Baby Boomers Capture Endless Summer


From: The Easy Reader, 2006

by Carly Mayberry

Maybe it’s the sun or the early morning light reflecting off the sea. Maybe it’s the anticipation of each approaching wave. Or maybe it’s just feeling like you were 16 again.

Whatever the reason, every Saturday and Sunday four men, all South Bay residents for the last 50 years, meet at their chosen surfing spot hoping to catch that one wave that will leave them feeling satisfied.

“Surfers don’t snuggle,” joked Alvin Fletcher, one of the foursome. “The surf’s waiting!”

“They always say if real surfers had their choice between Pamela Anderson and perfect surf, they’d pick the surf.”

“We surf all the way from San Anofre to Malibu,” Pete Martinez explained. Martinez, the “surf scientist” of the group delivers faithfully the “surf report” to his beachcombing buddies every Tuesday for the following weekend.

Tomorrow it’s Malibu,” comes Martinez’s voice over Fletcher’s answering machine. “I feel it calling.”

“I study the wave breaks,” explained Martinez. “For 10 dollars a month, I get the surf facts from There are always storms out at sea.

“The report, broken down by seasons, tells you the direction the swell’s coming. If it’s a west swell, you have to go to a west-facing beach. We go surfing early in the morning because the conditions for surfing are usually more ideal then. There’s generally less wind and wind really affects the waves.”

Then there’s the tide book.

“There’s actually a minus tide today so that’s why we’re going at 7 a.m.,” Martinez explained. “Because that’s when the tide rises.”

“I just let Pete do all the calculation,” Fletcher muttered, with appreciation and relief in his tone.

“But mostly, you just talk to people and you go to a beach with a good swell,” Martinez concluded. “No sense going to a beach where there’s no swell.”

For Martinez, there’s meaning to all this talk of ocean swells and high tides. Living in Redondo Beach all his life, he started surfing when he was 9 and surfed through high school. Then he married, settled down and had kids.

Mid-life crisis’

It wasn’t until 10 years ago that the now 50-year-old Martinez started catching waves again three days a week.

“I work out three days a week just to condition for surfing,” he explained. “Surfing keeps you young.”

Alvin Fletcher has a similar history with the sport.

Alvin Fletcher with his longboard

It wasn’t until the now 51-year old Fletcher had a self-described mid-life crisis that he started surfing again.

“When you’ve had a good day of surfing, you feel so good, you actually have a glow,” Fletcher explained.

Fletcher, a science teacher at Redondo Beach Union High School for 23 years also said that surfing helps him communicate with his students.

“Being a teacher and a surfer, I can identify with the kids at school,” Fletcher said. “The kids are always asking me ‘Mr. Fletcher, have you gone surfing lately?’”

For both Martinez and Fletcher, surfing and socializing go hand in hand. Whether it’s with the younger surfer dudes or the mature sportsman, the camaraderie of the sport is a big part of what it’s all about.

“I don’t mind going to beaches by myself because I know I’ll always meet someone,” Martinez explained. “There are pockets of people at each break. Once you go out there and meet guys, you develop a bond.”

“I’ve met engineers, eye surgeons and school superintendents out there sitting waiting for a wave,” Fletcher added.

“Actually, everywhere we surf, we aren’t the oldest,” Martinez said. “People walk in to my office and see all my surf photos and ask me ‘Aren’t you too old?’”

“At San Anofre, there are guys 70 and 80 doing handstands out there,” Fletcher said.

Tribal territories

But sometimes that friendly “socializing in the sea” can seem more like a “surf and turf” war for these avid long boarders.

“The territorial aspect depends upon the beach,” Martinez explained. “For instance at Malibu, you’re never going to ride a wave by yourself. It’s just too crowded. We surf where the long board breaks are.

“And that’s why we surf in a group. There are some people out there that feel they own a particular wave or a part of the ocean,” Martinez explained. “You could compare it to a tribe protecting a piece of their land.”

For another member of the long boarding crew, 56-year old Jim Noone, it’s all about never slowing down.

“I surfed from the time I was 5 up until 1963 when I had a near death experience while nearly drowning at the Cove,” Noone explained. “Then I quit surfing for 35 years.

“It wasn’t without the prodding of friends that I started again four years ago — that and the fact that I just love to cut them off out there in the waves,” Noone laughed.

“It’s important that people keep going,” he continued. “Too many people do nothing. The rocking chair is not the answer.”

Noone, who’s retired from the City of Los Angeles, is now a part-time plumber.

“But no matter where the scheduled job is, I always have time for surfing,” he said.

For the fourth member of the group, 54-year-old painting contractor Jerry Bouma, surfing was something he discovered he had an aptitude for.

“I was never good at organized sports,” Bouma explained. “When I discovered surfing, I discovered something I could do.”

Fifth musketeer

Turns out that together the surfing foursome discovered a fifth member, 37-year-old Michelle Runge. If you asked her, Runge would say she discovered them.

“I truly love the sport,” said Runge, who started surfing three years ago. “And these guys are great with encouragement in all sorts of conditions.

“You’re always learning and every surfing place is different,” she continued. “Today we saw a seal and some dolphins feeding out there with their mother.”

But before they even hit the surf, none of the members of this seasoned crew are above seeking out the perfect surf.

“All along the coast you’ll see guys checking out the surf,” Martinez explained. “And then you have guys who continue to go to the same beach all their lives because they know their break.”

“When you drive up and you look down, it actually bums you out if the waves aren’t good,” Fletcher explained.

And together the group has had their share of stories out there on the high seas.

“I almost ran over Alvin one day,” Martinez joked. “But with my skill level, I knew I wouldn’t hit him.”

Zen of surfing

They also have plenty to wax philosophical about when it comes to the Zen of surfing.

“Probably my most memorable surfing day was when I was surfing one early morning and to one side of me was a full moon and to the other side was a dolphin jumping in the light of the moon,” Fletcher recounted. “That was a perfect surf day.”

“To me there’s nothing like when the sun is out, the water is glassy and there’ a good swell,” Martinez said. “It’s just an adrenaline rush — when you’re standing right in front of a wave and you make it.”

“Once you catch that first wave and harness all that power it’s addicting,” Runge explained.

“When I think back about the things that make me happy, the beach has always been one,” Fletcher said. “It’s also about getting out in that cold water and seeing if I can take those big waves — it’s testing Mother Nature.”

“I can still remember the first day I went out and being able to catch that wave,” Bouma explained. “It’s the draw of capturing that feeling again.

“Now it’s about trying to duplicate that feeling on the waves — that feeling when I was 16.”ER

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