Fitting the (Real Surfer) Profile


Tugboat Bill** already had one hand on my shoulder when he moved his other hand around to my stomach, not-quite-patting it, I’d say, twice; all in the service of making his point. I had exited the water down the beach (maybe it should be up the beach because it was closer to the left-breaking reef) from my Toyota wagon precisely because I had seen Bill from the water, and, frankly, because I wanted to brag to someone about my performance.

“I thought it was you,” he said; but I didn’t see your…(looks around) did you get a new surf rig?” I pointed down the parking area. “And then, on one wave, you turned and… are you familiar with the old ‘Alfred Hitchcock’ show?”

I was, more than enough to realize exactly what he meant. The Profile. Not having shrugged-off his placing of a hand on my shoulder, I’m sure I pulled away, attempted to laugh as I attempted to suck in my stomach; neither action with much success.

Any anger (or hurt, really) I felt was mitigated by the knowledge that the comment was not meant as truly hurtful, and, yes, that the comment was true.

Still, I was thinking more about how well I thought I was doing on the waves to concentrate on how chubby (can I say ‘husky’) I might have looked on the waves, making those subtle moves, weighting and un-weighting. And, perhaps realizing I was offended, Tugboat Bill mentioned to Cash and Tanya***, for whom he’d been saving an empty front row spot when some other surfer moved out; that I’d once saved his very life; sharing my hot water (fill up one of those green plastic Costco kitty litter containers, about a gallon and a half, at home, place it by the car’s heater, crank it up on the way, hope the water’s still warm when the surf session’s over), pouring some into the chest zipper of his wetsuit on a particularly cold winter day on the Straits of Juan de Fuca.****

“If we’re ever both going for the same wave… I’ll let you go.” “Really? I’ll hold you to that.” “Fine.”*****

And, when I told Tanya there had only been one other surfer out when I got in the water, and now there was a crowd ( twelve), and (still glowing from my session), I just couldn’t help adding something like, “Uh, hey, did you see any of my rides?” “Yes,” she said, “we saw you polishing up the waves for us.”

“Um. Yeah; totally.”


BUT THEN (different but related-in-theme story)… Robert, the homeowner whose house I was painting, the customer, leaned into my van as I put on my working shoes. “So, the surfing… you, um, stand up and everything?” “What? Yes. Why?” “Well; you just don’t, um, I wouldn’t think you’re a… surfer. You don’t look like…”

“A surfer? No. And I never did. But… I am. Really. No, really.”

I stood up, possibly a little too close, studying his eyes, just looking to see if he was serious. “I, um, might have thought; maybe,” he said, “maybe more like a… a biker.”

“What? Wait; I know what you’re really saying, Robert. I had a friend who bought a Harley, gained about fifty pounds just so he could look the part.” “No, I didn’t mean…” “No, it’s fine. So, you thought I was the kind of guy who runs around in black leather?” “No. Maybe. I wasn’t trying to… offend.”

“Well; no; I don’t run around in tight black leather.” I had to laugh at this point. “I’m more of a, well, black neoprene guy.”

Robert was a bit reluctant to laugh along for a moment, undoubtedly still picturing me as an easily perturbed biker, possibly with violent tendencies (hey, not judging). So I struck a few surfer poses, including the classic Hawaiian arch. Oh, yeah; there’s a profile I fit. “Robert; please stand back.”

*I stole this title from myself, used “Funny, you don’t write like a Looker” on a piece for my blog, “Stuff That Goes On” at I also don’t look like a writer, but insist I am.

**He’s called Tugboat Bill because he works on tugboats, typically hauling barges from the inland ocean reaches of Puget Sound to… well, I don’t really know; maybe Alaska. He also builds and sells picnic tables, seems to have on in the back of his truck most of the times I’ve seen him. He gave me a business card, but… Okay I’ll look for it.

***Cash and Tanya are a surfing power couple from the Port Angeles area; in that they both surf. Usually I use the ‘power couple’ title in a sarcastic way; but they’re legit. And nice. If I didn’t mention how impressed I was during the “Tim Nolan and the Wave of the Day” session by Tanya paddling back out against the rip and the tide while I mostly did the ‘run-back,’ I’m mentioning it now.

****The coldest Straits water temperature listings I’ve seen is 43 degrees. I went anyway.  Factor in that most of the surf spots are near rivers coming off the snow-covered Olympics, and the air temperature in the thirties, the rocks on the beach sometimes stuck together with ice; and you get an idea why even temperate water seems warm.

*****I don’t know if this is a ‘one time’ thing, or any wave I want, forever. Eventually, I’ll find out. I’m saving it for when I really really need that one set wave.


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