Barrel-Dodging With Adam Wipeout

Evidently my paint sales people remember my surfing stories; or some of them; tales of two foot waves and rocks and ear infections and surfers who, on hearing how great the waves were on a Saturday, show up at dawn on a Sunday when the waves are half as big. Yeah, I’m talking about Adam “Wipeout” James, who said he couldn’t think even about surfing while he had so much work that just had to be done.

But there he was, actually getting out of the water when I rolled up. And then he was too tired to go back out. And then he did.

And then, in position for the ‘wave of the (this particular, would have been average the day before) day,’ Adam blows the takeoff (he did well otherwise, other than an ‘off the back’ that was supposed to be a cutback).

Sure, it can (and has, and will) happen to any of us. There’s a penalty (worse in Hawaii, I’ve heard) for this particular type of incident, no doubt mentioned by me, possibly reinforced by Keith Darrock, one of the other surfers out this day (and the day before, and pretty much any time the place breaks), and someone who hates to see a rideable wave go unridden. “Wave of the day, Adam.”

Adam, though remorseful, nevertheless struck back. “At least I’m not a barrel dodger,” he said, paddling for the next non-wave of the day, watching to see if I’d challenge him for it.

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“Barrel Dodger?” Pause. “Me?” Wait; let me think. Have I ever dropped low, under a falling section, rather than staying high, risking getting pitched into the rocks? Have I?

If I have, I won’t again. Thanks Adam.

Down Surf Route 101 at the HamaHama

I did a little project for the HamaHama Seafood Company, family-owned-and-run for five generations. The business is located about halfway down the portion of Surf Route 101 that snakes between the back side of the Olympic mountains and the Hood Canal.

If I wanted to be clever (and I do), I should add that the Hood Canal is, itself one of those TENTACLES that reach from the ocean, SURFROUTE 101 widely used by surfers coming up to the Strait, or down to the various surf opportunities to our south.

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SO, here’s some old guy sitting on the toilet in one of two bathrooms (easily available for customers, and there’s a sani-can outside) now sporting octopus graphics. I’m pretty proud of this illustration, adapted from drawings provided by a designer, but the second bathroom’s drawing…. WELL, my original contact at the HamaHama, Adam ‘Wipeout’ James, fifth generation of loggers and seafood folks (with a sixth growing up quickly) said, of the second illustration, a reverse of this one; “Now you’re really killing it… (or something similar- hip and positive and suggesting that one was even better- ‘crushing it,’ maybe).

ACTUALLY, I was working for Adam’s sister, Lissa. The second I showed up to start the painting portion of the store renovation project I got a call from Keith Darrock. Something about buoy readings and wave possibilities. I told Keith I was working for Adam Wipeout’s sister, Lissa Wipeout.

“ACTUALLY,” Lissa said later, “it’s more like Lissa Freakout.” This may have been a bit of pre-employment intimidation (possibly based on what Adam may have told his sister about my pre-surf mind games- guessing); Lissa has only been gracious to me.

IN FACT, everyone at the HamaHama, from those who work the tides, the folks in the retail store; those workers who shuck oysters, and prepare them for markets all over; those who talk to bigtime clients; Louie Lakeness (who grew up in the oyster business up the canal in Quilcene, and who does several jobs AND is a childhood friend of my son James- JJ to him); and Adam’s sister-in-law, Kendra, who his brother, Tom, met while earning a PHD in Forestry at Yale, and who is now the CEO; they all seem so… so HAPPY in their work. WIERD.

I mean Weird. Unusual. Happy. ALL I’M SAYING IS, when you’re headed up or down 101, stop in. If you have boards on your rig and Adam is around, expect him to talk you up on where you’re going or where you’ve been; what you expect or what you surfed.

ONE MORE THING. We were told, when driving over those two double bridges (look like the bridge at Haleiwa, huh?), it’s good luck to repeat “Hamahamahamahama…” as many times as you can on each one. Maybe it’s to distract you from the narrowness and the log truck coming at you, but… try it.

OH. There is a more flattering photo of me, on Facebook; but I don’t do Facebook, but my wife, and Adam’s newest Friend, Trish, won’t let me download it from her Page. OH, and there are less flattering photos you’ll never see.

Adam Wipeout and the Lost Skeg

I’m crawling around, sanding and painting baseboards on a project in Silverdale when the cell phone rings. Adam starts in with the story without a ‘hello.’ “So, I just had this feeling…” He had been in bed, he said, and possibly because he was still suffering the effects of what he had referred to as ‘the crud,’ he felt the same way he did when he got the most memorable ride of his last session, the session he had to get in despite his cold. Importantly, he chose surfing as an alternative to going to ELK CAMP. Elk Camp is, it must be said, quite important to someone born and raised in one of the wilder parts of the Olympic Peninsula. And, no, they don’t hunt the elk that show up frequently in his brother’s yard.

Adam had jumped out of bed, into his car, and driven quite a distance (about 52 miles) to the spot where he had lost one of his two Mark Richards’ designed fins. Adam James knows the tides. It’s part of his job as a key member of the Hama Hama Seafood operation, down Surf Route 101 on the Hood Canal. It was dead low tide, the middle of the night, with a gale blowing down the Strait; sideways rain. No biggie. “What?” That was my response. “And this was, like, three in the morning?”

“Yeah; about.” Adam told me he figured, in his haste to get in the water, he hadn’t fully secured the fin, and it was either in the sand, where it would be difficult to find; in the rocks near shore, where kelp and such would might hide it; or out where he had been sitting and waiting, and probably just fell off from being loose.

On this same day Adam lost one of his fins, the end of the single fin on Keith Darrock’s  board snapped off from contact with one of the rudely-placed and overly-large (this is the home of two foot waves and three foot rocks) rocks that populate the point. At this point, I must add that Keith, in, I’m guessing, a discussion on the beach concerning lost and broken fins, told Adam that he had also, once, lost a (complete) fin at this break; but found it at low tide, wedged between some of those wave-forming, board-dinging, wetsuit-slicing, gloveless finger-cutting rocks. Yeah, I’m listing a few of my discoveries, including, from the day before the fin-breaking/losing event, that, if you wipe out, roll under your board, smash your lower back/ass against one of those rocks, be grateful you didn’t hit your head. Add in a few too many surfers in a tight takeoff zone and… yeah, big time fun!

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Back to Adam’s story. “And where was it?” I asked, leaning into a window to lessen the echo in the empty room.

“Where I was sitting and waiting.” Yeah.

What I had to ask Adam is whether his wife has just given up on worrying about his sanity. I mean, if I told Trish I just ‘had a feeling’ and took off to look for a lost… anything. BUT, when I read her an email from Adam, she said it was so cool that he had that sort of psychic connection, and… geez, I don’t know. Maybe she’s right; Adam does seem to get the sessions with ‘chest high’ waves while I get the none-to-one (but glassy). I am working on finishing the story of my lost paddle. Oddly, my wife, when my paddle was stuck in the pilings, said I’d get it back. She just ‘had a feeling.”

UPDATE: I’ll write about my fin-breaking, fin-losing-not-finding stuff another time. We all have stories about treasures lost or found in the ocean. I’m not sure about Adam’s psychic powers, but, what he does work on, constantly, is his network. “I heard,” he’ll say, “that it was flat on the Strait on _____” (some day I had not gone, but had been considered it). Unlike me, Adam is genuinely nice, just laughs when I make rude remarks (example: Adam- “We have to come to grips with the fact that we’ll never be really really good.” Me- “Oh, I have come to grips with the fact that you’ll never be really really good.”), remembers the names and stories of those he meets (I’m more apt to remember the stories), and doesn’t seem to offend other surfers in the water. If I’m coming back into cell phone range after a session, I’m very apt to give him a report. “None to one, but glassy.” Always. If it isn’t flat.

Adam Wipeout’s Happy Birthday Cake, with Frosting

Sorry, I have to eat now, right now.

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Okay, I’m back. All wave spots are fickle; wave quality decided by a variety of factors we all know well. Actually, we know what the variables are, we don’t always know how they affect a particular day.  Adam had planned on hitting a forecast swell on Thursday, the day before his birthday, possibly staying overnight, getting some more waves on Friday. That didn’t work out, but he did get some waves late in the day. On Sunday he missed a bigger swell in which only his friend Nate was, according to reports, the only one to paddle out in overhead conditions, but, late in the day, with the tide dropping, he surfed this part of the bay which could be compared to the side curve of a soup spoon, with the point in the distance the, um, point, and this spot at the place where the ladle part meets the handle. The sand bottom shifts around, the swell goes more south or north, the wind drops and turns into an offshore hush, and Adam celebrates a few tubes alone.

Yeah, he says this was a smaller set, with the waves as thick as they were high, and with him pulling into a few. “I couldn’t help but get tubed,” he said, “didn’t make all of them.” There is no better place to get wiped out, I told him, than the tube. Partially I asked him if I could post the photo because my favorite experience at this bay was at this very part of the spoon, low tide, with every wave staying open.   It wasn’t my birthday, but, like Adam, I took the gift gratefully. When I checked the same spot later, at high tide, it was as if it had never been there.

First in a Series of Newly-Colorized B&W Drawings

Because I actually have a large number of drawings in my portfolio, and wanted to display as many as possible for the recent (and extensively covered in realsurfers.net) Surf Culture on the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Salish Sea Event, I took some time, dug through various shelves and drawers and drawing books, and found quite a few of the variously-sized originals, some previously-made copies; took them all to The Printery in Port Townsend, and, with a lot of help for the money, got them sized to fit on 8&1/2 by 11 inch shinier, heavier stock, and placed them in five stacks on a six foot piece of 12 inch wide pine.

Almost instantly I wanted to add color to many of them. Oops; too hard to color on the shiny stock. But, I do have a scanner/printer. Here’s the first. There will be more.

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Not so stoked on the way yellow reads like semi-worn out magic marker, but, not apologizing. And, somewhere here I’ll have to write about how I got some small waves today; small but… hey, look for both “Erwin Would Go, But What Will He Do When It’s Over A Foot?” and “If You Were Happy With Your Last Session, Don’t Talk to Adam Wipeout.” I have some photos; might even have some of me on really tiny waves.

Wailing at the Landslide Event While Adam Wipeout Was Scoring (again)

It would be great to say that it’s unusual when the larger wave, the window of opportunity, the short span of time when the pulse of swell peaks, happens only some mathematically even number of times on a weekend. It just doesn’t seem to be true. One winter the interval between pulses seemed to find it’s high point on Sundays. Sundays, like five in a row before it shifted slightly, but enough for surfers who can move schedules around enough to hit a peak at mid-day on a Tuesday.

And it would be not completely honest to say I, usually proud to be self-employed, could take a full Tuesday; more likely I’d take off early and hope, or take off lake and hope that, when I pulled off the highway, bumping down some pot-holed gravel (or not gravel) road, I’d find lined-up, groomed, empty lines.

It does happen. Not last weekend. The angle looked good but the swell wasn’t supposed to build, and Saturday morning found Trish and I preparing to take the Port Townsend/Keystone ferry to Whidbey Island, navigate up, past the unseen-but-rumored breaks on the western, straight-line-on-the-Strait-and-to-the-open-Pacific side, then inland to I-5, down a bit, and east to the jaggedy (compared to our Olympics) Cascade Mountains.

We hadn’t quite reached Deception Pass (flat, though I’ve seen it 8 feet- once) when Adam “Wipeout” James called. He was waiting for his wife to get home so he could take off, hoping to score the awesome waves he’d enjoyed last Saturday and Sunday while Keith Darrock and I, who did surf both days, still managed to miss. “Best ever” seems to be Adam’s standard session report; no matter where he goes. Maybe not this time. “Good luck,” I said, making use of my new bluetooth while Trish drove, “it doesn’t look good. The buoys…  And it’s windy here.”

Okay, enough of that. We were headed to Darrington for a performance by The Fabulous Kingpins. The event was a sort of prop-up-the-locals free concert, the cover tune band from Moscow first hired last year to perform, four months after the horrific landslide in nearby Oso, Washington on March 22nd that obliterated a huge swath of land, more than a square mile, changed the direction of the Stillaguamish River, and killed 43 residents. Imagine your favorite hillside park suddenly obliterated by a huge wave. Driving past, it still looks like some sort of rough-and-rocky preparatory work for a mall parking lot.

That would be Moscow, Idaho. I-da-ho. Red state, inland. No surf atoll. Trish and I sent our son James there (his choice, actually) in 1994 to attend the Lionel Hampton School of Music at the University of Idaho. And he did well, for a semester or two. He had auditioned for the Kingpins, but they didn’t want a 17 year old guitar whiz. Now he’s a 38 year old guitar god, Jaymz Dence’, wailing through solos adapted from, but more evolved than the originals on a wide range of classic rock tunes. You can’t help but hear the influence of every guitar player from any-or-everywhere, back porch swamp blues pickin’ to fully-orchestrated concert hall recital, James continues to be a student of the craft. Guitarcraft.

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So, how did it come to pass that I got the opportunity to go on stage with my son, play a little harmonica?

Because my son had a little faith that, despite my reservations, I could do it (read ‘wouldn’t blow it’). Because Jaymz convinced the bandleader, Cliff, that I (yeah, I’m wearing my lucky, performance-only Hawaiian shirt, but over my Quilcene Shindig T-shirt featuring a drawing of this son, in this, lean-back, pained-expression pose) wouldn’t embarrass him or ruin the Kingpins reputation. So, even though I couldn’t hear what I was playing, and, despite my eyes being opened, really couldn’t focus on anything, it was a thrilling ride; and probably my ‘best ever’ party wave.

A video shot by our daughter-in-law, Rachel, shows I was not-quite-awesome, but capable. Sorry, I can’t post it here; but my daughter, Dru, is trying to post the video on the “I’ve heard of Quilcene” Facebook site. As Trish told our son, still packing up the equipment while we were headed west on the last ferry out of Edmonds, “It made his year.” Oh, more than one. Thanks, Jaymz.

Meanwhile, Adam Wipeout was sleeping in his car, probably tired from his session at the very peak of the swell, and would awake to more ‘best ever’ waves. More on this later.

Adam Wipeout’s realsurfers’ Guide to Being Real, Number 3

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This is the drawing for the post two down from here; but, rather than transfer the copy from there (mostly because I couldn’t seem to get it done), I should probably just update. I did hit the hot waves on the cold Straits last Thursday. The session that  started out… wait, I already wrote about that. I could mention the “Locals Only” session in Port Townsend earlier this week; two hours of rare wraparound waves with heavy nearly-offshore winds and a horizontal downpour . I was actually working nearby, headed over, watched the two hour session happen from the comfort of my work rig.

I probably should come up with the top ten excuses for not going out when there are actually waves. My ear was plugged up from the previous session, not thinking I needed earplugs because it was small (initially), and suffice it to say, I do feel the guilt. Maybe my best excuse is that I’m not a local, and didn’t want to impose.

No, that won’t be on my list; I’ve only done it once. merely crowded is not the same thing. Oh, and, for the sin of ever mentioning there are ever, EVER any waves in Port Townsend; no one could really predict or forecast the event, or take the chance to drive any distance on the chance it might happen.

As for today’s surf… owwwwww!

Coming up soon: “Are all surfers SOCIOPATHS; or is it just me?”