by Eugenio Volpe
Massachusetts surfer and Levitate Surf and Skate shop owner Bob Pollard passed away during the tranquil hours of pre-dawn on July 7, 2006. The winds were out of the northwest at 6 knots. The tide was dead low. The local buoy was 1.1 foot at 7 seconds, flat conditions for even the most eternal of wave optimists.
Bob always carried a weather radio with him, even to the bathroom. He’d sit on his throne and listen to the marine forecast, maybe with a dip in his mouth, maybe with a surf magazine spread across his lap. After he was finished analyzing and calculating the data delivered unto him by the automated voice of NOAA, he would then reach for the cordless phone to call every surfer he knew, and Robert Hugh Pollard was friends with damn near everyone.
His following of men, women, and children extended beyond the South Shore of Massachusetts and into Cape Cod and Rhode Island. He’d call friends in California, Colorado, and Hawaii just to let them know that they were missing out on knee to waist high “perfection,” even if one of those close friends just so happened to be surfing epic Rincon for two weeks straight.
His practice of crowding the breaks with friends never earned him the animosity of grumpy locals. Bob was buddies with the grumpy locals, some of whom were his closest and truest friends. It was impossible to get mad at Bob regardless of how many secret spots he unveiled. He was genuine. He wanted the whole world to experience the rush of surfing. He was a corner store pusher of surf adrenaline, and as a result people developed a dependency on him. The local legends, the weekend warriors, and the kooks— they all looked to Bob for a fix of stoke.
His divine stoke is what made Bob so endearing. In the water, Bob hooted at the local rippers. He hooted for the beginner skipping down the face drop-knee. As a shop owner, Bob gave away free gear, new and used. His layaway policy would extend months or years. Whatever best suited the customer. He never hassled the groms for camping out all day in front of the shop television, replaying Campaign 2 and Sprout until his DVD player exploded. He required that all team riders earn A’s and B’s in school. He took pride in his surf report, often using it as a pulpit to edify the surf masses on issues ranging from environmental responsibility to line-up etiquette. He teased those customers who walked into his shop wearing outfits by Hollister and Pac Sun. Bob didn’t make much money as a shop owner. He believed that shop owners should be spiritual leaders, not businessmen. He was more interested in connecting with people and promoting the organic side of surfing. Bob was a great hugger even if his armpits were sometimes a little ripe and his pores reeked of garlic. A vegetarian, he ate the stuff raw and in cloves. His farts were magnificent, loud like thunderbolts, and pungent like low tide mudflats. Bob was wiry and strong. In junior high, he broke the school record for fastest rope climb in gym class. He hugged with all his might. His might was always benevolent. He used it for virtuous causes, to comfort and love, and to catch a few more waves than everyone else.
In the line-up, few caught more waves than Bob. He did so without snaking anyone or instigating any bad vibes. Some like to believe that Bob gave people waves, and he often did, but more impressive was his ability to give a wave that he really didn’t want only to have the recipient of his seeming generosity think he was Mother Theresa. Meanwhile, Bob would be stroking out the back towards the gem he really wanted. He’d drop down the face with his low crouch and squinty-eyed hockey smile (he lost a tooth while wiping out face first in Indo), and get barreled right in front of the guy paddling back out, the guy to whom he had just given a mushy shoulder.
He who can catch every set wave without inciting resentment in the hearts of the crowd is a saint.
Bob passed away during a flat spell but his personal life was going off. He had a beautiful family consisting of his wife Amelia, a five-year old daughter Hope Veronica, a two-year old son Peregrine Tide, and Omar the cat whose age will always remain a mystery. Bob and Amelia met while both working at the Mill Wharf restaurant in Scituate, MA. Bob worked there throughout high school and beyond, bussing and waiting tables, saving enough money for extended wintertime surf trips. He introduced Amelia to the manic, schizophrenic, and heartbreaking realm of East Coast surfing, and the poor girl fell for it. Soon hundreds of voices would be calling her house during the wee and late hours in search of a surf report. Amelia quickly adopted them all as family and continues to do so.
Aside from being a husband and father of two, and aside from being the ninth Pollard child out of ten, Bob also left behind a large super-tight surf family. His surf brothers include artists, teachers, writers, fisherman, fireman and lawyers. An eclectic group who spent countless nights as young men discussing the mechanical genius of Tom Curren’s bottom turn, but also the nuances of Bay Area figurative painting, postmodern literature, and leftist politics. He traveled with various members of his brethren to the shores of Hawaii, South Africa, Indonesia, and Costa Rica. They shared experiences, knowledge, and waves, and as a result formed a bond that not even Matt, Jack, Leroy and Bear could duplicate. Unlike the self-righteous Jack Barlow, Bob stood by his friends even when they were drunks, masochists, or sellouts.
Like many surfers, Bob kept obsessive tallies on atmospheric and oceanic conditions. He kept track of every surf session, jotting the particulars down in his calendar. He believed that full and new moons generated swell despite the fact that science insists otherwise. Bob loved predicting swells. His friends often miffed his forecasts, but he was right more times than they ever gave him credit for. He was right about a lot of things that they seldom liked to acknowledge, such as working too much and not spending enough time in the water, or not eating enough fruits and vegetables, or being too angry at the world, or for having surfed Beadle Rock when they should have surfed Standish. His friends often shrugged his words off, but they are listening now. He has their attention now.
If you perchance bump into any of Bob’s friends ask them about the times he was banned from two of Marshfield’s top breaks as a grom for dropping in on the older heavies, or about the time he broke up a fight between one of his best friends and a bouncer by squeezing his friend into a headlock while the other bouncers began kicking his head-locked friend in the ribs, or about the numerous times Bob got drunk and took his clothes off, and the numerous times he took them off sober; ask them about the time he caught four set waves in a row at Jeffrey’s Bay and the locals finally scolded him by demanding that he sit inside and “take a break”; ask them to re-tell the Fiddler on the Roof story; or ask them about the Snickers bar.
If you bump into one of Bob’s friends, ask them about any of these moments and take part in keeping his legacy alive. He was an amazing individual who dedicated his life to surfing without asking for anything in return from the sport other than that its participants respect the ocean and each other. He referred to every wave he rode as perfect, and they all were perfect because Bob approached each one of them as if it was his last, in waist high mush or overheard bombs.
Since his passing, Bob has taught his friends that life is often imperfect and illogical, but that surfing transcends such arbitrary terms by forcing us to live in a series of moments during which Time and Reason are irrelevant and the only thing that matters is the wave before us. Surfers have the privilege of disappearing into these voids while the world devours and mocks itself. Unfortunately, many others do not. Non-surfers are often beached amongst the mundane realities of poverty and war, 9-5 careers and the demands of consumerism. In life, Bob Pollard denied those realities by riding waves. In death, he has paddled into the everlasting moment, the ultimate void. Bob Pollard has achieved perfection. The buoy report is six to eight feet at fifteen seconds forever. The winds are constantly light and offshore, and the tide is whatever he wants it to be. I love you Bob. Save some waves for me, and for Christ sake don’t call everyone on the planet to tell them how good it is. Let them find out for themselves.