It wasn’t until I was 17, the night that I graduated from high school, when I moved across the street from the Boardwalk that surfing became a lifestyle. I started working for Otto’s in 1966 and it was a few hours here and there during the summer, but when I graduated in ’67 it was a steady job. I started off helping out, bringing boards out and putting them away and attending the parking lot and within weeks I was giving surf lessons.
Otto asked me if I had ever made any surfboards and I told him that I had glassed one board. That was all he needed to hear, when the next thing I knew he was loading up his station wagon with shaped blanks and me and driving up by the Mystery Spot where he taught me how to glass surfboards. And that’s what I did until the summer ended, glassed boards and gave surf lessons.
I bought my first surfboard when I was about 14. It was a bright pigment orange and heavy, so I decided to reshape it. I had never seen anyone shape or glass a board and didn’t know anyone who did. When I bought the resin and fiberglass, I asked them how to do it and as best as they could they told me what I needed to do. So I stripped off the glass and discovered that the board was not made of foam, but it was a balsa wood surfboard. I had no tools and had never done anything like this. So I reshaped the board trying to make it thinner and easier to carry and I reglassed it bright orange. I would love to see that board today and see what it looked like. So that was my first glassed surfboard.
I glassed Otto’s boards in a field out in the sun. This is definitely a no, because the sun will kick off the catalyst in the resin setting off the resin prematurely, which can ruin a board. But I got good at it. When Otto showed me how to glass, the one problem he had was keeping the bugs off the board – they were attracted to the resin and would land on it and get stuck. Sometimes you could pick ’em right off and other times they made a mess. He did not want any bugs being glassed in the board, while I was thinking if I can glass a fly in the board then I’d know that I glassed that board. So that’s what I kept trying to do, and I would try to hide them down by the tail, so he wouldn’t notice them as much.
I wanted to live by the Boardwalk, because at one end of the beach was Cowell’s and at the other end was the Rivermouth and these were my two favorite places to surf and hangout. They were the only places I surfed and hungout. Kim Allen was one of the first persons I met surfing Cowell’s. You couldn’t miss Kim, because he lived right across the street and he had a Winterburn surfboard that I loved. It was Easter week ’67, and at this time, everyone went to Santa Cruz for Easter week and all the schools got off the same week. I was with my brother and some friends and ran in to Kim one night at the Boardwalk.
With the Vietnam war going on, Fort Ord which was a short distance away was in full swing training troops and on the weekends a “lot” of them would come to Santa Cruz. On this particular night someone asked theses GI’s if they could buy us beer and they said yes. Instead of getting the beer and leaving we ended up hanging out with these guys, they were from Michigan and were really funny. They were in the Navy, which was odd for them being at an Army base. At the end of the night when the Boardwalk was closing and we were parting ways, Kim was passed out. It was his first time ever drinking.
I don’t remember where we were staying, it might have been we were either staying in a car or sleeping on the beach, but we didn’t know what to do with Kim so we carried him home all the way up the hill to his house. We tried to get him to wake up, but he was out. We tried the front door and it was locked, so we crept around trying the windows hoping we wouldn’t be opening his parents window. We couldn’t take him with us, because we couldn’t go home and that’s what makes me think we were sleeping on the beach. So we propped Kim up against the door, rang the doorbell, and ran. Sorry Kim.
Many years later when I opened the surf shop, Kim’s mother would walk by everyday and I would always talk to her. Every time I saw her I always thought about it, so one day I finally brought it up – we had a good laugh.
It was Surf City across the street from the entrance to the wharf. There was Otto’s, and across the street was the Owl Surf Shop, and on the island between both shops, O’Neill’s had a shop. So there were a few good surfers frequenting the shops along with heavy locals such as Redo who belonged to the Killer Cowell’s Surf Club. One day Redo pulls into the lot and parks his car, looks at me and barks that he’ll be back. Well, Otto knew who Redo was and he told him to pay or leave. So Redo got mad at me and told me he was going to beat on me and he was known for doing that.
There was a stipulation that came along with surf lessons – they had to buy me lunch or dinner and no one ever seemed to mind. One evening while I was napping on the Castle side of the beach at the Rivermouth, these people came over and woke me up and asked me if I wanted their food. They said they had to leave immediately. I said yes and they were gone. I walked over next to the cave and they had a fire going with hotdogs, potato chips, and cokes. Looking around, while I was asleep everyone that I was hanging out with had left and here was all this food.
In 1967 there were no cell phones, pagers, or answering machines and in all the beach towns everyone hung out at their specific beach because this is where all their friends would hang out. If you wanted to find out where the parties were or where someone was you went to the beach. In Santa Cruz there were 3 body surfing spots: the Rivermouth, Blacks, and Wind and Sea and everyone that surfed, bodysurfed. As I was looking at my pot of gold, thinking that I didn’t have to buy or cook dinner, I noticed one guy on the beach and he was one of the Wind & Sea locals. I had never met nor ever spoke to him, so I went over and introduced myself and invited him over and he was just as stoked as me.
……more to come – lots more…..