Real Kooks and…

…the rest of us. Franticly, desperately seeking surf. Franticly, seems like it should be spelled differently. Anyway, us, real surfers.

I must be a bit more surf deprived than I allowed myself to believe. Because it’s Sunday, I Youtubed the latest chapter, number 7, I think, in the eleven-episode series on Kelly Slater; like I even care about any mental anguish a guy who (apparently) can go wherever he wants in the world to get the best waves available. Maybe I do care. On Monday, a new clip might be available from Nathan or even JOB, at some point there may be a new cut from Mason Ho. If I get the chance, I will check them out.

Already off topic. I was just vulnerable enough to google “San Diego Surf Cams,” ended up with constantly stalling videos provided by Hansens Surf shop. Cardiff Reef. Sunny, choppy, crowded, a cop car cruising the parking lot. These are cameras that a person can wait for some period of time, then move the angle. No, I didn’t wait. I ended up at a cam at Tarramar Point. I did surf there quite a few times back when I lived in the North County. Oh, no one out. Camera move. Many people out, most on long boards. Many, many surfers, bobbing and floating and waiting. I did see a guy on a shortboard on an insider. Cool.

Not a kook. Some percentage of the bobbers and floaters and back-offers and folks who will just blindly paddle and/or block your ride are kooks.

Right-hander, left-hander, straight-hander (term borrowed from ‘shortboard’ Aaron.

It depends on how you define kook.

If a kook is someone who is just thrilled to be in the water and among waves, trying to improve, trying to… yeah, there’s that. I qualify. Hodad? No. Being a surfer is an important part of my self-image, but it is only one item in a list of self-descriptions, categories in which I constantly try to improve. Father, husband, painter, writer, artist- surfer slides back and forth in importance.

Home improvement guy, mechanic, gardener… secondary list. Still, I do try to do better. Example: Just bailing-wired what remains of the burned-out tailpipe on my surf rig after it hit the ground, just bought a small freezer after ours developed a problem I couldn’t fix by watching Youtube videos on “What to do when your freezer doesn’t cool properly.” It must need a part. I’ll get to it. Soon.


Meanwhile, I’m writing this outside in an attempt to allow the proper birds to eat some of the seed and peanuts we put out. If I leave, the pigeons (non-locals, incidentally) will attack. A horde of them. Some, no doubt, are kooks. Tough to tell.

Okay, I better check the forecast. Yeah, kind of bleak. Hopefully there are waves where you are or where you’re going.

WAIT. Perhaps I should mention that part of my description of a real surfer is someone who has a high level of respect for waves, a certain, and I can’t really verbalize this adequately, reverence toward the ocean. There is some difference in that than having respect for every individual sharing a lineup. Okay, shouldn’t have said that; makes me sound kind of dick-ish.

As I always say, I am trying to do better at sharing. Always say it, usually mean it.

Overdrawn, Over-colored

As usual, I have limited time before I am supposed to be somewhere, checking out someone’s castle for potential painting opportunities. I did get up early, checked what limited info is available to make a guess on whether it is worth it to drive a distance, or a greater distance to possibly find surf. In the circumstance where there might be an opportunity for the closer trip, I would, of course, text the client and claim one or more of the various contractor excuses.

Didn’t happen, but I did do some coloring on a drawing I finished during a frantic, frustrating day… yesterday, and then had the original reduced so I could do the coloring and the scanning. Okay, so, as usual, the illustration, based on a photograph taken by Reggie Smart out on the actual northwest Pacific coast, is kind of over-drawn.

I scanned the colorized version a few minutes ago and… surprise, it is also over-colored. Some colors kick ass on other colors and take over. The most wrong of the colors. Wrongest? The ones I don’t want standing out. Luckily, I got five prints to color up.

Back to the lack of time. Gotta go. Next time, a hopefully, not overcolored version.

Thanks for the shot, Reggie.

Simple, simple, simple… damn, damn, damn

Competitive Burning for Fun and Profit

The World Surfing League has advanced the image and the business of competitive surfing.

It has. This is true. Most of the rest of this piece is opinion. Mine. There are other opinions.

A couch surfer in Vermont or Ohio can now go to YouTube or go online and see professionally managed contests featuring wave riders from about ten years old to somewhere around 50 (even older than Kelly in some specialty events) going for the win, entertaining the audience with a succession of score-enhancing cranks and punts and cutbacks and floaters, throwing a creative claim when appropriate, always looking for an advantage over the competition.

On a recent Saturday, between sort of doing chores, taking a too brief nap, and writing until I forgot the original plot, I switched the big screen from restful music with soothing images and optimistic aphorisms, to Roku, then to YouTube. Whoa, there was a contest going on at Lower Trestles. Trestles! I loved the spot. This scene was way different than the way it was set up when I worked across the tracks and the freeway, and up the hill, in 1975.

While I, not fully aware of how lucky I was, was able to drive out as far as Uppers, the scene on that Saturday was of hundreds of big-tired bikes, sani-cans, judging structures. This was some sort of contest for kids, ages 10 (guessing- really young) to 16. Some of the competitors were there with parents (some well- known former competitors), some with coaches. They were in heats, going wave for wave with other kids. They all seemed to rip.

Contest rip. It is different from free surf ripping. Show. It is for entertainment. Going down the line on a perfect wave will get one three points. Throw in a couple of cutbacks, five. Big air into the rocks, excellent.

And there are the priority rules. They are somewhat similar to the classic lineup etiquette. The biggest difference is the absolute right to ‘sit on’ your competitor and/or to burn him or her if you have priority.


Kelly, with priority, gets the double eagles from a 3rd degree-burned Joel Parkinson at pumping, dredging, draining, rip-torn Kirra. Totally legal.

What made me think about this is this: Unable to stay up late enough to watch more of the contest from Jeffrey’s Bay (I gave up after Italo was injured and spectators wouldn’t get up from sitting on the stairs to let him get helped up them- but Kanoa did get a buzzer-beater to win their heat), I got up early to see which one of my surfing heroes won the event. Fast-forwarding the post show, I saw replays of the interference call against Carissa Moore that gave Tatiana Weston-Webb an almost free pass into the finals. It just didn’t look right. It didn’t look fair.

Wait a minute. I suddenly flashed back to my second favorite scene from the docu-series “Make or Break.” My favorite scene was when Stefanie Gilmore was (I thought), goaded into saying, about winning, “Fuck them, I want it more.” The second favorite scene involved Tatiana and Sage Erikson in a contest in Mexico. An interference call had cost Sage the heat. Sage seemed to believe Tatiana had tricked her into going on a wave by claiming not to know which of them had priority. Then Tati dropped in. Sage wasn’t happy, and in stark contrast to the way the WSL portrays competitor interaction, all mutual respect and love, Sage called Tatiana out for the cutthroat move.

Tatiana looked… if she looked sorry, I didn’t see it. It was more of a “Fuck you, I wanted it more!” look.

Now, I should add that I am a huge Stephanie fan. I also should add that Trish is a Courtney Conlogue fan. Stephanie won the Mexico contest by surfing harder, making aggressive and high risk maneuvers with her classic smoothness. Sportsmanship (or sportspersonship) wise, after Steph beat Court in a heat at Jeffrey’s Bay, it was reassuring to see both of them in a warm-back-up hot tub. I am hoping both of their smiles were real.

I googled “Did Tatiana burn Carissa,” and got a story, with video, on Tatiana burning Moana Jones-Wong at Pipeline. Yes. The surfer Jamie O’Brian calls the undisputed “Queen of Pipeline,” a surfer who legitimately outsurfed every other woman competitor and beat Carissa Moore in the finals of the Billabong Pipeline contest, was locked into a tube and Tatiana dropped in on her, then straightened out.

Moana called Tatiana out on the beach. And on social media. A couple of points: Tatiana claimed she didn’t see Moana but didn’t drop in on male surfers; Tatiana had a coach or someone blocking for her in the lineup. Now, Tatiana said she was trying to earn a spot in the lineup, but Moana countered that, rather than “buying her way in” she had taken years to work her way from the shoulder to the peak, without dropping in on others. It is a matter of respect.

All this in a case against Tatiana is circumstantial, of course. But here’s more: Carissa has been surfing competitively since she was, guessing, ten years old. She knows the rules. It is difficult to believe she didn’t know who had priority. Tatiana waited until Carissa was fully committed on a dangerous and well-overhead wave before she dropped in, not on an angle, but straight down. There was no way Carissa could have avoided the interference. Tati made no real effort to complete the ride but fell in an overly dramatic way more reminiscent of the WWE than the WSL.

Did Tatiana Weston-Webb win the final heat fairly? As nearly as I can tell, she did. Is there a little tarnish on her trophy? Up for debate.

A last point: It seemed to me the commentators were risking injury in trying as hard as they could to not say there just might have been tactics at least underhanded if not all out dirty. Legal tactics.

Yes, the stakes are high. There is one more contest and few spots left in the Final Five. So much drama, so much hype. The waiting period for the one-day contest to decide this year’s top male and female surfers is September 8 through the 16th. Trestles.

Pump up the tires on your e-bike, check your Wi-fi connection. It might just be EPIC! It would be great if the winners win with pure surfing rather than tactics.

Again, I love that contests are so easily accessed, so expertly analyzed and brilliantly filmed. Live action. Replays. Members of the audience can pick our heroes AND our villains. We know something about the competitors, but we don’t really know them. Such drama!

Meanwhile, in the real world, priority disputes continue.

Weaving a Story into “Swamis”

I have written SO MANY versions of a story about a dickhead faking an epileptic seizure in the parking lot of Fallbrook high, 1969; and I have just worked on another, each one shorter and more concise (hopefully), each one changing the narrative of the manuscript that is getting (again, hopefully) more focused… better; each version split up and connected with other characters and other action; I figured I should reveal where the idea for the fictional encounter came from.

It was a story I only heard, didn’t witness. I didn’t go out on Friday nights. Seventh Day Adventist, one of very few in my school. More real or imagined surfers than Adventists. It was a tradition among my two closest surfing friends, Phillip and Ray, and some of their/our other friends, to avoid some away football games and go to a secluded hilltop among the avocado groves and scrub, one way in and out, and drink, smoke, hang out, and then go back to the high school to await the arrival of the rooter bus. More hanging out.

The drinking part of this involved getting some over-21-aged Marine to purchase beer in exchange for all or part of the Marine’s purchases paid for by kids hanging outside one of two liquor stores in town. Not at all suspicious. Cigarette purchases were easier. 18. Select the oldest looking juvenile. “Oh, I left my ID in my other pants.” Sure.

I did actually go on one of these adventures once; don’t remember how I got out of the house, but I do know it didn’t go well. Another guy and I got to sit in the back of Ray’s El Camino while Phillip and, probably, possibly, Bill Buel, got to ride ‘bitch’ (not my word) and Phillip got to ride shotgun. Like surfing, some priorities are set by status. So, fourth or fifth in this grouping, different in the water. The front seat guys were cracking open beers before we got to the secret spot. I was uncomfortable, particularly when some out-of-school folks, associates of my friends but not of mine, hard guys (at least harder than we were) showed up. Phillip, possibly because one should act differently if drinking, started dancing around me as if we were boxing; doing the “come on, man…” deal. I gave him a straight shot that bloodied his nose and lip. I had some amount of beer. Coors. Asked how it tasted by Ray, I said it tasted better after the first few sips. “Better and mo’ better,” he said.

We did go to the school, hang around in the sloped parking lot across from the gymnasium. Not all that exciting. Phillip did get an amount of sympathy from girls from the wounds, but they also looked at me with a certain, slightly more interested look. Or I imagined they did. “One punch, huh?” Yeah.

Bill Birt was another classmate of ours. Bill had the distinction of having hair on his chest that seemed to threaten his neck in the sixth grade. If I was uncool out of the water, and I was, Bill, with a seemingly permanent bit of spittle on one side or the other of his lip, was more so. He did get into surfing. Don’t get me wrong, I liked him. He is on permanent display in my house in the background of a photo of Trish and her father on our wedding day. Nice, since he died in a car accident only a few years later. Bill was allowed to participate in the Friday night adventures if he paid for the beer and if his parent’s huge car was used for transportation.

One Bill Birt rooter bus story involved Bill taking a massive piss on the uphill side of his mom’s car, the urine river flowing under it and down the asphalt. Uncool enough to tell at school, another addition to tales of Bill always getting it a little bit wrong.

The other relative-to-“Swamis” story involved a couple of my other surf-adjacent friends, guys who always seemed to get the rest of us into more trouble than we would have otherwise. They pull into the parking lot along with my friends and parents and others waiting for the return of the possibly victorious football team. Mark (we’ll call him Mark, though I can’t guarantee that) screeches the car to a stop, falls out of the driver’s seat, starts flopping around. His crew bails out, runs over to him, don’t help him, but start calling on others to do so.

In my manuscript, I have placed Joey into that setting. I included another character, teacher Mr. Dewey (yeah, you get it). Mr. Dewey is making out with another player’s mom in a car while awaiting the return of his wife and daughter on the rooter bus. Joey, who never goes to school events, and who suffered seizure activity as a result of an accident when he was five, is not amused by the antics. Prone to violent outbursts, Joey walks over, puts a foot on the faker’s throat. Mr. Dewey runs over, grabs Joey. He tells Joey that his father’s position on the school board won’t save him this time. The prankster jumps up, semi-apologizes to Joey, then throws up on Mr. Dewey just as the rooter bus unloads. Joey, noticing the lipstick on the collar of Mr. Dewey’s shirt, says, “You got lucky, Mr. Dewey.”

“Gee, I wonder if anyone’s waiting for us back at the school?”

That’s kind of where it is now, but now, Mr. Dewey shows up at Joey’s father’s wake. It provides me with someone to comment on how a very conservative Sheriff’s detective and Marine veteran of World War II and Korea can marry a Japanese woman. Joey comments that “It’s traditional, isn’t it? Kill the men, take the women.”

Right now, where I am in the ever-more-time-condensed manuscript, Mr. Dewey purchases the mini-Ponderosa in Fallbrook. This allows Joey to move to Leucadia, advancing the story. Meanwhile, here’s an earlier version that mentions the incident:


Several Big Jackets and Julia Cole and I were in the classroom outside the photo lab. We were looking at two sheets of contact prints; three rows of 35-millimeter positive images cut from a roll and pressed and fit and exposed on eight and a half by eleven photo stock. Most of the photos were of Portia posing on the landing and stairs at Swamis. 

“I wish I’d caught it,” Julie said, spreading the photos she’d chosen to enlarge around the table.  “Portia had the most wicked kind of smile. And then, when you saw Portia… well… You looked at me first. Regular smile. Then you saw Portia.”


“And I saw both of your faces.”


“And you were both… I don’t know how to describe it. Intense. I feel like you were both so focused, so…”

“Julie; you don’t… I mean, my father would say you don’t feel; you believe, based on facts, evidence. Cops always talk about ‘gut feelings,’ but my dad…”


Julie pinched my arm pretty much as hard as she could. “You feel that?” I pulled away. She got her face as close as she could to mine, looking into my eyes.  “Or do you believe that?” I must have looked angry; I couldn’t have hidden that. She didn’t look frightened. A moment later she pursed her lips, twisted her head to allow me to kiss her.  

I was moving closer but stopped when I looked at her hands. Fists. She was ready, in case. I looked at my own hands. I opened my fists, spread my fingers as far as possible. Julie did the same.  We both smiled; we embraced; we kissed.

She whispered, “I believe you.”

In Julia Cole’s photos Portia was mostly backlit, her semi-transparent shawl held out like bird’s wings. I hadn’t seen Portia up close before that afternoon. Some people are like that; you just can’t, even if you’re close enough, get a good look at them, a real look. If I said Portia had a sort of protective aura; that would sound… off. But it was true. I had seen her moves, her gestures, always flowing, as if she was a dancer. Or had been. Or could have been.

In other photos Portia, so obviously pregnant, looked almost vulnerable. Almost.

“Grant told me you’re known to be kind of… violent.” 

“Grant? Grant fucking Murdoch?”

“Yeah, him. He says you punched out Rusty McAndrews and stuck your foot on his, Grant’s, neck, both on the same night.” When I didn’t respond, she added, “And you slammed Rusty’s brother into a drinking fountain in the sixth grade, busted out his front teeth.”  I nodded.  “And you got kicked out of Little League and then off the football because…”

“There are…explanations.”

“I’m sure. Such as…?”

“Travis McAndrews shouldn’t have said the fountain was for white kids only, my dickhead friends shouldn’t have talked me into going drinking with them and their dickhead doper friends; Rusty fucking McAndrews shouldn’t have called Mohammad Ali by his slave name, Cassius Clay; Grant shouldn’t have acted like he was having an epileptic seizure in the parking lot at Fallbrook High while we were all waiting for the return of the rooter bus; and, and Rusty McAndrews… you know the fucker?”  

Julie smiled, her teeth gritted, was about to say or ask something, possibly a question on why I took such offense at Grant Murdoch’s fake seizure, when Broderick appeared inside the lightlock door and said, “If you two could join us; we have a lesson; how to get that perfect sepia tone.”

“Oh, sepia,” Julie said as the door spun around and back again, empty. I jumped in. She pushed in beside me. “Yeah, Joey, I know the fucker,” she said as we spun into the brief blackness.

SOOO, Grant takes the place of Mark (or whoever). Broderick, the (fictional) photography teacher, is probably out, Julia (Julie to her friends and eventually Joey/Jody) Cole and Joey might not actually make out, AND the ever-shrinking timeline for “Swamis,” my novel, might not even reach to the summer of 1969. I will definitely make it to where it begins, the return of Jumper Hayes.

OHHH, and Rusty McAndrews, based on one or more of the characters I have been adjacent to, will be a critical, if diminished character. Yes, Julie knows him.

Waves, summer, good luck.

And a reminder: Everything from Swamis (and writings in realsurfers) is covered by copyright protection.

Some Spells, Once Cast

Whoa, I didn’t realize the credit for the photo is embedded in the image. I just like having palm trees and fireworks. Wait, the fireworks might be digitally produced. Wow, is nothing real? Yes, of course. The Fourth of July celebration is, of course, real; what each of us celebrates, as with all holidays, varies. And yes, every person who considers him or her (or whatever pronoun they choose to define person-ness) a surfer, is… real. We can discuss realness another time, like, is a perfect wave real or a matter of interpretation? And humor… is a line, written or spoken, funny on its face, or is it the reaction that determines the relative funniness of said line? How would I know? Okay, I don’t. I do know truth is out there in the wind and calm, bobbing and bouncing and drifting, still there between the crests and the troughs, the love and the hate and the outright lies. It is probably all right to love America and realize that there was some treachery involved with us becoming US. It may be possible to be a real American without having to have a big ass flag flying over the bed of your big ass rig. Be real.

Soft Persuasion

She offered him such soft persuasion, on the night before the fourth of July,

Began as such a festive occasion, she held him close, he never asked her why.

He went off like a roman candle, so sure the light lit up half of the night,

But love was something they could never handle, no, love’s one thing they couldn’t get quite right.

                Misunderstanding, misunderstood, he thought that they could make it happen,

                Now he sees it ain’t no good.

                Misunderstanding, he got it wrong,

                She took the words that he had written, wrote herself another song.

She said it’s just a misunderstanding, said she’d never meant to lead him along,

She hoped he’d have a really soft landing, she wrote down all the words to his last song.

All in all she treated him quite kindly, she said there are some things she should explain,

He had gone off way way way too blindly, and love that’s blind can only bring one pain.

Some things, she said, are best left unspoken, some things he said he never should have said,

Some spells, once cast, should never be broken, some love’s not in your heart, it’s in your head.

But she’d already heard his confession, she is the only woman he thinks of,

Some times, love is really obsession, well, sometimes what we think is love is love.

He walked into the teeth of the morning, where firecrackers popped and fuses burned,

He had been knocked down without a warning, he couldn’t put in words what he had learned.

All he knew is he had never known her, and everything he thought he knew was wrong,

Didn’t know from there where he could go to, Couldn’t find the words for his new song.

                Misunderstanding, misunderstood, he thought that they could make it happen,

                Now he sees it ain’t no good.

                Misunderstanding, she got it wrong,

                She took the words that he had written,

                But now he has another song.

“Soft Persuasion” is from the collection, “Love Songs for Cynics,” copywrite Erwin A. Dence, Jr.

Happy Independence Day to one and all and all the individuals, all the ones and twos, families biological and otherwise. Note: my favorite line from this song, not just because I wrote it, is “Some spells, once cast, should never be broken.”


In searching for a photo to illustrate “Groovin’ to the surf” I couldn’t find one groovier than this one. Now, maybe Mr. O’Neill once rode this board, but, no, I think it’s all kind of posed. Still…

Two things:

  1. I do live on Surf Route 101. Vehicles do pass, north and south, depending on the swell direction. If my work takes me east, across the Hood Canal Bridge, I have frequently passed hopeful surfers headed for some dream of waves out on the Peninsula in the morning, then passed the same rigs in the evening or night. Did they score? Did I make enough money to not be jealous? Probably not. How do I feel when I’m headed home from surfing, knowing wind is on a dropping swell and I see other hopefuls headed out? Answer- Not as pleased as you might think. Maybe the waves got… better.
  2. It is not a secret that I will occasionally break into song while painting. My friend Stephen R. Davis just sent me a link to “Groovin'” by the Young Rascals, originally released in 1967. “Groovin’, on a Sunday afternoon, wheelin’, couldn’t get away too soon…” Perhaps Steve just wanted to refresh my memory on the actual lyrics… for next time. I was 16 when the song came out, and I started to tell a story about how, because whatever car my dad had supplied me with, some beater he got on a mechanic’s lien, was broken, and because my mom, for some reason, couldn’t or wouldn’t take her seven kids to the beach, I walked and/or rode my skateboard, four or five miles, in the inland mid-summer heat, teenage angst fully in control, to Fallbrook Union High School. Kids played on the fields, typically, and skateboarding hadn’t yet been banned on the perfectly groomed sidewalks. Still, it was too hot to play baseball, there were no cute girls hanging out, and… This is probably the point the story got interrupted by some work-related problem, but, the conclusion is, some of the cooler kids in my class pulled up and, there I was, shortly thereafter, sitting in the back seat, all the windows down, cruising the well-cruised route, A&W, Foster’s Freeze, loop around down by the Little League field, all the while nodding along to the music. “This was,” I tried to tell Steve, a time in my life when, for an hour or so, I actually felt… somewhat… cool. Somewhere in there, the radio playlist got to “Groovin’.”
Quite possibly another Sunday afternoon with Trish. Yes, I do put this photo up occasionally.