This is proof of waist high surf last week. This was taken by Dave Cropper on Sunday morning April 28th, 2019. Clearly you can see that it was waist high. I was too busy working on last week's Blog to shoot anything on Sunday morning. I did shoot Monday morning, but there was nobody out. So all I got were some empty waist high waves. But with no surfer on the wave, it was hard to tell how big it really was. And with all the naysayers out there who need proof, I only have this one pic from last week. I could tell you that there were a few waist high waves on Monday morning, but you'd have to take my word for it. And while a man is only as good as his word, a photograph is all the proof I need. I'm afraid this one photo will have to suffice.
But alas my friends, I have something better than a few waist high waves.
Last week I started a massive Spring cleaning campaign at my home office. And while it was truly back breaking work, it was also an enlightening endeavor. It never fails, whenever I tackle a major project like this I will ultimately find a few hidden gems that I had totally forgotten about. Well this time my discovery caused me to literally stop the presses, and to divert from the Cleaning Process and to take the time to try and preserve these findings to share with you all. I was stunned at my new found forgotten discovery.
I found over 100 LOST slides from the Tortola Trip from January of 1979.
Back in December of 1978 my dear friend John "JT" Taylor and I started to hatch a plan to take a tropical surf trip to an island I had never even heard of back then. Tortola BVI. My first question to JT was "Is there surf there?" To which JT said, "I'm not sure, but looking at these charts I don't know how there couldn't be." He showed me some nautical charts and maps. As we poured over them something caught my eye, "Look! That's Puerto Rico! The Hawaii of the East Coast." JT's eyes lit up as we both realized that Tortola had some serious potential.
"Let's do it!" I said, and the plans were set into motion.
JT and I needed a break from NH. We both lost a close friend in May of '78. And not just a friend, but a true mentor and surf brother. Joe Somogyi. I've written about Joe enough on this Blog to fill a book. Besides that loss, we just needed a break from the relentless winters back here. And I needed a break from the non-stop Rock and Roll train I was on. A tropical surf destination is good for the soul, as well as jump start on creativity.
So we bought out tickets, packed our boards and trunks, and left the cold harsh winter of NH in January of 1979. Destination Tortola BVI. Back in January of '79 there were no direct flights to Puerto Rico, let alone Tortola.
So we flew into Miami, then a quick flight to San Juan PR. And then we hopped on an old twin prop plane to Tortola, BVI (British Virgin Islands).
I can distinctly remember pointing out to JT as we made the bumpy flight from PR to the BVI's, the horrific sight of oil pouring out of the right engine as we flew over the open water. "Where are the boards located?" I asked in case we needed to retrieve them, should this plane go down in the drink. JT just laughed. But a moment later said "They're in the cargo hold.
But we should be able to get to them, if we have too." I just nodded and crossed my fingers.
When we landed and got our boards and gear, we looked for some kind of transportation to take us to the ocean. We did not pre-book any rooms or cabins. Our plan was to pitch a tent on the beach and "rough it". So we caught a cab to the north facing beaches and had the cabbie stop at the first sign of potential surf. We stopped at the top of this big hill, and looked down and saw what appeared to be waves breaking in this cove. So, we made our way down this steep, long and winding jungle trail, found a good spot, and pitched our tent.
This was the first photo I shot of the ocean. We made camp just off the beach and into the jungle about a 100 yards from the shoreline. We were stoked to say the least. Stoked but stupid. We quickly pitched out tent and got into our trunks and paddled out to surf some fun little waist high tropical surf. Back in January of 1979 neither one of us ever heard of sunscreen. So as a result, our white NH skin against that hot tropical sun was a recipe for disaster.
Somehow I got more burned than JT. I say that knowing that my naturally dark Mediterranean skin was better suited to the tropics. I was genuinely shocked that I got more burned than JT (who was way whiter than me). I can still hear him laughing in the tent that night, as I squirmed in absolute pain and discomfort. I'll never know why surfers are so incredibly devious and mean to each other, but we are. Always have been, and I guess we always will.
This is a photo of me that JT shot a few days later. Yeah, it sucked.
This is me eating some coconut meat that JT had gathered and chopped up with our machete. *We brought a machete with us from back home. Like I said, we planned to really rough it. We were after all, young adventurous surfers from NH in the tropics. But sometimes even the best laid plans fall apart. After another day in the blazing sun, we knew we needed to find refuge. So we packed up our tent and made our way to the northwest side of the Island. Passing through the funky metropolis called "Road-town" we eventually found our way to "Little Apple Bay."
The first sight of this beautiful beach was like Nirvana. We found paradise.
Wow. That first glimpse of this pristine beach was something that JT and I would talk about for many years after. We knew that we had found the "spot". By the mere fact that there were other surfers didn't hurt. We knew going into this trip that we were not going to be the ONLY surfers down there. Unlike my first real surf trip to Nova Scotia in 1971. When we were the only surfers to find, ride, and name a bunch of new breaks. We knew that although Tortola was a relative secret back home, we also knew that other surfers would be there. And they were. From all over the US.
There were surfers from NJ, Texas, and California.
What we didn't know at the time, that two of the California Surfers would end up being lifelong friends to this very day. Jeff Chamberlain and Sam George. Two great surfers from the Central Coast of California. Sam and Jeff were there with their wives, and they were on a mission to help promote Sam's professional surfing career. Jeff was (and still is) a fantastic photographer and writer. They turned us onto the house they were staying at, and said there was plenty of room. Thank God.
Unfortunately the house was on top of this very long and steep hill.
You can just make out the roof to the house in this pic.
"Ellie" was the homeowner. She was a elderly woman who lived there alone with her son "Gordie" who was an adult in his late 20's with Down syndrome. She catered to surfers and gladly took us in. I'm sure she's long gone from this earth today. But at the time, she was a sweetheart to the six of us who stayed there on top of that hill.
Yeah, it was steep. And a tad on the unsafe side, but we didn't care.
We were out of the tent and into some decent bedding and comfort.
As you can clearly see here, as JT relaxes on his bed reading a book.
I had forgotten about there being a guitar there. I may have written a few songs while I was there. It's quite possible. I was writing a lot of music back then. But it sure beat the hell out of sleeping in a tent.
From the very first time that JT and I saw Sam surf, we were completely blown away by his incredible style. He was at the time, the best surfer we had ever seen in person. And I was beyond stoked because I had my Super 8mm movie camera and my plan all along was to shoot movies down there. And as luck would have it, the surf came up, and Sam and JT put on quite a show out there and I captured it all.
But life has a funny way of getting in the way of a good surf story.
A few days before the surf came up, I got violently sick. I was delirious with a high fever and vomiting. I remember at the time saying to JT "That shit we were eating in the jungle got me sick you bastard!" JT would laugh his head off until we both realized that I was not going to recover on my own. So JT arranged for Ellie to drive me back into Road town to the local hospital. I vaguely remember that drive. Lying in the back of her pick up truck with Gordie alongside of me holding my hand. JT was up in the passenger seat with Ellie driving. It was bumpy and very very uncomfortable. I don't remember much. I was that far gone.
I do remember waking up the next day with an IV in my arm. My fever had finally broke. But I had no idea where the hell I was.
I think I was there for 3 days when I finally said "The Hell with this shit! I am outta here!" I pulled the IV out of my arm, walked out of the Hospital, and out into the streets. And then I proceeded to walk back to Little Apple Bay. It was a long hike. I was still so dehydrated and weak. I remember some local guy stopping to offer me a ride. It was hours before I found my way back to the beach. But once I was back on the beach, I started to feel better.
And then something happened. The surf went from 1' to a solid 10'
I honestly thought I was hallucinating. The crazy thing was, there was nobody around. I mean, not a single surfer anywhere! Jeff, Sam, and JT were at the time and unbeknown to me, down on the far north beach snorkeling. I stood there rubbing my eyes and looking all over the beach to see if anyone else was seeing what I was seeing. It was late afternoon, the sun was shining bright, and the wind was offshore. Watching these huge peaks unload on the reef was dreamlike. I quickly got my shit together, and ran back up that steep hill to get my board.
Well, you all know by now, the other surfers finally became aware of the
surf and quickly got their shit together..
For the next few hours until the sun went down, we all went out and scored some insane waves. I shot some of the best footage of my life that day (I posted a portion of that edit down in the video section). Jeff shot some insane stills of everyone. And we all got waves that would be embedded in our minds for the rest of our lives.
Yes, I paddled out (against the advice from JT, Jeff, and Sam). But come on? I'm a surfer and we were there to surf. You can see how thin I was in this photo that Jeff shot. To think that I was lying in the hospital some 5 hours earlier with an IV in my arm is pretty remarkable.
These two photos are NOT from the recently discovered slides. These have been seen before. I only used them to go along with the Blog story.
The photos down below in the gallery are all recently discovered. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did when I first took them and when I rediscovered them last week. My only regret, is that JT is not here to see them. He passed away in July of 2014. One of the last things we ever talked about ( a few weeks before he passed), was this trip. We shared some amazing surf adventures in his life. I know I'm not alone when I say
how much I miss him.
"Surfing, Adventure, Friends, Family, and LOVE Heals All Wounds."
This is Lenny Nichols in a really cool closeup action shot that Ed nailed on June 8th, 2013. It's funny, I remember when Ed sent this pic to me some six years ago. I called him to say how cool this pic was. The wave may not be big but the composition of the pic is stunning. Photo by Ed O'Connell
*Click the photo above to see a larger version of Ed's Pic.
Now for Some Local, National and International News
There seems to be a never ending news flash of surfers passing away as of late. I know that we are all going to die someday. But damn, every time I turn around there's someone new to remember. And speaking of remembering. I am old enough to say that I have been around for at least 90% of the surfers of significance. It's true. I was born in 1951. The majority of famous surfers have really only been around since the early 60's.
So I've seen the best of the best come and go.
Mike Doyle passing away last week was yet another one. I'm really showing my age here. But Mike Doyle was one of the most classic surfers to ever come out of the 60's. A longboarder with style who was able to transition to the short board revolution in 1967. He rode them all. Longboards to shortboards and he rode them in all sizes of surf. From small hotdogging surf to macking Sunset Beach on Oahu's North Shore!
He was a great surfer and an even better ambassador to surfing.
Mike was 78 years old and battling cancer at the time of his passing. Though early reports have him dying peacefully in his sleep. Mike was also a very talented artist. I'm pretty sure I posted some of his unique artwork in my annual surf art Blogs.
My two friends who used to run the LAWRENCE COLLECTION Surfboard company met Mike some years ago. If you look closely you will see that Jacko (left) and Johnny (right) have their Billy Bob teeth in their mouths. Those two used to wear those Billy Bob teeth everywhere. Rumor has it that one year, Johnny posed at the NHDMV with his goofy teeth in his mouth to have his license photo taken with them in. Looking at Mike Doyle here it's obvious he was enjoying these two.
They have a series of photos of them posing with celebrity surfers wearing the Bobs. Funny times for sure.
In other tragic sad news of the week. Hawaiian surfer Sunny Garcia was found unresponsive and not breathing in his home last week. He was in a coma and on a ventilator. He has since been upgraded to breathing on his own. Rumors were flying all over social media when this news first broke. There was talk of a suicide attempt. Drug overdose. Bouts with severe depression. All of which is sad enough, but one thing's for sure.
The outpouring of love and support was real. And it was massive.
Everyone and I mean EVERYONE posted messages of Love and support. Sunny is an ex-World Champ. He was the real deal surfer. Yeah he had a reputation at one point of being a hard ass local, but then again, there have been many surfers with that label. Myself included. I'm personally praying that he makes it. And if he does, and he sees all the love and support, I believe he will see the good that life still has to offer and make a full recovery.
There is still light and love Sunny. Don't give up.
In more sad news this week. Chewbacca passed away.
Actor Peter Mayhew was 74 years old. "Chewie" was the
beloved character in all the STAR WAR movies.
Who could forget that moaning semi snarl that Chewie would do in all the movies? Usually in a moment of despair. We all fell in love with Chewie. There are some big shoes to fill now.
But wait, I just had an idea. Is it possible that 45 could take his place? He already has the hair. It is possible my friends.
Are we possibly looking at the future Chewbacca?
You know, the more I think of it, this man would be better suited
to play Darth Vader than Chewie.
Speaking of playing...my friend and super talented guitarist Johnny A is playing in Rockport, MA May 18th, 2019. There
are only a few tickets left. Scoff them up before it's sold out.
SPRING and SUMMER of 2019 is looking GREAT!
This my friends is a MUST SEE SHOW! I have seen these guys every year since 1990. True. I love this band. Always have always will. I was trying to describe them to a friend the other day and it really is almost impossible. I mean there is no definitive record that I could recommend you to listen to. You'd have to do a series of them. Like GRETCHEN GOES TO NEBRASKA, followed by FAITH HOPE AND LOVE. Then the self titles LP KING'SX. Then you'd have to pick up DOG MAN and EAR CANDY. Oh what am I saying. Go buy them all! They are all GREAT. But if you had to select a few. These would be the ones to buy.
The DVD's are available at all the local surf shops. Or by
sending me an email. firstname.lastname@example.org or send a check for $20.00 made out to ADLANTIC and send it here:
c/o OC Studio Suites
703 Ocean Blvd Suite C-4
Hampton, NH 03842
Or RENT or BUY it Online. You have spoken and I have listened. You don't have a DVD player so I made it available Online. Watch it on your Smart TV, your computer, or your cellphone! I can't make this any easier my friends.
GRANITE GIRLS and The RIVER WOMEN from Ralph's Pic Of The Week on Vimeo.
NOW AVAILABLE on VIMEO ON DEMAND.
On Monday April 15th, 2019 the BLOG officially turned 15! FIFTEEN YEARS without missing a single week. This was the BIG Blog that I was mentioning weeks ago. HUNDREDS of NEW Pics and Old ones too. There's at least FOUR NEW Videos.
It's all in celebration of 15 years.
I've enjoyed every single week, every month, and every year!