I MAY HAVE, finally, gotten enough EDDIE to fill my craving for something I have sworn, repeatedly, sometimes with actual swear words, never to really care about: SURFING BIG ASS WAVES. It may have helped that I did go surfing in the week since I sat, transfixed, kiddy cornered to our big ass flat screen (No, don’t care if your is bigger, Dick), listening to commentary by Kaipo (from the WSL- hope he still has a job there) and the two guys who did the color work for the recent DA HUI SHOOTOUT, which I also watched a shit load of, and somehow, with one participant in that event knocked unconscious and having to be resuscitated and at least two other surfers seriously injured, made riding PIPELINE seem somehow boring. Thanks, Kaipo.

THERE WAS NO WAY the Eddie could or would be boring. That a lifeguard, LUKE SHEPARDSON, getting a time deduct for his time surfing, won the event seemed almost poetically fitting.

AND/BUT I didn’t just watch the live coverage. OH, no, I checked out videos by and/or about all of my Hawaii favorites during the past week, last YouTube vicarious surf trip, last night. YEAH, like NATHAN FLORENCE, KOA ROTHMAN (one with both of them together), MASON HO, and, because YouTube obviously has me dialed in, I was offered and perfectly willingly clicked on more stuff from MARK HEALY and ELI OLSON. And maybe a few others I don’t want to check my search history to verify.

BUT WAIT… So many people I ran into over the past seven days, some with only a tangental connection to surfing, had to ask me if I watched THE EDDIE. Oh, yeah; want to discuss it? I did. Yes, since I just thought of it, I did enjoy the commercials from the TV Station in Hawaii (KHON2) that was airing the event. No, they probably do have as many ads as mainland channels for various charities, and for pills and vitamins and products to make any body part smell great, but if they took a day off from that to show some surf related products, thank you.

I SHOULD confess that it was often me who brought up the subject.

THERE WAS, as I alluded to, a day between last week’s BINGE and today’s (possible) start to the WSL’s version of a PIPELINE contest (which I will follow), a full day adventure, dark to dark, with STEPHEN R. DAVIS, seeking waves. It took two days of bleaching and pressure washing to get down from that buzz-worthy experience, my froth, no doubt, amplified by the dull hangover from the EDDIE.

SO, THIS MORNING, searching Google for an appropriate photo to purloin (doesn’t sound as nefarious as steal), I chanced upon some stuff from BEACH GRIT, almost always satirical, and always clever commentary by CHAS SMITH and DEREK RIELLY. So, I just had to get their take on (what else,) the EDDIE. And, of course, between them, they also skewered other surf related sites, QUIKSILVER (who formerly sponsored the EDDIE, missed out on this bonanza), and the easy target of the WORLD SURF LEAGUE.

GOOD STUFF, though I’m always a bit hurt that my friend and librarian/surf ripper/zealot, KEITH DARROCK, believes Chas Smith is just SOO great. So radical. I mean, yes, Chas is smoking in his online image, and I just someone, choosing breathing without coughing over coolness, who used to smoke, but… Now, it isn’t that I don’t agree with Keith, it’s just that I’m… competitive.

OKAY, I have almost worked on this long enough to find out if the PIPELINE contest is going to run today. I am also working on some drawings and very, very close to writing the final chapter, the grand conclusion of “SWAMIES.” OH, AND, YES I have watched some videos of the actual spot filmed during the recent FIFTY YEAR SWELL (fifty-three if you go back to the one in December of 1969). MY COMMENT: They always seem to focus on the outside peak. It doesn’t usually connect all the way through. Certain tides. Now, the inside peak…

Pulling on the Art World Door

This is one of the paintings realsurfer and real artist Stephen R. Davis has been producing during, and particularly since his epic battle with Lymphoma. Not that it’s over. Steve is offering limited edition prints and posters and cards of this and other paintings. I asked him to send me the image and the contact info so others can get in on purchasing some of his work. I don’t really communicate with him on ‘social,’ BUT I will get the connections sorted out.

MEANWHILE, I am perilously, dangerously close to finishing the manuscript for “SWAMIS.” I mean, like, today if I don’t get distracted by rumors of waves. THE ISSUE is, how to sell these things, also including ORIGINAL ERWIN t shirts and, yeah, I have some art works of my own (less so with my dark-of-winter obsession with finishing the novel.

BUT, and this is related, my daughter, Drucilla, also engaged in her own battle with cancer (Fuck Cancer), is getting back into the work mode, AND she has skills in setting up some platform on which Steve (and our mutual artist friend, Reggie) can market our work.

AS FAR AS the selling “SWAMIS,” I have some ideas. First among them, as I try to find an agent, is offering a limited edition version, printed on regular paper, and contained in a Pee-Chee folder, a critical item in a 1960s students’ life, and something that is a part of the “Swamis” narrative. With pockets on both sides of the folder, a reader could easily slide pages read from one to the other. AND I would include artwork I have done in connection with the manuscript. ALL NUMBERED AND SIGNED, of course.

AS WITH Stephen’s contact info: I will have to get back to you on that.

AS FAR AS rumors of waves; probably just rumors.

“Seahawks and Big Dogs and Choking and…

SOB, sob, why, God, why does a team like… sob… I just wanted… they were ahead at halftime. I mean, yeah, I know the Seahawks weren’t supposed to win, but…” unattributed quote.

Trish and I were watching the Wild Card game over at our daughter’s house. The Seahawks were behind by ten point by the end of the first quarter. I promised I would turn it off and go to the market if the 49ers got another touchdown. Halftime, the Seahawks were ahead. YEA!

Trish, before the kickoff, turned the volume down. Biased coverage. I was listening to the radio version, Steve and Dave. Properly biased. Trish did turn the volume up at halftime, just to see what the Fox Sports experts, who had all agreed the Seahawks were outmatched and would lose, had to say. “Wait until the second half,” was pretty much their message. Volume off.

Partially because their commentary was behind the TV, and partially because it’s thrilling to hear Steve Raible when the Hawks do something amazing, not so much fun when they’re sucking wind. So, no sound except Trish, face at her laptop screen, saying, “I can’t look,” “We’re bad luck,” “Oh! San Francisco’s the greatest. All world! (Sarcasm),” and my loud-but-appropriate grunts of disapproval, or my less frequent and multiple-syllable shrieks of celebration.

With no other distracting sounds, and hope still hanging by some vague remembrance of every sport movie ever made and a few miracle comebacks, it became easy to notice that there are a hell of a lot of commercials during sixty minutes of football.

Early in the fourth quarter, I did notice there were other folks rather aimlessly wandering the produce aisles, or lining up for fried chicken, people who one would never imagine actually playing football, but all in various amounts of Seahawks garb, heads down, possibly still wondering if Geno had connected of a few more long bombs. and, no doubt, happy that they (we) had beaten the crowd that waited until the inevitable San Francisco celebration, with interviews featuring the all world winners.

This isn’t sarcasm. It is sardonic (sarcasm where the speaker’s pain is just too obvious) commentary.

Oh, I did see, while checking out (saved thirty cents on a thirty dollar total), a guy in the line one over wearing a Seattle Kraken shirt. And later, my friend, Stephen R. Davis, who actually did play ice hockey, told me the Kraken just defeated Boston, and that’s a big deal, and… No, not switching my allegiance. Maybe. No; I’ve said I would before. But, added to all this, the San Diego Chargers, who were once my team to root for, were killing it in their game. And then, comeback by the… I don’t know, one of those southern teams. Miracle. Sure. Why not?

MY POST GAME ANALYSIS: Underdog, Over-dog; it’s better to be the Big Dog. And, since I am kind of thinking about, and planning to write about surf heroes, I should relate this to SURFING.

YES, older surfers do like to say, “Back in my day, the best surfers got the best waves,” that kind of thing that runs contrary to sharing and caring, the kind of easily-said aphorisms that run into the reality of limited waves and increasing crowds. NOW I am thinking about PARTY WAVES and DOG SLED TEAMS. If you’re in front, there’s an expectation you will leave lots of room for the other surfer; if you’re in back, you’re dealing with the wake and chandeliers, wondering if there’s an opportunity for a go-behind. AND NOW I’m kind of wondering (and trying not to wonder or care) which teams are playing today, and, by extension, who I want to root for.

AND NOW, realizing I should have taken off for a money-making opportunity half an hour ago, I am wondering when I will get to surf next.

I got the dog image from GOOGLE. All other content is copyright protected and is the property of Erwin A. Dence, Jr. NOT THAT I WON’T SHARE IF YOU ASK NICELY.

Surf Heroes

This selfie of Reggie Smart has nothing to do with the rest of the content of this post. The caption could be, “Not enjoying the view.”

Surf Heroes

WE SHOULD, perhaps, set some boundaries on where we rank surfers we hold in high esteem… and why we position them where we do. The SURFER EVALUATION SPECTRUM (SES) would go from a low point of ‘Insufficient evidence to make a judgement (so we have to believe the surfer in question is a total kook), through ‘maybe the surfer is better in better waves,’ past ‘not a Kelly or a Stephanie,’ to the ‘holy shit, total John John/Dane/Carissa/fill in your own names’ category.

OKAY, so we have a rough scale on surf performance as one of the factors each of us might use to determine if a particular surfer is worthy of our being appreciative of, a fan of, a follower of, a worshipper of… whoever. Surfer, surf hero, surf god. Small g. 

This already becomes difficult because we, and this is me assuming you and I rate other surfers in a similar way, the COOLNESS FACTOR (CF) must be included in our assessments, because, yes, it is unavoidable. While a certain self-confidence dealing with mundane situations is an important element (ie; stylishly handling waves that are not ‘of consequence’), casualness under difficult conditions and circumstances is… well, it’s another consideration.

There must be, or there should be a mathematical equation to quantify the CF. EXAMPLE- A few years ago, a surf contest in France in heavy conditions saw everyone just getting annihilated. Except for… John Florence. He was, like, comfortable. So, like nine on the coolness, nine on the challenging conditions. 9/9. OH, that’s, if my math is correct, ONE. I would also place Felipe Toledo’s performance at Jeffry’s Bay, with two airs on one wave that put him deep in the pocket, a ONE.

BUT WAIT, that’s still performance related. Maybe I have watched too many World Surf League (WSL) contests, too may YouTube videos. While most surfers can be as arrogant and rude as they can away with, and back up with quality surf riding, in order to be a professional, sponsored surfer, one has to develop a public persona that is gracious, humble, generous, grateful; all those qualities that are, perhaps detrimental for someone whose job it is to out-perform everyone else in their bracket. But they are good for the IMAGE. For the fans.

The YouTube video (live stream, actually) that brought this sort of fakieness to mind was of a kid’s contest at Trestles. Ten and twelve-year-olds, some of them sons or daughters of former professional surfers, others with paid coaches, all working on their resumes, refining the moves the judges are looking for. Rehearsed after-heat interviews, sponsors’ gear on display.

I can’t help thinking of the contest at Malibu, 1967. My sister went. I saw the article in “Surfer.” Miki Dora, pretty much flipping-off the judges. Arrogant. Cool. I saw live action of Andy Irons in a boat at a contest. Paraphrasing, “Why are you talking to me. Talk to the winners.” Both of those surfers had flaws, Andy tragically so. Gerry Lopez, as cool under pressure as anyone, admits to some of his. Wave Hog. I forgive him. Dane Reynolds says he’s only won (something like) one contest, ever. Honesty. Nice.

There might just be something to be appreciated in realness.

HAMARTIA- I looked up ‘heroic flaw.’ Evidently all the really cool heroes have one. Or more. Maybe lesser heroes have lesser flaws. NO, I am not even thinking about some formula.

It just might be that what we are looking for, hero-wise, is someone to emulate. In surfing and in life, we copy, we practice, we keep what works for us, and try to avoid what doesn’t. Eventually, whether we are happy with it or not, we develop our own style, our own identity. We peak at some point on the surfing and the coolness and the decent human being scales. And we keep going. The thing about surfing, and life, is that none of us are 9/9 all the time. Or even a decent percentage of all the time.

SORRY, I’m off track. I think. I start writing. It all changes. I wanted to say that I have had a few surf heroes in my many years of surfing. Bucky Davis, local surfer from Fallbrook, was probably my first hero. When I was fourteen, he was coolness personified. That changed. Less hero, more real. Real is better. GEEZ, that’s the whole story. I’ll get to Bucky another time. OKAY, like, pretty soon. I am pretty busy trying to finish my “Swamis” manuscript, so I can sell it. If writing is a humbling process, selling something is more so. We’ll see.

LOCAL HEROES, MAGAZINE HEROES, SURF CONTEST HEROES, YOUTUBE HEROES. In retrospect and in conclusion, I have to say my spot on the Surfer Evaluation Spectrum is ‘appreciative of.’

One last thing (because I’m still… thinking): At some breaks, the bigger, outside set waves are not always the ones that line up best. Roll throughs. In passing up some of these waves, I have called out to others in the lineup, “Go on, be a hero.”   

“Swamis” Parking Lot Outtakes

I posted this late at night, and woke up knowing I had to make it clear that these are sections cut out of the manuscript. This material does go along with the storyline, and is, itself, edited. I can’t seem to stop myself.

I say “these” because I also did some moving of paragraphs. Joey in the parking lot:

Chulo knew the truth.

The truth is Chulo jerked the wheel and moved over far enough that the Jesus Saves bus went into the ditch. I stopped. I backed up, ready to go around the bus and see what happened with my father. Chulo had a better view. He motioned me on. I knew it was fucked up, that I was in more trouble. I knew my mother was ahead of me and had seen her husband pass her. I knew my father would be fine. Angry, but fine. He was always fine.

I am not offering excuses. My father hated excuses. “There is no such thing as a good excuse.” Second part. “Even the best excuse is a bad reason.”

Nine-twenty-seven. Time in the sun had not cleared the water from my watch. It had converted it into fog on the inside of the glass. I was dressed for work; chinos, a light blue shirt with a collar, short-sleeve, not yet tucked-in, off-white Levis cords, slightly bent-over-at-the-heel leather shoes. My surfboard was inside the Falcon at an angle, the nose against the back of the passenger side of the front seat. I moved the notebooks from the towel but left them on the hood. I draped the towel over the board. My trunks were half-hung on the fin of my board. I pulled up the tailgate, rolled up the back window, and locked the back door.

The red notebook, with two pages for February 27, 1969, on the hood, was still open, but face down. I stuck my hand under one side and flipped it closed.

I looked around to see which car full of tourists or families who sometimes went to the beach, or which surfers, looking for a first or second session, might want my spot. Surfers, three, in the car, four boards on the rack, stickers on the window from Chuck Dent and Harbour. L.A. surfboards. No, not them. I pulled a green apron from the back of the front seat, passenger side. A circular logo with “San Elijo Grocery” and “Cardiff by the Sea” and “Since 1956” was silkscreened in white. “Jody” was stitched on the front, pocket high on the left chest side, in yellow. I put the apron on, let it hang, and walked to the edge of the bluff.

Choppy. Crowded. I looked down at the stairs. Julia Cole and Duncan Burgess were two stairs above the landing, their boards leaning against the fencing at the ninety-degree corner. Julia had her omnipresent gray bag on the deck and her camera resting on the railing. She was aiming a telephoto lens toward the surf break.

Duncan, not too involved in the camera work or what was happening in the water, looked up and at me. I didn’t step back. Duncan tapped Julia Cole. She shook him off, he tapped her again, she looked around and up. I stepped back from the bluff.

I looked up, toward but not into the sun. Just for a second. Just long enough that I saw a few blinks of red. I took another step back, blinked. Okay.

            There was the truth of what happened on the road just east of the Bonsall Bridge. There was what I saw in flashbacks: The low sun in my eyes, the red, spinning light and the car coming straight at me. My mind, I theorized, might put events that passed by so quickly into slow motion, into crystal focus.

            It didn’t. Rather, it hadn’t.

I flipped the red notebook open, looked at what I had written. I closed the red notebook. It didn’t matter. Everything else I wrote in there for February 27 was a lie. For the next four days I wrote nothing. Mourning. Excusable. 

I thumbed through the pages for the days before February 27. Notes and little sketches of cartoon teachers and classmates, cartoon waves, psychedelic lettering for various surf spots. “Grandview.”

That was enough. I visualized. I would be happy enough to admit I was merely remembering if it wasn’t that, eyes open or closed, I could see what I had seen. If it wasn’t reliving the moments, it was more than just remembering.

Nine-thirty-nine. I set the red notebook down on the towel and turned back toward the water. I looked at my watch, walked over to the bluff. A set of waves, four, ruffled the horizon. The waves moved toward the point, each one growing in the rough water beyond the fields of kelp. The first wave cleaned up, picked up sparkles along the top edge and a sky-reflecting line two-thirds of the way down the face. A darker horizontal line, the wave’s true color, widened, lengthened, moved up, became a shadow version of the true color, as the wave steepened, and a definite peak formed. Another bright line, reflecting the flat, clean water inshore, appeared, three-fourth of the way up the wave. The lines became other shapes, irregular, but balanced and moving. The dark line became almost black, the topmost line almost white. Energy against gravity, tripped by underwater fingers of ancient rock. Explosion. Shades of green and blue on crazed white, the true wave color moving down the line, the explosion following it. 

One of four surfers in the water paddled for the second wave, pulling with two even strokes, pushing off and up as she and the board dropped down. She. It had to be Julia Cole; smooth, graceful, goofy-foot. At the bottom of the wave, her legs compressed, her upper body straight, she raised her right arm and leaned back. Her left arm low, her right hand and arm were tracing the shape of the wave as she moved up into a position high on the wall. She shifted to more of a parallel stance and crouched. The wave, at the highest point, just below the lip, was almost transparent. Julia Cole was flying.

Julia Cole.

There are an infinite number of ways to tell any story. So many choices. This is undoubtedly my biggest problem in completing “Swamis.” Somewhere between a sketch and a rendering is a novel.

I’m getting there.

“Swamis.” copyright 2020. Erwin A. Dcnce, Jr. All rights for original work in realsurfers.net are held by the author/artist.

Another “Swamis” Cutback

Shoppers saving their ‘good hair’ for later. I do love this photo. Not mine, but…

UPDATE- There will be a paddle out on Sunday, January first to honor and celebrate the life of real surfer Omar Jamaludin. It will be held at a break Omar and many of us consider our (favorite or a favorite) spot. No, not H****ck.

I am, finally, getting to the end of where I have now decided “Swamis” should end. While I have been actively, consciously trying to cut down or cut out anything that doesn’t further the main plot, I found myself with ninety thousand words and needing more than ten thousand more. THIS EXCERPT is from a chapter in which Joey is working at the fictional San Elijo Grocery Store, known as Mrs. Tony’s to the locals. There was, in the late sixties, a grocery store there, across the railroad tracks and highway 101 from the San Elijo State Beach. It featured a high wall of windows facing the view. I do recall Phil Harper and Ray Hicks and I, well into a week or so of camping and surfing, going into the market, and my becoming aware that I was probably close to maximum sun exposure. So, chocolate milk and Hostess donettes, back across the street.

The in store information is largely from Trish working at the Quilcene Village Store in Quilcene (in the 1980s) while it was known, by locals, as “Mary’s Village Store.” It was easy to get credit, easy to put purchased items on your tab. Mary also accepted, from the right customers, post-dated checks. And, she did some payday lending. Ten bucks on Monday was repaid with eleven on Friday. And, as the fictional Mrs. Tony and other checkers do in the manuscript, Mary and other checkers (not Trish) wore their hair in curlers at work, saving their ‘good hair’ for their men at home.

So… Swamis- a Sunday in March of 1969. Joey redefines is the narrator.

I was getting faster, steadily, at the register. I had already memorized most the prices on the most frequently purchased items, read others, only guessed on a couple; always, as instructed, ‘guessing up.’ And I was smiling, and sliding the goods, and bagging, and loading the carts, and responding positively to whatever clients said; I was making change and putting new balances on old tabs.

By my lunch break, 2:20, each of the Tonys told me I would get faster. Eventually. 

Just before what was supposed to be my afternoon break, 4:20, I checked out one customer, Sylvia Crawford, whose account card featured a red line under the balance. Sylvia Crawford, then I, looked over at Mr. Tony. He mouthed ‘okay,’ with a smile, followed by a bit of a stern look for Sylvia Crawford. Her expressions went from relief to a purposefully awkward smile, one meant to, if not conceal, to acknowledge the awkwardness and thereby lessen her embarrassment. She had offered no explanation of why she was behind, or when she would try to catch up. I was grateful for that. I just smiled. Neutral smile. As instructed.

After my smoke break, I held up a three-person line to get Mrs. Tony when a guy with a rather full cart slid a Traveler’s Cheque across the counter. “Where you from?” Mrs. Tony asked him. When she found out it was Arizona, she said, “Sure. Too hot there already, that’s my guess.” She took over checking out his purchase. I did the bagging and the moving of items from counter to bag to cart.

“Now, Jody,” Mrs. Tony said, the Arizona guy still there, “If this was an out of state check, you’d have to say ‘no.’ With a ‘sorry,’ of course.”

“What if, Mrs. Tony, he had been from, say, Minnesota?”

“I’d have said, ‘sure, still too cold there’s my guess.” Arizona Guy and Mrs. Tony both chuckled. Still, her look told me I could have stayed quiet.  Should have.

When Arizona Guy and the three other customers were gone, she said, “Jody. I know you’re smart. What you aren’t is better. None of us is better than our customers.” She put her right pointer finger high on my nose. She slid the finger down slowly and held it there for a moment. “They might want to tell us their business. Selling them… stuff, that’s ours. Got that, huh?

“Yes, Ma’am.”


“Got it.”

At about 5:45, I rang up purchases for a guy in his mid-twenties. He had a clean shirt on, but there were some grease stains on his hands and forearms, and he was wearing dark blue mechanic’s work pants and hard leather shoes. He held out a check made out to Jack Jacobs, and flipped it over. Jonathan Jacob, Junior’s signature was at the top, “pay to the order of Richard Haber” below it, and a signature, “Richard Haber” below that.

“That’s me,” he said. “Richard Haber. Two-party check. I already signed it over.” Richard Haber flipped the check over and set it on the counter. “Jackie Jacobs says you do this all the time.”

I smiled, took the check, pointed at Mr. Tony at the first register as I walked away.  

Mr. Tony looked at the check, looked at Richard Haber, who was busily bagging his own groceries. “Don’t recognize him.” That was in Mr. Tony’s version of a whisper. In his loudest, announcement voice, Mr. Tony said, “Mrs. Tony, can you come to check out stand two?”

Richard Haber, Mr. Tony, several other customers, and I all looked around for Mrs. Tony. “Friend of John Jacobs, Junior,” Mr. Tony said in his normal-but-still-loud voice. “Jackie Boy Jacobs.”

Richard Haber had loaded the groceries into a cart by the time Mrs. Tony almost ran down the cereal and bread aisle and to the middle register. Her apron and scarf were off, and her hair was out and brushed. Only two clips on her bangs remained. She had makeup on, far less than what she would describe as ‘whorish’ on another woman. Her lipstick, however, was color I had overheard her refer to in a conversation with Doris as Revlon red.

“Almost closing time,” Mrs. Tony said, more to me than to Richard Haber, “It’s Sunday.” She took the check in her left hand. “Better start sweeping up, Jody. I mean, Joey.”

The oversized dry mop and the other clean up items were already staged against and in the very middle of the front windows. On my walking away from the middle register, and with several gestures from Mrs. Tony, two of the customers who had been waiting moved over to her husband’s line.

“No. Sorry, kid,” Mrs. Tony told Richard Haber, in a low-but-not-low-enough voice, “Jackie Boy Jacobs stiffed Mr. Tony and me good.” Richard Haber waited as Mrs. Tony walked over to the file cabinet, pulled a card out from the bottom of the ‘H-I-J’ stack. She held the full card, three red lines under the last entry, by the top edge, hitting it against her left forearm as she walked back to the register. Don’t know what you did for him, but…”

Mrs. Tony pointed at pieces of paper suspended on strings above the filing cabinet until Richard Haber followed her eyes. “Bad checks,” she said, “Never could collect. I used to have a board… with names of cheats and deadbeats, over on the back of the register… so’s people could see them. Some guy from the County, a detective. He…” Mrs. Tony looked at me, the message being to return to her register. I leaned the mop against the cabinet. “He said naming names might be what’s called, ‘bad form.’ But, Richard Haber, I still got every one of the names…” She tapped her forehead. “…Up here.”

Mrs. Tony put Jonathan Jacobs, Junior’s check on the top row of keys on the register. She looked at the total for the items on the counter, hit a key, opening the drawer. She took out five dollars and sixty-five cents, moved it all into her left hand, and said, quietly, “Or you can try the bank. Tomorrow. Or… maybe, if you see Jackie boy, see if he’ll come in and… honor his debt.”

“I need more money than that,” Richard Haber said. He removed several items from the bags, set them on the counter: A half-gallon of milk, a loaf of bread, a medium sized jar of peanut butter.

“Tell you what, Richard,” Mrs. Tony said, ringing-in the items, sliding them backwards on the counter, “take the bottle of Red Mountain… on me… and Mr. Tony. And, good news, you’re out of it. Lesson learned.” She looked at me, mouthed ‘lesson learned.’ I nodded.

Richard Haber wasn’t halfway to the door when one of the customers from Mr. Tony’s line, probably about their ages, late forties, headed back toward Mrs. Tony’s and Doris’s and, for a few hours, so far, my register. “Quitting time, Lenny; me and my mister are… going out.” Lenny smiled, turned back toward Mr. Tony’s register. “I got my hair undone, my lips painted up, and…” She kicked her right foot out toward Lenny, half-whispered, “Got my ‘chase me, catch me, fuck me’ pumps on,”

“You do look… delectable, Loretta.”

Loretta La Rosa shook her head, turned toward me. “You didn’t hear that part, Jody… I mean, Joey.” I shook my head. “So, Joey… Miss Cole? Huh?”

I shook my head again and started loading the items Richard Haber couldn’t afford into an empty cart.

“Swamis” is copyrighted and, as is all original material in realsurfers.net, the property of the author, Erwin A. Dence, Jr. All rights are reserved.

On the Eve, the Cusp, the Verge of…

…Whatever is coming our way.

Something bad to struggle with, possibly overcome; something good to be, hopefully, savored and appreciated. The world is confusing and frightening and chaotic in its changes; and monotonous and boring; and, in almost the same moments, tantalizing in its possibilities. Life has a taste so bitter in our defeats, so delicious in our too often too late realization of its beauties; the patterns and colors we should have seen; the tiny miracles we should have better appreciated; the worth of the people who cross or even block our path.

There is a reason the dead of winter; the darkest, shortest, and coldest of days; is celebrated. It isn’t out of joy. It is out of hope.

I’ve never had the faith to flow with the season and its challenges. I freeze up, unable to do what I can do until I can do what I have to do. This may or may not make sense to you. Though I claim, and claim it to be true that I cannot hold on to sorrow or depression, I do realize it when I am in their grip. Sorrow and depression are heavy. They are exhausting. They cannot be allowed to hold us back or down.

Make a move; something positive.

This is what I do. I write. The frozen pipes, the broken shoe lace, the snow and the ice, the branch in the highway that bounced and hit my car, the fuckers who somehow used my bank account to purchase their presents, the recent deaths of people I knew, or knew of… I try to put this and more into some context.

And I try to make some small repairs. Sometimes things get fixed. Sometimes it’s more than half-ass. A small victory is still a victory.

I’m not over it; I’m not… joyful. I am trying to just keep moving, When I realize, later, that I have survived the darker days, I tell myself I should have had more faith. Should have. If we know sorrow and depression are heavy and exhausting, joy, in any quantity, is lighter than air.

Joy, then.

WAIT. I should add that my hope for my family and loved ones, to my friends and theirs, to real surfers everywhere, to those I don’t know, and to the assholes who hacked my account; is that we (yeah, me, too) recognize joy and have joy and share joy. Peace is a bonus gift.

The Winter of… to be determined

Allow me to just kind of run through my thinking on this:

I have sent out several posts focused on the tragic death of Omar Jamaludin. The story has moved rather quickly. He was missing for almost twenty-four hours. His body was discovered. Somewhere around another twenty-four hours, a suspect was arrested for the hit-and-run. Omar was buried. Surfers attended the funeral, representing the rest of the surfing community. This morning I received a text from a mutual friend (and surfer). It was a screen shot (my guess) taken from an instagram posting sent out last night. The suspect, who is named in the post, is to be arraigned on December 29. He lives three minutes away from Omar’s residence, has prior convictions for Driving Under the Influence, for which he is on probation. He is also in violation of a current court order to have a breathalyzer installed in his truck.

According to the message, the prosecutor on the case encourages people to show up for the arraignment or to write a letter to the judge, the desired effect being to assure the alleged perpetrator receives the maximum sentence.

I am perfectly willing to write a letter concerning Omar’s character and the loss to his family, loved ones, and the surfing community. We all have heard stories of people with multiple DUIs continuing to drive under the influence. And doing damage. Most of us, undoubtedly, know people who fit into this category. My concern is what we don’t know. Will the defendant, who has, according to news reports, admitted to driving the truck, plead guilty? What is the maximum sentence? Is it enough?

It is, currently, almost exactly twenty-four hours before the official Winter Solstice (1:47 pm, Wednesday, December 21). It snowed most of last night, it’s 31 degrees outside, there’s a lot more snow along the Strait. Road conditions are… variable, but not good. Winter, with the long, cold nights, the short, damp, dreary, dark, gray days. But, as the Summer solstice can remind us that we are rolling downhill to Winter, after tomorrow… yes, some reason to be optimistic.

I did ask you to follow my process on this. I had an accident last year… black ice, sideslipped into a tree, totaled my car. I could have taken a different route. I could have… I have avoided Highway 20 in even questionable conditions since.

It isn’t difficult to imagine the suspect, guilty until admitting or being proven guilty, saying he has changed. Or he will change. If that promise was broken before… it would make a difference.

This wasn’t an accident- only. It was preventable. The ‘run’ part makes it a crime. Vehicular homicide, manslaughter, this or that degree. A life was lost. It is probably impossible not to put a value on that life, Omar’s, and compare it to the perpetrator. Punishment, revenge, and redemption.

We judge, but we are not judges. Thankfully.

Throughout my thought process it has been impossible not to make some assessment of Omar. This is my opinion, based only on what others have said about him; on my observations of him in the water, trying to find some connection and flow with the waves, dealing with crowds and over-competitive surfers (including me); and from a limited number of conversations. He seemed very calm. He seemed to not have any of that frustrated anger or animosity some surfers have.

Again, I didn’t know him well, but I know Omar added value to the lineup. The surfing community, the chaotic mix of kooks and stylists, just-for-fun occasionalists and serious hardliners, was a few points better because Omar was a part of it. I have no doubt he added to the greater community as well. It is so important that the perpetrator know the damage he had done, the grief he has caused.

Yet, I cannot, and forgive me for this if you think it wrong or misguided, help but wonder how the Omar I imagine him to have been would judge the person who killed him and ran. I believe I would be a harsher judge.

The email address for the Prosecutors’ Office is wendy.ross@kingcounty.gov

To all who mourn and struggle and fear and hope…

When I get some information on where the arraignment will be held, and an address to send any thing relevant, I will update.

Omar’s Funeral and “Little Rod at Grandview,” from “Swamis”

This is a posting by Nam Siu. I got it as a text image from Reggie Smart. It speaks for itself. It speaks for many of us, even all of us who consider ourselves part of the diverse group of individuals who make up the Northwest surf community.

Thank you for representing. Peace.

Meanwhile: Because, in my attempt to shorten and tighten my manuscript, “Swamis,” I have to eliminate storylines that give more background, more exposition than plot, I have been aware for awhile that I would have to cut this story about Rodrigo and Sid and the narrator, Joey DeFreines. SIDE NOTE: I will probably have to change SID’S name. I did want to include some real people in the novel. Putting real people in fictional situations might be… dangerous. And I know very little about the Sid who was in a Surfboards Hawaii ad fifty-five years ago or so, hanging ten. I did know his last name. I no longer remember it. I am not skilled enough at researching to find him. AND, I put the character in situations the real Sid might not be stoked about. NO, he’s not a bad guy. SO, new name. I have a few in mind. For now, he’s still Sid.

So, still thinking.

The parking lot was about three-quarters full. The wind was just changing to onshore. It was relatively glassy. Kelp beds would dampen the chop. Another truism learned early in any surfer’s evolution, is that winds, rising to clear the bluff, kept a spot like Swamis from getting blown out just a bit longer. The sun was high enough that the entire lineup was free of the shadow of the bluff.

Though it would easily fit inside the station wagon, my new-to-me Surfboards Hawaii six-six was resting on the Falcon’s factory model roof racks; proof, perhaps, that I was no longer riding garage soul boards made using foam from stripped-down, reshaped long boards. If no one else noticed the change, it was important to me.

My towel, once white, with palm trees and a sun and some ridiculous allusion to surfing, was spread out on the hood of the Falcon. My windbreaker was hanging on the sideview mirror. I was wearing my almost-matching Hang Ten t-shirt and trunks. The one-third full quart of chocolate milk and the three PeeChee folders were spread out on top of the towel. I opened the top folder, took out a red notebook. I grabbed the chocolate milk container, closed the spout, shook it, opened it, and took a drink as I moved to the front bumper. I set the milk beside me and did a half-sit lean onto the hood. It was a pose. I was aware. Posturing. Not like Hodad posturing; but posturing.

            I thumbed through the pages. Notes and little sketches of cartoon teachers and classmates, cartoon waves, psychedelic lettering for various surf spots.

GRANDVIEW. That was enough. I visualized:

            The Hawaiian guy, probably my age, and I were the only ones on the south side of the almost channel. We were on the lefts. The rights were a bit bigger, a bit more lined up, better. He paddled over to me, sat closer than necessary.

“Right’s better… huh?”

“Yeah,” I said, “I was there before, at the peak, before… everyone else got here.”

“No,” he said, pointing to the empty space between houses. The vantage point. The access. “I saw it. Sid ran you out.”

“I thought Swamis was his spot.”

“All spots are his spots. He burned you, though. Saw it.”

“I guess all waves are Sid’s waves.’”

“Assholes always be assholes.” The Hawaiian Guy laughed. “I’m goofy; so lefts good with me.”

“Yeah.” I kept looking at the rights. Surfers, paddling back out, seemed to be looking at both of us, but mostly at me.

“You… you’re not so popular ‘round here. Huh?”

“Not popular. My father’s a Sheriff’s… detective. Kind of a… hardass.” The Hawaiian guy nodded. “Half-Japanese,” I said, before he could ask.

“Half-Portuguese,” he said. “Thereby, I’m… Hapa Hawaiian. But here, Mainland, people just take me as… Hawaiian.” I nodded. “Rodrigo. My name. My dad also surfs, so I’m called ‘Little Rod.’ I’m okay with it.”

“Joe DeFreines. My, um, friends call me… Joey.”

Little Rod looked over at the rights. There was a lull. Six or seven surfers were in a loose pack at peak. Sid was still the farthest surfer out. Apex. “What do those… people call you?” I didn’t answer. “Hey, Joey; follow me.”

Rodrigo paddled out and toward the main peak. With every stroke, he would point out toward the horizon. The peak pack started to notice. He yelled, “Outside!” He started paddling harder. There was a set coming, though not an outside set. Two surfers turned and paddled out. The others maintained their positions.

“Your wave, Joey!”

Little Rod blocked the one surfer who tried for it. I went. Bottom turn, two up and down moves, kicked out in the closeout section. The blocked surfer caught the second wave. I was paddling back toward the lefts, watching the peak as I went over the second wave. The third wave was the one. Bigger, peakier. Little Rod paddled hard. Sid was sitting toward the tail of his board, the nose up, parallel to the wave. He was ready to turn and take off on the shoulder, but, seeing Rodrigo’s furious paddling, knowing Rodrigo’s intent, Sid spun around, paddled, at an angle, even with, then beyond the peak.   

Two deep. Rather than backing off, Sid attempted a takeoff and failed. He went over the falls as Little Rod dropped in. He ripped it. Backside. Sid swam.

The surfer Rodrigo had blocked flashed him a peace sign as he paddled back out. Rodrigo returned it, moving his hand into a ‘hang loose’ gesture; the first time I had seen one.

Rodrigo joined me and two other surfers at the lefts. The three of them laughed. With Sid just getting to his board inshore, I did not. “Joey,” Rodrigo said, “I’m here with my uncle. Not my real uncle. Hawaii, lots of uncles and aunties. He’s shaping at Surfboards Hawaii. No one’s gonna fuck with me. And, Joey, you surf… not bad.”

“Not bad’s… good. For now. You rip it up, by the way.”

“I do.” Rodrigo laughed. “Things go on ‘round here, Joey. Got to ask… you a narc?”

I laughed. “No, Hot Rod. No one tells me shit.”

The four of us at the south peak watched as Sid paddled back out. His eyes were on the rights, but he did flip the bird with his left hand, twice, between strokes. “So, Joey; if I asked you if you know Jesus…?”

“Jesus?” I thought of the many churches I had attended: Vacation bible schools, revivals. “Jesus. Yeah, he’s either half-God or um, guess he’s hapi human.”

I laughed. We both laughed. “Hapa, Joey; hapa human.”

All excerpts or outtakes from “Swamis” and realsurfers.net original content are copyright protected. All rights are claimed by the author, Erwin A. Dence, Jr.

The Surf Community, and, admit it or not…

… like it or not, there is a worldwide community of people who understand that beyond the ‘that was fun’ level of casual wave riding, there is something more, something deeper. There are deeper levels, not merely in performance, but of connection to the energy of the ocean. It is not necessarily spiritual, but it is a respectful of the ocean, and appreciative of the gifts received. That surf community- in particular the northwest surfers who roam the coast and the Strait, and occasionally, the larger world- we, us… we have just lost another real surfer in a tragic, cowardly, criminal way.

Update- December 15- A suspect has been arrested. He has, according to the “Seattle Times,” admitted to driving a Ford pickup that, allegedly crashed into a fence and struck Omar.

This won’t bring closure. Nothing really does. It may not bring justice. It has been easy to believe that no one would be held to account. Though the circumstances under which the suspect was identified are still unknown, the news is somewhat gratifying. Still, the loss to family, loved ones, the surfing and greater community is incalculable.

Every rideable wave is a gift. We remember the best ones long after they are gone.

Omar will be remembered.

Information is still hard to come by, but what began as a missing persons report turned into a hit and run. Fatal. Hitting a pedestrian may or may not be an accident. Leaving the scene is not. Omar was near his home in some part of what to me is all, whether it’s Burien or Bellevue, one big and confusing city. Seattle/Tacomapolis. He was out for an afternoon walk. Bear in mind that four pm is pretty much twilight. Omar didn’t come home. Missing person.

Evidently Ian, formerly of Urban Surf, posted the missing person report on ‘media.’ According to the call I had with Adam, after I missed a call around six-thirty pm the next evening/night, Reggie saw the post and responded with, “Is this a joke?” Not a joke.

The posting was deleted. I was, not at all ironically, in traffic headed home from completing a small project in Tacoma (last exit before I-5, go straight until it dead ends, turn right, third building to the right), trying to hear Adam over the (still) rush hour traffic, all the other drivers hellbent to get somewhere and me just trying to not get into an exit only lane. And Adam was subdued. “So, man, it’s just like…” He was saying ‘man’ a lot. “So, Omar… yeah I know Omar. Just, just… what happened? Is he… it’s something bad, isn’t it?” “Well, man… Yeah.”

The call dropped with me on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. I pulled off at Port Orchard exit to get some gas. The light at the end of the offramp was green. I could have just gone. I was turning right. There was a woman walking across the road in front of me, two backpacks on, headphones, a cell phone in her hand. It isn’t like this was a town; it was another freeway exit with two gas stations, two fast food places. Again, that a car/pedestrian accident could have happened is in no way ironic; it is coincidental. I was thinking about Omar.

I heard about Omar, probably, before I met him, most certainly from Reggie. And I have seen Omar many times over the last several years. If surfers have varying levels of competitiveness in the water, if surfers break into tribes seemingly without provocation; whether forced by fickle waves or by choice, when hanging out in parking areas with other surfers, it is actually kind of hard to not be a little more than just polite or civil. Given enough time, we might just become, perhaps, decent to people who are looking for the same thrills and sensations you or I are. And, if that person is genuinely nice and obviously decent, it should be impossible to rationalize being a dickhead. Should be.

The last time I saw Omar was such a situation. He was parked next to me. I had surfed, but was not ready to leave. It could get better. It might. I pointed at Omar’s car. “No racks,” I said.

Omar pointed, then got out. There were several boards on the rocks in front of his car. “They fit inside,” he said, reaching back into his dedicated surf rig for a wetsuit. The waves might get better. They will go away.

I’m considering if I should include what Omar and I talked about for ten minutes or so. Since I am often accused of not having a filter, of not being able to not talk about what is on my mind at any given moment, I will. A little. White people. Yeah. Maybe it is because I had just received the DNA results back from the 23 and Me thing and I am not what I claim to be. None of us are. If you say something negative about Black People or Jewish people or Native Americans, I might just say that I’m part Black or Jewish or Native American; just to see how you respond.

Omar responded calmly and politely to my rant. If it seems to you that I brought up a subject obviously race-related out of white guilt or bring it up now as some sort of virtue signaling, no; it is what Omar and I discussed, and even if I choose to delete two paragraphs here, our discussion will remain in my memory. Again, I was ranting, Omar as someone wise enough to be calm.

Still, at this moment, half a day after the missing person was found, with questions unavoidably filling in the places where there are no facts, no reports, no answers; it all goes very scarily negative.

So I will remember that when I said that blue eyes are a mutation, and that people who trusted those with blue eyes did so at their peril, Omar looked at me. We both laughed. Omar asked, “You going back out?” “No. Maybe I’ll… watch. Rip it up!”

The loss of Omar is, after the recent loss of Gabe by drowning, another tough blow for the de facto northwest surf community. Prayers and best wishes, never even nearly enough, to Jasmine and the rest of Omar’s family. As far as justice… justice… now I’m thinking about justice.