Pilgrimage

Howie, Rick, Gopa, Shawn, Henry

“If you’re a skateboarder… you should make a pilgrimage to Mt. Baldy.”  Steve Alba said it and — for once — I am in full agreement with him.  A few of the crew had never been there and rode the concrete cylinder. Last week we were texting back and forth and the topic came up. It was quickly a sealed deal. We were going during the weekend and so it was. This morning the sky was steely. We left Hollywood and drove east. The rest of the crew came in and met us at the base of the spillway. We made the walk in. Howie, Gopa, Ripperside Shawn, Henry Matus and Rick Stine.

 

On arrival, there was no plank. A few didn’t want to make the jump. Old bones, older injuries…  Howie and I left to go to a lumber yard. Leaving the neighborhood, we spotted an old pile of lumber at an abandoned lot. Problem solved. We marched back and in less time than it takes to tell it, we were rolling and laughing.

Ripperside Shawn

Howie

Rick Stine

Gopa

There are some things that cannot be explained. How do forty and fifty year old men explain the feeling of absolute happiness that burns through our blood streams when riding a huge concrete pipe or a new pool? How can we understand the inner compulsion that drives us through so much adversity… pain, injuries, lawlessness, social stigma? We can’t even explain it to ourselves. I don’t understand why I do what I do except to say that it is fulfilling beyond anything else in my life. While my contemporaries watch TV and live life through others actions, my friends and I are participating in our own… viscerally. In the gut. In the bones. Happiness.

Thank you Shawn, Gopa, Howie, Rick and Henry. That was truly fun. X Ozzie

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Unchanged

Punker Matt doubles up

We do this thing we do. It occupies our thinking. It is drug-like in its persistence. Responsibilities gnaw at us like a festering wound. We carry these on slumped shoulders. Shoulders that carry a long tortured road of hurt. Broken words, friendships and promises. To us and from us. It goes both ways. Shoulders attached to backs of worn muscle and degenerating bone and cartilage. Joints that have been bent and broken. Our future will remain unchanged. We couldn’t turn it all around if we wanted to. We are skateboarders.

Kevin Burke

Texas Dan

I stood at the Combi contest a year or two ago and noted how old we are getting. Collectively. Gray beards, thick waists, slumped shoulders… We walk slowly and some limp. I saw a certain legendary pro skater amble in. He looked as if he’d have a hard time finding a seat in the bleachers, let alone, ride a skateboard. Yet, once he rolled into the huge Combi bowl, he moved like one born to it. Flow and grace. Savage fucking beauty man… He skates better than he walks.

Mike Smolik

I know that some of these guys are one in two billion. They were special when they were young and they remain so. Their bodies can barely contain their unique abilities… and so it goes. The joints inflame, the muscles ache and we won’t change. Why should we? We know something and own something others completely missed out on. I’m glad they did. Skateboarding is ours and it is us. Thank you to Joe Hammeke for the images. Skate – Ozzie

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Kelly Lynn / Guest Post

Kelly Lynn pivots as Clyde Rogers looks on.

Remembering Oaks pool

Really good backyard pools have always been rare in Florida and the 1970’s Daytona Beach pool known simply as “Oaks” was no exception. It was rough, dirty and seriously kinked, but it was all ours and of course we loved it. Oaks was no joke and at times could be a source of great pain, but more often it was a source of even greater pleasure. Mrs. Oaks lived in a house located right on the Intracoastal Waterway in Daytona Beach, Florida. Local skaters Ben Duffett and Clyde Rodgers first approached her about skating her pool in 1976. Ben’s younger brother had stumbled across it while cutting through her yard one day. He then told Ben and soon after Clyde and him decided to knock on her door and ask if they could skate it. She gave the go ahead to skate and agreed to let them clean it out for her. Additionally, they cleaned up her patio and trimmed a few bushes to further seal the deal. I remember she had a white corvette tucked away in the garage we would all drool over as we walked in to skate. I never knew much more about her other than she was always very cool to us and I always felt like she enjoyed our company. On occasion she was known to walk out the back door and surprise us with M&M cookies. I remember thinking how cool that was. As skaters we were all used to getting kicked out of places and here this lady not only took us in and let us skate her pool but she made us cookies!

John Wade

Clyde Rogers

I remember going to Oaks for the first time in 1977 at the age of 13. The entrance off of the main road was a narrow crumbling asphalt driveway overgrown with hanging limbs and bushes. Marking the entrance was a flat black mailbox that simply read “Oaks”. The entrance to the backyard was a narrow overgrown path on the north end of the house. Once you rounded the corner into the backyard the atmosphere was cozy and private. The house and patio were on the east side, with trees and shrubs at both ends of the yard and the river to the west. The neighbors were very close but you had the illusion of total privacy. The pool itself was pretty intimidating to say the least. I would describe it as having a skewed guitar shape with stairs in both the shallow end and also the deep end corner which was a little unusual. Originally the transition was basically a wall ride, a 6ft banked bowl with a 3ft vert wall around it. If you didn’t know how to do a wall ride you were out of luck. I remember the jolt was so severe it made a loud thwack when you hit it and it would usually knock your feet out of position. Overall the pool was about 9ft at the deepest point and the shallow end was just a wall with no transition. The tile was turquoise blue and in perfect condition. The coping was weathered, rough and stained black with mildew but had a perfect profile and stuck out just the right amount.

Al Davies

Jay Smith (Florida)

By my first visit, the Daytona locals already had it wired and the one person that stands out most in my mind is Clyde Rogers. Watching him skate Oaks I realized you really had to attack the pool to survive. In this pool there was no half-assing it, it was eat or be eaten. You were either throwing yourself up onto the vert wall at full speed or you were stuck down in the bottom just carving around. That aggressive approach to pool skating has stuck with me since and served me well, so I thank him for that. In the beginning skating Oaks pool was tough. Getting a grind or even hitting tiles was pretty manly and about the most you could hope for. But soon enough all that would change.

Ben Duffett

After it was approved by Mrs. Oaks, we started to try and smooth out the transition and patch the kink. Bags of concrete were mixed in a wheelbarrow in the bottom of the bowl and was then slapped in place and troweled as smooth as possible. It would probably all chip off, but nobody seemed to care. The urge to have a more skate-able pool had taken over. It would never be perfect but we all knew that smoothing out the transition could really open it up, and it did. This was DIY concrete work at it’s finest and it was 1977. I remember being there helping out watching the older guys mixing the concrete, the anticipation was almost unbearable. At first it was patched in 3 opposing spots so you could work the pool in a triangle. Eventually the transition was filled in almost all of the way around the deep end. Thats when things really got good and it actually felt like a legit pool.

Clyde Rogers

Warren ‘Seadog’ Messner

Kelly Lynn

The years to follow are a bit of a blur. So many amazing sessions went down it’s hard to keep track. The level of skating rose quickly in a very short amount of time. It seemed to go from below tile kick turns to blasting air out of the top almost over night. It was a tight knit group and we all had a lot of mutual respect for one another, which by the way is one of the things I love most about being a skateboarder. My last session at Oaks was probably around 1980. I don’t fully understand the reason it ended but eventually it did. The skateparks were all closed and the skate scene in Daytona Beach was dying a slow death. Surfers turned skaters were now reverting back to their first love, the ocean.

Jay Smith (Florida)

Fast forward to the late 1990’s. I was working in Daytona Beach as a graphic artist for a screen printing company. One afternoon I received a call at work from a guy who said he had an old skateboard he wanted to give me. He said it was covered with signatures and mine was one of them. He remembered me from back in the day and had tracked me down. Evidently his brother had retrieved this deck from an estate sale at the Oaks residence after her passing. At that point in the conversation it all came flooding back to me. Someone had donated a blank deck and it was kept in the room out back by the pool. Pretty much everyone who ever skated there had signed it. I was in shock. Not only did this guy have it but he wanted to give it to me for free. He said he felt like it belonged to someone who knew the story and could pass it on. I agreed and was honored and grateful he had thought to call me. The day I went to retrieve the deck from him, I realized his address was just a few blocks from where Mrs. Oaks lived. It’s an area of Daytona I’m rarely in and upon leaving his house I could not resist but seek out the old Oaks residence while I was in the neighborhood.

After a couple slow passes I spotted the driveway and it looked surprisingly the same, minus the black mailbox. Turning into the driveway was like going back in time at first then it quickly became evident that I was pulling into a freshly cleared lot. The house, pool, patio, everything was gone. I parked and got out, I wanted to go stand where the pool used to be. The view of the river was the same and it was very peaceful that day on that empty lot. I noticed that there was no grass growing yet and the dirt looked freshly groomed. I immediately wondered how recently they had demolished the pool. Had it been sitting there waiting for someone to ride it again after all those years? Dragging my feet on the way back to my truck I spotted something in the dirt. I bent down to pick it up and sure enough it was a small piece of blue tile from the pool. That tile is now treasured and kept with the deck that everyone signed.

I carry my memories of Oaks with me everyday, especially when I skate a pool. It’s an inner strength that I’m glad I have to draw from. Looking back, I know that the pool being so bad, is what was so good about it. It had prepared us for anything.

Mrs. Oaks

Oaks Pool Locals: Ben Duffett, Clyde Rodgers, Warren “Seadog” Messner, Jeff Croyl, Jay Smith, Mark Lewis, Kelly Lynn, Tim Nolan, Charlie Gonzales, Dave Narducci, Jeanie Narducci, Robert Hougham, John Wade, Bubba-G, David “Turkey” Rodrigue, Tony Warren, Billy Bray, Matt Dresser, Al Davies.

Thank you Robert Hougham for the use of your amazing photos!

Thank you to Kelly Lynn for taking the time to do this Guest Post and sharing this piece of Florida history with all of us. Skate- Ozzie

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Express Your Identity

 

Tony Alva

Last summer, Tony Alva called me up and we got together. We were going over his book project and he asked me if I had a pool that he could do doubles in. I thought about it and asked who he’d be doing doubles with. Who and what will always determine where. That is how things go. He said that Vans was shooting something with him and Elijah Berle. I called around and got something going for us.

Gopa, Ripperside Shawn and yours truly

Elijah Berle

I had Rick Stine, Ripperside Shawn and Gopa come along to round out the session and we met up on the appointed day. Things went well and Elijah and TA put the hammer down for Vans and each other. Any day riding a backyard pool is a good one, but skating on this day, with these two, was pretty fantastic. Thank you to Vans, TA, Elijah and MRZ and Anthony Acosta for the images. Skate and wear Vans- Ozzie

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Return to Menzanator

Nick Menza R.I.P.

Nick Menza R.I.P.

Jim Howell and I skated in the freezing cold all day. It was December 1990. Pennsylvania can be raw at this time of year… We felt it all day long. We rode the Reading skatepark. Asphalt. Both of us were amping on overload. We were skating all day and then headed to see Megadeth and Testament open for Judas Priest that night. A day of days. That night, Dave Mustaine of Megadeth introduced the band members in between songs. Drummer Nick Menza raised his sticks in the air as he was introduced and at that, Dave Mustaine stated unequivecally, “…and you all better know who the fuck I am!” At that, Megadeth launched into new songs off the Rust In Peace album that had just been released. As I worked myself into a thrash metal, sweat-soaked heap, I would’ve never believed that about twenty five years later, I’d be standing in Nick Menza’s backyard in California, he’d be gone from us and we’d be skating his empty swimming pool.

Nick Menza played drums with Megadeth for four albums and on solo projects after. Nick tragically passed away May 21, 2016 while playing drums with his band in Los Angeles. His home in Los Angeles, which he moved into in 1995, sat on a quiet street. The ivy grew over the fences, the trees sagged in the hot sun. His sister Donia started cleaning things up and going through Nick’s belongings. It was all terribly daunting and sad.

Rick Stine was driving through an alley in the San Fernando Valley, when his phone began vibrating. He stopped at the next corner and checked it. His friend Phil had text him a photograph of an empty pool: “Look at what I found”  Rick went back and forth and learned the news of Nick Menza’s passing and that Phil was helping Donia clean up the place. The pool sat empty and — delicately — Rick asked about permission to skate it.

After a month or so, Donia gave Rick permission to come by. The house was being sold and was empty. Rick and I drove over one morning. We weren’t expecting too much. On satellite it seemed really narrow in the deep end. Usually, a narrow deep end can make a pool difficult in some ways. When we arrived, there was a small amount of construction debris in the bottom but little else. The facewall transitions were amazing and the sidewalls pillowed. We were immediately stoked. Rick and I took first grinds and the following weekend, we came back with Chris Livingston, MRZ and Corey Philips.

Rick Stine

Rick Stine

Corey Philips

Corey Philips

Chris Livingston

Chris Livingston

Me

Me

The Santa Clarita fires were burning and the sky was orange and smoky. It was a strange thing to look up and see the entire sky in such a way. It seemed like the whole world was burning. La fin du monde. This was to be the first real session and we did it right.  I put on Megadeth and played Rust In Peace. While Nick Menza hammered away on the drums as only he could, we hammered away at the coping on his pool. We knew that Nick was smiling down on us. Good friends, a great pool, Megadeth and the sky on fire… A proper tribute to the greatness of Nick Menza.  Recently, Rick had shown me a photograph Donia had sent him of Nick Menza skating his own pool! We were so stoked. It seems that he had ridden his own pool back in 2014.

Nick Menza R.I.P.

Nick Menza R.I.P.

He was a multi-faceted guy and very talented. It is a tragedy that he is gone. We hope that in some way, we gave him a proper tribute. His life. His music. His skateboarding and legacy. Thank you Nick. Rest In Peace. Thank you to MRZ for the images and Donia for the session. Thanks Rick. Skate- Ozzie

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Unburdened

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The dust billowed up and drifted sideways in the wind. I banked the wheel of the Explorer sharply to avoid a narrow gash in the road. Photographer -Lucia Griggi sat beside me. She asked me to slow down. I smiled and complied. “Yes, Captain.” Skateboarding legends- Brian Logan and Tony Alva were in the vehicle directly in front of us as we cut through the countryside  in the long grueling ride south into Baja. The clustered homes and buckled concrete of Tijuana’s gritty streets lay far behind us, where crime oozed like a contagion. Poverty was at every bend.  Grim-faced men eyed us hungrily. Finessing a tangle of off ramps, we drove the toll road south. Skeletal half-completed hotels and condos grinned vacantly. The ocean was dark and looming directly west. At times, we saw fishing boats. Fog obscured the hillsides at higher elevations. The hours spun away behind us and America seemed so far away. With a sense of unreality, we sliced down through a narrow valley. Tiny shantytowns spilled over the hillsides in dirty clumps. Colorful houses of bright blue and cornflower yellow contrasted sharply with the dull and drab existence that the people seemed to share. The land and its people were in rewind. Tick tock. Clocks stopped. It seemed that despair was ubiquitous.

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Giant cactus rose up from the desert floor. Sharp spines  and pain were found in their arms. Defensive and strong.  We pushed past. We had driven for an hour in silence. The homes and villages were left behind and the desert landscape opened up to us. We felt it growing hotter. The searing sun welcomed us in a low painful voice. “Come…” Its embrace was primitive. Desiccation. Lucia opened up a package of hummus and some crackers from the cooler. Coconut water completed our mobile snack. I was the melancholy one at times. I could always count on Lucia to keep things positive and light.  She wiped a hand across her mouth. “I can’t wait to surf. It’s going to feel good to be in the water again and spend a few days just getting some waves.” I nodded and grinned as she went on to describe our ultimate destination: Scorpion Bay. “I’ve seen the place in videos and articles. It is really quite lovely. There are seven points and I’m pretty sure that all of them are mellow, peeling waves. It’ll be perfect for you to learn on.” I laughed. I was a total beginner, on my first surfing trip ever and I was heading to Scorpion Bay in Baja. At least I was in stellar company, as the three of them were accomplished surfers. It was exciting and I hoped I could get a few waves on the trip.

 

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We slowed to a crawl. There was a narrow gorge that cut to our right and meandered precariously as far as I could see. If we weren’t paying attention, it was a long way to the valley floor. I shifted down and we inched forward. Punch. Punch. Punch. The front shocks shuddered. Stream beds — long dry — ran away from us below. Smooth river rocks sat idly in clumps awaiting the river that never came. Salt flats glimmered in the distance and vultures wheeled darkly above some grisly feast. I shook my head to remove the mental image I was forming. Force quit.

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We finally limped into Guerrero Negro, a town about halfway down into Baja. Guerrero Negro is known primarily for its salt mines and took its name from an American whaling ship – ‘Black Warrior’- that ran aground in the 1850’s. Exhausted, we ate together and kept close to the small motel. Dawn came too early and coffee couldn’t drive away the misgivings we were feeling about climbing back into the four wheel, torture chambers for the long drive ahead.

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We pierced the morning much in the same way we had before. Small villages, taco stands, people on horseback, trash, dilapidated cars from a bygone era and a sparse countryside spilled past our windows. Several hours south, Brian pulled into a small town. We fueled up. Brian approached. “We need to let air out of our tires. The road is completely unpaved from here on out. Get ready for a bumpy ride.” We did as he instructed. Tony Alva smiled towards us and handed us a cookie from a package he held. “You may need this…” Munching on raisins and oatmeal, I realized that he was right. One can always use a cookie.

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As we wheeled slowly through the town, an imposing church lay ahead of us. It was old. Hundreds of years old. Gargoyles and gothic ornaments dripped from its roofline. Draconian. The windows were sullen and an atmosphere of unreality loomed. I pulled over and climbed the huge stone steps, leaving everyone behind. Hard wooden pews and wrought iron railings greeted my eyes. Christ hung like a promise from his lonely perch. The cross. Sacrifice for love and humanity. I saw a brown leather Bible on a wooden pulpit. There was a roadmap for living in its cabbage-colored pages. Life. The place was pregnant with antiquity and I found myself touching my forehead to the floor. Dominus Vobiscum. God go with us…

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The remainder of the day was desolation. Gravel and sand led us to the pristine bay. Isolated. Perfect. We stopped above the town of San Juanico. The seven points of Scorpion Bay jutted like jagged teeth in the mouth of morning. Waves peeled back like silver zippers. Hypnotic and true. We smiled together as we watched some surfers paddle into the set waves that stacked, shimmered, then meander across the long bay towards the next point.

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Camp was set. The RV canopy spread shade. Tony Alva slipped past in his black neoprene wetsuit. He grabbed an Alva Surfcraft six foot surfboard. A smile spread across his weathered face. “Did you see that last set wave?” He asked hurriedly. He didn’t bother waiting for a response as he began the climb down the rocks from the nearby bluff where we camped. In minutes, he was paddling out to the point. I smiled to Lucia and Brian. “Waste no time.” I mumbled more to myself than anyone. Brian told me that on the drive down, Tony had let him in on the fact that there was a secret skate bowl somewhere nearby. Brian stabbed a finger towards the point where Tony was waiting for a set wave and murmured, “It looks like both of you are going to get the best of both worlds. Surf and skate.”

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I nodded and turned my eyes toward the distant fishing village. Old trucks. Old fashioned values. Older ideals. The houses were thatch and stucco. Everywhere I turned, I looked on a simpler way of life. Gone was the hurry of my modern world. The ocean spread out before it all. Majestic and uncaring. I watched Tony Alva paddle into his first set wave. He dropped down the green face and tore through a bottom turn. His board balanced at the top and dove deep again. Style and presence.

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The ocean shimmered and moved into us all… its time, its rhythm. Those first few days were silver and green. All life was colors. The ocean ruled our thoughts. It had a mandate all its own. We had an RV and two tents. A fire pit completed the camp. There were several small encampments and RV’s on the black bluffs nearby. Sun-split rocks sprouted from the barren shore and the ocean licked eagerly at them. We surfed several times a day and became friends with the varied people that made the long journey to this desolate place. School teachers, attorneys, surf shapers, skateboarders, antique dealers… the backgrounds and origins were astonishing. It really didn’t matter though, where someone was from or exactly what they did. In the water, they were all the same.

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A fire sparked between the tents and the RV. A star fell and I watched it burn its way briefly across the sky. Hopes and wishes were being hung on it. We were having a get together with some of our new-found friends. Tony Alva sat nearby, a dreadlocked sillhouette. He played acoustic bass as people talked around the warm flames. Glen and his wife were Baja regulars. They’d been coming to the area to surf for decades. Glen was talking with Redondo Beach attorney David about the predicted upcoming swell that was to arrive here. “The swell has already hit Tahiti and should be here by Saturday. The seven points here are all fairly close. A few are surfed regularly. If a big swell comes in, people can actually connect from point to point.” He saw my questioning look and looked toward the darkness below. The ocean murmured against the stones as if listening. He continued, “Sometimes, a person can ride from one point and carry straight through… the surfer can actually ride the same wave past several points, making for one long ride.” Tony Alva stopped strumming and interjected, “I’d love to connect. It is one of the things I’ve always dreamed of doing.” Others nodded in agreement. It certainly sounded exciting. The evening was spent in good conversation. Libations were poured. Friendships cemented. Good people. The stars glittered and sleep soon took everyone away to their beds.

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The next afternoon found us on a dusty road. Brian stopped the truck. “I know that it has to be close… it has to be right near here.” He turned the wheel and started down a narrow lane. We were looking for the hand build private skate bowl that one of the Baja surfers had fashioned. The local surfer that built it told Tony that he made it to strengthen his legs and help his surfing. It increased his stamina for those times when the swells came in. “It helps me connect…” We saw palm trees to our right. An enclosed yard. A noted landmark. Tony and Brian stopped to look.

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Peering through the fence, they saw the bowl. A figure eight, peanut-shaped bowl spread out in the yard. It was assembled painstakingly in concrete pie slices. Each pie slice was formed and molded. The entire thing was amazing and was an obvious labor of love. Stacks of old car tires walled off the sides of the abandoned property. A ramshackle wooden house sat rotting in the sun. Roof beams sagged in the heat. Trash and refuse were everywhere. It smelled of neglect. We saw a few locals and spoke to them. We were allowed a session. Tony flew about the place with style and power. With each turn, he proved why he is one of the greatest pioneers that skateboarding has ever known. I took a few runs and the local skaters dripped surf style. Lines were drawn. Carving and speed were of paramount importance. The session could not have been any better.

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We returned to the bluff overlooking the bay. Brian Logan paddled out and pulled some extraordinarily long rides across the bay. After three days of struggling, I paddled and stood one up for the long ride in. Elation. It was late afternoon. The sky was the color of candy. Pink and purple. A huge bird winged across the rocks. Its cry went unanswered. We watched surfers paddle into set waves and take the long ride towards land. The ocean pushed and pulled like some giant who’s vision is so tall and far above us, that it’s unaware of our pathetic scrambling and nonsense. It can trample us and never know or care. We are its guests. Someone nearby remarked that the waves seemed to be increasing in size. I peered toward the horizon and saw long black lines of waves darkening. Could this be the much anticipated swell?

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I sit in a small camp chair and watch. Time has ceased to exist. Sunrise, ocean, waves, sun, waves, food and sunset. All this blends into one long, silky thread as day follows day. Peace reigns. There are no worries. Strife and conflict were left behind. The tyranny of the human face has disappeared. Unburdened. We are in the rhythm of the sea. The swell is indeed arriving. Excitement lends a commotion and bustle previously unnoticed. A group gathers as larger sets peel and rumble across the bay. Surfers paddle out and smiles are seen all around.

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We took the long road south to get to this place. We took our burdens and left them behind. There is a long toll road that was installed in north Baja. It makes the drive easier. Is easier better? Sometimes we need to travel the difficult road to find out exactly what we’re made of. In this land of isolation and unfinished business, perhaps we must move further away from those nearest to us, to become closer to ourselves. Discovery. The good in all things. Local Baja legend Mama Espinoza stated that, “Good roads bring all people and bad roads bring good people.” I think she was on to something. Thank you to Brian Logan, Tony Alva and Lucia Griggi. – Ozzie

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