Sharing Waves With (and Snaking) Dane Perlee (and his Friend)

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“No,” I said after this surfer I’d already realized was really good responded to my only slightly insincere apology/explanation for taking off in front of him, this after he had taken off in front of his friend, and both of us, in reality, were only going for that wave because we didn’t believe the farther-outside guy could make the section; “what I said was ‘I like people who are willing to share; because I’m really not.’ See?”
So, with only three of us out on the rights, he was right, I was wrong. His buddy hadn’t make the first section, but he did make it from where he took off (typically too far up the point) to where I took off (typically the perfect spot). Seeing he would make it across, and already committed, I turned and headed for the peeling shoulder.
It’s probably not a spoiler that the rider I inadvertently snaked was Dane Perlee. I didn’t know that until the after-surf beach recap. What I knew is I had picked up Archie, not yet twenty-four hours home from four months in Asia, and obviously exhausted, and we headed for our favorite spot on the Straits of Juan de Fuca. This was the peak of whatever Spring swell we’d be getting for the next week, and I was actually holding off from leaving earlier in the day to time the arrival with the dropping tide, and, hopefully, still be ahead of the predicted strong west wind.
Just before we rounded the final turns, I bet Archie that Tim Nolan, known to take off from Port Townsend at four am, would be there. “Okay,” Archie said, “we’ll bet a Costco hotdog.” “Oh,” I said, “then, for extra credit, I’ll bet Tugboat Bill is also there.”
By the time Archie agreed, ‘there’ was ‘here,’ and there were no parking spots on the water side of the parking area. Tim was there, Tugboat Bill was there; Clint, who owns his own boat repair place in Port Townsend, was there, and… well, we all check the same forecasts… way too many people were there for waves only slightly larger than the ones I’d surfed alone at the still-weak height of the previous week’s swell.
When someone pulled out to travel farther west, I backed in. There weren’t THAT many surfers in the water, and some of those who did hit the dawn patrol were actually done and loading up. AND the rights, as I hoped and predicted, were starting to work. Not big, just peeling.
BUT (wow, I’m using the all caps too much- still not even close to illustrating how frothed and excited I get when MY RIGHTS are working on the almost-all-lefts Straits- maybe I should add some !!!!!!s- Nope), suiting up outside the vehicle next to mine, two guys were eying the rights. Lustily.
“You’re not thinking about the rights?” The one guy just smiled, nodded, and pointed (to the rights). The other guy, grabbing a distinctively-shaped longboard, said, “We can share.”
So, it was on. Archie got out first, pulled into a couple of insiders, stylish parallel stance into the shorebreak.
Somewhere in the session I mentioned to the surfer later revealed to be Dane, “Hey, I saw you doing some of those Alex Knost bottom turns.” You know the ones; casual drop, stand/turn, arms to the side, body leaned impossibly toward the wave. “No,” he said, “those are my bottom turns; he got those from me.”

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Stylish bottom turns (compare and contrast) by Dane Perlee, Alex Knost, and Donovan Frankenwreiter. Stolen from Google.

After I had to bail, awkwardly, on another wave we both wanted, and he was (again) going to make, and I jumped on the next one; after I said, “Well, I’m just going to have to be the guy farthest outside,” and asked of Dane and his friend, “Which one?” as each set arrived, after I saw Dane hang five, then ten, his board dropping, and after he casually pulled it back into trim without leaving the nose, I asked, “You’ve surfed here before?”
He tweaked at some possible earplugs under his hood. “I’ve been surfing since I was nine.” “Seventy-nine?” I asked, “I moved here in seventy-nine.” “No, I was born in 1979, but I’ve been surfing since I (already capitalized) was nine.” “Oh. So, you obviously know what you’re doing. Where’d you learn to surf.” “Washington State.” “Oh, and where are you from? (I always ask this)” “Westport.” “Oh. Yeah. Sure. They have some well known surfers from there.” I was thinking Tom Decker, but I said, “Like Dane Perlee.”
“That’s my alter ego,” he said. “Which one do you want?” I asked, adding, loudly, looking at an incoming set, “Three.” Since I was the outside (there seems to be an issue between ‘inside’ as in closer to the peak, and ‘outside’ as in farther out) surfer, I took the second one instead.
By the time the waves, and Archie and I, gave up, the Westport surfers were gone. Tugboat Bill and his crew were gone. Tim was on a beach chair, strumming a ukulele next to a heavily sun-screened kid on guitar, next to a fire (yeah, I’d think cliché if I hadn’t broken out my harmonica and briefly joined in, getting talented surf guitarist Archie to borrow the kid’s guitar and whip out a few licks). Tim was with some other folks I don’t really know, obviously willing to wait for the waves to come up with the tide. Maybe they did. I had to get back to work (after a trip to Costco for a few things and one Polish dog, the other for reserve).
“That was Dane Perlee,” Tim said. “I didn’t realize it. He said his dad owns The Surf Shop in Westport. Al Perlee. Did you notice the board he was riding? He shaped that himself. Wide tail, very thin. He’s good. Did you see him on the nose? He kind of dropped then…”
“Wait! Dane Perlee?” That was me, but also Clint. Everyone, really. As excited as I was that I’d (at least in my mind) held my own against (really, ‘against’ is the right word to describe how I think- first compete with myself, then everyone else) someone of his ability, I was most anxious to talk to my daughter, Dru.
“A connection with Dane Perlee? Uh huh. Yeah, the connection is,” Dru told me, on the phone, called at work in Chicago as soon as I had consistent cell service, “back when you were in those surfing contests in Westport (late 80s, early 90s), we were the kids playing on the beach. Me, Sean (her brother), Ruth or Mollie, whoever came with us, Dane Perlee, his sister, Hana; we would play while our fathers surfed.”
“Oh, yeah; that’s what I thought.” “And then, in high school, I’d compete against them in the Knowledge Bowl. He was a year older; I think his sister was a year younger.”
What I remember is, when Dane was probably 13 or 14, seeing him, from the bluff at the Jetty, pulling off a perfect sideslip from the nose on a grinding four footer; probably one of the standout images in my Westport mindfiles.
“Well, he’s, like, a grownup now. I guess, probably… thirty-five.” “Yeah, dad; guess so.”
Later, between dropping Archie off and changing vehicles, I got a call from Adam “Wipeout” James, asking about the session he couldn’t wait for, having hit choppy windswell the afternoon before. “Dane Perlee? Yeah, I’ve surfed with him a few times. Westport. Talked to him…a lot.” Of course. Name-dropping Adam. “He shapes his own boards,” I said. “Yeah, Osprey Surfboards.” “Um, yeah; I heard that.”
Adam never asked me how I did. If I say I held my own, wave count-wise, against a world class surfer twenty-eight years younger than I am, I’d be leaving something out.
I was happy to have someone of that caliber at my favorite break, happier he was willing to share…
…again, because I’m really not all that fond of sharing.

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