A Look Back at the First ‘Surf Culture on the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Salish Sea Event’

Somewhere before it was my turn to present my short story, “Locals,” I realized a twenty minute reading wouldn’t work with the somewhat fractured audience. By fractured, I really mean distracted. There was a lot going on in and around the Cotton Building, the former Port Townsend Police Station, and, for this evening, the site of the first ever Surf Culture on the Strait of Juan de Fuca Cultural Event.

The Kinetic Kar thingie was happening nearby, there was a dance about to happen at the American Legion Hall, and, hey, it was a High Season Saturday night on Water Street. Former “Surfer” magazine (and many others) editor and the man whose name must appear somewhere on any jacket for any authentic surf-related book, Drew Kampion, was just finishing a slide show. He’d been there (everywhere, with photos to prove it) during surfing’s post-Gidget, short board evolution. As a writer/journalist, Kampion was the Hunter S. Thompson, the Tom Wolfe for surfers. Yes, Wolfe wrote about surfing, but he wasn’t a surfer.

Somewhere after Drew’s casually-presented show-and-tell, with insider stories; with Archie Endo (he volunteered for this, and was very well received) playing surf tunes through a little amp; with people milling about near the tables and easels of art work by legitimate, professional artists Todd Fischer and Jesse Watson, checking out a painting by Stephen Davis that just (I mean just) sold to a surf shop in Malibu; with photographs by Christian Coxen; with some people taking to seats who clearly thought this was some other event; with people (some possibly bored tourists) wandering in off the street; I knew it would soon be my turn.

Gulp.

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This first event came together much like the actual local surf scene; word of mouth, which includes texting, e-mails, random meetings between surfers at Waste Not Want Not (used merely as an example). Keith Darrock, surfing Librarian, came up with the idea of doing a surf-centered event, possibly including me because we ran into each other while looking for surf at a sort-of secret occasional-breaking surf spot. But this is how it worked. Tim Nolan, boat designer, will be displaying his new paddleboard and the cad drawings for it at the upcoming event, partially because Keith ran into him at a surf spot past Joyce.

“Yeah, but, Keith,” I had said prior to the first event, “if it’s sponsored by the library, shouldn’t there be something, you know, like, literary?”

“You know anyone… literary?”

I recommended Mr. Kampion, who actually dedicated a poem to me in “Surfer” magazine in 1969 (possibly because I have a funny name and did have a poem, heavily edited, published in the magazine in late 1968, written when I was 17), and who now lives on Whidbey Island. Keith reached out to him, he agreed to come over, and, relief, now I was the opening act.

Except I wasn’t. I was scheduled last. I tried to appear calm, but actually was unable to see the audience through my reading (only) glasses. That was just as well. I had rehearsed, thrown in some choreography, timed my readings. I didn’t want to screw this up.

At a normal, conversational rate, it took about nineteen minutes to read through.

And so I began.

“Whoa,” someone said, (like, fifteen minutes) afterward; “I didn’t think someone speak so… clearly, while talking so… (pause for a breath)… fast.”

So, this time, for this event, with the Northwind Gallery involved, there may be a bit of a change in the demographic. I would say more sophisticated. Maybe. Maybe the Port Townsend literati. We’ll see. Most of the original artists will have works on display. Background music will be provided by Pete Raab, including a couple by Archie currently working and surfing in Thailand). Drew Kampion has agreed to come back. Author Justin Hocking will be the main act, and I’m not sure how Keith arranged this, but, wherever I am in the lineup, I’ll be reading something shorter. And slower.

But I can read it faster if I have to.

See you this Saturday, starting around 6pm, uptown Port Townsend, upstairs at the Carnegie Library.

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