There were waves this week on the Straits. Not as good as it can get; but, as my friend Archie texted me after a Monday session, ‘surfable.’ On Thursday, with the buoys showing an adequate swell if at the proper angle (and it was at an angle usually almost guaranteeing- there’s no real guarantee on the Straits- just better odds), Keith called me en route, over the rocks, to a spot that sometimes provides a critical drop, and, some of the sometimes, a long wall, all when the wind is pushing those properly-angled ground swells into frothy unsurfableness.
Keith was on his lunch hour and was supposed to call me if he was successful. Last I heard was, “Uh huh; there’s a wave. Uh huh.” “Hey, call me back and tell me what…” “Yeah; gotta go.”
I’ve had several phone conversations on the subject of going. “Can’t. Can’t. Gotta work. Next time I’ll… Next Monday… um… we’ll see.”
One of my favorite winter surf runs- in the northern part of the northwest, that season would be between Labor Day and Memorial Day, is the late afternoon speed run, arriving an hour before sunset. This close to the winter solstice, that means being in the water by 3:30. Sometimes there’s a glassoff, or a shift in wind direction. An off-season (flip the above holidays) variation is the Sunday afternoon run to the coast. With it staying light until after ten close to that solstice, one could be headed out while most of the other surfers are headed back to the city.
It’s a conceit of mine that, since I’m self-employed, I can go surfing when it’s breaking; middle of the day; middle of the week; avoiding the weekend and the, yeah, you were ready for this, the weekend warriors.
This isn’t my only conceit, of course; just one that trips me up when the peak of a winter’s worth of swells falls on Sunday; when I just have to have to work, and, headed east in the morning, I pass multiple surf rigs headed northwest. On my way home, sometimes I pass the same vehicles, the driver no doubt blinking, passengers napping, each with a smile.
A joke I heard on a Saturday when the only ones on a project were the drywall contractor and me, the painting contractor. Though he has a crew, this was a small job that had to get done. “So,” he said, “if you’re self-employed, you only have to work half a day.” I waited patiently for the punch line. “And you can choose which twelve hours you work.”
These days, and for a while, we count ourselves lucky to have work. And if we do… have to work.
I won’t whine about the times I’ve worked close to waves I’d have rather have been riding. No, I will. There was one afternoon, years ago, painting a house just above Stone Steps. It was perfect. So glassy. Surfers just off work were filling in the lineup. I was painting. It was after my regular job; a side job; and it had to be done.
I’ve had discussions with Archie about how, mid-week, mid-winter, we know (at least recognize) most of the surfers at the several spots we prefer. Yet, each time the forecasts and the actual conditions give surfers a reasonable hope for something ‘surfable’, there are a few new faces in the parking areas. Hopeful expressions on people who called in sick, took a day, took a chance.
And, Archie (who worked long hours, every day, for months in Alaska) reported, in a cell phone discussion on how he wasn’t really interested in going with me on the only version of a trip I could make, a pre-dawn start and a quick return; on Tuesday, with very small waves he was going to pass on, four people went out.
I, no doubt, would have joined them. Let me extend my most sincere wishes that everyone can find a few waves to put that subtle smile on our faces. Warriors, whenever we can make it.