Category Archives: surfing

Asa

I was originally attracted to Hatteras Island because of the pristine, uncrowded beaches. It was the perfect place for a young surfer. The locals had been here for generations and much of that in relative isolation. They were a unique self-supporting people. It took me a little time to assimilate into the community and I soon realized it was so much more than just about the beaches.

The people became a big factor in my love and appreciation for the island. Over the years, many of those folks have passed on and my feelings have evolved with those losses.

I first met Asa Gray in the early 70’s, out in the waves surfing. Everyone called him Buddy. At the time he must have been 14 or 15 years old. Long haired, lanky yet stout, his surfing was noted for its power and daring to take off on waves that didn’t seem makable.

Earlier this month, Buddy passed away at the age of 60. The realization of not seeing him again is unsettling. Even though I hadn’t seen him surf in years, only until recently I could drive down to the harbor in Rodanthe and see what fish he caught. He had commercial fishing in his psyche and an old-school Hatterasman attitude to go with it.

This scene of the Rodanthe Creek was taken during the passing of Hurricane Charley in 1986. It reminds me of the morning I went to the harbor to see if any fishermen went out to their nets. Northwest winds were gale force as I watched an incoming boat skipping over the tops of the foamy waves and getting blown sideways at the same time. It looked as if the vessel would flip over as gusts got up under the pounding hull. He had pulled all his nets in the boat and was loaded to the gunnels. I never saw such a harrowing approach from that channel. As the boat reached the shelter of the harbor and settled down, it was Buddy Gray, soaked and glad to be back ashore. I’ve never seen any thing like it since.

Buddy was pulling a rockfish onto the beach in Rodanthe when I took this shot in 2004.

Rest in peace my old friend. Things will just not be the same as they once were.

Vintage Surf

It’s been a year since my lifelong friend, Robin, passed away, so I’ve been contemplating our relationship and good times. It’s hard to believe it’s over and done. We all have opportunities to love and enjoy life, and Robin certainly did. What a gift!

His worldly possessions have been dispersed as he wanted. Among the items he left me was a fairly large collection of photographs. He was many things, hunter-gatherer, prolific reader, jack of all trades and surfer. Most people don’t realize the amount of photography he produced.

I spent last winter going over thousands of photos he made since his early teens. Many of those images were inconsequential personal memories, but there are many that have merit.

northside Taken from the north jetty.

Of particular interest to me are Robin’s photographs contained in an album from his early days surfing at Indian River Inlet in Delaware. I didn’t know him then, but it’s about the time I learned to surf a 9’6” Bing there. It was a good wave and a good place for a young surfer to make friends and integrate into a new lifestyle.

These old Polaroid photographs taken in 1967 and ’68 are one-of-a-kind originals.

longboards I think Robin is on the far right, the others are unidentified.

surfari I don’t know where this Polaroid was taken, but it looks typical of rural Delaware.            A 19 year old Robin stands between two unidentified friends while changing a flat tire.

gemini 1 A few years later, surfboards got a lot smaller. Robin took this snapshot of his team mates from Gemini Surf Shop out of Rehoboth Beach, perhaps about 1970. Dave Isaacs, Gary Revel, Jeff Ammons, Bryant Clark, Brent Clark, Skip Savage, Karl Gude and one unidentified. Who knows who he is?

When most people take a picture, they don’t realize they’re making a historical record. As a photographer, I didn’t intend the pictures I took many years ago become history. But in retrospect, I see a lot of value in old photographs, the older the better. If I had it to do all over again, I would opt to do much more shooting of people or things that I routinely took for granted.

The Paddle Out

Nothing can pay tribute, to a surfer who has passed away, more than a ceremonial paddle out. It is surfing’s honorable sendoff. We put the word out to do this for Robin and didn’t know what kind of turn out to expect.

On October 5th at noon, participants began arriving at the Rodanthe Pier for an informal covered dish beach party. By about 1:00 there were well over 150 people on site to pay their respects. We began paddling out at 1:15. It looked like about 80 people, aged 8 and up, on surfboards, a few kayaks and boogie boards.

It was slick calm, warm and sunny, ideal conditions for Robin’s memorial.

The photographs shown here are a compilation of several contributing photographers:

Amberly Dyer, April Contestable, Bev Martin, Jim and Marcy Martin, Ben Tran, Denise and Mike Halminski

tent

under pier

big gun

Kelly Schoolcraft and Russell Blackwood were on hand to pay their respects

scooter So were Jay and Scooter.

under pier

Richard

crabs There was plenty to eat, especially when Eric came in hoisting a bushel of steamed crabs.

15 minutes left

Chandra

Chandra Rutledge made three beautiful leis for the occasion.

lei

Denise

Denise was my co-conspirator for this great event.

Mike

Beverly Bull gave me some bird of paradise flowers to throw out on the sea, along with Chandra’s orchid lei.

tatoo

cousins Our special guests were Robin’s cousins, Rob and Jean Marie from Delaware. They were accompanied by their spouses, Jeff (left) and Bev (center). There were many great stories shared by them.

charlie & betz

Charlie and Betz Mullen had it made in the shade..

jo & buddy Jo and Buddy Brothers did too.

Eric A

Eric Anglin was ready to go out.

going out Let the paddle out begin!

going out 

sponge & co

gathering

kayakers

big tom

bros

kayak

GoPro YouTube video: courtesy of Brett Butler

tight

DSCF2609

circle

view

Mike

richard Richard Byrd was paddling Robin’s ten foot Gary Propper model vintage Hobie.

Eric Eric and I thought it would be nice to extend the paddle out to the shipwreck and secure the lei to a buoy.

Selby

Selby Gaskins Jr. and crew watched from the pier.

boys Colin and Ben Tran witnessed their first Paddle Out.

Processed with VSCOcam with x6 preset Twelve year old Ben made this remarkable interpretation of the ceremony.

petals There were petals out on the water.

to the wreck We paddled out to the wreck.

April April had her old Dewey Weber.

Jon Jon Brown brought out his Redman shaped Hatteras Glass.

Benji Robin’s old buddy Benji Stansky watched from the pier.

gals on pier Jan Deblieu, Susan West, Marcia Lyons and Beverly Bull celebrate on the end of the pier.

setup

Allen Jones had his studio set up.

mia

At eight years old, Mia Phillips made the entire paddle out to the shipwreck.

Johnny

Eleven year old Johnny Contestable also made it out to the wreck.

mike & jan

Here I am with Robin’s favorite Natty Bo and writer Jan Deblieu.

gals & ron There were shots to be had.

Robin Gerald

Allen Jones made this striking portrait of Robin with his “Propper” in 1998.

1967 Robin had this photograph on his wall  for as long as I’ve known him. It was taken at the north side of Indian River Inlet in 1967. He would have just graduated from high school.

Aloha, Robin!

Fifteen Minutes of Fame

I’ve always liked the Andy Warhol quote that “everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” I suppose there’s a lot of truth to that. It reminds me of Robin achieving some of his notoriety. He got much more than his 15 minute share, after a photograph of mine appeared in Volume 7, #2 Summer 1998 edition of The Surfers Journal.

Ever since then, it was brought up in conversations, frequently tongue in cheek. It was taken one misty Fall morning in 1977, when the goldenrod was blooming. Robin had just killed a deer that hung behind him, under the porch. His black lab, Susie looked up beside him. At the time, Robin and I were partners in crime, so to speak. Together we checked the surf every day, or had coffee and breakfast on the porch. Our houses were right across highway 12 from each other, just far enough apart to have our own personal spaces. It was a great relationship, and the lifestyle we had will never be repeated.

We did  a lot of things together, and despite not being brothers in blood, we were brothers in spirit.

Many wonderful friends have been in my life. If there was one to choose. Robin was my best.

prints available on request

The Grommet House

An accountant from Northern Virginia by the name of Myers, owned a cottage on the oceanfront in Rodanthe. It was a ramshackle place, built at a time when, if there were any building codes, they weren’t enforced much. The Myers family used to spend Summers there. Two of their kids were Worth and Gladys. They partied with the locals. In the winter, two of my friends Carlen and Dave, rented the place.

Robin and I surfed in front of it for years. It had a consistently good breaking wave and the mainstream surfers from Virginia Beach hadn’t discovered it.

A bit of a landmark, I photographed it for a period when I thought it was going to wash away. I saw the Rodanthe oceanfront nearly every day, checking the waves and exploring. What I didn’t realize at the time, was that I was also witnessing a complex process of barrier island dynamics. It fascinated me, how the beach environment reshaped with each storm.

Then the surfers from the north began coming. And as surfers will do, they name a spot after something they can relate to. From then on it was dubbed the grommet house. Grommet is surfing slang for a young or beginning surfer. In the longboard days, they were referred to as a gremmie. The Grommet House became a popular, packed out surf spot, but by then Robin and I moved on to other secret breaks to elude the crowds. We were always one or two steps ahead of the masses.

The Myers cottage gets some weather in March of 1980.

The house was still holding fast in 1982, and the beach made some accretion. The dune line in the background would later shelter a subdivision called Mirlo Beach.

The driveway got pummeled into the sand.

The ocean eventually took over, and the house fell into the sea.