Mike Purpus

Hudson Ritchie takes the longboard route

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Thirteen-year-old Hudson Ritchie is skateboarding past my apartment. The barefoot grommet looks cool in his faded blue Levi’s and white T-shirt. His long blond hair, which usually hangs halfway down his back is now blowing in the wind behind him. He slows down a bit to say hi and then sails past me, showing off the perfect smile. Devin, my cute, dark-haired, 11-year old neighbor, and her rapidly maturing 12-year old girlfriend Alisa almost trip trying to race each other down our apartment steps to catch one fleeting glimpse of the young 5-foot-3, blue-eyed local surfing phenom. He casually nods at me before taking another kick on his skateboard with his long hair still sailing in the wind. I wave and look around to see Devin and Alisa in a trance with their mouths wide open. Their big brown eyes still fixated on Hudson a half block down the sidewalk.

Two minutes go by with Hudson long gone before the girls turn red giggling and run back up the steps to their apartment.

Two weeks go by and the home-schooled Hudson has made the transition from his 5-foot-3 and 4-foot-11 Ferraro Rockets to a 9-foot Jose Barahona custom Becker long board for his first surf contest. It was last year’s Hermosa’s International Surfing Championships at the Hermosa Beach Pier.

Barahona is a good local surfer who worked alongside Phil Becker for decades and now alongside Hap Jacobs, shaping custom boards for all the hot locals.

Hudson said, “He really understands my surfing style and made me the perfect long board.”

Hudson finished 5th in last summer’s ISF long board division, then 3rd in the Ratopia. This year, surfing against adults, he is ranked third in the South Bay Boardriders contest series, with two second place finishes.

Hudson’s been ripping on a short board ever since his parents, Kim and Tom Ritchie, shoved him into his first wave at the age of five. His first board was a 5-foot-7 Roberts and he didn’t ride a long board until last year, surfing with his longboard mentors Ben Fortun, David Fillman, Corey Kupke and Peter Venardos.

“I still ride my short boards when I surf with my best friend Kyle Beatty.” Hudson said “I’m sponsored by Becker Surfboards and Rose Wetsuits but I’m looking for more.”

On Sunday Feb. 19 Hudson’s surfing career almost came to an end when he went for a backside tube ride on one of the largest swells of the winter. Hudson caught a set left and bent down to grab his rail to pull into the barrel when the lip struck him on the back of the neck driving him head first into a shallow sandbar.

“My head hit the bottom so hard the sand felt like cement, knocking me dizzy. My body went completely numb. I saw the video of my whole sordid 13-year-old life playing in my head. My first wave, skateboard kick-flip, snowboard turn, and kiss from a cute girl racing through my mind. I’m thinking, is this it? My whole body froze and I couldn’t move when I reached the surface. All I could do was scream for help. Mark Jiminez and Jose Barahonas were close by and put me on Mark’s board while Ben Fortun raced down the beach to find a lifeguard. I was lucky those guys were so close by.” Hudson was loaded into a lifeguard truck two minutes later and taken to headquarters at Avenue C, where the paramedics took Hudson to Little Company of Mary Hospital.

“The doctors took X-rays for a long time and told me I had a concussion with a bruised spine,” Hudson said. They let me go home that afternoon but said I couldn’t surf for a week. That was the worst part. I only lasted three days before going back out.”

It’s good to see Hudson back out there again perched on the tip looking like a hood ornament for a new Rolls Royce. He looks the same but now he has short hair. I asked him why he got it cut.

“People thought Ben Fortun was my boyfriend because we always surf together,” he said.

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