he town of Homer was born on the Spit so it makes sense that this 4.5-mile-long rocky handle of land also raises up generations of its kids.
Take 14-year-old Finn, the namesake of Finn’s Pizza. A winter resident of Portland, Ore., Finn has spent every summer of his life on the Spit. When parents Sasha Raupp and Bjorn Larson opened the restaurant in 2001, they would put baby Finn to bed in a fish box in the attic space above the restaurant when they were closing up shop.
But once Finn was old enough to toddle down to the beach, he did.
“Finn ran naked on the beach for years,” Sasha said. It’s been the same for Finn’s 6-year-old brother Iggy.
On the Spit, Finn finds near endless opportunities for his two passions in life: fishing and unicycling. And there’s no end to the stuff he can get up to with buddy Galen, 14. He’s the son of Louise and Dave Lyon who own Ashore Water Taxi and another kid who’s been on the Spit since he was a babe in arms. At age 10, Galen started selling trolling flies he tied himself on the Spit.
Some days the pair rides unicycles to the tip of the Spit and fish for sculpin or pollock, which they’ll photograph and release.
“They’re very beautiful,” Finn said.
Other days they’ll paddle Galen’s glass-bottomed boat — the Glassfish — in the harbor,
peering through its clear hull to see what lurks below. Or they shock tourists by throwing on street clothes over wetsuits and staging fake fights on the harbor floats that end with them wrestling each other into the chilly water. Or, if the weather is decent, they might take Galen’s 20-foot aluminum skiff across the bay.
Although catering to visitors, the Spit is, arguably, Homer’s most “neighborhoody” neighborhood. Densely packed storefronts mean front doors are only a few steps away from one another. Business operators know each other, so there’s a shared sense of responsibility for each other’s kids.
And the communal backyard: some of Homer’s most beautiful stretches of beach.
A short stroll down along the storefronts reveals the generations of kids raised out here. Catrin and Bill Lovett, owners of Inua, The Roadhouse and Central Charters, lived out here when they first opened up shop.
“We had no TV. The harbor was channel 1. The bay was channel 2,” said Catrin Lovett. Her kids sold sea shells and jewelry fashioned out of otoliths they cut from halibut carcasses.
“This was their life,” Lovett said.
The Lovett kids were good friends with the kids of Leslie Klaar, proprietor of High Tide Arts. Her daughter, Erika, started working behind the counter at age 10. When she was a little older, Erika babysat Katia Holmes, the daughter of Alison O’Hara, owner of True North Kayak Adventures, a few doors down.
“They had direct and daily contact with marine life, harbor life,” Klaar said about her kids’ time on the Spit.
Her son, Bjorn, now 22, is a commercial salmon seiner in Prince William Sound. After growing up around the family charter business, North Country Charters, Gerry and Sean Martin’s son, Ben, became a captain at age 18 and is now one of their most requested captains.
A collection of trikes and bikes gives away the Spit’s youngest kid scene: on the boardwalk in front of businesses including the Little Mermaid, Spit Sisters, Blue Urchin and Local Showcase. Together the owners have nine kids aged 2 to 12. The oldest, Katlyn Vogl, helps out at her parents’ restaurant, the Little Mermaid, filling water glasses and greeting customers. The youngest, 2-year-old Arwen Linder, though too young to be let loose on the boardwalk, keeps a pink and purple bike outside her mother’s gallery and art shop, Local Showcase.
“It’s such a community,” said Keri-Ann Baker, new owner of Spit Sisters Bakery and B & B. “And your kids can see you working,” she added.
Her older children — Regan, age 9, and Reilly Sue, age 6 — spend two full days on the Spit each week playing in front of the shop and helping out with simple tasks.
Galen washes dishes at the Little Mermaid and Finn helps out at Finn’s Pizza. Aside from work, the rest of their summer will be filled with Spit adventures: paddleboarding in the harbor, playing tag on unicycles, fishing everywhere and, of course, building forts.
“Going back to the city is awful,” Finn said.
Thankfully, summer’s just begun.