Talking Surf Etiquette With god…

…not God God, little g god. I’ve spoken to him before, and really should give some context here. I met Nick several years ago, the day Raja took my loose SUP paddle and stuck it into some pilings as a rarely-breaking spot named Twin Rivers. Nick, when I asked what he, new to the sport, liked about surfing, he said, “When I’m on a wave, I feel like God.”

“Oh.” A few waves later, I asked if he meant he felt like “a god.” “Well,” he said, “that would be give it an entirely different meaning.” “Oh, yeah; guess so.”

Nick loaned/gave me a paddle when, after quite an embarrassing and fruitless attempt to retrieve mine. I’d say I still have it, but, after a couple of weeks, after Stephen climbed on the pilings and retrieved mine, I loaned it to Adam Wipeout. He ran into Nick/god (and it seems, to me, a bit ironic that ‘old Nick’ is a nickname for the Devil, possibly given to him, as the first nickname, by, I don’t know, God) at another spot that almost never breaks, both of them walking back from around a point and against the wind. When Adam mentioned the trees hanging, precariously, on the cliffs above them, and what would happen if they suddenly fell, Nick said, “Well, I’d die a happy man.”

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That’s Nick in the middle, no waves in the background

EVIDENTLY Nick had been pretty pleased with the rides that had taken him around the point.

NOW, I have run into Nick on several other occasions when I showed up at a spot that, really, so rarely breaks, and there were some of the other surfers already there, and Nick would say something about how Tim or Big Dave or Tugboat Bill or some other member of the non-club of surfers suggested, since the waves were or were almost rideable, that I might show up, and, maybe, I’d behave.

MAYBE.

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EVIDENTLY the word on the beach, partially explaining my inability to follow the new rules of surf etiquette, is that I have POOR IMPULSE CONTROL.  Nick explained what one should do when waiting in a ‘que,’ and there are three surfers closer to the peak, and there’s a three wave set. “Oh, so I’d be first in line for the next set?” “Yes.” “Oh. Yeah; but I completely miss that set?” “Yes. You get it.” “No, guess I don’t.”

“Someone said you lack impulse control.” “You do?” “No, Erwin; you do.” “Oh.” I guess, when I see a set approaching, even though I frequently call out which wave I want, as in “Number three,” and I did not wait at the corner of the pack at the peak until everyone sitting closer had a go at a wave… wait; for all I know, if there are more that three surfers in the lineup, it might not be within the developing rules to call out a wave. It seems reasonable to me; preferable to paddling, yelling “mine, mine.”

YEAH, I might go for number two. Poor impulse control.  I had to text the defining phrase to Keith Darrock because I kept forgetting it. “That sounds about right,” Keith said. “Oh, totally,” Trish said. “What does that EVEN MEAN?” Stephen Davis asked.

I don’t really know, but, since I was the only one out on the day I heard this, it wasn’t really an issue. I waited for number three a couple of times, probably looking over the back to see if there was a number four.

MEANWHILE, I’ll try to get the paddle back from Adam. Don’t really want to owe too many favors to god. Or Nick.

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My Sister Melissa

Here’s a photo from a couple of years ago of my youngest (of three) sister, Melissa. This was at Seaside, near where our father lived. I had taken her son, Fergus, out, on rented boards (soft-tops; quite embarrassing) on a previous visit, she and her husband, Jerome, coming from Illinois, Fergus from Seattle. On this trip the fun seemed too much, and she and Jerome just had to also surf.

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Quite competitive. Quite a bit of fun. The last time, before this, Melissa and I surfed together was at Swamis, 1975, or so, when Trish and I lived in Encinitas. After the session, she asked, “So, now are we going to lay out?” “What? No. I don’t lay out. No. There’s things to do.”

Here is what my sister does. This is a drawing she did at my request, illustration for a short story. And, as with too many things, she sort of worried too much about it. “Just draw it.” “But, what about…?” “It’ll be great.” “You sure?” “Positive.”

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The second drawing… I’m trying to remember; I don’t think it was for me. In pulling it up on the computer, I’m stunned, amazed even, by Melissa’s ability to capture the… I mean, look at the feet, the hands. Never really go for skeletons.

But, here’s the thing: I got a group text yesterday afternoon from another sister, Mary Jane, that Melissa, who has been battling a variety of cancers, is in the hospital. “…The Doctors are talking about radiation to her brain. Please keep her in your prayers.”

Now, this is one of those weeks where Trish talked me into going to Mass. Yeah, there are a lot of issues not worth going into on how we’re both converts, about what we do and don’t believe, about how one goes from bad Seventh Day Adventist to bad Catholic (this is me, not Trish), but, with the ringer off, and the phone there mostly so I could check the time (and maybe what the buoys were doing), just waiting for the Saturday Evening Mass to begin was, probably, an odd time to get this kind of news.

Prayer. Prayer? Trish, who has her own prayer chain (yeah, I’m on it, whatever vehicle I’m driving is also on it), when I asked, “What; am I going to change God’s mind?” said, “It’s not like that.” “Do I make a deal with God? Trade out? Trade out for what?”

Bear in mind, I have, possibly more than once, prayed it would stop raining so I could finish a paint job. And it worked. Maybe a day later, but…  I made a deal with God, several times. I should say I offered a deal.  Payment plan.

So far, battered and a bit beaten up, I’ve survived. What remains intact is a certain level of faith that there is some mysterious something that we cannot understand. Someone (on TV) ridiculed those who believe there could be an entity that hears the quiet moanings, maybe it was ‘murmurings,’ of individuals among the millions of people, the silent whisperings, the unspoken wishes. Prayers.

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Here’s another drawing from Melissa. There’s a wave drawing as part of it that is mine; the girl on the beach is from a photograph of her as a young girl. It’s an illustration for a play. I never really got it. Too abstract, maybe; but now I’m studying it while I think what I can say or do to help.

Very little, really. But, if you have a prayer list, if you are someone who sends prayers and murmurings out into what we don’t at all understand except that it’s not a void, please include my sister, Melissa.

Oh, just checking this over (it’s Sunday, I should be in Sequim, painting), I got a text from Mary Jane saying our sister is ‘feeling better and eating better.’ Wow, that was quick.

 

Sum-mer-time… Skunked on the Strait, 66 degrees at Swamis, 1967…

The surf report and forecast for the Northwest portion of the contiguous U-nited States of A-merica (dashes added to more closely reflect prideful way we pro-nounce stuff) is pretty bleak. You’d have to believe the Pacific Ocean could churn up something more than a two foot swell.

Hey, it’s summertime. Painting season. Hydrosexual Stephen Davis and I, both of us drinking coffee, were each sitting in doorways of our vans, paint gear spread around. I asked him about water temperatures in Baja (last fall) and Hawaii (this last winter). “Oh,” he said, “Baja was right between trunking-it and wetsuit temperature; probably 66 degrees or so.”

“Oh,” I said. Pause, both of us nodding our heads. “You know, back when I was a teenager…” Now Steve was trying to avoid rolling his eyes. “…when the water temperature got up to 58 degrees, somewhere around Easter; if you were still wearing a wetsuit… and bear in mind we only had shortjohn wetsuits… you were a pussy.”

“Uh huh. Pussy.” “Really. And you couldn’t put one on until it got back down to 58, somewhere around December; before Christmas, anyway.” “Uh huh.”

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What I didn’t bother to tell him, but probably drifted off into remembering, was an early summer morning when Phillip Harper, Ray Hicks, possibly Mark Metzger and Billy McLain, and I; no doubt in two cars from Fallbrook, all hit Swamis at about the same time.  I was first down the stairs.

I surfed Swamis enough from 1965 to see the basic reef, sort of fanned, overlapping shelves, hold up while the shoreline would change more dramatically; erosion, refill. Seasonal. The wave conditions went from one high tide peak too close to the bigger rocks; to mid-tide and two distinct peaks; to ultra low tide, one running crazy and almost hollow wave; from the December ’69 swell; through dawn patrol, after school, between classes-at- Palomar and work-in-Oceanside sessions (pre-1971); to the times I lived in Encinitas (’74-’76) and could sneak in a few; to New Years day ventures while working in San Diego because I didn’t have work in the Northwest (1991,’92); everything from Santa Ana mornings to south wind chop, onshore, glassy; overhead to flat; overcrowded to almost empty; with so many memories… they’re all memories now; haven’t surfed there in twenty-five years.

On the particular morning I was remembering while talking with Steve, shadows of the bluff extending into the water, there was a chalk board on the still-empty lifeguard station. “Surf 2-3, water temp- 66.” Whoa! Warming up! We would probably end up surfing what we referred to as Swamis Beachbreak, the quarter mile or so between Swamis proper, and Pipes, pretending there was a better lineup off this rock than off that. “Hey, I WAS on the nose!” “Hey, did you see that rollercoaster?” “Hey!”

I hit the water straight out in front of the stairs, caught a left just as my friends hit the sand. “Hey!”

Not that Stephen would be all that impressed. “Uh huh. Do you have any more coffee?”

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“Uh. Um. Yeah.” I’m certain many of us will look back on the times we went searching for waves on the Strait. Sometimes it can be… “Waves?” “Waves? No, I got skunked.” “Then why are you smiling?”

 

 

“Hydrosexual” Stephen Davis’s Foreplay/Introduction to “Lower Baja”

“Have you met Tom Jones yet?“, Lisa asked of everyone, and no one in particular, during a next-to-the-palapa, coffee-mug-holding, waking-up-from-a-coma kind of surf-check-morning. The waves were cracking like thunder and pounding the dark, slippery cobbles;  each one a possible magazine spread if anyone knew how to work a camera. Over head sets. A couple guys, already out, were taking off on glassy set bombs in the darkness of the early desert morning.

The sunrise was just starting to illuminate the desert sky, hiding the sparkly starlight. I had been, almost catatonically, gazing at the silhouettes of the cactus and canyon walls, miles off in the distance. The mighty Baja Sierras, even further off, were still casting a shadow to the Western horizon.

“Whad’ya say?”, Mark, an older member of the loose band, from Northern California, a retired carpenter and nearly-deaf fixture of this particular Point, asked, with his trademark hand cupped to his ear.

“Does anyone need more coffee?” I asked, dropping in on everyone.

“No thanks,” Lisa said.  Nearby, crusty wetsuits, salt caked, swaying, were sweeping dust off the side of the van in the light, side offshore breezes; a result of the desert land mass cooling off at night, the ocean maintaining it’s temperature.

“Tom is CrazY!” Lisa continued, though there had been a long enough lull that I, and others, had to do a mental replay.

“Oh… Tom; Tom Jones,” I thought but didn’t say. I just smiled as if I understood.

Lisa looked around the informal group. We all seemed, at least to Lisa’s satisfaction, to understand. Tom Jones is CrazY. “I think I’m gonna bake a cake,” she said. Cake?

“That sounds chill,” I said. I wasn’t sure about any of the other morning’s coffee-wake up-surf-check- group members, but my shoulders were aching. Maybe it was from surfing long hours; maybe from sleeping on a shitty mattress; possibly, perhaps, just from being a middle aged man.

My mind wandered to the pros and cons of ibuprofen before I would walk out into the oncoming glare to pull on my wetsuit; the one that, literally, had not seen a fresh water rinse in weeks. And the booties. I hate wearing booties, but sea urchins…

“Ya” , Lisa added, “I’m playing around with my new Dutch oven.”

“Uh huh.”

There were still several urchin quills in the front edge of the pad of my left foot, between the ball and the base of my big toe. I remember dealing with way more urchins at this same spot, 20 years ago.  The cobbles are slippery and the urchins grow well in the gaps between the stones.

It works perfectly; the feet struggle to grip a slippery rock until a wave pushes you off balance, and simultaneously obscures the sea floor; then the foot can freely slide into the void where the waiting urchin meets it. Some say booties help.  It’s another conundrum then presents itself; the surfboard always feels more intimate barefoot, like sex without the condom.

A solution Aaron (a surgical goofy footer who always gets set bombs and rarely blows them) came up with, is to wear the reef shoes out into the line up with a belt around his waist; one of those adjustable nylon-tie-down-things with the plastic clip, like for a back pack. Then, once he is outside, he straps the shoes to his waist, allowing his toesies their full roam of the board deck.

I am picturing him now, bottom turning and smiling right at me while I’m paddling up and over the shoulder, me staring back at him as he is happily being chased down by a perfect, massive, spinning vortex of water…booties strapped to his waist belt.

I am so inspired by his love of and dedication to the art of surfing; my mind drifting off to thoughts of sitting next to him on our boards, watching him paddle for bumps that transform into beautiful walls as he intuitively finds the perfect take off spot, late and deep; watching him effortlessly drop and simultaneously pop to his feet, then settle into a hard, fast bottom turn as the wave passes under me. Looking shoreward at the wave back, I try to track him and see glimpses of his long hair flying behind his head, followed by spray flying skyward.

 Some say there are fewer urchins now because the hurricane flooded the river with rain and the freshwater did them in.  Others say the heavy, seafloor-hitting shrimp boats wacked most of them. The same goes for the puffer fish corpses laying all over the beach berm. Was it the hurricane? Was it the shrimp boats? Maybe it’s the impact of the surfers. It’s all relative and rhythmic; storms coming and going as clouds move across the horizon, blanketing the silver sea.

But now, the cracking sets begging for our attention, we all intuitively adjust our gaze from our friends’ faces, and the shadows and the sunrise, on out to sea as we are all unconsciously tuned into the thunder of the point. The energy of the Sea and Earth are crying like a sacred baby to a Mother, each in need of intimacy.

“Right on”, I said, mostly to Lisa; “I might have bumped into him 22 years ago. That was the last time I camped out here for any length of time.”

Tom Jones. CraZy. Dutch oven. Urchins. I turned my wetsuit right-side-out in the last of the long shadows.

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Lower Baja, Lowest Baja, Stephen’s Story

I BUGGED (Hydrosexual) Stephen Davis to finish and send me a story on his surfing/life adventures in Mexico last Fall/Winter; continued this while he was on the Big Island… and I sort of promised, on this site, that the story of waves and friendship and treachery would be forthcoming.

AND NOW Steve is back in the Northwest, the piece has been delivered. It’s an introduction to the story, and…. ahhh! I haven’t had the time to edit it and get it out. SORRY, Stephen, Sorry folks. I want to be careful, I want the result to be RIGHT.

I did take some time to do a sketch.

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SO, working on it. I don’t think Stephen’s piece will be called “Lower Baja,” but I kind of enjoy the phrase.  Now I have to go to my day job. UPDATE- July 2, 2017. Feeling quite guilty, I edited Stephen’s story. He’ll probably hate what I did to it; but I didn’t change it much. Really.

The Story. “Lower Baja”

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

11:35 AM

“Have you met Tom Jones yet?“, Lisa asked of everyone, and no one in particular, during a next-to-the-palapa, coffee-mug-holding, waking-up-from-a-coma kind of surf-check-morning. The waves were cracking like thunder and pounding the dark, slippery cobbles;  each one a possible magazine spread if anyone knew how to work a camera. Over head sets. A couple guys, already out, were taking off on glassy set bombs in the darkness of the early desert morning.

The sunrise was just starting to illuminate the desert sky, hiding the sparkly starlight. I had been, almost catatonically, gazing at the silhouettes of the cactus and canyon walls, miles off in the distance. The mighty Baja Sierras, even further off, were still casting a shadow to the Western horizon.

“Whad’ya say?”, Mark, an older member of the loose band, from Northern California, a retired carpenter and nearly-deaf fixture of this particular Point, asked, with his trademark hand cupped to his ear.

“Does anyone need more coffee?” I asked, dropping in on everyone.

“No thanks,” Lisa said.  Nearby, crusty wetsuits, salt caked, swaying, were sweeping dust off the side of the van in the light, side offshore breezes; a result of the desert land mass cooling off at night, the ocean maintaining it’s temperature.

“Tom is CrazY!” Lisa continued, though there had been a long enough lull that I, and others, had to do a mental replay.

“Oh… Tom; Tom Jones,” I thought but didn’t say. I just smiled as if I understood.

Lisa looked around the informal group. We all seemed, at least to Lisa’s satisfaction, to understand. Tom Jones is CrazY. “I think I’m gonna bake a cake,” she said. Cake?

“That sounds chill,” I said. I wasn’t sure about any of the other morning’s coffee-wake up-surf-check- group members, but my shoulders were aching. Maybe it was from surfing long hours; maybe from sleeping on a shitty mattress; possibly, perhaps, just from being a middle aged man.

My mind wandered to the pros and cons of ibuprofen before I would walk out into the oncoming glare to pull on my wetsuit; the one that, literally, had not seen a fresh water rinse in weeks. And the booties. I hate wearing booties, but sea urchins…

“Ya” , Lisa added, “I’m playing around with my new Dutch oven.”

“Uh huh.”

There were still several urchin quills in the front edge of the pad of my left foot, between the ball and the base of my big toe. I remember dealing with way more urchins at this same spot, 20 years ago.  The cobbles are slippery and the urchins grow well in the gaps between the stones.

It works perfectly; the feet struggle to grip a slippery rock until a wave pushes you off balance, and simultaneously obscures the sea floor; then the foot can freely slide into the void where the waiting urchin meets it. Some say booties help.  It’s another conundrum then presents itself; the surfboard always feels more intimate barefoot, like sex without the condom.

A solution Arron (a surgical goofy footer who always gets set bombs and rarely blows them) came up with, is to wear the reef shoes out into the line up with a belt around his waist; one of those adjustable nylon-tie-down-things with the plastic clip, like for a back pack. Then, once he is outside, he straps the shoes to his waist, allowing his toesies their full roam of the board deck.

I am picturing him now, bottom turning and smiling right at me while I’m paddling up and over the shoulder, me staring back at him as he is happily being chased down by a perfect, massive, spinning vortex of water…booties strapped to his waist belt.

I am so inspired by his love of and dedication to the art of surfing; my mind drifting off to thoughts of sitting next to him on our boards, watching him paddle for bumps that transform into beautiful walls as he intuitively finds the perfect take off spot, late and deep; watching him effortlessly drop and simultaneously pop to his feet, then settle into a hard, fast bottom turn as the wave passes under me. Looking shoreward at the wave back, I try to track him and see glimpses of his long hair flying behind his head, followed by spray flying skyward.

 Some say there are fewer urchins now because the hurricane flooded the river with rain and the freshwater did them in.  Others say the heavy, seafloor-hitting shrimp boats wacked most of them. The same goes for the puffer fish corpses laying all over the beach berm. Was it the hurricane? Was it the shrimp boats? Maybe it’s the impact of the surfers. It’s all relative and rhythmic; storms coming and going as clouds move across the horizon, blanketing the silver sea.

But now, the cracking sets begging for our attention, we all intuitively adjust our gaze from our friends’ faces, and the shadows and the sunrise, on out to sea as we are all unconsciously tuned into the thunder of the point. The energy of the Sea and Earth are crying like a sacred baby to a Mother, each in need of intimacy.

“Right on”, I said, mostly to Lisa; “I might have bumped into him 22 years ago. That was the last time I camped out here for any length of time.”

Tom Jones. CraZy. Dutch oven. Urchins. I turned my wetsuit right-side-out in the last of the long shadows.