My computer blew up. Won’t boot up. Black screen. Stuff is lost. Not everything. Most of what I’ve written, all my work stuff is on thumb drives. Other things are adrift in the cloud. My wife’s s computer sucks. She’s getting a new one. Soon. Meanwhile, you could check older stuff. Just keep; scrolling. I can’t, for example, read what I’ve just typed because her screen is filled with a bunch of… check back or read on. Meanwhile, I’m still scamming, studying forecasts, maybe, if the system that blew out our power rotates a bit farther north…
It was one of those days when the waves didn’t match the buoy readings. The direction and size recorded have produced decent waves in the past, but not this morning. At least not yet. Stephen Davis had called my cell phone (not allowed to bring it into bedroom after this) at 3:30 or so in the morning, said he was already at Fat Smitty’s, didn’t think he could wait for me.
And he didn’t. By the time I got to the pullout, most of the front row view spots were taken, and Stephen’s van was backed up to the bluff, he nowhere in sight. Other surfers, none suited-up, were drinking coffee, making breakfast on little camp stoves, or merely staring through foggy windshields. It was a lovely morning on the Strait of Juan de Fuca; clear, calm, the sun peaking over the little headland to the east; just typically weak semi-high tide waves, and (only) one guy out, he on a SUP.
Tom, up from Olympia, called me over to where he was standing with Jeffry, the longshoreman, with a, “Hey, you think it’s gonna work?” I hoped so, and had to comment on the number of surfers ready to get amped-up and hitting-it should even one decent set show up. “Evidently we all read the same forecasts, huh?”
About this time the SUPer caught a wave only a SUPer could catch, rode it to where it fizzled in the hole just offshore. Lacking any sense of proper restraint, I hooted and yelled, “Go! Go! Owwwww!” A bit surprisingly, several other surfers down the way joined in. The hooting, not the surfing. Tom and Jeff didn’t walk away; also surprising. They would go elsewhere, maybe back toward Port Angeles, while other surf rigs, doing the pull-off and drive-by check-out, and going by the surf truism of “It can’t be good; there’s only one guy out,” kept going west, to the coast if necessary (I assume).
I was the second surfer in the water. The first guy out said he hadn’t been surfing all that long, and possibly didn’t know all the rules. “Fine.” After he attempted to take off in front of me or did take off several times, I told him that I actually catch almost all of the waves I go for. “Oh, okay.”
A bit later, during a lull, I asked him what he likes about surfing. He had obviously starting as an adult (somewhere in his forties, I’d guess). “Well,” he said, when I’m on a wave, I feel like God.”
Perhaps I should mention now that, though I didn’t recall meeting or seeing him before, he seemed to know who I am, and said something about my writing. Something positive. All right; so, here’s someone I can’t, like, hate (not that I’m into hating). And, we were the only two guys out, so, no problems.
Several wave exchanges later, I had to paddle over and ask, “So; when you say you feel like… did you mean ‘A’ god, or, like, um, uh, “The” God?”
“Well, Erwin (he may not have used my first name, but let’s say he did); if I’d said ‘A’ god, it would have an entirely different meaning; now, wouldn’t it?”
It would. “Okay then.”
A while later, as the tide dropped a bit and the waves came up a bit, an attractive blonde woman paddled out on a longboard. “Did you come out because you saw how I was ripping it up?” I asked. She said, with an Australian accent, “It (that being my ripping) was a bit impressive, actually.” She proceeded to catch a few waves, surfing well.
Then another guy came out. I’ll save some intrigue here; the guy was her boyfriend, and, I think, co-worker, and, while she had surfed most of her life, he was in his later forties and had been surfing for about a year (kind of the ‘power couple’ re-configured). “Are you out because it looks like we’re having so much fun?” I asked.
“I didn’t drive three hours to not have fun,” the guy said. Oh, her name is Emilie (or Emily), and his is… later heard, but didn’t retain his name; but, a few waves later, he asked, while eyeing, and then paddling for a wave I was also going for, “How do you feel about drop-ins?” “Not fond of them,” I said, riding behind him until, going too slow, the wave broke on him and I had to pull through.
Several waves later, with the waves continuing to improve, but only slightly, other surfers joined the party. Stephen woke up and paddled out. I went for a (probably more like ‘another’) set wave, but The Boyfriend was paddling, head down and oblivious to me, for the same wave. It was either bail or run over Hugh (I was calling him Hugh; not sure why. I only learned his girlfriend was named Emily because I asked her if I could call her Sally. “No, not fond of Sally”).
Naturally, I bailed. But, there was a wave really close behind it. I took off, but, down the line, god (I refuse to use the capitalized version out of respect for and fear of, you know, the real God) took off. I rode behind him all the way to the shorebreak, then paddling back out, mentioned how, when I was learning to surf, as a thirteen year old, if I’d done that, I’d have heard about it.
I should say, when I did take off in front of people, I did hear about it.
“No, no,” he argued, “you went for the first wave and didn’t catch it. You lost priority.”
Maybe you can sort this out in your own mind or with others. There is more to this story, with a connection to “The Paddle Incident,” all coming up, with photos, in “The Second Book of Nick.” Soon. Coming soon. The Second. Coming.
Maybe it was just a sort of harmless prank; maybe it’s a statement that those wave-hogging, SUP-riding, Aloha-be-damned surfers should always hold on tightly to their paddles. Yeah; even if there’s sixty yards of spinning inside tube ahead of him. And yeah, even if the set-wave-grabbing lineup Dominator is somewhere on the downhill side of sixty, with bad knees and… I mean, you should have seen him trying to get to his paddle as the tide dropped… yeah, he may have deserved this.
I might agree if it wasn’t my paddle.
I’ve been working toward posting something on realsurfers that might go viral. A few pieces, over the three years or so since realsurfers hit the electronic cosmos, have had a sort of slow-motion version. But, what I do know is, even if someone as athletic as whoever found the paddle and jammed it into the wire rope-held pilings pulls it out, King Arthur style, the story will spread. Quickly. After all, surfers hanging out on the Strait, waiting and hoping some sort of swell might show up, might just have to tell the tale of how the baddest-ass, kook-burning-est, wave-catchin’-est, loudest, least cool guy ever to knee-board an eleven foot board from the pilings to the fence got a sort of comeuppance.
I’d argue with the description if it wasn’t supposed to describe me.
There is more to the story; coming soon. If this wasn’t a happy ending for me (still feeling a bit outside of the tribe of mellow, never-took-off-on-anyone-ever-no-really-like-never-surfers, I’d probably guess anyone ever frustrated by SUP-riding over-compensators might just go, “Right On, Man!”), there is a surprise twist in this little morality play. This twist is forcing me to question my initial reaction to be hurt, then pissed-off at being singled out for this little prank; then humiliated by my pathetic, clumsy, and unsuccessful attempts to retrieve the paddle (witnessed by anyone who cared to look among a gathering crowd on the beach). These feelings were followed by a momentary-but-deep (why me? am I really that much of an asshole?) depression combined by a significant amount of anger at people who I would like to think of as peers (even friends). I aimed these feelings to those responsible, and to those who (owing to a different strain of tribal-think) would never reveal who did this. This rather quickly morphed into ‘fuck them/I don’t need them,’ a throwback to my days as a loner/outsider (yeah, I know you think you are. Probably not) with a fully-functioning (as in, I got waves) ghetto-mentality surfer in Oceanside and Pacific Beach, and Swamis, and Trestles, and made me almost proud to be the Antagonist.
Still, until I sort it all out in my mind, I’m leaving it at this. [not true- I’ve already added to this piece several times] I’ve been very satisfied with the many surfers I’ve met over my years surfing in the northwest, an contrast this, happily, with my time in California.
Here are a couple of things: I won’t drop a paddle again. I catch almost every wave I try for. If you aren’t getting enough waves, take off in front of me. Really. I’ve never really yelled at anyone for this (wait, once I yelled, “Really?”), though my usual thing is to sarcastically yell, “Waikiki!” or “Party!” but, my new and humbler self might just smile and say, “Aloha!”(Durn; still a bit bitter, but working on it)
I’d give acknowledgement to the photographer, but, just in case he’s maintaining a safe distance, I’ll just say, ‘nice photo.’ Oh,and Trish said, “If you had a ladder, you could have walked out and climbed up to get it.” “Oh, uh huh.”
I received this comment in response to one of the most popular, over time, posts, “Tom Decker and Jeff Parrish.” Noticing the consistent number of hits the piece seems to get, I thought either Tom Decker, well known to pretty much anyone who surfs at Westport over the last twenty-five years, is a name people google, then find my article; or Jeff sends friends to check out what I wrote about him. I’ve had a sort of suspicion that, always just trying the real story, I may have written something that would or should offend Jeff. Since Jeff’s wife, Ruth, has started surfing, and, actually, before that, he seems to have other people he prefers to surf with (and, yes, I am somewhat hurt by this, but no longer whine about it when I see Jeff’s father-in-law, Jim Hodgson, at the post office.). Because I got this comment, I checked.
Yeah, maybe Jeff had a tough outing, called-out by Mr. Decker; but he’s not alone in that. I do drop the name (Tom Decker, though I always ask people from Seattle if they know Jeff. “Which Jeff?” They all know at least one) with folks from Westport, or those who say they surf there a lot, when I see them looking for waves on the Strait. Maybe Tom has mellowed; other names are mentioned as enforcers at the Groins and the Jetty.
So, here’s the contribution:
My sister, Melissa Lynch, the real artist in the family, scolded me for being in any way apologetic for my drawings. Yeah, well; I would like to be honest. If I could capture the building blocks of always-moving water, figure out how to weave a seamless shadowed/reflective/glimmering/black/white/multi-hued image I would.
If I could.
Since I can’t; yet; I’ll keep trying.
Meanwhile, I’m still in the thinking-it-through phase of a piece I must write under the working title of: “Are All Surfers Sociopaths; or Just the Good Ones?”
Three Acts: ACT ONE- several highschool surfing buddies and I surf Swamis after school. The only other surfers out are three (also high school age) members of the Surfboards Hawaii Surf Team. On the drive home, my friends complain they couldn’t catch any (or enough) waves. I hadn’t noticed, being busy catching waves and watching incredible longboard surfing. ONE, PART 2- One of my friends (Ray Hicks, most likely) points out (I think this was the day I ripped out my pants and had to borrow a pair of Levis from Billy McLean) that, when encountering other surfers of about our age, I seem to puff out my chest. “Maybe you’re intimidated.” “Yeah; probably.” “It’s, uh, like a gorilla.” “You mean, like, primal?” “Yeah, probably.”
ACT TWO- During the last week of my job up the hill from Trestles, taking an hour and a half break during my half hour official lunchtime, some surfer (I’ve always believed he was a Marine Officer) burned me and everyone else (I still got some, but not as many as usual waves). When I checked back at my half hour afternoon (supposed to be ten minutes) break, the guy was still out, still burning surfers mercilessly. I didn’t hate him; maybe he was going somewhere sucky, where a rifle was mandatory, for a while.
ACT THREE- My friend Stephen Davis, last time I spoke with him on the phone, mostly about his upcoming trip to the Oregon Coast and the chance I might meet him somewhere (probably won’t happen); had to, (had to) mention how I fell out of favor with many members of the Port Townsend surfing crew (very unofficial) because, over-amped, I (accidentally, I swear)wave-hogged on a day almost two years ago. Two years ago. Jeez. When I mentioned this on the phone this morning with Keith Darrock, and that I’m no more a sociopath than he is, and I do have empathy, whatever that is, he had to (had to) mention his observation that I’m kind of loud and possibly abrasive (see how he was tactful about this?) in the water, and, also, incidentally, I do seem to “kind of strut in the parking lot.” “WHAT? ME? No, it’s just being friendly.” (I am laughing at this point, but, also, thinking. Is he right?) “Like a rooster. And, oh,” he adds, has to add, “You kind of stick out your chest. And…and it seems like you want to dominate (I’m adding ‘even in’) the parking lot.”
There is no ACT FOUR where I try to change my ways, get all friendly and nice; empathize with those who won’t (before hand) or didn’t get enough waves. Empathize. I did tell Keith I’d rather attempt to empathize than be one of those who didn’t get enough waves. Maybe they’ll get points toward sainthood. No true contrition. Sorry. At least not so far. But, I am thinking; and since I can’t afford professional help, I’ll have to self-diagnose.
STEP ONE-“Yes, it’s all true.” See you in the parking lot.
I added a few more lines from the original black and white drawing after I added the color. The original was pretty much a sketch with a lot of white space. At one point I added some thick black lines to sort of frame it. That took away some of the sense of speed. Adding the color may have done the same thing. Hopefully not. I’m ready to draw someone making a bottom turn, all the action at the bottom right (could be the left), with nothing but white space on the top side opposite. No, maybe just the hint of a lip peeling over. No. Yes; maybe.
Sure I would; but what if the waves get over two feet?
When I traded out five hundred dollars left on a painting job for an eleven foot SUP a few years ago, it was never my intention for this to be my go-to board for surfing on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Now dinged to shit and weighing five pounds more when I get out of the water than it did going in (I’d fix the dings but I keep thinking it’s not my go-to board), it is, indeed, the board that fits the conditions. That is to say, if I didn’t have it, I’d be walking out on the reef, looking to the heavens, watching perfect little peelers not quite clearing the rocks, and pray (closer to asking, really) for just another foot of wave height. It has happened. A lot. That is, the asking/praying; the increasing swell, not so often.
The undervalued part of riding a standup paddleboard is, that, while it does enable a surfer to catch waves outside of the normal takeoff zone, and outside of other surfers, it also enables surfers to ride waves even a longboarder couldn’t get into. So, as happened just yesterday, when I pull up to an empty beach pullout, look at empty-but-barely rideable waves; and, though I’d hope for another foot of wave face, there was no doubt I’d be going out. “It’s practice” I tell myself, and others, “for when it gets, you know, bigger.” My motto is, after all, “I’m here to surf.” It’s the riding of waves that matters to me.
No, I’m not so stoked on posting these photos of me. I’ve put it off, but, since I’ve lost, like, three pounds since these were taken by Tim Nolan, who also would go on any size wave, here they are. Meanwhile, once my go-to board dries out again, maybe I’ll find some time to patch those dings. Oh, and I promise, no more shots of me unless it’s head high. Okay, chest high. And now I’m hoping and praying for overhead. However, if I can catch a wave, I’m going.
Because I actually have a large number of drawings in my portfolio, and wanted to display as many as possible for the recent (and extensively covered in realsurfers.net) Surf Culture on the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Salish Sea Event, I took some time, dug through various shelves and drawers and drawing books, and found quite a few of the variously-sized originals, some previously-made copies; took them all to The Printery in Port Townsend, and, with a lot of help for the money, got them sized to fit on 8&1/2 by 11 inch shinier, heavier stock, and placed them in five stacks on a six foot piece of 12 inch wide pine.
Almost instantly I wanted to add color to many of them. Oops; too hard to color on the shiny stock. But, I do have a scanner/printer. Here’s the first. There will be more.
Not so stoked on the way yellow reads like semi-worn out magic marker, but, not apologizing. And, somewhere here I’ll have to write about how I got some small waves today; small but… hey, look for both “Erwin Would Go, But What Will He Do When It’s Over A Foot?” and “If You Were Happy With Your Last Session, Don’t Talk to Adam Wipeout.” I have some photos; might even have some of me on really tiny waves.