As a kid, both of my parents were neutral on my surf fixation. I kept my grades up, they let me get in the water as much as I wanted, kicked down a few bucks when I needed a new stick, drove me to the contest if nobody else was available. It bothered me not a bit that they didn’t show the kind of interest in surfing that today’s groms expect almost by birthright. Much later, in fact, I came to appreciate my parents’ disinterest, because if I could manage to grab their attention with something I’d written about surfing—and at a certain level nearly everything I write is aimed in their direction, because they’re my folks, and because they are (or were) discerning readers—then the job was done well.
Rarely did either of them offer an unprompted surf-related thought or opinion. On one particular topic, though, they both did. “Surfers are really good-looking!” my mom said at some point in the mid-’70s, apropos of nothing I can recall—I want to say the remark was tied somehow to David Nuuhiwa, although that might be mixing up my own starry-eyed boyhood obsession with our great noseriding Pharoah. Then just a few weeks ago, my dad, who at 90 divides his reading hours between Anthony Powell, the NYT Book Review, and our very own Sunday Joint, emailed to say, “Am I imagining it, or are male surfers all incredibly good-looking?”
My mom’s comment made me a little proud but a little more uncomfortable because I was 16 and, to borrow that old Vaudeville line, “That’s no lady, that’s my mom!” My dad’s comment made me actually wonder if surfers are in fact superior-looking creatures, and I think the short answer is Hector Velarde. That’s Hector, below, and here’s the clip I made earlier this week. Somebody on Facebook suggested that ’65 world champion Felipe Pomar—another aristocratic Peruvian, like Velarde—was in the game, to which I replied, “I love the Champ, but nobody goes side-by-side with Hector and comes out alive,” and by God I have the evidence!
Original Aussie big-wave hero Bob Pike would lose a walk-off against Hector every day of the week. But by any measure of toughness, and I pointedly include sheepshearing (read this), Pike would put Velarde over his knee and spank freely. I posted a new clip of Bob last week and almost wish I’d just left it at the opening three shots (Pike looking aces in a suit and tie while doing a TV interview; getting destroyed at Pipe; limping off the beach), but the song was too good to leave it there and I dug up every last Pike shot I had on the hard drive to stretch the video out. Unfortunately, what you get here is more or less a wipeout reel. Some day I will get my hands on more Bob Evans footage, which no doubt contains a few successful Pike rides, and when that happens I promise to redo his clip. Funny, Pike himself wouldn’t care one way or the other. Although Bob surfed regularly up into the mid-’90s, from about ’66 on he had zero interest in being a public figure of any kind. In 1998, a year before he took his own life at age 59 (he’d been in a traffic accident and never fully recovered), he told Aussie surf writer Shane Peel that he most enjoyed being “out there on my own,” and that “if no one had ever heard of Bob Pike, if no one had ever known if I had surfed or not, it wouldn’t have mattered one iota.” Which, oddly enough, makes it seem imperative that we throw the klieg lights on Pike at regular intervals and keep his memory alive.
Thanks, everybody, and I’ll see you next week!