Seal Beach, 1970. Bruce Matlack is portrayed in Sunset Magazine riding what seems to be an actual wave forming. How many can say they sported a sail number under 1000? He was, as coined in "Wind Legends: The History of Windsurfing," one of the first "Johnny Appleseeds" of our sport.
I met Bruce at a SoCal regatta, one of those family gatherings where people followed Bruce around the race course. Or was it at San Felipe, Mexico? A thick marine layer fogs the memory of the exact time and place. Huntington Lake? But what remains clear in scrapbook of my mind is Bruce and his gal Markie, the friendliest folk on the "tour" sharing stories in the shade of their VW van. Bruce, talking at a feverish pace, spewing his passion for the sport. Markie, calming his rants when they hit the tops of the thermometer. Me, a kid with big hair soaking it all up as if I was listening to Bear from Big Wednesday.
I recall asking Bruce why he was so fast, and was it just that he was so skinny. His flyweight yellow board, a reject snuck out the back of Hoyle's young factory by the workers for ten bucks, was perhaps a weapon. A flash of callous and flex of the sinew proved it was from a long marriage with the teak boom.
One of the first dealers of the Windsurfer (Bob Pefley, my boss in Santa Barbara Harbor was perhaps the first), Bruce set up shop in Seal Beach and sold gobs of the great white whales of death (Clay Feeter coined it). But this was years after the young Matlack toured the country seeking takers. Nobody took. Certainly I knew I was the first "redneck to step foot on one" – read the damn book, ya'll – when Dave Ullmann (famous sailor/sailmaker from Newport Beach) brought one with him to a 470 Regatta in Gulfport.
I had asked Hoyle for an interview for Wind Legends, but even though Matt was pleading with him to do it (and I had traveled quite far at the promise), Hoyle turned turtle when I told him I was from Georgia. He had forgotten who I was, the memory of my big hair mashed to pieces by lawyers and patent fights. The mere mention of Georgia set him off, as when he was traveling the country with long hair and this surfboard thang, some rednecks beat him up. Oh well, I didn't get the interview with him but I did get one from Bruce, who invited me to Florida to pore through magazines and old films he'd collected over the years. The guy was a walking talking encyclopedia, and had some two buck chuck to share as well.
Well, I'm rambling, so off I go. But before I do, I must remind you that Bruce Matlack has stood on a board for more years than any other human in history, and was the first champion of our sport. And to buy the damn book.
P.S. Bruce says, "no pumping." Ya'll do look like a bunch of air humpers. If you need to do that for exercise, go to the gym or get a room.