Iawoke to the smell of the fresh ocean breeze blowing through my bedroom window. My head felt as though it might explode. Wow, what happened? Oh, it is coming back to me now. The
summer kick-off party. We started at Cindy’s house with a keg of beer, and a lot of tequila. Then a handful of us went out to the beach to finish off the last bottle of tequila. Shelly and I snuck into my house sometime between three and four in the morning. We tried hard not to wake my parents. Mom was a buyer for a large department store, and Dad was career military. Every morning they woke up at five. Like clockwork, every night they went to bed by eight.
Obviously, I still lived at home in my father’s house. I know it sounds terrible, having to sneak around. Some things are better left alone. My parents seeing me on my tequila drunken fest was just not something any of us needed. Nor would I have liked the wrath of Mom that would be inevitable if she saw us wasted sneaking into my room. Besides, I honestly hated to hurt them. I knew they would think they failed me as parents. I loved my parents, and I did not want that. I was turning twenty-one soon. This would not be an issue in a few months.
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As I dragged myself out of bed, I reached over and gave Shelly a gentle shake. I saw that it was a beautiful day. The sun was shining in through my bedroom window. “What is all over these sheets?” I asked.
“It feels just awful,” Shelly said. I looked over at Shelly she looked back at me.
“I cannot believe it. I have sand all over my feet and the sheets.” We both howled with laughter.
“So do I.” Shelly laughed.
“Talk about being out of it,” I continued to laugh. “I do not remember the ride home, or climbing into bed with sandy feet.” “We were both pretty out of it.” Shelly looked at the ceiling, stretching out her long legs. “The main thing I remember about last night is that when we were walking down towards the water the ground kept coming up and hitting me in the face!” she said
to her chagrin.
“We were stupid drunk. We kept falling in the sand,” I
Shelly said, “I like my version of what happened better.”
“I am sure you would, Shelly,” I chuckle. “I do remember
Gerry trying to cozy up close to you all night.”
She rolled her eyes. “He has been doing that since we were
kids. He cannot take a hint!”
Poor guy, I think to myself, he has liked Shelly since the
“I guess you cannot blame a guy for trying,” I told her.
“I just have no interest, but he is cute,” she explained, folding
her arms across her chest.
We had a mess to clean up before we went anywhere that
day. Mom would have a fit. We also needed to hit the beach. I had a need for the waves. That cold water would help lift the cobwebs from my mind, and remove the fog I was in right now.
Hopefully, I would start feeli&ng better. First, though, I would make us something to eat. “I’ll go downstairs and whip us up some breakfast,” I told her.
“I am all for breakfast,” Shelly said as she slowly sat up.
I looked over my shoulder. “I will meet you downstairs,” I told her as I headed down to the kitchen.
Shelly and I had been friends since the first grade. Her parents built a house in this neighborhood the same year my parents did. We both started school the same day. We sat in the back of the classroom, as all the new kids in the class did. We whispered back and forth the first day of school and have been friends ever since.
She was a cheerleader in high school, and I played many different sports—volleyball, tennis, gymnastics, and softball to name a few. She never dated anyone from high school. I always went out with the jocks. She said, “They are all immature,” and always went for older guys. She had a brief interlude with a man in his mid-twenties that she met her senior year. He belonged to the Hessians Motorcycle Gang. That did not last long, for obvious reasons. That was a whole different story in itself.
We had never been able to agree on the subject of men. She had always had a different perspective on who was cool. Guys that I thought were cool she thought were not. That was OK. We got along well. It certainly made dating easy, as we never liked the same guys.
My cure for a hangover was a fried egg sandwich, a glass of orange juice, and four aspirin. That usually worked. After a shower, we headed to the beach. My truck was a Chevy Suburban my Uncle Pete gave me. He, my Aunt Elaine, and my cousin Cindy lived in a house they built in the same neighborhood around the corner from us back in the sixties. Their home was one of the first ones built in this housing track. The area was
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a brand new development of three and four bedroom mostly ranch-style houses. We had a two story, and hers was a large single story.
My uncle giving me the old truck did not go over well with my father. They bought a new one to pull their new camping trailer last year. My cousin did not like it, so they asked me if I would like to have it. “You do not appreciate anything you do not work for!” Dad said.
“But I do, in a major way. I would never have expected something this great. The fact that they just gave it to me. I loved them before, now I love them even more. It is the coolest thing on wheels. It is large enough for me and eight friends to hit the beach with eight surfboards on the surfboard rack on top if needed. Oh, yes, I appreciate it alright!” I tried to tell him.
It looked like there were offshore winds blowing. This day could not get any better. We had Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” blasting on the radio. Shelly and I sang along. We both sang in the choir in elementary school. Neither of us could carry a tune now. As we got closer to the beach, it looked as if it was going to be ideal conditions for surfing. I was right about the offshore wind. There was a clear blue sky—not a cloud to be seen anywhere. Shelly was not into surfing or athletics. She preferred to lounge on the beach. She knew all the regulars we called “Local Boys.”
I started surfing at about twelve years old. I mentioned to my father that I was interested. That weekend, he came home from a swap meet with a Chuck Dent long board. “I do not know if this is any good, but I thought you could try it out,” he said.
“You did good. Thank you so much.” He probably would never know how happy he made me that day. I used it every chance I got.
I learned how to surf on it pretty quickly. The day I turned
fourteen we went down to Ma&in Street, and Dad told me to go pick out any surfboard I wanted for my birthday. I had my eye on this lime green twin fin in Dick Brewer’s Surf Shop, so I dragged my dad in there to see if they still had it. Yes, it was there, my dad was willing to pay the price, and the rest was history.
I did not have that surfboard anymore. It was one of the best birthday gifts I ever received. I broke it in half on an unusually large swell one morning on the south side of the pier. I remember as if it were yesterday. I got hammered by the waves that day. When I finally finished getting tossed around by a monster wave and made it into shore, I noticed I only had half a board attached to my leash. The other half washed in to shore on waves that tried to crush me. It was not the first board I lost that way and it would not be the last. Some days were treacherous out there. I had my boards custom made these days. The Main Street area had many surf shops that would make your board to order.
All the guys that we usually hung out with were already out there. The conditions looked clean on the north side of the pier. Wave height was five to six feet, fairly walled and glassy. It looked like Mike, Jimmy, Steve, and the others got an early start on me. Drinking tequila all night did not bother them. I thought I would be passing on the tequila shots next time. Maybe I should give up hard alcohol altogether. Then again, maybe not.
These guys out there today were serious surfers and highly territorial. They did not take to anyone from out of town particularly well. The locals referred to them as “inland goons.” Around here, all surfers had to earn the right to these perfect sets. After all, this was the surf capital of the world: Huntington Beach, California.
Huntington Beach dominated the other beaches, with over eight miles of uninterrupted beach that stretched from Seal Beach to Newport Beach. It was unreal. It had been a terrific place to
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grow up and was the best place in the U.S. to surf. There was a cement bike path that started in Sunset and went all the way to Newport. It overflowed with skateboarders, roller skaters, and bicycles. Shelly and I had ridden bikes all the way from one end to the other. The last time we rode we were too tired to ride bikes all the way back, so we hitched a ride with a dude driving a truck. We threw the bikes in the back, and he dropped us in Sunset hours later. It was an excellent beach trip nonetheless.
The waves were fairly consistent any time of the year. Here in Huntington the waves were between three to five feet most of the time. Certain weather conditions could change that, and we enjoyed larger swells during those random periods. There were beaches in Northern California that had large swells year round.
The waves at the pier broke outside, where the water is deep, and there was no chance of hitting the sand when you fell off your board. This was unlike the shore break at Sunset beach, which meant the wave broke right on the beach. Anyone experiencing this would have gnarly sand scars for days. They were similar to road rash.
I did not start surfing at the pier until I had surfed for a few years. When I was just learning I stuck to the cliffs. It was a popular surf spot at the end of Golden West Street. My friend’s dad surfed, and we went there in the evenings after dinner. I never considered surfing at the pier when I was new to surfing. People up on the pier had a bird’s eye view of the surfers below, and any mistakes they might make while they were out there. I was afraid of looking like a fool.
I finally got my nerve up one day and drove on down to the pier. I waxed up my board and paddled out. At first, the surfers were unwelcoming. They were all horrible that first day. They shouted some rude comments to me. I hollered nasty things at them which I will not repeat. I grew up in Huntington. This was
my town. This was my beach&too. Geez, my parents paid taxes here for over twenty years. I did not mention the taxes. I would have sounded like a goon.
I sat there sizing up the waves and waited my turn. It looked for a while like I was not going to get my chance. I finally got up enough courage to take off on the next swell. I hollered “Right!” But some goofy looking, long haired guy cut me off. I stayed with him, and rode the wave in behind him. I had to prove my right to be here. I could not let these guys think they were better than me.
He started yelling at me, something about “you dropped in on me kook,” but thank goodness, a friend of mine, Billy, whom I have known since high school, recognized me and came over. “Nice ride, Dee Dee. I heard you surfed. I have never seen you, and you were looking pretty decent out there. How’s it going, Don?” he said casually. “This is a friend of mine. She is local.” Don did not say much.
“Hi, Billy. Thanks. I have been surfing at the cliffs. I just thought I would check the waves out here today.” I gave him a dazzling smile. I hoped it would help.
He introduced me to the tall goofy guy. His name was Don Summers, and apparently he was a champion professional surfer that I dropped in on. Oops! We became friends from that incident. Everyone started calling me “Lil D.” The surf pro Don they called “Big D.” The “Local Boys” accepted me as a surfer. They welcomed me at the pier from that day forward.
I also learned which ones were professionals. They learned who I was. I gave them respect where it was due, and I earned the respect from them as a local and a decent surfer. One had to know the pecking order. I could hold my own on the waves. I thought I had earned my right to be there. Many of the dudes I surfed with knew me for years. We went back to elementary
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school. There were many, though, that I met from surfing at the pier. A few of my friends would be trying to go pro this year. I could not wait to see who would make it.
It did not take long for me to be popular with these guys at the beach. I was five-four, 105 pounds, with waist length blonde hair. I had aqua colored eyes. They said that I was a fox. I guess I could be compared to worse than a cute, little animal. “As if.” I had no romantic interest in any of them.
There were lots of hot looking candidates to date, but I preferred men with an I.Q. above a shoe size, and vocabulary of more than “That’s gnarly, bro” and “Rad, dude,” and who knew me by something other than “Babe” or “Babelini.” What could I say? Shelly and I were an unusual pair when we went somewhere together. She was five feet, nine inches tall, with long, honey brown hair and beautiful brown eyes. She was part American Indian, so she had that dark olive skin. I was fair skinned and her opposite. She was extremely popular with the local boys.
I was out with my dudes ripping up the waves for a while. I honestly did not have it in me today. Steve and Jimmy gave me a hard time about being a lightweight.
“Sorry, guys, I guess I am,” I told them as I paddled for the shore.
I heard Mike laughing. “Hey, Dee Dee, you want a shot?” he yelled, paddling in my direction.
I yelled back at him as the waves took me further into shore. “Very funny, Mike! Very funny.”
I thought I would hang out on the beach with Shelly. The rush of the surf certainly helped to clear my head, but getting in after three in the morning left me exhausted. As usual, I saw Shelly surrounded by some potential boys of summer. She always was the center of their attention. I walked up and put my board down. I dried off a little and talked to some of the guys about the south side of the pier swells, and if anyone righteous would be playing