Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Local Legend

In 1918 a six year old boy went missing in a dense fog along the Mendocino coast. Young Johan de Lotharsen’s disappearance made national news, as he was the first-born son of an original Mendocino settlement family with significant holdings in the area. His inheritance would have been substantial.
The Lotharsen's before Johan's (seated) disappearance.

Ten years later, a dapper young man in a grey suit and mink-brown bowler hat appeared in town, claiming the missing boy’s identity as his own. He carried a rifle. Police, family, and lawyers were informed. The young man was scrutinized, then proclaimed a de Lotharsen—heir to the family’s considerable wealth.
Because young Johan never publicly spoke of his ten-year disappearance, stories began to circulate: Johan was kidnapped by pirates; Johan ran away with the circus; Johan was raised by elephant seals.
None of these reports accounted for the suit, the hat, or the rifle.
The de Lotharsen’s had always been a reclusive bunch, and circled the wagons even tighter after Johan’s reinstatement. They retreated to a mountain property where they purportedly built homes from mud and moss, buried large sums of money from their Mendocino dried-goods business in the roots of giant trees, and practiced animism.

And Johan de Lotharsen surfed. His slight figure could be seen riding atop a self-hewn redwood alaia, parallel stance like the ancient Hawaiians, along the coves and points of the Mendocino coast. He would often disappear into the fog, not to be seen again for months.

Throughout the last century the stories persisted: Johan de Lotharsen, clad in the gray suit and brown bowler, toting an impossibly-heavy shotgun would chase down a train, board it, then terrorize passengers with a rucksack stuffed with salted cod.
Johan de Lotharsen would stay up into the wee hours in his treehouse abode writing patents by candlelight: a a centrifugal birthing apparatus for uncomfortable mothers, a sewn kelp vest for attracting sea lice (they eat terrestrial lice), a treatment for asthma made from seal fat and bituminous coal dust.
And still he surfed. Bigger waves now, more remote locations, colder, deeper water.
The last thirty years has seen the passage of his family, yet Johan de Lotharsen sightings are consistent in mentioning his agelessness. Clad always in the gray suit, the bowler hat, sporting the shotgun, he emerges for a board by a local shaper, then returns to his mountain retreat and his lonely, foggy reefs. Often, he carries a stout cat.
Sometimes local surfers look around nervously and ask, “Have you ever gotten an order from…you know…?” I admit that I haven’t, though if the phone rings late at night, or if there’s a phantom knock at the door, my mind goes to the dandily-dressed hermit from the Mendocino hills.
Then, last month, there was a knock at the door.
The smell of dried cod filled the entranceway as I took in the image: the gray suit, the brown bowler hat. Tucked under the crook of one arm was the ancient shotgun, under the other, a large cat.
“Need a board,” he said, then pressed a wad of cash into my hand—eighteen wrinkled dollar bills and a five. He looked thirty-four, tops.
“Where are you going to surf it?” I asked.
“None of your goddam business!” he shrieked, face reddening. “Do you know who I am? I’ve discovered more pointbreaks in a weekend on the Sonoma Coast than Naughton and Peterson did in a lifetime of globetrotting! I’ve Pioneered more coldwater slabs than Brad Gerlach could possibly imagine—even if he was coaching a combined team of Irishmen, Western Aussies, and the bastard love-child of John Long and Jeff Clark!”
He went on like this for some time, then got to specifics. I have to say, Johan de Lotharson knew his shit:
6’0”rounded pintail egg, red cedar stringer for flex, ice-blue tint with logo-encrusted cigar band and tapered rails, Lokbox rail finboxes, center box for 2+1 rippage.
What could I do? I shaped the board, dropped it at Fatty’s, spent the $23 on a fresh case of pullup diapers for my second-to-littlest lady.
He had Leslie deliver the completed board to an undisclosed location NOTB. She managed to snap these two shots before he disappeared into the woods, grinning, the rifle and cat tucked under his arms, the smell of salted cod trailing behind him like the cars of a ghost train disappearing into the fog.


Retro hack said...

Now that was some good stuff...
And the board looks sweet too!

e. said...

Nicely crafted J, both board and accompanying story.

Guybe said...

Well done Hi-may, well done indeed. A craftsman of words and foam.

MacLeod said...

I think I may have seen de Lotharsen. Allways waiting for the outside set. In fact, I thought he was being gracious letting me catch a wave... It was the first of three, mushed out on me. I saw the man I take to have been de Lotharsen cruise by as I spat out foam.

Ave said...


You're pretty fuckin' funny.

Anonymous said...

fuckin' great read!