Five-thirty am, on the dot, the bug hit the windshield. I hit the washer/wipers. The last of the wash just smeared the bug carcass in a big semi-opaque, whitish green arch. Driver’s side. My side. I was committed to my journey; there was no way I would stop. I was pretty sure I had the last of the last bottle of all season window solution in the back of the van.
Much later. There was no real moisture in the air. There was no real question, the dead bug rainbow would stay. Was it light enough to surf? Yes, already light enough, and it got increasingly lighter as I approached the Strait; curvy roads, hills and trees so well known to me. It was kind of a joke when I told one of my surfing friends that I just put the cruise control on 60 and… cruise. It was also kind of true.
It is also true that where I attempt to surf is one of the more fickle areas I’ve ever heard of. There are, no doubt, places where rideable waves hit even less frequently; my guess is people just don’t talk much about those spots. Secret, secreter, top secret.
Bug splatter on the windshield, minor. 65 on the speedometer on some straightaway, checking each road mile sign, looking for flutter in flags and old Trump banners and trees, following an empty log truck; wailing.
You learn through experience that waves are not the norm.
The windows are small for any particular pulse of swell, and you have to know something about where the tide suits the possible-but-never-guaranteed swell, how winds miles away can just mess it all up, how local winds can blow out whatever waves make the move down the throat of the Strait. It’s a guess on khow many people in Seattle and Tacoma and Great Falls and Dubuque are looking at the same forecasts and thinking… “Yeah, I think there just might be some of them there waves;” all these things are taken into consideration on the drive out.
And then I arrived at my destination… secret, secreter, top secret.
SORT OF. There were some issues; not new ones; involving my frothing/manic/wave-crazed activities in the water. I was reminded, quite heatedly, of rules of surfing etiquette I had (true in this case; did I really think he’d let me have the wave? kind of) broken. Asked for a second opinion of the third person in the lineup at the moment, the response was, “You have to follow the rules.”
“Yeah,” I thought but didn’t say (and now I am) he didn’t have to call me a Kook.” He also told me I need to calm down. I probably did… have to.
A little later on in the same session, after I apologized, after I asked each of the two other original surfers which wave he wanted, which one he was going for; it got more crowded- not super crowded, just more. I turned to go for a wave. A woman told me I had surfed the last set wave and she was going for this one. I think that is somewhere in the rule book, so, okay.
Okay, here is something, frothing/manic/childish, doesn’t-like-to-share Kook that I am, that I have learned in the years since 1965, when I started board surfing. So, um… fifty-six years (though I am perfectly willing to deduct ten or so when I was just too busy working to go); what every surfer does before entering the water is size up the waves, decide whether his or her skill level matches the conditions.
OBVIOUS. Then, in the water, and particularly when it gets more crowded, a surfer sizes up the competition. Aggressiveness and ability are the key components. When I started out, I would never challenge the top surfers for a wave, whether I was in position for it, had waited outside longer than anyone else; these were not factors.
Don’t tell me (or yourself) you don’t do this sizing up. You do.
MOSTLY I tried not to fuck up someone else’s ride, tried to improve, tried to surf better. Eventually, I had to challenge dominant surfers for a wave.
Or maybe I didn’t have to. If you have a private beach with decent waves, good for you. Eventually, if you want to surf Windansea or Rincon or Westport or Seaside or Bali or anywhere with a crowd… you will have to be more… assertive. I alternated between scrapping for inside waves and trying for a position at the peak at numerous breaks. I continue to do so.
MINOR POINT- Surfers frequently have unkind things to say about surfers who wait outside for the bombs; such as: “How come that dude gets all the set waves.”
BACK to the day in question. The woman who told me she had priority, since I was in her vicinity during a a lull, I pointed out which of the other surfers in the water would, on a wave, go straight or not pull into the wave fully enough to make it (exception: Successfully making a slow wave makes slow surfers believe they rip). She asked me how I knew. “I’ve been watching.”
NOW, I didn’t mention the loss of priority rule (at least in WSL contests). When a surfer paddles for a wave and misses it, he or she loses priority. Yet, otherwise rule abiding folks sometimes ignore this one, go for the next wave, even though you didn’t go for the first one based on their perceived priority status.
In this very same session, a woman who I never saw even attempt a reasonable bottom turn, who never made a wave, totally burned a friend (for the purposes of this piece, we’re all friends) by dropping in on a wave he was well into and charging. Then she went for another one, same rider coming down the line. “Hey, you gonna burn the guy twice?” “Oh. I didn’t look.” Then, according to another friend, the surfer mean-mugged me every time I rode past her. Yes, I did call her off once. Politely, but I do have a loud voice.
And then I burned (as in took off a bit down the line from) Dr. Death, another surfer who paddled like a demon and stood up like Matthew McConaughey in whatever surf-kinda movie he was in, just a little too late to even attempt a bottom turn. Twice. I know it was twice because he told me so. By name.
It’s worse when they know your name. Like, “Erwin, that makes two times you burned me…” “Oh, it won’t happen again.”
ON THIS SAME DAY, other spots are, possibly, breaking; other little skirmishes and mis-steps and such activities are going on among the surf enthusiasts. Friends and friends of friends told and will tell stories. Dr. Death told Reggie about how Erwin burned him. “Well, Reggie; if he’s a friend and all, and if you have his phone number, send him one of the photos you took of me getting ragdolled in the shorebreak and face-planted in the seaweed.”
Okay, if Reggie sends one to me, I might just put it on realsurfers.
So, pretty much surfed out, I stopped off at Walmart, Costco, Costco gas station, Home Depot, and QFC. I picked up some window washing fluid at Walmart, threw the two ounces that wouldn’t fit into the container, did a little scrubbing. The bug is gone.
SOMEWHERE in there I texted back and forth with my friend, Stephen, in Hawaii. I confessed my sins, admitted that, as an obvious sociopath, I keep committing the same ones. Steve said he’s a frother also. I texted, “If loving waves is wrong, I don’t want to be right.”
The truth is, when I stop frothing, I will stop surfing.