INSIDE BREAK- Loves and Wars and Surf and Magic- Chapter Three

INSIDE BREAK- The Novelization- CHAPTER THREE-

So far: In 2004, Alvin Hubbard and his twenty-three year old daughter Elizabeth are in San Diego, taking off at dawn to check a few surf spots, part of a very busy agenda.

In Fallbrook, California, 1967, sixteen year old Alvin and friends, Sam and Ben, take off at dawn, riding with (and this is unusual) older surfer Riley Cooper, boyfriend of Ben’s sister, Catherine. They are planning to surf at San Onofre. Barely under way, Riley’s VW bus gets pulled over.

Pretty exciting, huh?

Remember, [ brackets ] mean optional reading, [[ doubles ]] mean extra credit.

 

PACIFIC COAST HIGHWAY, NORTH COUNTY

“Surf Route 101,” Elizabeth said, repeating what I’d just said, lowering her window to take in some of the sea air. “Magic-al.” She looked over at me until I looked around. “So, when you were a kid you thought these beach towns were magic…al.”

“Still do. Thanks for the correction. Fancy Jesuit education. No, it’s fine. And every time my family’d go through Del Mar, my Dad would say, ‘Del Mar by sea.’ And I’d never correct him because…”

“Respect? Fear?”

“We’ll say respect.” I gave my daughter a look to tell her I wasn’t really serious. She gave me a look that said she knows that actually, I kind of meant it. “And he’d always say ‘You know, Desi Arnaz lives here,’ and we’d look around.” Elizabeth and I looked around, maybe out of respect.

I pulled off 101, long called, ‘the 101.’ The 101. I wanted to show my daughter a house on the bluff her uncle once owned. Couldn’t fine it. “A lot more eucalyptus then,” I said. “Less…” I looked at the seemingly unending line of condos.

The surf was small, maybe smaller, but the clouds were beginning to thin as we dropped out of Solana Beach. On the 101, bluffs, the tail ends of the coastal hills, the populated areas, are split by low sections, remnants of wetter times.

 

[I wanted to, but didn’t mention how there were once trailer parks on each of these places, hugging the north ends of bluff sections, protected from the south winds; closer to sea level. [[ This is probably where the First People would have lived, closer to migrating fish and birds and abundant supplies of abalone and lobster, close to fresh water. ]] I thought there was one trailer park left, Seaside Reef. I surfed there. Once. I didn’t notice it in passing.]

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We moved, a few miles under the speed limit, along these flats, toward Cardiff. There were cars in the parking lot, surfers out, spread along the multiple sections created by the in and outflow of the slough.

“No stories?”

“No new ones. Last time I surfed here, your mother didn’t want to fight the crowds. She may have been pregnant.”

“May have been?”

“Yeah. She was. It was big and… on the news… ‘Big Swell!’ Everywhere else was closed out. Not Swami’s; crowded, couldn’t get close. But your… pregnant… mother didn’t want to do the stairs anyway; so, we went here, but north of the real break.”

We were past it, the real Cardiff Reef, now, waiting at the light. “I think I did make it out, caught one wave, then, trying to get out again, I saw…”

I waited for my daughter to finish the story.

“Two surfers on one wave, one on top of the other. Double overhead! Cowabunga!” Cowabunga. She said it to herself. Slower. “What does cowabunga actually mean, Daddy?”

“Oh. Um. As nearly as I can, um, translate… Yippee!”

“Yippee!” she said as I gunned it at the green light.

“Yippee!”

In the time it took to drive the distance of the state park and the couple of hundred yards between Pipes and the Hansen shop, make a left turn/uuey, then circle the Swamis parking lot, unexpectedly full, and drive the same distance back, now closer to the bluff and the view, I had pointed out that, at one time, back around 1970, surfers had to sort of shimmy around the northern-most post on a chain-link fence to access the spot.

 

[I didn’t have time to get into my whole history there before we found a convenient parking spot. Indeed, it was the first one in the line of spots, mere feet outside the very fence post I’d spoken of. If my daughter hadn’t jumped out of the wagon so quickly I could have told her, again, how we started surfing here before it was officially opened as a State Park; how the waves seemed transparent, the water clear, the… and there was the time her grandmother, as always, had built a fire on the beach, and along came this Park Ranger, and… moments later, he was kicking sand toward the fire, and my mother, probably holding one of my younger siblings, was kicking back; and Ben and I were in the water, afraid to come back in, and…]

insidebreakpipesbthrm

I paused my mental Pipes mixed tape, got out of the car, looked for Sam.

The access was now, and had been for years, open, allowing those with California State Park passes to park inside, close to the bluff, north of the campsites. These were mostly families, I’d guess, on weekends. On this day it seemed like it was mostly guys a few years older than me, possibly retired (assholes). They could lean on the hoods or sit in the open backs of their surf rigs, or hang on the bluffside fence, talk story with their buddies, look down at the surf, each peak now named or, at least, recognized. North Stairs, Traditional (real) Pipes, Access Peak, Swamis Shorebreak.

I recognized Sam right away; an older version with the same stance, to the left, against the mesh of the fence. He had said he might be surfing, but there he was, reddish blonde hair now mostly gray, a little… let’s say, thin spot in the back (he had said, on the phone, that he wasn’t bald). Balding; maybe.

Sam seemed to be watching Elizabeth as she ran to the cinderblock bathrooms. Yeah, that was Sam.

 

[Sam was wearing a Hawaiian shirt, kind of the street uniform of surfers over fifty. Sam’s was tucked in; mine, untucked, unbuttoned, worn, northwest-style, over a longer, and long-sleeved, Carhartt t shirt. My Hawaiian shirt was a gift from my older son, and nobody had to know it came from Walmart. Sam was wearing Levis, properly faded, and sandals, expensive versions of classic go-aheads. Without socks, of course. Tan feet. I was wearing Dockers; standard for non-surfers, men my, our age, professional men with multiple stops to make; less cool men. Me.

Yeah, but the slacks were teamed up with well- worn Birkenstocks, sandals that had been to Italy. Still, mine was an outfit that whispered, “I used to be cooler.” And, yeah, I was wearing socks, dark, to go with the Dockers. Again, a northwest thing.]

 

Sam wasn’t fat, wasn’t bald; didn’t seem five or six months older than me. There was no way I would have thought he would be fat; fat, not that muscle-recently-turned-south kind, the kind of fat that seems to grow on other fat, like whipped cream over cool whip.

That description; it’s… I did use it in a poem, but, really, it wasn’t quite me. Still, it had been too many years of sitting, of luncheons with clients, of conferences and conventions, not nearly enough surfing.

Below us and straight out, one of the longboarders, wearing a full wetsuit, booties, no gloves, and a boonie hat, took off from the point of the small pack at the peak (Traditional Pipes), dropped in fully, did a casual bottom turn, readjusted to trim at the top of the wave, cross-stepped to a close-footed five, slid his back foot back and dropped lower, his head dip maneuver not quite reaching the lip. When the shoulder went fat, he backpedaled, all in semi-slow motion, cutback. It wasn’t so much casual as slow. He tried to retrim, gather some speed as the wave reformed.

“I’d be going for the standing island,” I said.

“Doesn’t want to lose his hat,” Sam said as the surfer just sort of bogged to a stop, dropped perfectly to his knees, started paddling back to the lineup.

My old surfing buddy turned, extended a right hand. “Owl.” He looked at my glasses through his, properly darkened to the morning glare. “Prescription,” he said. “Built in bi-focals.” He lifted them for a moment to look at my eyes.

“Lasik,” I said, “still wear glasses for… close work.” I laughed. Not really nervously; self-deprecatingly. “Or far away stuff.” I squinted more than I had to.

“Yeah, well,” he said, a lot about time and age unsaid. Implied. Known.

“I think a hug would be… appropriate.” I hadn’t wanted it to sound like a question.

The hug, probably the only one we’d shared between sixth grade and then, was over as Elizabeth approached. She lowered her phone. I introduced her to Sam. “Morning,” she said, switching the phone to her left hand, taking Sam’s extended right hand. She whispered, “Call you back/love you,” into the phone, hit the red button. “Jakes,” she said.

Sam nodded, looked at me, whispered, “Jakes.” I nodded. Sam turned back to Elizabeth. “I saw your dad on TV.”

“Fucking Tony,” I said.

“Fucking Tony,” Elizabeth said.

“Fucking Tony?” Sam asked.

Elizabeth and I both just smiled and nodded.

 

NAVAL AMMUNITION DEPOT (NAD) GATE

Cooper was out of the bus, standing next to a Marine Guard who was bent at the waist, looking at the VW’s oversized back tires and the jagged cut in the side panels. Sam and Ben were looking out from between barely-pulled-back curtains, I was half out of the driver’s side window.

 

[Riley Cooper and some buddies had attempted this customizing. Begun with a hack saw, the job was finished by another guy, with a torch. I had already imagined these guys, Greasers (this still referred, as far as I knew, to those who worked on hot rods), probably an older Cooper brother in the group, all still holding onto flattops and ducksbacks and Brylcreem; gathered around the bus, cutting away on the krout-wagon, the thought being, if Riley was insisting on being a surfer, his vehicle should, at least, be a little more… American.]

insidebreakVW

The Marine guard was shaking his head. I’ll spare you the conversation inside the bus, Sam and Ben pulling out their dependent ID cards, their almost brand new Driver’s licenses. Sam said he could tell the guard that they could call his dad, Light Colonel (actually Lieutenant Colonel) Samuel Bostock II, over at ‘Mainside,’ even though we all knew he was in Vietnam.

“They won’t call,” Sam said, and got out through the side door. He looked at the Marine guard, not tall, but thin; and, because he was a Marine, and we all knew what it took to be a Marine, we knew he was tough. Toughened. And he was black.

 

[It was always more difficult to get through the NAD gate than Camp Pendleton’s other three access points. If we couldn’t do the twelve minute drive (or so, and there was a rumor that cars were often timed, and speeders ticketed, and, by God, don’t break down or try to turn off the road), the next choice was heading back, passing Ben’s house, to the ‘back gate’ east of Oceanside. If that was our option, we might as well go on to highway 101 and head up to the San Clemente gate.]

 

That a black Marine was controlling the most direct access to Camp Pendleton for four quite white surfers, and without going into how unusual this might have been in 1967, I should mention what we were wearing, variations on the surfer uniform of the time.

 

[Like the rules of surfing, the surfer uniform was established by peer pressure. Because I started before my peers, I had to go by what real surfers at the beach, mostly Tamarack, were wearing. Actually, being 13, with too many younger siblings, I had to point out to my mother that other surfers weren’t wearing less radical (I’d say ‘more modest’ if we were discussing the semi-opposing implications ‘modest-ness.’) versions of Australian bunhuggers, something like tight boxers rather than briefs, and that Sears, the catalog or the store in San Diego, might not carry the latest in surfing trunks.

My mom tried. When jams, double layered, with a flower print over white material, without the built in underwear (or with the built-ins ripped out), caught on the knees and ripped in the crotch… well, I had to use my own money, dearly earned, to buy my first pair of nylon Jantzens, as featured on the back cover of “Surfer,” the bi-monthly sometimes (but not always) found with the other magazines at the Fallbrook Buy and Save. I’m not sure if it was lying on my part or that Jantzen thought trunks should be worn tight, but the next brother down got those trunks. 32 waist, supposedly, in kind of a burgundy wine color. Only one color.

I probably had some Hang Ten knockoffs by this time (always wanted, never had Kanvas by Katin trunks), with a wax pocket, Velcro, laces, maybe three colors. It was Sam’s joke to say his trunks were ripped, then rip the Velcro. Maybe not just Sam’s.

When I started surfing with Ben, and he (because of his sister, Cathy, I mean Catherine) had access to older surfers, he told me I had to, had to switch to genuine Levis. Sam had started surfing with us before I could actually get some, and he told me to buy them two inches bigger in the length, one in the waist, beat them on the bed when first purchased. If it was hard to get them buttoned after the first wash, perfect. Levis were way cheaper at the PX, and, when I somehow got the $6.50 or so together, Sam got them. Three inches bigger.]

 

Still, there has to be some room for individuality in a sport that’s supposed to be for individuals, rebels.  So, on this day, and now you can try to picture the four white teenagers outside the bus, it outside the gate, parked on the Fallbrook side of Ammunition Road as a steady stream of Civil Service workers and Marines who lived in Fallbrook were checked and waved through, some saluted through. We four surfers were in a sort of curved line, facing the black Marine, he guarding the Navy facility against invasion by communists and dangerous surfers in dangerously customized vehicles.

insidebreakmaingate

[Each of us was sporting beads. Cooper’s two strands were mixed with puka shells; the rest of us had some made by my sister from some sort of beans that the chemistry teacher later identified as a great laxative if properly taken (the biology teacher must have known, didn’t say). Cooper was wearing a longsleeve, with collar, blue workman’s shirt over his white Penny’s t shirt, Levis, red deck shoes, no socks.

Sam and Ben had non-matching, but both mostly-red windbreakers. Ben’s was lined with white fleece-like material. Penny’s t shirts, Levis. Sam was wearing his tennis shoes from PE. Ben was wearing hushpuppies. Always stylish, and thinner than Sam and Riley, who were thin, Ben could wear a t shirt, a regular shirt, a sweater, tucked-in, and a heavy Pendleton flannel, AND the windbreaker.

If I wore a sweater to school, it usually was removed by third period. Still, I did have on some hushpuppy knockoffs, the soles sort of worn down on the outside (I attributed this to a slight bowleggedness caused by straddling surfboards), and dark Church socks to go with the Levis- white is for tennis shoes.]

[[Since I spent this much time on dress, I should mention hair. The dress code at Fallbrook High did not allow hair to be over the ears. This changed a couple of years later after a kid in the Agriculture Program got sheared by other Ag students. Sam and I actually witnessed this while at PE, the kid running out of the oversized Quonset hut at the farthest reaches of the campus, some farm boys from Rainbow or Bonsall or Temecula tackling him, hacking away. So, lawsuit, no dress code.  Girls could wear pants after the lawsuit. Not while I was at Fallbrook; dresses, and, if they seemed too short, the rebellious student might be required to drop to her knees, a measurement taken.]]

 

And here we were, a matter of inches the difference between a street-legal wheel well and some sort of radical ‘fuck you America’ kind of mutation.

 

[Peace, man. Anyway, Riley, Sam, and Ben each had some well-maintained version of the ‘boys’ haircut,’ short on the sides, parted on one side or the other on top. No ‘buzz cut’ or ‘butch’ like the Ag guys, no ‘flattop’ like (some, even many of) the jocks, no ‘slicked-back’ dos like many of the Mexicans and some of the Pauma Indians. Each had of my friends (boldly counting Cooper in this group) some version of blond hair. Ben’s was the blondest; Sam’s on the reddish side (not ‘red on the head like a pecker on a poodle,’ that was our sometime surfing friend, the same guy who stole the Surfboards Hawaii stickers), Riley with something like my sister’s hair color, dirty blond.

I was the one with the almost-black hair, and, on this day, mine was the closest to a dress code violation. This was only because it had grown out from the ‘high and tight’ cut many sons of Marines sported, just like their daddy’s, that my father insisted on when he marched (not like, really marching) his four sons into the barber shop, also insisting on a group discount.]

 

Riley nodded at the Marine guard, turned toward us, shrugged, said, “Another time.” He looked at his watch. There was plenty of time to get to school.

Sam stepped close to the guard. The guard looked around. “Hey, man; can’t you cut us some huss?”

It should be said that all this gate activity went very quickly. The guard had other things to do; the traffic had to move.

While Sam and Ben looked at the guard, Riley looked at me for a second with an ‘Oh, shit’ expression. Then we all looked at the guard. The guard looked at Sam, smiled, mouthed ‘some huss,’ seemed to want to shake his head, but didn’t, then smiled at Ben, looked toward Riley. Our driver was already headed for the driver’s door. He looked at me as Ben followed Riley’s lead, Sam crossed in front of a truck, stepped into the tiny office on the far side of the road.

The Marine lifted his properly starched and blocked ‘lid,’ revealing hair that was the next thing to shaved, a little more on the top. He put his lid back on, looked at the line of traffic, most with headlights on, looked back at me.

In an accent nothing like I’d expected, the Marine adjusted his military issue horn-rimmed glasses, looked at my thick lenses, asked, “Are you also requesting that I cut you ‘some’ huss?”

“It’s ‘a’ huss; right? Cut me a huss?”

FUCKING TONY (a bit of a preview of the next chapter, in progress)

This is the way I told the story to my old surfing buddy Sam, both of us hanging close to the fence at Pipes as my daughter donned what she thought might be a proper beach hat and proceeded down the gravel roadway to the sand, Once she got to the sand, she took some photos with her camera, mostly longboarders floating and waiting. She would occasionally waving back up into the glare, once waving her phone, once her hat; all the while trying to find the harder-packed sand.

“No. I was home. It was early.”

“Morning show. Channel, um; I don’t know. I wasn’t supposed to go on. Jakes wasn’t able to make it, held over in LA, and…”

“Yeah. Cindy had the TV on. You should have told me you were…”

“I wasn’t supposed to… wait? You watch that channel?”

“No. I had the remote; looking for, you know, weather. And there you were. I yelled, ‘Hey, Cindy; Alvin Hubbard’s on TV.” Pause. A surfer down below blew the bottom turn. “Eww. No, you looked… I recognized you right away.”

“Oh. So, now you see the camera didn’t add that many… pounds.”

“No, no; you look good. Owl, you should’ve seen me before I got back into surfing.”

“Well. Glad you did. Supposed to get a little bigger?”

 

OKAY, SO, THE STORY: “There is no way,” Tony Facciolo said, “that the station is going to do a telephone-only, or even a remote… interview with Jakes.” I was still backing away. “Even if it’s their affiliate in LA… no way.”

“You can do it, Dad.” I was shaking my head. Elizabeth was, of course, on the phone.

“INSIDE BREAK” The Novel- INTRODUCTION

NOTE: I started realsurfers.net to have some ownership on the two words, real surfers, and to tell the story alluded to in the introduction (below). Maybe I didn’t realize I had so many other stories to tell; maybe I didn’t realize I still have a surfing life. So, I plan on serializing the novel that fictionalizes the real story and wraps other stories around it. It will, unfortunately, be in reverse order, but, after a few chapters, interspersed with other pieces, I’ll consolidate. When it’s all done; I’ll probably change the name to “Real Surfers,” what I always wanted to be.  I did a drawing, but I didn’t think it fit the mood, didn’t want to wait until I have the time to do one I actually like, so… here we go… thanks for coming along.

INSIDE BREAK
Love and Wars and Surfing and Some Amount of Magic

INTRODUCTION-
Surfing is part of the soundtrack; whoosh, wait, wait, wait, whoosh. Always has been. Well, maybe not surf itself; but it is the tides and winds, moving in waves, and the waves themselves, maybe even time itself, another wave, spinning ever outward, all providing the heartbeat of the planet. Whoosh…wait…wait…wait…whoosh.

“So, Dad; it has to be fiction?”
“Because… you know our memories are…”
“Corrupted? Flawed? Inaccurate?”
“Hmmm. Ha. Yeah.”
“Maybe your original story could be enough. Jeez; I’ve heard it for years; headed for San Onofre; you and Phillip Harper and Ray Hicks and…”
“Dru; I’ve asked Ray. He doesn’t remember this trip. Others; yes. I think it was always Bill Buel. See? I edited him out; stuck Ray in, because Ray was… because I never liked…I mean, Bill wasn’t my friend; Ray and Phil were.”
“And you were riding with Bucky Davis, your surf hero…”
“For a while. That’s part of it. If I broke down my… shit; it’s really just another surfer coming-of-age story, but, at such an, an almost unique angle. If …and, if I could break down my surf history, to, like, chapters; it’d be illustrated with the times I went surfing with Bucky Davis. Like five or six times over five or six years. Grandview, New Break, Swami’s, the last time… your mother was there… at the beach by the state park… South Carlsbad. and part of this, this bigger story, is how my image of Bucky and…”
“Matured. And there’s the love story; Bucky and Phillip’s sister. Trish.”
“Yeah; and, again, I don’t really know. We never know about other people’s lives… or loves, and I’m such a fucking romantic, I wanted that to…”
“To work out. But that’s all… it’s the hidden story, Dad; the, um, interplay between what you thought, that so many things were magic, magical; and what was real. The, I guess, surface story, is of you guys going from Fallbrook, across Camp… Camp?”
“Camp Pendleton, 1967; the Vietnam War in full swing, and the Marines, really, were all just a couple of years older than Phil and Ray… I’m sticking with Ray, and I; and Bucky was… he was right at draft age. And the war; everyone thought, was going to go on forever.”
“Well, it didn’t. New ones. But, you know, some other stuff happened on that trip.”
“Yeah. Yeah, it did; but, this far removed, this far gone, it seems… stopped by a Highway Patrolman and hassled before we even got to the back gate, running out of gas, pushing the VW up a couple of hills, coasting down, pushing it into the little PX outpost in another tent camp as marines marched by, us all cool surfers and they ready to go to… see? It seems like fiction, even to me; like I’ve seen it before.”
“But you did. And… see, even I know the story. And you did surf at San Onofre.”
“The surfing was almost incidental; I don’t really remember it, specifically. Another session. Just like with Ray, huh?”
“But the story; it ends up at Tamarack. Tamarack, right? After Bucky tore up his Dependent ID card, and couldn’t ever go back on the base; and you’re riding shotgun… for once. Right? And Phillip and… and we’ll say Ray; they’re asleep in the back, and Dylan comes on the radio.
“It was ‘Rainy Day Women #12 and 35.’ Rare on ’67 am radio.”
“Right. And, pretty soon you’re singing along, beating on the dashboard. And pretty soon, maybe because this was the perfect song for the perfect scene; you could see and hear the waves, just about to get glassy…”
“The afternoon glassoff.”
“The soundtrack and the… the soundtrack. And now; I love this part; Bucky, so, to you, ultra cool; Bucky’s beating on the dashboard, also, and you’re both trying to sing along.
‘Everybody must get stoned.’”
“Ev-ry-bo-dy mussssst get stoned!”
“Dad?”
“Yeah?”
“Can you still see it?”
“Yeah.”
“There is magic in there somewhere.”
“Thanks. But, Dru; you know; now; because I… because real life doesn’t live up, maybe, because I’m going to steal other things I’ve seen, from other people’s lives, move things around; and, and, mostly, maybe, because I haven’t, um, lived up… it’ll be fiction.”
“Dad? Has your life contained enough… magic?”
Woosh, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait… woosh.
“Yeah.”

Trestles- In Progress

TRESTLES- UP AND DOWN- IN PROGRESS

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This photo was taken by Grant Ellis for SURFER MAGAZINE in 2011. It’s pretty much the view I had from the maintenance shed for the San Onofre Housing Area on Camp Pendleton. I worked there from the spring on 1975 to the early summer of 1976, painting interiors when marines and their families were transferred elsewhere. The actual view was from higher and a bit to the left. I could easily crop out the freeway as I was checking out the surf, almost an equally spectacular view from most of the housing area. You might as well delete most of the crowd. Okay. Now focus for a moment on that visible patch of beach. That was about where I’d park, extending my official half hour lunch to an hour and a half, depending (you know what it was depending on). I could have easily been busted by the Military Police or my Civil Service co-workers. Luckily, they were more interested in other activities.

MY ORIGINAL INTENT was to add to the TRESTLES STORY, Trestles from my particular vantage point, and, rather than have Part II, Part III, out of sequence, move the added-to piece up to the first spot with each additional update; but now that I have the photo… we’ll see.

“YOU CAN JUST GET GOING SO FAST…” I told my surfing buddy on the phone. Surely I was as excited in describing my latest surf story as I am when I do so now. Definitely. By this time, 1976, my friend Phil had just become, or was about to become, Doctor Phillip Colby Harper. Back in the conversation, with the tendency, still-with-me, to talk over others, I continued “…going so fast that you go up the wave, then freefall back to the bottom, like… um, it’s like dropping, sideways, with the lip… like, even, inside the lip; then back up again; over and… and… yeah, Trestles. Every day. Extended lunch. Yeah!”

THE FIRST TIME Phillip and I saw Trestles was in 1967. I guess, really, it was Church; we were riding with Bucky Davis, a few years older than us, way ahead of us in surfing, and the boyfriend of Phillip’s sister, Trish. He turned right instead of left past the creek, away from our destination of San Onofre, and up along the beach. He stopped the VW bus when we saw a Marine Corps Military Police jeep on the beach, perpendicular to the water, waiting patiently for the two or three surfers in the water to come in.

“Some day, maybe,” Bucky said. “Not today.” Phillip and I, following Bucky’s lead, flipped off the M.P.s (not so they would notice); the van made a three point turn and we headed around the cove.

THERE WAS a local TV show about that time, on channel 9, possibly titled “Surf’s Up.” It may have come from Santa Barbara rather than Los Angeles. From Fallbrook, North San Diego County, we got that city’s three stations, 6, 8, and 10, and a couple from LA, but the TV Guide listed this surfing program, and, the one time I enlisted my brothers to move the antenna on the roof, I got a blurred, fuzzy image of a segment that happened to feature the magical and forbidden waves of Trestles. “They just roll on and on,” the commentator said, “spinning, like a washing machine.”

Bill Birt’s Stolen Racks

There is the story of BILL BIRT’S STOLEN RACKS, stolen, partially, because his parents’ big ass car with the big ass trunk containing the big ass cardboard box (for Billy’s little friends’ wet gear), with big blue block letters spelling out *“Kotex,” was parked in the gravel parking lot, not visible from the beach or water, set aside for those who didn’t have military, military dependent, or San Onofre Surfing Club status, and how I was selected to ride back to Fallbrook with him, and, for once, I got to ride shotgun; and, because there was really only AM radio in cars, even fancy big ass ones, in those days, we got to listen to a station that kept playing hit **popular songs of the day in a tight rotation, and, of course, I’d sing along. And we had to drive around, down Highway 101 (there also wasn’t an I-5, at least on in the ‘slaughter alley’ section between San Clemente and Oceanside) because we would be borrowing the racks off a vehicle at Phillip Harper’s family’s house, south of town. “Closer that way,” Bill said; We all agreed.

The most particularly galling (to Bill) song contained lyrics including ***“Skip-a-rope, skip-a-rope… Daddy hates your mama, mama hates your dad; last night you should have heard the fight they had… skip-a-rope……”

So, it was about half an hour or so, down to Oceanside, another twenty-five minutes, Bill driving faster than his parents would like, on to Phillip’s house, a brief explanation to Phillip’s brother ****Clintswell about why we were there, gathered some drinks and snacks, and then we retraced our route, radio going the whole time.  So, probably seven or eight opportunities to sing along, window down, Bill not participating at all.Image

Yes, Bill Birt did complain, bitterly, to the other surfers, guarding our boards, when we returned to San Onofre. “That’s what you get for having a radio, Bill,” one of the two other surfers, either Phillip or Ray Hicks said. “He’d sing anyway,” the other one said. “Maybe not that song.” They all nodded, I nodded, Bill opened the big ass trunk, pulled out the replacement racks.

No radio on the way back. It didn’t matter. I was asleep in the big ass back seat.

*The Kotex box wasn’t as big as illustrated, the license plates would have been black. **”Skip-a-Rope” was a hit in 1967 for Henson Cargill. I know; I totally had to look it up. ***People nowadays don’t really believe that we had to (got to) listen to the Beatles and Frank Sinatra on the same station. Yeah, I know some Sinatra lyrics. ****Since I met Maxwell (or Clint) right about the time his mother changed his name to the other, after his father, a fighter pilot, killed in Korea, who may never have seen his second son, I called him Clintswell, and now can’t remember his proper name. I’ll guess Maxwell, since I also called him Smaxwell. He’ll show up again in other non-San Onofre tales

SAN ONOFRE TALES

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San Onofre is surfing history.

Early surfers parked on the beach, camped out there, built a few palapas, rode the rollers. It seems, to those of us reading the occasional story about this history in “The Surfer’s Journal,” checking the photos, a friendly sort of place frequented by people who saw themselves as rebellious and wild, but, by today’s standards, quaintly so.

Located (I know you know this) near the northwest point of the massive Camp Pendleton…wait. I should explain, just to be clear, that Camp Pendleton is roughly a triangle, with Oceanside at the lower point, San Clemente north, and, twenty miles inland (as the seagull flies) Fallbrook. That’s where I was raised, and, from my house, I always sort of believed, if I stood on the fence on the front edge of the property, and looked west, somewhere just over those coastal hills, that late afternoon glow was a reflection off the unseen water at San Onofre.

At some point the San Onofre Surfing Club made a deal with the Marine Corps allowing club members access past the guard shack, down a winding little road along a river (well, creek) bottom, and then past the railroad trestles (yeah, those Trestles), then near the Officers’ Club, the buildings a last remnant of a time when the entire area was part of a Spanish Land Grant. Nice location, in some trees in a usually sedate (wave-wise) cove right between Church and San Onofre.

Beach access was also granted to Marines, and dependents. In Fallbrook, most of my friends’ dads, or moms, or both, worked on the base or were Marines. Kids of Marines came and went, on some three year cycle. My family was in Fallbrook because, once there, my mom didn’t want to move the increasingly large family elsewhere. Though my father remains a Marine (of the Corps, to the core), he went to work splicing telephone cables all over the base for the rest of his career.

Children of Civil Service workers didn’t have (or weren’t supposed to have) beach parking privileges, and any other surfers granted access on the base had to park in a lot* separated by those whispy trees particular to windy parts of California. I think, of all the times I went to San Onofre, mostly between 1966 and 1969, whoever I was with got to park on the beach.

*On one of the only times I went with someone who didn’t have beach parking privileges, Bill Birt, whose father sold insurance in Fallbrook, Bill’s surf racks were stolen. That story, when this all gets organized, will follow this entry.

San Onofre Tales & Phillip Harper and the Sailfish

San Onofre is surfing history.

Particularly for the early surfers who parked on the beach, camped out there, built a few palapas, rode the rollers. It seems, to those of us reading about it, checking a few photos, a friendly sort of place frequented by people who saw themselves as rebellious and wild, but, by today’s standards, quaintly so. 

Located (I know you know this) near the northwest point of the massive Camp Pendleton…wait. I should explain, just to be clear, that Camp Pendleton is roughly a triangle, with Oceanside at the lower point, San Clemente north, and, twenty miles inland (as the seagull flies) Fallbrook. That’s where I was raised, and, from my house, I always sort of believed, if I stood on the fence on the front edge of the property, and looked west, somewhere just over those coastal hills, that late afternoon glow was a reflection off the unseen water, just below our horizon, at San Onofre.

At some point the San Onofre Surf Club made a deal with the Marine Corps allowing club members access past the guard shack, down a winding little road along a riverbottom, and then past the railroad trestles (yeah, those Trestles), then near the Officers’ Club, the buildings a last remnant of a time when the entire area was part of a Spanish Land Grant. Nice location, in some trees in a usually sedate (wave-wise) cove right between Church and San Onofre.

Beach access was also given to Marines, and dependents. In Fallbrook, most of my friends’ dads, or moms, or both, worked on the base or were Marines. Kids of Marines came and went, on some three year cycle. My family was in Fallbrook because, once there, my mom didn’t want to move the increasingly large family elsewhere. Though my father remains a Marine (of the Corps, to the core), he went to work splicing telephone cables all over the base for the rest of his career.

Children of Civil Service workers didn’t have beach parking privileges, and any other surfers granted access on the base had to park in a lot* separated by those whispy trees particular to windy parts of California. I think, of all the times I went to San Onofre, mostly between 1966 and 1969, whoever I was with got to park on the beach.

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PHILLIP HARPER AND THE JUMPING SAILFISH- 1967

There were fishing boats offshore, seagulls circling them. The waves were glassing-off, decent sized, and it wasn’t even crowded for a Saturday afternoon. Phillip had talked my parents (my mom, mostly) into allowing me to go with him. My mom loved Phillip from all the times he went to the beach with her driving the big wagon, he almost like another one of her seven kids. She probably bought Phillip’s ‘otherwise I’ll have to surf alone’ argument.

“Just don’t go 101,” she, no doubt said. “Slaughter Alley? No, Mrs. Dence, we’ll go across the base.”

Phillip had a vehicle, probably the VW truck that he and I tried to sleep in on the cliff above Swamis. There’s a house there now, and, somewhere after midnight, we were rousted by the cops.

Wow; I got immediately off subject.

Okay, so we were 16. “We have our parents’ permission,” Phillip said, me backing him up with a “Yeah; we do.” “Well, kids; you don’t have ours.” “So, what do we do, Officers?”

We actually drove halfway home before Phillip pulled over, asked himself and me, “What would Bucky do?”**

“He wouldn’t go back home,” each of us said. “No way.”

Still, by the time we got back to Swamis, others were in the water. Three, five… others.

But, at San Onofre, that Saturday afternoon, between sets, a fish leapt out of the water. It was huge, with a spear-like nose, and mid-leap, mid arc, seemed frozen in the air. Both Phillip and I saw it, looked at each other. Maybe one or both of us screamed. Phillip broke (first) toward the beach. He paddled so fast he almost outran a wave, but didn’t (of course), and it broke right on his back and he had to swim.

I’d like to think I gave him a lift.

When Phillip and I got to the shallows we looked back out at the glassy afternoon waves, sparkles on the incoming lines, the fishing boats motoring back and forth offshore.

San Onofre, we told each other, and others (critics always mentioned ‘Old Man’s’), was a place where you could make the waves as difficult as you wanted. You could ride like an Old Man, or you could take off behind a peak. Indeed, there was at least one guy out, “Probably on the Hobie team” Phillip said, who was back-dooring the peaks, ripping across the faces.

“Why’d we paddle in?” One or both of us asked. I’m guessing we laughed, paddled back out, warily scanning the water around us, at least for a while.

*This will show up in a story of “Bill Birt, ‘Skip-rope,’ and the Stolen Racks.”

**Bucky Davis was a surfer, probably my second surfing hero, and dated Phillip’s sister Trish. He’ll show up again in a (not yet written) San Onofre story, “’Cowabunga!’ and ‘Everybody Must Get Stoned.’”

In fact, telling that story is the reason I started Real Surfers.

We’ll get there.

Thanks for coming along.