Mar 16, 2016
From Frank ...
I surfed mats in the 60's, mostly in Belmar and Long Branch, NJ. They were the traditional canvas mats with ropes that I decorated with a black marker. I didn't have a car so I had to take a train, which passed by about half a mile from the beach, so I had to walk in to the beach and change there, putting my clothes in a rental locker. We didn't have Surfline then, so I never knew what I would find when I got to the beach, anything from 1-2 footers to overhead.
I was able to get off for Labor Day weekend (1967) and when I left the train station, I thought that they were piledriving some supports, because there was a rhythmic thump I could feel and hear. I got to the beach and there was a hurricane swell with triple overhead waves coming across the jetties. The lifeguards had closed the beach to everyone, surfers included. I met some friends from my high school and waited all day until the lifeguards went off duty. The beach had pretty much cleared out because of the conditions. The surf had stayed up and was clean. I wanted to get out but there was no way to get my raft through the shore break. I got the idea of deflating it and managed to duck dive with it and get way outside.
There was no one there, probably because they either couldn't get out or had too much sense to try it. I treaded water and inflated my mat. I managed to catch a ride in that nearly went from jetty to jetty, got out and deflated the mat. I swam out again and reinflated the mat. I looked at jetty on my right and saw some guys with a rope trying to work their way over the jetty. I figured that someone had a problem on the inside and was in trouble. Luckily I caught a wave in, got out and then got surrounded by the police and the guys with the rope. They had spotted me and thought I had gotten swept out and were trying to save me. No jet skis available back then...I explained to them I was just surfing but they were so pissed off I was escorted from the beach.
I got my clothes from the locker, went to the train station and came back home. I didn't mention any of this to my folks. It was my first introduction to big wave surfing.