Location: Imperial Beach
At about sunset, I spotted AF at the end of Date Avenue loading his 7’8″ Electric Duck surfboard into his van. “It’s shaped by Mike Richardson,” he said. “That board works real good with big and small waves — today was about 2-3 foot.”
AF has lived in Imperial Beach almost his whole life and has traveled back and forth to Hawaii since 1975 – where he learned from the legends.
“The guys who I look up to [and learned from back then] are Uncle Buttons (Montgomery Ernest Thomas Kaluhiokalani), Larry Bertlemann, Gerry Lopez and Tony Moniz.”
AF teaches locals and tourists how to surf and paddleboard for a living by the pier. One of his recent students barely got up on his first wave; “He was almost 80 years old, bro, and he told me ‘I can’t believe i waited this long.’”
When he isn’t teaching, he travels. In January he’s going to the Philippines. “You pinoy (Filipino) bro?,” he asked me. “The island of Siargao is just like Hawaii (between November and March); they get all of the swells and it’s way less crowded.”
During our interview a couple of guys came by to shake his hand and asked if he was all right. He’s endured some wipeouts since he caught his first wave at five years old. His gnarliest one, although, took him out of the water for five months. “It was about seven years ago bro, [when] we were at the sloughs at the end of the seacoast, by the bullring [Playas de Tijuana]. Before the river, there’s an outer reef out there.
"The power and the pressure and the force of the wave dragged me all the way down to the bottom and out there it’s deep; we are talking like probably 25 feet.”
His slammed hip survived, but the whole tail of his board broke.
“I was getting the washing machine treatment bro — I got mangled.”