Bob Freeman's
Surfing Memories

... Canaveral Pier, my 1st sessions
Story September 1966 - Cocoa Beach, FL
It was Saturday morning, my 4th day in Florida and my first opportunity to surf after working those days at the old MouseTrap in Cocoa Beach. I had just turned 18 the month before. This was my first time living away from home.
I was living in the Gateway apartments in Cape Canaveral. Canaveral Pier was several miles south. Having no car at the time, I woke up pre-dawn, grabbed my stuff and began the long beach walk with my 9'6" Hansen Competitor southward towards Canaveral Pier. The sun was just coming up as the pier slowly came in view. I was tired after all that way. But, I was stoked with anticipation of surfing the legendary spot I'd read about in the surfing mags while learning to surf in North Carolina. I had no idea that this day would become so eventful.
I had been surfing almost 2 years off the outer banks but with no more than 5 or 6 other surfers. After finally arriving at the pier, I could see there were already about 30 surfers out and they were all very good. I hid my apartment keys and cash, waxed up and paddled out to the lineup. The waves were a clean waist-high. I found the waves a lot softer and easier to ride than the waves I learned on off Bogue Banks. I struggled to find a wave to myself, but had fun. I took a break, and then paddled back out around 10am... and straight into trouble. Bob Freeman 1966 - Canaveral Pier
1966 - Canaveral Pier
my 9'6" Hansen Competitor, photo by Roger Scruggs
I retrieved a board washing in and paddled it back out to a surfer girl. She thanked me and asked for some wax. Suddenly a board struck me across the back of my head. I turned to see the board's owner in my face and threatening me to stay away from his girlfriend. Wow! Ok, so I shrugged it off and paddled back out. Now without wax, I asked a goofy-footer who just kicked out if he had any. I later learned the surfer was O'Hare team rider Martin Koivu. He gave me a little piece of wax, then looked me straight in the eye and said, "Don't ever ask me again!" "Good grief, I'm gonna get killed out here" I thought. Then I caught a nice snack bar right, had it to myself but someone paddling out swung around, dropped in behind me and shoved me off the wave... right into this chubby kid paddling out... Bengie McRoberts (local ripper, O'Hare rider and crowd favorite). My board smacked him on the head and he started screaming at me. I apologized and began paddling back out when I saw this bull of a man knee-paddling straight for me with fire in his eyes... Bengie's older brother Guy McRoberts (local surfer, biker and bad ass). "Holly smokes" I paddled away north thru the pier and most of the way back to Cape Canaveral, never looked back. Later that day I walked back to the pier and retrieved my hidden apartment keys and cash.
Bob Freeman 1970 - Canaveral Pier
1970 Canaveral Pier north side
5'0 Sunshine twin fin
photo by Eric Olsen
The pier was the hub of Central Florida surfing then, everone surfed there. Sebastian Inlet had yet to be discovered. Patrick Pier had a juicer wave, but Canaveral Pier was the place to surf and hangout all day. Believe it or not ... it was more crowded back in the sixties than it is now. Imagine competing for a wave with 50 surfers, all capable longboarders. Notable regulars were Gary and Jerry Propper, Claude Codgen, Mike Tabeling, Bruce Valuzzi, Dick Catri, Fletcher Sharpe, Gary Freeman, Joe Twombly, the McRoberts brothers, Phil and Ricky Haulk, Paul and Phil Johnson, Bryon, Ray, and Terry Cobb, Bill, Steve and Dwight Webster; Larry Pope, George Easley and Bill Hannong (the Gadsen Lane Night Riders), "Beak" Benner, Richard Dryer, Greg Keys, Rick Dean, George and Joe Rose, Martin Koivu and countless younger rippers like Chuck Savard, Jimmy Morgan, Billy Butts, Dave Calvert, Marc Rhodes, Ricky Kahl, Marc Crowl, Bob Cavelli and Brad Smith.
Others were migrating to Cocoa Beach about the same time as me. Fred and Norman Grossgreutz had just moved down from Virginia Beach. Rich and Phil Salick would soon relocate from Florida's Gulf Coast.
Paul Jarrett, the pier manager, played tunes over the loudspeakers pointing out over the lineup. Sometimes he would eject troublemakers by making an announcement over his PA system that could be heard in the lineup and on the beach. A typical ejection announcement... "Hey, you, the punk on the red board wearing the red baggies. Yeah, you! Either you leave the water immediately or everyone leaves the water!" Worked every time.
Bob Freeman 1968 - Canaveral Pier - 7'6 Hansen pintail V-bottom
my 1st magazine pic
Canaveral Pier - Christmas Day 1968
7'6 Hansen pintail V-bottom
photo by Larry Pope

Canaveral Pier - 1966
Canaveral Pier - 1966
da snack bar right was the main break
Anyway ... after that first day at the pier I surfed Cape Canaveral breaks for the next week, then decided to try the pier again.

After another loooong walk to the pier, I began paddling out and noticed a couple of loose boards washing towards the pier. I pushed my board in away from the pier and grabbed the 2 boards before they were smashed. I saw a surfer girl swimming toward me and I thought, "Oh, no... I'm gonna get my ass kicked again by some boyfriend". The board was Kathy Anderson's and the other belonged to Paul Palmer, 2 Merritt Island locals. Both were stoked that I saved their boards. So I earned a few points, caught a few more waves to myself and survived the day without any nasty incidents.
It wasn't until a month later, that I finally earned a spot in the lineup. It actually happened up on the beach. I was resting after a session, (careful not to sit on the sacred log next to the pier ramp, as it was def for locals only). There were perhaps a dozen guys on and around the log talking story when one of them yelled over to me... "hey, aren't you from North Carolina?". I nodded then he asked ... "who was that grit rescued by the Coast Guard last month during hurricane Faith?" I replied nervously ... "that was me." They paused for a minute, "Gnarly" somebody said. They started grinning and invited me over and cleared a spot on the log for me. Some that I remember there were Tommy McRoberts, Paul Palmer, Brillo, his brother Marvin, Phil Haulk and George Easley. Ray Cobb gave me a beer and I was finally accepted by the locals ... even got a ride home, as I had no car back then.
I was invited to a surf stomp that evening at the Tiger Den over in Cocoa. That old wooden building near the water tower and bus station was rocking! Kinda reminded me of the Pavilion in Atlantic Beach, NC. The Tropics were playing. I saw most of the gang I had surfed with. Met a girl who took me back to her apartment in Cape Canaveral.


1970 - da pier was da place
photo by Roger Scruggs     click to enlarge