Mr. Tambourine Man,” had already been covered by popular performers of the time.
The thing is, both artists are still going.
Here’s the story: I wanted to do something more on Skip Frye, someone I mentioned in another piece from my days in Pacific Beach. I started writing it, and, at the same time…
Somehow illustrations have become a bigger part of my site than I originally planned. This is fine, even great with me. Classic Ron Stoner photos of Skip at The Ranch are part of my image-centric memory. Maybe yours, too. I started drawing one… wasn’t happy with it; Skip in the slot, hands at his side, arching slightly. And the lighting was perfect.
And, at the same time, I wanted to say something about other local PB surfers from my years (1971-’74) there. I couldn’t think of this guy’s name.
Then I did. Dale Dobson. I googled the name, got a video of a longboarder at Swamis.
Wait, wasn’t Dobson a goofy-footer? I checked farther, found a photo of Dobson at Big Rock, 1965. Yeah; goofy-footer. Then, in this group of photos by Harold Gee, there was this shot of Skip Frye at… he might have called it PB Cove, which I’d have to guess is somewhere between the Point and Tourmaline Canyon.
And the photo looked so familiar. It may have been used in Gordon and Smith Surfboard ads from the time.
Anyway, this is the black and white version. I just purchased some watercolor pencils, and, now that this version is on the computer, watch out!
Meanwhile, if Dylan or Gee, or even Skip Frye, have a problem with me using images or words… maybe their people can contact… wait, I have no people.
So, hey, check back later. Thanks for dropping in. realsurfers is not intended to be a secret spot.
To quote Dylan, again, “No, I’m not reclusive; I’m exclusive.”
NOTE: I tried to scan the drawing in black and white; didn’t work. The black would have been… sorry you can see a drawing is really just a bunch of lines.