Sunday, February 12, 2006

A most pleasant surprise

I got on the treadmill Friday, slipped my headphones into the jack for my own personal tv and pressed numbers 5 and 4 on my personal remote. Always my first pick, the Food Network. No good today. I pressed the numbers 1 and 6 and was taken back by the giant blue wall crashing before my eyes that years of letting a dream die could still not mistake. Waimea Bay. My heart rate elevated a bit and I hadn't even begun to warm up yet.

I heard no sound so turned up the volume as high as it would go and could only make out the faintest sounds of beautiful melody in the background as I watched footage of Waimea Bay and other famous and almost equally beautiful North Shore surf breaks. I had no idea what I was watching but knew the channel would not be changed.

The melody died down and I realized I was watching a documentary of some sort. For then I was watching original surfing footage from the 1950's. The cars, the longboards, the surfing. I knew this wasn't Endless Summer as I had seen it more times than I could count. Here was Greg Noll, the first man ever to take on Waimea Bay, an old heavyset man in a red Hawaiian shirt, talking about his younger years and his days as a surfing legend.

The documenatry took me through the fear of Waimea Bay, who some claim is where the biggest wave ever ridden lives. Then I saw original footage of a young Greg Noll in his trademark black and white jail striped surf trunks paddle out with a few devoted and equally frightened friends slightly behind him. All this was narrated by present day (at time of documentary in the late nineties I suppose) Greg Noll swearing like he was still a mid twenty reckless fearless adrenaline seeking boy.

I realized finally that I had a smile plastered against my face and my trance was broken by a loud, almost yell. "What channel are you watching?" "16!" I think I may have yelled a bit too loud. "16?" "Yeah!" again probably too loud.

The older gray haired running man on my right must have either caught a glimpse of the beauty I was witnessing only on tv yet again, the footage of his teenage years which may have intrigued him, or maybe, here was just an old surfer man.

We watched together and ran together for I ran better and longer than I ever had on Friday while watching this documentary and I was charged and stoked and feeling good.

The documentary then took us through the Gidget phenomenon and how pre-Gidget and pre Dick Dale, there were several hundred surfers, and post - them both, millions; crowding the beaches and the line-up like children running toward the bell of the ice cream truck. All the 'boys' home from college claiming to be beach bums, all the 'girls' living just to watch their men while they lay in their glamorous two piece suits. The footage was outstanding.

My mom bought me Gidget one day as a complete surprise during my days of surfing obsession. I watched it over and over and over. I've written many a story about this time in my life and one story in particular always jumps out at me. I could write it again right now, probably verbatim, even though it's been tucked away since college. I think it's about time I stop feeling silly about it and send it to my brother to read. I think it will make him smile. His silly little kid sister who always wanted to be like him.

I had completed my 5k but knew I'd be jogging until this documentary had ended. The man next to me also looked like he was going no where.

The gears had switched to Northern California and Mavericks point 20 miles north of San Francisco. Mavericks blew up during my days of surfing obsession and it seemed every Surfer and Surfing magazine, which I loyally subscribed to wanted to do a feature on the point. Fifteen plus foot waves breaking into a few feet of water completely laden with sharp rocks and boulders. Just paddling out was a navigational hazard. It was surfed alone for fifteen years until the lone surfer (whom I forget the name of) finally convinced a few friends to join him.

Some loved it, some hated it. A full wetsuit was required, the water was filthy, and it was dangerous as hell!

Now I remember to this day being thirteen and feeling sad reading about surfing legend Mark Foo's death. I could tell by the present day footage in this documentary that it was made after 1994 and I knew what was coming.

The piece on Mavericks was at least half an hour long. This documentary gave the big wave riding points their due respect and didn't jump around much.

Then, a curious Mark Foo turned up at Mavericks. It was only his second wave of the day.

It's one thing to read about someone's death. Another to actually see the footage of the wipe out that led to his demise. Even another to hear the people there that day talk in soft tones and contorted faces about finding his body and theorizing what happened and even one having felt him struggling under the break but thought it was someone else. I remember feeling sad he didn't die in Hawaii and thinking that was a horrible injustice. But then I was reminded, it was Mark Foo who used to say, "If you want the ultimate thrill, you have to be willing to pay the ultimate price." No, it was not Patrick Swayze in Point Break who dubbed that term contrary to popular belief.

I noticed that the running man and I had slowed down at that point. We were walking. He was well over five miles and I think he was meant to stop at five.

There was some time to relax and due respect and honor was given to the fallen legend and the screen went black and I was startled by the blaring guitar intro of Pearl Jam's Go and we were back on pace now back in Hawaii for a segment on Laird Hamilton.

One thing you gotta love about all surfing movies and documentaries and videos (pornography to the aspiring surfer) THE SOUNDTRACKS!

The old running man took his leave at this point and I was just dying to know what I was watching. I clicked and clicked until I found the preview channel and flicked back and forth between Laird Hamilton (who I was never particulary crazy about. He reminded me of the jock of surfing) and the preview channel. Ah ha! Riding Giants. How could I have let this slip by me?

By the time it was over I had jogged, ran, walked six miles and I was happy. What better way to spend a Friday evening than excercising and watching a killer documentary at the same time.

1 comment:

Doug Walsh said...