Yo fellow sailors,
clay here, sending you this story I wrote about a true adventure that
really happened. The whole thing was sent to Surfer Magazine, but since
they may never use in before the next century begins, I wanted you to
check it out. I was one of those trips where you were afraid to ask,"what
could possibly happen next?", because you didn't want to know the answer.
Surf was absoluetly incredible on this trip, taken the year before I
started to windsurf.
I have since gone to this Magic Spot, on the Baja Eugenia Peninsula, only
sadly discover that those winds that always blew out the surf each
afternoon really weren't strong enough to punch you through the waves with
a sailboard. However, just a couple hours drive down the peninsula
Abreojos awaits with 2 to 3 times the wind strength.
As Luck Would Have It
By Clay Feeter
It's late September, 1979. Oily smoke rises from the engine. My overloaded
'64 Volkswagen Bug has just blown up along Highway 101 in California's
Salinas Valley. I'm trying to get to Los Angeles International Airport to
catch a flight to Las Vegas where a TV news director from the island of
Guam is attending a national broadcast journalism convention. The news
director has granted me a job interview at noon the next day and now I'm
wondering if I'll make it on time, or at all.
After the interview I am to meet two surfers I barely know and head over
the border for what I expect will be my last hurrah Baja trip before
entering the post college work-a-day world. But first I've got to get to
LAX. As luck would have it - slow week - the Soledad police station lets
me store all four of my surfboards in a spare jail cell. I pull the
garment bag from the V-dub, place my interview clothes in it, stick two
$20 travelers checks in my wallet and hike out to the highway sure to
thumb a quick ride south.
An hour later I'm still stuck at the same onramp. A shiny red Mercedez
exits the southband lane and pulls in for gas at the station across the
highway from me. Red Mercedez. Southbound. Spare back seat, I notice. I
carefully lay the garment bag down and sprint across 101, slowing to
regain composure as I approach the woman driving the car, a feisty looking
"Uh, hi, my car broke down and I've GOT to be in LA tonight. Could..."
She is quick with a "Sure, hop in." Her boyfriend rides shotgun while I
sink into the back seat, arms outstretched. I'm swooping down toward LA.
Though they are going only as far as Santa Barbara I buy a ticket on the
evening commuter flight to LAX where a buddy from past Baja surf trips
puts me up for the night and shows me his surf slides 'til 2 a.m. He drops
me at the airport the next morning, I fly east and with what is left of my
$40 a Vegas cabby steers me to Caesar's Palace by 11 a.m.
Early for my lunchtime job interview I slip into the broadcast journalist
convention in time to listen to former news anchor Howard K. Smith, noted
for his deep voice and poignant pauses, a delivery that was the style of
broadcasters emerging from the World War II era. As Smith exits the room I
get to shake his hand and tell him how much it meant for we fellow
broadcasters to hear his inspirational words; at least I hope I will be a
fellow newsman. Five minutes later I'm sitting with the Guam news
director, my prospective employer.
The job interview starts out pleasantly enough. The neatly pressed shirt,
tie and pants I'd hitchiked from Soledad with is my suit of armor. It
emboldens me to act like a pro. We brush over my goals and news gathering
abilities and he moves swiftly into informing me of available housing and
what it's like to live on the far western Pacific island of Guam.
It looks like I'm in, like I've scored a job on my first interview out of
college. Then, into the restaurant crawls - or no, they were still walking
at that point - in strolls my two scroungy, dreadlocked, road roughened
Baja bound surf buds here to make the rendezvous with me. They'd been up
all night having driven from Salt Lake City and picking up a hitchhiker
who happened to have enough peyote for everyone. Who remembered there
would be a lunar eclipse that night and the guys would pull off the
highway and stare vacantly at the cosmos until the wee hours of morning.
That they'd forget to turn off the car while up on that hill brains abuzz
with mescalito and that the idling car would run out of gas.
The three of us met while on construction jobs in Park City, Utah over the
summer. We had surf and nothing else in common. But when you spend three
months away from the ocean, similar surf twinges are enough to galvanize
guys for a common cause. We all had something to offer. Tall, gangly and
half there Vietnam vet Larry supplied the truck. Stocky rasta dude from
Kauai, Craig said he'd cook every meal if we just cleaned up afterwords.
And I'd bring my secret Baja surf maps into the triad. It was going to be
the surf trip of surf trips, that is if the guys could forgive me for
ignoring them as they stood shabbily before me during my Caesar's Palace
"Do you know these guys?" the news director asks, glancing out of the
corner of his eyes at Larry and Craig.
"We-e-ell, yes. We're going to Baja together," I admit. I introduce the
guys to probably my ex future boss. Short of stomping on their toes with
the "what the hell are you doing here NOW" look in my eyes they seem to
get the hint and suggest we meet later at the slot machines near the hotel
entrance. I say goodbye to the news director and probably my first job
then explain to the guys the fix we we're in with my blown engine 450
miles out of our way. It i fully against the grain to drive from Vegas to
the Salinas Valley, but that's where my boards, camping gear and the rest
of my money is - I'd stuffed $200 in the finbox of my longboard that
rested safely in the Soledad jail.
After our big detour, having driven all the way back to within 40 miles of
where my departed VW and I started the trip two days earlier, we redirect
southward, cross the border and make haste for Magic Spot. About as far
off the paved road as you can get on the Baja peninsula, this special
cobblestone break at the end of a big arroyo had been a surprise discovery
for my brother and I a few years back. I'd come to Magic Spot every summer
with whoever I could convince to drive - in 18 trips I've yet to go to
Baja in my own car. From the very first morning Magic Spot is twice as
good as I'd ever seen it, and nearly twice as big. Day in and day out we
surf walled up perfection lefts or, off the same peak, fast hollow rights.
Somehow all this goodness just isn't enough for my two compadres. In less
than a week Larry is whining about getting low on cigarettes and Craig
wants a big juicy steak and some San Diego nightlife.
"We're leaving tomorrow," they decide. LEAVING! Leaving? Look at these
waves. After the noontime blowout we go to the nearby fishing village one
last time. I inquire about "taxi service" to the next point 75 miles south
where I am sure to find some gringo surfers to hitch home with. A quasi
taxi impersonator wanted $200 for the trip. No extra charge for the four
surfboards. Couldn't afford that so I beg my mutineering buddies to swing
southward and deposit me at the next point. They reluctantly do. I pitch
camp, say "C ya" and am glad to be alone surrounded by other surfers who
don't want to go home yet.
That night two California guys drive into camp. The three of us surf at
the edged of a raspy seagrass covered reef above camp. As luck would have
it one of the guys, a kneeboarder named Lew, lives in Monterey and says
he'll be glad to get me home to Santa Cruz. In fact, Lew has a vintage
Corsair car his dad in Southern Cal gave him and he needs someone to drive
it home to northen Cal. Lew proves to be a superior kneeboarder slipping
into tight bowly pockets further up the reef than anybody, often paying
for it with barnacle gashes.
We surf 'til the swell runs out and flies get the best of us. With three
of us in Lew's pick up we make it back to California. Lew's friend even
purchases a 7'6" gun off me, putting extra cash in the old wallet and
whittling to three the number of boards I have to haul home.
We get an early jump northward the next morning. Lew and his truck leading
the way with me following in the old mid engine Corvair. It is late
October, we scoot past Ventura Overhead showing signs of the first winter
swell of the season and there's where we hit a big stop sign in the form
of a thrown rod in the Corvair. Oil is flying, I have no power, no
compression. I'm going down like a B-17 on Twelve O'Clock High. Nobody
will rent us a towbar, so Lew produces an eight foot long chain which
seems ok until we learn eight feet becomes four feet when you wrap it
around both bumpers and start to drive. Did I say drive. I meant to say
"bump" our way up Highway 101.
At least we're going home. It's bad though. Bad for me because I am at the
mercy of Lew who at the slightest touch of his brakes is being rear ended
by his own car, the limping Corvair that I'm driving. I have two jobs: hit
the brakes and steer. Stopping for gas in San Luis Obispo it can't get any
worse we think, so why not take the coast route? Anyway, by the time we
make the fateful decision to go to Monterey via Big Sur I am numb from
uncountable bumper bashings, a qualified test dummy, for there is no
avoiding constant smashes along the winding, narrow Highway One. If Lew is
stressing over the damage I'm doing to both his cars it is nothing
compared to the shell shock we both encounter from minute to minute
meetings of metal. The only thing that keeps us going is the constant
sight of the Pacific and that north swell showing strength as we bump and
grind up the coast. We surf Willow Creek at sunrise, pull off the road a
few hour later to watch massive waves peak and pitch off Point Sur and
that evening paddle into the swell as it is peeling into Lew's domain,
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