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Out of the Woodwork

On the right day, with the right conditions, an unknown surfer can become a legend

| posted on November 18, 2013
Sometimes the best man for the job isn't the one you'd expect. Reese Patterson, going to town on a death-defying day at Pipeline. Photo: Gilley

Sometimes the best man for the job isn’t the one you’d expect. Reese Patterson, going to town on a death-defying day at Pipeline. Photo: Gilley

When you hear about someone totally killing it, someone surfing the guts out of it on the day of the year, it’s usually some famous pro. But every once in a while a story surfaces about some random dude—an underground ripper who comes out of the woodwork and dominates the conditions. Over the years I would occasionally hear such tales, and they included names like Jimmy Lucas, Zen del Rio, Mikey Meyer, Greg Russ, Ryan Moore, Randall Paulson, and David Scard.

On one occasion, I got to witness one of these unexpected performances myself. It was primetime North Shore season and a super-strong, relatively early west swell arrived at a sand-less Pipeline. Big, mean 10 to 15 footers barely backed off Second Reef and steamrolled through the Banzai Bowl like no day I had seen before or since. This was macking, death-defying Pipe.

Most of the usual suspects were out, and Derek Ho in particular was surfing really well. But there was one guy who was mad-dogging it so hard—just frothing and going on everything and getting so psychotically pitted that it made everyone pay attention and ask, “Who the f–k is that guy?”

As it turns out, this guy was from Redondo Beach, California and his name was Reese Patterson. And, as a fitting tribute to his performance, that day at Pipe has been informally referred to as “the Reese Patterson day” ever since.

So here’s a shout out to the Reese Pattersons of the world: may you rip so hard that you get to have an entire day named after you.

  • EWL

    I have days like that everyday…………… in my mind! 😉 Best feeling in the world!

  • Paddy G

    Reese is a cool dude. He shredded a custom 8′-6″ Matt Bettis board of mine at a local break in

  • ronnie

    oh ya . greg russ is gnarly …. no one has been more bowled than him at Tecoman

  • unknown surfer

    I like the story and I don’t want to offend anybody but this guy was surfing on tour for 5 years and competing in the pipe masters… so not really a totally unknown surfer… 😉

  • Kendall Nishimine

    Reese is not really unknown or underground. He was a standout in the South Bay back in the 70s. He surfs regular or goofy with no discernible difference, and totally shreds. I haven’t seen him in years, but I know he’s still ripping.

  • Steve Taylor

    That wave is heavy as sh*t. I would love to Reese Patterson that thing

  • jeff noviello

    “I still Shred… In my head”!!! Reese is a great dude. Shop owner, local pro in the day, ripper on a LB or what ever board. He got me on my first LB by convincing me to take his 9’0 Anderson board on a dawn patrol session at Lowers about umpteen years ago… Been hooked ever since. Thanks Brother!!! Now, I live in South OC and surf Trestles all the time… Long live South Bay boys. Keep shredding Bro… cheers to Reese Patterson day!!

  • Anonomous High School Friend

    Reese was the best of all of us in High School… Doesn’t surprise me that he ripped up Pipeline…

  • Leebo

    Reese is a legend of the South Bay. One the true standouts. He surfs with a naturality that few of us possess. Im glad to call him friend. Ripper Ripper, who caught that zipper! Love ya Reese!

  • nettwench14

    I still can’t believe people ride Pipe that huge with small boards. Totally different from when I watched people ride in 1979. Then they dropped to the bottom on takeoff, now they set a line in the middle. Watching that drop to me was more exciting, but probably more dangerous. What an amazing photo, that is HUGE!!

  • whamo

    What about Roach and Brian?

  • Peggy Allen

    I’m not a surfer, but the wife and mother of surfers. I was a loyal customer of Reese’s “Surfbreak” cafe in Redondo Beach, CA. He makes one of the best cappucinos ever and his cinnamon rolls are amazing! I miss him and wish him the very best.

  • Earl

    Yeah, Your average joe doesn’t just pull into a wave like this. 🙂

  • George Allen

    I was fortunate to be out surfing with Reese many times at burnout. He charged every wave and made it look easy. He not only surfed great on short boards, he was smooth on long boards. Hope he well.