Category Archives: surfing

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


under pier

big gun

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

scooter So were Jay and Scooter.

under pier


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

15 minutes left


Chandra Rutledge made three beautiful leis for the occasion.



Denise was my co-conspirator for this great event.


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


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



big tom



GoPro YouTube video: courtesy of Brett Butler






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 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.


Allen Jones had his studio set up.


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


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.

Surf’s Up

There was a time when surfing consumed a huge part of my life. I checked the waves every morning to dictate the course of each day, so it became a natural progression for me to photograph the ramblings in my surfing world. When the waves got really good, I was often torn between being a surfer or a photographer. Sometimes one action would be sacrificed for the other. Either way it was fun and exhilarating.

I used to shoot a lot of black and white in the early days, and bought film in 100 foot rolls and hand rolled them into individual cassettes. In 1973, I swam out at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and shot Frankie Lagana, one of the Buxton boys. My waterproof Nikonos was a great little camera for that intimate perspective.

Mike Wingenroth had a lot to do with my decision in moving to Rodanthe. He and his wife Mary Jo moved there earlier and put me and Louie up for a while. Mike is shown here in Summer of 1974, for an early morning surf north of town, with Bear at his side. It was a time when taking an unleashed dog on the beach was not a big deal.

My room mate Louie Batzler was, and still is a brick mason. We worked locally building foundations and walls. Being self employed had the advantage of leaving a job when the waves got good. Louie was the boss, so when he said “more mud”, I mixed a batch of mortar. When he said “surf’s up”, I went surfing. Louie was riding a “Hot Dog” surfboard when I made this shot at The Shoals, north of the Rodanthe pier in 1975.

A lot of great surfers have ridden the beautiful waves at the lighthouse’s first jetty. From my water perspective, Greg Loehr was one of the best. He arrived among a contingent of surfers from Florida in the early 70’s. This 1975 photograph was used by Natural Art Surf Shop to screen t-shirts, and more recently on the sign outside their store in Buxton.

Bryant Clark was another good friend of mine, and a component of the Delaware crew. Bryant and his brother Brent, along with Rich Parolski had a company called “Hot Dog Surfboards“. Brent was the shaper, and Rich was the glasser. Bryant did all the glossing and artistic finishing to their boards. Here he is on a nice overhead wave in 1974, riding a fish design at the outside bar at New Inlet.

Robin Gerald and I were nearly inseparable surfing partners. We lived near one another, and some people even thought we were brothers. In an extended sense, we were. Here Robin slides into a glassy wall at the old S-curve in 1978.

Kiel Jennette was still in high school in 1977. He was the adopted son of the last Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Keeper’s son, Rany Jennette. Kiel had a great smooth style of surfing, and was a pleasure to watch. This was taken during a beautiful 3 day swell at the lighthouse. I often wondered if he was skipping school for these waves. Years later, Kiel became quite an accomplished trim carpenter. Unfortunately his life was cut short in an altercation with a noisy neighbor. Kiel confronted him, and as he turned away, the neighbor shot him in the back.

Jimbo Brothers was one of the Nags Head surfers to frequent the Rodanthe breaks. In this early 80’s photo he ducks into a pretty curl north of the pier.

One afternoon in 1984, I walked out on the Rodanthe Pier, and was lucky to see a surfer from Florida in the lineup. Tall and lanky, Mike Tabeling had a very powerful style.

!989 was a good year for tropical cyclones. My cousin Johnny Halminski is from California. He visited me that Summer, and got a good dose from an offshore depression while paddling out at the Rodanthe Pier.

For a while I thought that I’d pursue the life of a surfing photographer, work for a publication and even move to Hawaii. As I got more immersed in life on Hatteras, I could see that my career exclusively as a surfing photographer was not to be. I gravitated toward a variety of other local subjects. By the 1990’s shooting the surfing action became more of a side line to supplement my other work.