Barrel-Dodging With Adam Wipeout

Evidently my paint sales people remember my surfing stories; or some of them; tales of two foot waves and rocks and ear infections and surfers who, on hearing how great the waves were on a Saturday, show up at dawn on a Sunday when the waves are half as big. Yeah, I’m talking about Adam “Wipeout” James, who said he couldn’t think even about surfing while he had so much work that just had to be done.

But there he was, actually getting out of the water when I rolled up. And then he was too tired to go back out. And then he did.

And then, in position for the ‘wave of the (this particular, would have been average the day before) day,’ Adam blows the takeoff (he did well otherwise, other than an ‘off the back’ that was supposed to be a cutback).

Sure, it can (and has, and will) happen to any of us. There’s a penalty (worse in Hawaii, I’ve heard) for this particular type of incident, no doubt mentioned by me, possibly reinforced by Keith Darrock, one of the other surfers out this day (and the day before, and pretty much any time the place breaks), and someone who hates to see a rideable wave go unridden. “Wave of the day, Adam.”

Adam, though remorseful, nevertheless struck back. “At least I’m not a barrel dodger,” he said, paddling for the next non-wave of the day, watching to see if I’d challenge him for it.

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“Barrel Dodger?” Pause. “Me?” Wait; let me think. Have I ever dropped low, under a falling section, rather than staying high, risking getting pitched into the rocks? Have I?

If I have, I won’t again. Thanks Adam.

Short Surf Story in progress

I have little first hand knowledge of the connection between the drug trade and surfing. Still, I’m in the thinking phase of writing something about it. There is a connection between the way surfers behave in and out of the water and… I had to look up “Fun and games,” a quote from “Lord of the Flies,” required reading in high school. But, when we get older…



If the Session Report is, “It was really pretty…”

…it, most likely, means the waves weren’t happening. It was very pretty yesterday.

I’ve long decided to include the trip there and back into any session report; and, in the Pacific Northwest, with the snow level moving up and down with the same systems that bring swell to some spots and not to others; well, the view of the Olympics, even from the Safeway gas station in Port Angeles, is ultra pretty.

We all try to be scientific, using all the information available, plus past experience (ie; at this angle, this tide, this size, this spot was working); but we always have to factor in the skunk factor (on a similar tide and swell angle, the same spot was not working), and the “Random Theory,” that being that sometimes, even when the factors all seem slightly off, random acts of surf magic can happen.

EDIT- And sometimes everyone gets skunked.

Throw in wishing and hoping and praying, and that it’s a weekend between a constant barrage of wet frontal systems, and you get way too many desperate surfers combing the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

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My original plan was to either hit West Riverdale at dawn, before the tide got too high, with the Wrench as a backup. Or, I could go to The Outfall a bit later, when the tide got high enough.  I had things to do in Sequim, and, really, I planned on going to work on a painting project later. The problem, pre-dawn, was, the angle just wasn’t there. Oh, the swell, which had been stubbornly southwesterly, was supposed to go more northerly during the day, coinciding with a drop in swell size.

So, I made what I thought was the best decision. Nope. Lots of people at West Riverdale, all on the beach, cars piled high with boards; one guy, Tim Nolan, in the water, and the tide already too high. BUT PRETTY. Vehicles were coming, heading out farther; the coast always an option for those with enough time. Some surfers were, evidently, deciding to wait out the tide. I went out anyway. Tim paddled past me, pointed to the horizon, said something about where the swell was actually going, and got out of the water. I snagged a few shorewashers and surrendered to reality, wetsuit-driving away.

Over at the Wrench, the parking lot was packed with multi-board vehicles and warriors suiting up or suiting down. I squeezed into the back row, asked the guy in the rig next to mine if he could get out. “Hi, Erwin,” he said. It turns out it was Darrin, who provided me a ride on his board when mine was caught in the rip on a big day in December. I was also caught in the rip, my daughter on the beach, on the phone to her mother.

“Thanks, Darrin,” I said, shaking his hand a second time. I had been unable to really thank him properly when I got back out (after Keith Darrock rescued my board, and because one must go back out after a thrashing); and all this gratitude didn’t stop me from (accidentally, I swear) taking off in front of him on my first ride at the Wrench.

Thinking I was doing allright among those surfing, many of them beginners, kneeboarding weak little waves into the creek; one of several guys on standup paddleboards, evidently trying to be civil, asked me if I was new to riding an SUP. “First time, today,” I answered; not like he was so good. “Oh, you’re doing great, then,” he said, “you really seem to have the physics down.” “Thanks.” This was kind of depressing, and the waves were dying anyway.

Deciding I’d switch to only riding erect, I took off on a solid eighteen incher when another SUP hero took off in front of me. When he saw me, he bailed. “No problem,” he said, as if it was my fault, after my board went under his. “I didn’t know you were going to go straight,” I said. Next weak wave, I paddled, standing up, all the way to the parking lot. High tide. Two sessions. I was done.

More surfers, some quite excited, some not even checking the waves, going by the ‘if surfers are out, it must be good,’ were headed for the wild surf as I got dressed and headed toward Costco, then home.

I got a call from Keith while waiting for my order at the Jack in the Box. It’s perfectly acceptable to talk about great waves ‘after’ you get out of the water. I’d made the wrong decision. “You would have loved them.” Yeah. If I hadn’t had stuff that needed refrigeration, if I hadn’t just ordered a milkshake for Trish, if I didn’t know for a fact (or pretty sure near-fact) that the waves Keith and a few others (others in on this super fickle secret spot) had gorged on would be gone before I could get there…

I left my board on the car, just in case. I’ve checked the buoys since 5:30. Nope; might as well go work on the project I didn’t get to yesterday (I did do the drawing, above). Still, hoping and wishing, I’ll leave it on the car, just in case. Okay, it’s 7:13; I’ll post this and check the buoys.

Oh, and Tim Nolan did get in on the waves that had missed West (and East) Riverdale.

Illustration for the next story down

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This is the larger version of the drawing for the short story that follows. I’ve edited the story every time I’ve looked at it. Please check it out. Thanks.

Another Nearly-True (but still fictional) Story from Surf Route 101

La Marea Esta’ Subiendo [The Tide is Rising]

Her assumption must have been that an incoming tide brings things in, in toward shore. That’s when she would show up at Windansea, looking over at or walking the high tide line; scraps of driftwood and plastic and seaweed. I can’t be sure if she showed up for the middle of the night tidal pushes. I certainly didn’t. I was really only there when I thought there might be overhead waves.

But, I did see her there; I knew why she was there. One of the La Jolla locals who also surfed Crystal Pier was kind enough to explain, on a flat day, up in the parking area, careful not to have any other locals see him talking to someone who lived outside, even if just outside, the acceptable local zone. My not-really-a-friend even translated the phrases she kept repeating.

After my first attempt at surfing Windansea, I always checked it out when it was too big for any break in Pacific Beach. I’d given up on big days at Sunset Cliffs, my original choice, after a bad experience at Luscombs.

To this day it was the tube of my life. Everything being ‘locked in’ was supposed to be: Time slowing down, a thousand mirrors bouncing off the wall of the wave, a crystal chandelier exploding, the only sound wet rumbling-thunder; but, no, it was not at all peaceful. After the initial drop there was no choice but the tube; but I had to, had to make it. All I saw, peripherally, in an infinite moment, was the cliff, to my left, through the curtain.
Oh, yeah; the curtain; thrown over me…one…two…three… tighter… then pulled back. Open face. Breathe. Yeah; all the cliche’s, except, except…

… except I was the only one out; tubed but scared shitless; no less so after I made it to the shoulder, well within the shadow of the cliffs, standing, stretching, just cruising over the last of the dark, fat wave, even unable to celebrate my survival, my victory. The sun reflected in a variety of stripes and lines and sparkle on three more waves in the set. Paddle!

I caught more waves, dropping in on the shoulder, driving down the line. It took three waves before the memory of the first ride came clear. What was; what could have been. Even if I hadn’t made it, I told myself, I would have been all right. Still, my breathing quickened. Wave of my life. It was, I (again) told myself, enough for this day. I wasn’t scared; but I was, I guess, reluctant.

Sorry; too much explanation. This wasn’t my plan for this story.
Quicker: I tried to time my exit. Retreat. I could see the set hitting a reef farther out, an indicator. Three waves. I paddled out, over the first three, turned, held my position; caught the third. No tube; but a long wall. When it went fat, I straightened-out. There was backwash hitting the bluff, energy from the first two waves reflected from the point. My thought was I’d climb up the cliff (it’d worked before, but there were people there to grab my board as I scrambled up). The time I spent trying to find a place to land allowed the next wave to break hard, clean. I got worked, pounded, feet in river-type rocks, board bouncing against sandstone. And another, and another.

I had no choice but to leap onto my board, back into the next wave. I decided to paddle toward the cove. I paddled to my right, then toward shore. Almost there, a wave (six feet, at least) crashed down, right on my feet. In the cove!
I just hung on. There’s catching the soup; part of any surfer’s learning curve; and there’s this: I was engulfed. It’s like the wave smothers you, rolls over you; a heavy piece of driftwood; but then you’re pulled, or sucked, back over the energy and blasted in front of it. I’ve made it through this so many times. Not that one. Somewhere, probably when I was separated from my board, hands still clutching the rails, then violently thrown against it, I let go. Sorry. When I thought I was at the surface, I inhaled, still six inches left of a foot of churning foam. I coughed, inhaled again, coughed, got enough air for another wet cough.


I was gasping, confused, in another shadow, suddenly aware I was cold, cold and caught in the turbulence of too much energy from too many directions. Still, I wasn’t scared. I knew I could make it to shore, some shore; even if the rip took me north, toward that pinnacle rock; even if… I told myself I would not drown. Never.

And I did make it to the non-beach; still coughing; breathing in, coughing out, leaned over, hands on my thighs.

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Two surfers were half-sliding down a steep trail in the corner of the cove. One of them yelled out, “Man; your board hit sooo hard!” And I saw a board; half a board, on the rocks to the north. “That’s it; broken,” I thought. Then; “Wait, my board’s red.” My board was, had to be… I jumped back in the water. I found my red board at the top corner of a cave under the sandstone. I had to swim in; the tide still rising, the waves still coming.

It’s a little bay, really; Big Rock on the south end, Windansea in the middle. As I said, I knew (four waves in an hour on a six foot day for a twenty year old wave hog) only to surf it when it was big enough that the pack at the peak (there has always been a pack at the peak) couldn’t maintain tight control. I’ve never surfed the breaks outside or north of the main break, only surfed the main break; never went left. Steep drop, then fat shoulder; juke around, try to have some speed for the inside section. The day after the tube of my life, while successfully negotiating quite a few waves,  I lost my board three times at Windansea. Not on the drop; but, once trying to backdoor the peak, twice not having enough speed on the inside section.
Someone, probably a tourist, on the second wipeout, was kind enough to place my board up on the high rocks; protected from the waves and the rising tide. When I came in, retrieved my board, felt the new ding on the rail, looked at how much more crowded it was than when I’d gone out, thought about where I was supposed to be, I had to pass by the woman. She looked up; first at my board (no, my board was red), then at me. I smiled. No, I was just someone who wasn’t the man she was still looking for. She really didn’t see me. Not me. She looked past me and kept talking:

“No he visto el cuerpo,” I have not seen the body.
“Nunca se ahogaria.” He would never drown.
“Nunca.” Never.
“E’l debe ser tan frio.” He must be so cold. “Tan Frio.” So cold.

There was a sudden crowd at the palapa, more at the railing; some were pointing. I looked around, scanning the lineup. A board hit one of the big rocks to my left. A hollow, solid thud. On the next wave it drifted back out, moving in the rip toward Big Rock. I just watched it. In moments, it seemed, two lifeguards passed me, passed the woman, both leaping into the shorebreak. As everyone watched the rescue, I looked at the woman.

The guy was all right. Kook; never should have been out there.

The woman looked at her watch, crossed herself; the last move, smoothly executed, seemed to be part of her own ritual, her fingers pointing out to sea, then to her lips. Her hand opened, fingers fanned. She reached into a pocket on her coat, pulled out car keys. She did notice me. probably staring, as she opened the door to her (I was surprised by this) fairly new, fairly expensive car. When I didn’t look away, she gave me- not a smile-  maybe a bit of a nod.

The tide was going out. “La marea esta’ bajando.”

Story to Follow

The almost-true, partially-true Surf Route 101 short story is only partially written, but, with a few moments to screw around before I have to go to work, I did some searching for a photo that might work as a temporary illustration.


If I can share the thought process: Thanks. The story is about a woman who shows up at Windansea as the tide comes in, possibly twice a day. She never saw a body and refuses to believe her man would drown. I initially looked up ‘habeas corpus,’ thinking it means, “show us the body.” Close. It means “You (should) have the body.” The definition varies.

I decided, when I couldn’t find the Latin for “I should have the body,” that Spanish might make more sense. Windansea seemed like a likely location, partially based on Bob Simmons famously having drowned near there (and this thought may have been pushed further forward in my mind because I was just talking about a Port Townsend surfer also named Bob Simmons).  I believe his body was found, but the body of Dickie Cross, from the famous 1943 Wiamea Bay story, never was washed ashore.

And I have some history at Windansea. Almost ancient history now. 1970s. And I have some history in getting into situations in surf where I told myself I wouldn’t drown. No; not me. Never. So I wrote some phrases for the woman, in English, google translated them into Spanish; started writing.

Forty-some-odd years later; have to wonder if the woman still shows up. Oh, yeah; it’s mostly fiction; but still, it has to be real in my mind. Working on it. I took a few too many minutes.

Angels Unaware- Nearly-True Tales from Surf Route 101

Angels Unaware- Mostly-True Tales from Surf Route 101- First Draft. 02/05/16
It was one of those still-Winter, cold light, late dawn mornings; only the ridges across the highway fully-lit, the snow level obvious, and obviously lower, an obviously-new dusting that will disappear from the dark branches by noon; the kind of morning where someone you don’t really know well, on the pump across from you, might just say, blowing out warmth into the chill; “Another day in Paradise, huh?”
Sure, but it’s winter, heating season, and just the fact that the daylight hours are so few means less work; less work, less money. But I’m putting some alcohol-free gas into the car my wife inherited, the nice car; the good car; the car we cannot afford to have any mechanical problems. There’s a ten cent discount for cash, so I went to the ATM, got the fast forty, went inside, made a deal to get fifteen of the higher octane fuel (in case my wife asked- the car needs the high test). The other fifteen would be the regular; the regular unleaded still seventy-five cents or so higher than the price for the alcohol-added regular; and that price, well…
“Great,” I said to the new guy at the counter (there have been a parade of people behind the counter since the store reopened, the only gas for fifteen miles in the three directions one can go, mountains blocking the west- and we’re not supposed to complain about the price), “I look for the cheapest gas I can get for my rig; but for my wife’s…”
He nodded, I nodded; he gave me my change; ten dollars. “For my gas… later… somewhere else,” I said. “You’re set,” he said. “Just give me a signal when you switch.”
The woman I seemed to be holding up from getting to the counter with my whining looked like she had forgotten something, but, as I started to fill the tank with the high octane fuel, she approached, holding a bank card in one hand. “Can you spare a dollar?” She made some vague motion toward her car, parked sideways away from the pumps.
“I only have the ten,” I said, the bill still in my hand. She said nothing. “Why is it always me?” She nodded.
“I’ll bring you back the change.”
I handed her the bill. “She doesn’t know,” I was thinking, “how poor I actually am.” She couldn’t know that I was waiting for one job to start, waiting for someone at some desk somewhere to get to the paperwork necessary to close the deal. I was hoping a check I’d written would take a day or two longer to get back; I was hoping, worrying, taking small jobs to fill in. Then I thought about faith, and how we’d always survived; and how we’re tested, and how…
“Shit!” I’d allowed twenty dollars and fourteen cents worth of the high-priced fuel to be pumped; and couldn’t quite figure out how to make the switch. The woman saw me waving, alerted the counter guy. He switched the pumps.
“I had to do it,” I told myself, preparing for what I’d tell my wife. “Maybe she was really…”
The woman came back out, handed me my change. A five and three ones. Eight dollars.
“Thank you so much,” she said.
“Sure,” I said, draining the last of the fuel into the tank.
“You’re an Angel,” she said as she fondled the Lotto ticket I’d just bought her. “Wish me luck.”

“So, um; what are you lookin’ at?”

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So, if you google “How to draw a nearly-naked woman near the beach, in profile, with a towel,” maybe you’ll get this drawing. I plan on tagging AND adding  another category; “How to draw a nearly-naked woman near the beach, in profile, with a towel.”

WHOOPS! WOOPS! WAIT- Just after posting this, I actually googled “How to draw a nearly-nakd woman near the beach, in profile, with a towel,” and… maybe it’ll be there later, but, no, not yet. I don’t think you’ll have to drop the ‘safe search’ to see this, and, yeah, maybe it’s a tease, there’s nothing there on how to actually draw. Just do some lines, add some more, maybe some pointillism; stop before it’s too late.