After my sister’s tragic passing I did not want to see anyone. I became an extreme introvert. I put a titanium steel shield around my heart and crawled into my shell like a tortoise. Phone rang, I wasn’t home, doorbell rang, I wasn’t home! I stayed in my room and listened to Black Sabbath. I Tried to escape from reality by smoking weed but that brought me right back to that horrific moment! Something that used to make me feel so good, made me feel so scared and paranoid and full of anxiety that all I wanted to do is come down, so I quit cold turkey! My wake and bake, stoned all days were over! POT turned into a scary downer! Puff, that Magic Dragon, he ceased his fearless roar! So now it was me and only me! No crutch, just handle this heartache by myself. There’s no rulebooks to follow, just have faith there’s light at the end of the dark tunnel. Growing up with a militant Catholic Irish mom, faith was everywhere in our house. If she and my dad could make it through after losing their daughter, then time for me to put my big boy pants on! When you feel as low as you can go then that is what makes you you! You rise like a phoenix from the fire or you stay in the ashes!
Puff the Magic Dragon by Roy Gonzalez
Early drawing by Roy Gonzalez
It was summer and I had been in my room for a month with Ozzy. My blonde hair was now brown. My Mexican tan was now Irish pub pale. I didn’t give a fuck but my heart and soul did, they woke me up one morning and demanded that I get the hell out of my room and get back to the sunshine and ocean that I loved. I agreed… now, how to get there? I had no ride and didn’t want to be on the street corner thumbing because people who I was avoiding would see me. I didn’t want to go back into the beach scene where I knew people. Surfing was too social as well and I didn’t want to deal with localism or pecking orders in the line up. Then I got it! I would go back to my roots as a kid, bodysurfing and diving. With bodysurfing nobody cared, you could go in and be free in the sea.
The bus wouldn’t take surfboards but I had an old El Paipo belly board, put a towel over it and it went unnoticed. I hadn’t broken that board out since I was a kid so it was time for us to get reunited. 5 minutes before the bus arrived I would jump my fence with my fins and hawaiian fishing sling in my backpack and I was gone. I was invisible and off to secret reefs in Laguna or down to the Wedge to get shacked and pounded! I was a coastal hermit, nobody knew me and nobody cared, just how I liked it. I needed to be alone to take this inner healing and outer learning adventure by myself. I went from looking like the kid in Beetlejuice’s twin brother to looking like an Aborigine. The sea and sunshine were so healing and back then the reefs were so alive with fish and abalone.
Laguna was in full “Hippy 70s” summertime swing. The Brotherhood was in full force, the Greeter was waving and the Orange Sunshine was shining! Seemed like the whole town was on a spiritual journey to find themselves and that’s exactly what I was doing. I got completely out of the surf circle and spent all my time diving and body surfing, thrift shopping for hawaiian shirts and hanging at the Sawdust Festival. The town was alive with psychedelic drugs and art and I sucked it all in sober! Surf and rock posters were my thing and there was one guy holding court in this whacked out art colony. His name was Bill Ogden. He blew my head off like Rick Griffin and I definitely took a page out of his book for inspiration as well. Rick was the undisputed king but Ogden definitely ruled Laguna. I would come home after a long day at the beach and start drawing again. Now the waves I was drawing were hollower and meaner and after all my tunnel visions, groovier! From the mystic cylinders and cosmic curls inspired by my mentors as well from the world I was surrounded by. My heart and the music I played was becoming lighter. I was slowly but surely coming back to the light.
Surf Scene by Bill Ogden
We had a blast! FIG was the eldest, so he was the ringleader and already stand-up comic material. I was his Sideshow Bob, so we entertained the troops and Bud entertained us in the water! He was beyond a freak of nature! Throwing buckets of spray, tube riding and tearing the roof off the lip! Fig, McNutty and Doogie were far from slouches, but Brother Bud was beyond! Hard for other surfers to admit it but we were all in unanimous agreement. We were blessed to be able to travel around and surf different breaks with the locals. The 5 amigos had a code during team get-together lunches and photo shoots. We would give a little whistle to each other and sneak out the back before anyone knew we were gone. But when the contest time came, the team was on lockdown and only allowed to surf The Point. The contest was less than a week away at The Point so now it was time to train—problem was it was a zoo fest! 25 team riders on our side plus coaches, 25 team riders on their side plus coaches and locals. One day they had a big lunch event for us in a beautiful two-story house on the beach looking over the point. Everyone was there and the point was empty and firing. We had strict orders to stay put…I gave the secret whistle, and we were out the back and in the lineup, sharing perfect waves together. We knew we were going to be in trouble and had at most an hour before the lineup was packed again but we had the place for over two hours by ourselves. We couldn’t figure it out but weren’t complaining. Bud was now free to cut loose, and it’s a day that will remain in surfing infamy for those who witnessed it, and it was only us five. I was paddling out and Bud had just scored a big set. I was sitting in the channel, waiting in anticipation for a big, big Buddy Llam hack! The tide had dropped so this wave swung left and started guttering and tubing across the dry reef. Bud read it, so was now charging at me like a wild rhino to make the section! I’m freaking out! I sat there frozen! His line was directly at me! I just had my leg cut in half but was about to have my body cut in half! Bud comes flying out of the tube and sees me then comes off the bottom like a rat boat and goes straight-up vertical over me like he was shot out of a cannon. Everything went in slow motion. I saw the board above me completely floating in the air–all the fins were out! I turned around to see if he was ok but instead watched from the back (5 more hacks all the way into the bay…?) What the fuck!?!? There were rumors back then that it was possible but in all my years in the water I hadn’t seen it! I paddled out to the boys to ask if they saw that. They all laughed and said he had been busting those all day! Like one of my all-time favorite surfers Larry Bertlemann’s famous quote he used to say and proved it: “Anything is possible!” In 1978 Bud proved that to us all—-first airs any of us had ever seen!
All those summertime sessions at the Wedge were exciting and enlightening. I didn’t get the biggest bombs that came through but just seeing the massive barrels coming through I knew I could, and later I would. Stand up surfing was a distant memory! Being in the line up at the Wedge, riding those barrels and seeing the heavy cats charging, it was so frightening and exciting! You also had the jetty and beach lined up with tourists watching like the finals of a Laker game. After that, going back to Doheny or San Os was of no interest whatsoever to me. My goal was to backdoor a 9th Pole bomb! I had seen Pipeline and that was my dream to one day ride there but being so young, Hawaii was a million mile away dream. The Wedge was the closest I thought I would ever get. There were very few stand up Surfers but 99% of them wanted nothing to do with that wave. Back then, Danny Kwock was the one surfer who owned it as well as the heaviest bodysurfers and there was this kneeboarder named Ron Romanowski back-dooring those bombs! Some of those big days ended up in Surfer Magazine with pictures of Ron. I knew I couldn’t stand up like Danny but I knew if I grew some bigger balls I could ride those waves.
Watermen of the Wedge
My Paipo was too small so I needed a new sea vessel! I Had massive respect for the Wedge, knowing one wrong move, you could die or break your neck. So what do I do? I decided to shape my own fish out of a broken half longboard. Genius move! If I was a betting man, I would have put all the chips on the table and bet against me. Me on the other hand, I never thought twice. I wanted to do it so I did it with no questions asked. I was good in woodshop class and had shaped mahogany wood into skateboards (which was as hard as cement) and I learned how to laminate Stringers, so foam looked like shaping butter to me. I had been doing ding repair for years, so I knew how to work with resin, so what the fuck lets go! In my mind you were never a real surfer unless you made your own surfboard or surfed the waves in Hawaii so I was determined to do one out of two. I shaped it, I glassed it and couldn’t wait to ride it. I was still in hiding so I worked with the garage door closed, glassing a board with resin in a garage is not good for your brain cells. I had been avoiding everyone. No one could find me. I never went out our front door. My deal was out the back and over the fence of our backyard. My pops was the coolest and had given us kids a pool. He even let me and my friends skate it before it was filled after it was built till it was time for him to want to swim so it was filled and that party was over. I was blessed to have that chill in the back yard so I never visited the front of the house but on this day with resin sparkles flying out of my head, I needed desperately to open the garage and get some fresh air.
Sure as shit one of my friends I had been avoiding rolls up on his motorcycle catching me getting air in my driveway. It was cool, it was time to come out of my shell. I had avoided everyone (but did not know at that time I should have avoided him like the plague!), so I thought some company would be good. We laughed and talked stories. He had a joint, I told him I quit and didn’t like the way it made me feel. He said this wasn’t pot and it would make me feel better about all I’ve been through. His brother gave it to him and he hadn’t tried it either. I figured what the hell I’d been clean for months so I said let’s try this shit and took a few big hits…he was right I was feeling really, really good. We were laughing our asses off and decided to go for a ride on his motorcycle. We hopped on and started flying, out onto the street like a rocket! Then over and onto the freeway. I was holding on for dear life! This ride, even Evil Knievel would have faked an injury! We were high as kites and screaming at the top of our lungs flying in and out of traffic! Suddenly I saw a figure on the side of the road, it was a woman in a pink bathrobe…it was my mom! We went from a hundred miles an hour to a sudden halt. I was tripping…what the hell was my mom doing on the freeway in her bathrobe? She was yelling at us not to make such a racket. We looked around slowly and realized we had not even left the driveway. Holy shit what was in that stuff? I Got off the bike and went right into quicksand! Oh fuck, I knew I was on a good one! (Later I found out it was Angel Dust.) I told him to fuck off and fuck that shit and went to my room to ride this one out and get to really know myself! I had to be strong and know my mind was stronger than that chemical. After hours of watching my surf pictures melt off the wall, BBQing with Satan, then playing tennis with Jesus and hand ball with Buddah, the sun finally rose and I made it through one hell of a ride! I was scared the fuck straight again after that mind melter and went back to being stoked on surfing and drawing.
I learned a valuable lesson that life is short so you better do what you love and that is what I did, yeah, I slipped but I was back stronger than ever! I loved to surf and draw and because I loved it, I got good at it. The board I designed worked like a charm and I rode one of the biggest waves at the Wedge on it. 9th Pole Baby! I ate shit so bad, at the end my trunks were ripped off and I rolled up at Supertubes like a beat seal but I didn’t care! And that “Mr.Toad’s Wild Ride on steroids” probably made my art even better and weirder, which was my goal anyway after seeing Rick and Ogdens art. I’m sure they had to have been on a couple of “Buckle in, to get to know themselves” rides as well!