“All good surf trips begin or end in the dark,” I told my friend Archie Endo as we each tried to feed frayed straps of the soft racks through the buckles in the rapidly-spreading darkness. “I agree,” he said, moving to the middle (regular, Home Depot type) strap (stops that bounce when big rigs pass). I slammed the back door on the extra lengths of the back two straps, and added, “Preferably both.”
It was well past 10pm, and the waves were, at last, almost totally glassy, the wind gone from howl to whisper, the blacker, broken-wave-front of a rain storm still to our west. We had scored. 8:10 to 9:50.
Still, several hours earlier, it seemed more likely we were going to suffer another Straits of Juan de Fuca skunking. No, I wasn’t going to be skunked. I’ll surf ankle-snappers, exposed-rock peelers, even wind-blown peakers- and I have.
Keith Darrock had been right. As he had predicted early in the morning, the afternoon westerlys had pretty much blown out everything on the Straits, and he and Rico had scored glassy peelers at the sheltered semi-secret spot. If the Straits are a place to smooth out disorganized ocean waves, there have to be some sheltered coves where crazy windswell…
“Yeah, yeah. Uh huh, lined-up; barreling. Oh, and even Rico got some good rides. No, we haven’t given up. Not yet.” Keith, of course, had called me AFTER Archie and I decided against our favorite spot (and not just our favorite spot), had back-tracked ten miles, only to rule out the backup spot. We had also failed to gain access to (even to check) a wind-sheltering, secluded cove.
Sure, it’s their right to deny access. This isn’t California, or Hawaii, or even Oregon. “You can own beach in Washington. It just takes money. I had used Archie’s new smart phone to call the number on the sign that denied us access. The woman was polite. A person could rent a cabin, but they’re booked up. “Yeah, okay; but, um, how does the surf look?” “Oh, it’s rolling in.” “Rolling?” “Yes.” “But you’re booked?” “Yes.”
I was pissed, irritated, steaming like a Bolshevik, like an uninvited socialist, from the denial of access, and well aware of the wind’s refusal to abate, and well aware of the odds against finding anything close to perfect waves (ever), when I repeated to Keith, from our conversation earlier in the day, “Maybe we’ll (still) all get lucky.”
Heading back west, I told Archie that, because we had been discussing music and the possibility of him backing me up to at least record several of my songs (Archie and the V2s is all Archie, talented on guitar, bass, keyboards, and drums- I would just play harmonica and sing, and, anyway, I know a guy who might be able to slightly fix the results, once recorded), we’d forgotten to do ‘the sign of the cross,’ my favorite thing about being a convert to Catholicism (Trish gets the credit or blame), to which I add (on surfing trips mostly) a sort of ‘gang sign’ flourish at the end. Like a hoot-out, like, “Yea, God!”
Archie isn’t Catholic (or practicing Buddist), but he is intrigued with things religious and/or mystical; so he will join in; usually with a chuckle. And, if it helps… well, that’s just pragmatism (different religion- maybe).
To back up a bit, again, the reason I was able to gamble on the chance for an afternoon session was because Trish had given my spot at an evening cultural event (a Mozart Mass performed by world class presenters) to her friend Diane. So, once I said I could pick up ‘the heavy stuff’ at Costco, and check out a possible painting project in Sequim; I was in. Archie was up for it and… Port Townsend? No, that option was over (tide shifts, subtle swell fluctuations) before Keith had called.
Another Backtrack: Adam “Wipeout” James had also committed to surfing this afternoon. He met up with Nathan Jones of Pirated Surfboards Company in Sequim to pick up a board shaped for him. Adam, Nate, and a guy from Seattle (Ian, I think) had been the only ones out when we arrived at First Choice the first time. Adam got out of the rip-and-wind-torn lefts to show me the Nate version of a classic Simmons twin fin.
Now, hours later, the wind still blowing but the faces considerably smoother, Nate and Adam got out as Archie and I suited up. “If you catch more waves per hour,” I said, “you wouldn’t have to stay out so long. I was saving that up for you.” “Good one. You guys are really going to score. It’s finally…” “Yeah, look, Archie already caught two.” “Yeah.”
The session was a workout. The push was all west to east. Amazingly strong. While there was an audience, especially, maybe Adam, I wanted to do… better. Yes, I always want to do better. Bet-ter.
And then they left, and another guy, headed to Neah Bay to do some filming, parked, watched, and eventually came out, mostly, he said, because Archie and I seemed to be having so much fun. We outlasted him- ever glassier, cleaner, better, darker.
On the way home, the rare full moon on a Friday the 13th (next one, Trish says, is in 2049) was rising over the trees and the Olympics. “Here’s a pagan deal,” I told Archie, prying my wallet out of my back pocket, opening it, waiting until the moon was fully in view; “Fill ‘er up, fill ‘er up, fill ‘er up. Thank you.”
I don’t know if Archie tried it. I called Trish as we drove through Joyce. The concert had been “wonderful, great, Diane thought it was just sooo beautiful.” “Great. The moon?” “It’s not showing. Raining.” I repeated the pagan ritual, for her.
The next day, when Keith texted he was hoping for a repeat, I told him we had all gotten lucky. When Adam texted that Archie and I had been like the old bull who said “let’s wait and catch them all,” I had to call him back. “It’s not ‘catch’ them all.” “I know. Man, Archie was killing it.” “Yeah. He always does. What about me?” “Yeah, um, well; you know… sure.”
Prayer, voodoo, pagan rituals… whatever; sometimes we just get lucky.
And sometimes we all get lucky.