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
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."
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.
The call came right in the middle of my post-session nap. I
"Hello, you Fuck!" It was the dulcet voice of my old
and longtime surf bud, Stan. He always greeted me that way
failed to burst into laughter when he did.
"Well hello Mister big shot stockbroker. How many
millions did to make
"Hey Foon, I did real well today thank you. How'er you
"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
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
"I'd rather go surfing." I said dryly but my interest was
"How would you like to do both?" He started to laugh
already knowing my
"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
Island. Stan's weaknesses were big sport Uts, a ski chalet
Pennsylvania, and surfing vacations. He owned about ten
back to the early 70s and ranging in size from a small 6'8"
tail, to a 9'6" Weber Noserider (original).. He had some
in between but seemed to favor a 7'8" round pintail.
Stan's boss, the President of the company, owned a big 65
yacht that he liked to have sailed down to the Caribbean in
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
appeared that for the next two weeks Stan and his 17 year
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
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
Delmarva Peninsula we've never seen?" I was referring to,
the Virginia part of the peninsula I call the "Mystery
Coast". 50 miles
of virtually virgin, barrier islands and saltmarshes that
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
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
search of some magnificent barrier island coast. It was a
risk to ignore good surf we knew about in search of unknown
during Lili's good swell.
Stan docked at the Ocean City municipal pier the next day at
face was flushed with excitement. "Hey Foon, we were rockin'
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
wind, things looked good. The break was crowded. With a
brewskis and some cigars firmly planted in our faces, Stan
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
his right leg in half. Though he never came back fully from
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
Man". Since the apple doesn't fall far from the tree,
like his old man did 25 years ago - a perfectly conditioned
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
waterways and the quiet Caribbean. It had 3 full bedrooms, a
galley, a plush "salon", a big flying bridge and enough
start your own resort. Everything was fully stocked and
-food, drink, and entertainment. It even had an 8 foot
boat for short hops. The Coast Guard radio gave us up to the
weather and marine conditions. As we headed South, it looked
weather would hold. Now if only Lili would give some swells.
We bypassed Assateague Island completely and docked late in
afternoon at a sheltered part of Chincoteague. That night we
map to a wonderful local seafood restaurant on shore to make
The string of barrier islands had some curious names;
Parramore, Hog (next to Machipongo Inlet), Cobb, Wreck,
Smith and at the
very tip of the peninsula, Fisherman's Island. (Coming over
Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel I had often seen good surf
the tip of Fishermans).
Over beers and fresh oysters we questioned the locals about
probability of surf at any one of these islands. Finally, an
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
eyes all met, sparkling with glee. We were goin' to Hog
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
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
had the helm on the flying bridge, Stan was scanning the
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
seemed to peel better to the South toward an absolutely
empty beach that
curved around to an inlet. We watched as two more waves
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
replenishment projects, tourists and traffic. It was hard to
this was the Right Coast. Stan looked down at his map to
bearings, then looked up smiling. "Gentlemen.....We are in
We decided to anchor offshore a ways and take the zodiac to
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,
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
Lili's sets were well spaced apart and we had no problem
short ride to the beach. Once there, we could check the
Sure enough, though by definition a beach break, the
tailed off to the South curving into the Machipongo inlet.
looked like a shallow, fast, point break that ended in the
deep water of
the inlet. Rides, depending on swell length and form, could
for 50-75 yards. We all mentally rode the next set, sizing
up what faced
With a hoot we all hit the warm surf at once. Stan was on a
pintail, Griffin started with a short thruster, but switched
longer speed shape, I had my trusty channel bottom Toobs BC.
tore the place apart from the getgo. Stan and I took our
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
view of his ride. As he took the drop, he gashed a precise
and pulled into the sweetest hook. Squatting at midboard
toward the end
of the ride, the lip began to splatter on his back. Instead
a rail to steady himself, he stood up through the lip and
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
had taken early set waves and I was left to move out to find
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
widowmaker (by my standards). I could hear Stan screaming
IT YOU KOOK!!!" So against my better judgment, I turned and
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
launched down the face of the wave instantly fighting for
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
like crazy. I finally cleared my eyes to discover myself
the top third of an 8 foot wall hanging in the face with two
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
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
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
top of a wave. oh, what fun. Back on the yacht hot showers,
and stinky cigars were the reward for our efforts as Griffin
big boat down toward the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.
Later that evening we docked at a marina in Hampton VA and
for another great seafood dinner. After a few cold ones I
realize, in my entire life living on the Right Coast, this
experience I'd only dreamed about.
The next morning I awoke to the phone again. I opened my
wondered how I'd gotten back in my own bedroom at home.
Still confused I
"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,
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
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."
31 May 1997
Tommy and Brad got to the beach just as soon as Tommy's mom
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
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
They swiftly slid into their inexpensive wetsuits and zipped
tossed the bar of wax to Brad when he was done, knelt to
ankle leash and jogged toward the waters edge scanning the
waves. ALL RIGHT!! No one out and some respectable waves to
Brad caught up to him and they both launched themselves into
shorebreak. The water was cold but their frantic paddling
compensate by getting their tickers going.
Both Tommy and Brad were second year surfers, but they knew
about the sport - equipment, contests, clothes, music,
surfing personalities, but not too much about the mechanics
of waves and
conditions. Both boys, paddled for and missed several waves
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
hadn't quite figured that part out yet, but didn't let that
detail prevent him from practicing the pose he saw daily in
that occupied every inch of his bedroom wall.
As they sat waiting for the next set of waves they marveled
was no one else at this beach. There were always a few
that old boogie boarder who managed to catch all the good
they delighted in the fact that they had it all to
themselves. As they
looked out toward the ocean and the strengthening sun both
by the sound. They looked around wildly trying to find out
where it was
coming from. Both realized, to their horror, it was that
line from the old movie "Jaws," getting louder and louder -
The boys were seized by a fit of terror and they swung their
around to paddle in. As they looked toward the beach both
stopped - and so did the music.
There he was, limping slowly along the dunepath assisted by
wooden cane, covered by his black wetsuit and clutching his
boogieboard. His left arm up to the elbow was encased in a
bag firmly duct taped to his wetsuit. As he slowly and
hobbled down the path, his squinty eyes could barely be seen
brim of a dirty, white, Miami Hurricanes, baseball cap,
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
grossly swollen left foot was cut down to almost a stub and
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
"I know." Tommy said softly, both in disgust and wonderment.
at the skate park, man and said the guy fell off that 8 foot
wall like a sack of wet laundry, bounced once and laid very
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
demerol and percocets to kill a T-Rex." Yet there he was,
as always a
constant presence at this beach. His stupid nickname was
he was paddling out using just one leg, his left arm laying
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
Got a bum ankle so I'm only taking lefts." Before the boys
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
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
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
Brad looked at Tommy. "What's it gonna take to get rid of
Maybe we can slip a firecracker in one of his cigars and
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
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
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
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
put into words. Most of you know what I mean.
Today, for a short time I was alone, at my homebreak, with a
and chipped wrist and I was actually happy. Gleeful I had
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
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
The process itself makes one just happy to be alive. Seeya
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
at him and you will see me. Made my hair stand on end. It's
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
"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
"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 excuse....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
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."
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
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
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
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.
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.