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Surf Stories

UPDATED 09/08/2009

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Winter of 69'

The winter of 68' 69' was a winter like no other. I raced through the SAT test at Canoga High School on Topanga Blvd.marking any question that seemed even remotely correct. I couldn't care less about the stone fox public school chickss that surrounded me. My pals were waiting in the car oustide the door. Our northern brothers informed us it was on and get up there asap. All I could think about was my Yater 7'6" x 19" wide pocket rocket strapped to the roof of my Rambler. Will it be enough?

We knew full well this was the largest swell we'd ever seen. Back in the mid sixties we'd seen days at the Strand that made us turn green seeing the heaving peaks 1/2 mile out beyond the breakwalled harbour with no takers, we'd retreat to the managable 10ft + walls of Rincon. If nothing else at least have someone else around to witness our drowning. This day was different. Instead of sneaking down the treelined 118 at 55 mph puffing reefer we jumped the 101 and I soberly opened the rambler up, boards flapping on the roof. at 75 mph with a full load. Cresting the Conejo Grade we swore we saw white water. Barreling through the oxnard plain the Ventura pier was being pounded by whitewater farther out than the eye could see, mist and the taste of salt filled the air. Our vision of Overhead was a blur of whitewater. Going on instinct and addrenilin we rounded the Musell Shoul curve straining for a look. Pulling off at bates we drove immediately to the top of the mountain where all the fine Rincon vista photos have been taken. Wow.

Gypsy arrived telling us guy's were calling it a staggering 20+ft at 10:00 am. The high tide prevented riders as much smaller days than this meant boards broken in half if you lost yours. Not to mention bodily injury scaling the seawall. No one realized leashes whould change everthing within the next year or so. As is the case on such days the inside waves were too large to get a look at what was happening farther outside. The tide had dropped, Gypsy and I decided it was now or never. Our pals fell silent and refused to go. We understood.

The water pouring down the point was like none I'd ever experienced. Carefully making our way through the rolling water swept rocks north of the river, standing in thigh deep water waiting for a lull that didn't come. The sets were non stop. Huge wall after wall pouring through. Small inside waves were in the 8-10ft range. We launched using every ounce of muscle. Gypsy took off like a fish, me being 30 or so pounds heavier than the boney Gypsy, was quickly loosing ground. Within a few minutes he was gone and I was being sucked into the bay.

I swung my paddle out wide, sprinting south at angle turning back west when clear of the insiders. The current was wicked. Paddling at 3/4 speed constantly was greuling. As I approached the river mouth a rider appeared, it was Gypsy on a smaller 10-12ftr, he quickly kicked out disapearing back up toward indicators. I continued toward indicator. Another rider appeared it was Reno Abillara riding a full Hawaiian Gun, his wave was 15-18ft it dwarfed his 9'6".

Exhausted I took the first ridable looking wave I saw just at the north side of the river. Totally undergunned on the 7'6" 2.5" thick pocket rocket I got it late. I got 1/2 way down the face and pearled. I was relieved really, I could relax, swim with the surge. The tide had receded off the seawall, no board damage thankfully. I continued this insane merry go round two more times until I got into some good ones. I think I loosened up to the whole thing. I saw another rider that day it was David Nuuhiwa on a full Hawaiian Gun. Knowng now what I didn't know then I should have drove directly to Greg Noll's and said "gimmie the biggest you got"! I think Greg was busy those days too.

Johnny Rigo
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