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03-29-2004, 02:01 PM #1
S. Cali TR from the Summer of '59
My dad sent to me a copy of the following letter he wrote after I described (in an email) a big line I took way looker's right of Mainline Pocket at Squaw on Saturday. Surfers (or anyone for that matter), old and young, may get a kick out of this:
A R T H U R W. W H I T E
April 25, 2001
Fred Van Dyke
I saw your picture in an article about surfing in a Claremont McKenna College magazine, and decided to write to you. It’s apparent that you have stayed in touch and involved with surfing over the years, certainly moreso than I, but nevertheless, I think we may share a common experience that dates back 40 years or more to the summer of 1959 or 1960. I was sixteen or seventeen and even at that young age a pretty good surfer, and in retrospect, I suppose amongst the first of my friends really to pick up on it. I spent my summers at Sunset Beach. My folks had a house there, and to my lingering disappointment sold it in 1963. I learned to surf there in ‘57 with a balsa board. I was literally the only kid surfing at the time at Sunset, although several friends started taking it up shortly thereafter. There were several pretty good guys in Huntington Beach, too. I switched to a 10 foot Hobie foam in ‘58. Coral in color. Gordie was making his boards in Huntington Beach, but I never had one of his. I did get one of Ole’s in Seal Beach a few years later. Remarkably, I still have my sister’s old board, a Hobie, stored at Mom’s house in Pasadena, in the garage --- too bad I repainted it once. For surfers those were the days of no beach restrictions, no time limits, just unbridled fun. How many times did I surf the pier in Huntington Beach, through the pilings and the fishing lines. Unbelievable.
During that summer of ‘59 --- to my best recollection it was this year, but I could be off by a year --- I distinctly remember heading south one glorious morning with my friends, Walt Sawyer and Walt Wessel, to Trestles, then still a challenge to reach from the highway, dodging the Marines who patrolled there in hopes of capturing anyone with a surfboard --- if caught a trip down to Carlsbad was usually in order. This day in particular was big, and Trestles was marvelous. This was the first of two or three of the biggest days of surf I’ve ever handled. We finished with Trestles in the late morning as I recall, and headed next door to Cotton’s Point, which was breaking in stupendous size. Normally flat, this place was breathtaking in its power, surging and looming in the horizon. I caught so many memorable big waves there that day, but one stands clearly apart. As I and a few others waited far out at the breakline, a single wave emerged in the distance, looming disproportionately and ominously in the horizon. The few of us within reach of this immense, growing swell scrambled out, paddling furiously to avoid what we knew would be real trouble if it broke in front of us. This wave was big. Bigger than any other pushing through. I paddled, turned and with just a stroke or two took off. To my left, I saw someone...I think it was you or your brother or both of you.... and I made one quick, seemingly foolish decision, and went right --- nobody goes right at Cotton’s --- but I did, and had the ride of my life. That wave was so large and for that reason so blessedly forgiving that I had plenty of room right and survived, and kicked out in time.
On shore later, someone asked me if I’d seen the guy go right, and I told him yes, indeed, I had, but that I was the guy who’d done it. Then he mentioned that you and maybe your brother were out there as well. So, were you? I’ve never forgotten that day and what happened. Later the following day, we were at Dana Point surfing just off the rock, the waves still huge, and Bruce Brown was taking pictures, a couple of which I got and still have today. My guess is that Bruce was pretty busy for those two or three days, and I remember stopping by his little studio in Dana and picking up the photos. He may have had some of Cotton’s, too, but I was too late to get any.
Let me hear from you sometime if you feel inspired. I intend to get your book about your years riding big waves. I’ve always felt a distant kinship with you from that experience so long ago at Cotton’s. I’ve never forgotten those waves and that ride. My plans to surf the winter waves in Hawaii were cut short by a family tragedy at Christmas time in 1960, when we’d planned a trip. I still surf today, but nothing spectacular, although I don’t rule out a comeback someday on Maui in the winter at Honolua Bay (sic), just north of Napili where my family’s been vacationing since 1965. Great looking waves there, and a beautiful curl. At 58 I wonder if I can handle it. I’m a runner and stay in shape, so maybe there’s hope.Aliases: B-Dub, B-Dubya, & B. White
03-31-2004, 09:42 AM #2
Great to read the stoke from the old days. I like surfing Cottons on big days as well and can only imagine surfing the now extinct "Killer Dana". ThanksGave up on the bottle, give me the lobotomy.