started surfing in 1964. So what does that make me 100 years old? Pretty
close. Put it this way, my life is clearly on the down side of the Big
I saw surfing for the first time on a B&W TV. It was footage shot in California
and Hawaii. I begged my parents to move to Hawaii. They just laughed
at me. Then one day in the late Summer of '63 I saw waves in Nahant
with my dad. He pointed them out to me and said "If you had
a Surfboard, you could surf those waves." I looked at the waves and back at him, and knew right then and there,
that he was right. Looking back on it all now, there must of been a
storm out to sea that late Summer Day. Of course, no one had a surfboard,
and we had run out of Summer. But then, something else happened. That
February of 1964 the Beatles came out, and I wanted a guitar, as much
as I wanted a Surfboard.
I got the guitar that winter, and my first
surfboard the Summer of 1964.
Somewhere along the way, I started drawing waves. I drew surfers and
waves. I still paint waves today. Mostly empty waves.
My first board was an 11' hollow paddle board, made out of plywood.
It had a square nose and tail and a metal fin. It was half baby blue
and half white. My baby sitter brought it back from Hawaii. She gave
it to me, because she knew how much I wanted to try surfing. My friends
and I, all took turns riding that thing at Lynn Beach. Or we tried to
ride it. That beast kept filling up with water. And when it hit you,
it damn near killed you. We had fun for sure. But we also knew, that
we needed a better board. So we ended up renting a board from New England
Divers in Beverly. Again, we all took turns riding the one board. And
sharing one board with a bunch of friends, was a drag. I knew I needed
my own board. I saved up enough money, from my paper route, and bought
my first real board. *It should be noted that, I also bought my first
Guitar from my paper route as well. And I had two paper routes. One
in the morning, and one at night. And we delivered papers the old fashion
way. We walked, or rode our bikes.
first real surfboard was a 8' 3" KEOKI pop-out. Red with a single
stringer. I got it the Summer of 1965. The Black and White photo in
the collage above (right) is the only memory I have of it. I loved that
board. I can still remember my first ride on that board. I can still
recall the sound of that board casting over the water and the sound
it made. The water hitting off the bottom and the rails. God I was hooked
on surfing. And I loved that Red Keoki. In fact, I wish I still had
it. I don't know where it ended up. I know I traded it in for a 9' 6"
Royal Hawaiian. A board that I hated. In fact, I hate it to this day.
The only reason I traded my Red Keoki for it, was because my friends,
convinced me that I needed a bigger board. Well, I got a bigger board
with the Royal Hawaiian, but it was an absolute piece of crap. Zero
Rocker. It had no life. I hated that board. I was miserable for having
traded my original board for this piece of junk.
Then one December Day, (the Day after Christmas) in 1967. I almost drowned
at The Wall. The surf was 6-8' and hollow. No one was out. We had old
PARKWAY wetsuits in those days. The Beaver tail deal. I was not wearing
a hood and my suit leaked. I lost my board on a big set, and tried swimming
in. I was cold and exhausted. I was almost to the shoreline when I slipped
into a cold frozen state of immobility. My friend dove into the icy
cold ocean and saved me from drowning. Jay Wilbur. I believe he's a
minister today. When they got me up on the beach, we heard someone say..."Far
Out. I had No idea there was surf here in New Hampshire!" Standing
there at the Wall was a Hippie with long blonde hair and high leather
boots. He was driving (I swear on the Holy Bible) a Hearse with California
plates, and on the roof was a surfboard. A Harbour Rapier. 8' 3".
Long story short. We became good friends with the Hippie, and I ended
up buying that board from him. I never rode the Royal Hawaiian again.
I rode the Rapier board throughout my last two years of High School.
I loved that board. We had a surf club in my town. There were six of
us. Myself, Jeff Crawford, Bruz Bowden, Mike Normand, Peter Hilton and
Jay Wilbur. We called ourselves Competition East. We made our own boards.
It's funny because, none of us ever competed. It was fun hanging out
in our shaping room. Peter and Mike both passed away at an early age.
I ended up enlisting in the Marine Corps after High School and shipped
off to Southeast Asia during the War. I was a Grunt (Infantry). The
whole time I was gone, I dreamt about my surfboard, and my guitar. And
when I got home, I went surfing again on that board. I still have the
Rapier today. And I played the hell out of that guitar.
After the War, I came home and bought a large, male, Woolly Monkey,
his name was JoJo and the damn thing nearly ruined my life. He was an
*Don't ever buy a freaking monkey. I don't care how cute you think it would be.
They do not make good pets. They are just not what you think they are.
ended up being part of the first group of American Surfers to ever surf
in Nova Scotia in 1971. Jeff Crawford, Bruz Bowden and myself. That
was also the first time I made a Surf Movie. I shot it on Super 8mm
Movie film. My father was a photographer. He developed his own film.
Mostly Black and white. He also had several movie cameras. I used his
cameras. It was the start of my movie making career. I started shooting
surfing from that moment on. Every swell I would shoot and surf. That
same year I traveled to Mexico and shot footage there as well. I moved
to Hampton in those early 70's. I met and hung out with several friends
who I still surf with today. Kevin Grondin, Allen Bigbee and many more.
It was also when I met Joe Somogyi. He was something special. He was
a Vietnam Veteran who served in the ARMY Rangers. He was a bona fide
War Hero. He named a lot of the breaks, we surf today. We became best
friends in that short time I knew him. He died in 1978 from exposure
to Agent Orange. I still miss him today. I paddled out in his memory
at the 2007 Vietnam Veterans Memorial Surf Paddle for all the 'Nam Vets
in San Diego. It was an amazing event.
went to Art School in Boston, and ended up playing in several bands.
One of my band's (VINNY), was a popular band that played the RAT in
the 70's. We opened for the POLICE in 1978 at the RAT. I also played
with many other bands during that time. During this time, I also traveled
around the Globe in search of surf. One of my travel's took us to the
Caribbean in 1979. In 1983, my band toured through South American and
Central America. And that is a story for another time. It was also during
the late 70's and early 80's, when I started to go to Hawaii each winter.
The North Shore of Oahu. We surfed the North Shore each winter for many
years. The whole time I was surfing and shooting. Still shooting, using
film on both stills and Movies. One year, Kevin, Lenny and myself got
chased out of the water by a 15' Tiger Shark. That was fun.
also had a dog that surfed. Caley. She loved to surf. She lived to be
16 years old.
was during that time, in the mid 70's, when I became Vince Shazam. I
had created this character of myself, and used it where ever I went.
I was handful for sure. Many of my friends who knew me back then, will
testify to that. Just ask guys like Jacko, Crop, Stevie, Zap, Johnny
and a million others. I was fit to be tied half the time I was out surfing
or holding court at 10th Street. I was anti everything.
Magazine would print my letters from all over the world. It was a crazy
time for sure. Captain Vince Shazam and his Loyal Shamzamdos from Shazamland.
Of course I was still playing music. I did record an album with the
Cars Drummer David Robinson producing. It was called Olas De Sexo. It
was on EAT Records which became Ryko Disc. I also did a couple of videos,
one of which appeared on MTV. My last show with the VINNY band was at
The RAT in 1984, and we opened for the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. It was
their first gig in Boston. I went on to play in a band called Semper
Fi. That band opened for ELP at the Meadowlands in NY in front 25,000
people. Then I had a band called the Nor'easters. A blues Rock band.
We played with members of the Rolling Stones, The Allman Brothers, and
acts like Robin Trower and a host of others. That band never officially
broke up. So technically, we're still a band. We play about once or twice a year.
I am playing with BIG HANDSOME DADDY, a 3pc blues/rock band, also I do a solo act RALPH FATELLO, and I still play with
met my wife in 1983 after touring through South America. We got married
and have three children. They all love the beach and surfing. My son
Mackey V is a way better surfer than I ever thought about being at his
age. I have traveled with my family, surfing all over the Globe. But
our home is here in New Hampshire. I started making more and more movies,
and in 1985, came up with the name SURF FREE OR DIE. That's been my
business for making Surf Movies. I also did a beach report on WBCN in
1993 as Captain Vince Shazam with the Beat on the Beach for BCN. Of
course, the video world finally found it's way into my life. And I started
getting serious about my movies. To date, I have several Movies on Movie
film (That I will eventually release) and 18 DVD full length movies.
With 3 in the can. In the year 1992, I started a beach party for Surf
Families called "Surf Family Robinson". It has grown each
year with new parents and new Surf Groms. All of the original kids have
out grown it, but some come back and help out each year.
In the year 2000, I took on a major endeavor, that really changed my
life. I pledged to surf every day, for 365 consecutive Days. Here in
New Hampshire. I was doing it in memory of my father, who turned me
on to surfing. From July 26, 2000 to July 26, 2001. I accomplished that
goal of riding at least one wave, every day and raised $33,000 for the
American Diabetes Association. I had so many supporters, and friends
and family, who helped me accomplish that goal. "Catch a Wave For
Gus!" I can't thank those enough who supported me that year.
In 2004, I started doing the Ralph's Pic Of The Week, with Dave Cropper
at Cinnamon Rainbows. I wrote a weekly surf
column and posted local, and international photos. I also included an
annual Surf Art Column. In the summer of 2007, I started posting video
clips. The site got bigger and bigger each week. In the Summer of 2008,
I helped Michael Taylor by bringing the Wounded Warriors Project to
Hampton to try surfing. These were Vets who were wounded in the Global
War on Terrorism. It was an amazing life changing day. Meanwhile more
and more photographers, started submitting photos to my weekly column.
It became apparent, that I needed to take this to the next level.
Ralph's Pic Of The Week, now has
over 300,000 readers each week from 200 different countries worldwide. And some of the World's Best Photographers
submit photos each week, Including: Brian Nevins, Bernie Baker, John
Carden, *Ed O'Connell, Kevin Doherty, Lenny Nichols and a host of others.
Like yours truly. I bit the bullet in the winter of 2009, and bought the NIKON
D-90, and have been shooting stills like a madman, ever since. I currently use the NIKON 7100 and I have several HD video camers and two 4K cameras. I have
many sponsors, with many more coming. It's been a hell of a ride so
far, and I have no intention of slowing down . So here we are, it's
2019, I still surf a shortboard whenever I can, and ride my Longboard
when the surf is smaller. And I shoot both video and stills during every
swell. *Ed passed away on July 1st, 2014.
*I also took on another major undertaking. To mirror what I did in 2000, I have pledged to Surf Every Day for 365 consecutive Days to honor the life of Lil Miss Molly Rowlee a 5 year old sweetheart from Hampton who was one of my kids from Surf Family Robinson. She passed away from cancer 5 months after being diagnosed with large cell lymphoma. I called this undertaking "CATCH A WAVE FOR MOLLY". And not only did I do it in her memory, but also the memory of my mother Eva, my best friend Joe Somogyi, a lifelong dear friend Linda Paugh, and my sister Evamarie. And anyone else who has passed away from cancer, or anyone who is dealing with cancer. Especially the families who have children dealing with this disease.
I finished my "Catch A Wave For MOLLY"
surf Campaign on July 26, 2011. It was an amazing day and night. And there are so many people to thank. But to save time and space, it's easier if you just read the Daily Blog I kept. It's all there. Every single day. Including photos. Thanks to all who helped me and the MOLLY ROWLEE Fund. We love you all.
Check the whole daily blog CATCH A WAVE FOR MOLLY to see how you can help, or to just read the whole year.
On April 15th, 2019 we celebrated my 15th year of blogging. And this July of 2019, it was my 55th year of surfing! Okay, now I really feel old! That's because I am old. But I'm ok with that. I't not like I have a choice. I'm just stoked to be able to do what I do and to have the most loving family and friends that any man could ever ask for. On July 12th, 2018 I had the premiere showing of the FIRST EVER All women surf movie of the women and the girls of the Northeast. GRANITE GIRLS and The RIVER WOMEN went over great. The DVD will be coming out in the Fall of 2018.
That's my story (or at least part of it), so if you're a photographer,
send me your photos, if you're a surfer...keep surfing. I'll be prowling
the shore line looking for that special shot, and who knows...it just
might be you. CLICK CLICK CLICK
Heals All Wounds. Pray for Surf. Pray for Peace. Surf For Fun.