Over 40 Years (and Counting) On the Strait with Tom Burns

The usual thing to expect when the unusual thing (an actual swell) happens (so rare, so very rare) is that any waves you luck into on the Strait of Juan de Fuca won’t last long; hence the expression, “If you see waves, surf them.” However, sometimes you’re there just a little early, a bit ahead of the briefly-opening window. Maybe you’ll notice I’m being all non-inviting here; just don’t want you to waste your valuable time when Westport is always breaking.

So, a few months ago, on a day I wrote about in “The First Book of Nick,” the waves actually got better. I stayed where I was, but a lot of surfers headed farther west or went back towards Port Angeles. So, while I was headed for some painting job, Stephen Davis and Jeffrey Vaughan (not together) hit up a secret (that is, I’m not revealing it) fast and gravelly right, while Tom Burns hit a classic, just off the rocks left that, it will soon be obvious, hasn’t changed too much in forty years.

Tom sent me a couple of long emails of early surfing experiences all over Washington’s coast and the Strait, with these photos:

TomBurnsOneTomBurnsTwo

And, from forty years earlier, to the day, same guy, two more at the same spot.

TomBurnsThreeTomBurnsFour

Maybe you’ll notice, even recognize, the rocks in the foreground. Hard to imagine any kind of long ride this close to the beach.

Uh huh; keep imagining. I’ll have more from Tom, but, after he sent me all kinds of info on exploring and sometimes finding great waves, with retro photos and names of early northwest path(and wave)finders, he ended with some comment/threat on how he just knows I won’t get all too revealing.

In a side note on the “Don’t get all excited and think the Strait is often great” category- while I was hanging out as a volunteer with all the judges, huddled under a tarp against the south wind, at the Surfrider Foundation’s Westport Cleanwater Surfing Contest a couple of years ago, Tom, one of the judges I was spotting for, revealed he’s kept a log of all his surf ventures, and discovered he’s been skunked on the Strait more often (way more often) than he’s scored.

So, continue to be tantalized. I still am. Thanks, Tom.

BLOG-LIKE UPDATE- Stephen Davis and I made an afternoon speed run (not, like, speeding, Officer, but like curtailing other daytime activities and heading wnw, hoping/gambling the swell that hadn’t shown up yet would). We found some rideable lefts, surfed there alone for almost two hours, with the swell actually building, before two other rigs materialized in the partially-visible parking area. Interesting how the dynamic shifts, and competitive personalities clash. No, no, I think I won the exchange with the guy wearing the blue prescription glasses/goggles, who said the thing that led him to believe there might be waves was, “The buoys.” Sure, but if had a little faith… we could’ve hassled for set waves earlier.

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One thought on “Over 40 Years (and Counting) On the Strait with Tom Burns

  1. Your more than welcome buddy! Hope to see ya @ the Cleanwater Classic ’tis year spotting for me so we can catch up. Us old salts have to stick together!

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