It's no secret what this is about. My bio. My long story short. The Who, What and Where and Why about who Ralph is. Some of you already know, some want to know, some could care less. But seeing how most websites have an about page, well I figure I should let those who want to know...know. So this is who I am and how I got here. Meanwhile, send the pics
I started surfing in 1964. So what does that make me 100 years old? Pretty close. Put it this way, my life is clearly on the down side of the Big Session.
I saw surfing for the first time on a B&W TV. It was footage shot in California and Hawaii. I begged my parents to move to Hawaii. They just laughed at me. Then one day in the late Summer of '63 I saw waves in Nahant with my dad. He pointed them out to me and said "If you had a Surfboard, you could surf those waves." I looked at the waves and back at him, and knew right then and there, that he was right. Looking back on it all now, there must of been a storm out to sea that late Summer Day. Of course, no one had a surfboard, and we had run out of Summer. But then, something else happened. That February of 1964 the Beatles came out, and I wanted a guitar, as much as I wanted a Surfboard.
I got the guitar that winter, and my first surfboard the Summer of 1964.
Somewhere along the way, I started drawing waves. I drew surfers and waves. I still paint waves today. Mostly empty waves.
My first board was an 11' hollow paddle board, made out of plywood. It had a square nose and tail and a metal fin. It was half baby blue and half white. My baby sitter brought it back from Hawaii. She gave it to me, because she knew how much I wanted to try surfing. My friends and I, all took turns riding that thing at Lynn Beach. Or we tried to ride it. That beast kept filling up with water. And when it hit you, it damn near killed you. We had fun for sure. But we also knew, that we needed a better board. So we ended up renting a board from New England Divers in Beverly. Again, we all took turns riding the one board. And sharing one board with a bunch of friends, was a drag. I knew I needed my own board. I saved up enough money, from my paper route, and bought my first real board. *It should be noted that, I also bought my first Guitar from my paper route as well. And I had two paper routes. One in the morning, and one at night. And we delivered papers the old fashion way. We walked, or rode our bikes.
My first real surfboard was a 8' 3" KEOKI pop-out. Red with a single stringer. I got it the Summer of 1965. The Black and White photo in the collage above (right) is the only memory I have of it. I loved that board. I can still remember my first ride on that board. I can still recall the sound of that board casting over the water and the sound it made. The water hitting off the bottom and the rails. God I was hooked on surfing. And I loved that Red Keoki. In fact, I wish I still had it. I don't know where it ended up. I know I traded it in for a 9' 6" Royal Hawaiian. A board that I hated. In fact, I hate it to this day. The only reason I traded my Red Keoki for it, was because my friends, convinced me that I needed a bigger board. Well, I got a bigger board with the Royal Hawaiian, but it was an absolute piece of crap. Zero Rocker. It had no life. I hated that board. I was miserable for having traded my original board for this piece of junk.
Then one December Day, (the Day after Christmas) in 1967. I almost drowned at The Wall. The surf was 6-8' and hollow. No one was out. We had old PARKWAY wetsuits in those days. The Beaver tail deal. I was not wearing a hood and my suit leaked. I lost my board on a big set, and tried swimming in. I was cold and exhausted. I was almost to the shoreline when I slipped into a cold frozen state of immobility. My friend dove into the icy cold ocean and saved me from drowning. Jay Wilbur. I believe he's a minister today. When they got me up on the beach, we heard someone say..."Far Out. I had No idea there was surf here in New Hampshire!" Standing there at the Wall was a Hippie with long blonde hair and high leather boots. He was driving (I swear on the Holy Bible) a Hearse with California plates, and on the roof was a surfboard. A Harbour Rapier. 8' 3". Long story short. We became good friends with the Hippie, and I ended up buying that board from him. I never rode the Royal Hawaiian again.
I rode the Rapier board throughout my last two years of High School. I loved that board. We had a surf club in my town. There were six of us. Myself, Jeff Crawford, Bruz Bowden, Mike Normand, Peter Hilton and Jay Wilbur. We called ourselves Competition East. We made our own boards. It's funny because, none of us ever competed. It was fun hanging out in our shaping room. Peter and Mike both passed away at an early age. I ended up enlisting in the Marine Corps after High School and shipped off to Southeast Asia during the War. I was a Grunt (Infantry). The whole time I was gone, I dreamt about my surfboard, and my guitar. And when I got home, I went surfing again on that board. I still have the Rapier today. And I played the hell out of that guitar.
After the War, I came home and bought a large, male, Woolly Monkey, his name was JoJo and the damn thing nearly ruined my life. He was an asshole.
*Don't ever buy a freaking monkey. I don't care how cute you think it would be. They do not make good pets. They are just not what you think they are.
I ended up being part of the first group of American Surfers to ever surf in Nova Scotia in 1971. Jeff Crawford, Bruz Bowden and myself. That was also the first time I made a Surf Movie. I shot it on Super 8mm Movie film. My father was a photographer. He developed his own film. Mostly Black and white. He also had several movie cameras. I used his cameras. It was the start of my movie making career. I started shooting surfing from that moment on. Every swell I would shoot and surf. That same year I traveled to Mexico and shot footage there as well. I moved to Hampton in those early 70's. I met and hung out with several friends who I still surf with today. Kevin Grondin, Allen Bigbee and many more. It was also when I met Joe Somogyi. He was something special. He was a Vietnam Veteran who served in the ARMY Rangers. He was a bona fide War Hero. He named a lot of the breaks, we surf today. We became best friends in that short time I knew him. He died in 1978 from exposure to Agent Orange. I still miss him today. I paddled out in his memory at the 2007 Vietnam Veterans Memorial Surf Paddle for all the 'Nam Vets in San Diego. It was an amazing event.
I went to Art School in Boston, and ended up playing in several bands. One of my band's (VINNY), was a popular band that played the RAT in the 70's. We opened for the POLICE in 1978 at the RAT. I also played with many other bands during that time. During this time, I also traveled around the Globe in search of surf. One of my travel's took us to the Caribbean in 1979. In 1983, my band toured through South American and Central America. And that is a story for another time. It was also during the late 70's and early 80's, when I started to go to Hawaii each winter. The North Shore of Oahu. We surfed the North Shore each winter for many years. The whole time I was surfing and shooting. Still shooting, using film on both stills and Movies. One year, Kevin, Lenny and myself got chased out of the water by a 15' Tiger Shark. That was fun.
I also had a dog that surfed. Caley. She loved to surf. She lived to be 16 years old.
It was during that time, in the mid 70's, when I became Vince Shazam. I had created this character of myself, and used it where ever I went. I was handful for sure. Many of my friends who knew me back then, will testify to that. Just ask guys like Jacko, Crop, Stevie, Zap, Johnny and a million others. I was fit to be tied half the time I was out surfing or holding court at 10th Street. I was anti everything.
Surfer Magazine would print my letters from all over the world. It was a crazy time for sure. Captain Vince Shazam and his Loyal Shamzamdos from Shazamland. Of course I was still playing music. I did record an album with the Cars Drummer David Robinson producing. It was called Olas De Sexo. It was on EAT Records which became Ryko Disc. I also did a couple of videos, one of which appeared on MTV. My last show with the VINNY band was at The RAT in 1984, and we opened for the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. It was their first gig in Boston. I went on to play in a band called Semper Fi. That band opened for ELP at the Meadowlands in NY in front 25,000 people. Then I had a band called the Nor'easters. A blues Rock band. We played with members of the Rolling Stones, The Allman Brothers, and acts like Robin Trower and a host of others. That band never officially broke up. So technically, we're still a band. But we have not played in a few years.
Currently, I am playing with BIG HANDSOME DADDY, a 3pc blues/rock band.
I met my wife in 1983 after touring through South America. We got married and have three children. They all love the beach and surfing. My son Mackey V is a way better surfer than I ever thought about being at his age. I have traveled with my family, surfing all over the Globe. But our home is here in New Hampshire. I started making more and more movies, and in 1986, came up with the name SURF FREE OR DIE. That's been my business for making Surf Movies. I also did a beach report on WBCN in 1993 as Captain Vince Shazam with the Beat on the Beach for BCN. Of course, the video world finally found it's way into my life. And I started getting serious about my movies. To date, I have several Movies on Movie film (That I will eventually release) and 15 DVD full length movies. With 3 in the can. In the year 1992, I started a beach party for Surf Families called "Surf Family Robinson". It has grown each year with new parents and new Surf Groms. All of the original kids have out grown it, but some come back and help out each year.
In the year 2000, I took on a major endeavor, that really changed my life. I pledged to surf every day, for 365 consecutive Days. Here in New Hampshire. I was doing it in memory of my father, who turned me on to surfing. From July 26, 2000 to July 26, 2001. I accomplished that goal of riding at least one wave, every day and raised $33,000 for the American Diabetes Association. I had so many supporters, and friends and family, who helped me accomplish that goal. "Catch a Wave For Gus!" I can't thank those enough who supported me that year.
In 2004, I started doing the Ralph's Pic Of The Week ,with Dave Cropper at Cinnamon Rainbows. And for the next seven years, I wrote a weekly surf column and posted local, and international photos. I also included an annual Surf Art Column. In the summer of 2007, I started posting video clips. The site got bigger and bigger each week. In the Summer of 2008, I helped Michael Taylor by bringing the Wounded Warriors Project to Hampton to try surfing. These were Vets who were wounded in the Global War on Terrorism. It was an amazing life changing day. Meanwhile more and more photographers, started submitting photos to my weekly column. It became apparent, that I needed to take this to the next level.
In March of 2009, I went on my own. Ralph's Pic Of The Week, now has tens of thousands of readers each week from 89 different countries. And some of the World's Best Photographers submit photos each week, Including: Brian Nevins, Bernie Baker, John Carden, Ed O'Connell, Kevin Doherty, Lenny Nichols and a host of others. Like yours truly. I bit the bullet in the winter of 2009, and bought the NIKON D-90, and have been shooting stills like a madman, ever since. I have many sponsors, with many more coming. It's been a hell of a ride so far, and I have no intention of slowing down . So here we are, it's 2010, I still surf a shortboard whenever I can, and ride my Longboard when the surf is smaller. And I shoot both video and stills during every swell.
*I also took on another major undertaking. To mirror what I did ten years ago, I have pledged to Surf Every Day for 365 consecutive Days to honor the life of Lil Miss Molly Rowlee a 5 year old sweetheart from Hampton who was one of my kids from Surf Family Robinson. She passed away from cancer 5 months after being diagnosed with large cell lymphoma. I'm calling this undertaking "CATCH A WAVE FOR MOLLY". And not only will I do it in her memory, but also the memory of my mother Eva, my best friend Joe Somogyi and a lifelong dear friend, Linda Paugh. And anyone else who has passed away from cancer, or anyone who is dealing with cancer. Especially the families who have children dealing with this disease.
Check my daily blog CATCH A WAVE FOR MOLLY to see how you can help, or to just check on my progress.
That's my story (or at least part of it), so if you're a photographer, send me your photos, if you're a surfer...keep surfing. I'll be prowling the shore line looking for that special shot, and who knows...it just might be you. CLICK.
Remember....Surfing Heals All Wounds. Pray for Surf. Pray for Peace. Surf For Fun.