AT 60, 'BUTTONS' STILL CATCHING WAVES'

By Ed Machado North County Times

written in the mid 2000's


Early Tuesday morning of last week i saw some of the best beach break surf to hit North County in months. As I dawn-patrolled in Encinitas at 6:45 a.m., a lone surfer had already beaten me to the peak I wanted to ride. He took off deep on his shortboard and ripped a series of turns as he carved his way to the beach. When he got close, I recognized the man, it was none other than 60-year-old Loren "Buttons" Humphrey. If there is a better surfer over 60, I would like to know who he is.

It's a tribute to any athlete when he is recognizable by just one name; Tiger and Kobe come to mind. To the long-term surf community in North County, Buttons is one of those guys. The way he still rides, he should be an inspiration to every surfer less than 60. His current quiver includes a 6-foot-4 and a 6-6 Merrick and a 6-6 Cobalt. Humphrey's run of shortboard surfing nearly ended 15 years ago, when he narrowly avoided full paralysis in a bodysurfing accident. Riding a small wave back to the beach after losing his board, he rolled under to get out of the wave.

Humphrey hit a shallow sand bar and suffered a severe injury to his neck and right shoulder. He was out of the water for 10 months, and still has only regained about 70 percent range of motion in his right shoulder. But Humphrey is still charging on his shortboard. He surfs every day that's good, and he has been doing it for more than 40 years. His surfing isn't limited to California during the past 10 years, he has visited Fiji, Tahiti, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, New Zealand and Mexico on surf trips."Going out everyday and training keeps you in shape," Humphrey said when asked about the secret to his surfing longevity.

"The kids have taken surfing to such an extreme. I just try to keep my board moving at all times. You have to tell yourself, 'Turn, turn, turn.' If you don't, it's real easy to get lazy."What does he do for exercise when the surf is not happening?"I play golf everyday," Humphrey said. "My favorite day is a 'surf and turf.' If I have a good morning of surfing and feel good about myself, I take it right to the golf course and shoot well. Golf is such a mental game."After graduating from San Bernardino's Montclair High in 1963, Humphrey moved to the North County to surf.

He soon tried out for the Gordon & Smith Surf Team, and was one of 10 rippers out of 100 to make the team."I actually did the best surfing of my life on my longboard in the late '60's and early '70's," Humphrey said. "It was hard to get on a surf team back then. I'm finally going to get back on a longboard this summer let everybody know I'm going to get my toes back on the nose."An elder statesman in the surf community who garners a huge amount of respect, Humphrey is still very grounded about his performance in the water.

 

"At my age and you can quote me on this you are only as good as the wave," Humphrey said. "The reality is, you start out a kook, and end a kook. For an older guy I'm a good surfer, but weighed against state of the art surfing, I'm a kook. That's just the way it is. But I'll keep surfing until I can't paddle anymore."

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