ENCINITAS, Calif. — Growing up in Fremont, Ohio, Philip Foster had a vision of how his life would play out.
“I knew someday I was going to move to California and I was going to surf,” said Foster, a tour rep for Mitsubishi Rayon.
For Foster, 27, that day came four years ago. He is a man born in the wrong era, with a lifelong fascination with the period from 1958 to 1969, when Southern California was the center of the cultural universe. “I can’t live during that time period, but I can try to relive it,” he said.
Foster slicks back his hair in a 1950s gentlemen’s haircut, meticulously folds up the cuffs of his jeans, collects Schwinn Stingrays and drives a 1964 Chevelle station wagon, with the radio tuned to San Diego’s classic rock station.
“I get a lot of enjoyment out of (the wagon),” he said, “but I get a lot more enjoyment seeing the smiles on people’s faces when they see it.”
At least a dozen surfboards line the walls and overhead racks of his impeccably organized one-car garage. As a teen, he took a similar approach to golf, buying top-of-the-line clubs as soon as he started playing.
“I either go headfirst, or I don’t go at all,” he said.
Foster favors an old-school style of surfing. He doesn’t use a leash, a tethering device that was not popularized until the 1970s.
“You have to understand what the board does, and if you lose the board, you have to swim,” he said.
Foster is scheduled to travel 32 weeks this year, but when at home, he has been known to surf seven days a week, sometimes twice a day. It’s only two blocks to his home beach, the iconic Swami’s – so named because it’s located near the Self-Realization Fellowship Temple.
If anything, Foster said, the reality of surfing has exceeded his childhood dreams. Catching a wave, he said, “is like a freedom that can’t be described in words. . . . You feel like you’re harnessing something, but you really have no control over it at all.”