Okay, Shakers, ready for another kind of “surfing”? Welcome to a new weekend feature, “Saturday surf blogging” in which every Saturday I or whoever’s in the mood will post photos or videos of radical waves and/or surfers from throughout the world, along with personal stories about waves, surfers, or wev, as long as there’s a surf angle of some kind.
I’m going to kick it off with a clip of bodyboarding legend, Mike Stewart, surfing his local break—which just happens to be Banzai Pipeline.
I’ve been riding waves since I was a little kid in the 1950’s and 60’s, first just body surfing, then graduating to blow-up air-mattresses, inner-tubes, Styrofoam boards that would rub your belly raw and break-in-two if you looked at them wrong, and eventually—in high school—a long board shaped for me in his garage by a classmate. It was a prototype of boards to come in that it was wide, light weight (for the time) and with really thin rails. I loved that board.
Now this was in the days before wetsuits were common and I was the only girl I knew who was dedicated enough to surf through winter. While the guys went in pairs or packs, I mostly went alone—although I was an experienced enough water person to know to surf where others were in the water.
My mother’s suicide in early 1969 brought it all to an end. With the exception of one extraordinary trip to Mexico in the Spring of 1973—I was in Guadalajara when I first heard news of Nixon and Watergate—survivor’s guilt kept me away from the ocean (sailing and scuba diving, too) until the mid-1980’s when I purchased a bodyboard and began surfing again—at first tentatively, then steadily—in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Frigid water, insane currents, sometimes huge surf, the Bay Area was a far cry from where I’d cut my teeth on waves in Ventura and Baja California. But I became an avid weekend bodyboarder, then when I moved to San Diego in 1997, I found a dream job at Scripps Institute of Oceanography—in this building, with a lot of the crew shown here—working out of a sandy, beachside office for a physicist who tracked ocean currents in and around the California Channel Islands.
For the next 4-1/2 years, I proceeded to surf morning, noon and night. At one point, I owned 4 surfboards and two bodyboards—all of which I kept in my tiny office. In the beginning, if I came to work and the surf was good, my boss let me paddle out, then stay late to make it up. But as time went on, he grew more controlling and I had to limit my water time to before work, lunch breaks, and after work.
It was as close to heaven as I’ve probably ever had it. And wow, did I get buff and in shape! There is no activity like bodyboarding to give you an all around cardiovascular and full-body workout.
I really miss it. Ireland has some world-class surf but I’ve yet to get my sorry ass over to the west coast to experience it. Part of this is laziness, part of it not having much money and it being very expensive, but mostly it’s that I can’t just surf a little. If I’m going to surf, I need to be able to do it at least every weekend. And that just isn’t possible with me living in Dublin.
In a future clip, I’ll go more into the ethos between surfers and bodyboarders—or “spongers”. But to end tonight, a clip from one of the most radical waves in the world: The Wedge, in Newport Beach, California. I surfed this spot on a teeny tiny ankle-slapping day and the wave was so powerful it surprised me. Imagine on a day like this! (And watch for Mike Stewart!)
And finally, for old times sake and just to prove I can do it, here’s me at Del Mar, California, in (I think it was) January 2002. Someone in the water took the video and emailed it to me—I forgot I even had it til I was looking through some old files tonight!