Exploding orange aloes. Caffeinated surfing addicts. A wooden boardwalk on the dunes overlooking the point, freshly repainted, carved with stories worth telling. And, not unlike, Bruce Gold, a bunch of escape artists on the prowl for fun.
A solid 6 feet off Boneyards, unloading 50-yard sections before moving into the magic alley known as Supertubes, right where two surfers sat, freaking out of their minds. Airbrushed lineups of perfectly symmetrical Supers, with offshore tubes stacked to the horizon, fire red sunrises and humpback whales breaching in the distance. Add a couple of pro surfers to the canvas, and those 2005 Billabong Pro memories come back to life.
A smokey bar is filled with surfing icons. The King is rumoured to sing with Donovan Frankenreiter. Kelly Slater never shows up, maybe he was mind surfing his upcoming finals against Andy Irons. When suddenly hypnotic blue eyes steal the show. Spotlights turn his blonde-greying beard into Gold. Shells bejewelling his lofty frame. Charisma spreading all over the place. Slightly starstruck. Donovan amplifies the magic. Dance moves are re-invented.
Sprouting philosophies like “surfing competitions and marriage are the two most unnatural things in the world” and “I can’t afford to work — it will ruin my reputation”, Gold is said to be vexed by the nature of professional surfing. But that night it seemed like a match made in heaven. Marriage might be the enemy of surfing freedom a bit of dancing and flirting can’t hurt. Some call him the town’s last true hippie. As much part of J-Bay as the pelicans and dolphins …
Bruce Gold is one of J-Bay most recognisable throwbacks to that golden era when wild-eyed youngsters descended on the Eastern Cape seeking the perfect wave. Bruce’s wave knowledge, honed over four decades is obvious. He trims effortlessly through the racy Supers sections, his arms often raised in a soul-arch salute. Sustaining his bohemian lifestyle by selling shells that he picks up on the beach.
Bruce first came here in 1953 with his family and each time ended up staying longer. It started with a 6-week surf trip while still loving his taxi driver job in Natal and later giving five Rand massages in PE (Port Elizabeth).
A reference to the 1966 cult surfing film, The Endless Summer, is expected. Bruce remembers when the first Americans arrived in a Land Rover in the early 1960s with cameras. During the mid-1970s a SABC television personality filmed a docu about Bruce Gold. The legend was born.
His ever-present “Scooter Girl” at the heel. The Pekingese was "sort of" friends with “Scooter Boy”, named for the famous 1940s Waikiki surfing dog. Wild stories, like the fact that Miki Dora got certified as blind, so he could get free upgrades and take his dog "Scooter Boy" from Biarritz to J-Bay.
Surfing icon Miklos ‘Miki Da Cat’ Dora, stopped over at Jeffrey’s Bay for five years. Miki lived in the studio beneath the Gary Yosh home, overlooking Supertubes. Dora only interacted with a select few people, Bruce Gold being one of them. The surf scene was never a big part of his social life. ‘Living at the beach isn’t the answer,’ he once said. ‘Guys who live at the beach get waterlogged. I’m there for the waves, nothing else.’
Unfortunately, these icons have dwindled during the last decade. Miki passed away in California after a seven-year fight against pancreatic cancer.
Bruce is now one of the few sexagenarians to brave the line up of J-Bay. Like a millionaire in memories with few possessions. (Besides a museum-worthy collection of shells and surfboards ranging from a rare Midget Farrelly Single fin to a Joel Tudor fish.) Bruce Gold smiles a toothless grin and a gloved hand taps the box containing some possessions of Miki Dora. Should we auction it? “Never sell out”, I was told.
“You can spend your hole life trying to figure out how to make a million or you can spend your time doing what you love and what you’re good at!” — Doc quoted in South African Surfer magazine, 1970’s. Take note Bruce would say. Life’s a bargain, cheap at any price.