“The [lifeguard] swim test from the Redondo Beach Breakwater to the Hermosa Beach pier was stormy, choppy and freezing cold. The college pool stars didn’t stand a chance.”
by: Mike Purpus
Paul Hugoboom learned to surf when he was three by standing on his father’s back while his dad bodysurfed at Saphire Street in Redondo Beach
“My father Clifford was a legendary lifeguard. He worked the Topaz tower until he was 72 and is still fit today,” said Hugoboom, himself now 52 with a GI Joe haircut his dad might have had.
“When I was four I started surfing on body boards.”
Hugoboom’s dad was an avid member of the San Onofre Surf Club and took the family surfing there whenever he could. Paul remembers crying his eyes out on a long paddle out through the line-up on his dad’s Barry Kanaiaupuni Model by Rick Surfboards. He had just turned nine and his dad kept paddling. Then his dad paddled into a big wave with little Paul holding on to the rails with a death grip.
“I still remember going fast across the wave’s face, seeing the tiny chop shimmer and hearing it slap underneath. I was hooked and ready to start surfing on my own.” When Paul was 11 years old he and his dad won the father son paddleboard relay at the annual San Onofre Surfing Championships. That same year, he also won the South Bay Junior Lifeguard Paddleboard Race.
Hugoboom’s first board was a 6-foot Rick round pin shaped by Phil Becker that his dad let him pick from Rick’s shop on his birthday.
“Rick Stoner and my father were best friends from lifeguarding together,” Paul said “I rode that little pin tail everyday for years until the fiberglass started to separate from the foam on the deck. Now I ride a lot of Bonzers. I love the speed I get out of them. Joe Bark, Zen Del Rio and Angelo Ferrara shape my boards.”
“In the early ‘70s I lived and surfed everyday at Topaz with Mac Bormann, Duane Carbo, Mike Bashford, Bill Macintosh, Lenny Treadwell and Don Swift.”
In 1979, Hugoboom left high school and went to live on Kauai, next to Laird Hamilton’s father Billy Hamilton. Hamilton taught him about fishing, big wave surfing and life in general.
In April 1984, he took the Los Angeles County lifeguard swim test.
“The swim from the Redondo Beach Breakwater to the Hermosa Beach pier was stormy, choppy and freezing cold. The college pool stars didn’t stand a chance. You had to know the currents just to finish.
Hugoboom’s name appears twice on the International Surf Festival Taplin Bell, with teammates Alfred laws, Greg Phiffer, mark Keller, Gener rink and Ricky Bauer. The team competed successfully in Hawaii and Australian, which Hugoboom like so much he stayed on the Gold Coast for six months.
His mom worked for Air Canada in the VIP Lounge at LAX, where she shared the counter with Garuda Indonesia Air Lines.
“I was getting free tickets to Hawaii and Indonesia every winter and coming home to lifeguard every summer. It was a surfer’s dream life. I surfed all the South Sea Islands — Roratonga, Bali, Fiji, Tahiti, Java’s G-Land and a lot of other islands that I can’t remember the names of.
In 1990, he met Hermosa hotdogger Scott Funk on Kauai fishing trip
“The two of us caught more big tuna than anyone else. We started surfing together at all these secret spots you could only get to by boat. Scott was half owner of the Fiji’s surfing resort Tavarua and asked if I wanted a job driving the boat out to Cloubreak. I jumped at it along with my best lifeguard friend Roddy Williams. We stayed for three months on our first trip and went back for the next three years.”
When Hugoboom lived on Kauai he got into fishing and free diving. He’s a member of The Long Beach Neptune Diving Club and loves going after big tuna with a hand spear. Learning to hold his breath for a long time has proved helpful in big waves, he noted.
One winter, when Hanalei Bay was going off and everyone was saying it was too big and too fast, he paddled out anyway. The outside reef at Hanalei Bay is called King’s Reef and the surf has to be very big to break.
“I could see it breaking when I got half way out. It was huge and I barely made it over a monster set that scared the hell out of me. I decided to get a wave as fast as I could to get out of there. I didn’t like being that far out by myself. You couldn’t see the people on the beach. I caught the very next wave and got swallowed alive by the biggest tube of my life. It really shook me up, making it hard to conserve my air without panicking. I was almost blacking out in the middle of the ocean. To this day I don’t know how I made it to the surface and back to the beach.
The smooth style, regular footer continues to excel in heavy surf and is one of a handful of beach city surfers to infiltrate the line-up at Luanda Bay, which he did by taking off further back on the biggest waves than anyone else since Greg Noll in the ‘60s.
Twenty-nine years after outracing the college pool swimmers, Hugoboom is still lifeguarding. And to supplement his waterman’s lifestyle, he also has a roofing and painting company. DZ