Patagonia is one of my favourite companies, simply because it was founded by an old mate in California by the name of Yvon Chouinard. One crazy mountain climber. Back in 1996 he wrote the following story for his summer catalogue. What he doesn't know is I've also written about him trying to kill me on a mountain in California back in '69 in my second book 'More Stoked!'
The second book is out in October, published by Harper Collins. Chouinard and I are still mates and He's still mad!
Excerpt from Patagonia Catalogue, Page 12, Summer 1996
Bad Day at Flat Rock by Yvon Chouinard
Surfers still talk about the winter of ’69 as having the best surf of the century in California. I was renting a beach cabin in the cove at Mondos and creating and forging climbers’ equipment out of the old boiler room of the Hobs/Smith Packing Company.
Bob McTavish, the Australian surfer, was wintering in a cabin up the point and we spent a lot of time surfing together at the cobblestone point-breaks of Ventura and Santa Barbara. Conditions there were ideal for perfecting his revolutionary wide, deep “V” short boards.
He mentioned one day that he wouldn’t mind trying a bit of climbing even though he admitted to not liking heights very much. In those days there were so few climbers that whenever we went climbing, we did new routes. For his introduction to rock climbing we knocked off a fine first ascent at Sespe, which is now called McTavish. The climb turned out to be more difficult than I had expected-especially the part going over the overhang and the vertical wall above. Bob remembers the day as a horrifying adventure. He’s never climbed again. I’ve always felt a bit guilty about the whole affair. Twenty-four years later I’m at Bob’s shop in Byron Bay and we two grey hairs are talking about having a surf together for old times’ sake even though we both know that the conditions are “Victory at Sea” with howling on-shore wind and big wind waves. Bob knows a spot next to Flat Rock that might be more protected. On the way there he casually mentions that he has surfed this place 50 or 80 times and about 50 percent of those times he has seen a huge tiger shark that lives there but “Don’t worry mate, he’s never bothered anyone yet.”
Flat Rock is a reef that extends from shore and drops off suddenly in deep water. With the waves so close together the only way to get out I to go off the end of the reef but with the medium high tide, the rock is awash with white water from the waves crashing over the end. Bob waits for a lull then runs and wades and jumps off the end-and just barely paddles over the next set, leaving me alone on the rock gripping my surfboard with both arms to keep it from blowing away. Oh yeah, I didn’t mention I’d forgotten my wetsuit so all I had for protection was a flimsy rash-guard.
I couldn’t just chicken out so off I go and near the end of the reef my right leg drops into a hole up to my crotch and gets stuck. Right away I remember the warnings I’ve heard about the blue ringed octopi that live in these holes. One bite and you have mere seconds to live. I manage to get unstuck and I run back before the next wave crashes over. Now I’m really pumped but I finally get outside and it’s horrible. Just massive wind waves with no form sucking out over huge boils. As the adrenaline wears off I become aware that blood is pouring out of my leg and then my mind flashes on the shark. “Thanks Bob,” I think. “We’re even.”