Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Kamogawa

The cliffs overlookin' the vast Akate Bay was a place where 7,000 heads voted for the waves to stay. A barrelin' point break that was wide as it was tall. Didn't matter, the "powers that be" threw up a jetty breakwall in the early nineties. Over half of Japan is concrete coastline. How fuckin' wretchedly unfortunate.


Christmas-time 1963:

We usually threw a shop party on the day of Christmas Eve. One winter, just before I was scheduled to leave for my annual trip to the Islands, people were getting out of their jobs early and stopping by the shop for a little Christmas cheer. Kit Horn came by to see if I would be available to go to Akate Point in the next couple of days. It's a big, steep wave with a fast takeoff. Under the right swell conditions, the place could become very hairy. In 1963, we got several days over fifteen feet. The bay was rock-rimmed and enclosed by a hundred-and-fifty-foot cliff from point to point, with only one small trail down to the water.

Horn was a bitchin' guy, but he worked at some terrible goddamn engineering job at Yamaha -- wore a suit and tie and large-rimmed glasses. High school friends with Buzzy Trent. A tough guy, he spent all his free time running, pumping weights and getting in shape for the day that he would find himself in the Islands surfing big waves. He never made it, though. He never really had enough time. The couple of times he did go over there he would miss the big surf and come home totally frustrated by the whole deal. He wanted it so badly.

So, at the shop, we got to drinking wine -- Horn wasn't a big drinker -- and talking about Akate Point. It was breaking at about fifteen feet. By this time it was about three in the afternoon and we were getting pretty shit-faced. I told Kit that I had a special workout for getting in shape for big waves. What you did, I said, was tie yourself into a big truck tire innertube, paddle out at Akate Point, get yourself right in the impact zone, then try to catch a wave backwards. There, with your wine bottle and your innertube, you drink and wait for a wave to break on you. If you lose your bottle of wine or if you quit drinking, you're automatically disqualified.

Kit had drunk enough to believe me. And I was far enough along to be stoked on the idea. So we did it. We got two big truck tire innertubes and two fresh gallons of Red Mountain wine and went to Akate Point. It was near dusk as we ran down the trail. We were fired up and the whole situation turned competitive.

We paddled out in our tubes and sat right in the impact zone. A fifteen-foot set comes through and pounds the living shit out of both of us. We're laughing anyway, having a great time. Kit loses his inner tube, but holds onto his wine bottle. I'm getting a little concerned about him, but he just laughs. He had drunk about half his wine. I think the only thing keeping him afloat was the half-empty bottle.


By the time we decided to go in, the sun had gone down and I couldn't find Kit on shore. I'm walking along the beach, and it's pitch dark. I finally find him in a tide pool. He'd drug himself there and was still lying face-down, his head pointing towards the ocean. He was real screwed up, his face and body were a mass of bloody cuts. The tide was coming in and he was barfing as his head bobbed up and down in the tide pool.

Kit was a big man, weighed a couple hundred pounds. I tried to roll him out of the tidepool but couldn't. The best I could do was grab him by the ankles and drag him up the rocks, just to get his head out of the water so he wouldn't drown. I carried over a couple of big rocks, rolled one under each of his armpits and told him I was going for help.
I climbed up the path to the road and hitchhiked to a phone. I called Horn's house and somehow the message got through that Kit was lying face-down in a tide pool at Akate Point. His wife just went beserk. She thought he'd drowned. At this point, the cops were called in.

In the meantime, Kit comes to and starts walking up the trail. In the process of doing this, he slips and falls in some dog crap. So now he has blood and crap all over him, and he remembers that a friend of his lives at the Point at Akate. All he can think of is looking up this lifelong friend. After all, it's Christmas Eve. He stumbles into the guy's house and collapses on the couch, looking -- and smelling -- like shit. They call his wife, and she comes to pick him up.

For years afterwards, if the name of Greg Noll was spoken in Kit Horn's house, the woman would go into a total rage. I haven't seen the man since, and that happened in the early '60s.

- Greg Noll



This morning was just there. Nothing good. Nothing bad. Beautifully gray morn'.
2.7 @ 17secs from 295

4 Comments:

At 9:18 PM, Blogger Gazelle said...

I know one thing for sure - that ain't Japan in those photos. I know a photo of this infamous bay when I see it...

Ever hit it?

 
At 10:05 PM, Blogger Doc said...

I worked with his Kit's son Brit as a State Lifeguard in SD in the 70's...I think he's still with the guard in central Cal...read about him in a shark attack rescue a year or two back on niceness...

 
At 11:29 PM, Blogger Sharkbait said...

Great post! I really enjoyed that.

 
At 8:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cool Doc!

Words are all true, just spots have been changed.

 

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