The Huntington Beach surf contest had come and gone and the crowd had faded back to the local crew.
Which is to say the beach was covered with out of school high school kids, plus mom's their broods and the odd tourist.
I had been entrusted with 5 bucks (a small fortune) to get two Cokes, an order of "strips" and whatever I wanted from the snack shop just south of the HB pier.
I came back from the snack shop with the food, drinks and "whatever I wanted", which was a rental mat in tow.
Navy Blue canvas, enormous Yum Yum Yellow rubber bumpers on each end, inflated to rock hard and equipped with the requisite rope for towing and steering.
All the other kids were riding them, so never one to stray far from the herd, (a good survival trait in pack animals) and I wanted to ride one too.
My older brother was riding surfboards and being a good teenager had passed on the opportunity to hang at the beach with mom and his kid brother.
So off I strode, fin less into the briny depths. Dragging and attempting to paddle the raft through the classic jellyfish infested, way too south swell, completely walled up surf conditions that makes up the "good" summer time surf in Huntington.
Even at a young age I was a strong swimmer but by the time I had made it outside I was happy to lay on top of the mat and take a rest.
By the time the next closed out set came along I was in perfect position to take the set on the head and hanging on for dear life as I was rocketed toward the beach.
With a near fatal case of nipple rash and a smile that truly extended from ear to ear the hook was set and thus began a stoke fest that was to continue for decades to come....
Fast forward to the present day, last weekend in fact.
The surf is still too south, still walled up (it's probably good at that secret spot up the coast called Malibu) and the once plentiful Jellyfish have been poisoned by runoff from the local communities.
The pier is still there, rebuild in fact and a huge multi use mega sports complex temporarily occupying all the sand just south of the pier to market a multitude of items to the action sport demographic. Young and tattooed, each with a cell phone in one hand and a can of Red Bull in the other. None of whom have a remote chance of buying real estate in the area in their lifetimes. Most of which would be out of there depths in water past the knees. The age of water men and women is over Frodo and the age of the weekend tourist is upon us.
After decades of riding single fin, twin fin, and five fin boards (yep missed the quads but there is still time) of both long and short varieties I survey the same scene with a few minor changes.
Older, fatter, with less hair and perhaps a touch more wisdom.
The mats have gone under considerable redesign. Although much to my chagrin if asked even supposedly knowledgeable surfers will comment that they just "don't have a rope now".
Actually, the surf mats of my youth have been totally redesigned. The materials, the internal design, outer traction materials everything has been rethought, tested, thrown out and redesigned again.
There has been a few changes in surfboards too.
Today's modern surfmats have as much in common with the rental mats of the 60's as current surfboards have with the ancient Hawaiian Alaia boards.
About the only thing left in common with the old mats is the air.
An there is considerably less of that!
The air that is left is allowed to move freely in response to the riders reshaping the mat as the wave changes.
That and now I have fins.