It’s All Windswell

In no particular order, I thought I’d give some highlights from some recent surf sessions. Bear in mind I have a certain obligation, not merely imagined, to never ever mention anything that comes close to confirming there are ever good waves on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

This isn’t difficult. The predominant swell condition is flat. This is undeniable. When waves do show up, the winds that blow into or out of the rather narrow passageway can, east or west, seriously scallop the faces. Rapid tidal shifts and the very angle of wave-to-coast can add to rip/drag conditions; and, since we all check out the same forecasts, and because semi-optimal conditions are sort of rare (rare-ish), and each of us has our own formula of size/angle/tide/period/wind, even the slight chance of waves over a foot high brings, yes, crowds; frustrated, desperate surfers of all ages and abilities ready to head out into…

…waves surfers on most coasts would pass on, or wait out, hoping for something a bit cleaner, bigger, better.  There have been major skunkings; lines of Westfalias, camper-laden trucks, SUVs with tiny boards stuffed inside, RVs, work rigs, Mad Max vehicles with stacks of various-sized equipment; families, church groups, surfers on dates, power couples, buddy-groups of four or five; beginners and rippers, lone wolf dudes in guaranteed cool surf wear; all cooking up breakfast on little burners, or chatting with someone they know from the Udub, or looking for a (better) place to park; all looking out at the water; too many people bobbing around and too few waves. Or none. Or sub-epic.

There is no guaranteed formula. Really. If there was… shit, it’d be worse.

STILL, stories persist of persistent surfers waiting, waiting, and scoring; OR, better, getting somewhere just before it goes off. WHAT? Where? When?

HEART ATTACK: If I suffer one, it’ll be when I do see what passes for great surf in these parts. I have, in the fairly recent past, in my haste to partake, left my shirts (we layer ’round here) on the hood of my car (and/or a window or door open) in a downpour (forcing me to shop on the way home wearing a pervy barn coat), yelled out exclamations that would make an Australian blush (sorry kids, sorry Mrs. Nolan, sorry church groups) and, partially because I am notoriously slow getting into my wetsuit (doubles as stretching/warmup), urinated way before I reached the water.

And, even when I tell myself (and others in the water) that I’m going to “be casual,” I rarely am.

BAD ASSES AND SURF ASSESSMENT: We all have stories of past glories. I quit telling some of mine because, yeah, if I surfed (un or less crowded) Swamis in the 60s, Trestles (parking at Lowers) in the 70s, big days at Windansea and Sunset Cliffs, shouldn’t I surf, um, uh, better?

Doesn’t seem to matter. It might just be, in each of our minds, with one or more asterisks next to our mental wikipedia page,  we rip. This is fine. That is, I won’t call you out if you don’t call me out.

Recently, trying to time my arrival after the overnight-and-hanging west wind died down, I got to a not-secret spot with the tide way too low, waves at the indicators, the wind still howling, and twelve surfers in the lineup. Picture a line of black marker buoys, like those for crab pots, left to right. Because I know some of the folks hanging out or waiting around, I took my time, chatted it up. By the time I paddled out there were nine surfers, then seven. When I moved over from the rights, I was the only one out.  I found a few good ones in the mix, did a lot of paddling, got out of the water. So, no one was surfing.

There was a group of about five surfers hanging out kind of close to my car as I limped up the beach. “Everyone’s a badass on the beach,” I said. “How come you badasses aren’t out there?” “Good on you,” one of them said, “you got some waves.” “Uh huh.” “We were waiting for one more badass.”

NOTE: This didn’t actually translate into them wanting to hang with me, artifact from a century these dudes barely remember.

I took a break, talked to some other surfers I know, met Jeff’s son. And, though there were many coolly-decked-out surfers on the beach, no one was out. Because, partially, I had to pee and didn’t want to take off my wetsuit (okay, mostly because I couldn’t get my wetsuit off without peeing) and I wanted a few more waves, I went back out. I surfed alone for about twenty minutes. The wind had calmed down. It was better.

Then Jeff came out, and his son. Then, suddenly, it seemed, there were, again, twelve (different) surfers in the lineup. Then the wind came back up. One more ride to the fence. And another last ride. Limp up the beach. I had a little discussion with Darrin and Melissa on how good it got the last time I saw him at this spot, AFTER I left; about the time Adam Wipeout and Chimacum Cam (as opposed to Timacum Chimacum) showed up.   I hit the road for Costco and home. I passed at least four surf rigs on the way; more surfers hoping to be there when it got good. The wind, as far as I know, kept blowing as the swell dropped.

STILL, I don’t know what happened the next day. Might’ve been epic. Someone will have a story.

TUGBOAT BILL: I’ve run into him often through the years. He introduces me to others as someone who is “Absolutely ruthless in the water.” “No, no,” I insist, checking out the stranger. Most recently he had Mr. Smythe (sp?) with him, and asked if I knew what surfer would be pulling onto 104 from Center Road in a gray pickup. I didn’t know. It turns out the very pickup was in the parking area. “Let’s go see who the hell he is,” I said. It turns out he’s a fisherman, formerly from Maine (as I remember) wondered how he could keep from getting skunked coming to the Strait. “Can’t help you, kid,” Bill said. “Do you check the buoys?” “Buoys?” “Hmm. Can’t help you, kid.” All I said is, “Buoys.”

CONCRETE PETE: Another old guy, though not as old as me. On the day from the previous story, after the three surfers who dawn-patrolled got out of the water in, pretty-much, defeat (including Bruce, the ‘Mayor of Hobuck’, according to Adam Wipeout, some guy White Reggie identified as the owner of several pot shops in P.A., and some guy Reggie said was known to be confrontational in the water) I ended up (because I hate getting skunked) surfing alone on some one footers.

Thinking this was it, and because it didn’t seem to be raining, I got out, got dressed, was ready to go to work. Then the waves got a bit bigger. I put on my other wetsuit (Yes, I do own two- so worth it), went back out. Again, people who were waiting (including Tugboat Bill and Mr. Smythe and the fisherman) also went into the water. Double session.

When I was getting out, I saw a truck backed up to the berm, some guy, struggling to get into his wetsuit, yelling at me. By name. Unable to determine who it was in the glare, I decided I should approach. It was Concrete Pete, and, perhaps thinking it was 1964 and he was Miki Dora, he shot me a B.A. All in good fun. “And that’s my best side,” he said as I turned away. NOTE: Bare ass; variously described as mooning. Full mooning.

“Did you see anything you didn’t want to see?” Trish asked when I told her the story. “I didn’t want to see any of it.”

TOM BURNS: Tom is very close to my age, a lifelong surfer, and he’s on my short list of people to call to discuss the latest session and/or skunking. The last time I called he was on I-5, en route to Dana Point, hoping to score some pre-dawn sessions down that way. If you think I’m a name dropper, you should talk to Tom.  if you think I have stories… again, Tom. If you do, he’ll probably remember your name.

THIS is way too long. I want to write about how someone accused me of being a ‘surf whore.’ No, I’m not sure what it means, either. I do admit to being a ‘paint-whore,’ and, if this means I’ve somehow sold out, no, sorry; haven’t had any real offers. If it means I’m selling out local spots; no; not really. Oh, except Westport. Go there. Go there now.

I ALSO want to write about surf thieves. Someone broke into Stephen Davis’s storage unit, stole his tools, his kite surfing equipment. AND, evidently, someone had a board stolen while (from what I’ve heard) parked on one of those side roads leading to a remote surf spot. LATER on that subject, but, if there is any Surfer’s Code, it definitely doesn’t include stealing. The occasional mooning? Up for debate.

I’m adding to some of the drawings I recently found in my attic. I have to now get this one reduced a bit. More coming. Yeah, kind of like waves.

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Clouds and a Wooden Boat and…

…it’s another drawing from the 1980s; spent a lot of time on the boat; could have worked a bit more on the clouds. More coming; going through the images.

I have some originals that are too large to copy, have to be scanned on blueprint unit. When I have some time, I’ll…

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Contacts From the Past

I had to crawl around in the attic, trying to find some obvious sign of a short circuit. Didn’t find it (which means it’s somewhere in a wall, or, I’m suspecting, the light fixture I installed- had to quit looking to go surfing), but did find some old artwork.

During my tenure at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (a transfer there got me here from San Diego), I got into the sign shop (I had, after all, started out as a sign painter apprentice, 1969, Oceanside). While there, I took advantage of having a drawing board to, well, draw.

Most of the drawings started out on 17 by 22 inch paper, too big for most printers, but, because I was also doing posters (and I grabbed any artsy projects that came in- keggers, picnics, that kind of civil service boondoggle), I took advantage of the shipyard photo lab to get illustrations photographed.

I do have some surviving silk screened posters (if they are artsy, I’d prefer to say serigraphs) as well as some (and, sadly, not very many) originals. These are SOME of the contact prints I had in a padded envelope inside a now-moldy box. They are all pre-1990 (when I left the shipyard), and, if there is a difference in my style, and I would say there’s been some (maybe) development, if not (necessarily) improvement.  The bigger difference is that I took a lot of time on each illustration, lunchtimes, breaks, and, I think I mentioned, I had a Civil Service job.

Many of the contact prints are too small, the detail too dark. I’m going to get them blown, hoping to open up some light between the lines.  We’ll see.

When I took some of the prints to show my friends, Trish became very possessive of some of the drawings of Victorian houses in Port Townsend I did, claiming I’d ruin them somehow.  I didn’t, but, in the excitement of seeing waves, I did leave my shirt on the hood of my car. And then it rained. You know how soft racks leak onto car seats in heavy rain? No, the drawings came through it, but I got to go to Safeway with no shirt and a heavy, pervert-esq coat. Yes, fully zipped.

So, here are a couple of examples. I want to say “Portraits from the Artist as a Young(er) Man.” So, each one, and there will be more, is over 28 years old.

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Scapes, Landscapes, and Possibly the Last of Captain Sketchee

I have been doing some Olympic Peninsula-specific landscape drawings lately, and I’m trying to get a few more done before (and, hopefully available at) the HamaHama Oysterama coming up the weekend around the 21st, down (or up, maybe even over) Surf Route 101.

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Here’s something I did for the Disco Bay Outdoor Exchange. And, incidentally, Discovery Bay seems to be the happening spot, so near the confluence of highway 20, 104, and Surf Route 101.  Tyler Meeks offers all kinds of gear for skiing, hiking, surfing; all the outdoor activities one can participate in on the ‘still wild’ Peninsula.  AND clothing; so much easier than perusing the Goodwill or paying full boat.

Since, and probably because Trish hates the Captain Sketchee character, I went a little whole hog (and I may not be done with the good Captain).

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A Little Parable- High-Roaded on Surf Route 101

NOTES: I WROTE this just before EASTER.  It was (mutually, sort of) decided this piece was (maybe) too political for the Quilcene Community Center’s monthly e mail-only newsletter, what with all of us bombarded constantly by clusters of divisive stories. OKAY. So, I put it in my blog, “Stuff That Goes On” at the “Port Townsend Leader’s” on-line edition (ptleader.com).  To make this a bit less street-talkie-ish, I changed the word I had replaced with ——- to ‘a possibly wonderful person. (or the plural version, ‘people’) So, look for that. IN ORDER to increase possible readership, I’m also publishing the piece here. OH, since this is for grownups, the word was ‘asshole.’

village store

After picking up twenty bucks at Quilcene’s US Bank ATM, I pulled under the canopy in front of The Village Store. They offer a ten cent per gallon discount for cash, and my ‘low fuel’ light was on. The twelve o’clock NPR news update just started (after another pledge drive plea), and, with the seemingly ever-increasing political drama, I decided to switch the key to ‘accessory’ and listen.

A car pulled up on the outside of the island. An older guy (I always guess they’re older than me- frequently incorrectly) got out; shaved head, some sort of red/white/blue t shirt on. “Hillary” the first word said. “Oh, maybe I was wrong,” I thought.

No, my first impression was, possibly, partially confirmed. The rest of the message said, “…For Prison.”

“Oh.”  Not that this sort of right-leaning sentiment is unusual in the boonies; the red, bullet- hole like splotches in a blue state. Yeah, and Washington is quite red east of the mountains, kind of melting into Idaho.

So, no biggie; and yet, it did bug me. It’s not like wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve; this was a political mini-billboard, the closed captioning to Fox News.

Okay, so I was probably wearing a Seahawks or Hansen Surfboards beanie, maybe a HamaHama sweatshirt; nothing radical. Unlike my old work van, surf-related decal-adorned, my current paint rig only has a few stickers; one for the Chimacum Farm Stand, of course, one for ukeleles someone put under my window wipers out on the Strait. Nothing overtly political.

I kind of wanted to say something to the guy, but, of course, wouldn’t. I’m not that confrontational. Maybe, if he said something to me…

When I went in to get a “Leader,” a “Peninsula Daily News” and get my discounted price set up, the ‘for prison’ guy was almost out the door. I had, of course, nodded (not a big, ‘how’s it going’ nod, not a ‘great t shirt’ nod).  Hey, it’s a custom. There was some sort of website mentioned on the back of his t-shirt. Couldn’t quite catch it.

I just had to say, sort of in general, but mostly toward the manager, one of the Brotherton brothers (Ken), behind the counter, looking at his laptop; and sort of toward the woman who would take my money; “I was just checking to see if the back of his shirt said, ‘I’m obviously ‘a possibly wonderful person.’ ”

The cashier looked a little too shocked; the manager looked up from his laptop for a second. There was some confusion. Had I meant that, obviously, I’m ‘a possibly wonderful person?’

This confusion was escalated when the cashier, taking my twenty, gave me change for three newspapers. “No,” I said, “this PDN is from yesterday.”

The previous day’s papers had, previously, been free; but now, “We charge for them for a week after the actual day.” “Oh. Okay; but I wanted twenty bucks worth of gas.” “Oh. Then, you’ll need to give me another two-fifty.” I may be wrong about the exact amount. Prices have risen. “Huh? Oh. Okay.” I had two bucks, dug for the necessary change.

Just then, a guy I don’t know (younger than me) stepped up to the counter, a little too close to my right side, and said, sort of to me, but also to Ken and the cashier; “You know, when I was about thirty I decided we’re all ‘possibly wonderful people’.” Pause. The Brotherton looked up, nodded. The cashier, taking my two dollars, change, and pocket debris, seemed to agree. “That helps me get along with people (note, here, he did say ‘people’) a lot better.”

So, there it was; the basis, really, of the Christian (as well as almost all other religions, and central to most non-religious philosophies) ethic (and I do make some claim to trying to be a flawed and hypocritical Christian); that we’re all ‘possibly wonderful people’; or, for something closer to something we might agree on, sinners.

And there I was, the most obvious ‘possibly wonderful person’ in the store. Or, again, the most obvious sinner. Yes, I had been totally high-roaded. One can’t just pull right back out of that ditch.

The guy with the Hillary t-shirt was gone. I (mentally) banged my head against the van as I fueled-up. “Why did I say anything? Dumb ‘possibly’ (shortened version of ‘possibly wonderful person’).” The guy who’d calmed the waters (sort of) at the counter, to-go coffee cup in one hand, locally-produced sweet roll in the other, got into his pickup; a table saw and some two-by-fours in the bed; and drove off down Surf Route 101.

I drove off the other way. Of course.
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NOTE: After having no real success looking for an image of a carpenter, in his thirties, next to an appropriate work truck, I continued googling, searching for an image of the Village Store. I found this shot of my daughter, Dru, home at Christmas (probably not last Christmas), at the other grocery in Quilcene, The Peninsula Store. I know she wrote a glowing review for Yelp, and is fond of the fried food. It doesn’t look like she was in luck on this trip.  The “God Bless America” sticker is a bonus feature.