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.