Posted by: Mark | January 23, 2009

Bad Vibes Bob

In the fall, there was a lot of enthusiasm amongst news readers that Pirates had re-invented themselves in the 21st century and were making headlines. Well, there’s more good news along that vein:

There is a shipwreck on Ocean Beach. A good, old-fashioned shipwreck. A small sailboat washed up on the sands of Ocean Beach, SF on January 1, 2009, around Quintara and Pacheco. The amount of info that surrounds the story is sketchy at best. There’s an article on it, but otherwise there is little known fact.

The part that makes the story that much more intriguing is that someone took the initiative to re-name the boat with spray paint, calling it “Bad Vibes Bob.” There are some flickr accounts out there with some great pictures of the vessel, and I have pasted one here from another blog (thanks Pretepress.)


So here’s what I’ve gathered. The Coast Guard had to rescue the people who were on the boat, and afterwards, the boat washed ashore. It is still unclaimed because based on the records associated with the boat, there is no phone number on the books, and just a PO Box which has definitely got a letter waiting in it asking where the hell are you guys, pick up your boat.

So the plot of this has thickened with the spray-painting of the name Bad Vibes Bob on the side. I’ve been surfing Ocean Beach for three years, and some of my buddies who have been in the water much longer than that inform me that Bad Vibes Bob is an old Beach legend, and is known for being a bit grumpy in the water and chasing novices out. In many ways, Bad Vibes Bob is an homage to an older mentality at Ocean Beach, when there were 1/10 of the amount of surfers in the water as they are now, and yet the aggression to claim the waves as your own was inversely amplified. Although the Beach is still a gnarly surf spot and extremely challenging, there are more and more surfers that approach the spot, and yet it is a relatively mellow crowd out there. In general people are pretty cool and friendly in the water. This in itself is an intriguing point. When there were less guys in the water, the attitude was generally more hostile. Now that there are more and more, the attitude is more laid-back. Not quite what we would expect.

So anyway, Bad Vibes Bob is still out in the water surfing. My friends have said that I’ve definitely seen him out there in my years surfing the Beach, just don’t have a name to his face.

So why spray-paint the name Bad Vibes Bob on the side of a boat? I typically think of graffiti artists as teenagers, but Bad Vibes Bob is an older dude, and so something in me thinks that the vandal was also an adult. What would inspire an adult to go out and tag a shipwreck, and not just with anything, but with this nickname in particular? I can see that maybe because the concept of a shipwreck itself might invoke a feeling of bad vibes….and maybe it’s just kind of like how I use the saying “Bad News Bears” whenever announcing bad news: it is just a saying associated to a feeling. But I think there’s gotta be more to it than just this.

It’s very mysterious, and as far as I’m concerned, AWESOME. I mean come on. There’s a shipwreck with the name of a legendary OB surfer/grumpy bastard spraypainted on the side of it. It’s a great reminder to me that San Francisco is a wild city, but Ocean Beach, the western edge of it, and often called the Edge of the Continent, is even more wild and unruly.

Go check it out before it gets hauled away, whenever that is. Unfortunately the purity of the Bad Vibes Bob graffiti has been corrupted, and it is now totally covered with spray paint, but it’s still a sight to see.



  1. Umm so the second I move to Boston, you get sea monkeys with huge testicles, Priory starts a fashion club, Khaled Hosseini goes to Foothill to talk, and sailboats get shipwrecked. What is with this?

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