The Orange Coast College surf team reunion (classes 1978-82) took place at Laird Hayes' home Saturday. Laird Hayes is fifth from the left in blue.

The Orange Coast College surf team reunion (classes 1978-82) took place at Laird Hayes' home Saturday. Laird Hayes is fifth from the left in blue. (Courtesy of Laird Hayes)

A picture can sometimes seem so simple, especially a group photo. But this wasn't just any typical picture.

There weren't any special poses, mind you. Just smiles. From those faces you could still see the youth and carefreeness that constantly showed during their days on the Orange Coast College surf team. Some 30 years later, sure they've all grown in age, but their personalities have hardly changed. Many of them are still part of the surf culture.

So what do you do at a party if you're a surfer? You drink and have a good time.

At this OCC surf team reunion (years 1978 to 1982), these guys, and gals, also caught up with one another. They talked about the old times, winning with OCC and learning from their great mentor, their coach: Laird Hayes.

When the drinks settled in and the food was running out at Hayes' home Saturday, the former OCC surfers gathered for a group photo. There was Felipe Bascopé still cracking jokes with a beer bottle in his hand. John Gothard can schmooze with people in high places, but he's never lost his down-to-earth attitude and quick wit.

What about Thom McElroy? Yes, he was there, the dude who surfed for OCC and went on to become co-owner of Volcom.

They were all happy to be there, to renew friendships, to thank Hayes and to party.

Shortly after the camera flashed for the memorable group photo, Mark Carter got all sentimental talking about the surfers' favorite coach.

"This goes back to 1979 when we had an end-of-the-year party at your house," Carter said to Hayes in front of the group.

Just as Carter said, "I'll never forget walking down the halls and seeing all the different awards and credentials. I thought it was cool," Gothard interrupted and said to Carter, "because you'll never get that?"

Everyone just laughed. Then they got quiet.

Carter said something that spoke true for the group.

"You were really an unbelievable inspiration to all of us," Carter said to Hayes.

You've heard of Hayes. He's been featured in the Daily Pilot before. He's part of this newspaper's recent top 103 most influential people in the community for a reason. He began as an administrator at OCC in 1976. In addition to starting the surf team at OCC, he also coached the men's soccer team for 24 seasons. He's modest about his work and will tell you others should have the credit for two state championships and seven conference titles, but his leadership cannot be denied.

That leadership also showed up with the OCC surf team. Surfing, in its pure form, is an individual sport. Somehow Hayes made it into a team sport at OCC. He had his surfers encourage one another, help each other and always respect other surfers. Hayes also made them follow rules and keep up their grades.

But there was also time for fun. When OCC sometimes competed against university club teams like UCLA and UC Santa Barbara, the OCC surfers left their impression when they swept through dorm parties. They also made sure they were remembered in the water.

OCC had some great surf teams back then. They went undefeated against teams from California for a year. Hayes pushed them to succeed.

"Laird represented a very high standard," said Francine (Hill) Udall, who was on the first National Scholastic Surf Assn. national team as a senior at Edison High in 1979 before going to OCC. "Laird didn't just lecture it, he lived it."

Hayes achieved goals too. He just completed his 16th season as an NFL referee. He officiated in Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002 and Super Bowl XXXVII in 2004, as well as his first conference championship game this past season when he worked as a side judge in the AFC title contest. Before his time in the NFL he was officiating Pac-10 games for 13 years.

The surf team reunion party came at a special time for Hayes, who is in his final semester at OCC. He is seven weeks from retiring at OCC. His son, Andy, who excelled in water polo at Newport Harbor, has gone on to USC, where he was a part of the Trojans' NCAA national championship team this past season.