Surfin'; USA to Surfin'; New Hampshire

Published by Noserider in the blog Neoprene 'Zine. Views: 372

I grew up in the surfing mecca of"¦New Hampshire. If you can't detect the sarcasm in labeling New Hampshire a surfing mecca, let me spell it out for you: Hardly anyone surfs New Hampshire. There is no culture to promote it and the water is just too damn cold most of the time. Though, that is changing these days and my old stomping grounds of Rye Beach have become the top surf destination in the state.
I was born at the dawn of the 1980s, and spent my early years like most people spend their early years: Learning and absorbing things from their parents, feeding off their influence until autonomy and personal tastes are developed.

My father had served in the Coast Guard and had spent many summers in the chilly waters of the New England coast. He was an ocean guy. The sea can be frightening and intimidating to the uninitiated and my father didn't want me to be afraid of it. But he did want me to respect it.

In the summers, he'd take me down to Rye Beach and teach me how to look at the water,was the water clear or murky; turbulent or placid; did we see evidence or rips or run outs; how were people already in the water moving in relation to the beach; was the breeze onshore or off,before running in willy nilly, as most other children did. He taught me to see potential problems before I encountered them. The ocean is an open book, and he believed one should read it before plunging in.

My appreciation and fascination with the sea began with him. Soon, it blossomed. I sought out National Geographic documentaries on sea creatures, currents and tides, shipwrecks,you name it. I loved movies like Jaws and was reading books by Peter Benchley,comprehending the individual words, yes, but the overall meaning of the stories lost in my still developing mind,and citing women like Eugenie Clark and Valerie Taylor as personal heroes.

I came across the name "The Beach Boys" one day. Apparently, they were a band from out in California. I didn't know their music from a hole in the wall,nor had I even found my own musical niche yet,but, hey, The Beach Boys sounded like my kind of thing! I asked for a Beach Boys cassette tape for my eighth or ninth birthday, and received one. It seemed all their songs were about surfing, cars, and girls. That was the totality of their existence. Surfing made its way to the national consciousness in the late 50's and early 60's thanks to pop phenomena like The Beach Boys, Dick Dale and the Gidget movies. It was like surfing itself inhaled a deep breath and began to blow a bubble that grew and grew until it finally burst in the 1980's,perhaps because those influenced by surf culture in the early days were now the purveyors of 80's pop culture themselves,and my generation became inundated with Jeff Spicoli and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Surfing was not only everywhere, it was cool.

But, meh, I lived in New Hampshire. I'd never seen a surfboard let alone a surfer. Surely you had to live in California or Hawaii, right? I mean, they don't surf in New Hampshire.

But then, one day"¦one day I came across a documentary film on some channel. The plot was simple but effective: Two surfers follow summer around the world, as they search for the perfect wave. I'm of course speaking of The Endless Summer. If you haven't seen the movie, then stop reading right now, and go watch it. If you have seen it, then you know there is nothing that needs to be said. This film is to surfers what the Bible is to Christians. It's sacred, special, and it beautifully puts into words what we surfers feel yet so few of us can articulate.

Anyway, after I saw that movie, I knew I had to surf.

My mom and dad had divorced when I was two. My dad was now a cop up in Maine (he would actually work with the Secret Service when President Bush would come to Kennebunkport--true story) and my mom was working as a drafter down in Massachusetts. But I knew my mom had some unexplained fascination of the American West despite never being west of Pennsylvania. So, I figured, the hell with it, and asked my mom is she could please move us out to California.

No dice.

I had an aunt and uncle who summered (in the Northeast, summer can be used as a verb) in New Hampshire but actually lived in Hawaii during the winter. Aha! I could go live with them!

Nope. Not happening.

But soon I'd meet Tom Ryan and my life would never be the same. He'd make a surfer out of me.

But I didn't know that yet.
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