Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Work in progress

Claus “Bosco” Andrup

More often than not memory is an uninvited guest, popping when least expected.  And then like so many other visitors, when one wished they’d come calling, memories stay away. In the chronological chaos of recollection it is hard, at least for this archivist, to line the events up neatly and well ordered, just as they occurred. So no excuse is made for the unruly memories that follow and one hopes that other, better equipped brains will sort out the rationale from the trash and all. Fact and fiction blur into faction or fict, as the case may be.

Long before surfing, I lived with my mum and dad in Barclay Court on Barclay Road in Sea Point. It was 1953 when we moved there, having arrived in Cape Town a year earlier from Sweden via Denmark. Life does from time to time give one clues as to where fate will take us. I was four years old. We lived there for close to seven years. A lot happened between 1954 and 1961. One night I stood with my dad in the middle of Barclay Road and watched the Russian Sputnik blink-blinking high up in the Southern Sky.

The days on Barclay Road were mostly fun. A young girl called Sally Little lived across the way; she grew up to become a golfer. A school chum on Barclay Road, Robbie Ferron, showed up years later in Cape Times cover story as one of the students who occupied St. George’s Cathedral during one of the so called riots in Cape Town.

And on Barclay Road, the last building on the right hand side, just before you reached the steps that took you up to Ocean View Drive was a place of deep interest for me. An older guy – well he was older than me as I was only about 8, so most guys were older than me – spent most of his spare time working on what I was later to know as a Norton 500. He said he was motor racing driver and a hunter. Wow, I was impressed. And believed his motor racing tales. Hunting? Who did he think I was to believe that tall story? I had almost forgotten him. His name was Terry.

Then years later at the premier of a film called The Endless Summer I rediscovered Terrence, or Terrence of Africa, as Bruce Brown had appropriately renamed him in the iconic film. Oddly, I never mentioned to Terry that I was the kid who used to sit for hours in his garage in the late 1950s watching him work on his Norton. Years later he gave me a lift to the first Western Province Surf Competition held at Grotto Beach in Hermanus. I spent a lot of time in garages watching guys working on stuff that I no clue of. Frank and Thys working on their crazy beach buggies; Terry on his motorbikes; Basford fixing the headlight on his old Morris Minor.

One Sunday when I was about 10 or 11 I was invited to join the Lemkus family on a day trip to Fishhoek.  Mr. and Mrs. Lemkus loaded their Holden station wagon with enough food and drink to keep David, Mickey, young Bradley and I sustained for a day of body surfing and chasing one another up and down the rocks and across the wind swept beaches.
The Lemkus family had a spot on the rocks where they preferred to sit. A spot where they could watch us kids and make sure we did not get in too much trouble. This was not the first time I’d been along with David and his family on one of these trips.

It differed from all the other trips however in one unique sense. As David and I sat on the rocks we saw for what was for me the first time, a guy paddling a big plywood board towards the shore and then being picked up by a crisp small wave and carried towards the beach. “We’ve got to try that!”
Finding a surfboard was not that easy in those days.  I nagged my parents day after day.  I scoured the newspapers in the classifieds. Nothing.  I was 11 years old. We lived at the top of Bantry Steps in Bantry Bay in a house called “Manyuli”. David and I were schoolmates at Christian Brothers College (“CBC”) in Greenpoint. In the evenings I’d sit at the dining room table and making paddling motions in a very visual demonstration to my parents of where my desires lay.
Years before that I had a sort of surfing experience, when my friends and I in Sea Point made tin canoes with base boards bolted on to the gunwales. Paraffin tins were boxed in at each end for floatation.  These small craft were used mainly for taking our kreef nets out behind Sea Point swimming pool and all along the coast towards Greenpoint and later I was to learn that they were in use at Clifton too. It was quite common for us to surf these canoes – I still have a long scar on my left leg from a less than successful morning surfing my canoe off the wall at Sea Point pool. I was 8 or 9 years old at the time. Surfing a canoe, not aware of the implications. Or what surfing had in store for me in later years.

Those memories are preceded by only one other surf-related glimpse into my past. As a 5 or 6 year old I received a blue and yellow Lilo for Christmas. In some sort of prescient moment I found that I could kneel on it and was able to remain upright on my knees while shooting between the slate black rocks in Sea Point, also in the vicinity of the Sea Point pool. So surfing came to me slowly, in fits and starts, since the age of 5 pr 6, not really showing its face for real until that day in Fishoek with David and his family. 

Finally, we found an old 9’ plywood board that was to be my first. It was natural wood, so I painted in it bright yellow with a marine paint.  Sadly, this board was totally unmanageable for the skinny little runt who owned. Turns out that other than a few attempts at surfing this thing at Clifton and Glen Beach I ended up using it to take my crayfish nets out to the Whiterock at Fourth Beach. As a result I caught more crayfish than waves on my very first surfboard. It was not until my parents moved to Wynberg and started going to Westerfod High School that my love for surfing and the surfing life really kicked in. Two brothers, Frank and Thys Bokhorst presented an entirely new perspective for me; and the world of surfing opened up for the wide eyed kid from Wynberg.

While still at CBC I was a keen and competitive swimmer. One of the other swimmers was a fellow called Donald Paarman. At the time we did not hang out with one another, but our paths would cross again in another water-related sport, surfing. As it turned out it was only he and I from CBC of that generation who took on surfing full time.

So. Up to the age of 11 or 12 my surf memory is quite clear, but as I entered my teens things got a little fuzzy. Clive Barber may be able explain why?

Westerfod High School was a place to go while one waited for the next surf. No sooner was I out of school than I was either hitch hiking or getting the train to Muizies. I envied Murphy and Thys because they lived right there. They could even cop a surf before going to breakfast or stay in the water longer at the end of the day. Moreover, they were smart students and I was an idiot, made worse by the fact that the only thing between my ears was the saltwater that I was never fully able to shake from my scruffy head.

Peter Basford, Peter Bales and growing up in the shadow of my many mentors.
Sheep poaching with Basford outside Mossel Bay. Something, something, something. I think he even had a gun. A long story.

Riding pillion with Basford at the helm was almost as scary at the Kom Outer. On one memorable day as we were coming down the hill from Misty Cliffs past the Kom lighthouse I bounced of the seat and landed on the rear mudguard, nearly loosing all that was dear me and my future in split second. A slower death presented itself when Basford tried to make the railway barriers at Muizies Station and we got trapped between the gates on the track with the Simonstown train toot-tooting towards us on his Honda. The there was the time he pulled up alongside a motorcycle and asked the cop:
“What’s the speed limit here?”

“35 mph,” the cop said. “Oh!“ Peter shouted back, accelerating away at 75MPH – we lost the cop in Noordhoek. I should really have been at home in Wynberg doing my homework, bored but alive.

Your surfboard is the lane.  It is hard to imagine leaving one’s surfboard today in a semi-public place month after month without someone pinching it. But if you went into the lane behind the big building that dominated Muizenberg in those days you would find a hodge-podge of surfboards stacked up against the wall.
Once I got my own board I used to carry it up the steps – the long, long, long climb – to Murphy Bokhorst’s house where for some time I stored my board. One evening in the Bokhorst garage either Thys Bokhorst, Murphy or Peter Basford came up with my nickname “Bosco”. I may be wrong, but I believe the logic was that I looked like or had a similar smile to the cow on the Bosco tin, a brand of powered hot chocolate. The only hole in this theory is that I don’t think that Bosco was sold in South Africa at the time, but apparently an old tin was standing on a shelf in Bokhorst garage that day.

Winter afternoons. The Bokhorst’s were surf theorists. Frank and Thys had a theory for everything when it came to the formation and behaviour of waves and behaviour of planks of fiberglass associated with waves once they had formed.
Frenchie and soccer at the corner. Frenchie worked at Markham’s as a salesman. He lived at Muizenberg and was likely the most refined resident in the community. Suave and cool and he loved soccer. Surfing? Not so much. Mon dieu!

The sound of steel wheels crunching on asphalt with the wind making your eyes water as you race down Boyes Drive on a surfless day is made more scary than ever, knowing that the only thing between the road and your knees and elbows is the piece of plywood to which the wheels are bolted. It was 1963 and we already skateboarding.

And we are already wakeboarding, being pulled around Zeekoevlei our surfboards by Colin Foster. Skinny teenagers from Hawaii to Malibu were laying down the foundations for multi-billion dollar industries to Muizenberg during the 1950s and 1960s.

“I don’t go to bops.” Clive Barber. The fights. There seemed to be one a day at one point. Then it slowed to a manageable one a week, usually at the Fishoek “Bop”. No wonder Chemical said he never went to ‘bops’. “I don’t go bops, but I take a dop now then.”

There was John Heath who had a hot Cortina GT with ‘fat tackies.’ And Clive Thompson, cool in his little bug-eyed Austin Healy Sprite.

Cane spirits and coke. At a fairly young age I’d frequent the St James Hotel intrigued by its most famous patron, one wild beverage of a man called Frank Chalmers. There will be many, many stories recalled about Frank or Flash as he was known; perhaps for his flashing smile, flashing blue eyes or the way he flashed through surf on his lifesavers paddle board. For reasons, which seem now less than apparent Mainstay cane spirits was thought of by us kids as some sort of voodoo drink with the power to flatten a man. I felt the need to be guided through the maze – perhaps haze – that may result from drinking a ‘cane and coke’ and so asked Flash if he thought I should try one. “Barman! Give this outjie a double cane and coke hey.” I loved it. Sadly, as things worked out, cane and coke proved more of a challenge for Flash in the end than it did for me. Injured in a motor vehicle that crippled him he plunged deeper and deeper into the bottle and succumbed finally.

I am lover not a fighter.

Grub Gillette Thomas, my black cat Margeaux and a six pack of Castles.

My attempt at making a surfing board in Prince Alfred House, Wynberg.

I spend the night in Wynberg chookie courtesy of Peter Bales.

Block Maclarty does a ‘terrorable gnaw on the salami.” While I load up with cough mixture for a new experience.
Drunk and disorderly on more than one occasion. Peter Bales owned a blue mini station wagon and was already a successful developer builder kind of an outjie. A large cheerful man, an exceptional swimmer by any standard and a lover of all that life had to offer. One day he was giving me a ride home from Muizies and asked if I did not mind if he popped in to see a customer in Tokai or Lakeside. Not a problem. As he hauled his frame from the tiny car he passed me a gallon flagon of Lieberstein wine. Here, amuse yourself with this while I’m gone.

How much wine can a 15-year old cope with? Well at almost a gallon, as it turns out. For how long? Not very long, say 10 minutes before he throws up all over the car. If you remember what the dashboard of a 1960s mini looks like you will notice that if differs from all other dashboards in that it is a shelf. The perfect receptacle for a gallon of puke. Scared of what my mother may have to say about the state I was in Peter left me outside my mothers house, knocked on the door and drove away in his puke saturated car. For my part I wandered off down to the Wynberg Police Station and began singing Die Stem on the steps. Soon arrested and incarcerated I was to spend my first full night in gaol. I shared a cell with a gentlemen who did not get released I am sure as easily as I did. My mother paid R10 and I was a free man. Had I been sober I’d be in a position describe the cell. I’m sure the cops had a laugh; particularly when I attacked them in the charge office. What the hell was I thinking?

My drivers: Peter Roberts, Clive Barber, Terrence of Africa, Peter Bales, Frank Bokhorst, Zakkie Murals Delport, Gus Gobels, Peter Basford, Richard Muller and others from time to time.

The Gunston 500 in Durban. I remember very little about this competition. I know I did not do well. They had a big wave competition at Ansteys. Wetland and Van der Heuvel did well – no one else did. On our way back we stopped at J-Bay. I had a black eye – Hubbie Roux hit me. I can’t remember why? Occasions like this normally involved a woman, but I’ m just guessing that this may have been the reason for this particular black eye. There were other black eyes; all probably heartily deserved.

Gus Gobels wanted to hit me at on the occasion of his wedding and I do remember why; Zakkie ordered 18 brandy and cokes for our table of 4 and I chased Murphy down the street with a palm branch – don’t ask.

The first Western Province Competition in Hermanus. Billy Bilson goes to chookie overnight and I nearly join him.
My fear of the Kom Outer, my love for the Kom Inner.

Elands Baai. Black is Black plays on the radio as Clive flips the VW Combi.
Chemical Clive nearly drives into the back of a stationery truck on the NI.

Another guy does drive into the back of a truck at Noordhoek.

My first Whitemore board with redwood stringers.

Gaansbaai. There was nothing to compare to a weekend with Chemical Clive in Gaansbaai. Before the new breakwater was built we enjoyed the warm water and relative few crowds. Most of the time we were on our own. One day Clive called on the local dairy farmer’s daughter and results were not good. We had to steer clear of Gaansbaai for several months. In an unrelated incident years later I was visiting Gaansbaai with I believe Grub Gillette and our good friend Frank “Boetie” Wessels. It was a hot day and the southeaster had blown Walker Bay flat as pancake. Our only option was to hit the pub.
We walked into the empty bar and ordered a few beers. The place was lifeless and not even the tatty old dartboard held in interest for us. The barman was a young man of indeterminate origin. We told him we were bored and were going to go the other bar across the road. OK man, he said, as he disappeared into a backroom.

Walking into the next bar we were surprised to find the same barman behind the bar. Ag man, it is very quiet around here so I work in both bars, he said shamefaced.

My first shave with Basford coaching me. For some reason I landed up in campsite outside Port Elizabeth with Peter Basford. My recollection is that he paid an unannounced visit the home of his parents. The visit was prompted by a shortage of food back at J-Bay. I must have been 13 or 14 and facial hair was beginning to show. Brad said I needed a shave. I borrowed his shaving brush and somewhat tentatively brushed soap on to my face. I did not do a good job of it. Brad soon straightened me out and told me to brush my face with more vigour.

Traveling through Mossel Bay with Chemical he met a girl in a bar so I had to sleep outside the Combi that night. Being 15 is not all it is cracked out to be.

In memory of John “Boben” Bennet.  Tall, blonde, blue-eyed and languid in his motions both on land and on a wave. Boben embodied, for me at least, what I imagine a Californian surfer would look like. A complex character who I never got to know as a teenager, I came to know him better in later years and found him as complicated, if not more so, as he aged.
Newfound pleasures at La Jolla, Carlsbad and Swamis in SoCal. As a kid paging through Surfer magazines I always dreamed of surfing in California. Now years later I have made a least half a dozen trips to Southern California and surfed a few of spots that once were only the subject of stories in a magazine.

The most enjoyable of these trips was the most recent when I had the opportunity to share a wave or two with Stan Boerbaitz at Swamis. Incredibly we had not been for a surf together since we were 15 years old at Muizenberg. Here we were, 45 years on, enjoying a small left and right peak in the warm Californian sun as though time had stood still.
Shit surf at Longbeach on Vancouver Island. Advice to guys who whine about surfing at Muizenberg; try surfing on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

Maniac and Billy Bilson had a great cure for the no-surf blues. On the short gravel road leading into the Kom Inner I spotted Billy surfing on the running board of Maniac’s Ford “Puddle Jumper” Prefect.  Other people may remember this.
In later years many of us would overnight on Saturday’s at the Grendon cottage in Scarborough where Mr. and Mrs. Grendon did their best to control the unruly surfers who camped out on the little lawn in from of the shack. Most evenings were spent playing scrabble. We also played a typically odd Grendon game, which entailed lying on top of the big dining room table and then circumnavigating from the top, underneath and back up again without touching the floor. I think John Grendon was the only one to successfully achieve this stunt.

Between the South African Defence Force and the allure of Europe my surfing days ended in 1969. Between 1971 and 1976 I surfed periodically by things had already changed in that the short board had arrived. I never took to the short board. The in the 1980s I started surfing again on the few occasions that I visited Carlsbad in Orange County, SoCal. My favourite spot is La Jolla, although in the summer of 2009 Stan Boerbaitz introduced me to the Swamis area and we had a great surf there; 3’ to 4’ glassy, warm and well formed.

Grass surfing (or soccer as some people call it) and how the relationships are just as enduring. Since 1997 I have played soccer twice a week in the local BC Old Timers League here in the Fraser Valley. While soccer ain’t surfin’ it nonetheless shares one abiding characteristic; and that is the spirit of camaraderie that keeps us coming back to the beach or the soccer field whenever we can.  Guy’s hanging out, talking shit, teasing one another, praising one another and enjoying the fact that for most of us at least we’ve made it past a few steep sections and close-out sets to make it this far. Paddle on!!

Maple Ridge, February 2010

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