WORDS BY CRAIG COMEN
It’s amazing how time passes and changes. Am I really going to turn 56 in 12 days? Looking back I can now see a little more clearly at the events that shaped my life, the influences along the way, the so called role models and ones I looked up to. There were different segments, some etched in time, some geographical, but each one stands out as a benchmark, an energy burst of formation.
Growing up at Point Dume was a perfect scenario, friends and family around, a trail directly to a perfectly lined up wave. Gentle swells, mild weather, and not a care in the world. My brother and father groomed me in the line-up, my friends drafting in the wake of my progression, and sometimes the other way around. Guys like Kirby Kotler, Billy Barker, of similar age, but seemingly older and more mature in many regards including wave riding. I looked up to them, watched and studied, as they must have been doing with the older generations, such names as Jojo Perrin, the Ballard brothers, Bigelows, Daniels, and Newmans. Who knows who these guys were emulating, but I am sure now that they were surfing other breaks in addition to “The Point”—checking and refining their craft and style in the Southern California of the early 70s. My age held me to the select rides at the Point, and in doing so, kept my influences to a minimum.
Next stop the Central California Coast: Cambria and Cayucos, cold, rugged line-ups, hard to reach for a young teenager. All my peers washed away so to speak, all my input on hold as I had to adapt to a new environment and way of life. It was no longer the surf/skate culture below Point Conception, rather a lonely type of introverted silence. It was my skateboard, my dogs and a few new friends who knew nothing of the ocean or surfing. A 3-year void of the very thing that I had grown up with, what every cell of my being knew warmly.
That is until my sophomore year in high school, when I met the Parmenter brothers. Now I had two regular footers to spur me along, motivate me to be better, stronger, more creative and faster. I discovered surf magazines, and soon my new heroes were the new world champions—the Aussies and South Africans that were turning heads and changing the way waves were ridden, the young afro-wearing Hawaiians who were radical, different and flowing all in one. This was my new definition of culture, surf and lifestyle—the way I wanted to grow up and be. And sure enough when you focus on something so fiercely, you become it.
All along the way my parents also played a part in my way of living. I loved reading, and writing, music and plays and films. It may not have shown much, but their influence was key in my growth—at least potentially—and still is, I hope. Other factors were music of the times, from Tull and Zeppelin, to Honk and Pablo Cruise. Any song or tune that would bring forth a desire to surf a wave harder, rip more turns, or lift my spirit to become better than I was. The soundtracks to surf films, the surf stars themselves, names like Tom Carroll, Occy and Curren, Wayne Lynch and Jim Banks—many names, many masters so to speak, and generations from which to draw.
As I moved to Southern California and chased a professional career in the surf and surfing industry, my mentors became the likes of wetsuit company owners like Wayne Brown, surfboard shapers like Rusty, and clothing marketing experts like the Tomsons and Instinct’s Lista Sagnelli. The lists go on, just like time, and now I find myself having to look up to even more elders, as I become one. I need inspiration from them to age gracefully and become the model that others will need in their times of youth. Of course, I still get excited to see the modern day acrobatics of the top athletes in any sport, but especially the one I have followed since birth. May the ride continue, may we all find the path we seek and most desire.
For over 40 years Craig Comen has been playing in the worlds oceans. He competed for 11 years from 1979 to 1990 as a professional surfer, winning a number of championships and gaining notoriety. Later he became a coach of World Champion surfers and a judge of both amateurs and professionals alike. He has a BS in Marine Science, having graduated from the intensive 2 year program at College of the Redwoods in Fort Bragg.