What's your most memorable surfing experience?
by Joel "Salty" Saltzman
Corky is the professional writer and I'm just the IT dude, but had an idea that I'm hoping Corky runs with called "Best Surf Stories". Anyone who has been surfing regularly for decades, surely has had some memorable oceanic experiences. I have had a whale's tale nearly knock me off my board. I have seen bails of weed floating by me in the surf. One of my buddies, now known as "Dolphin Danny" was injured after I saw a dolphin jump and land on his back while he was laying on his board. None of that stuff even comes close to my most mind numbing dolphin experience though. I thought this story had been long lost but SwellMagnet Mike just dug it up from his archives. This is a 100% unembellished, true story with witnesses. My regret is that it happened well before all the cameras showed up at the beach. Enjoy, and please share any amazing experiences you may have also had. We love this stuff...
Almost every longtime El Porto local has "met" the friendly Manhattan Beach dolphin pod at one time or another. Perhaps they chose to surface within arms reach or if you were really lucky, shared a wave with you. This is my true story of an event that I will never forget for the rest of my life.
On a warm summer morning nearly two decades ago I decided it was too nice a day not to paddle, even though it was only waist-high at best. The sun was out and the water was so clear I could even see the bottom. All of my friends had already surfed and left the parking lot. I lazily paddled my longboard over and joined a pack of 5 other guys I did not recognize in front of 40th street. It was very inconsistent and mushy except for the very occasional set wave. After 20 minutes of nothing, I had the great fortune of being the only one in the group to spot the best set of the day in time. After paddling out an extra 30 yards beyond the pack, I picked off a 3 foot glassy roller that barely broke. As I approached the pack riding straight towards the beach I was stunned to notice a dolphin was directly underneath me with another 2 flanked on each side of my rail within 1 inch. Initially I was sure that I would hit them but they remained in perfect formation with me in the center. After sharing the wave for about 20 yards with them, I decided to do soft "S" turns only to realize that these dolphins seemed to know exactly what I was going to do before I did. It seemed like they were playing a game to see how close they could come to my board without actually touching it. I surfed with them all the way to the sand without them touching my rails or bottom despite being within 1/2" away the whole time.
Once I reached the shore, I stepped off my board and quickly turned around just in time to see them all do an 180 turn in unison seaward about 5 yards off the beach. Like a golfer hitting a hole in one, I quickly looked all around me to see if someone else had the good fortune of seeing this but no one was hanging around on the beach or in the parking lot. Even though I had decided this was going to be my last wave, I paddled out again just to ask the group if they had seen what I had just experienced. The first guy I encountered responded with "that looked bitchin, dude". Not knowing whether he saw the dolphins or was just commenting on the wave, I said "But did you see those three dolphins". He looked at me and said, "three dolphins? I saw three dolphins on each side of your board with one underneath all the way to the beach for a total of seven". We watched them all surf with you to the shore. At this point two of the other surfers acknowledged that they too had seen this and I wasn't hallucinating. It happened!
Later that morning I told my friends, family, employees and anyone else who would listen about this strange ride. Most of them looked at me like I had been held under water too long. At about 5:00pm the same day, I realized I had no wax for the following morning. I stopped by Beckers Hermosa Beach Surfshop to purchase a few bars. As I approached the counter with the wax, I saw the "that looked bitchin, dude" guy in an animated discussion with the Becker sales manager behind the counter. He spotted me, his jaw dropped like he saw a ghost, and he pointed in my direction shouting "hey, hey, thats the dolphin dude!" We spoke for several minutes about this amazing event regretting that no one had gotten it on film or tape. Anyway, after this experience, I came away feeling that the dolphins were the real El Porto locals. Fortunately for us, they seem much less territorial than we are and obviously enjoy sharing their waves.
Over the years since, I have seen what may be the same pod with an enormous male who I would swear looks and gives me a nod when they pass by as if he recognizes and old friend.