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Tom Keck: EXPOSED – Subject: Hal Jepsen

The Tom Keck: EXPOSED exhibit was on display at the California Surf Museum’s Coast Highway location from April 8, 2006 – Feb. 24, 2008. For the exhibit, Tom selected a number of photos from his many years of photography and shared his story behind each photo. Surprisingly, this photo also had a story from the subject of the photo, Hal Jepsen. Read more about Tom here.

Subject: Hal Jepsen

This photo is from a slide I made off of the negative that I shot that day way way back in ‘63 at Pipeline. It was on the cover of one of Hal’s first videos. I was up there in the bushes where we parked our cars where I had shot with Bud Browne a bunch of times — he always shot from up on the bluff, in the bushes.


© 2000 Hal Jepsen printed by permission of Bob Jepsen

I rode “The Pipe” for two fantastic years, 1963 and 1964. I had sworn that I would never do it. Sunset was perfect that first day, winter 1963. I didn’t want to leave Sunset to surf Pipeline, no way. Pipeline is too scary. Hardly anyone surfed it. Besides, I was about to go out again at Sunset.

Mike was my surfing buddy. He drove our “North Shore Cruiser” down to check Pipeline. Our jalopy was a 1947 Plymouth 4 door sedan, green, with a large safari sun visor protruding out over the windshield. On the trunk and side of the car we pasted grocery store purple stamps. In those days, we got stamps at North Shore markets and saved them in books. The books were worth cash discounts on future purchases. More fun on the car.

Mike came back all excited. Pipeline was a perfect six to ten feet and he wanted to go out. There was no one on the beach nor in the water. He was adamant that I go with him because he couldn’t go out alone. “Okay … Okay, Mike, I won’t go out at Pipe but I’ll sit on the beach in case you need help.” “But we’ve got to come back to Sunset because I want to surf.”

As good as Pipeline gets, Mike chose any wave he wanted. Can you imagine riding it all by yourself? I couldn’t stand for it very long. I had to paddle out. I rode my shortest board, a California 9’6” Yater, single fin, clear, with isothalic resin. This was B.C., before cords. My other board was a 10’6” Felker Sunset gun. I rode it also at Pipeline a few times for fun.

Two others saw us and were inspired to paddle out. I’d be interested to know how many had ever surfed Pipeline as of winter of 1963. Possibly 30, maybe 50, but not very many. We surfed for at least four hours straight, my first day.

My biggest wave was the worst panic I’d ever experienced. Someone had given me good advice to paddle a few more times even if you think you’ve caught the wave. The lip jacks up so fast you need to be going down the face or get pitched. Dropping in on a vertical dive, you can see the bottom clearly. When all the water is sucked up the face, it’s about four feet deep. There’s major incentive to make your bottom turn or get hurt real badly. 

I made the turn but not the wave. Backside, I fell into the wall and kicked my board as far away as I could. Rising up the face, everything turned into slow motion. It took forever and I knew it was going to be a long trip back down and a likely meeting with Pipe’s rough lava bottom. I positioned myself to spread the blow on my entire right side. Waiting for contact, I finally realized there was a spray or gush of water coming up as I was falling. The lip had hit bottom and was bouncing back. It cushioned my fall completely.

It was a picture-perfect day and I paddled right back out. I had lost my fear. What made it such a memorable day, photographer Tom Keck was shooting from the bushes where no one could see him. He caught my epic ride in 1963. I have a hero photo proof thanks to you, Tom!