Vintage San Diego: Summer of 1989

During the summer of 1989, GNR topped the Billboard charts with Sweet Child o Mine, there was a massacre at Tiananmen Square and Ken Lewis was surfing Crystal Pier, cruising Mission Boulevard,  skating ditches and dreaming up plans for his post-graduation future.  I worked with Ken at TransWorld circa 2004 and thought it would be rad if he could take us back to the summer of ‘89, when he had just graduated from Mission Bay High:

Ken at Skip Frye's shop next to Windansea Beach n Surf

What shows did you see that summer?  Heaps...mostly local bands in the PB and Mission Beach area.  Gar Wood was in a band called Fishwife that he had just formed and were playing shows in and around PB. That band was awesome. Ryn Foxe, Matt Ohlin, Gar Wood and John Tillery were dudes we went to school with and they ended up being a huge influence on the San Diego music scene.  Gar later went on to be in bands Tanner, Hot Snakes, Beehive and the Barracudas and the Night Marchers.  Matt owns a skate shop now.  Ryn and Tillery are around PB still.  Rocket from the Crypt was just starting at that time too. That’s my favorite band of that era by far. They owned the 90's in San Diego.  I saw the Love and Rockets and the Cult that year as well. (side note: if you haven't heard of these bands, you live under a rock and are missing out on some of the best music San Diego has ever put out.)

Where did you see them? Mostly at house parties or the old World Beat Center.  There wasn't many options for the under 21 crowd back then.  I remember one show where Fishwife played at an apartment complex and the band starts playing and we don't see the singer Ryn.  Suddenly, from behind the crowd, he comes pulling up on a motorcycle through the crowd, gets on the mic and screams, JUDAS F*CKING PRIEST!  Ryn was quite the front man. There's a famous photo out there of Ryn performing nude and the picture captures his [manly parts perfectly.]  Funny stuff.

surfing Crystal Pier

Was there one break you could always be found surfing? Crystal Pier for sure.  I worked on Felspar Street at Windansea Beach an Surf and lived in the shop for about 4 months over the summer.  I was 15 steps from the beach and was surfing all the time. I got my first apartment a few months later down the block by the old Devaney's Bakery, still about one block from the pier.  In the winter we spent a lot of time on the rocks at the point and surfing the La Jolla reefs.  We didn't venture too far from home.  The waves were good so we didn't need to.

What was your go-to post-surf meal spot? Taco Salsa (now Taco Surf) for sure. We ate there daily. Everyone did.  Solid Surf was the hangout shop across the street and any traveling pro ended up on that couch and eating Taco Surf. 

PB Drive

What trouble did you get into that summer? I would catch dudes trying to steal from the shop I worked at all the time. We had some good fights on occasion.  One time I got back from surfing at the cliffs all afternoon and got dropped off back at the shop.  I went in and my buddy Chris Ducharme was working behind the counter.  Just as I walked in, some dude bolts by me out the door with a small old belly board from the owner's collection.  I gave chase and just couldn’t get him, I was spent from hours of surfing.  I was so pissed! I went back to the shop and was calling the cops when Chris told me he saw the dude drive up in a small VW bug that was parked across the street.  I went over, broke the drivers side window, threw that b*tch in neutral and pushed it in front of the shop doors.  The cops ended up coming and we gave the description of the perp and what had happened.  Just then, the  dude walks in the front door asking why his car was up in front.  I charged the dude saying that was him and the cops took him down right in the doorway!  It was rad!  Unfortunately, we never got the board back and that night they took the dude to jail.  We ended up destroying his car, flattening the tires, sugar in the gas tank, you name it. My thought was If you’re gonna steal from us you’re gonna pay for it somehow. 

In what area of town did you mostly skate? If the surf was flat, we would skate ditches a lot.  The Sorrento Valley Ditch was and is still my favorite place.  It's overgrown now but was so much fun! Other than that, Bird Rock elementary had fun banks and the red curds in Mission Beach for slappy sessions were the spots.

Sorrento Valley Ditch
What was your go-to skate shoe?  Do you still wear those? Chuck Taylors for sure. Skip Frye was our local hero and he wore Chucks so we did too.  I still have a pair for sure.

What car (if any) did you drive back then? A 1979 Toyota Celica --  $800 stick shift sedan.  Not the best surf car at all but 10 bucks got me a full tank.

If I could go back in time to one moment that summer it would be... Just in general being young at the beach, working in a surf shop and not having a worry in the world.  That fall was the best.  I was out of school, surfing tons and getting ready for my first trip to the North Shore.  Life was good. 

Ken & Joe Roper
Are any of your favorite San Diego/Mission Beach spots still open for business? Yes, the Beach Comber is still there, Taco Surf too.  Mr. Frosties was always the jam. When I was a kid, there was a bar called Tugs on the corner of Mission Blvd... it’s now Hennessey’s Tavern.  Surf shops came and went but there’s still a shop in the location where I used to work.  

Mission Beach Boardwalk
In the summer of ‘89, what did you think you wanted to be when you grew up?  I already knew.  I wanted to work in surfing and skateboarding. Here I am 23 years later, still in it.  I’m very happy.  There’s a saying that goes, "if you get a job you love, you feel like you never worked a day in your life."  It’s very true.

What I miss most about high school is... Not much. I hated almost every aspect. 

In front of Hamel's -- Mission Beach Big Wednesday
What I miss most about the 80s is... I miss the uncrowded surf for sure. There was no internet or surf forecasting. You had to be on top of the conditions and learn about weather and swell patterns.  It seems like I never surfed with people I didn't know.

Also, getting to work next door and having the opportunity to surf with Skip Frye was something that was huge in my surfing. He taught us to surf different boards and become a better all around surfer.  He opened us up to all eras of boards and of course, style.  In hindsight, it was on-par with getting to play catch with Babe Ruth.  To this day he lives and shares Aloha with everyone he comes across. 

Skip Frye, image via flickr
What I miss least about the 80s is... Being an awkward kid trying to find my place.  But that’s also what got me into punk rock, skating and meeting the people who became family to me.  So it’s not all bad. 

Ken is the GM/Marketing and Sales Manager of Omit Apparel and is also one of the founders of the Washington Street Skate Park.  He currently resides in North County.


Lizzie said...

This is incredible.

Krissy Engle said...

I love this and I love Ken! Great interview!

Bunny and the Wolf said...

Such an awesome post Julia!

marisa said...

love it! love you and ken <3

Brandi {not your average ordinary} said...

Julia, that was absolutely awesome -- the photos, the interview! I would have loved to have seen San Diego during the 80s.

Anonymous said...

well lah dee freekin dah!

Rickermansurf said...

Great memories. I remember seeing you around quite a bit during that time. Graduated in 87' myself and lived in the area that whole decade. Fun stuff. Thanks for recapping a bit of the time. Remember the salmon burritos at that fish place there between Garnet and Felspar on Mission blvd.?. Forget the name.

julia wheeler said...

thanks everyone!! ken's the raddest... super nice dude with some really great stories... cleary!

La Feem said...

Dude, I was in love with Ryan Foxe!!! Fishwife at the World Beat Center ruled, I remember the days...Great interview!!

Fern and Feather said...

so good... love this article... sending it to Ross and some friends at TSJ... love it!! oxo

Libby said...

This post made me feel like I was right there with him. What an escape from the workday!! Thanks Jul!!

taryn said...

such a cool interview! love it! that first photo is epic ken! :)

Lindsey Ashjian said...

This post is a time machine!!! Radical. Ultra awesome. And even totally tubular.

Billings said...

Great story. Known Ken since elementry school. PB was a great place to grow up. Good times... So glad to hear how happy Ken is.

Orange and Park said...

This is awesome.

julia wheeler said...

heather, i should have known you'd have been around for some of the same shows too! i want a time machine to hang out with you guys/go to shows back then!

Sarah said...

I just adore this blog post. I randomly stumbled across it while looking around for acai bowl recipes. I miss PB and all it's glory.

Anonymous said...

gem of a find.... I wonder if anyone still manages this blog.
Crown point Elem class of 82

Gar Wood was a legend for the Bike Rodeo and his sister was in my class....

Jewell st Punk

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