Dusk Patrol

It’s one of my (numerous) conceits that, because I’m self-employed, I can arrange my schedule around those small windows of rideable wave availability on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  It is, of course, not always true. Work almost always comes first.

BUT, I have been known to dawn patrol it, surf, then work late (and tired, and, hey, you must know what it’s like to sweat out the saltwater you couldn’t shower off). AND, particularly in the winter, I sometimes head for an evening session (this can be 3pm when the sun goes down at 4:20 [no other significance to 4:20 intended]), or, around summer solstice, it can be, as it was recently, an 8pm arrival, quickly (for me) suited-up and in the water, hitting some semi-glassy walls, watching the sun disappear somewhere around Neah Bay around 9:14, dressed and re-loaded by 9:50, and home in pretty much record round-trip time.

OH, maybe I’ve made trips in less time, but that would be because I got skunked, didn’t hang around waiting, didn’t check other spots; and, mostly, because I didn’t stop for gas, food, to fill a Costco list, and because Olympic Peninsula traffic is not (usually) the nightmare it is in the Seattle/Tacoma/Bremerton.

That traffic was fresh in my mind; I’d spent most of the day taking my daughter, Dru, over to the Bainbridge Island ferry (always an anxiety-creator; barely made it). Then there was a (planned) side trip to Daniel Smith for some art supplies (some for her mother, Trish), only one mistaken turn (with ten minute readjustment- thanks to Dru’s phone), a quick stop at the Jack-in-the-box (because they don’t have them in Chicago) on First Avenue (with a blond rat cruising the dumpster area), and minimal holdup at Sea-Tac (the usual cars curb-blocking, others trying to make 90 degree turns).

About this time I got a call from Trish saying I might as well drive around as the ferry terminal would be a (bigger) mess. Fine, don’t mind, the fee for the Tacoma Narrows Bridge is collected going the other way, and, besides, rush hour couldn’t start at 3pm.

EVIDENTLY it can.  I now admit I used the carpool lane (by accident- hey, I live in the boonies) to get onto I-5; I mean, once I got in it, I couldn’t move over.  NOW, I had been checking the buoy reading all day on my phone, and it was looking, um, possible. THEN I got a call from someone returning from a weekend with the family on the coast, where, I’m pretty sure, the waves had been minimal and the crowds, well, fun if you like sharing and the whole campground atmosphere.

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Above: another silkscreen image from 1980s, retrieved from my attic.

FIRST, I was told I was on speaker phone and the family was in the same vehicle. Yes, his sons didn’t need to learn any more new words. No, he didn’t surf on the Strait, no, the waves had been fun; oh, and he had passed other surfers headed toward the Strait.

SECOND, I have a phone number for one of the surfers mentioned. Somewhere, barely moving, not yet to the water park (which is close to the rest area, which is on the other side of the highway), I gave that guy a call. NOW, no; we don’t call others to report good waves. NOT DONE.

But, I was, according to the sign over the freeway, 8 miles and 29 minutes from the turnoff to Tacoma, low on fuel, and, besides, that surfer was just about to check out the possibility of waves from a secret vantage point somewhere around Port Angeles.

THIRD, the card-reader (or something) didn’t work at the gas station in Tacoma (gas is always higher close to freeways); I had to go inside; the brand new person at the counter (I was third in line, cut off the guy who could have been- counter-hopped him) was showing the even-newer woman how to make the gas pumps work. I asked a local how to get back on 16. “First right, skip over those streets, second left; third right- easy.”

FOURTH, and I don’t know why I started using numbers, there was a big accident at the big curve at Gorst (long called the armpit of the northwest by commuters), in the other lane (thankfully), and the backup went…driving, driving… almost to Silverdale.

OH, I had to stop in Silverdale to bring home dinner. Arby’s. Trish had a list. What’s the fastest route? “Go past Silverdale, take that exit. You have my order?” Yes. “Get whatever you want. It’s dinner.” Fine. I’d already had one of those breakfast sandwiches and the taco Dru didn’t eat, and I had eaten breakfast, but, Classic roast beef and cheddar and bacon sandwiches were on special, two for six bucks.

Didn’t mean to eat both, but, hey, they are way better warm than warmed-up. LUCKILY, the Hood Canal Bridge was not open for a sailboat, submarine, or mechanical failure (or just meanness), and I got home, with too much coffee, too many Arby’s specials heartburn, sometime around 6:25.

“GOING SURFING,” I said. “Really?”

NOW, I passed quite a few surf rigs on my way out; not usually a good sign. No, I didn’t get a call confirming the existence of actual waves; and, when I did get into the water, the guy I had called had already been surfing for four hours, but was willing to go back out for a few more. STRATEGIC STRIKE. Stoked.

ALL RIGHT, I should add that my backup plan had been to go the next morning, and I almost decided not to go, but I had already sworn to a client that I would be on her job the next morning. AND, the next morning, the angle had moved, the swell had dropped.

SO, maybe this is kind of a bit of a backhanded compliment to surfers who have to endure traffic daily, and are willing to take a chance. If I lived near Sea-Tac, the trip, one way, would have been, um, let’s see, 5 hours. Yeah, yeah, a couple of stops.

Moving On… and, yes, On

I recently got an e-mail with the heading, “Moving On.” It was from ‘Hydrosexual’ Stephen Davis, who, incidentally, is my Wal-Mart call (like a drunk call, but mostly because I have little to do in Wal-Mart except follow Trish around and try not to whine, and because it’s usually late enough here that it’s somewhere around 4:30, 5 on the big Island). Included was this, one of several paintings he’s working on before he, um, moves on.


So, Steve has several options, but what he’s evidently doing is going to the Chicago area, helping his friend Cosmo get his (Cosmo’s) house ready to sell. Evidently, again, Cosmo visited the Big Island long enough to decide he might have had enough of being a landscaper in Chicago’s suburbs.

Okay, this is a couple of Wal-Mart calls, and, hopefully, a few more volcanic reef surf sessions away, so, if it changes…

MEANWHILE, Mikel “Squintz” Cumiskey is moving on, back (but not yet) to the wide open and fertile (compared to the Strait of Juan de Fuca) surf grounds (surf sands?) of Florida.  BUT, he hasn’t quite left yet, and sent me this photo of a recent attempt to find waves around these parts.


This was his second long hike/slide/belly crawl/in of the day, and, one, that’s part of a log at the point, two, if he’d actually continued to the beach, the odds of cops being called were pretty high.

No, I’ve never never surfed there, but, interestingly, I have met the woman who thinks it’s her ultra-important task in life to prevent anyone (and she doesn’t own the land) from enjoying… well, this; waves wrapping around just another point. I did ask the woman, who was friendly enough with me when I was painting on another property she did landscaping on, if she’d call the cops if I happened to, you know, maybe try to… “You betcha’,” she said, with an Annie Oakley smile.

Good luck, Squintz and his wife and child. No, I didn’t give Mikel that nickname; but it’s just too good not to use.

MEANWHILE, I managed to sneak in a little drawing time.

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I did refresh the stock of framed prints available at DISCO BAY OUTDOOR EXCHANGE in, obviously, Discovery Bay, AND I’m working with Tyler Meeks (and with Mollie Orbea of Orbea Signs in Port Gamble) on some t shirt designs.  Trying to keep it simple.

Meanwhile, as always, looking for signs of swell, scamming on how to adjust life so it wraps around, lines up, gives one a swoop and a carve, and, yes, moves on.

Father’s Day Weekend, International Surfing Day…

…and, as always, I’m just glad to get some waves. Swell windows along the Strait of Juan de Fuca are small, tight, and reliant on so many variables.  And I wouldn’t have even been checking them out or considering surfing on a weekend if I hadn’t had such an exhausting work week; work completed on a frustrating and not-really-all-that-profitable project at about 8pm on Friday, painting stuff piled back into the van, check ATM-deposited.

EDIT; [Hey, wait; was International Surfing Day June 16, or is it June 22nd? Kind of confusing. Doesn’t really matter; I surfed on one of the possibilities, not sure about next weekend; or any weekend, but, since this weekend is gone and the reports are in, it seems like those who really wanted northwest waves got some. So, good.]

It was a Hobuck weekend for sure. It was the kind of Olympic Peninsula weekend Seattle-Siders dream of. White Reggie Longstroke had taken off on Thursday night to secure a prime spot. Temperatures were predicted to be in the 80 degree range, no big disturbing winds, moderate swell.

I definitely had no plans to go to the coast, and was trying to get all the parties together to start another job, miss the mob. I was hoping for a small swell window, like, checking, like today, right now. It’s a maybe, but… yeah, someone might be getting some waves.

Big Dave, who I’d run into on Wednesday or so, me on my way to a job, he standing by his Jefferson County dump truck, waiting, evidently, to fill in some pot holes on the Center Road, and who I really just wanted to clue in on a session I’d had (and he’d missed) with Clint and I pretty much the only surfers out; but he had to tell me the coast looked to be the bet for the weekend, and, man, I really missed the Memorial Day surf at La Push.

“Wait,” I said; I was checking out the camera, swear I caught an image of you bottom-turning on a wave.” “Probably. I was out there.”

I must add that I also got a clue, texted from an unnamed surf zealot down the canal, that there might be a little window that might not show on the forecast, even on the buoys.

“My board’s still on my car,” I texted; “What time r u thinking? 6? 5?”

No response to my “Going for it” text at 4:30. Knowing he had graduation parties to go to, probably from Shelton to Chimacum, I just knew he was already on it in the pre-dawn light.


Okay, this isn’t actually the lineup when I arrived at around 6;45. I did take some photos with my phone, but can’t figure out how to send them to my e-mail. It was similar, but cleaner; the tide already low and headed for the lowest low (I’m told) of the year; and the swell was dropping, had dropped overnight, one surfer was out, one was headed out, two more were suiting up, and, well, I had to get out there.

Adam Wipeout wasn’t already there, but, with all I didn’t know, he might have been somewhere, hitting waves bigger and better.

It was pretty much over two hours later when I slogged through the mid-cove quicksand. Window closed.  On the way home I did pass a lot of surfers, even more kayakers, as many rigs trailering boats.  Hopefully each of those folks found something to enjoy.  With a rising tide, there could have been another window. And there’s always the coast. Hobuck, La Push, various spots in between… maybe.

Geez, it’s already late; got to get to work.


The Last Time I Surfed Swamis…

…yeah, it’s been years. If I hadn’t surfed some amazing spots in the years since, Swamis would still be my favorite surf break. Because it played such an important part in my surf life, from kook (1965 – now) blindly paddling for a wave that, no doubt, had someone on it; to getting a ride with Phillip Harper’s mom, parking in one of the limited spaces adjacent to the outhouse, next to a vehicle with a WindanSea decal, and Phil’s mom saying, “Oh, those Wind-an-E’-Sa guys are so nice;” to riding in the far back (facing backward, sometimes with Phillip along) of the family station wagon with my six brothers and sisters, our Mom, and later, older sister Suellen driving, five or six boards of various ages on the Aloha racks; to powering over with various friends (among them, Ray, Mark, Phillip, Bill, Billy, Bill Birt, and later, Scott and/or Jeff) after Fallbrook High School let out, hoping to snag a few waves before dark; to sleeping on the beach up against the cliffs, hoping to catch a few before it got crowded (and not get rousted by the lifeguards or cops as Phillip and I had been when we tried to sleep in the back of his VW truck on the bluff where the lone house is now); to going with my girlfriend, Trish, she riding a mat in what we called Swamis Beachbreak (the go-to spot when Swamis just wasn’t quite big enough); to going alone while working in Oceanside and going to Palomar Junior (now community) College; surfing every day of the famous swell of December 1969; actually being an Encinitas Local for a couple of years in the mid 1970s (albeit on the east side of I-5); to hitting some uncrowded dawn conditions on January 1st on two consecutive years in the early 1990s (down in San Diego working for my Brother-in-law, Jim Scott when my painting business was struggling with northwest winter conditions); and, the last time, a very small afternoon, not too crowded, and, I can remember, paddling, sort of blindly, on the inside peak, lined-up on the palm tree, hoping I had enough speed and the wave enough power to lift me, carry me to that little inside inside section.

Yeah, one big run-on; one spot remembered fondly.