Surfing Vancouver Island  

Foondroppings 11  

A Pox on you Jean Amour Polly

06 February 1997

Well friends, when it rain it whores.

First this week I found the Surfcheck site mentioned in People Magazine's Bytes column. Now from "the Navigator" column of that venerable bastion of journalism, The Washington Post, I find a few more astonishing facts.

Under the heading "Hang 10, Dudes" the writer clears up a mystery that has been bugging me for years. He writes, "When New York librarian and author Jean Amour Polly coined the phrase, "Surfing the Internet", she unleashed a metaphor that soon became both hip and ubiquitous." I AM STUNNED!! And to paraphrase Ted Deits, if I may, "Today, I am ashamed to be a native Nu Yawker, and you should be too." At least the writer acknowledges my feelings by saying, "to the ears of "real" (ocean wave) surfers, the phrase grates like fingernails on a chalkboard." That's about right.

The column goes on to praise the evolution of electronic surfcheck surveillance technology and mentions by name, Surfcheck, Surfline and Surflink. It includes mention of future plans by these sites to increase the number of breaks they observe, INCLUDING THE FOONDOGGY HOMEBREAK!!!!! The question is would I take $50 a month to mount a camera on my deck? F**k NO!!! But if say they want to pay off my mortgage, well sheeeeit boy, I'll man the damn camera myself and write the reports. (Now come on, you know me better than that ;^)

Finally, the writer claims surfing enjoys such tremendous popularity in Europe, that video sites are popping up everywhere. Surfin'Holland, from guess where? Surfnet, in Sweden. The London Surf Club. And, Mare Nostrum, from Italy. Oh also, a Norwegian site called Secret Spots. I'm not sure this is a surf page or a sex page, but can you imagine what would happen in the States if Ted Deits spun off another site by that name?

Why it would probably all have us, "Surfing the Internet." Damn you, Jean Amour Polly.


Foonboy in Florida, Geezers, Surfers & Motorheads

17 February 1997

I was in a much better mood by Sunday, Saturday was another story. I'd shoveled my truck out of 8 inches of snow, gone to work early to finish some projects, then drove to the airport with Mrs.Foon to wait for our delayed flight to Florida. To say we were ready for the Sunshine State was an understatement. The flight went pretty smoothly and OUILA, our bags were the first off the plane -things were looking good until I got to the car rental counter. We'd reserved a grossly self- indulgent Lincoln Towncar, but an elderly couple in front of us from Canada (known in Daytona as "PuckHeads") rented the last one, and as our clerk pointed out in the fine print "reserved vehicles were subject to availability".

He explained that since this was the height of the season and also Race Week in Daytona, pickins were kinda slim in the car rental biz. I put on my best Nu Yawk game face and looked rentalboy in the eye. I started the dance:

"How 'bout a Chrysler New Yorker?"

"Sorry sir, we have no full size cars."

"Cadillac?" "Sorry sir."

"Jeep Cherokee?" "Sorry"

"OK rentalboy, what do you have for me?"

"How about a new Chrysler Cirrus sir, convertible?"

"I'm not a ragtop fan son, and I'm not about to drive a puny little car that sounds like a liver disease."

"That's Cirrus sir."

"Cirrus, Cirrhosis, what's the dif." I started to walk away from the counter. Desperate not to lose a rental the clerk blurted out, "Would you be interested in the Manager's car sir? It's a Ford Taurus SHO." I stopped short. Whoa Mommy!!! Now not authentically a muscle car, I'd heard the SHO (something like Super High Output) definitely had enough under the pedal to make my search for waves at least interesting and much quicker. "What's the Manager driving this week?" I asked.

"Mr.Morrison has been given loan of a Ford Mustang Shelby Cobra this week by one of the race car companies Sir." Damn, that would have been my choice too.

Ten minutes later I left the rental garage and 30 feet of rubber as I acclimated myself to the SHO. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Mrs.Foons face get "that look" as she said, "Are you going to make me sorry I brought you on this trip, Foonboy?" "Why no dear" I said sweetly, "I would never think of doing anything to make you feel that way." "Too, late, bub." She smiled, then -"I know you've been through a lot in the last few weeks at work and were really looking forward to this vacation, but let me remind you that the company tab doesn't cover traffic tickets, or bail."

Yes, by Sunday I was feeling no pain even as I stared out from a top level suite at the Adams Mark Hotel (arguably one of the best resort hotels in Daytona) and checked the meager surf conditions. That morning I'd already been to a preliminary race at the Speedway, ticket compliments of some race car executive I'd met in the jacuzzi the previous night. Though exciting and loud, car racing was not what I'd come to Florida for. Thanks to a heavy tip to the bell captain on Saturday (I always tip heavy my first few days at any Hotel, the rest of the week service is impeccable)I was invited to use the assistant manager's personal bodyboard for the week (a Toobs Big Bruddha-my kinda guy) and given several suggestions on where to use it. A storm front had developed and powered through and everyone was just sort of waiting to see if the swell would build and the wind would come around offshore. In the next 4 days I would prowl the coast of Florida from Vilano Beach, North of St. Augustine, to Vero Beach (home of the Dodgers in Spring training)just South of Sebastian Inlet which is my own surf mecca and legendary home surfturf of the reigning World Champion. As I watched a few guys go out near the Daytona Main Street Pier, I judged that indeed the surf was improving, and by Monday I would be likely to find some waves.

With Mrs.Foon in meetings all week, I felt free to roam at will, starting in Vilano Beach and moving down toward Daytona my first day. Though it was still blustery and cool, I managed to survive 3 go outs at various un-named beach breaks near Crescent Beach, Palm Coast, and Flagler Beach. I'd only brought my springsuit so my sessions were punctuated with yelps and hoots. Yelps with every coldwater flush as I ducked, and hoots with every wave I rode that broke my session famine since Dec.26th. After six numbing hours of small, mushy, closed out, semishorebreak thumpers, I got back to the hotel and spent an hour deicing in the outdoor jacuzzi. People inside were staring at me since it was by then, pouring rain. I was happy to just sit and consider the improving conditions both weather and waves.

Coincidentally, our visit to Florida was during the launch of the Space Shuttle, Discovery, at four am Tuesday. Since I was heading in that direction anyway, I crashed early Monday night, got up at two am to drive down to Titusville for a looksee. I recommend, if you ever want to get the most excitement you've ever had for your taxpaying dollar, go to a launch of the shuttle! It is awesome! I was miles away, yet the sky lit up like daylight and the roar was so loud you could barely talk to someone next to you.

Though the traffic out of the Cape was a bitch, I drove South and hit Vero Beach at dawn. Caught a cheap, wonderful breakfast with rocket fuel coffee, fresh squeezed OJ and some grits. I was ready to go out at the first public beach I saw waves and paddled out to wallow in the glory of a Right Coast dawn patrol in Florida!! I was in pig heaven riding waist to chest semishore breaks and nobody out for miles! I moved North to visit my surf mecca, Sebastian Inlet, by midmorning. Incoming tides and a North crosswind made the surf a tad mushy for b-boarding, so I just sat around the picnic area and watched a few shortboarders tear it up and reminisced about the dozen or so trips I'd made here in my youth. During my longboard days, we'd leave New York on a February morning and be surfing Monster Hole the next morning. Too many good times to relate here, but I couldn't stop smiling at the beautiful sight of light green waves and glorious sunshine.

Moving North again, I was inspired to go out at a public beach in Melborne, and again at the Main Gate beach park at Patricks AFB. Both short sessions were fun with a friendly attitude from most everyone in the water. Over the next 3 days I was happy to have small but fun surf to ride at Satellite Beach, Cocoa, some no name beach breaks and Surff's home break in New Smyrna Beach.

Since this is getting long already, I'll continue with some observations and comments about this trip in another Post.

I love Florida in the Winter. For those of you who live there complaining about the wave famine, you can stay at my place in the Mid- Atlantic where the water temps are 38 degrees and see how that suits you.

Foondoggy (MY NOSE IT PEELING!!!!)

the tragedy

21 February 1997

The recent death of Todd Chesser has reminded me of a painful episode in my life that I choose to share with you, not as a way of gaining sympathy, but more as a catharsis for me. Thanks for the therapy.

The summer of 1965 was a young surfer's nightmare. Early in June I was afflicted with a serious case of mononucleosis -the kissing disease (oooo Foonboy, you devil you). Treatment of the disease in those days was weeks of bedrest and inactivity. As a sophomore in high school with a burning desire to surf the summer away, this was a death sentence. I remember the long months of June, July and August stretching ahead of me in a huge mindless span of boredom. After a few visits even my friends stopped coming by, knowing their tales of good days and fun sessions would just torture me.

I was so starved for surfing activity I would read and reread my copies of Surfer magazine over and over. I even took to watching that monumentally stupid teen show "Where the Action Is," solely because they had a two second sequence at the beginning and end of the show of someone surfing. By the end of August and my convalescence I had a major surf clot stopping up my stoke. I was in desperate need of waves.

At the first suggestion by the doctor I could go to the beach, I lept at the chance. It just so happened most of my friends were on vacation and I had to go alone. Early the next day I borrowed the family wagon, loaded my 9'6" Jacobs and raced to Cedar Island beach on the South Shore of Long Island. I arrived just after dawn and parked at the very last lot, not far from the surfing beach. I didn't realize how weak I was until I tried to carry my board the long trek from the parking lot. I was exhausted after just a few dozen yards and wound up dragging it by the tail.

I was about 200 yards from the beach and I could see small waves breaking in the distance. I noticed too, a single young surfer bobbing out in the break, not far offshore. As I walked closer toward the shore I observed the rider turning his big board around attempting to catch a 3-4 foot wave. As luck would have it, he pearled the board and fell off. The board squirted back outside of him and wound up floating parallel to shore. As the surfer came up he was facing me. Instead of looking directly around for his board he looked at me and waved.

I knew immediately this was a mistake and I started to yell for him to watch out behind him. Whether he thought he recognized me or was just glad to see another surfer to share the waves with I'll never know. For almost at the very next instant the following wave, breaking just outside of him, picked up his board and slammed it right into the back of his neck. The kid collapsed like a ragdoll... and never came up. I was paralyzed with horror. I dropped my board and ran as fast as I could (not very) and waded into the waist deep water looking for the boy. I started to cry knowing if I didn't find him soon he'd be gone. As I continued to thrash and scream in frustration at not finding him, slowly it dawned on me that had I not been there at that moment, that boy would still be alive.

After 10 minutes I raced back to the parking lot entrance and told an attendant what had happened. He called the beach patrol and in ten minutes the place was swarming with guards. A half hour later a helicopter was brought in to search. The beach was closed all day but all they found was the boy's surfboard. I was inconsolable and for years I blamed myself for that boy's death. Three days later they found the body several miles up the beach. The coroners report said he died of drowning as a result of a broken neck. I have never felt so guilty in my life.

Though I warn everyone I know to never go surfing alone, I continue to do so myself. I know that Todd Chesser had friends in the water with him and though they worked hard to save him, they couldn't. I have such great sympathy for Todd's family but also for those young men who couldn't save their friend. Those guys are in a lot of pain. Hang in there Brah.


The Seed of Stoke

22 February 1997

This is too long and too personal. Skip it. Just some therapy for me.

"Life is the only art that we are required to practice without preparation, and without being allowed the preliminary trials, the failures and botches, that are essential for the training of a beginner."
Lewis Mumford

We experience so much of our lives on a very superficial level. We sleep, eat, work, go to school, have a little fun, endure the everyday aggravations of modern life and try to find some humor, comfort, pleasure, peace and understanding of what it all means. Many of us can count on one hand the number of significant events that have shaped our lives and truly made a difference; Something that happened which is so profound that the experience became planted, like a seed in our soul, thriving & growing under good conditions or lying dormant during bad.

As a young man I took up the sport of surfing because of peer pressure. I joined the "surfer clique" at school 'cause I wasn't a jock or a brain and the lives of my friends and I revolved around the surf culture of the time. Happy as I was, I realized early on I was not well suited to the sport. Large, uncoordinated, freckled and very fair-skinned with strawberry blond hair, I was also socially unsure and passive. Like everyone, I wore the Pendleton shirts, puka shells, Katins, zinc nose, plastered my VW bug with decals, grew my blond hair long and pissed off my parents. The word "KooK" was giving me a lot of credit. As much as I wanted to be part of the sport, I always felt inadequate compared to those of my peers who excelled at it.

In the early morning hours of a crisp Fall day, in 1969, I drove to the beach house of a good friend in West Gilgo Beach, Long Island, NY. We met in the predawn darkness and walked the short distance over the dune to the beach. I'd been riding a new 6'10" slot bottom for about a month, but I still had not mastered it's blazing speed and whiplash turning capability. We were greeted that morning with some remarkable surf conditions consisting of a fairly large swell that produced some hollow waves with 8 ft faces. The steady offshore breeze and unusual high tide combined to form the break way inside creating a thick-walled semi- shorebreak. In addition, a freaky backwash was wreaking havoc with the shape and form. As a result, maybe one wave of every set was certifiably makeable, and it wasn't until you were well into the wave that you actually could see what the backwash would do.

What we faced was a surfer's version of Russian Roulette. If you were lucky, you made the barrel. If not, the barrel made you (die)! My friend, Tomas and I paddled the short distance out to the lineup and waited for several sets to pass. Finally Tomas thought he had it wired and took off on a middle set wave. I lost sight if him until he came blasting out the top of the wave, high in the air just as the wave closed. He scrambled back outside just missing getting caught by another hammer. He had that "deer-in-the-headlights" look in his eyes. I thought, "How bad could it be?" and took off on a reasonable looking wall only to be seriously planted in the sand. Scrapes and cuts tattooed my back and arms and I did not like the feeling of being clueless about the waves.

Sitting out in the lineup, with only Tomas to talk to on that beautiful morning, I began to wonder as I watched several challenging waves go thundering by, "Is this what I really want to do?" I was unconvinced that surfing was really for me and felt I'd been easily influenced by my friends. I truly wasn't very good at it. Maybe it was a phase I was going through? Maybe I was really a biker?

Suddenly a long wall formed up outside and I sprinted out to meet it. I spin-turned my board at the last second and deep-stroked into the face. Standing quickly I faced a steep drop and a 50 foot long, 8 foot wall of vertical moving water. No way was I going to make this. For some reason I figured, "What the Hell!!" took the drop with my foot on the tailblock and my arm buried to the elbow, then stepped up to the speed zone on my board. "Might as well Eat it Big - it builds character." What a dope I was in those days.

As my board picked up speed, involuntarily I crouched down to keep my balance and prevent falling off. A curious wave of feeling enveloped me mixing fear, wonder, happiness, anticipation and finally serenity. I had put myself in harms way with absolutely no power over what would happen next. (Pretty masochistic, wouldn't you say?) I remember putting just two fingers in the wave face, marveling at the smoothness of it's surface and delighting in the little spray grooves my fingers were making. Time and space seemed to slow down, and compress (does this ALWAYS happen?) and I don't recall hearing anything as I looked and absorbed every detail of the ride.

I was certain I would get pounded but out of nowhere a backwash swell launched its power up into the wave face causing the lip to throw out far over my head like the wide roof on a Southern style porch. This would be my first authentic barrel ride and as the wave reconfigured itself due to the backwash, it lined up in a big, long, symmetrical (and makeable) wall. I exulted in the speed, and felt giddy about the smooth effortless glide which gave the illusion of being weightless. I was seized with happiness by the fact I was actually going to come spitting out the end. As I angled over what was left of the shoulder, I simply sat down on the tail of my board. The wave expired on the shore and my feet were touching the sand. I was left sitting in about 2 feet of water.

Amazed and shaken, I was also deeply moved by this experience. I picked up my board and walked up the beach. This was some serious magic for me and I could not longer concentrate on riding these difficult waves. For the next hour I sat and watched Tomas have fun (and get drilled).

Finally I knew. I could love this sport, whether I could do it well or not. The seed of stoke, in the form of a single ride, had been planted deep in my soul. For years after my stoke for the sport grew, eager to recreate that feeling on every ride. I rode bigger and better waves after that, but gradually I realized that episode was unique and would never be repeated. The feeling of that day was something I would never quite have again. It was the day I gave myself over freely to the sport, no questions.

There was a very dark period in my life. One of those black emotional wells we sometimes drop into and allow to envelope and dominate our lives. My spirit was broken with personal problems and I stopped surfing for years, replacing it with some very destructive behavior. Friends and family warned me my life was spiraling out of control.

One night, in the deepest, darkest, winter of this personal nightmare, I found myself unexplainably driving to the same beach at West Gilgo. At 3 am in the morning of a bitter February night, I walked the shore of that beach and willed myself to recall every nuance of that wonderful day years ago. The memory flooded back and brought me to the brink of emotional collapse as I gasped and cried and shouted my anger into the black night. My recollection helped to melt away my bitterness and I swore I would never let this personal beast consume me like it had. In a way, the tears of that night watered the seed that was dormant in my soul.

Soon after, my personal life turned around. I went out and bought a new board, took leave of absence from work and traveled to Florida for a soul searching surfari. When I returned I was not quite a new man, but one who was definitely on the mend. Everyday I carry with me the feeling of hope that came with just one wave. It still breaths life into my interest for living and surfing. Yes, I am a surf lifer. Should that day come when I can't do it anymore, I will still go to the ocean and watch every wave, as every surfer does, and dream what it must be like to ride it.


"Whatever the universal nature assigns to any man at any time is for the good of that man at that time."
Marcus Aurelius

The Magic Coat

Sun, 23 Feb 1997

It hangs from a nail in my basement surf shrine and its been many years since I wore it anywhere. The cuffs are frayed, one pocket is shredded, and the brass-looking metal buttons that once bore the Levi Straus emblem are mostly worn smooth.

In the summer of 1965 I bought it for $12 at an Army Surplus store in Newark, New Jersey. I needed a coat to wear on surf trips and the three-quarter length, dark blue denim carpenter's coat seemed to fill that need. Little did I know then it would become a constant companion and protector for the next 20 years. Next to my surfboard, it became the most important accessory I would take on nearly every surfari.

The lining was an ugly gray and red flannel fabric that looked, felt and some would say smelled like and old horse blanket. During many cold nights camping or sleeping under overpasses during rainstorms it was the only thing which kept me warm and prevented me from leaving, possibly to miss some great dawn patrol conditions.

If it could tell you all the places its seen it would include hundreds of beaches on the Right Coast like Cape Cod, Pt. Judith, Block Island, Montauk Point, virtually every South facing beach on Long Island, many in New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia, most of the Carolinas and several in Florida. On the Left Coast it would recall popular spots in San Diego, Orange, Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara including epic sessions, at Sunset Cliffs, Blacks, Trestles, Huntington Beach, Malibu, Rincon and (shhhh) Hollister Ranch. Unfortunately the coat never went to Hawaii. The coat had in fact become like a second skin on surfing trips and I wore it at times when it wasn't even needed. Some of the best sessions I've ever had were after wearing that coat. It became sort of my surfing charm.

Yesterday while working in the basement I came upon it, still hanging on the wall. Many years of wear in all kinds of conditions have left it faded and soiled. The blue corduroy collar is discolored and threadbare. I remembered how I used to turn it up to protect my neck from cold wind and rain. The shredded pocket is a result of the thousands of times I put my car keys in it. The other pocket was used to store many things, and I'm not sure I want to put my hand in it for fear of what I'll find.

The coat has absorbed and been stained with all kinds of fluids; saltwater, rainwater, resin, coffee, ink, wax, beer, acetone, gasoline, blood (don't ask), bourbon, soda, tequila, orange juice, snot, motor oil, cooking oil, and hash oil (don't tell). I fear if it ever got near to an open flame, it would explode. To my knowledge it's never been cleaned except by the endless soakings in the ocean it received as a result of various pranks by my friends.

I took the old coat down from its nail and slowly slipped it on. When I weighed 180 lbs it was huge and could easily cover a couple shirts or sweaters. Now, it fits a bit tighter, but there is still ample room for an old sweatshirt. As I buttoned it up, I was immediately transported to a universe of fond memories. The mind is a wonderful vehicle and memories are the engine which power your ability to go anywhere you want to. I spent a long time thinking of all the good times and great trips I shared wearing that coat. The memories flooded me with good feelings and I smiled at the thoughts of wonderful waves and exciting experiences.

As I finally removed the coat I was certain I would never get rid of it. It had become a touchstone of my experience as a surfer and I could never give up the thoughts and stoke it represented. It is the one garment I've owned that has been with me throughout the entire time.

Mrs.Foon hates the coat, not for what it represents, but because it looks so damn crummy. But like an old mutt of a dog, I can't help but love it. In these days of hightech sportswear the coat looks like a dinosaur, a relic, something a homeless person would gladly trade in for a warm down coat or windbreaker. To me it is a diary, one only I can read.

I suggest, if you ever become attached to something; a shirt, hat, or coat which accompanies you on your surfing adventures, keep it, preserve it and cherish it. Some day when you're older, and you slip it on, your memories will take you to your favorite breaks for your favorite sessions.

It's magic!


"Nostalgia isn't what it used to be."
Simone Signoret

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