Why Surfers Quit, Why I Won’t, and Why Ray Hicks (and others) Can’t

It’s not that I haven’t felt (perhaps properly and rightly) old while surfing, it’s just that I haven’t felt that way lately.

Just started and I have to clarify. I may not feel my age (not quite 64) ‘while surfing,’ but aches and pains (nothing serious) and fatigue (of the very best kind) generally follow a session. Then again, my average time in the water is now somewhere over two hours, and I don’t bob and wait, meditate and chat (maybe a little chatting, just to seem friendly, between sets); I shark the lineup, with the goal of surfing until I can barely drag my board back up the beach.

This is usually my goal; to surf (as long as the waves are good), as long as I can, to surf to the best of my ability, and to possibly, maybe, improve my surfing a bit. Oh, and to have fun.

This is so different than sessions when I was younger; an hour or less at Oceanside Pier or the south jetty before work; forty-five minutes (on my half hour lunch break) in the water at Lower Trestles when I worked up the hill painting Marine Corps housing; hitting Swamis between classes at Palomar and work at Buddy’s Sign Service; even a couple of runs over the hill to Sunset Cliffs with Raphael Reda when we were working on submarines at Point Loma. Yeah, it’s a bit of name-dropping, even bragging. Those were all years ago.

The one time I do remember surfing three hours straight was at a little reef at Sunset Cliffs (just north of Luscombs) with Stephen Penn. I was twenty years old, surfed all the time, and I was totally exhausted.

SO, in my last surf session, earlier this week, after wasting too much energy punching through and trying to find a shoulder, kicking-out or straightening out on closeouts (wouldn’t say I sucked, considering), I drove elsewhere (in my wetsuit) took another hike to a grinding rivermouth/pointbreak. The only other surfer out was pulling in early, sliding down the line. I couldn’t get in early enough on my smaller (smaller than his, way smaller than the one I usually ride) board, couldn’t really handle the drop/turn, though I did get a nice but quick view of several tubes. Basically I sucked, took a thrashing, and couldn’t help but think, feeling every rock on the walk back through my booties, “Maybe I am too old for real waves.”

NOPE. By the time I reached my car, the negativity had changed to, “Next time I’ll go here first. I’ll have the right mindset. Maybe I’ll finish glassing that fish I cut down from my old nine-four. It’ll paddle better. Next time…” Scheming, planning, getting my mind ready to up the rhythm, up my game, drop the casualness, take off on an angle and streak.

I did a selfie, planning of calling it

I did a selfie, planning of calling it “Portrait of a Nineteen Year Old Surfer forty-five years later,” but, one, was horrified when I saw it, and, two, well, refer back to one.

HERE’S how most surfing careers end: You don’t go for a while, and there are a million reasons not to go, only a couple to go (“I WANT TO” and “I HAVE TO”); and when you do go, your surfing is not up to where you think it should be. So, you’re less eager to go next time. So you don’t. Hey, work is important. For most of us, work is necessary. Still evil, mostly. I wish it wasn’t, necessary, but my career was my main excuse for years.

NOW, I’ve already given credit for my old friend Ray Hicks for getting me motivated to get back into surfing, something I hadn’t thought I’d given up, just hadn’t gone in a while; until he and I went surfing and I truly, totally, in-arguably sucked. Not so bad if Ray hadn’t just glided into waves, turned and wailed. BUT, if that competition, based somewhat, I have to admit, on my thinking, “I was always better than Ray, and now….(both self-assessments)”  was an impetus to get back into more regular surfing over ten years ago now, my new motto rather quickly became, “If not now, when?”

The main impediment to my surfing more has become the unwillingness of waves to come down the Straits of Juan de Fuca and my unwillingness to drive to the coast; meaning, when the forecast starts looking good, I start the frothing/ scheming/planning/imaging process. If it looks like it might be good for three days, I HOPE to go twice. At least once. “I have to go, want to go, really need to go.” If I haven’t gone for a while, my wife, Trish, to whom surfing has always been the other woman, will ask, “When are the waves coming? You HAVE to go.”

RAY HICKS has not been surfing nearly enough lately. Yeah, he’s been busy; yeah, yeah, San Diego’s North County waves are crowded or crappy, or both; yeah, yeah, yeah…no. Ray HAS to go. I’m totally kicking his butt; on wave count if not on style points; and one of these days, I will go down south.  Ray and his wife, Carol, are going to Hawaii in June, so he says maybe he better get to surfing. Practicing. UM… YEAH. And I want some Hawaii action photos, if possible.

TIM NOLAN, of “Tim Nolan and the Wave of the Day” fame (google it), is a few years older than I am. He needs to keep surfing. Like, forever; as does the guy with the white beard whose name Adam Wipeout actually knows, and who, Adam claims ‘has Hobuck on lockdown’ (or some similar phrase,though I’ve never seen the guy really standout at the northwest version of Waikiki or San Onofre). I need surfers around who are older than I am, just to remind me I can keep going. I’ve got at least four years or so after Tim quits, and he shows no signs of quitting.

I KNOW I’LL NEVER BE AS GOOD AS I WAS WHEN I WAS NINETEEN. If you’re nineteen and cocky, and want to remember yourself as a great surfer, QUIT NOW! Really. Otherwise…

Go-Pro-ing (mostly) real surfers

These aren’t the first photos I took with the GoPro my daughter Dru bought from her friend, DJ Trentino, and gave to me; then providing extra stuff I will probably need, including a way to make the thing waterproof. Not trying that yet. Thanks, Dru. Since the site is real surfers, I figure I should have a few shots of other surfers.

Port Townsend surfers Bob Simmons (no relation to That Bob Simmons) and Michael McCurdy (no relation to those PT McClearys) out on the farther Straits. See any waves? Me either.

Port Townsend surfers Bob Simmons (no relation to THAT Bob Simmons) and Michael McCurdy (no relation to those PT McCurdys) out on the farther Straits. See any waves? Me either. We all headed elsewhere.

Josey Paul at the same beach. Still no waves. He walks his dogs here daily, but couldn't give me a report on recent wave activity.  He said the area was once bigger than Port Angeles, center for logging, clay mining, bars, prostitutes, you know. None of them probably noticed the surf either.

Josey Paul, one of the true locals at the same beach. Still no waves. He walks his dogs here daily, but couldn’t give me a report on recent wave activity. He said the area was once bigger than Port Angeles, center for logging, clay mining, bars, prostitutes, you know. None of them probably noticed the surf either. No, someone must have.


So, I actually surfed at a backup spot, knowing the tide was all wrong, the waves would be (and were) totally closing-out. This is the third place I checked, the second I surfed. A lot of walking was involved. My line on this is:

So, I actually surfed at a backup spot, knowing the tide was all wrong, the waves would be (and were) totally closing-out. This is the third place I checked, the second I surfed. A lot of walking was involved. My line on this surf session is: “I wanted to surf there in the worst way; and I did.” I became intimately introduced to the gravel. Also, the guy surfing is on a ten foot board, he’s at least six feet tall; I’m saying the wave is… wait, let me look again.

S(Heart)P Man and Bucky Meet in the Water

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I was trying to shuffle my drawing stuff off the table so I could set my dinner down, holding the hot plate in one hand. It was chicken, with a nice sauce. That’s what got on the drawing; hence the black border on the left side. My friend, hydrosexual Stephen Davis, who is working on some illustrations to be posted on this site, and who went to something more like an actual art school than Palomar Junior College, said, when told of the accident, “Oh, that’s what makes art great. It’s like the Dada thing.” “The Dada thing?” “Yeah.” “Well, then, Stephen Davis, If that’s so, my stuff has always been maximum Dada; smudges, hand prints, coffee cup rings, coffee spewed from my mustache.” “Maximum.” “Oh, at least. Oh, and Steve; the last drawing, Trish said, the guy, who looks kind of like my brother Jon, has gorilla hands.” “Oh. Uh huh.”

There is a story developing here (I mean, with the drawings). Trish told me I got the paddle handle wrong; more like a cane. She was, of course, right. She didn’t comment on the hands. Yet. Oh, and Stephen’s drawings, from cellphone photos are approved (by Trish, and, of course, me). Stay tuned.

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BUCKY- Another Character for S(Heart)P MAN

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I’m getting the S(Heart)P MAN characters together for the non-epic, everyday (unfortunately) battle for a few waves. Bucky has been forced back into the ghetto mentality of seaside city surfing by the most devious of villains, the need to make a living. Where he once developed skills and a reputation, he’s now scrapping on an even-more-crowded playing field where he must compete against surfers with less skill, less wave knowledge, less… it’s debatable, even in Bucky’s mind, if he ever had the proper surfers’ soul, or even what that means. If the thrill is harder to achieve and the fun is fractured by drop-ins and cut-offs and the waves he can’t even go for because some SUP-riding A-hole is…

Well, there’s the drama, huh?

Naming this character Bucky is in homage to my first local surf hero. I hope he’s doing well. I decided to put in the sort-of super hero perspective, partially, in response to the response from Trish, whose comment on the drawing of Rhonda (not really based on anyone on a conscious level) was, “Her hands are kind of big… man hands;” and Stephen Davis, who agreed. I don’t want to go back and redraw Rhonda (again), but do plan on redoing the drawings of S(heart)P MAN and parts the montage, maybe just gluing-in some changes.


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Maybe I’m going to have to go back and work on the earlier drawings. It’s all about telling a story, and a story is developing. This isn’t me telling it; this is me working it out. Rhonda is not happy with her life, pushing flabby desk jockeys, cubicle dogs, guys who suddenly discover they never really had an adolescence, guys with enough money to suddenly find they want to be exciting, too (also) into weak beachbreak, in sometimes-skanky water, in a city with often-brown skies- for money.

“We’re all whores,” SUPman will (eventually) say; “at least you’re making money doing something you love. And, no, you’re, really, a ‘pusher,’ ha, ha; and, um, wait… brainstorm… ‘the first wave’s free.’ Hey, Rhonda, that could be your tagline. A gift. Another gift. You know I’m hooked, right?”

“Something I did love,” Rhonda will think. “If he calls me a ‘hook hooker’ I’m just gonna …”

Stay tuned; workin’ on it. Oh, and hope you didn’t find the Beach Boys allusion cheesy.


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I found out how to put images on the site in different sizes. The medium size probably looks better, and the large size does enable the viewer to pick out mistakes more easily. I am trying to adhere to what I perceive as current comic formatting, but, as always, I just can’t help going somewhere just beyond those lines. There’ll be more; I’m thinking, thinking, um, uh, what?

Oh, here’s the black and white version; just because I saved it.

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So, if you’re keeping score: SUPman’s nose got too much in the top image, the tutor is not attractive enough, and she just came out as a smudge in the ‘paddling/mine’ image. And, um, and I’m going to stop looking. NEXT TIME…

S(HEART)P MAN- Origin Story

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I am aware that I have a tendency to overwrite. I’ve been discussing doing a surf/centric comic book with Stephen Davis. Both of us went to art school, if I may (because I do) say that taking just about every art class at Palomar Junior College (and not quite one math class and one science short of enough of those sort of non-humanities classes to actually graduate). So, I’ve been thinking; in fact, while listening to a rerun of a “This American Life” show yesterday, the one on Comic Superheroes, I drove past my intended turn.

I googled “Secret Surfer,” caught an image of a Victoria’s Secret model holding an (unwaxed) surfboard. Okay, take another second to consider Victoria’s Secret models and waxing. So, can’t use that title. Googled “SUP Man,” saw some references that led me to believe it is really S’up, Man, or should be. So, S (heart, read it as ‘U’) P Man; that’s what I’m going with.

Here’s the overwriting part: I want SheartP Man to appear to be the hero; clean cut, no doubt rich, went to fancy surf school (no, private lessons by someone who learned from Laird Hamilton)… you can see I’m still fleshing this out.  Please stay tuned.

Yeah, yeah, ‘this is the origin of the story,’ the origin of the characters will follow.

A Few Secret Straits Spots Revealed- Sorry If You Missed It


THESE are a few photos taken on the Straits of Juan de Fuca by Jeffrey Vaughan; and, actually, I have more. The problem is, it’s not cool to publish photos where the location is obvious, even if the spot is nowhere near secret (oh, it might be somewhere near a secret spot). So, I surf these spots, too; and don’t really need anyone suddenly thinking this might be a destination other than, say, Westport. NOOOOOO! Even rideable waves are soooooo rare.

Besides, it’s not like thousands of wave-starved surf enthusiasts are going to catch a ferry and head many miles west northwest just because they saw something on my site.

SOOOOOOO, I’m going to do a flash posting, Saturday, 9pm Pacific Daylight Savings Time, featuring some very pretty photos at a spot easily recognizable to those who have been skunked at the very beach. I’ll delete the photos around 11:35, since anyone up will probably be seeing if Saturday Night Live is new, a rerun, or any way funny.

ORRRR, maybe a few city crews, spurred on by the images and hoping the forecasts and the buoy readings are wrong, might just be loading up for that first ferry.

UPDATE: I did post the other photos. They were great. And, like the fickle waves we seek, they’re gone.

It’s Like Mr. Peanut Without the Hat


Jeff Vaughn, who ripped up a large number of lefts while I was searching for a right that would clear the reef, casually doing the classic South Bay longboard drop-stand-and-turn, noseride, kickout or island pullout or flip backwards in a closeout, sent me a few shots from an uncrowded session at a sort-of-secret spot (as in, everyone knows about it, but no one is supposed to give the name out to any kooks who evidently don’t own a computer or know anyone who does, and who might show up on one of those rare, rare, extremely rare days when there are actually waves) somewhere on the Straits of Juan de Fuca.

I showed my wife, Trish, the ones of me, obviously trimming, quite casually, and in the right spot on the wave. The images were quite small and her comments included: “You weren’t wearing a hood (the other surfer out, a PA local and member of the Surfrider Foundation, whose name I should know, but don’t, was);” and, “At least you’re standing up;” and, “That stick (‘you mean paddle?’), it looks like, maybe, you use it to help you stand up;” and, in response to a question from me, “No, you don’t look that fat.” More like “THAT fat.”

I wrote back to Jeff, thanked him, sent the photos on to a few of my surfing friends. Well, pretty much all of them I have email addresses for, mostly so I didn’t have to describe the waves as “knee to waist high with the occasional head high sets, and the indicators, at the lefts and the rights, going off pretty regularly.”

Wow, the last paragraph pretty much messed up the timing for this: Jeff sent more photos, bigger, zoomed-in. In these photos, I do look THAT fat. No, you won’t be seeing them, but, when I showed Trish, complained about how I look less like the surfing super hero I know she thinks of me as, than an old fat guy in an embarrassingly stretched-to-the-limit wetsuit (but still in perfect trim), she merely nodded. Politely. “And yet,” when I tried to show her the same photo again, just to show the wave positioning, she said, “and yet you can’t stop looking at it.”

No. In fact, maybe I’ll print it up, stick that on the refrigerator.