U.S. surfers recall adventure of riding Moncton's 'tiny' tidal bore in 1967
5 friends, now in their 60s, fondly remember riding the muddy wave
It was 50 years ago this week that five teenage friends in Massachusetts tied their surfboards to the roof of a station wagon and headed for Moncton to surf the tidal bore on the Petitcodiac River.
Larry Mason, who was 17 years old at the time, told Information Morning Moncton the trip back in 1967 was all his idea.
"I have relatives that live in Nova Scotia and so we decided to go up there and take a look at some of the surf."
David Ewing, who now lives in Venice Beach, Calif., was 19 at the time. He said the trip came together when his parents agreed to lend him their Falcon station wagon.
"All five of us lived in that station wagon for three weeks," Ewing said, laughing.
"One sleeping in the front seat — you know it had the old bench seats — and then we put the back seat down and three guys slept side by side lengthwise in the back.
"And then Dave Doorly, who was the youngest ... and he was a little shorter, so he slept across the very back, just inside the tailgate, with everybody's feet on him."
Ewing said Doorly now lives in Arizona and still travels around the world chasing waves, but 50 years ago, he needed a note from his mother.
"Dave Doorly's mom actually signed a piece of paper saying that it was OK for her son to cross the border with us."
'We were going to make a surf movie'
The surfing teens had heard about the Bay of Fundy and it's "daunting" tides, but Mason was the only one who had ever seen the tidal bore.
"I had a little idea of what it was but the other guys — they had no idea," he said. "I think people were questioning our sanity at the time."
Ewing said they called the Moncton newspaper and a local television station when they arrived, telling them what they planned.
Many people cautioned them against it, but they were young and determined to surf the bore.
"Our big plan when we went up was we were going to make a surf movie," Ewing said.
"We only had four surfboards when we went up there, but there were five of us, so we had to trade off and one of us would shoot film — Super 8 film."
Ewing says their friend Mike Crowley was the cameraman that day, and still has the film, even though they never did make their movie.
Bore smaller than expected
Since the gates on the Petitcodiac Causeway were permanently opened in 2010, the tidal bore has been growing, but in 1967 the river was already filling with mud because of construction of the causeway, which began the year before.
It was very small, extremely small. In fact, when it went by I didn't even realize that was it and I had to paddle to catch up with the wave.- David Ewing
Mike Hogan, who was 17 at the time, said the tidal bore was "a little smaller" than he expected.
"It was difficult to ride and we didn't get too far, but it was a good attempt."
Ewing said he actually missed the "tiny wave" as it went by.
"I thought, 'Oh my God — I blew it,'" he said.
"That wave is not like a normal wave, it's more like a wave that's already broken. When it's already broken, you've got a mass of moving water and that's what this was.
"So it was very small, extremely small, in fact when it went by I didn't even realize that was it and I had to paddle to catch up with the wave."
Moncton reunion possible
All of the original surfers are still riding waves and are considering a reunion in Moncton — "the people were wonderful," they say — to ride the tidal bore and walk the muddy banks again.
Surfers have been travelling to Moncton from around the world since 2013 to ride the tidal bore.
But few knew it had been tried before then, until local history buff Peter Prosser discovered an article from 1967 while going through microfilm at the Moncton Public Library.
Prosser was so intrigued by the newspaper article and photo that he tracked down all five of the original surfers, who had lost touch after 50 years.
Ewing said the call came out of the blue, but it has been "such a thrill" to hear from his old friends.
"It was exciting to tie up with my closest friends again," agreed Mason. "The funny thing was that when I got the piece of mail from Peter [Prosser] I had a premonition it was from the past of this trip."
On the other hand, Mason joked, it could have been the Moncton return address that tipped him off.
with files from Lynn Nicol