ONE: I was filling my friend Keith Darrock in on some of the details as I made my way back home, focusing, probably, for a moment, on how I’d almost said something to a surfer who paddled for a couple of set waves he didn’t catch. Now, although I do have a reputation for being too vocal in the water, it’s not for calling people out (more like over exuberance). I may have given the surfer in question a disparaging look that might, easily, be translated to, “you’ll have to assume, sir, that the next time we’re going for a set wave, I won’t back off.”
That didn’t happen. Fortunately. When I got to the beach I discovered the surfer in question is Arnold (sorry I don’t know his last name), one of the early pioneers of surfing on the Strait, an important member of the Olympic Peninsula Surfrider chapter (as am I), and a close friend and surfing partner of the first surfer I met up here, Daryl Wood.
“I feel like,” I told Keith, “when I get back on the beach, I should apologize to everyone else who was in the water with me.” “You probably should,” Keith said. I did apologize to Arnold for “any offensive thing I might have done,” once he peeled off his hood, once the guy who was riding with him mentioned his name. This, weirdly, coincided with Concrete Pete, freshly back in the Northwest after an extended stint in Cabo and Southern California, gave me a big hug.
Unusual. I don’t think of myself as being a hug magnet. Now, I did once give Concrete Pete credit for getting the wave of the day on a very small (normal, if normal isn’t flat) day. I wasn’t lying. I really wanted that wave. Arnold said he was only offended I hadn’t given him a hug. Really? Okay.
TWO: If Tim Nolan hadn’t already gotten out of the water, I would have been the fourth oldest surfer in the lineup. Tim is about four years older than I am. As long as he’s still surfing, I have years left in my career. In fact, when I first ran into Tim, over ten years ago; Tim, from Palos Verdes, originally; me from San Diego’s North County; he told me my best years were yet to come.
I’ll have to say I continue to be surprised by how much I get out of surfing; how a dark and moving line at the horizon can be so… so many things, really; from thrilling to frightening.
Yeah, I know; if you’re nineteen and you see three surfers out, each over sixty, you’re thinking, ‘easy pickings.’ I thought the same thing.
THREE: BIG DAVE, a fifteen year old ‘Crystal Pier Rat’ when I moved to Pacific Beach, San Diego, when I was twenty; is one of my surfing heroes. He’s now fifty-nine, and the last time I surfed with him, he was in the water when I arrived. I surfed for about two and a half hours (Dave actually wears a watch in the water, a practice I gave up), got out, got some coffee, rested a a bit, then went out for “Five more.” That became fifteen or so.
Two things here: Good waves are rare; one should maximize the experience. Big Dave and I both catch a lot of waves.
So, wanting to truly maximize my time, with the waves (super unusual) refusing to stop rolling in, I hung out on the beach a while before changing into my real world (painting) clothes. I wanted to take a new photo of Dave.
Somewhere in this time, Tim Nolan returned, just as Dave went streaking across another wave. “There’s Big Dave,” Tim said, “Owning it.” Yeah. When I left, five hours after I arrived, Big Dave was still in the water. I should mention, I was exhausted. That’s why Dave’s moved up a few notches on my list of heroes.
AND, and we have some discussions in the water. Often I’m paddling out when he’s on a wave, and vice versa. “Grab a rail,” he’ll say, “do some side-slipping.” “Yeah, I’ll say, when I see some of those sections, I’ll just drop down (Adam Wipeout would call this ‘barrel- dodging’). Maybe I’m scared.” “Don’t be scared.” “Oh, okay.” “Stay up high; that’s how you make those sections.” “Yeah. Right.”
On my most memorable wave on a memorable day, I stayed high on the wave into a section I was sure I wouldn’t make. I could sort of see Dave down the line, paddling out. I held the high line. Thanks, Dave.