Adventure Sports Journal, May/June 2002, page 38
Paolo, Paul and Enrico on a northern CA surf trip.
by Paul Frediani
As an infant I received my first baptism. Baptism is a rite of the Church, and it always involves water. My first Baptism I don't remember. The others I will never forget.
1. In the Name of the Father
My father ran up the street to his screaming son, whose leg was broken, disfigured. He swept me in his arms as I buried my head in his chest, tears running down my face. I could smell the pack Winston cigarettes in his shirt pocket as he carried me to the car and the hospital.
It was the early 1960's when I first remember thinking I.wanted to be a surfer. True, I had never surfed, but now I had broken my leg on a skateboard. I listened to the Beach Boys, wore a surfer haircut and leafed through surfer magazines until the pages were faded and torn. Eventually I saved enough money to buy a ratty old O'Neill's surfboard. It didn't matter that I was 12 years old and had no way of getting to the beach, which was 15 miles away. I would lay my board down on my front lawn and pretend I was surfing. I went through all the maneuvers--'hang-ten', 'cheater-five', 'bottom-turn', 'drop-knee-backside-turn'. The neighbors probably thought I was a bit strange. My father would just shake his head.
The day came when I was finally going surfing. My best friend Richie Schultz (he already was a real surfer) had an older sister with a driver's license, and she was going to take us to the beach for my first surfing session. The night before I hardly slept thinking of all the moves I was going to perform. The next day we slid our boards over the passenger's seat of the 1958 convertible. Richie and I were in the back seat, giggling with excitement and anticipation. I was scared. We left Burlingame and headed up Old Skyline Road.
We pulled into the Wander Inn parking lot at Linda Mar. Wander Inn is a well-known northern California break. Slightly overcast, it was a typical August, San
Francisco day. The waves were working at 2-3 feet, perfect for a frightened beginner like myself. Richie pulled on his beaver top and I went in with two pairs of boxer shorts, one pair worn backside front. Lucky for me I was a chubby kid, because the water was frigid. I spent what seemed like hours paddling and wiping out in every way imaginable. When I was so exhausted my arms couldn't move, the sea washed me back to shore. For the next hour I stood by a burning tire, shivering from head to toe. I was alive! Lucky for me I had survived, because my Dad would have killed me. I'll never forget that day.
The author and his father in 1968.
2. And the Son
The late 1960's were a turbulent time for the country, but for the draft-eligible sons of our nation, it was a matter of life and death. Getting in the water got all the junk out of your head. I remember a beautiful day in 1968, juicy 3-4 foot waves at a popular spot known as the Creek. Everyone was out - locals, yokels, rednecks, peace-niks, you name it. There was a group of long hairs (a popular term in those days) that lived in the house right south of the Creek; they had these huge 4-foot speakers on the back deck facing the ocean. They turned the speakers toward the surfers and played Big Brother and the Holding Company. "Come on people now, smile on your brothers, everybody get together, try to love one another."
Man it was a party! With the light offshore breeze you couldn't help but inhale. Yahoo! Smiles all around. The attitude of the day was, "Keep surfing, brothers, 'cause we don't know what tomorrow brings!"
I often wonder how many of the guys I shared waves with never came back from Vietnam. I think of them often, mostly during early morning paddle-outs. If we counted sunrises in every time zone from 1968 to now, would it add up to 50,000? Our brothers, our fathers' sons.
3. And the Holy Ghost.
Surf stories are a tradition with surfers. Most are a mixture of fact and fiction. The following story is all fact.
It was maybe the biggest rideable day in the history of Wander Inn. There were only a couple of surfers out and they looked completely overmatched. The waves were so big that the paddle itself was treacherous. Everyone was standing on the beach. The best surfers I knew were hanging out, grinning nervously. They just stood there, hands m their pants, playing pocket pool, not making any move to go in. Just then, a huge macking set thunders in, and one guy is in
position for the take off. He catches the wave, gets to his feet, and just stands there, on the tail, stalling the board. For those watching, time stood still. The surfer looked completely clueless, like a total kook that was about to get killed. The wave had now feathered and walled-up to full size. Still this kook hadn't made a move. He is standing on his tail block with the nose of his board pointing aimlessly to the sky.
At the last possible instant, just as the peak was about to destroy him, he snapped his board left, trimmed at the top of the wave, and then walked up to the nose of his surf board. Then he just
stood there, as relaxed as if he was eating a sandwich. The whole beach erupts in cheering - which is a big deal, 'cause surfers gotta be cool. The kook was Dick Keating, legendary northern California waterman. I cherish the memory of that day like an old friend. Memories like this keep the spirit of surfing alive.
4. As it was in the beginning,
ever will be, world without end.
My son Paolo now rips in conditions where I can only stand on the beach and observe. I watch him and smile proudly. I can't wait to someday get my grandchild out there! Keep surfing! Amen.
Left to right: an early beach outing; Paul and his brother; Paul at Carmel in the 1960's; Paul and Enrico floating at Cowell's; Paul's son Paolo, who Paul says is "a lot better at skateboarding than me."
All photos: Paul Frediani collection; portrait of Paul and his father: David Donoho, 1968
Paul Frediani is the author of Surf Flex, a step-by-step preparation manual for beginning to advanced surfers. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, he currently resides with his family in New York. Surf Flex is available at larger surf retailers and bookstores. For more info check out surfflex.com.