Surfing

By Beacon Staff

We were onboard a Boeing 737 on a Friday night flight bound for Los Angeles during the spring break. The plane was full of stoned Colorado college students headed for the beaches of Southern California. I think I was the only senior citizen on board except for the gray-haired stewardesses who were having a really lousy ride.

I was going to Hermosa Beach to watch a surfing movie that my daughter had produced for a Saturday night show along with the opening of some new exhibits in the surfing museum.

It was very enjoyable to wander through the museum and see a lot of different surfboards that most people considered antiques.

Hermosa is by no means a poor town. Ocean front lots that are only twenty-five feet wide start at about $2 million. However, it was a heyday for surfing in the 1960s and ‘70s when Greg Knoll, Hap Jacobs, Bing Copeland, Dewey Weber and Dale Velzy all had retail surfboard shops on Pacific Coast Highway on Hermosa Beach.

Hermosa has always wanted to build and own a Surfing Hall of Fame, but it lacked funds. Instead, many years ago they built a statue in honor of a real hot surfer named Tim Kelly, who tragically died in a car accident on a surf trip with friends.

I had a great life living on the beachfront in Hermosa Beach and watching my three kids grow up while we would surf together every chance we got. The beach cities were really nice places to live back then.

Back to the event on Sunday morning. There were white chairs and shade set up for everyone to listen to the speeches. I listened to five people introduce this year’s Walk of Fame recipients. Then my daughter Chris stood up and started talking about the first time I took her out tandem surfing and how excited she was to be only 11-years-old and riding towards shore on her father’s shoulders.

She presented me with a replica of the brass plaque with this year’s six inductees. She said, “You’re probably the only guy in the Surfers Walk of Fame and also in the National Ski Hall of Fame.”

It was great spending time in my old hometown with old friends. After things quieted down everyone went to lunch at a place on Pier Avenue. The last time I was in the building it was a grocery store. Today, it is a Mexican restaurant and bar.

Southern California is not only unique to California, but almost a unique planet. I was born and grew up in Hollywood when the big red streetcars rattled down Hollywood Boulevard and you could ride the 22 miles to the beach for 25 cents.

I only rode that big red car once, and it took two weeks of selling Saturday Evening Post to pay for the one-way ride. Hitchhiking was the answer for me, with my bathing suit, my towel, and my swim fins.

I was really lucky to have lived in Topanga Canyon in 1928 when I was taught how to body surf and found my freedom on the face of a breaking wave. I was mentally enjoying that same freedom while I was sitting on the pier during the award ceremony. In my mind, I was riding each wave as it rolled towards the beach. I have been known to do the same thing on a bumpy airplane flight, which I managed to do on my way back to Bozeman.

To get there with all of my luggage and stuff I had to first stop in Denver where the airport is so busy that they have seven moving sidewalks running along the very long terminal, side by side. It was really nice to get back to our winter home in Montana. It is much smaller than Southern California, but regrettably there is no surf to be found.

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