Classic Surfboards Rescued From Laguna Beach Landslides

posted by / News / June 9, 2005

OPERATION RESCUE :
LAGUNA SURFER BOBBY LOCKHART SAVES HIS PRIZE QUIVER AFTER THE LAGUNA BEACH LANDSLIDE

Former domestic pro tour standout Bobby Lockhart knows about life on the road. As a sales rep for Billabong and DVS shoes, his working hours are on the freeway, moving from appointment to appointment. Which was fine with him — as long as he could retreat every evening to his Laguna hillside home and loving wife and two children. But on June 1, that all changed when his house — along with 18 others — tumbled down Bluebird {{{Canyon}}}. When his wife assured him she and the kids were safe, Lockhart’s next thought ran to the boards. 250 of ’em, stashed in his self-made storage room under the deck. He could always build another home, but the boards -the Boards! – they were irreplaceable. Well, it took a few days and a lot of friends, but he got ’em all back. Here’s how he did it.

SURFING MAGAZINE: Tell us about that first horrific phone call on the morning of the slide.

Bobby Lockhart: I was heading south for a few appointments and had just hit Carlsbad when I got the crazy phone call from the wife screaming, “The hill’s buckled, we’re never gonna live on a hill again! Everything is just sliding down the hill!” First thing was to make sure she was OK and the kids were OK. Then I turned around and called Jeff Booth, he’s like a neighbor down a couple blocks…And I was, like, “Boothy – how bad is it?” And he said, “You gotta get back right now – it’s chaos.” So I literally just turned it around and drove like {{{100}}} mph, and at that time you’re like – Did I make my {{{insurance}}} payment? I called my wife back a couple times on the way because she was in such a panic. It was a mad dash back to Laguna. I turned on the news and all they talked about was the landslide.

SURFING: How did your family know to bail the house?

Bobby: We’ve lived on this hillside in Laguna for the last nine years now, and she heard this crackling / buckling sound and felt it shaking like an earthquake, but it wouldn’t stop. And then she yanked the 2-year-old out of his crib, and then grabbed our 4 year old, who was literally in a dead sleep, and ran out the front door. And our neighbor was there in a car already with a couple of other neighbors and they just jumped on in. And they drove down the road like 10 feet, and then about another 40 feet ahead of them, the road just buckled and an electric pole came down. So they all jumped out, and another neighborhood kid ran down and actually picked up my 4 year old and with my wife who knows those hills like the back of her hand, and my wife literally was the only one who knew the way down, and she charged and everyone else just followed her down. And as they were running down the hillside, under this giant home that was below us, the driveway was buckling and sliding at the same time and she kinda found the sneaky route down the hill.

SURFING: Damn.

Bobby: And nobody had even a scratch or a stitch. All of our neighbors made it out. When you’re standing there on the street the carnage is just amazing.

SURFING: So people really could have been hurt if she didn’t know the way out.

Bobby: Oh yeah, definitely. She was actually kinda the ring leader. There is cactus back there and it’s just twisted. It looks like a complete disaster zone. And how everyone made it out of their houses in one piece is a miracle.

SURFING: How’s the insurance situation looking?

Bobby: Everyone on our street has insurance including us, but that doesn’t cover anything in a natural disaster, so you’re pretty much stuck with the {{{loan}}}. What are you gonna do?

SURFING: So then your surfboard collection got publicity, and you couldn’t get back into the house. Did you really have 350 boards in there?

Bobby: Yeah, it got a little exaggerated. It was actually more like {{{200}}} – 250 boards. But it was really stop and go for the first couple of days. And somebody tipped them off that I had built a storage room underneath our deck. And that deck fell on our corrugated roof. We had built this thing about a year ago, and it held about 250 boards – 100 down each side, and another 50 laying down in the middle. And the roof looked like it fell down on top of them, or at least half of them. And finally after three days I got up there and picked a couple out of the garage – there were a couple of Lightning Bolts in there that were pretty amazing. And the fourth day, I got the green light and went up there with the building inspector and a police officer, and we walked around the house for about 20 minutes. And he was like “Look – I know why you’re here. There’s really nothing in your house other than a couple of couches, you’re living a pretty simple life. And it’s not like there’s a bunch of flat screen tv’s in your house. I’ve already heard about your surfboard collection, and that’s in the worst part of the house – let’s just go nip that right now” And so we went down that way and he was, like, “It’s not looking good”, and we busted open the door with a sledge hammer, and uh, literally every board had remained in the same spot, and the roof had actually missed a whole row of 100 boards by 2 inches.

SURFING: So everything was in perfect condition?

Bobby: Perfect condition. Not even knocked over. Still standing there like they had been the day before.

SURFING: Didn’t you try and do a Rambo-mission a few days before when they wouldn’t let you in?

Bobby: Yeah, I actually did the first night. Because those homes in Yorba Linda, those people didn’t even get a chance to go back into their homes before the bulldozers and wrecking balls showed up. Those people weren’t even allowed back in their homes to grab one family photo.

SURFING: Right.

Bobby: I sat on the opposite side of the canyon with two friends for like 3 or 4 hours just mapping a plot from point a, to b, to c, to d – on how to get back up to our house. And after living there for almost 10 years, I knew every route on how to get up there, and where the giant crevices were from this slide. And just waited until the middle of the night.

SURFING: Did you wear all black?

Bobby: Yeah, we went down to Laguna Surf and Sport and grabbed some shoes and pants and an all-black hoodie, because all I had with me were the clothes I had left with that morning (shorts and flip-flops). I got gloves from the hardware store. And then we charged it. Actually, it took us an hour and a half to get up to the house, which normally would be like a 20-minute walk. And jumped over and under barb-wire fences, through raw sewage that was like waist deep. I was the ringleader, but I took two good friends that were as crazy as me. It was pretty spooky. We got up to the street and stood there in awe of the deep destruction and the carnage. And then I charged it. They waited there at the front door which was already wide open, and filled like 6 backpacks with things like baby photos, video of my wife giving birth to our kids, my photo albums, my brother’s photo album, and just loaded up the backpacks and then charged it back down and pulled it off. We were reeking of sewage, sweaty, sore, and cut, with cactus in our arms and legs, and made it back to the hotel that we are staying in at like 2 in the morning. Then we cracked open a case of beer.

Continued…

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