Surfing Vancouver Island  

Foondroppings 08  


I decided to leave this long semi-true story with you to chew on while I'm gone.

The character, Ned, still lives on Eastern Long Island in a town called East Quogue.

* * * *

A quiet, undistinguished, middle-aged man showed up at the side door of Sally's Chowder Pot a few days after New Years. The oceanfront restaurant had been struggling to survive for 3 seasons as Sally and her husband Bruce, worked long hours to make the Eastern Long Island place a cozy and friendly stop for the locals, and also a thriving eatery during the long tourist season. Times were hard out on the Eastern End in the winter and everyone was closing up after the holidays until March. Bruce thought it was odd that a man would come looking for work at this time of year.

Bruce explained to the man named Ned that he and his wife would be away in Florida for two months and would not have any work for him until they returned. But there would be plenty of things to do to get the restaurant in shape before the next season when they got back. The man looked despairingly for a moment into Bruce's eyes, then began to walk toward his old and battered pickup truck. He stopped, turned and said slowly, "Look mister, I really need a job now. What I'm offering is to do all your work while you're gone in exchange for a few bucks for food and a place to stay."

Bruce glanced at Sally who was already shaking her head no, but there was something about Ned that inspired not only sympathy, but trust. When he spoke he looked directly at you and he seemed like a man who had been at the bottom of the barrel and had struggled to raise himself up. He was not ashamed to ask for help. Though he looked weathered and tired he carried himself with some confidence and he sounded like a thoroughly decent man, if a little sad.

Before he could discuss it with Sally he heard himself saying, "If your references and background check out, you've got a deal." He didn't glance at his wife knowing her blazing eyes would be staring holes in his head for taking a chance on this man. But Bruce prided himself on his judge of good character and Ned was just that. Bruce took some information from Ned and went off to call his friend Carl, the local Sheriff. He asked Sally to show Ned the upstairs storage room which at one time was a small efficiency apartment that looked out onto the beach.

Within two weeks Bruce and Sally has seen enough of Ned's tireless work to feel confident in their decision to leave on their planned vacation. They'd set up a line of credit with a local building supplies company and had left Ned enough carpentry, electrical, plumbing and decorating tasks to keep a dozen Neds busy for weeks. They said they would send him a check for $250 every two weeks, if what they heard about his work was satisfactory. Bruce had arranged for Carl to stop by occasionally to check up on Ned and the work (It's the least he could do for all the free meals he'd gotten at the restaurant).

In the weeks before they left Bruce had discovered a few things about Ned, some of which he did not share with Sally. Though he had no police record, the report Bruce had gotten from Carl stated that Ned had lost both his wife and young daughter to a drowning accident two years ago. The report also mentioned Ned had been arrested for being drunk that day on the beach, but later the charges were dropped. There was nothing further in his background that was unusual except the fact that Ned had once owned his own construction business, which failed soon after the accident.

He read further that on the day of the accident, Ned's wife and daughter had been swept out to sea by a strong current. Ned had tried to paddle out to them on a surfboard, but was so inebriated, they were gone by time he could reach them. He was also injured when he washed back into shore which explained why Ned walked with a noticeable limp. The report also indicated that the charges were dropped on the condition that Ned seek help for substance abuse. Something he apparently had done.

Throughout the long dreary months of January and February, Bruce and Sally only heard from Ned once. That was a call they got to discuss a long list of improvements Ned was suggesting for the Restaurant. Bruce was so impressed with the suggestions he immediately approved the list and was surprised to learn Ned had already made the arrangements with the building supplies place for additional materials. Bruce got very curious and called Carl for a report. He was astonished to hear Carl chuckle on the other end of the line and say, "Damn Bruce, that guy Ned is a whirling dervish. He's up early each day and works well into the night. No one has seen him outside the place except to get supplies since he's been here. I popped in one night at 11 pm unannounced and he was hand sanding the bar. The place was a total mess, but you could see the amount of work he'd done. The boy's a charger Bruce."

In early March Bruce and Sally's winter vacation was over and they returned to the cold, wet weather of Eastern Long Island. When they walked into the Restaurant they both simply stood in awe, quietly mouthing, ""

Every detail of the place had been meticulously improved. The interior glistened with a new coat of paint, the old tongue and groove flooring was patched, replaced and finished. The bar had been thoroughly restored and shone with a deep, dark, thick coat of spar varnish which had been lovingly hand sanded between coats. Every one of the old nautical items that decorated the place had been dismantled and cleaned then rehung throughout the restaurant. The old lobster tank, which was always leaking, stood in the corner, brightly lit and bubbling away (with a couple of two pounders looking out casually). Sally and Bruce walked around the restaurant not quite believing everything they saw. When they entered the kitchen they didn't recognize it. It had been thoroughly gutted with all new food prep areas created and all the appliances cleaned and serviced. A new/used walk-in fridge had been installed tripling their storage capacity. New lighting, well actually old lighting really, had been positioned in strategic places giving the place a whole new atmosphere.

Sally immediately went to call her friends to tell them of the miraculous transformation, Bruce climbed the stairs to the little apartment to find Ned.

Sensing he was not in, Bruce stuck his head in the small room for a second. He was taken aback by what he found. The room had been completely cleaned and painted and furnished with good sturdy flea market and yard sale furniture. The small bed was neatly covered with an old wool Navy blanket. An old but nicely restored desk and chair were placed directly in front of the window that overlooked the beach. An old, ten foot long surfboard stood tilted in the corner. The label on the top of the board said, "Greg Noll." Bruce then noticed a set of pictures in a beautiful gold colored antiqued frame sitting on the desk. The photos were of a pretty woman and a heartbreakingly cute little blond girl, about 9 years old. Next to the pictures stood a sealed and unopened bottle of Vodka. This was slightly disturbing to Bruce, but he sensed there was a good reason it was there.

Bruce turned when he heard a footstep at the door. Ned was standing there in an old pair of baggy painters overalls and a stained baseball cap. He had a peculiar but open look on his face, both happy to see Bruce and slightly embarrassed at what he knew Bruce saw. Bruce rushed over to Ned, grasped his hand and sincerely thanked the man for the incredible work he'd performed. "Ned, I wasn't sure taking a chance on you was going to pay off, but you have more than earned your stay here. You have a job and a place to live for as long as you want."

Bruce and Sally figured Ned had performed more than $25,000 worth of improvements. Sally demanded Bruce compensate Ned for his work, but since their finances were very low at this time of the year when Bruce handed a $5000 check over to Ned, all he asked was if he could hold off cashing it until after Memorial Day, when they had more money. Ned nodded and tucked the check in his bib overall pocket and said, "Sure, no problem."

Throughout the Spring Ned, Sally and Bruce worked hard to build the business. The new look drew patrons from all over the Eastern End like a magnet and slowly Ned proved he was a master of many skills. In addition to being a gracious waiter when needed, he turned out to be an outstanding cook. His Friday night batch of Fresh Fish Chowder became the talk of the town and soon he was making 20 gallons of the stuff to satisfy the demand. The one thing Ned would not do was tend bar, which suited Bruce just fine. Ned was much more valuable to him elsewhere.

Each and every day Ned would come down to the restaurant at 9 am to begin preparations for lunch. He worked energetically through lunch hour, then would do cleanup and preparations for dinner. About 2 pm Ned would take a break and walk down the beach with his old surfboard. Often he would just sit there, staring out into the ocean. But when there was surf, he'd climb into an old rubber wetsuit and paddle swiftly out to beyond the breakers where he would just sit. Other surfers who were out in the line-up said Ned was always looking around for something. When large waves would rise up behind him, he would always act as though he was going to ride them, but then would abruptly stop at the last second, letting the wave pass him by. A dozen times a day Ned would paddle out into the breaking waves, then slowly come back in never once riding a wave.

By 5 pm each day Ned would limp out of the water and drag his old surfboard up to the restaurant, storing it in an old shed on the side.

Throughout the summer, or the "crazy season" as the locals called it, Ned worked tirelessly in the restaurant often not finishing up until after midnight. Late night beach strollers would sometimes come upon him on cloudless, moonlit nights, sitting and staring into the ocean. During the day, when he wasn't out in the water, he could often be seen watching the kids as they played in the water. His crystal blue eyes never missed a thing and he would often stroll over to the lifeguard stands to warn them to clear people out of a rip current situation that the guards could not have seen. The guards came to depend on Ned as an extra set of experienced eyes, watching the crowds on the busy summer beach.

As with most beach communities, Labor Day Weekend was the end of the season. The crowds consisted of many visitors and part time property owners who were making their last visits to the beach. Generally, there was a sense of sadness and resignation as most accepted the official end of summer gracefully.

The news that weekend had been all about the strong hurricane that had been spinning slowly offshore of the Carolinas. Forecasts predicted it would bypass nearly all land masses except maybe the coast of Maine. Nevertheless, there were Coast Guard warnings for heavy surf along the South facing beaches, even though the weather was picture perfect.

Labor Day came and so did the crowds. Both the beach and the restaurant were crowded early and stayed that way most of the day. On the beach, Lifeguards made a few early rescues then closed the beach to bathing due to the high surf conditions. Bathers didn't mind, but the local surfers were very pissed. Most did not care to stand around and watch the incredible display of 10 foot waves as they crashed on the outside sandbars. More than a few loaded up cars and headed for the unprotected beaches of Montauk.

About 4 pm Ned took a break and strolled down to his regular spot on the beach. Since no one was in the water, he casually observed the various families enjoying the beautiful late afternoon. He was taken with a small blond girl who was playing catch with her little brother. All of a sudden the little girl missed the ball and it rolled down the slope of the shore toward the water. A receding wave picked up the ball and began to float it back out toward the sea. In a panic the little girl raced after the ball wading into the water up to her waist. Ned watched this with alarm, but before he could shout out a warning the undertow yanked the girl's legs out from under her and she was swept out into the pounding shorebreak.

Ned began to run toward the girl then saw she was caught in a swift rip current that was taking her offshore quickly. A lifeguard gave three long blasts on his whistle to warn other guards he was on a rescue, then he launched himself off his tower driving his legs into the soft sand and holding his hand buoy out in front of him. The screams of the little girl and her parents could be heard all along the beach. People were standing, pointing and yelling all at once. The young lifeguard sprinted for the water but made a huge tactical error when he timed his dive directly into the path of a giant pile driver shorebreak. People standing nearby swore they could hear the crack when his femur broke.

The next thing people remember was seeing a middle-aged man in old corduroy cut-off shorts, limping and dragging a long surfboard down to the water's edge. In an instant all the locals realized it was Ned who was launching himself and the board through the shorebreak and paddling with deep powerful strokes out toward the girl.

Less than a few minutes had elapsed, yet the little girl was almost 100 yards offshore. Ned was seen to paddle furiously, driving the long board swiftly out to the girl. Each time a wave threatened to knock him off, he would force the big board under water just before the wave or whitewater caught him. By time you could see him again he was again stroking strongly to get outside.

But as quickly as he could get out to the girl, by time he got to where she was.....she was gone. Ned dove repeatedly in the spot, each time shrieking as his head broke the surface, "SUZIE!!!SUZIE!!, SUZIE!!!! Luckily, no waves broke to sweep his board away. Finally, after a particularly long time underwater, Ned exploded from the water heaving what appeared to be a limp pile of clothes up on the deck of the board. It was the little girl and it didn't look like she was alive.

Ned quickly mounted the board and arranged the little girls body flat on the deck. Then he kneeled on the board and began, to the horror of the now cheering crowd on the beach, to start paddling out into the ocean. What Ned had seen that not many had noticed was the swift moving arrival of a huge set of waves. By this time the injured guard had been retrieved from the water and one of his buddies was already trying to make his way out to Ned. For some reason he stopped cold when he saw the size of the waves.

Ned just barely made it over the first two waves. He could only use his arms sparingly since he had to steady the girl's body on the board. Sensing he was not going to make it passed the last two waves, Ned suddenly spun the big board around and began paddling hard, with the little girl laying still in front of him. The big board lurched ahead as a gathering wave began to feather announcing that it was about to break.

The crowd on the beach gasped in unison as the board began to slide down the face of the wave to a certain crash. Ned lay prone on the board using one arm to grab the crumpled and soggy clothes of the little girl and the other to help turn the board by dipping it deeply into the face of the wave. The huge wave, judged by lifeguards later to be at least 10 feet, crashed and spit, rushing down to catch the now speeding board and it's cargo. Ned could be seen correcting the flight of the racing board by shifting his weight side to side. Within 75 yards the wave had expended all of its fury and Ned was seen to be guiding the big board over the back of the shoulder.

Ned and the little girl now sat only 30 feet from shore and two more guards raced into the water to help with the rescue. Ned turned the little girl over to the guards who swiftly moved her onshore and immediately began resuscitation procedures.

Unfortunately for Ned he was caught inside by the following wave and was planted in the painful shorebreak. As he staggered out, people could see he was hurt, but the big commotion was the work being done on the little girl by the EMT that had miraculously shown up just minutes after the call was put in. Feverishly the med techs worked on the little girl to get her breathing, and another group helped to stabilize the broken leg of the guard. A cheer went up from the crowd as the med techs placed the little girl on a stretcher and loaded her into the ambulance. One of the men gave a thumbs up signal. When someone mentioned the old guy who'd rescued the girl was hurt too, no one could remember seeing him leave.

The events of the day triggered a media frenzy as print and broadcast reporters descended on the beach interviewing everyone who'd seen what happen. A crew was dispatched to the hospital where the weeping smiling parents of the little girl were caught on film, thanking everyone for the rescue. The lifeguard whose leg was broken gave the obligatory "Hi Mom!!"

When the reporters found out who Ned was and where he worked, they barged into the restaurant demanding to see him. Bruce announced solemnly that he had no idea where his employee was, but would tell him the reporters were interested in seeing him.

After the ruckus had died down, Bruce made his way up the narrow staircase to Ned's room. He wasn't at all surprised to see that Ned wasn't there. In fact, everything was exactly as it had always been, except that the pictures in the frame were gone.

In the corner stood the still wet and dripping surfboard. Attached with duct tape to it was a note and the $5000 check which Ned had never cashed. Bruce read the message,

"Thanks for your faith in me. Today I found something I've been looking for a long time. You can have my stuff, I don't need it anymore. I've got what I need. Ned."

Weeks later, as Bruce hung the giant board over the bar, he smiled when one of the locals was reading out loud from a follow-up article in the paper about the rescue. He quoted the girl's parents, again wanting to thank the mysterious man who'd save their daughter, Kelly. "Kelly?" Sally said. "I thought her name was Suzie?" Bruce had never mentioned to his wife what Ned's daughters name was. "Nope." He muttered.

Foon Have a nice Fourth everyone

c ya

"A man travels the world in search of what he needs and returns home to find it."
George Moore

"The journey is the reward."
Tao saying

"For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move."

Goodbye Right Coast,
Hello Left Coast.
Please have waves
That don't make me "toast".


SantaFoonCruzin '98

"There are no Sharks in Sharks Cove," according to my special surf tour guide, Steve "Da Hulk" Hull, and that's probably a good thing considering the condition I found myself in. But I'll explain that later.

* * * *

I was feeling pretty damn good that Thursday morning, inspite of the fact that social circumstances the previous evening required that I stay up entertaining colleagues at my hotel bar until 3:00 am. At 10:00 am the next morning I found myself at Ocean Beach, sitting on a seawall enjoying a perfect cup of Black French Roast and trying to eat something healthy. That something was an apricot-oatmeal pastry recommended by the cutest counter girl, but which had all the flavor and consistency of a chew toy. About two chews into it I started to really miss my Krispy Kremes.

I had pulled off the Great Highway at Ocean Beach to watch a pack of surfers devour a break that was just drilling at low tide. Far as I could tell, you had to commit to this wave before you could tell whether it would peel, or dump. This was a supreme act of courage since the lead-lipped walls just hammered you if you guessed wrong. In 25 minutes I saw two boards broken or bent.

With the coffee spiking a "10" on my caffeine meter, I gleefully jumped in my Dodge Breeze Rentalmobile and took off south down Highway 35 and 1 to Santa Cruz amidst a beautiful and warm sunshine and cool ocean breezes. This would be the weather I would experience for the rest of the weekend and I was told later it was the first genuine hot spell this year, pushing inland temps near 100 which may have accounted for the massive crowds I would see later at SC beaches.

Racing on down the coast not really paying attention to the road or speed, I blew through a speed trap at the bottom of a big hill in Pacifica doing 70 in a 50. But the day was so pretty, the boys must have been on a doughnut break, because even though I started to slow and pull over knowing I was nailed, they never came after me???!!! ALL RIGHT!! Most of the breaks I passed were well stocked with riders who seemed to be nursing and ripping a small but solid swell. Some of the more remote places I checked had few riders and the offshore kelp beds kept the chop manageable well into the later morning hours.

My rendezvous with Steve was set for noon in SC and I raced down Highway 1 passing a few breaks I'd wanted to check to be sure I was on time. When Steve arrived at the meeting place he graciously suggested we check out some spots. Already loading my meager gear into the Hulkmobile (with very appropriate license plates I might add) I did not have to be persuaded very much to be given a private tour of the Santa Cruz breaks. At that moment I was an extremely happy camper:)

Steve is a very friendly and generous guy. As a local, his knowledge of SC and it's surfing history was evident immediately. We stopped at Steamer's Lane for a discussion of the breaks from the point all the way to Cowells dissecting each break and it's set-up. Then we toured the breaks of the East Side, from Twin lakes through Pleasure Point. I believe I know the set-up now so when Gioni and others describe breaks from Sewers to 1st, 2nd and 3rd break, I'll have an understanding. From beside Jack O'Neill's cliff front house Steve described epic days when you could ride the same wave along the different breaks, the only obstacle being your tolerance for a long walk or paddle back. The swell this day was not as good as the previous day. When have we all heard that before?!! Nevertheless, guys were getting rides on the intermittent sets and Steve was eager to find a break so we could both enjoy a casual session. So we continued on to "Sharks."

The sun was hot and the waves inviting as we suited up. Steve had thoughtfully provided me with a Morey Mach 10 Winger, which was perfect for me and the conditions. He was using a 9'2" Haut. At the last second Steve offered me a spring suit which I gratefully accepted, my 3/2 full was too much equipment for the pleasant conditions. To say I was stoked as we walked down the steps would be an understatement. But being distracted by the sight of someone taking a lazy left would prove to be my undoing.

Stepping heavily on the first loose stone near the stairs, the rock gave a little. Since I'm usually as sure-footed as a Saturday Night drunk after a binge, I went down like a house of cards in a windstorm. I caught myself with my arms but not before my left shin crashed into a rock resulting in a nasty gash. My other foot, looking for traction also slipped puncturing my big toe and the ball of my foot. As I picked a few pieces of flesh out of the wound on my shin, I realized then it was a pretty good cut. Bleeding? Hell yes! Ugly? You bet!! Was it going to stop me? Fuck NO!! Steve just smiled and said calmly, "There's no sharks in Shark's Cove." At that moment this was very comforting and something I would hold him to as I limped toward the break, bleeding like a chum bucket.

After five days in the company of 30,000 technoweenies at a Semiconductor Conference my brain was mush. The pure joy of paddling out at Sharks was absolutely exquisite. Steve quickly explained the set-up and takeoff landmarks and predicted the mellow conditions would translate into a mellow crowd. As I paddled slowly into the line-up, I don't think any of the dozen or so longboarders noticed or took exception. Within minutes I had dialed into two mushy but fun right-handers where I took measure of the wave strength (a little) breaking pattern (predominantly right) and fun factor (both times I came up smiling my extra stupid grin). Steve took off on several nice walls displaying great agility for a big man and a world of experience riding one of his favorite breaks. From the back he could be seen scooting toward the nose as the tail and fin of his board showed faintly through the back of the waves.

The surf was intermittent with lulls making it easy to get out again and have a short conversation. I chatted easily with several of the guys in the line-up and they were, without exception friendly and courteous to me. At one point a good size set cleared the line-up letting almost everyone get long rides, including me - all the way in to the cliff. The entire hour plus experience was one of the most delightful and relaxing afternoons spent surfing I've ever had. My thanks to Steve for a great day.

Finally, with an eye on the clock, we took last waves and went off to a local watering hole to satisfy an healthy hunger. Later, we parted ways promising to try and do it again next year. A promise I hope to keep.

Events: The balance of my SC trip was spent with my cousin's family, though twice more I would limp down to Pleasure point for a few more small waves each morning. Most of the time we spent at Cowells teaching my nephews to boogie board. Both Friday and Saturday were great beach days, but Saturday was very special since I got to witness and participate a bit in the Shared Experience, A Day at the Beach '98 event.

I missed this event last year but luckily was at Cowells Saturday to watch many from the watersports community come together to sponsor a day at the beach and let those less fortunate than us, experience the wonder of watersports. An army of volunteers worked tirelessly to help physically and mentally challenged people get in the ocean to ride surfboards, kayaks, and big outrigger canoes. If you think this is an easy task, imagine trying to get someone into wetsuit who has no control over his muscles to help you. All day these fantastic people would carry, push and float the handicapped out to the vehicle of choice then take them out to the surf or just paddle them around. Briefly I helped get a few people off the boards and into big wheeled beach chairs to transport them back to the shore. I cannot do justice in words for the feelings both the volunteers and participants were giving off. Smiles were contagious. The people who worked on this event should be thoroughly congratulated and thanked for this tremendous effort. Good work folks.

Out of the mouth of babes: My cousin's 5 year old, Zack, is very big into refrigerator art. To commemorate my visit he drew a picture which showed a red man (me) stand-up riding a surfboard way up in the sky near a cloud. Beneath was a dark blue wave just getting ready to break. When I asked Zack if the picture showed Uncle Foon doing some "airs?" he solemnly said, "No, it shows that the next time you are able to stand on a surfboard, you'll be in heaven." Kids are the absolute masters of profundity and truthfulness. I could not argue with the artist.

Under the skirts of babes: I made my peace with that log flume ride from hell they call Highway 17 from SC to the valley. So much so I was stopped for speeding. As the trooper approached my car I had to strain my neck to look up at him - it was like looking up at a redwood. Where do they get these guys? Mutants.COM? Anyway, when I explained to him the reason I was speeding was I was late for my flight at SFO, patrolman Parker actually looked down on me, smiled and chuckled a little saying, "Hehehe, that's a good one Mr.Foondoggy. I don't think I've heard that one yet today." Well shit, it was only 9:00 am, he had plenty of time to hear it a few more times. He continued to smile as I signed the ticket.

As I raced to drop off my rental car I drove into the rental lot and parked directly behind a blond woman with short hair and equally short dress. I noticed a few rental car staff were lurking about but not helping her get her bags out of the trunk. The reason I found out immediately was that each time she did, her skirt would rise up revealing a perfectly (and I do mean perfect) naked butt! i.e. no underwear. Astonishing as this was for me, I could not linger to ponder the metaphysical meaning of it all since I was late for my flight. But it did come most forcefully to my mind later when I walked down the aisle of the plane to find the very same woman sitting next to me. And though we had a very nice conversation on the 5 hour flight back to Washington, I kept getting distracted by other thoughts (about surfing, of course).

What kind of weekend was it? Well if you've gotten this far you know I was one sore, burnt and tired guy. After all, what kind of surfing trip would it be if yours truly didn't get some injuries? (MrsFoon is not allowed to answer this one) So for those of you keeping score on your Foondoggy Injury Scorecard, here's the totals: One nasty shin gash, two painful puncture wounds, four various abrasions on legs and arms, seven noticeable bruises (not all from surfing- the cuz has two big dogs who like to wrestle) and worst of all - my face hurts from smiling so much. Why? I'm still alive and I simply had the best time ever in Santa Cruz. I'll probably recover from all the boo boos (well maybe not that face thing) Seeya next year Santa Cruz.


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