Skip Rhudy

words and random recipes for fun

In those days the pier was still made of creosote soaked black wood timbers, thicker than railroad ties, the waves on big days reaching up just under the planking; the power of the largest waves you could feel shaking the whole structure as they surged past the pilings, squirting salt spray up through the slits and soaking you.

We were scared paddling out in the greenish brown violence of six to eight foot waves, the suds foaming after sets and impossible to get solid thrust in when paddling because of the bubbles. The crash of the surf in our ears was so loud that we shouted ourselves hoarse and never really did understand what the guy ten feet away was saying.

It was easy to not pay attention anyway because all that mattered was trying to catch the better wave and not getting trapped inside after you did catch the better wave. All the hooting turned to laughter as you were pummeled one wave after the next until you gave up and let yourself get washed in to the second bar where you waited for a lull. Later on, after the first wooden pier was destroyed by hurricane Allen, you could surf very close to the ruins and when the new pier was built then the rules about not paddling next to the pier were rescinded which pissed off the fisherman. They would curse you and try to hit you with the lead weights on their lines as you paddled by. No one ever seemed to crash into the pilings when the first pier was there and then later, when the cement pier was put in and seemed more threatening the bravest would still surf through the pilings to prove their valor.

Sometimes under the old pier bait house we would see some of the older kids or the ones who were only pretend surfers smoking weed. We knew who they were and they us; they did paddle out sometimes but their technique was ruined by lack of practice and they had no stamina because their lungs were weak from smoking.

The best girls were the ones that seemed out of reach; they hung out with the guys smoking weed under the bait house and wore very little clothing but a few girls and a few women were real surfers. It was a thrill for us when one of the liberated women went surfing topless. But it was not sexual to them. It didn’t seem sexual to the grown men either but it was to us teenagers and we tried hard to think of something good to say to the surfer girls but never succeeded.

In the summer the wind blew onshore so hard that the gulf turned into a brown washing machine of sloshing water. We would sit in our cars and look at the surf, and read Surfer and Surfing and wish that our waves too were as hollow as the waves in Hawaii but our waves were never hollow like those on the North Shore. And the water was not blue but brown and in December blooms of cabbage head jellyfish would fill the water and when you caught a wave the fin would strike them and it was like hitting chunks of ham hock floating in the water. It was strange and beautiful to look into the deep green and clear winter water when the waves were usually smooth and came at us in long, clean, well separated lines.

Sometimes we used the cabbage head as weapons. One asshole or the other would grab one and throw it at someone who had their back turned looking for incoming waves. The cabbage head didn’t sting too much but would make a hilarious SPLOTCH sound when it hit someone. Then that guy would get pissed and pretty soon the cabbage heads, which really were the size of cabbage you buy at the store, would start flying around. One side of the ball was strangely feathered and that part would sting a little sometimes. If one hit you in the face you were fucked but only one guy ever got hit in the face and he was from Corpus.

All of that would stop instantly as a clean set would roll in and every one scrambled to try and find a good spot to take off from. Each wave peaked in a different place but sometimes you were in the right spot at the right time and then you would accelerate like lightning and at the base of the wave dig a hard bottom turn and go right back up the wave as vertically as possible for an off-the-lip, and then climb and drop all the way along the glassy cold line, trying hard for off-the-lips and one-eighty cutbacks; no one had heard of airs or floaters in those times, and even the great Hawaiian surfer Buttons had not yet been filmed doing three-sixties.

This was a beautiful time of single fin short boards and longboards with skegs and thick wetsuits, but nine months of the year you didn’t need a wetsuit. Sharks were never seen though occasionally a big Tiger would get reeled in at the end of the pier. The biggest taken back then was about was sixteen feet and weighed a thousand pounds.