California Lost: Time Was…

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Watching the sunrise through the dunes, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. 1974.

As I have written, moving as a surfer was a bummer, especially when I left California for the east coast in 1974. In this case, we moved near the end of my junior year to northern Virginia where I finished high school.  What I didn’t appreciate was how my mind would respond to the change in scenery. Although I had a lot of fun surfing on the east coast (see A Hatteras Odyssey) for the most part the waves were small and miserable, and in the winter insanely cold. But there were a few bright spots: hurricane surf during the summer of 1975 and two trips to Cape Hatteras. But in between those moments my imagination took over to fill in the blanks. So, I grabbed my favorite music at that time, Wishbone Ash, added my 1966 VW camper van, sprinkled a few magnificent east coast sunrises and  created the film “Time Was” during my senior year in high school.

“Time Was” was my first thematic film (see my YouTube Channel). As poorly as it looks on a computer with all its grime, scratches, and pixelation it was a planned production. The idea was to capture my longing for the ocean in the opening sequences with slow poignant music, which was set at Rehoboth Beach in Delaware. Empty beaches, fishing boats heading out to sea, gulls riding the updrafts, the sun rising through the dunes. This is what I imagined when I wasn’t surfing. It hurt (literally) to leave my surfing life in California. To me it was California Lost until I moved back to start college in 1975.Then, in the film, my van pulls up into an empty parking lot. I still remember that day with Frank Dorenkamp. In was mid-winter 1974-75, 1-2 foot waves and the ocean was 39F. We still went out. We’d surf anything back then, down to 6 inches. Anything that moved our boards. Truth is, there were some days that weren’t even that big — the ocean was like a huge pond. The Atlantic ain’t the Pacific.

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Me on the beach at Ocean City, Maryland on a mid-winter, micro-surf day.

But after those reflective moments, to match the tempo of the song, surfers suddenly burst on the scene riding waves. The footage was a combination of every day we ever caught waves at the Rehoboth jetty or Ocean City, Maryland. The surf ing was mixed with beach scenes, shots of Frank and I doing silly things in the car, and driving over the many bridges (and tolls!) from Alexandria, Virginia to the beach.  It also includes a shot of my last 8-track tape player (remember those?), which was replaced by a cassette player the following year.

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Frank driving my Kombi van, 1974. Clip from the film.

But after planning the film and shooting the footage the fun began. With 8mm you had to cut up the film into the segments you wanted to use, label and hang them up, then assemble them in the correct sequence by splicing each cut to the next. Then, since I was syncing the film to music, I’d play the edited footage to the song, then add or cut scenes to match the timing, back and forth, all while wearing white cotton gloves. It took a long time but was fun. So here it is, in all its crude, but timeless, glory. Enjoy!

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