Surfing Vancouver Island  

Foondroppings 01  

The Ghost of Surf Trips Past

Tue, 08 Apr 1997

I pulled into the parking lot of Delaware's Indian River Inlet in search of anything that would break the streak of unrelenting poor surf conditions. The inlet would be my last stop in a two hour surf check of the Delmarva Peninsula. As I wheeled into the part of the lot that surfers use I noticed an old 1971 Datsun pickup truck parked by itself. I used to have one of those, mine was white -this one was pale yellow.

In 1972 I bought mine new for $2100 in San Diego after my beloved VW bug blew up and burned up on a trip to Mexico. Over a period of months I added a small camper cap some wide tires and white spoke wheels -cool (at least I thought). In the pickup bed area I had built some small storage spaces out of plywood next to the wheel wells. I was so proud of that work I etched my name on the bottom of one of the cabinet lids.

That Datsun truck was my ride to many wonderful and not so wonderful surfing trips all up and down both the Right and Left Coasts. It waited for me patiently, parked at some famous and not so famous breaks. Not once did it ever break down or leave me stranded.

Finally, in 1981, with 104,000 miles on it, I sold it to a young guy from New Market for $500. On the day he came to get it, he brought his young wife and infant son up to the house. I could tell by the look in the wife's eyes this was a major purchase for the young family. The look of concern and hope on her face prompted me to tell her that the truck had been very well taken care of and that I was sure it would give them many more miles of service. I looked at the blond baby and rubbed his head as he cooed into his mother's neck and said it might last long enough for the kid to drive. She smiled sweetly and said thanks.

As I pulled up near the yellow truck I noticed that the step bumper in back was dented just like mine had been after I backed into one of those cement pylons at Huntington Beach Pier. The old camper cap on the yellow truck also looked dented the same way mine was after I had stood on it to check the surf from the parking lot at Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. And the left front fender looked dented like mine had been after a couple of surfers ran into me one night while I was parked in the lot at the East Deck Motel at Ditch Plains, Montauk. I was starting to get a real erie feeling about this yellow pretender. I got out of my Explorer to go take a better look.

Before I could get too far I spied a young, blond shortboarder making his way from the beach, after a session at the inlet, over to the truck. I shuffled over to ask how the surf was and to look at the truck closer. The boy seemed slightly amused I would be interested in the crappy conditions and maybe thought I was too old to really care about surfing. Next, I told him I used to have a truck like his and asked him where he got it? He replied, "My dad gave it to me." My interest alarm went right off the scale and I blurted out, "What's your dad's name?" When he told me I yelled, "Holy Shit, boy that's my old truck!" The kid looked skeptical. I said, "Look in the back if you've still got the storage spaces. Check for a name on the bottom of the right hand cabinet lid." He opened the back of the cap and looked under the lid. Nodding his head he came up smiling, "Your name Foondoggy?" I thought I was gonna cry.

I quickly told the boy of the circumstances of selling the truck to his dad and then slowly gave him the history of all the places that damned old truck had driven me to. He was amazed at the number of breaks the truck had stopped at. The truck now had over 200,000 miles on it. It had needed a rebuilt engine, a new trany, new seats and some bodywork to cover some significant rustout. But take away the pale yellow paint and essentially, it was the same truck.

I asked if I could sit in it and when I did I got very choked by the emotion I got grabbing the old steering wheel and clutching the gearshift. I was stunned to see the old oak gearshift knob Mrs.Foon had given me was still there with my initials WFO still faintly visible on the top.

As I got out, on a whim, I reached under the dashboard and felt around up back of the glove box. I pulled out a piece of paper I thought might still be there. On the paper was a hand drawn map and instructions on how to reach several secret surf spots I had scouted in the late 70s in lower North Carolina. Glancing at the map, I wondered how many of those spots were still not well known. I had forgotten most of them. I thanked the boy for letting me see my old truck again and handed the map over to him. I urged him to take the truck back to the spots on the map. "You won't have to do much navigating," I said, "It already knows the way." I wished him good luck and went back to my Explorer. I said as I got back in, "You'll be lucky to go as far and see as much as that old truck has." Then I laughed. No way was the Explorer ever going to see and do what the Datsun did, and neither again would I.


The Warrior Within

Mon, 05 May 1997

"Men grow tired of sleep, love, singing and dancing, sooner than war."

"War has been the most successful of all our cultural traditions."
-Robert Ardrey

Last week, having received a minor rebuff regarding suggesting we all be careful when place ourselves in harms way, I spent the weekend researching (surfing),reading and watching a few programs, most of which had to with the aggressive nature of sport. We've all heard the cliché that competition is a metaphor for war. With the advent of "sports" like "Ultimate Fighting" (two men walk in the ring, only one walks out), I'm inclined to think that the line between the fact and the metaphor is blurring.

Scientists have suggested that the sensation we know as an adrenaline rush, is really an evolutionary phenomena which our early ancestors developed as a result of being in extreme danger. We all know what happens when those hormones kick in and the early purpose of this physical manifestation was to aid survival. There's a lot of literature on this topic, but generally speaking, modern man still experiences the need for these sensations and often they are self-inflicted.

Throughout man's early history, let's face it, there was lots of fighting and killing. It could be said the superiority of the human race as a species is directly proportional to it's ability to kill everything that threaten it. (Survival of the fittest) Boy those must have been fun times. But we are much more civilised now (?).What do we do to satisfy this biological urge to dominate. Some people say fighting competition was originally created to help train warriors (Javelin throw) and eventually, evolved in to sport. Leaping ahead for the sake of brevity, the question is, are our sporting competitions devolving into mere excuses for organised war? (Football, soccer, Lacrosse, Hockey, rugby, demolition derby) Hang in there, there is a point here.

A program I saw this weekend tried to explore the nature, reason and attractiveness of "extreme" sporting activity. It was not presented in a respectable and intellectual manner, but by a brainclouded, pierced and tattooed aficionado of several extreme sports. I was stunned and angered at the blatant appeal to violence and danger. During a video montage of some very dangerous sports, we got to see Laird being towed into a wave at Jaws off Maui. Impressive for sure, but the whole thrust of the show was to enhance and accentuate the "balls out" nature and machoness of those who threw caution to the wind, without even a mention of how deadly they could be to the inexperienced or unskilled. I was disturbed by the caviller way in which "putting your life on the line" was suggested for the sake of having bragging rights about participating in some dangerous activity. Are we all so needy of that adrenaline rush that fighting and killing once satisfied, that we now foolishly attempt things that would needlessly put our lives in danger? I had to answer this question for myself. With qualifications, Yes.

All my life I've been a self described, "careful" person. As a result I can count on one hand the number of times I've ever really felt in danger. Sure, I've taken my chances in surf bigger than I was comfortable with, and exulted in being able to survive it, or learned a valuable lesson if I got pounded. But most times those were calculated risks taken in which my knowledge and experience helped to give me an advantage. I refuse to do something totally stupid or reckless. I know several who have, and they have paid a significant price for it. Hospital statistics prove more people are now injured participating in sporting activity than at any other time. I'm not talking about a cut or scrape; serious lacerations, contusions, breaks and head trauma. You gotta wonder about scenes of extreme in-line skaters or skateboarders leaping over cars with no safety gear. What are they trying to prove?

I spent a few hours on the beach, ignoring a major rainstorm, in deep introspection. I made up a little slogan last year - Surf Free or Die, which is derivative of the New Hampshire State motto -Live Free or Die. I started to consider what that really means to me. It works on a few levels the least of which is the literal - I would never willingly give up my life to surf. But what is the meaning that really connects?

On the surface I like to think, like the patriots of New Hampshire, it seeks to declare I am not satisfied to surf under restrictions or rules. We all do it and most of us are not happy about it, but we survive. Beach laws and regulations are a part of our daily surfing experience. They all suck and we all endure it. I'm not really that happy with our own set of rules and etiquette, yet I know that for the most part I will continue to obey the rules of our sport, otherwise there would be anarchy. Like most surfers, to "Surf Free" means almost to surf alone on unrestricted beaches. This is the purest or "soul" sense of the experience, and these days is a rare occasion.

I've never really bought into the surf contest argument either. The sport is too subjective for me to be judged and I've never really understood the rules anyway. Yet there must be many out there who feed their ancient need to compete, struggle, and dominate (kill-metaphorically speaking) or contests would not survive.

The thing that struck me the most about this insistent need to thrash, gash, pummel and destroy presented in this program, was the primal glee and satisfaction some people get from the activity. You could say we never really outgrow or heritage, be it early survival, waging war, or violent competition - what's the diff? Maybe as we get older our needs to be this way diminishes, I know mine have but I cannot ultimately judge the young men and women who go forth to compete, dominate and conquer in the sporting arena. After all, they are just satisfying their Warrior within. I just hope for their sake they manage to survive this phase of their life and be able to look back and reflect positively upon what they experienced and learned. Otherwise they'll wind up just being some hospital statistic.

"Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom." -Hermann Hesse

"There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified the concern for one's own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind." -Joseph Heller

Ricky Cheatwood wrote:

My father was a professional boxer in his twenties, I boxed as an amateur and my father talked me out of the ring. He did me a big favor. When I see him having trouble walking or keeping his balance he still says,

" If I had only known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself !"

Ricky, this quote is generally attributed to Eubie Blake, but fathers are allowed to use it.


Hog Heaven...In your dreams

07 May 1997

One for my Right Coast Brothers.

Oct.18, 1996

The call came right in the middle of my post-session nap. I groggily picked up:


"Hello, you Fuck!" It was the dulcet voice of my old college roommate and longtime surf bud, Stan. He always greeted me that way and never failed to burst into laughter when he did.

"Well hello Mister big shot stockbroker. How many millions did to make today?"

"Hey Foon, I did real well today thank you. How'er you doin'?"

"Well I just got back from a 2 hours session at the homebreak that was schweeeeet! I'm tellin' you Stan, Lili's been out twirling around way off in the North Atlantic and we've been catching some quality juice for the last three days. When's the last time you were in?"

"Labor Day, and don't remind me what a slave I am to my job. Look Foon, I got a proposition for you. How would you like to go on a boat ride?"

"I'd rather go surfing." I said dryly but my interest was peaked.

"How would you like to do both?" He started to laugh already knowing my answer.

"Don't tell me.....You got the Boat!!" I Yelled.

Stan was the Senior VP of a brokerage house on Wall Street. He and his wife and two kids lived very comfortably in a big house out on Long Island. Stan's weaknesses were big sport Uts, a ski chalet in Pennsylvania, and surfing vacations. He owned about ten boards dating back to the early 70s and ranging in size from a small 6'8" swallow tail, to a 9'6" Weber Noserider (original).. He had some classy boards in between but seemed to favor a 7'8" round pintail.

Stan's boss, the President of the company, owned a big 65 foot motor yacht that he liked to have sailed down to the Caribbean in anticipation of his winter vacation. He usually paid someone to do this but Stan, a qualified seaman, had apparently convinced him to let Stan take it down the safe and sane intracoastal waterway along the Right Coast. It appeared that for the next two weeks Stan and his 17 year old son, Griffin (an excellent young surfer) would be motoring down the coast to the Bahamas. "It's a dirty job Foon, but someone's gotta do it." The smile in Stan's voice was infectious.

"So what do you say Foon, wanna do the coast?" I quickly calculated my leave and the number of projects I had to finish before the end of Rocktober and the number came up "3". I had about a three day opportunity to sign onto this adventure.

"Tellya what Stan," I said, "How 'bout we explore the part of the Delmarva Peninsula we've never seen?" I was referring to, of course, the Virginia part of the peninsula I call the "Mystery Coast". 50 miles of virtually virgin, barrier islands and saltmarshes that are accessible only by boat and stretch along the peninsula from Wallops Island to the mouth of the Chesapeake.

The boss's boat, curiously named "Dow Jones", was docked in Tom's River, NJ. It would take less than a day for Stan to come get me. We agreed to meet in Ocean City, Maryland. From there we'd make a slow and careful search of some magnificent barrier island coast. It was a calculated risk to ignore good surf we knew about in search of unknown breaks during Lili's good swell.

Stan docked at the Ocean City municipal pier the next day at noon. His face was flushed with excitement. "Hey Foon, we were rockin' pretty good out near the mouth of the Delaware River. The buoys must be goin off." I didn't need the buoys to tell me something was up. I just seen a near perfect peeler at 8th street on my way in. Even with the slight onshore wind, things looked good. The break was crowded. With a couple of brewskis and some cigars firmly planted in our faces, Stan motored the big boat out of the OC inlet and headed South.

Stan looked good. He's the fittest middle-aged man I know. In college he would have qualified for the Olympics in long distance running had he not been run over by a drunk during a surfing trip in Florida, snapping his right leg in half. Though he never came back fully from the accident, Stan remained and avid runner and sportsman. He could "do 5" (miles) without breathing hard and his body fat was the lowest I've ever seen on a man his age. Bald a cue ball, we still called Stan, "the Man". Since the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, Griffin looked like his old man did 25 years ago - a perfectly conditioned specimen, and a full head of hair.

The boss's yacht was one of those hugely expensive luxury barges that no self respecting sailor would own. Strictly a showcase piece he never let it out in the open ocean very far, preferring to cruise the intracoastal waterways and the quiet Caribbean. It had 3 full bedrooms, a large galley, a plush "salon", a big flying bridge and enough amenities to start your own resort. Everything was fully stocked and first class -food, drink, and entertainment. It even had an 8 foot zodiac rubber boat for short hops. The Coast Guard radio gave us up to the minute weather and marine conditions. As we headed South, it looked like the weather would hold. Now if only Lili would give some swells.

We bypassed Assateague Island completely and docked late in the afternoon at a sheltered part of Chincoteague. That night we took our map to a wonderful local seafood restaurant on shore to make our plans. The string of barrier islands had some curious names; Metomkin, Cedar, Parramore, Hog (next to Machipongo Inlet), Cobb, Wreck, Smith and at the very tip of the peninsula, Fisherman's Island. (Coming over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel I had often seen good surf wrapping around the tip of Fishermans).

Over beers and fresh oysters we questioned the locals about the probability of surf at any one of these islands. Finally, an old fisherman, under the influence of a couple of our beers said, "Yeah, I seen waves breakin' off Hog Island. The sandbars got filled in by them hurricanes, Edouard and Hortense. You gotta be careful boating out there at low tide, but on the incoming tide you can see some big surf." Our eyes all met, sparkling with glee. We were goin' to Hog Island.

The next morning, way before dawn, Stan pulled the big boat out of the slip and aimed it South. He's used to getting up early, running a half dozen miles, then commuting on the Long Island railroad into New York City for work. I on the other hand needed a good jolt of black coffee to get my ticker going. By sunrise we were about half way there. Griffin had the helm on the flying bridge, Stan was scanning the islands with binoculars, and I was nursing a small hangover.

In a little more than two hours Griffin yelled, "Dad, starboard about a mile down," as he throttled down the boat to half speed. Stan and I raced up to the bridge to see. There in the distance, shimmering in the morning sun, with just a slight veil of spray blowing off the top, a perfect 8 foot A-Frame. The wall came over with a solid "whummp" but seemed to peel better to the South toward an absolutely empty beach that curved around to an inlet. We watched as two more waves broke in approximately the same place and peeled the same way. This is the way it's supposed to be. Clean empty beaches, clear, warm, water, good surf miles from anyone, in a place completely undisturbed by condos, beach replenishment projects, tourists and traffic. It was hard to believe this was the Right Coast. Stan looked down at his map to check his bearings, then looked up smiling. "Gentlemen.....We are in Hog Heaven." He beamed.

We decided to anchor offshore a ways and take the zodiac to the beach. This time of year the water was still warm and the bugs weren't too bad. We would set up a small camp to come in to if we got tired, or hungry. We launched the zodiac and started throwing our stuff in it. Stan got in with his video camera and was taping Griffin who was so stoked he could hardly talk. I went to get aboard, standing on the diver's shelf at the stern of the boat while I cast off the line. Just as I was about to step in, a swell move the rubber boat sideways and I fell forward, face first in the water. Stan was filming all this but had to stop 'cause he was laughing so hard. Watch for me on America's Funniest Home Videos.

Lili's sets were well spaced apart and we had no problem timing our short ride to the beach. Once there, we could check the break better. Sure enough, though by definition a beach break, the island's beach tailed off to the South curving into the Machipongo inlet. The place looked like a shallow, fast, point break that ended in the deep water of the inlet. Rides, depending on swell length and form, could easily go for 50-75 yards. We all mentally rode the next set, sizing up what faced us.

With a hoot we all hit the warm surf at once. Stan was on a 7'8" round pintail, Griffin started with a short thruster, but switched soon to longer speed shape, I had my trusty channel bottom Toobs BC. Griffin tore the place apart from the getgo. Stan and I took our time reading the takeoffs to minimize the pound factor. Griffin dialed into a hunky overhead wall as I was coming out from being axed so I had the water view of his ride. As he took the drop, he gashed a precise mid-face turn and pulled into the sweetest hook. Squatting at midboard toward the end of the ride, the lip began to splatter on his back. Instead of grabbing a rail to steady himself, he stood up through the lip and turned quickly back down the wave for speed, powering out of the section.

Not one to dwell on my own successes, my personal best came late in the session after I'd eaten my share of speed walls. Both Stan and Griffin had taken early set waves and I was left to move out to find the last one. I scrambled over a few and spotted the last one, big and ugly -too broad to peel evenly, too steep for a normal takeoff and a certifiable widowmaker (by my standards). I could hear Stan screaming inside, "TAKE IT YOU KOOK!!!" So against my better judgment, I turned and dug in.

Looking back I quickly realized it was a late takeoff or bail. I angled my bodyboard on a severe line hoping it would carry me through the drop without a freefall. With the lip cascading water all over me I was launched down the face of the wave instantly fighting for edge and praying for speed. Spray shooting off my inside rail blinded me and I kept waiting for the ax to drop. I could hear Stan and Griffin hooting like crazy. I finally cleared my eyes to discover myself racing along the top third of an 8 foot wall hanging in the face with two inches of rail and one fin, screaming at the top of my lungs. Convinced I would now make the shoulder that tapered off in the distance to the inlet, I dropped down the face to do a little "stylin". This was a huge tactical error. As I came back up the wave face from what I thought was a pretty cool bottom gash, I looked up into the face of...... In minutes I was back on the beach draining my sinuses of what had to be a gallon of seawater. Stan said later it was the second biggest wave, next to his.

By mid-afternoon, the tide had come in sufficiently to make our break a big, dangerous, dumping, asskicker. Getting the zodiac back out to the yacht was a little more interesting now and of course Stan had to time it so he could stand the thing up on it's tail as we punch through the top of a wave. oh, what fun. Back on the yacht hot showers, cold beer and stinky cigars were the reward for our efforts as Griffin took the big boat down toward the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.

Later that evening we docked at a marina in Hampton VA and went ashore for another great seafood dinner. After a few cold ones I came to realize, in my entire life living on the Right Coast, this was an experience I'd only dreamed about.

The next morning I awoke to the phone again. I opened my eyes and wondered how I'd gotten back in my own bedroom at home. Still confused I picked up:

"Hello you Fuck, how's the surf?"

"Stan?? Where's the boat?"

"Oh my boss decided to sail it down himself this year. Maybe I can get it next year. How ya been Foon?.....Foon?......Yo Foonboy, you there?"


Unhappy Memorial Day Weekend

May 28 1997

Bad weather, injury, demon drugs, nightmares. What a weekend. The Mid-Atlantic was windy, rainy, cool and mostly surfless. Many an outdoor activity was canceled due to bad weather. A lot of hot-dogs went uneaten. Since Mrs.Foon is in Helsinki, I did not heed the bad weather warnings and went about collecting a few injuries. I won't tell you the real story, but suffice it to say, I won't be skating the neighborhood half-pipe ever again.

The doctors at the emergency room were much less concerned by the hellacious ankle sprain that unfortunately reinjured the foot I screwed up two years ago. No, what concerned them most was the x-ray of my wrist which showed good size bone chip. They suggested a soft cast until they could determine if surgery was necessary which would require rehab of 6-10 weeks, or virtually the whole summer. All I wanted to know is if I could get a waterproof cast. The doctors looked at me as though I was a 12 year old.

"Listen my friend," the young doctor said softly, "I don't know many 47 year old guys who would even try a half-pipe and not come in ready for a bodycast. You are very lucky to have damaged only what you have." Yeah, thanks Doc. So now I'm a posterboy for middle-aged assholes who don't know their not supposed to try stuff like that.

They loaded me up with Percs and promised to call me about the surgery. The percs I think were less for the pain and more to quell my self anger and desire to go in the ocean. I fear my greatest injuries will occur when I finally have to confess to Mrs.Foon what happened.(Get the bodybag Doc) I predict, if I survive, I'll be back in the water in 3 weeks. I've done this rehab stuff before. It works and there are corners you can cut if you're careful. This may sound optimistic, but, as my co-workers have pointed out today, I'm not thinking too clearly right now.

The first night I was on the percs I had a very vivid dream, a nightmare that woke me up screaming. I dreamt that as a result of my injury I was absent from my homebreak for a whole summer. Finally, in the midst of a perfect Fall weekend with Hurricane generated swells heading for our beach, I was able to go in for a session.

When I got to the dune path I saw a long line of surfers, bodyboarders and others lined up to get on the beach. Each was holding a plastic, colored ticket they'd bought at a little booth which stood at the entrance to the path. A small sign said, "Waves $3". I couldn't imagine what this was about, but I forked up my $3 to see. At regular 15 minute intervals, lifeguards would clear the water of the 20 or so surfers, and let 20 more go in. You could ride all the waves that came in 15 minutes, then you had to rotate out of the lineup. If there were no waves in your 15 minutes, tough. Snaking, pushing, swearing, spearings, runovers, dunkings, fistfights and attempted drownings were rampant. When it came time for my turn the young guard pulled me aside and said, "You sure you want to go in there Pops? It gets pretty mean when the surf is good." I looked at the young man, but my mind could not form an answer to his question, all I could think was, "WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE!!!!" At that point, the guard looked at my upper arm and said, "Ooops, no matter, you can't go in anyway. You don't have your O-head surf proficiency tattoo. You'll have to leave. You can get a refund at the booth."

Numbly I staggered back to the booth and asked for my $3. In the booth was Corky Carroll, smiling his big gaptoothed grin. "That's too bad Pops, maybe you should have gotten that proficiency test before you came to the beach. Hey, how 'bout a nice cool Ocean Spray surfberry juice drink instead of that $3. Or could I interest you in one of our "Surf $3 or Die" baseball hats?"

At that point I woke up shrieking with the lingering image of my hands firmly gripped around Corky's throat. It had to be the percs, man.

So, for the next several weeks, I probably won't be surfing, and I definitely won't be drumming. I guess I'll just sit back, take the drugs and read a good book. Does anyone know of a good list of books I could get as a starting point. Yep, it's the percs.


"Saddle your dreams before you ride them."
-Mary Webb

He's Alive!!!

31 May 1997

Tommy and Brad got to the beach just as soon as Tommy's mom would take them, 7:00 am. She waved good-bye and told them to call her from the 7-11 down the block when they were ready to come home. This weekend day at the beach was just what they needed to take their minds off the fact they had two more weeks of school before they were out for good and could surf all summer.

They swiftly slid into their inexpensive wetsuits and zipped up. Tommy tossed the bar of wax to Brad when he was done, knelt to attach his ankle leash and jogged toward the waters edge scanning the lineup for waves. ALL RIGHT!! No one out and some respectable waves to tear apart. Brad caught up to him and they both launched themselves into the shorebreak. The water was cold but their frantic paddling would compensate by getting their tickers going.

Both Tommy and Brad were second year surfers, but they knew everything about the sport - equipment, contests, clothes, music, language, and surfing personalities, but not too much about the mechanics of waves and conditions. Both boys, paddled for and missed several waves before Brad caught one, stood slowly and executed an off the lip cutback. It was too bad he wasn't anywhere near the lip of the wave when he did it. He hadn't quite figured that part out yet, but didn't let that little detail prevent him from practicing the pose he saw daily in pictures that occupied every inch of his bedroom wall.

As they sat waiting for the next set of waves they marveled that there was no one else at this beach. There were always a few longboarders and that old boogie boarder who managed to catch all the good waves. Still, they delighted in the fact that they had it all to themselves. As they looked out toward the ocean and the strengthening sun both were startled by the sound. They looked around wildly trying to find out where it was coming from. Both realized, to their horror, it was that sinister bass line from the old movie "Jaws," getting louder and louder -
Da-dum,......Da-dum,........bum-bum-bum-bum, bum-bum- bum-bum, bum-bum-bum-bum......!!!!!

The boys were seized by a fit of terror and they swung their shortboards around to paddle in. As they looked toward the beach both suddenly stopped - and so did the music.

There he was, limping slowly along the dunepath assisted by an old wooden cane, covered by his black wetsuit and clutching his black boogieboard. His left arm up to the elbow was encased in a blue plastic bag firmly duct taped to his wetsuit. As he slowly and awkwardly hobbled down the path, his squinty eyes could barely be seen beneath the brim of a dirty, white, Miami Hurricanes, baseball cap, scanning the break for the best waves. He sat down on the sand and painfully tried to put on a pair of fins with just one hand. The fin that went on his grossly swollen left foot was cut down to almost a stub and the foot pocket had been altered to accommodate the softball sized foot and ankle.

Brad glared accusingly at Tommy. "You said...!!!" He blurted, then lost his ability to talk as the enormity of what he just witnessed struck him.

"I know." Tommy said softly, both in disgust and wonderment. "Billy was at the skate park, man and said the guy fell off that 8 foot halfpipe wall like a sack of wet laundry, bounced once and laid very still. They thought he was dead!!" Tommy continued, "My mom was the X- ray tech at the emergency room. She took his films and swore he wouldn't be able to go in the water the rest of the summer. She said they gave him enough demerol and percocets to kill a T-Rex." Yet there he was, as always a constant presence at this beach. His stupid nickname was Foondoggy and he was paddling out using just one leg, his left arm laying limply on the deck of his board.

As he slowly paddled by the boys he beamed that retarded grin he always had and said, "Mornin' fellas. Looks like we got some good waves today! Got a bum ankle so I'm only taking lefts." Before the boys could even mouth the words, "Fuck you, Asshole," the old guy said, "Hey, watch out! Here comes a set!" Surprised, the boys looked up too late and got caught by the first two waves. As they struggled to get back on their boards and break through the whitewater they saw the old guy expertly pick his wave out of the set, paddle with one arm and leg, slide smoothly under the lip, sideslipping ever so slightly to stay in the pocket. There were never any tricks or maneuvers, just perfect position, then out the back, his baseball cap swiveling like radar already looking outside for the next wave.

Brad looked at Tommy. "What's it gonna take to get rid of this guy? Maybe we can slip a firecracker in one of his cigars and blind him." Tommy seriously considered this for a moment, then said, "Forget it. He knows this spot so good he'd still go out. No," he laughed realizing the futility of it, "we're gonna have to kill him to keep him off this beach this summer. My mom said he had a real violent reaction to some Disco music someone was playing on a boombox in the emergency room. Hey, your sister got any of them old Bee Gees tapes?"

Some of you may remember I was injured two years ago and had to be out of the water for 5 months with a bum foot. Luckily these booboos are not nearly as severe, but having survived a long and difficult physical therapy, I learned one thing. The sport of surfing has, for those of us who love it, healing powers which only those who have gone back in the water, injured, can understand. It is not so much the physical aspect of exercise. My short session healed my spirit in a way I can not possibly put into words. Most of you know what I mean.

Today, for a short time I was alone, at my homebreak, with a bum foot and chipped wrist and I was actually happy. Gleeful I had decided, only a week after the fall, to make an effort to go in, even if it was only to paddle around and try a few dinky waves. Ducking into the cold whitewater, coming up for fresh air, feeling the warmth of the sun on my wetsuit - you can't find that kind of healing in a pill or a hospital. The process itself makes one just happy to be alive. Seeya out there.
(goin left)

This book, "Dogs of Winter" has got me spooked. Kem Nunn thinks a lot like I do, but the scariest thing is his picture on the dustcover. Look at him and you will see me. Made my hair stand on end. It's like we're related. And no, it's not the drugs this time.


Boss, I'm truckin'

June 11 1997

Tylenol madness...... What else could it be? I'm off the percs but the Doc suggested Tylenol for minor pain. It's ok, but it doesn't do a thing for my new disease....Road Fever!!!!

Every spring it comes on me, a lot later this year since our Winter lingered into April and May, but inevitably it comes - lust for the open highway. I wake up at night with visions of white lines on the interstate clicking under my wheels counting off the seconds until I get where I'm going. My injuries make me hesitant to make plans but the Doc says I won't need surgery and my healing with physical therapy is going remarkably well (for an old man).

At 2:30 am I'm looking in a photo album of road trips past, trying to assuage the desire to hit the highway. There are pictures of me at the Duck Research Pier, Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills, the Lighthouse, Salvo, Rodanthe and farther down the Carolina Coast, TopSail, Wrightsville, Kure and finally....the secret spot. The pictures don't quench the flame, they fuel the fire. But I can't just pick up and leave, I've got responsibilities, a job with several projects in the pipe, a home to care for, social obligations to fulfill. What I need is an EXCUSE.

I hit the speed dial glancing at the clock barely caring it is only 3:00 am.

"Hello, Mom?"

"Who the &^%#@*&!! is this???!!"

"Mom, how many people would call you at this hour and call you Mom???!!"

"Foonboy???? Is that you??? Are you all right??? I know you wife is gone for two weeks......Did you fall and hurt yourself AGAIN??? Wait, are you by any chance in JAIL?? If so, there's no way I'm makin' bail boy, you're on your own."

"No mom, none of that. It's just that it's been such a long time since I've seen you and I.... well I just wanted you too know I miss you."

"................Foonboy, it's three-*&$%(*@ o'clock in the morning, and you miss me? Why can't you miss me during daylight hours? What meds are you takin'?"

"Just Tylenol Mom. Say, is there anything that needs fixing around your house, maybe some painting, yardwork?"

"Why now that you mention it son, yes there are a few chores I can't get your worthless brother-in-law to do around here, Why?"

"That's great mom, I'll be down tomorrow, call my nephew and tell him to phonemail me a complete surf report for all our spots. See ya soon."

I got my mother NEEDS me to come down an help her. I leave a phonemail message for my boss telling him of a family emergency in North Carolina (that hedge is DANGEROUSLY high - it NEEDS trimming!!!) I update him on the five projects I'm baby-sitting and how I will keep tabs by phone from NC. Then, assuming he'll want to guilt me with some argument about how this is not an ideal time to be gone, I remind him of just how many weekends, and nights I've worked to bail him out of countless jams this year. Finally I blubber into the phone, "My Mommy Neeeeeeeds me Boss, I gotta go."

After I pick myself up off the floor laughing I'm a whirlwind of activity, finding my gear, which Mrs.Foon thinks by hiding behind the cellar stairs I won't find, HA! Pickin' appropriate road music, throwing out perishables (are cats perishable?, naaaa) leaving notes for the neighbors to collect the mail, pitch the newspapers and water the plants. I pack the truck and head back to bed, exhausted but excited. Tomorrow before light, I'll fire up the mean green machine, slap some "Little Feat" in the tape deck, pour my first cup of liquid lightning, set the cruise control on "Barbecue" and aim myself South.

Watch out Wrightsville, I'm moving a little slowly these days on land, but BY GOD, I don't have to stand and plant a sore foot to ride my waves. Hang on, I'm comin' mom.

When I get back we will all have read our assigned book, right class? You know what you have to do.



June 18 1997

"The great pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do."
-Walter Bagehot

Father's Day dawned cool, damp, and gray. The forecast promised this would burn off and with a freshening breeze, turn into a perfect Carolina day. Never happened Jack.

I found my nephew sleeping on his living room couch and gently woke him with my standard line, "YA SNOOZE YA LOSE, KOOK!!!" He had only been asleep a few hours having been up to all hours watching his favorite band "StinkBomb" at some club. Inspite of this he managed to do a passable imitation of someone who was alive. Two coffees and some Krispy Kremes later we had checked every break on Wrightsville Beach in search of waves, with no luck.

Our last chance was at Shell Island condo, the North end. As we parked in the public access lot we could see a few cars with empty racks. We trotted up the boardwalk and crossed the dune only to find 6 guys just coming out of some miserably small surf. I immediately took note of the fact not one of these wheezing men was younger than 40.

My nephew continued on down the beach to take a closer look while I hung back to question the geez squad about the kneehigh waves. I was kind of interested in this group since they were a collection of older, balding, paunchy and outta shape guys, just like me. Their equipment ranged from an authentic but well preserved Bing concave noserider to a modern tri-fin longboard by Stewart. As we began to talk conditions and equipment the camaraderie was instant and strong. It soon became clear we were all retreads....guys who'd began surfing in the 60s and 70s, stopped to work on careers and start families, then got the old siren song from the sea. It wasn't long before we were comparing homebreaks, bragging about hurricane swells we'd surfed, and revealing secrets spots (Boy do I have some place to go now when a storm threatens the Carolinas). Their roots were varied.... Cocoa Beach, Myrtle Beach, Hatteras, Folly, Kiawah, and New Jersey. Most were now locals but a few, like me, were from out of state.

The overwhelming impression I got was, this was a really nice bunch of guys. No attitude at all. It's as if their second experience with the sport was so much more rewarding with all of the peer pressure gone and no searching aimlessly for waves, jobs or places to fit in. There were no longboarders vs. shortboarders and no aggrotude out in the break. They were just surfers, enjoying the thrill of doing it all again, and loving every minute they could be in the water. When I was asked what I rode, I thought when I revealed I was a bodyboarder it would illicit some form of teasing or humor. But one of the guys said he thought you had to be in much better condition to handle a bodyboard in large surf in that both arms, and legs were used to paddle out. I agreed that riding one was easier, and I was very glad I could use both arms and legs to get out when it was dumping hard. Then they took notice of my ankle brace and wrist cast with wondering eyes. I said, "Don't ask" and immediately they all understood and accepted. At our age everyone gets an unexpected injury once in awhile, and we all don't mend as fast as we used to.

Soon we were promising to lookout for one another this summer. My nephew returned and declared the crap that was making a mockery of the word "surf" was unworthy of going out. He suggested even a longboard could only get a minimal ride. With that 4 of the 6 men hoisted their boards and headed back down to the beach. In the great tradition of surf-starved Right Coasters they were determined to live up to the credo, "If it's breakin, we're riding." I stood and watched the guys paddling/walking out as they laughed and joked about powermoves and noserides. I realized it didn't matter how bad the surf was. They were just glad to be out on a gloomy Father's Day morning, doing what they loved.

Footnote: Later that day my Bro-in-law and nephew invited me to hit some golf balls at the driving range at their club. I've done this a few times in my life and actually played a round of golf 10 years ago (Malibu Country Club as a guest). On this dull, gray Father's Day there weren't too many players on the course (they were all watching the OPEN) After a half basket of balls, my Bro-in-law bets me $50 on the best of 10 balls for distance. Now I've been told by a few pros I've got a "natural swing". What screws me up is when I think about all the stuff you're supposed to do to hit a golf ball. Then I'm a mess.

After Bro-in-law had put one of his 10 balls about 200 yards out, I was slicing and shanking 9 of mine- none over 150. As I teed up my last ball I impulsively grabbed a Big Bertha driver out of the bag, but figured I'd still be forking over my $50. I addressed the ball and cranked up my swing. Just as I was about to unwind I heard my Bro-in-law say to my nephew, "Ya know your Uncle Foondoggy looks more like his father every day."

With that piece of startling information to distract me from thinking of anything else, I unwound and schhhhhhhhhwaaaaaacccckkkkked!!!!!! that little white pill straight, low and about 250 yards. Thanks for the $50, Dad. I owe ya a beer.


Ana-Ana Bo-Bana

Tue, 08 Jul 1997

Normally, if I want to get to the beach fast I make Mrs.Foon drive. She's has a lead foot and a sixth sense about speed traps. Also, I have seen her flirt and pout her way out of numerous infractions. When speed is of the essence, I toss the keys to her.

We were heading out on July 2nd for our scheduled 5 day stay at the Foon Palace. Reports up and down the Mid-Atlantic said TS Ana was idling off the NC coast and beginning to show as far North as Delaware. The surf drought this Spring has been severe so to say I was stopped up for a good session was an understatement.

The trip from Washington to the Delmarva Peninsula is 1/3 freeway and the rest, State Road and rural routes. Plus, "leadfoot" has a repertoire of shortcuts designed to circumvent a few small towns. We were flying down one of these rural routes at dusk, hoping not to come around a curve and meet a stray cow in the road, as we entered a long flat stretch of farmland. The black stripe of road disappeared in the distance as dusk gave over to dark and the fields of new corn crops spread like dark green blankets on either side. As we flew deeper into the darkness a zillion fireflies lit up the surrounding fields like some fabulous farm in Las Vegas. The undulating waves of twinkling lights reminded me of looking at the ocean on some brilliantly moonlit night. Soon I imagined myself on a fantastic children's ride at an amusement park. I could just hear the squeals of delight from the kids.

Without warning the insidious first few notes of "It's a Small World" began to play on the edges of my consciousness. God help me if that hateful tune were to lodge itself in my brain and I wound up humming it all the way to the beach. Quickly I invited Mrs.Foon to join me in singing "the Name Game" using the chosen names for this seasons hurricanes which I memorize every year. This went along nicely though Mrs.Foon caught me on my substitution of "Chuck" for Claude. Just a little literary license I reasoned, "come on honey, you know how it goes, Chuck-Chuck Bo-Buck, BananaFana Fo....". She looked at me with a critical stare. "I hope there's waves this weekend Foonboy, when you're stopped up you get down right weird."

Instead of driving straight to the FoonPalace I told her to drive out on the dunepath. She mentioned the $50 fine if we got caught, but I said, "I'm buying," to quell her resistance. The path sits on top of the dune and looks out over the homebreak. Our headlights did not illuminate much of the break but enough so I could see an even line of whitewater moving right to left over the sandbar. It was obvious that Ana was, as the expression goes, "In the House." I couldn't judge the size but it was better than it had been for a long time.

A quick check of Mid-Atlantic weather showed TS Ana wobbling off the Carolinas and heading slowly North. She would be off the Delmarva for about two days. That and the fact that a benign cool front would pass over us on Friday switching winds offshore, gave me hope for the next two days. I could hardly sleep that night.

Thursday broke warm and hazy. I looked out the deck window to see one of the earlybirds nonchalantly perched on the nose of his longboard for about 60 feet as he whizzed by. I drank a quick cup of mud and tore out of the house. I could eat breakfast later. The early glass was well formed and slow at high tide. The sets of 3-5 waves were well spaced, with wave periods about 10 seconds. The long lines hinted at the strength of sets yet to come but for the early morning session, riders were treated to exceptional waist to chesthigh warm-up waves. Unfortunately, a strong side wind pickup up mid-morning ruining the glassy conditions blowing the faces into a ruddy chop and messing up the fun. Among the beach locals it was agreed, the 4th of July would be the one good day we'd get out of Ana. We were not disappointed.

The next morning broke bright and clear. Gentle and warm offshore winds kissed what would be Ana's best offering into small performance gems. The waves moved straight onto the sandbar this day producing both lefts and rights, but the rights were better due to the overall direction of the swells. As the tide went out the sandbars punched up headhigh and tubier waves with a little more pound than was obvious to the eye. The massive crowd of longboarders, shortboarders, and bodyboarders showed up early and tore the place apart. From my early morning lookout spot high atop the big blue box that houses the handicapped beach wheelchair, I could see surfers of all kinds riding everything that broke. Thankfully there seemed to be more than enough to go around. Every street was giving it up and every rider was doing his/her best to take advantage of this short miracle of good surf. Almost everyone realized these waves would be history by nightfall.

It is so rare I actually have the energy and physical stamina to do 3 sessions in a day. Knowing the good stuff would be gone the next day, I forced my creaky old bones into as many waves as I could catch (dozens) After my second fabulous 2 hour session I thought my meter was on zero. But a late afternoon incoming tide bumped the chesthigh waves up a couple of feet and the wind just whispered up the faces. I can't remember in recent years when I've been so tired that I had to "crawl out of the water" after a session.

One particular highpoint for me was surfing amongst the hottest b-boarders in town. These are the kids who ride the latest Custom X shapes use no leashes (ever), just one fin (some have paddle gloves) and stand-up on almost every wave. I happen to linger outside of most riders hoping to catch the bigger set waves and was lucky enough to pick one off. As I tore a deep turn and came up under the lip it splashed me hard in the head turning my ever-present baseball hat around on my head, brim to the back (way cool, I'm told). Two of the hottest stylists were paddling out in my path, they knew to duckdive under me, so I took the higher trim line and rocketed under the lip for 30 feet. As I paddled out both the guys gave me thumbs up and "good ride Foon" comments. One of them came over and said, "Hey Foondoggy, that last one could of been a cover shot for Geezboarder Magazine". Knowing full well there is no such thing I laughed along with the joke. Then I thought, "hey, why not?" Any of you publishers out there want to tap into an ever growing phenomena of older surfers? There were dozens of my over 40 brothers in the water this weekend.

After I pulled my used up carcass out of the break at twilight, I sat on the beach swapping stories and eating a delicious picnic dinner (Fried Chicken, potato salad, slaw, and cold brewskis). Sitting slumped in my beach chair I can't remember recently feeling so satisfied by a day of surfing. Mrs.Foon told me later that the fireworks were just spectacular this year. I wouldn't know, I was passed out asleep in my chair.

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