I went straight to the DMV on my birthday in 1966, as all teenagers did back in those days. To my surprise, I passed the first time and got my license, which I knew would open up a whole world of surf exploration to my friends and me. When my mom and I got home a couple of hours later, two lawyers in suits knocked on our door to tell me that they were delivering a car that I had inherited from a great uncle, who I had met three years earlier when he came out for about a week to stay with us for my Bar Mitzvah!
How stoked was I, a near-new 1955 Oldsmobile? Gas was 25 cents a gallon and the door to the world just flew wide open. My mind was racing to all those places I had been reading about in the surf magazines for years—places like San Diego and Baja.
Shortly thereafter, I sold that trusty Oldsmobile and purchased my first of many Econoline Vans. First thing I did was build surfboard racks inside to hold two boards up near the roof, and the second most important item, a bed.
These improvements made it much easier to ditch school and go surfing, now that my folks couldn’t see my 9’6” in the house anymore. The racks and bed also made it perfect for going on long surfing trips from Baja to the northern most points that felt like Alaska in those days. My first Econoline was a 1961, which had such a small engine that I could slide a brick over the gas pedal on the freeway for cruise control.
The brick would keep the van topped out at around 60 mph, except for the Conejo Grade, which it could do at around 35-40 miles per hour. This image is from one of those trips north to Rincon in 1967 to camp out for the weekend. Driving by and seeing Little Rincon uncrowded like this was fairly common in those days. It was a good sign that we were going to score at Rincon. For many years you could camp right on the 101 next to your favorite break and not be hassled by anyone. Those were great times to be a teenager!
When Julie and I first moved north to the hinterlands in 1973, we landed at 425 South “A” Street, which was a really wonderful place to live. I was close to my favorite surf spot Abalone Reef, and we lived only two blocks away from the infamous C-Street house. We had been visiting our friends Dave and Robin there for a few years prior to moving in, and were getting to know the locals. They didn’t mind, and actually dug me making photos of them, “as long as you fly under the wire and don’t give away the locations,” which I agreed to, and still keep that promise today.
There was a crew of about 10 or 15 core surfers that surfed Abalone regularly, and they all seemed to have nicknames that appeared to be doled out by one big guy who went by Shamu. His brother was The Big or Biggie. Some of the other nicknames went like this: Hamil, Urbacide, Mars-Man, The Chode, Birdie or Crow, Steelie, Gilly, RG, PJ, Marko and few more.
The coastline in those glorious days was wide open and free of crowds. There were still “secret spots” that only a few knew about, and hardly any spoke about. Seemed like most of us all rode single fin Bradbury’s, wore hiking boots, had huge backpacks and all enjoyed the camaraderie and brotherhood that we shared. We had these amazing slide shows at the C-Street house, which sometimes turned into debauchery.
One of the crew, Tony Otero, a.k.a. Crow, Cro-Magnum or Birdie, and I became good friends and we cruised the beaches of the Central Coast quite often. We both had VW Variant station wagons and could drive to just about any beach for two or three bucks worth of gas. I loved shooting with Tony. He was a really good surfer and very exciting to shoot with because he always ripped. Birdie and I drove over to “Dreamland” in February 1975, and I made this photo of him surfing all by himself. There was no one else on the beach, except for me and the pelicans. I loved the peace and solitude then and still seek that out now as well. Later in life the rumors were that Tony moved to Montana and was a cowboy, but I recently found out he was a fisherman in reality. He now resides in Portland.