Catching Up On New Stuff Before…

…the new year. If I get a chance I’ll go through my notebook to see how many times I surfed at the various (not all secret) locations. this is without any big trips to, um, anywhere; don’t think I even surfed Seaside; definitely didn’t surf Westport.

I do keep track of the times I’ve been skunked.  Not all of them; but I do remember the times I pulled up to underwhelming-but-overcrowded.  Then there are the times, like yesterday, when there was a window; and I missed it.  Half an hour this way or that can make all the difference.

Spitting, scary pits can turn to clunky slop. Durnnnnn; and now I have all my gear dry and loaded; and there’s nothing in the near forecast.  So, I’m ready for 2018. Here are some new or just-scanned drawings:

May you squeeze through a few windows and into a few spitting, scary pits.Image (6)


Another Annoying Christmas/New Years Update/Letter

I hope you’ve been getting some holiday surf. You’ve probably gotten a few of those letters where people brag about  how perfect their families and lives are. OR you can get a glimpse at happy perfection on Facebook. No, this isn’t that.

THURSDAY, four days before Christmas: Our computer punked-out. Not really; I just couldn’t get on-line.  Unknown cause, but not unusual. I’ll cut out some verbiage here. It was the modem. Not that I knew that without making four or five phone calls around the neighborhood to see if it was just another local outage.

Okay, maybe I like excessive exposition. It didn’t seem like other people had internet; when Trish used some cellphone data and checked Facebook, no one was complaining. And people do complain about these interruptions. Our provider said there were some issues in the neighborhood, and, when I hit the proper number to the thirteenth prompt, they agreed to let us know when it was resolved. So I went to work.

FRIDAY, three days before Christmas: Now, we have had problems with our modem before; not ‘booting-up’ (if that’s the proper term- maybe it’s connecting-up or syncing-up with the router) when the DSL came back on.  Maybe it was the modem.

Yeah, after three calls to my provider, going through the various menus (each time), waiting for an actual person, then going on to a person who knew something about modems and connecting, each of whom tried, and I tried, to reset and/or reconnect, an engineer told me I could ‘probably’ purchase a modem from, like, Wal-Mart or Best Buy.  “Will it, um, link-up?” “Sure.” Otherwise, they set up a ticket to have someone come by and fix things on Tuesday (day after Christmas). Trish wasn’t that stoked on waiting.

SATURDAY:  I had picked up Dru, in from her new job with “The Onion” in Chicago, with some confusion (and scared to park because I had my board on the van, and was worried about the height) and three laps of Sea-Tac, on Wednesday. Since we hadn’t finished our latest round of remodeling (bathroom, mostly) and cleaning (kitchen, mostly), I dropped Dru at her lifelong friend Molly’s house in Kingston.

SO, I brought Dru home, tried to see what kind of modem would work. Dru, as is the custom, was sick. She made an appointment for Sunday morning, Christmas Eve day, at an Urgent Care facility.

SUNDAY, Christmas Eve day: They probably should call it Eventual Care. With an appointment, we waited about an hour. NOW, I must add that, somewhere on the previous Monday, headed for waves on the Strait, knowing there had been waves the previous day, I ran out of data on my sortof-smart phone. Too many times checking out World Surf League and buoys. I had to take advantage of free wi-fi when available, even getting a gift of a “hot spot” from a Home Depot associate. As I recall, it looked like it might be working. I was waiting.

After the appointment, we, of course, had to go to a pharmacy. Then we took off for Wal-Mart. Nope. “I don’t really know nothin’ about modems,” the associate who opened the locked cabinet said. We studied boxes. Nope.  If we had a cable modem… So, Office Depot (Dru called, they said they had a DSL model modem); Nope; “Musta’ jus’ been sold.” So, six more miles to Staples. They had one, gave me a sheet with instructions on how to hook it up.  “You’ll have to call your provider… and the company that made the modem.” Should work.

THEN IT STARTED SNOWING. Who the fuck asked for a White Christmas? Then something went out in the pumphouse. No water. Though Trish said all she wanted for Christmas was internet; now all she wanted was water. WAAAAHHHHH-TERRRRR!

Okay; I’ll get back to this. Here’s a couple of Christmas card drawings I did. I could have put them on the computer, but couldn’t put them on realsurfers. Trish wasn’t too stoked on the “Joy” card, but we used the other one for some of our cards.

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Yeah, I’ll update. Evidently I have to figure out why the breaker for the dishwasher keeps popping off

Forgetting Stephanie Gilmore and…

…Remembering why……why we surf.

In an early heat, early in last year’s contest schedule, in a moment of sheer joy, Stephanie Gilmore forget herself. She forgot, for that second, that she was competing, and that adding drama to a ride, mixing up the moves; turning, always turning; that is the gymnastic choreography that wins heats.

She had ridden a wave well past the contest zone, tucking into a tiny barrel down the beach, in among the kids, the grommets, and, rather than turning toward the beach cameras in the last little run of a long wave, she leaned back, left hand in the rising face, right hand in the falling lip.

“A little soul arch tribute,” or words to that affect, Joe, or Pottz, or one of the other World Surf League commentators said. It was, maybe, more surprising, that it wasn’t (correctly) identified as a ‘claim.’ Or, maybe, a reclaim.

And then… then the contest continued, the moment forgotten, not included in the highlight reel. Instead, on the WSL’s opening sequence, along with exciting music and quick cuts to power gouges and backside hacks, there’s a few moments of the same Stephanie Gilmore, out on a wave’s shoulder, doing a sort of double-handed, fists-clenched, power claim.

Because she did remember she was in contest mode.

No, not the same Stephanie Gilmore. Different choreography. Not that it’s not a great dance; not that she doesn’t dance as well as anyone ever has.

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So, what about Kelly Slater? Of all the moves, from all the years; all the incredible drops and turns and tubes, all the linking of moves; a favorite might just be a wave, possibly in France, beachbreak, and not the gravel-shifting power waves, but a little ‘bonus section,’ one any other contestant would have missed while displaying his latest ‘claim’ creation. But Kelly, probably a smile as quick as his turn, tucked into it, visible all the way in a rolling shower.

Somewhere around a second and a half of remembering why…

Here’s a new drawing, unrelated to this story:                                                                                 Image (236)

One or two special rides can make all the difference in how we remember a certain session. Probably the least fun I’ve had in surfing, the most frustration, was back, way back, back when I expected to do well (better) every time I went out. And, if I didn’t… This would be my own sort of inner contest.

After eight or ten years of not surfing at all, getting back into it (and now this is years ago); and sucking at it; any decent ride was memorable.

Here’s one I’ve banked: I was out at Pipes with Ray Hicks. After a couple of sessions staying away from the main peak, we had moved over to the right shoulder-side of the established crew, hoping to pick up a few strays. I was no longer a local, and Ray had a nine foot plus board and a, probably, 7’6”. We both did better on the longer board (and Ray did wayyy better than I could), but, since I was having trouble catching any waves on the shorter board, my eyes were burning, I was tired, and quite frustrated, I moved into the reform zone with the (other) grommets and the kooks, jumping into little waves, just hoping to get something going in my muscle memory.

When I’d actually get into one of the closeouts, I’d kneeboard it. A (similarly-aged, I would have been around 52 or so) guy walking out with his board said something to me about his knees and how it looked like I was having fun.

I was. “Yeah. I am.” I didn’t explain how I had once been good. I was, obviously, another kook. And, just then, a little wave peaked in front of me. I turned, leapt into it, pulled into a little barrel, and…


We could all remember not to forget why we surf; those moments, those waves on which we move in harmony with the ocean, dancing perhaps.

Story Somewhat Related to Bruce Brown…

Phillip Harper, Trish Harper, Ray Hicks, Bucky Davis, My Sister Suellen, My Mom, Bob Dylan, and The Endless Summer

Posted on February 16, 2014 by Erwin A. Dence Jr. under Uncategorized

“First of all,” I said, standing in the kitchen of Phillip Harper’s parents’ house, two bars of paraffin wax melting in a soup can on the stove, Phillip’s (second-ever, and not sun-browned like the first one) surf board, stripped and ready for a ‘pre-coat’, floating between two chairs and across the dining room table, “the theater was in no way ‘underground.’ Disappointing.”

Phillip and Ray Hicks seemed to be properly impressed that I, more country kid than either of them, had gone into the city for some other reason than to ride the escalators at Sears with my many brothers and sisters while my parents shopped.

It was at about this moment that Phillip’s sister, Trish (not my Trish- hadn’t met her yet), came in from the pantry (no one ever seemed to use the formal front door). She appeared noticeably disappointed that her brother and at least one of his geeky friends were there. Trish was followed in by her boyfriend, Bucky Davis. He was, perhaps, a bit less disappointed; a nod for Phillip, smaller one for Ray, even smaller one for me (standard cool reaction to over-amped groms). Bucky took a moment to check out the board (approvingly), then the wax melting on the stove.

“You have to be careful,” he said, both hands simulating an explosion. “A candle might be a better idea.” A single hand tipping an imaginary candle illustrated the point.

“Erwin went to see ‘The Endless Summer’ in San Diego,” Phillip said. “At an underground theater,” Ray added.

“The thing is,” I said, trying to be informative, and trying to be as cool as Phil and Ray “kind of disappointing; it wasn’t at all underground. Just a regular, um, theater. And…”

Phillip and Ray appeared less impressed than the first time they heard this. Of course; though they did seem to be checking Bucky’s reactions.

“On University Avenue?” Trish asked. I shrugged. I hadn’t driven. We’d gone down 395. It was somewhere near the Zoo.  “Well,” she said, “I saw it at State.” She paused, possibly to see if she had to add ‘San Diego State.’

No, I knew she had been spending some time down there, preparing to attend ‘State’ in the fall of 1967. Bucky would not be attending.  He was planning on going to Palomar Junior College; he’d have to go somewhere to stay out of the draft.

“When I saw it,” she continued, “Bruce Brown narrated it… himself. He was behind this curtain and…” She stopped because Bucky seemed a bit surprised at the news. At least that is what I thought, at the time, as if she had seen it without him. That would be sad, her and her new, big-city life and Bucky…

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[Let me add here, fifty years after this incident, three years after originally writing this piece, that, among my first surfing friends, Trish and Bucky were the perfect surfing couple.  That they didn’t remain a couple was, bits and pieces of the disconnection playing out over, and just beyond, my high school years, tragic; tragic in that teenager’s romanticized, love-lost way.

Part of the reason I started this blog was to record how I changed from total kook, over-stoked beginner, with Bucky one of my early surf heroes, to… I don’t know… over-stoked surfer out past high school, past the inside break; my friends scattered.

My opinion of surf heroes, with Bucky the best illustration, went, along with my connection to surfing, from a sort of ‘this is magic’ awe, to a more realistic view.  Bucky had some serious life challenges. He was a real person.

Still, what I loved about Phillip’s sister, that seeming-self confidence, that willingness to stand up as an equal, is part of what attracted me to my Trish.

Still… still an over-stoked surfer, awed by the magic… still I, somewhere in the part of me that never got past adolescent romantic, I’ve held out a notion that Bucky and Trish could… yeah, maybe I just hope they, and all my scattered surf heroes and friends, including Phillip and Ray… have been, mostly, happy.

And, I am grateful, while I’m anxiously awaiting my next surf adventure, that I have such great memories of interesting, and real, people. And someone to share current adventures with.]

I’m sure I was mostly trying to hide being impressed. And out-cooled. Again. Always by her.

“Bruce Brown? In person? That’s… cool.”

After all, it had been impossible for me to be really, even passably, cool, at the above-ground theater, hanging with my older sister, Suellen, AND my mother.

Still, hoping to in some way to compete with Trish Harper, I said, “Yeah, well; they had these previews for a movie with Bob Dylan, and…”

“’Don’t Look Back’,” Trish said.

“Huh?” Phillip and Bucky and Ray asked, pretty much at the same time.

“Uh huh,” I said; “and Bob Dylan’s, like… he’s holding up these…”

“Cue cards,” Trish said.

“I guess. Yeah. And my mom starts laughing.”

“Laughing?” Phillip and Trish and Bucky and Ray all asked.

“Yeah, laughing; and… I mean, not even Suellen is laughing. No one’s laughing.”

“Because it’s Dylan,” Trish said, serious and almost indignant.

“Yeah, Dylan; Bob Dylan. But, pretty soon, someone else starts laughing. And then more people are laughing; and then everyone’s laughing. And Bob Dyl… Dylan, he just keeps dropping the cards. And…”

By this time, in the kitchen, I was also laughing. Phillip started to laugh. Ray, studying Bucky’s face,  allowed himself to join in the laughter. Then Bucky looked over at his girlfriend (not laughing), maybe thought for a moment about how he didn’t see “The Endless Summer” at ‘State’ with her, with Bruce Brown personally narrating; and he laughed.

And then the wax exploded.

Bruce Brown, revealing the stoke and the magic and the awe to a larger world, stepping behind another curtain. Rest In Peace. And thank you.

Surfing for Fun (and some new illustrations)

It’s not ready yet, but I’m working on a piece about forgetting Stephanie Gilmore. Actually, it’s about a few moments of surfing in which Stephanie forgot herself, her image, her contest persona, her heat strategy; forgot everything except the joy of the moment.

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It’s something we all forget when dealing with the crowds, the conditions, and our own expectations for ourselves.

Meanwhile, here are a couple of other recent drawings:

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