Excuse Me, Sir… uh, um… maybe you’re ‘MIND SURFING.’ Sorry. It’ll Wait. It’s Just, you know, Work


“If I were free, beyond this cubicle, beyond these fences and stoplights and freeways, out where the ocean constantly, steadily, erodes and decays the man-made manifestations of pride and ego and power-games; if I had never bought into the ethic, the code, set up by the captors, gotten onboard the ‘debt-work-debt’ escalator; if I could even see beyond the next meal; maybe some bonus thrown my way in hopes I might show some teeth, some gratitude (though many would settle for dodging a turd); if the nights weren’t spent mostly anticipating the days; if I were free…

“…I’d be dropping in behind the peak, skittering, falling, setting my fins, powering… I’d be catching a glimpse of a waterfall rainbow… watching the field of diamonds bend and curve, see the sun through a thin, reaching, slapping hand of a wave as I break free. Free. If I were free, beyond this cubicle…”

My daughter, Drucilla Dence, walked to the Lincoln Park Zoo the other day, from her apartment (walking distance to work in the Hancock Tower). She said the trip was notable because nothing happened, no scary encounters with crazies, no near-misses in the crosswalks, and the day was lovely. She sent me some photos and said I had to respond. Okay. Thanks, Dru (and, no, I’ll not add this to the piece where you compared me to your cat, Mister Pugsley). Love, Dad.

And, look; maybe a lot of us would rather be somewhere else than working; I break free every once in a while. Tomorrow, maybe. Meanwhile…

High-Lining Again

I just kind of stared at the title for a bit too long. It could say more, or, maybe it says enough.

You have to love the waves you don’t think you’ll make, ones on which you’d like just a little more speed out of your board. You’re trimming high on the wall, focused only on the wave ahead and below you, and it’s only getting hollower; and you know that section ahead, that last pitch before you can glide; it breaks, explodes, really, on river rocks, round, smooth; no oversized chunkers; cobblestones; and you’ve already been caught in that shallow trap, board dropping out and down as the lip hit you; you’ve already pirouetted and half-twisted and leaped toward the open ocean, and been thrashed, bounced off that reef, your board going over you in inches of water.

And you made some. Easy. Too easy; you must have been too far out in front.

Blacks photo by Matt Aden

Blacks photo by Matt Aden

“Again” is really all you’re thinking; “This time…” Maybe you’ll crouch, hand in the wave face, tight, ready.

This time you might make be in that perfect spot. More speed. You take off at an angle, too far over, probably, project out of a down the line bottom turn, and find that high line again. Speed; you need more. You see the ribs of the wave ahead, the already-pitching lip. More speed. You don’t tuck in; but you move your weight forward, subtly pumping, just tweaking the angle. If you weren’t holding your breath, you are now. No, you’re ready to scream, success or failure; this is where you always wanted to be; that high line between… between frightening and thrilling.

The board skitters, no way it would hold in the thin lip; it side slips down the curve, you in the curtain, trying to stay on, your back hand pushed farther behind you, focus still on the deep water ahead, and…

…and now you’re laughing, and not thinking of anything else but… “Again!”

This piece was inspired by my last session, able, by luck and tide, to find and surf some rights, rare in the Straits of Juan de Fuca; no, not the pitching sand-spitters featured a few posts down, but something in preparation, maybe, for those. I’m dying to surf those, maybe not quite ready. I’m more ready now.  I was fortunate enough to work up the hill from Trestles for ten months in 1975, and, remember well telling my friend Phillip Harper, on the phone (he was in medical school at the time) that I would get going so fast down the line that I’d pull up to the top of the wave and my board (and I) would freefall, catch, and the process would be repeated. However, forty years later, I should admit that I pulled a few tight waves standing, but, probably the ride I’ll remember longest, the ride the longest and the tightest, I was on my kneeboarding it after a very steep takeoff, and, eyes wide open, I was totally covered in that moment of weightlessness.

Okay, now I’m sort of staring into some file in my memory bank, hitting the ‘save’ button, and hoping you know exactly what I’m talking about. “Next time…”

Adam Wipeout’s realsurfers’ Guide to Being Real, Number 3

realsurfersAdamWipeoutdoubleOTF 001

This is the drawing for the post two down from here; but, rather than transfer the copy from there (mostly because I couldn’t seem to get it done), I should probably just update. I did hit the hot waves on the cold Straits last Thursday. The session that  started out… wait, I already wrote about that. I could mention the “Locals Only” session in Port Townsend earlier this week; two hours of rare wraparound waves with heavy nearly-offshore winds and a horizontal downpour . I was actually working nearby, headed over, watched the two hour session happen from the comfort of my work rig.

I probably should come up with the top ten excuses for not going out when there are actually waves. My ear was plugged up from the previous session, not thinking I needed earplugs because it was small (initially), and suffice it to say, I do feel the guilt. Maybe my best excuse is that I’m not a local, and didn’t want to impose.

No, that won’t be on my list; I’ve only done it once. merely crowded is not the same thing. Oh, and, for the sin of ever mentioning there are ever, EVER any waves in Port Townsend; no one could really predict or forecast the event, or take the chance to drive any distance on the chance it might happen.

As for today’s surf… owwwwww!

Coming up soon: “Are all surfers SOCIOPATHS; or is it just me?”

Swell- Size, Angle, Period + Weather- Wind, Tide, Clouds + Crowd- Forecast, Expectations, Ability Level = Skunk or Score


THE surf forecast for last week on the Straits of Juan de Fuca looked as good as it has in a while. Still, all the elements that go from a breeze miles away to rollicking rollers doesn’t always come together. Maybe, especially, around here. Waves are fickle, perfect-seeming buoy readings can produce… nothing, almost nothing, or, most frustrating, waves tantalizingly close to rideable.

AND then there’s the other crucial element, LIFE; which, for most of us, means WORK takes precedence over something as self-centered as SURFING, the riding and/or attempting to ride a few waves. And then there’s the difference between what we hope for, wave-wise, session-wise, performance-wise; always seeking great rides on great waves, and what we get. Often, most often, less; or nothing. SKUNKED. Still, last week there were some waves for the persistent, the lucky, and, and, yeah, some of the better-known spots got crowded; not Trestles or Rincon or Swamis crowded; but weekday-northwest crowded.

STILL, and again, and always, if I’m praying for surf; and I’ve been known to, I first want waves, then good waves, then great waves. I’m tempted to say dealing with the fear of, or, really, the fear of the potential for the crowd factor comes in later in the SCHEMING/PREPARING/HEADING OUT process, but, not really knowing whether forecasts and (even) buoy reports will translate into pumping surf, but high on anticipation, getting into an unwanted caravan with two other vehicles with boards on them on the dry side of Port Angeles tends to make me feel the jockeying for position has already started. And it’s not even the weekend! And I worked my ass off to get a day off! And, who the hell are these other surfers, anyway?

BUT, I did get lucky. However, I surfed waves that started out barely rideable, most of the crowd watching the one guy in the water. Surfers chatted on the beach, took naps, left to check other spots. Some went home. Four hours later, many more surfers in the water and the waves better.  I was surfed out. Sated, satisfied, even glowing from more than the sun. I have a couple more stories from my day, surfing with God (not ‘a’ god), and “MoonBoy,” but they’ll have to wait. The photos are from places, evidently, all named ‘Secrets,’ and, really, I think the right hand break is in Canada. Must be.  And so, we check the forecasts, check our schedules. If I could go today, I’d bet on the coast. Yeah; If… when… checking the forecast, thinking about my schedule… SCHEMING.

I’m afraid to give credit to the photographers or name the spots from the photos. It’s Clint on the wave with the rocks, though, when I guessed the spot, I got it wrong. I still think the other photos are from Canada. A right on the Straits is a very rare wave. BUT, YEAH, I do want to ride it.

Adam Wipeout’s Realsurfer Guide- Number 3; The ‘Roll-up-the-window’ and the ‘Double Over-the-falls’

realsurfersOvrtheFlls I actually started doing a drawing/cartoon/illustration for this, but have a time crunch trying to get a major-sized job completed so I can (hopefully) have a day off during the week to hit what looks like the run of swell we’ve been waiting for. Sound familiar? The scheming, hoping, dreaming, mind-surfing, knowing you’re missing good (possibly… no, probably) waves with the promise (often imagined, often broken) of catching better waves?

Anyway, Adam Wipeout is a real person, totally stoked, more of a name-dropper, and definitely more of a name-rememberer than I am; but, since his nickname seems to be sticking, and because I actually got the ‘roll-up-the-window’ simile from him, he seems like the perfect spokesperson for realsurfer hints and tricks and techniques. Try any and all at home.

NUMBER ONE- might be that it’s all right to pee in your wetsuit or trunks, and might actually provide some temporary warmth, provided you’re at least genital-high in the water. It would be kind of embarrassing to be leaking yellow from the leg of a dry wetsuit (though the process of suiting-up with pumping waves visible can create an urgent need to go- at least it does for me). Washing of the wetsuit later is up to your own personal hygiene standards and practices. But, good idea.

NUMBER TWO-  Never do a number two in the water. Okay, maybe, not confessing here, and, besides, statute of limitations, I may have done it once; way back, in an emergency, pulling down the trunks, underwater, and I was the only one out at, let’s say, the Oceanside South Jetty just before dawn, but, since it was a floater and not a sinker… lesson learned, lesson passed on.

NUMBER THREE- The technique is this: It’s a head-high wave, and, because you’re not sure you’ve actually caught it, you jump up, just like you’ve practiced, just like you do several times a day at your work, for more practice. It turns out you didn’t quite catch it, and you’re almost standing, maybe too much weight on the front foot, and you’re dropping in too late and too out of control. You stick both arms out perpendicular to your body, if your body was actually standing straight up, and you rotate those arms, just as if you were rolling up (or down) the windows in your car. I guess this would assume your car was, maybe a tiny smart car without automatic windows. Anyway, that’s the image. Arm rotators. Or, picture you’re at Waikiki in 1914 But, this attempt at rebalancing doesn’t work, and, as the wave drops out underneath you, the lip crashes into you as if you were (like, on purpose) performing a full body head-dip, and you go over the falls.

This is the first one, the single. Then, because the wave is so powerful, you’re sucked up from the trough and… no amount of arm-rolling can save you now, you go up and over the falls the second time, your board… you have no idea where your board is, you just hope it doesn’t hit you. You (and I really mean Adam) don’t need another thigh bruise like the time you tried the SUP, caught the outside (beach side) rail. Ouch! Still better than catching the outside rail, having the board come up, sideways, between your legs, as you do the single over the falls in the shorebreak. Happened to me. Once. Tamarack. Only once, though the-board-to-the-nose when I tried to push out through a wave and lost my grip on the rails… a couple of times. Tamarack, K-54. Oh, and now I’m remembering several instances of the dick-n-balls board slam/slap. Tamarack, Swamis, Pipes, etc.. This is less likely in a wetsuit than in loose board shorts, but usually means you didn’t get the nose-knock but did catch some air on the way out, then… ‘ouch, me hardies!’ (this is a response to this type of injury used by my son, James)

But, we learn. A hint from me, though I don’t remember ever having performed the double over the falls, and I’m way too cool to do the window-rolling thing, more likely to do the dismount/bail with accompanying yelp/scream: When you’re helpless, being thrashed by the wave, and you’re not sure where your board is, and you’re assuming the fetal position, both hands over your head… well, good luck. I have to go.

Thanks Adam. Get working on Number 4; how to look like a surfer and where to find the perfect apres’ surf hangout spot that isn’t actually a parking area or Goodwill, the real surfer’s clothing supplier.


Some believe one shouldn't try to depict any deity (not arguing this here) in any medium. I drew two different illustrations to commemorate Easter, actually put on on the site. For about ten minutes. This is an acrylic I did several years ago on canvas board, a bit warped from leaning on the piano. I had to weigh down the top of the scanner to make it work. I'd regret the wasted time I spent on drawings I won't use, but, really, what I'd prefer, is more time to waste similarly.

Some believe one shouldn’t try to depict any deity (not arguing this here) in any medium. I drew two different illustrations to commemorate Easter, actually put on on the site. For about ten minutes. This is an acrylic I did several years ago on canvas board, a bit warped from leaning on the piano. I had to weigh down the top of the scanner to make it work. It’s not really out of focus; it was painted that way.  I’d regret the wasted time I spent on drawings I won’t use, but, really, what I’d prefer, is more time to waste similarly.

There have been a couple of thousand Easters, and an unknown (to us) number of dawns, the daily reminder that we have another opportunity to struggle, to succeed, to fail; another chance to correct some of our blunders, to move beyond our failures, to push toward, toward…

…we have hours and days to worry about what we’re struggling against, about what we’re striving for. What we might do, for a moment, is consider love and compassion and grace and peace and redemption; realizing we need more than we possess or can attain.

May you occasionally stop to appreciate the journey, wherever your beliefs and your search to validate them takes you. Seriously. What I most firmly believe is that, wherever this adventure takes us, life is a solo trip for each of us. We share a few seconds or days or years; we find  a bit (or, hopefully, a lot) of what we’re searching for; and we keep going.  Stop, think about the gift of those moments; moments of love, of peace, of mystery and magic, maybe a few moments on a wave you’re not sure you’re going to make. And, incidentally, thanks for sharing this moment.

Mister (never abbreviated to Mr.) Pugsley is not a Real Surfer


My daughter Drucilla’s cat, Mister Pugsley, in on the right. That’d be my right. I’d be the cat in the photo on the right. No, Dru, I don’t see any similarities… maybe the serious expressions. But, wait; Mister Pugsley looks just a bit, um… no, I think he’s just a serious cat.  Imagine Mister Pugsley, with an intent and serious expression, paddling like crazy for a wave that you also would like to ride. You may decide to give way.  All right, I’m going to stop looking; it’s just too intimidating.

My Daughter Drucilla and Chicago Fashion (possibly available for beach attire)


Dru sent us this. It’s posterized, Warhol-esq. The idea, mainly, was to show what she had described to me while on her walk to work in Downtown Chicago. I’m not sure it’s appropriate work attire at the advertising agency where she’s part of the new acquisitions team. It probably is appropriate garb for navigating the mean streets where, as a matter of self-protection, one must have a tough, no-nonsense, ‘leave me the f alone’ demeanor; the fallback being, in the most dire emergency (and she got this advice from me when she was in college) to ‘just act like a crack whore; everyone will leave you alone.’

I decided this would work after, walking to a local liquor store (maybe it’d be called a bodega there? maybe just on TV) when I was there to help Dru move off the campus at Loyola), I observed this woman shaking and messed up, and observed the tough looking locals were keeping a distance. I will allow that maybe the ‘crack’ and the ‘whore’ may be wrong; she was, at least, crazy. I can do an impression if asked; though, when walking dark city streets at night, I prefer to try to look big and tough, and, if possible, walk in the street rather than on the sidewalks. Safer.

To my knowledge, Dru hasn’t had to use the ‘possibly very nice woman though obviously and seriously messed up or crazy’ ploy.

Then again, when wearing a fashion statement (as with the Ballin’ hat she’s been known to wear when it’s cold), sometimes fashion gets one stopped by street toughs for a question like, “Hey, Girl; so, yo, say; like, where can I get me one of them?” It could be “one of those,” or “one of them there?” How do I know? I live in the country; and I probably shouldn’t have added the ‘like’ to the imagined street lingo.

Well, the answer is: The graphic shirt was designed by the Fat Jew and Pizza Slime (these aren’t my nicknames, they’re, evidently, official), and was delivered in a pizza box that, and Dru claims may have just been her imagination, sort of smelled like pizza.


Okay, here’s Dru’s other “Fat Jew” shirt, a tank top, the photo taken with the camera on the phone Dru dropped on the floor at the Hodgson’s while home in the northwest last Christmas. Or maybe it was taken with a shaky hand at a Chicago nightspot.


And, finally… finally because I can’t think of a way in which any of this could be surf-related, here’s my daughter and her cat, Mister Pugsley (who has his own Facebook page). I don’t buy into the idea that he looks anything like me. Yes, I have the mustache, the intense look, but, mostly, I do manage to keep my tongue in my mouth.

Wait, on editing… not sure my daughter has her tongue in her mouth.  Okay, good; Dru, use that as part of the fallback crazy act if, and we can only hope it isn’t, necessary, in the midwest’s surf capital, Chicago.