Lineups are also a place where I have met a lot of great people and friends for life. Sometimes, we share more with others in the lineup then we do with people we see everyday in the land of the dry. Bruce was one of them. When I first met Bruce, I was "that guy" who had no clue. I was an everyday Linda Mar surfer who had learned how to sit and stand up on my long, nine foot fun board, who you wouldn't want to be behind on an incoming set because I was "that guy" who was going to ditch my board rather then hold on to it. I was "that guy" who wanted to step up my surfing and wanted to ride a "point break" rather then a crumbling, crappy beach break. And who probably wasn't ready for it.
Bruce was an older guy who always had a warm smile on his face. He looked like a teddy bear and had a gracious, kind heart to match. While in the lineup, Bruce said hello to me (remember, I was the obvious "that guy" who everybody wanted to stay away from) and our friendship began. I told Bruce I was just starting off and had no idea what the heck I was doing. Bruce instantly took me under his wing, no questions asked. He also had a buddy with him, an Englishman who was also learning how to surf. Bruce had his hands full that day.
Bruce taught me all the basics of surfing in a very warm and fatherly like way. He taught me how to read a wave, what a peak is, how to spot a shoulder, and where it's best to take off at. He taught me how to stay in the lineup when the current or wind was strong and how to find a landmark to stay on top of a reef. He taught me The Hook landmarks like "stairs", "four windows", "two palm trees" and "the cove". He also introduced me to all the old school Sharks and Privates surfers who then put me at the top of the lineup so that I could catch the decent, catchable waves. Bruce rooted me on as I went down the line, and would give me gentle, fatherly advice when I paddled back. I surfed with Bruce and his English buddy for three days that week. And within those three days, I unbecame "That guy".
I would see Bruce occasionally in the lineup after that week. He always had the same warm smile when we saw each other, and I would paddle over to him and catch up on life. Four about six months, I didn't see Bruce. During that six months, late fall and winter, my surfing ability progressed and I started surfing more progressive spots that would challenge me and make me a better surfer. But I would always go back to The Hook on decent swells, knowing that I have the most knowledge of this spot, all due to Bruce.
I saw Bruce last June. I spotted him in front of "two palm trees" at The Hook. He still had that warm smile when he knew I recognized him. He told me that he had been very sick over the last six months. He looked as if he had lost a lot of weight. Bruce was having difficulty catching waves due to all the groms and the bigger sets that were flying in, so I convinced Bruce to paddle over with me to Sharks where things were a bit more mellower. While there, he bumped into some old friends and we all made room for Bruce to catch a handful of fun, clean waves. Bruce was stoked. I was stoked. Karma returned. That's the last time I saw Bruce.
Today, I read that Bruce had passed while surfing Privates on Thanksgiving day. When I read this, shock, lose and sadness vibrated through my entire soul. Bruce, along with surfing have undoubtedly changed my entire life. He is the father who taught me how to surf. But if there is one place that Bruce would have wanted to go, it would have been at his favorite spots, his own piece of heaven, Privates and Sharks. He always told me, on a north west swell, Sharks can be the fastest wave in Santa Cruz. And on a north west swell, on a fast wave at Sharks, Bruce was taken to another piece of heaven. Love you man.
|Bruce's piece of heaven.|