On Turning 70
I’m not sure who the first person to ever say that “Life is short,” but, I’m pretty sure, he’s already dead. He’d have to be. That line has been around forever. For as long as I’ve been alive it’s been popular. And that would be 70 years today. On July 26th, 1951 at 5:42PM I was born. I would be the first surviving son of Gus and Eva Fatello. They had a boy (John) born before me. A still born. That loss rattled my mother for months on end. So I’m sure they were both very pleased to hear me wailing, on that hot July afternoon at Lynn Hospital in Lynn Massachusetts.
Suffice it to say, I have little to no recollection of that day. In fact, my earliest memories more than likely didn’t start until I was around 2 or 3 years of age. And they are hazy at best. But I do have some early childhood memories, thanks to my dad who documented almost every waking moment of not only my life, but my siblings as well on his cameras. And there were 6 of us. 3 boys and 3 girls. He had both still cameras and movie cameras. And he developed his own film. (Still photos that is.) He had a darkroom set up in our early apartment from 1951 to 1958, and eventually down in the basement of our home in Beverly, MA when we moved in for good, during the summer of 58. I started surfing just 6 years later. Yes, my dad ended up taking the very first photos and movies of me with a surfboard and surfing.
So this summer marks my 57th year surfing. Hard for even me to believe that I’ve been surfing that long. But it’s true. The math does not lie. Nor does the fact that I’m still surfing. I may not be the surfer I was back in my prime, but who the hell is at 70? Truth is, I am still stoked about surfing. And I still enjoy catching a few fun sized waves with my friends. My hardcore winter days may be behind me, as are my paddling out into anything over 6’ these days, but, I will still be stoked to catch a few when all the elements are aligned. And make no mistake about it. They must be aligned for me to paddle out.
Luckily, they have been the last few years. I’ve been scoring a few sessions here and there by paying attention to what’s going on out there in the northern Atlantic. It also doesn’t hurt to have Internet access so I can dial in on the live wave cams. And it certainly doesn’t hurt, to have friends who live right on the ocean. Where I can get the first hand reports. Thank you Tony.
Here I am…in my 7th decade. Truth be told, there were a few times when I didn’t think I’d be here.
From the war in Southeast Asia, to being caught inside by some big REALLY BIG Hawaiian waves, from facing down Pablo Escobar in Medellin Colombia, to being chased out of the water by a 12’ Tiger Shark on Oahu, from being trapped inside a rapidly rising flooding condo basement on the ocean during the infamous Halloween storm, to being charged by a massive full grown bull moose, from facing down a massive crocodile in Costa Rica, to being struck by lightening, to surviving a near fatal liver disease, and beating Covid -19 last winter. And that’s just off the top of my head. Yup. There’s been a few times where if I had zigged, instead of zagging? I’d have punched my ticket. But alas my dear friends I’m still here. Though I am well aware, that there’s a handful of individuals out there, who wouldn’t lose any sleep if I wasn’t here.
However the good news is, the majority of you seem to be happy with my presence, and have grown more tolerant of my weekly nonsense. So for all of you, I can say without question that “It’s nice to still be here.”
Just so we’re clear, my last 70 years have not all been near death experiences. Hardly.
The majority of my time (so far) has been full of wonderful and memorable moments. From my loving childhood memories from the early days of living in that triple decker apartment building in the city of Lynn, to moving to Beverly and discovering the great outdoors and the ocean. My musical and art career from it’s early beginnings to my adult accomplishments have been nothing short of amazing. I’ve met some lifelong individuals in the music business that I still consider some of my closest and dearest friends.
And the same goes for my surfing life. Some of my most memorable experiences in my life, have been out in the ocean surfing with my friends. Such lovely, and meaningful memories, surfing all over the planet with my close and dear friends. From Hawaii to Nova Scotia, from Mexico to California, from Puerto Rico to Costa Rica, from South America to Central America. From the East Coast to the West Coast. And next year I’ll be
surfing in Europe.
But of all the places I have surfed, my favorite place in the world to surf, is right here in NH. Or to be more specific, right down the street at 10th Street. Surfing with friends and family at “Ralph’s Rights.”
Finally, the most rewarding of all my time here on the planet, nothing and I do mean nothing, compares to being with my family.
My wife Cory and I are true soul mates. We truly love each other and are best friends. Our three children are the true beacons of our lives. Starting with our oldest, Gabrielle “Gabby” LaBreck and her husband Brent. Max “Mackey” and his girlfriend Jacquie, and Noelle “Sweetie Boid” Rizzo and her husband Pete. And our darling three grandchildren. Avery “Sweet Pea”, Brylee “Peanut”, and Reighlynn “Ray”. They literally light up our lives. We are truly blessed to have them all in our lives. Plus my brothers and sisters and their children, and our dear Grandma and Grandpa Rastl. Life is good.
And last, but certainly not least, our pets. Patch, Linus, and Zorro. We love our pets. They are integral parts of our family. They complete our lives.
Twenty years ago on this exact date, July 26th, 2001, I finished my first yearlong surf campaign in memory of my father Gus who died from complications from diabetes. My father Gus was the one who introduced me to surfing. I called it CATCH A WAVE FOR GUS. That was an eye opener to say the least. It looked pretty doable on paper. But to actually implement it, and make it happen? It was difficult to downright dangerous at times, but the majority of my time was spent connecting with both nature and the elements, and connecting spiritually with those who have crossed over the rainbow bridge. I became much more spiritual during the first campaign. And as a result, I became a better person because of it.
The memory of my father burned deep in my soul that year. It was an awakening for me.
Ten years ago on this same date, July 26th, 2011 I finished my second yearlong surf campaign.
Some of you I’m sure remember that one. CATCH A WAVE FOR MOLLY. I did this one in memory of Molly Rowlee. A 5yr old daughter of my dear friends Buck and Meighan Rowlee who passed away from cancer. I had some special moments out there with Molly. Those stories will be in my book.
This time I knew what I was getting myself into. And this time I made the right corrections and learned from my mistakes during the first campaign. What’s the old saying? “You live and you learn.” And I learned a lot during the first campaign. I learned to have a back up winter wetsuit, and back up longboards. Both were crucial to have. Let’s face it, we live and surf in NH. We don’t have the same consistent surf as other places do. This is not California. And it’s certainly not Hawaii. So I learned a few tricks along my first journey. Like when the Alberta Clippers from Canada blow in January and February, basically flattening any chance of a swell reaching the shoreline (unless there’s an actual storm/low pressure) off the coast.
Otherwise, you are in deep doo doo.
But Lil Ralphie figured out, that all you have to do is drive down to the Hampton harbor, and line up with Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant. Why? Well the basic rule of thumb is, wind causes surf. And if the Alberta Clippers are honking across the bay, that will create a wind swell. And sure enough, I was able to catch my one wave by surfing the wind swell and riding from west to east. Essentially it’s the same direction that my friends in California are surfing. I named the break “NUKES”. For obvious reasons.
I surfed “Nukes” twice in my lifetime. Once in the 2000-2001 campaign and once in my 2010-2011 campaign. Both attempts were successful. The latter was featured in my movie “SURFING HEALS ALL WOUNDS”. My poor daughter Gabby was hunkered down on the beach with my video camera the second time I did it. And she managed to capture it all on video.
Today July 26th, 2021 at exactly 5:42PM, I will catch a wave on the exact minute I was born 70 years ago.
And when I do, I will remember all the departed souls who are no longer with us. From my parents Gus and Eva, to my sister Evamarie and nephew Michael. I'll remember Little Miss Molly, and Jerry (Grampy) and JoEllen (Grammy) to all my aunts and uncles, my cousins, and all of my dear departed friends. There are too many to name. And yes, I’ll remember our departed pets too. All of them.
My mantra holds true to this very day. I know this, because I'm living proof.
"SURFING REALLY DOES HEAL ALL WOUNDS."
This week's Ed's corner is from July 13th, 2009. This is Birthday boy himself. Not for nothing but, although I was never known for being a big wave surfer. I did at the very least, know how to properly stand on a surfboard, and look relatively hip. Better to look good than to surf good. Photo by Ed O'Connell
*Click the photo above to see a larger version of Ed's Pic.
Now for Some Local and National News
I've decided to leave this up until Wednesday July 28th. Why? Because I know how fickle and forgetful artists can be. So if you haven't sent in your art do it by Wednesday at 5:00PM or forever be labeled a slacker. We have some really cool submissions again, and I know there's a few of you who are still sitting on some cool stuff. Lots of new first timers this year too. I'm pretty stoked
to get this Surf Art Blog posted next week.
I always look forward to it.
This is a great opportunity to showcase local and national surf artists. If you know of any surf artists please let them know about this annual Surf Art Blog. NEW DEADLINE IS WEDNESDAY.
JULY 28th, 2021 at 5:00PM
And speaking of Surf Art.
My longtime Surf Artist/Surfer/Musician brother Stan Chew has a surf art Exhibit coming up at the end of August at the Robert Lincoln Levy Gallery in Portsmouth.
I love his work and I can't wait to attend.
For those who knew and loved Walter Helfer, we are having a SURFER'S PADDLE for Walt on 8-12-21 at 18th Street.
KSM Photoshop of the Week
Watching the opening night of the Olympics was strange to say the least. They all wore masks and were waving to an empty stadium. Just when you thought things might be back to normal it was anything but at the Tokyo Olympics. There was nothing normal about it. And those two mascots? I know who didn't warm up to them. Yup. Ole Khaliddy himself. Between you and me? I don't think he trusts them. And really, who could blame him?
The Poor Sheik. His paranoia once again got the best of him.
And so my friends, please take advantage of this weekly photo shop of the mastermind who planned 9-11 and resulted in the deaths of 3,000 innocent civilians by KSM (Khalid Sheik Mohammed).
*Note to self -must pick up a case of Pink and Blue Checkered Aprons at
Home Depot this week.
Our annual HIT THE BEACH IS BACK! August 27th, 2021!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY John Rastl July 12th, 2021!
HAPPY 29th BIRTHDAY Gunther "Blue" Northwood
AKA GUNNY July 18th, 2021
HAPPY BIRTHDAY Vince Shazam July 26th, 2021!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY Nick Africano July 26th, 2021!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY Larry Trinceri July 26th, 2021!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY Ron Chane July 26th, 2021!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY Mick Jagger July 26th, 2021!
REST IN PEACE JoEllen Bunton 72, July 6th, 2021
REST IN PEACE Nash Rogers 8yrs old, July 6th, 2021.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY Judith Rastl July 23rd, 2021!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY Janelle Donahue July 23rd, 2021!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY Tami Heide July 23rd, 2021!
HAPPY 32nd ANNIVERSARY Kevin and Kim Grondin
July 23rd, 2021!
PLEASE Keep 90 yr old Chuck Dreyer (Kim Grondin's dad)
in your thoughts and prayers.
PLEASE Keep longtime NH Surfer Greg Smith in your Thoughts and Prayers.
PLEASE Keep local Surfer/Musician Pete Kowalski in your thoughts and prayers throughout the year.
PLEASE SUPPORT THE DIPG AWARNESS TEAM!
Support ALL The photographers who contribute to
Ralph's Pic Of The Week every week for the last 16 years.
** BUY a HIGH RES Photo
from any of the weeks on RPOTW.
my friends... Surfing Heals All Wounds.
Pray for Surf. Pray for Peace. Surf For Fun.