The Best Surfer in the Parking Lot

This is a photo of a Northwest parking area in 2015. If I had taken the shot a few minutes earlier, there would have been one more VW. Timing. And times. Now there would be Sprinter vans and almost-Sprinter vans, properly built-out, and trucks and… oh, my Toyota is in the photo… wow, didn’t realize I’ve had it this long.

Long enough that plastic parts have become brittle enough to just break, hinges have rusted. It’s dinged and has a certain and hard to disguise smell of mildew. The muffler may or may not be totally gone (it is… gone), the radio doesn’t work (other than an occasional whine from the back speakers), but the air conditioning (with the original coolant from 1987) does work, even better since George Takamoto replaced the fan motor (eliminating my need to slam the dashboard until it came on). Tough car, hard to kill; tough enough that, when my daughter’s car had some issues, Dru is borrowing it. Sure, with prayers and best wishes from Trish, and instructions from me to put a towel on the driver’s seat and to not try to open either of the back doors, and to not slam the back hatch, and to check the oil frequently, and more.

So, same car for me, same attitude, same desire to ride waves.

What hasn’t changed on the Strait is the opportunity to wait; wait for the tide to fill in or drop out, wait for the swell that was predicted, that was actually showing on the buoys, wait for someone to give a real explanation for why waves have not shown up, and for someone to tell you exactly when they will.

Or where. Somewhere else.

Oh, it is definitely going off somewhere else.

And when waves do show up, according to the word in the parking area; oh yeah, it’ll be on. ON! The competition to get more waves or better waves, to do more on each wave, to… if you surf, you know there is not only a struggle against currents and squalls and rocks and closeout sections and, sometimes, even getting out to the waves, but there is the challenge of dealing with other surfers; each of us intent on ripping, wailing, cruising, crushing, gliding, or otherwise riding whatever waves are available to the very limit of our ability. And maybe, maybe we will surf just a little bit better than we ever have.

Yeah, it’s the ‘maybe’ that brings us back. Recently, trying to stay on topic here, I got out of the water, commented to Darren, someone I have seen often over the years; and, yes, the guy who let me paddle in on his board when mine was caught in the rip (as was I), that several surfers had just gotten the ride of their lives, not, necessarily, because they are really good, but more because they caught a slow one and made the wave; and, because they got that one ride, they now believe they are better surfers than they actually are; and because they got that ride at this particular spot, they would, no doubt, return.

“I was just thinking the very same thing,” Darren said.

If I really think about it, all the above stuff about others is probably also true of me. And Darren. And you. Maybe it is a different spot; one wave you thought you wouldn’t make, couldn’t make, and then you did. That’s what brings us back, pushes us out of the comfort of our home or our built-out van, out into the water.

All right. Again, I have written something far different from what I anticipated, what I planned. Sorry. What I wanted to say… well, several things. I will try to be brief.

First, every surfer is a badass ripper in the parking lot. I have walked past surf spectators for whom the waves weren’t good enough (some who scoffed because they were good enough for me), come in from challenging conditions and asked why certain badass rippers weren’t in the water, asked others why they were surfing on the inside section. Rude.

Every surfer has a history; most of us have a past that includes those perfect moments, perfect rides. If I listed my own history, the question that would have to be asked is, “Why don’t you surf better now?”

I have my explanations, and, although I am rude and blunt and an admitted asshole, I probably won’t ask you for yours. Then again, if we talk long enough, I probably will.

The greater struggles are with ourselves, with our expectations and our underlying sense of ourselves and where we fit into some larger society, where we put ourselves in some pecking order, and where we think others place us; and whether we are satisfied with that position.

I wish I didn’t care about all that. I do.

Too long. Got to go. There may or may not be waves. If we run into each other somewhere, feel free to introduce yourself as the best surfer in the parking lot. “Oh,” I might say, “glad to meet you.”

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