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While sitting there on a log at Cannon Beach, I noticed a group of college students walking down the trail behind me with surfboards under their arms. The boards weren't the big round nosed ones I'd been accustomed to seeing on TV. They were modern light weight short boards which comprised pointed noses. Then when I saw them put on their wet suits I noticed they were modern also. The wet suits were one piece with hoods built right into them. I thought, "Hay high-tech wet suits; now with one of those I could handle the cold water." After I saw them catch a few waves, I felt that surfing was just the kind of sport I could get into.
The students seemed quite friendly and I found out that there were from Seattle. I asked them if they ever surfed in Washington and it was a pleasant surprise when they told me about Westport because the fantasy of taking up such a sport was that much closer to reality.
At the time I was working for a painting contractor for prevailing wage so my paychecks were looking pretty good and by the time I made it back home I had made up my mind that I was going to take up the sport. I even told a few of my friends to see if any
of them would spark interest in taking up the sport but none of them even wanted to try.
So off to the coast I went with my Bill Hickey crammed into my VW Rabbit. Suddenly the fear if the long commute with my car was cast aside and the song by U2, something about looking for, became my theme song.
When I arrived in Westport, I met Mal; the owner of the one and only surf shop on the Washington coast. The only rental wet suit I could rent was just too small for me and I ended up forking out almost $250 for one of the hot to go, top of the line 5/4 "Hotlines" with hood and all. When I hit the water I found out that a wet suit wasn't complete without booties. Though my feet were freezing cold when I walked into the water, I still paddle out hoping my feet would get used to it. I tried my best at getting that Bill Hickey out through the shore break. The farther out I got, the harder the waves would pick me up and throw me back in. It was like paddling 50 yards and getting thrown back 30 or 40. It must have taken about 30 minutes to get out past the shore break, but it seemed like at least 45. Dam I thought; if I would have know how much work it was, I would have thought twice about taking up such a sport. But after spending $300 on it, I felt I was obligated to learn.
I realized just trying to sit on the narrow board was difficult and there had to be some kind of technique to it. I had to observe what the other guys were doing to figure out how they performed such a task. I realized they were sitting towards the rear of their boards; letting the rear-end sink down, using the nose as a bobber. Once I realized this, I knew that only the guys with large longboards could sit with anything more than of their chest out of the water.
I tried to catch a few waves and found that just getting up onto my
feet was the hard part. After getting thrashed a few times, Abe, "the goodwill
ambassador" gave me a pointer. He told me to go strait down the face and not off to the side; like we see in the movies where they ride big waves.
After my first session my feel were so cold , I headed straight to the surf shop before they closed. I was going to make sure I had a pair of booties for the second attempt at the horrendous task the next morning.
The next day, I found my self back at the surf
shop claiming that the new wet suit they'd sold me was too tight around my
shoulders. I said, "You're looking at a guy in serious pain."
The next weekend I bought
another surfboard at the surf shop in Westport and
consigned my Bill Hickey, which eventually fetched $100. (I've kicked myself in
the ass over the years for getting rid of the Bill Hickey gun when ever the
waves got big, because it was a good looking board and I'm sure it would be of
a collector's idiom if I'd kept in good shape.) I picked up a used 6'7" Whahlboard,
thruster for $200. Mal tried to advise me to get longboard, but I figured a
wider board was all I needed because I wasn't into the longboard style of
the month of February rolled around I headed out for the coast and learned that Mal had just bought an old building for his surf
shop. Mal's old building was in desperate need of a paint job but he knew I was just the man to help
him out. Mal offered the egg-board I wanted in trade for the paint job, and
we were both luckily the color gray had been in fashion for quite some time in Tacoma. Gray happen to be just the color Mal was interested in and with all the left-over
paint we were able to mix up a shade Mal came up with on his own.
I showed up and pressure washed the building and while prepping the building I ran across one of the strangest dilemmas I have ever had on a building's prep job. That is while scraping back the paint; I found that the wood underneath the old paint was wetter than the exposed bare wood surfaces. It was so wet that it you hit it with a hammer it would spit water. The old oil-base paint just held the moisture inside so I had to let it set over night before priming it with a latex (water base) primer. The primer actually helped dry the wood out.
The weather pattern was pretty tight since it was February and in the middle of the rainy session, but on the next trip out I showed up with my airless and the paint. Mal stored it inside the building for me. Mal and I mixed up a shade of gray he liked, but the weather was still iffy. I went surfing that morning and by the afternoon the weather was permitting I discovered I had a problem with the airless and paint being locked up in the shop and Mal was no where to be found. Later in the day he showed up and I had to kick into high gear. I didn't start pumping the paint until four o'clock but fortunately, I know how to paint -- even if the sun is going down.
At four o'clock the
next morning I heard a down pour of rain on my car. The scary thing about it
was that if the paint was to get washed off, I'd just as well paid cash for
the new surf board because if the paint was washed off, replacing the paint
would cost almost as much as the surfboard. When daylight rolled around I woke
up to a nice paint job because none of the paint washed off as I expected and nothing short of a miracle.
When I first began surfing, I was surfing with transplants from other parts of the country. They had moved there where they had only twelve other surfer within a hundred miles. The other fifty or so weekend surfers where from Puget Sound area and we all knew each other no matter where they were from.
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Then there came this longboarder Ricky Young, from California who set-up a surf shop in the collage district of Seattle. He learned how to shape a few longboards and I'm sure he looking to boost business a little. He came up with the idea of forking out the money for insurance
to cover a surf contest at our home break.(I heard $7000.oo) I wouldn't doubt the City of Commerce, Westport helped some with the usual public tourist commercial announcement, because I'm pretty sure mentioned a surf contest.
This happened to be about the time when electronic video cameras became a common house hold item and people were sending their kids off to college with them. The students from California and the east coast would send videos to their buddies in other parts of the country.
Pretty soon, every time I went out to the coast; more and more surfers were appearing. A few years later I realized that I would be lucky to know 2% of the surfers that were showing up. About half of the original dozen are no longer living there. Abe took his family back to Hawaii. Bill went to Australia and then back to California after that. I think Mark went back to Huntington Beach. The Butcher moved to eastern Washington and another moved inland and only showed up occasionally. Were some of the others went, I'm not sure. Only a hand-full are still there.
Another place I want to see.