The Coast News Group
A ’70s style Fish from the master, Skip Frye, is a joy forever. Photo by Chris Ahrens
Columns Waterspot

Old faithful

It’s been nearly 20 years since my 55th birthday, but I still recall basking in the joy of lifelong friends and family, celebrating my five and a half decades of survival.

Not survival in the traditional sense — there was, and is, no lingering disease moving toward me like a bullet in slow motion.

No, but I, like most of you, survived all the dumb stuff done before we were old enough to know better — stuff like hitchhiking alone, driving rusted-out metallic hulks on bald tires through dark Baja roads, watching the roadside grave markers flash by like a picket fence. 

There are also occasional close brushes with toothy predators on a distant reef. And all those times of being body- slammed in the shore break, wondering if a wheelchair was about to become the preferred mode of transportation.

That and all the other insane things a surfer does before clear thinking takes hold (okay, I realize that for some of us that’s never) and we realize the bull’s horns will not miss forever.

Of course, such thoughts were not boiling at the surface on my 55th birthday party — well-wishers simply gathered because that’s what friends do for us when we officially cross into senior citizen land.

I was thankful that there were none of the usual dark humor gag gifts on the table that evening. Instead, there were books, a small painting, a poem, and a nice shirt. Then, the usual parade of cards, none of which I any longer have.

One handmade note was from surf legend Skip Frye. I can’t believe I lost that relic, but I have not lost the words, “Good any board you like and a trip to Rincon.” Never have I had such a precious gift.

I mean, simply going surfing with Frye is something to be cherished. Traveling with the master to Rincon, aka the Queen of the Coast, on a board that people wait years for, was beyond imagining.

Somehow life got in the way of our scheduled Rincon trip, but I did get the board, a 6’-10” Fish that proved too hot for me to handle at the time. While I could ride that board, it wasn’t pretty and so I traded it to Frye for the 8-foot Fish I still have.

True to the Frye code, I never did put a surf leash on that board. Consequently, it has met enough beach rocks to pave a city street, enduring countless dings and shatters along the way.  It has had more cosmetic surgeries than an actor with a 30-year-old face and a 70-year-old neck. The cracks in the surface of the board, not the actor, reveal a life well lived.

I rode my Frye on small waves twice last week and while neither of us are in the condition we once were, I was like a veteran lying about his prime, imagining I was better than I ever was.

Regardless of my delusions, that board and I have a connection that comes with exploring the oceans secrets together.

As for the board’s builder, Skip Frye, he may have ridden more linear feet on a surfboard than anyone alive. Frye continues to build beautiful boards and ride waves in the Pacific Beach area.  He still moves like a bird soaring on waves or air, like water in a clean stream.

I know more about what motivates Skip Frye with every wave I ride on the gift of a lifetime. So, thank you for the best surfboard I ever owned. 

Much love and many blessings, dear brother.

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