A Very Ugly Scene
24 September 1996
Two weeks ago, while enjoying the fine conditions brought to
of Hortense, I was very aware of just how many really young
sharing the juice. Many had already acquired the skills
(and some, the
attitude) of competent riders. I wound up in the lineup near
boys (maybe 9 and 12) who were getting into a serious
snaking one another. The older and bigger of the two was
cutting off the younger preventing him from getting any
himself. The younger was protesting this treatment very
some choice language to punctuate his unhappiness.
All of a sudden, inside there erupted a very intense
as the two boys went at it in the shallows. Screams and
could be heard all the way outside as the bigger of the two
proceeded to beat the living crap out of the younger. The
was no match, but the kid could take a punch and when the
came, landed a few of his own. This was no candyass slap
fight, but no
one seemed willing to step in and stop it.
Finally I caught a wave in and tried to separate the boys.
boy was half crying and screaming about the older boy's
snaking him on
every wave; that and the fact that he was getting his ass
directed the older boy to paddle down a break and surf there
leave the younger boy alone. The big kid lipped off and
said, "What if I
don't?" I said, "I'll follow you, find your parents and
tell them you
beat up a kid half your size even though you were the one
laughed and muttered as he walked away, "Yeah, sure you
will." But he
did take his board and started walking down the beach.
I turned to the smaller boy who was still sobbing and
gasping for air.
I said, "Are you all right, son?" Instead of acknowledging
that I had
just rescued him from a major whipping, he picked up his
board and took
off to follow the older boy. He looked back over his
snarled, "You leave my brother ALONE!"
What is it they say about blood and water. Go figure.
"All happy families resemble one another; every unhappy
unhappy in its own way."
Five Days in the Valley
16 October 1996
Good weather - bad karma!
As I flew into Burbank Airport on a smoggy, sunny, warm afternoon, there should have
been a sign saying, "Foondoggy GO HOME!" I was having grave misgivings about
spending the next five days in the San Fernando Valley. What further bummed me was
the fact I had arrived with the first symptoms of a viscous headcold that I would battle
the whole time I was there. As I walked across the tarmac to the terminal, I could
sense the pulse from across the mountains - there was surf in the Southland. But I
could also feel a vibe of foreboding - Huey did not want me here.
I was in town to attend the party celebrating the 50th Wedding Anniversary of my
in-laws, a couple who had fought tooth and nail for 30 of those year, yet remained
married mainly because no one else would have them. My plan was to do the family gig
then bolt for the coast to catch some much needed waves. Having spent my birthday in
Denver the previous Sunday, I was stopped up and surf-thirsty for some good SoCal
My tolerance for the Valley and the company of my in-laws was about 72 hours. This
patience was completely destroyed by the events of my first evening in town. While I
was driving back from an excellent Mexican dinner with the family, in my sister-in-laws
Jeep Cherokee, the back window was shattered by a high-speed projectile. Like
anyone in the same situation, I panicked and hit the brakes hard, causing the car to skid
and swerve. I gained control, changed 2 lanes in seconds and bailed off the freeway.
This situation was made all the worse by the fact I had my two young (11 and 6 year
old) niece and nephew, strapped in the back seat and they just went berserk! Crying,
screaming, yelling, like you can't believe! I quickly pulled into an apartment parking lot
and leaped out of the car to check the kids. I saw a couple exiting a car and yelled to
them to call for help, we'd just been shot at! Luckily the couple had a car phone and
they called the police. Within three minutes I had 2 cruisers and a shift supervisor in the
parking lot. I checked the kids over and told them they were all right. The police
sergeant popped them into a cruiser with a young cop who had kids and he calmed
The window, we found out, was shot out with a pellet gun. We had become victims of
one of hundreds of freeways assaults that had been plaguing the LA highways. After a
statement and info exchange the cops kindly offered to drive the kids home, since they
were still freaked and were not about to get back in the Jeep. My nerves were also
shot, so even though I was taking strong cold medications, when I got home I took
three shots of Dr. Jack Daniels. But I did not sleep well that night.
The next day, after follow-up calls from the police and some more wackiness from my
in-laws, I decided, "THAT'S ENOUGH!!" I needed some surf!
Nurse (Mrs.) Foondoggy said, "Absolutely not!"
Since I was then in the grips of the worst part of my headcold. I stared
her down and said, "I am going to the ocean, my love. With you or
without you, but I am going."
With that she grabbed some medicine and we headed off in the family wagon.
Some of you may recall that I predicted my presence in SoCal would virtually
guarantee the waves would be flat for the duration of my stay. What could I have been
thinking?!! As though I am that important. Huey has never been reluctant to make
kooks and posers like me look foolish, so he arranged to have me infected with a bad
cold, then sent some fine surf conditions to my SoCal brothers. It was payback time
for my arrogance.
As we charged down Decker Canyon Rd., Nurse Foondoggy said, "I
suppose you think I didn't see that gear in the back?"
"That's just in case." I replied.
"In case of what, you imbecile?" she glared. "You are spiking a fever over
100 degrees, you're on some very strong cold drugs, and you're so
stressed out your hands are shaking on the wheel! You don't actually
think you can surf, do you?"
Actually, I had fooled myself into thinking I could, and the events of the previous night
had convinced me I needed relief!
We reached the PCH and quickly pulled into a small State Beach since someone had
come along side and pointed out our front brakes were smokin'! (Those of you
who've driven Decker Canyon know why). I bolted from the car and ran out on the
cliff to see one of the most lovely sights I'd seen in a long time. Three surfers idly
waiting for and catching some beautiful headhigh waves. Ahhhhh, I could almost breath
again, and the tension and stress just melted out of me.
We got back in the car, checked Leo Carrillo to the North (crowded), then headed
South. Coming down off a hill on PCH I could see Zuma stretched out in the distance.
I could also see some very hunky thumpers going off with some guys out riding. My
nose started to run again. As I pulled up roadside at Zuma I was struck with two
contrasting images; a temporarily empty ocean and some guy with a surfboard neatly
snapped in half walking back to his car. Intuition told me Huey had a surprise for me at
this beach and since I'm a beach break kinda guy, I opened the wagon lid to get my
Mrs.Foon erupted from the car and screamed, "Not on your Fucking
Life, My Friend!!"
"Please honey," I reasoned, "I have got to break this surfless curse that
Huey has hung on me."
She looked at me with one of the hardest stares I'd ever seen.
"I love you more than life itself, Foonboy, but I swear to God, if you do
not survive this go out I will have you stuffed, mounted and fitted with a
plaque that says 'FOONDOGGY - Too stupid to accept his own human
That stung, and even though I knew she was right, I grabbed the springsuit, board and
fins and headed for the break.
My rule is to always watch a break for at least 2 sets before I go in. This day I would
break that rule in my haste to go in, and barely lived to regret it. As I waded in, with a
head full of snot and my chest full of mucus, I detected movement outside, but decided
to plunge ahead anyway. I was paddling for a group of surfers when Zuma (and Huey)
decided to welcome me to the Left Coast by nailing and working me over with three
POW, POW, POW!!
I got tumbled and bounced off the bottom, held down and squashed. I let the
whitewater wash me back up on the sandy beach where I proceeded to lay on my
back wheezing and gasping for air. Nurse Foon raced over to me and knelt down
watching me regain my breath.
"What's it gonna be Foonboy, an ambulance or a taxidermist? You
Her loving remarks were all it took to make me realize I was done. I raised myself on
one elbow and looked longingly out to the break knowing full well I was not to ride this
Wistfully I said, "I think I'll walk down to Pt.Dume to see what all the
Mrs. Foon saw right through this and was having none of it. She said as
she got up to go, "Be sure you save enough energy to hitchhike back to
the Valley pal, I won't be here."
Jesus, she is a tough broad! But I know she loves me. I watched 2 more sets of SoCal
fun entertain riders healthy enough to enjoy then trudged back to the car - defeated.
To placate the raging Mrs. I offered to buy her lunch in Malibu, our next destination.
She accepted but warned me we would not be dining in surfer hangouts like the
legendary "Jack in the Bu" or Malibu Chicken. No, she decided we'd be much better
served in the touristy but pleasant "Coogies" in the Malibu Plaza.
After lunch and a quick visit to Beckers Surf Shop next door to Coogies, we headed
South to view the "Bu". Some fog and haze obscured what was happening, but judging
by the traffic and parking, someone was riding something this day. As we continued on
approaching Topanga Canyon I glanced out the window and saw someone balancing a
sweet, crouching, cheater five on a long mellow wall. I headed for the shoulder of the
road to watch.
Mrs.Foon quietly said, "Why torture yourself Foonboy?"
I looked over at her nervously and adjusted the bill of my "Surf Free or
Die" Ball cap. "I have to hon. If I can't go in, I must watch, learn,
rejuvenate the stoke and resolve to come back someday and ride."
We sat and watched for about a half hour while some of the crew at Topanga showed
me what it's like to soul surf again. Renewed and inspired, I pulled away from the curb
and headed back to the Valley. I swore I would be back.
As I flew back to the Right Coast, I prayed Huey would forgive me for being so
boastful. How could I, a mere mortal, pretend to have any influence on the surf of
others. For this I humbly apologize. With great anticipation I look forward to my next
session at my home break this weekend. Come on Rocktober. Forgive me Huey.
Oh, the Party? Actually it was pretty cool. Apparently I got drunk enough to lead 120
people in the Macarena, sit in for the drummer of the band, and play a passable version
of "Wipeout". (Hey out there. I heard that!)
There's no place like Home (break)!!
Mon, 21 Oct 1996
Back from the Left Coast, still sick with a head cold and somewhat
jetlagged, the week at work seemed like some cruel and unusual
punishment for taking off to travel. My nightmare began when I found out
that one of my biggest deadline jobs projects was grossly late and had
remained idle while I was away. The result was I had to pull three
consecutive, 12 hour days deep in the bowels of a printing plant in
Baltimore, sucking press fumes and absorbing the deafening roar of a big
8 color press while baby-sitting the job. My only compensation was
finding a genuine neighborhood Tavern called "Ned's" that opened at 9 am
and served a great breakfast, and like "Cheers" everybody got to know my
name. ("Your nickname is what, mister? Hey Norm, dis guy's name is
Foondoggy!!! Whatta Pissa! Here Foon, dis one's on, me. You da one wit da
By Friday I was stretched as tight as a drumhead. The weather for the
weekend looked bad as a classic Right Coast Nor'Easter gathered strength
to paste the Coast with driving wind and rain (and cancel the first game
of the World Series). It had been 3 weeks since my last session and I
was as desperate for surf as a drowning man is for a life preserver. In
spite of the bad forecast, we were scheduled to go to the Surf Palace
for an annual homeowners association meeting. The drive to the shore was
the worst I could remember with terrible wind, rain and standing puddles
of water the whole way. By the time we arrived at 1 am, my brain was
toast. Since the storm was predicted to rage throughout the weekend, I
decided to sleep in Saturday, late. When was I ever gonna learn?
At 9:30 am one eye blinked open. I could no longer hear the driving,
torrential rain that had woken me up several times during the night.
Instead, I could hear:
Hey! I know that sound! It sounds just like.....!!!!!! Launched from the
bed like I had a rocket in my pants,(Actually I do, but that's another
newsgroup) I flung open the deck door blinds and said, "oh
shitttttttttttt, Foonboy, now you've done it."
Out the window I could see chest to ohead plus sets pouring perfectly
over the sandbar. The sets of 5 or more waves at short intervals (8
seconds) were visible almost to the horizon. The cold front associated
with the Nor'Easter had come through overnight creating very good waves
and an offshore wind of 10-15mph with higher gusts. I ran out to the
dune path to see only about 8 guys getting fantastic Fall Classic
As I came crashing back into the house, Mrs.Foon reminded me of the
homeowners meeting we had to attend since she is the Secy/Treasurer, and
I wanted to propose and vote on several important items. I was already
cursing my luck as we left for the meeting. I found a good place to sit
and watch the surf in the president's living room. Bob brought the
meeting to order and I immediately moved that due to the fantastic surf
conditions that everyone could see out Bob's window, we take up new
business first. But noooooooooo, since Bob is a control freak and loved
to see me squirm with each breaking wave, he decided to prolong the
meeting with organizational stuff like budget and old business. Finally
my long dormant and suppressed, native Nu Yawker personality could no
longer take the delay (a 4 wave set of unequaled quality and form had
just broken UNRIDDEN!!!) I interrupted Bob mid sentence, "Frankly Bob, no
one here gives a shit about what a good rental season you had. Maybe we
should move on to new business and you can save your gas gag speech 'til
the end for that one person who may give a damn! All in Favor???? The
ayes have it!! I would like to propose and simultaneously post my vote on
these new items:"
- New Roofs and paint jobs on all the community buildings.
- Replace and expand the hurricane fencing around the dune and dune paths
to keep those damn tourists off our sand dune.
- A no vote for paving the dune parking lot. Don't people come to the
beach to get sand on their feet anyway?
- A no vote for providing hot water at the community beach side showers.
Let 'em freeze their tits off for all I care!
"OK, with that said, you know how I feel - gotta go." Bam, I was outta
there. Later Mrs.Foon said there was a stunned silence and someone said,
"What the hell got into HIM?" She reported that she explained, "Sorry
folks, he went all the way to the West Coast to surf, but couldn't and
now....... well, you can see out the window." Everybody nodded in
agreement, "Yeh, he's a nutcase all right!"
In five minutes I was paddling out. The water was a toasty 65 degrees. I
could have done it in a springsuit, but I wanted to test out again the
3/2 Mrs.Foon had bought me last year. Actually, with the airtemp at 52
and the wind whipping in straight from the West at 10-15mph, the water
felt like a bath tub. God, I love when this happens!!!
Though rusty and weak from my layoff, I scooted outside in a lucky lull
and wondered why there weren't 3 dozen surfers out? Too eager to surf,
I chose waves that were way too challenging for my startup rides and ate
it big. In each of the workings I could hear Huey say, "Welcome back,
Foonboy. We've missed stomping your flabby, freckled body into mush
while you were gone. Take it easy friend, there's plenty to go around."
And there was. It was one of those deliriously wonderful all day
sessions that actually got better as the wind and tide did their thing.
Everyone was scoring once in a season waves which were not as big as
Edouard, but better formed and stronger than Hortense! Tube, lip, and
pocket stunts could easily be done as the waves formed up as big peaks
from the North, then angled into long left breaking walls with rides up
to 75 yards!
The biggest trick was figuring the wind. You couldn't let up when you
first felt the slide. You had to continue on down the face helping
gravity give you extra speed so that when you reached the bottom, your
vertical drop speed would be converted into horizontal speed. You really
had to bounce out of your turn and get moving because once these lips
started to come over, you really didn't want to meet up with them. At
one point the Foondoggy II memorial sandbar became the break of choice
as it created 40 foot wide horseshoe shaped peaks, that tailed off into
screaming cover-up walls. Lots of fun, if you dared to pay the price.
By mid-afternoon my battery was dead. I let myself be washed up on shore
and I recalled the disappointment of my journey West. I could hear Huey
admonish me, "That'll teach you to abandon your homebreak Foonboy, not
to mention your birthday tradition." In 20 years I had been in or near
the Ocean on my birthday, until this year. I regretted breaking the
tradition and resolved never to do it again. My experiences on the Left
Coast could have been punishment for not honoring that commitment but I
thanked Huey anyway for welcoming me back to my home break.
"Home is not where you live, but where they understand you."
Have a Seat - Mr. SnakeyPants
Fri, 25 Oct 1996
Last weekend there were a few Father/Son surfers in the lineup at my
homebreak. I get a vicarious stoke watching these pairs experience
surfing together and get as much of a charge when a kid gets a good ride
as the Dads do. I know a few of these folks by name, but mostly we're
just nodding acquaintances.
On this day, we were really getting it good with exceptional conditions
spawned by I believe the remnants of hurricane Lili, which was just
spinning up some lines way out in the Atlantic. Most everyone was
getting good rides and there were plenty of waves to go around the 12-15
riders in the lineup. One of the young boys was just learning to ride a
new board and as yet had not mastered the technique of controlling it.
In fact, it was so new he hadn't even put a leash on it yet. So
basically he was being real careful about the waves he picked.
As luck would have it he was concentrating on positioning himself for a
good middle wave in a set and he didn't see me going for it, though I
was closest to the peak (I know, it's real hard to see a 215 lbs man on
a black bodyboard and black wetsuit charging down a green wave.) The
result was, he snaked me pretty good. I didn't mind since I was planning
on practicing my sophisticated controlled sideslip in the soup and I
could tell the wave was walling up for a big closeout. So I was hanging
back, riding as much of the clean face as he would let me. Since he had
his back to me he didn't realize he would turn right into me if he
cutback to straighten out. All of a sudden he made a lurching cutback
and my body board hit him just above the back of his ankles as it went
over his board. Amazingly, he just leaned back with a leg on either of
my shoulders, and gently SAT DOWN ON MY BACK!! The kid weighed maybe 55
lbs, so as we cleared his board, I still had enough momentum to continue
slowly along the wave face.
The kid laughed out loud and grabbed the strap on my wetsuit zipper for
a handhold. Very quickly it was apparent the wave was going to closeout
and the kid yelled "Straighten out Mr.Foondoggy!!" I assessed the
situation and thought, "Not likely, Snakeyboy. This could be the one and
only time you ever ride tandem on a bodyboard so to make it memorable,
WE'RE GOING FOR IT!!" The kid realized when I angled up the face of the
wave I was not going to straighten out and started to scream a loud,
"AH..OOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!" as we completed about 180 degrees of an in the
tube rollo before we went over the falls and got worked big time.
We both came up spitting and laughing. I let the boy hang on my board as
we ducked under two more waves of the set, then went in with him to get
his board. His Dad came riding in and since he didn't see what happened,
the kid had a great time describing the ride to him. The Dad got a kick
out of it but I was glad he pointed out to the boy to be more alert when
going for waves. The next big, freckled bodyboarder may not be so nice
and give him a ride.
Foondoggy (One of the few wipeouts of mine I wish had been videoed)
Mon, 28 Oct 1996
From a Right Coast perspective, it is almost alien to not be looking
toward the ocean's blackness for the first red tendrils of dawn. Reading
this piece reminded me of my few years on the Left Coast where surfers
must wait for the Sun to clear the various mountain ranges for warmth.
Out here the wide expanse of ocean horizon is our only clock face at
dawn and the almost perceptible changes from red to rose to orange to
pink to peach to yellow, mark the minutes like a colorful sweep hand,
until we start hearing the straps snapping and wax grating.
I miss the rich textures of the flora, fauna, geology and topography of
the Left Coast breaks. But sitting on my deck facing the empty ocean in
the East, nursing a hot cup of coffee before dawn patrol, is no less as
satisfying an experience as I have ever had on the Left.
Though there were no waves when I read this, I was inspired to go off
and seek out a serious breakfast. Thanks fang, it's no wonder your
writing can be found archived on various webpages.