Summer Stories (1) At the Sequim Costco Gas Station…

…just to not be unfriendly (yeah, it’s almost a double negative- evidently now acceptable), I said something (probably a “How’s it going?”) to the woman on duty, her job to wanders around the gas pumps, answering questions like, “Prices going up or down?”, “Which way do I slide my card?”, and “Nice day, isn’t it?”

“Fine,” she answered. I would say she was an older woman, but, increasingly, ‘older’ can still be younger than I am. She checked out the 10’6″ Hobie Standup strapped on my Toyota wagon. “How’s your day going?”

I was, of course, though my small and half-full (not half-empty) tank would be filled rather quickly; and because there was no one waiting impatiently behind me; ready to tell her more than she wanted to know about how my day was going.

Okay, so this isn’t a photo of her; it is from Costco, and I do like the samples. It’s kind of a tradition of mine, stopping at Costco on the way home; kind of like lowering the cost of the surf/shopping trip. AND, when I’d go surfing with my friend Archie Endo, we’d hit the samples almost as hard as the locals, swarming and swooping, elbows and walking sticks flailing, rather like a crowded lineup.

costco 2

So, instead of the hairnet, the attendant was wearing a boonie hat, last year’s model, and while I was blathering about how, yeah, I’d always surfed, learned in California, and, on this day, someone had said that my riding a bigger board was cheating, and I’d said, “Well, they’re available for purchase,” and I, at least thought- did say later, to several people, “There’s catching waves, and there’s riding waves;” it came out that she had lived all around Orange County, including Dana Point, home of Hobie,  and had graduated from high school in Mission Viejo in 1973 (yeah, younger).

“Whoa,” I, undoubtedly said, “When I was a kid in the North (San Diego) County, there was nothing there.” Evidently, while Fallbrook Union High School had been around for years, her high school started in 1966.

“I was always around surfing,” she said, “but never took it up. It’s great that you’re still doing it.”

“Yeah,” I said, “even if people think I’m cheating.”

Now it was time to move. Someone was behind me, the tank was two clicks over full, I had done the math (32mpg- great, though it varies).

She had time to tell me that she had once driven a bus with a rider who surfed named Dino Andino. “And his son is…” “Yeah, Kalohe.”

“You know,” she said as I pulled away (and I might be forgiven if I took her look to mean ‘fuck ’em’), “keep on surfing.”

Oh, I intend to.


Not Keeping Up with Stephen R. Davis

My friend, ‘Hydrosexual’ Stephen Davis recently went from the Big Island to the Windy City.  He’s doing some work with his friend, Cosmo; who, after visiting Hawaii, decided he wants to move there.


BUT FIRST,  Steve stopped off in Port Townsend. We were supposed to meet up, but I was working and he has a lot of friends. Weirdly (not really for Stephen or me), he found me getting a drawing reproduced at The Printery.  He was cruising around with Lisa, a surfer he met in Baja, who actually lives and teaches school in North San Diego County (near where I was raised), and reminds me of what Courtney Conlogue might be like at fifty-something.

Outerknown Fiji Women's Pro

So, Lisa started giving me the kind of “are you a real surfer” kind of grilling I tend to practice.  Actually, she started with, “So, you surf?” “Kind of.” “Oh,” Stephen said, “Erwin has great wave knowledge.” “Uh huh.” Then back to me, “Do you know Blackie, Bonzo, Little Snickie…?” “Um; I left there almost forty years ago. Do you ever surf Pipes?” “Sometimes. You know, old guys surf Tourmaline.” “Yeah; I used to live up the bluff, in P.B. Like, in 1971.” “Oh. Yeah.” “Do you know Joe Roper?” “Joe Roper? Of course. He’s the only one I’ll let work on my Skip Frye.”

Sensing I was holding my own, maybe with a B-, I told a story about stealing a design from Morey/Pope that Skip was working on at Gordon and Smith (the waterskate, though I couldn’t think of that under the pressure), having it built/pirated at the PB Surf Shop, and, first time trying it; there’s Skip on the beach. Yeah; Skip Frye.

MEANWHILE, Stephen and Cosmo have spent some Chicago time at museums and other highbrow locations.


BUT, and I know this is going on a bit, I want to get to Stephen’s story. Steve is my Wal-Mart call; someone to talk to when I’m following Trish around. On one call, he told me he wants to submit a story of how he had a new take on all the posturing and posing and preening associated with surfing. “Preening?” “Yeah, P R E E N I N G.” “I know how to spell it, Steve; I just love that you’re using it.”


“Old Man Winter,” original charcoal by Stephen R. Davis.

No, sorry; lost it (temporarily). I’ll post this, then post the version with Steve’s story. Mostly I’m worried about losing what I’ve put together so far.

I may be a real surfer; but I’m definitely not a real computer dude.

OKAY, I can’t seem to get it here. I’ll just retype it. Here’s Stephen’s latest story:

I was bailing the Big Island and my shoulder was feeling good.  There was a new, pumping South Swell, so I decided to catch a few waves.

I had surfed quite a bit in the last few weeks. The swell had been relentless.

I explored a bit. I checked out some spots off the beaten path I had been wondering about, but, not knowing the swell angle and the direction, nor the relative position of most of the lava rock points and reefs, my regional knowledge was still a work in progress. Old standby spots seemed to be the ones firing, and they had been firing. Local rippers with shoulders the size of coconuts were casually, nonchalantly packing and petting low tide bombs where the reef seemed too close to the surface for any personal comfort level.

Hilo-side and Puna folks were migrating to Kona side also, because of the unprecedented lava activity, borrowing old, yellow, dinged-up longboards and railgrabbing gnarly, late drops and pulling it, coming out of massive amounts of exploding white water, while I watched from the inside corner on my old 6’8″ Al Merrick, “Big Willy,” waiting patiently.

Echoing in my mind was Cap, constantly telling me, “You need a bigger board,” as only a charter boat Captain can. Hmmmmmm…. in his mind the 10′ popout Infinity he ‘gave’ me to fix for him (?), with the GoPro mount right where I would want to stand on the nose, combined with the thruster set-up (??) would get me more waves, and serve as what Cap refers to as ‘crowd control.’ I seriously don’t want to think about what was in the old wax on that thing. Though I am grateful for the gesture, it just definitely was not my preferred solution to this crowd situation. I’m sure it would have been fine, but it just is not my style.

I came to the Big Island to ride waves on a short board with no wetsuit, and I was fine up until the head-on collision when my right shoulder was injured. After rehabbing it for months, along with the whiplash in my neck, I really wanted to be back on “Big Willy.” I had pulled her out of the wreckage, cleaned the broken glass out of the wax, fixed the dings, put a new deck patch on her (ERWIN- Wait, Willy’s female?), and even bought a brand new leash for her. Ya, she is old and yellow, but she is my shortboard. I bought her when my Mom passed away, when I realized just how fleeting life is.

The swell was pumping and I wanted to carve going fast.

After being caught inside on two huge sets of empty lineup with ‘victory at sea’ conditions, I positioned again, on the corner, to wait for the wide-swingers. I went for one no one could get, and, rather quickly, ejected, hanging and slowly descending into oblivion, perfectly, with the lip I wasn’t in, and I knew it.

Oh, well. Went for another one, more resolute, after another waiting period. Couldn’t get to my feet. Hmmmm. Now I wanted it bad. Waited for another one. Same thing. These were extremely stretched-out, hollow lefts hitting a shallow reef, but the waves were familiar to me. I knew I could do better.

Finally, I popped to my feet on a nice roll-in, managed a big backside roundhouse-to-foam-bounce, then hit the lip and landed it as the wave finished it’s destiny on the reef. OK, now I could go in. I caught a good one.

The next day I went to check a fun, family spot. It was a weekend morning, glassy and closing-out at the small takeoff spot. There was one makeable bomb per set, and about 20 or more, no doubt, preening ‘locals’ that I had no interest in competing in the lineup with. I am old, and I have fought the dragon that is my ego, and have no interest in proving my worth to anyone. Nor do I have any urge to be judged or evaluated by strangers. Mind you, I am happy to have been evaluated by my long time counselor whose awareness and ‘judgement’ of me I trust.

What to do? As I sat on the beach, I noticed the Keki on the inside, catching little pockets, and laughing all the way in and back out to their inside takeoff spot. This surf spot is notoriously family friendly where folks come to find Aloha and be together. People bring friends who don’t surf there to learn, and there is an illuminating Vibration of Love that can be felt if one tries.

I decided to go out on my forest green 7’6″ funboard, and to stay inside with the Ohana. I was next to two little girls, walking their longboards on inside nugs, and a father teaching his young son to surf. I had so much fun, and felt so much joy in the warmth of the sun, the laughter, and the little pockets and walls-a-plenty. I was trimming along, with the clear, beautiful water, the reef, and the sea life. I caught a dozen incredible waves, and remembered what it felt like to truly play amongst friends.

Asa result of my parenting, I have an ability to learn from children, and this was no different. I relearned what it means to play, and to share, again, and how nice it feels to celebrate, and to be celebrated for catching and riding a wave that offers that vibration back as a child. I learned the value of a smile.


Summer Stories; Stolen From the Cloud

Waves? No. Waves in the summer. Never. Well; almost never. I do tell people that if they do a search for surfing on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, they might just find my site.

Now, I have learned not to post names of spots, or photos that reveal exactly where some unnamed spot might be; and I do always stress the fickle nature of the northwest surf, as in, “You’re more likely to get attacked by an aggressive sea lion that score over-knee waves;” but, I did find, and steal these photos from someone else’s two day, mid-summer adventure. The Cloud.

Yeah, I did find some shots of me surfing a secret spot somewhere off the grid. Joking; not about the photos; about the spot. I’m obligated not to name it for various reasons. I’m also not authorized to name the photographer, but do have permission to use them. I’ve decided not to show the shots of me because I put too much sun screen on, and, evidently, it makes me appear kind of chubby.


Here’s the guy, left, who started Lib-tech. I only took off in front of him once.  His wife is in the other two photos.

This is a wave, an eagle, and an unidentified ripper.

This is a super low tide, probably Todd Fischer on a super low tide, former professor, now semi-surfbum, Nick, alias God.


Nick, again, contemplating the variables of tide, swell, wind, lapses of etiquette by chubby old guys with too much sun screen slathered on their chubby faces and heads.

I do have some more photos of people I really don’t know. Maybe I’ll add them.

Thinking, Thinking, Over-Thinking

Just trying to make a determination that there might be waves on the Strait of Juan de Fuca requires checking buoys, contemplating the numbers, and going back through the anecdotal files we all keep.

And if it adds up, and you can take the time; you take the chance, make the trip.

And if you score; and waves were still coming through when you left, and the numbers look so similar on another day, even if you can’t really pull away from you commitments… overthink.

I’d say more on this, but I have commitments I’m thinking about how to get out of.  Thinking, thinking, scheming…

Prologue- Giving Up Sarcasm

I was trying to find an address in the North Beach area of Port Townsend, thought I’d recheck a shingle-sided house I had bleached and pressure-washed a few months back to get a better idea on what to propose for painting the trim.

There was a truck with a boat on a trailer and an SUV parked in front of the fence. WAIT, there’s a surfboard on the SUV; a flashy board (looking at it from the side- radically upswept nose, canted bonzer fins, two on each side, longer fin in the middle). Has to belong to a ripper. Radical. This was a couldn’t-pearl (even on a heavy pitcher), late-drop, free-fall, catch-and-climb, drive-and-swoop, pro-level unit.

NOW I had to find out who owned this board.

AND I DID. Ripper? Pro? Actually, no. In the question-and-answer, first-meeting-scenarios between (supposed, alleged, self-identified) surfers, where no one truly believes the other person is really a surfer (even if he or she fits perfectly into one’s image of one) unless he or she has personally witnessed him or her actually riding waves; I can tend to be a bit, um, aggressive.

And then throw in the sarcasm, sometimes-biting repartee I’ve learned and developed over many years; a trait (or skill) I’ve been trying to cut back on…and. when the owner of the board, the 40ish son of the owners of the house, said he wasn’t kidding (backed-up by his Mom) that he’d just started surfing, like, two weeks ago…

…and just when I was trying so hard to quit the sarcasm, to occasionally hold back on making the snarky observation, the possibly-rude assessment. “Two weeks, huh?  Well…”

OKAY, so here’s my latest drawing: Picture it on a t shirt.

Image (80)

What? What do you mean by that?


When the Surf is Flat, May as Well…


Then again, there’s flat and there’s small but fun, and, if, like Adam Wipeout on the fourth of July, you get up really early (and know where to go), there might be some ‘butt barrels’ and some offshore wind to hold them up.

And then there’s work.

These are (almost) the last of my saved-from-the-attic, scanned-on-the-blueprint-copier silkscreens from the 1980s.

erwin_0001Serwin_0003When I post something on realsurfers, it also gets posted on Facebook and my Twitter feed. I’ll have to check out which image goes on to Twitter. I’d hate to mess up all the name-calling, blatant advertising and political tit-for-tatting with nudity, even faded-out, fairly-tasteful, thirty year old nudity.

Meanwhile, checking the forecasts; always hoping some freak swell might just… yeah, I’m going, going to work. See you.

Solstice Sun, In Case You Missed It…

…I didn’t miss the sun; did miss some waves. I really wanted to do a second surgical strike, a week after my last one… didn’t work out; wind on the waters when the window opened, me waiting forty-five minutes, hoping to see one rideable wave in otherwise perfect (shimmering, diamond fields, lines that could have been waves but weren’t) conditions.

Almost, story of the Strait.


Next time.

Next                                                                                                    time…

Dusk Patrol

It’s one of my (numerous) conceits that, because I’m self-employed, I can arrange my schedule around those small windows of rideable wave availability on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  It is, of course, not always true. Work almost always comes first.

BUT, I have been known to dawn patrol it, surf, then work late (and tired, and, hey, you must know what it’s like to sweat out the saltwater you couldn’t shower off). AND, particularly in the winter, I sometimes head for an evening session (this can be 3pm when the sun goes down at 4:20 [no other significance to 4:20 intended]), or, around summer solstice, it can be, as it was recently, an 8pm arrival, quickly (for me) suited-up and in the water, hitting some semi-glassy walls, watching the sun disappear somewhere around Neah Bay around 9:14, dressed and re-loaded by 9:50, and home in pretty much record round-trip time.

OH, maybe I’ve made trips in less time, but that would be because I got skunked, didn’t hang around waiting, didn’t check other spots; and, mostly, because I didn’t stop for gas, food, to fill a Costco list, and because Olympic Peninsula traffic is not (usually) the nightmare it is in the Seattle/Tacoma/Bremerton.

That traffic was fresh in my mind; I’d spent most of the day taking my daughter, Dru, over to the Bainbridge Island ferry (always an anxiety-creator; barely made it). Then there was a (planned) side trip to Daniel Smith for some art supplies (some for her mother, Trish), only one mistaken turn (with ten minute readjustment- thanks to Dru’s phone), a quick stop at the Jack-in-the-box (because they don’t have them in Chicago) on First Avenue (with a blond rat cruising the dumpster area), and minimal holdup at Sea-Tac (the usual cars curb-blocking, others trying to make 90 degree turns).

About this time I got a call from Trish saying I might as well drive around as the ferry terminal would be a (bigger) mess. Fine, don’t mind, the fee for the Tacoma Narrows Bridge is collected going the other way, and, besides, rush hour couldn’t start at 3pm.

EVIDENTLY it can.  I now admit I used the carpool lane (by accident- hey, I live in the boonies) to get onto I-5; I mean, once I got in it, I couldn’t move over.  NOW, I had been checking the buoy reading all day on my phone, and it was looking, um, possible. THEN I got a call from someone returning from a weekend with the family on the coast, where, I’m pretty sure, the waves had been minimal and the crowds, well, fun if you like sharing and the whole campground atmosphere.

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Above: another silkscreen image from 1980s, retrieved from my attic.

FIRST, I was told I was on speaker phone and the family was in the same vehicle. Yes, his sons didn’t need to learn any more new words. No, he didn’t surf on the Strait, no, the waves had been fun; oh, and he had passed other surfers headed toward the Strait.

SECOND, I have a phone number for one of the surfers mentioned. Somewhere, barely moving, not yet to the water park (which is close to the rest area, which is on the other side of the highway), I gave that guy a call. NOW, no; we don’t call others to report good waves. NOT DONE.

But, I was, according to the sign over the freeway, 8 miles and 29 minutes from the turnoff to Tacoma, low on fuel, and, besides, that surfer was just about to check out the possibility of waves from a secret vantage point somewhere around Port Angeles.

THIRD, the card-reader (or something) didn’t work at the gas station in Tacoma (gas is always higher close to freeways); I had to go inside; the brand new person at the counter (I was third in line, cut off the guy who could have been- counter-hopped him) was showing the even-newer woman how to make the gas pumps work. I asked a local how to get back on 16. “First right, skip over those streets, second left; third right- easy.”

FOURTH, and I don’t know why I started using numbers, there was a big accident at the big curve at Gorst (long called the armpit of the northwest by commuters), in the other lane (thankfully), and the backup went…driving, driving… almost to Silverdale.

OH, I had to stop in Silverdale to bring home dinner. Arby’s. Trish had a list. What’s the fastest route? “Go past Silverdale, take that exit. You have my order?” Yes. “Get whatever you want. It’s dinner.” Fine. I’d already had one of those breakfast sandwiches and the taco Dru didn’t eat, and I had eaten breakfast, but, Classic roast beef and cheddar and bacon sandwiches were on special, two for six bucks.

Didn’t mean to eat both, but, hey, they are way better warm than warmed-up. LUCKILY, the Hood Canal Bridge was not open for a sailboat, submarine, or mechanical failure (or just meanness), and I got home, with too much coffee, too many Arby’s specials heartburn, sometime around 6:25.

“GOING SURFING,” I said. “Really?”

NOW, I passed quite a few surf rigs on my way out; not usually a good sign. No, I didn’t get a call confirming the existence of actual waves; and, when I did get into the water, the guy I had called had already been surfing for four hours, but was willing to go back out for a few more. STRATEGIC STRIKE. Stoked.

ALL RIGHT, I should add that my backup plan had been to go the next morning, and I almost decided not to go, but I had already sworn to a client that I would be on her job the next morning. AND, the next morning, the angle had moved, the swell had dropped.

SO, maybe this is kind of a bit of a backhanded compliment to surfers who have to endure traffic daily, and are willing to take a chance. If I lived near Sea-Tac, the trip, one way, would have been, um, let’s see, 5 hours. Yeah, yeah, a couple of stops.

Moving On… and, yes, On

I recently got an e-mail with the heading, “Moving On.” It was from ‘Hydrosexual’ Stephen Davis, who, incidentally, is my Wal-Mart call (like a drunk call, but mostly because I have little to do in Wal-Mart except follow Trish around and try not to whine, and because it’s usually late enough here that it’s somewhere around 4:30, 5 on the big Island). Included was this, one of several paintings he’s working on before he, um, moves on.


So, Steve has several options, but what he’s evidently doing is going to the Chicago area, helping his friend Cosmo get his (Cosmo’s) house ready to sell. Evidently, again, Cosmo visited the Big Island long enough to decide he might have had enough of being a landscaper in Chicago’s suburbs.

Okay, this is a couple of Wal-Mart calls, and, hopefully, a few more volcanic reef surf sessions away, so, if it changes…

MEANWHILE, Mikel “Squintz” Cumiskey is moving on, back (but not yet) to the wide open and fertile (compared to the Strait of Juan de Fuca) surf grounds (surf sands?) of Florida.  BUT, he hasn’t quite left yet, and sent me this photo of a recent attempt to find waves around these parts.


This was his second long hike/slide/belly crawl/in of the day, and, one, that’s part of a log at the point, two, if he’d actually continued to the beach, the odds of cops being called were pretty high.

No, I’ve never never surfed there, but, interestingly, I have met the woman who thinks it’s her ultra-important task in life to prevent anyone (and she doesn’t own the land) from enjoying… well, this; waves wrapping around just another point. I did ask the woman, who was friendly enough with me when I was painting on another property she did landscaping on, if she’d call the cops if I happened to, you know, maybe try to… “You betcha’,” she said, with an Annie Oakley smile.

Good luck, Squintz and his wife and child. No, I didn’t give Mikel that nickname; but it’s just too good not to use.

MEANWHILE, I managed to sneak in a little drawing time.

Image (77)

I did refresh the stock of framed prints available at DISCO BAY OUTDOOR EXCHANGE in, obviously, Discovery Bay, AND I’m working with Tyler Meeks (and with Mollie Orbea of Orbea Signs in Port Gamble) on some t shirt designs.  Trying to keep it simple.

Meanwhile, as always, looking for signs of swell, scamming on how to adjust life so it wraps around, lines up, gives one a swoop and a carve, and, yes, moves on.

Father’s Day Weekend, International Surfing Day…

…and, as always, I’m just glad to get some waves. Swell windows along the Strait of Juan de Fuca are small, tight, and reliant on so many variables.  And I wouldn’t have even been checking them out or considering surfing on a weekend if I hadn’t had such an exhausting work week; work completed on a frustrating and not-really-all-that-profitable project at about 8pm on Friday, painting stuff piled back into the van, check ATM-deposited.

EDIT; [Hey, wait; was International Surfing Day June 16, or is it June 22nd? Kind of confusing. Doesn’t really matter; I surfed on one of the possibilities, not sure about next weekend; or any weekend, but, since this weekend is gone and the reports are in, it seems like those who really wanted northwest waves got some. So, good.]

It was a Hobuck weekend for sure. It was the kind of Olympic Peninsula weekend Seattle-Siders dream of. White Reggie Longstroke had taken off on Thursday night to secure a prime spot. Temperatures were predicted to be in the 80 degree range, no big disturbing winds, moderate swell.

I definitely had no plans to go to the coast, and was trying to get all the parties together to start another job, miss the mob. I was hoping for a small swell window, like, checking, like today, right now. It’s a maybe, but… yeah, someone might be getting some waves.

Big Dave, who I’d run into on Wednesday or so, me on my way to a job, he standing by his Jefferson County dump truck, waiting, evidently, to fill in some pot holes on the Center Road, and who I really just wanted to clue in on a session I’d had (and he’d missed) with Clint and I pretty much the only surfers out; but he had to tell me the coast looked to be the bet for the weekend, and, man, I really missed the Memorial Day surf at La Push.

“Wait,” I said; I was checking out the camera, swear I caught an image of you bottom-turning on a wave.” “Probably. I was out there.”

I must add that I also got a clue, texted from an unnamed surf zealot down the canal, that there might be a little window that might not show on the forecast, even on the buoys.

“My board’s still on my car,” I texted; “What time r u thinking? 6? 5?”

No response to my “Going for it” text at 4:30. Knowing he had graduation parties to go to, probably from Shelton to Chimacum, I just knew he was already on it in the pre-dawn light.


Okay, this isn’t actually the lineup when I arrived at around 6;45. I did take some photos with my phone, but can’t figure out how to send them to my e-mail. It was similar, but cleaner; the tide already low and headed for the lowest low (I’m told) of the year; and the swell was dropping, had dropped overnight, one surfer was out, one was headed out, two more were suiting up, and, well, I had to get out there.

Adam Wipeout wasn’t already there, but, with all I didn’t know, he might have been somewhere, hitting waves bigger and better.

It was pretty much over two hours later when I slogged through the mid-cove quicksand. Window closed.  On the way home I did pass a lot of surfers, even more kayakers, as many rigs trailering boats.  Hopefully each of those folks found something to enjoy.  With a rising tide, there could have been another window. And there’s always the coast. Hobuck, La Push, various spots in between… maybe.

Geez, it’s already late; got to get to work.