Darryl Wood, Legendary Northwest Spotfinder

The first surfer I met in the Great Pacific Northwest was Darryl Wood. That was in February of 1979, just after half of the Hood Canal Floating Bridge, the link from the Olympic Peninsula to the rest of the world, had been ripped from its moorings in a very localized storm that included hurricane-force winds, along with a powerful tidal surge, that shift made stronger by the almost record low pressure, and waves pushed higher on the sixty mile fetch of the ancient fjord, all focused on the center of the bridge, opened to allow the pressure through, pushed open like a gate, and gone.

A week later, Washington State had brought in a passenger-only tour boat from Seattle, set up some connections with a bus company on the Kitsap County side, and I met Darryl, and many other commuters I might never had met if the bridge wasn’t gone. It was the first boat of the morning, both of us headed for work at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton. Darryl and another guy from Port Angeles, whose name, and I apologize for this, I have long forgotten, were car-pooling, now only as far as the Southpoint ferry dock. A Civil Service painter, I had just transferred here from San Diego. Darryl and the other guy were Union guys, working on a new facility connected with the dry-docked nuclear-powered vessels. I do remember that Darryl down-played his role as a carpenter, but said his friend was a ‘superstar among the laborers.’

A week later I, a person who had thought I was through with surfing, was surfing, in a diving wetsuit I had just purchased and would later give to a Gary Gregerson,  a friend and fellow signpainter at the shipyard, who planned to use it for walking around in creeks. Sure.

I should say I was attempting to surf at a spot you could then access, after first navigating some winding roads, by driving straight toward the Strait, past the guy who would step onto his back porch, six feet from your vehicle’s window, then pulling to the right on top of firmly in-place riprap. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon, 38 degrees, there were three other surfers out, each of whom asked where I came from; and the water was freeeeeeeeezing. My sister Melissa’s board, the only one I hadn’t sold before leaving Mission Hills, longer than the one I had been riding, didn’t float as well with the cumbersome extra rubber, my hoodless head felt like each wave I pushed through was filled with ice cubes, my feet almost instantly went numb, the wax seemed to be as effective as rubbing the board with suntan lotion, and the waves were fast and steep. I caught several waves, couldn’t help but get barreled, and never got to my feet.

DCIM101GOPRO

Darryl Wood, with coffee cup, his longtime friend and fellow surf adventurer, Arnold, and several other members of the local Surfrider Chapter, cleaning up this parking lot just rolled over by another storm.

“The more things change,” huh?

“You still, um, riding most waves on your knees, Erwin?” “Well, no, I, uh… yeah, pretty much. Get a longer ride and, maybe… how are you doing?” As older guys do, and Darryl is a bit older than I am, we both talk about knees without internal padding. He added shoulders damaged from years of swinging hammers and lifting beams and such.

Still, Darryl remains the surfer I most admire and respect from my tenure in the northwest. He has held, tenaciously, to his Christian values, maintained his sense of surf etiquette, and, although he considers himself quite conservative, he is able to look past the posturing and pettiness of a succession of amped-up surfers. Including me.

I asked what Darryl what he thinks of the increasing number of surfers hitting the Strait, so changed from the days when he personally knew most of the surfers in the area, and knew the landowners who had gates blocking access to secret spots. He shrugged. “If it’s breaking on a weekend,” he said, “there might be fifty, sixty surfers.” This wasn’t a weekend.

On this same day I ran into the guy who owns this access, just checking on the storm damage. I had heard that the lot could be closed if surfers abuse the place (or when this guy passes on), and kissed-up pretty much to the limit of my ability to do so. “It’s not for overnight camping,” he said, expressing his displeasure at having, in the past, before “Darryl Wood and those Surfrider people” put the sani-can in, suddenly finding things he didn’t want to find while weed-whacking.

“See you in another ten years or so,” I said as Darryl and his crew moved on to survey some other properties the Surfrider Foundation oversees. We both turned to watch my friend Keith Darrock make it most of the way across another slightly-chopped-up line.

“He’s good,” Darryl said. “Yeah; always does the tuck.” “Always a pleasure,” Darryl said, taking another glance out, at the indicator, the one outside the lefts. It was breaking. He gave a nod toward the water. Always a pleasure.

Advertisements

A Teaser on The Continuing Saga, Formerly a Mystery, and soon to be a majorly independent motion picture event, of the Paddle in the Dolphin

NOW that I’ve written it, gotten it out, I’m over it. I hold no ill will toward Raja, and hope we can hang out in the future. He does seem to have the same appreciation for the thrills, absurdities, posturing, and generally high-schoolish behavior involved in surfing anywhere. I’m calling us even. Hopefully Raja will also. PEACE, and I don’t mean that sarcastically.

This is Raja, his given name. I asked. He was born and raised and still lives in Edmonds, a city on the Seattle side of Puget Sound. I’ve seen Raja numerous times over the past several years while surfing on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. His beard keeps growing; hipsterrific.  A few months ago, in an act Raja still claims was not malicious, he found my paddle, which had been ripped from my hands while negotiating the last sixty yards of an inside tube. Now, as I have previously written, I would have bailed on the wave had it not been for the just-mentioned tube. And, hey, the paddle floats, right?

DCIM101GOPRO

Raja in left profile. The other two angles are on file.

Oh, those are my fingers. Just can’t seem to get them out of the shots.  Now, you can make your own decisions on whether Raja is a hero for causing an (allegedly) intimidating and (by definition) notorious wave hog to have a few moments of, well, humiliation; or a punk-ass bitch who has never actually said he was in any way sorry for the non-malicious act.  The ‘punk-ass bitch’ is not malicious, Raja (and friends of Raja), and was recommended as the appropriate description by someone who had heard [my version] of the story, and preferred punk-ass bitch over [my choice] hipster dick. Yes, I know you, Raja, and all hipsters, deny your hipster-ness, and, if ‘hipster’ is in any way a pejorative term, this is also not malicious in intent.

There’s intent and there’s actual consequences. Um, yeah; sure.

I’ll get back to this. I’m working on the complete story. I am over it. I think Raja is counting on the wave of prestige for showing up, kind of, a 64 (no, I was only 63 at the time) guy without having to do it on actual waves.

Check back another time.

 

The Lost Paddle- The Full and (not quite) Final Story

You may have to study this photo carefully. There are some clues.

DCIM101GOPRO

Clint, boat shop owner from Port Townsend (with cracker), is sitting in front of Tim Nolan’s car. Beyond Clint is the man I only know as Nick. Behind Nick is his son, Adam. Beyond Nick and Adam is my SUP and my car, thermos and cup on the top, the back open. Beyond that is an older model Suburban, owned by a guy named Raj. Beyond that is some surfer who got her too late, wondering where the hell the waves went; or if there had been waves at all. All will be explained.

If you look a bit closer, you may discern a paddle on top of the heavily-damaged, never-repaired (partly because I still insist I’m not a dam SUPer) SUP. That would be the paddle Nick just, and this was shockingly gracious, gave me. I carry it with me when I go surfing, ready to return it to him when we next meet up. Tim Nolan may not be in this photo because he was taking a picture with his telephoto of my paddle, stuck in the wire rope holding two of the three pilings that instantly identify this spot. The surfer who performed the act/prank of grabbing a paddle I would have bailed to recover had the wave not been so good was, at this time, unknown. I should say, at that time.

So, I’m actually going to write this epic mystery/saga on my zip drive (rather than here, live), so… so stay tuned.

CHAPTER ONE- SURFING WITH gOD (the upper/lower case is relevant)

I asked the other stand up paddleboarder what it was he liked about surfing. “When I’m on a wave,” he said, “I feel like God.” Okay. A few rides later I had to ask, “You mean like ‘a’ god; or, like ‘the’ God?” “If I’d said ‘a god’ it’d have a completely different meaning; now, wouldn’t it?”

It would (to be continued). Wait, here’s a photo of Clint taken on a different day at another (secret, or, I should say ‘secret’) spot. It was taken by Adam “Wipeout” James, sent to me to gloat, originally, and, more recently, as part of the ongoing discussion of what constitutes ‘head high.’ Adam will also be a character in the upcoming mystery. So, yeah; okay, it does seem to be head high.  [UH-OH, couldn’t use the shot- too much extra information]. You’ll have to take my word for it; It’s headhigh, Adam Wipeout Scale; I’d say five feet, three feet Hawaiian.

 

A Temporary Monument to A Notorious Wave Hog

Maybe it was just a sort of harmless prank; maybe it’s a statement that those wave-hogging, SUP-riding, Aloha-be-damned surfers should always hold on tightly to their paddles. Yeah; even if there’s sixty yards of spinning inside tube ahead of him. And yeah, even if the set-wave-grabbing lineup Dominator is somewhere on the downhill side of sixty, with bad knees and… I mean, you should have seen him trying to get to his paddle as the tide dropped… yeah, he may have deserved this.

P1070052-1

I might agree if it wasn’t my paddle.

I’ve been working toward posting something on realsurfers that might go viral. A few pieces, over the three years or so since realsurfers hit the electronic cosmos, have had a sort of slow-motion version. But, what I do know is, even if someone as athletic as whoever found the paddle and jammed it into the wire rope-held pilings pulls it out, King Arthur style, the story will spread. Quickly.  After all, surfers hanging out on the Strait, waiting and hoping some sort of swell might show up, might just have to tell the tale of how the baddest-ass, kook-burning-est, wave-catchin’-est, loudest, least cool guy ever to knee-board an eleven foot board from the pilings to the fence got a sort of comeuppance.

I’d argue with the description if it wasn’t supposed to describe me.

There is more to the story; coming soon. If this wasn’t a happy ending for me (still feeling a bit outside of the tribe of mellow, never-took-off-on-anyone-ever-no-really-like-never-surfers, I’d probably guess anyone ever frustrated by SUP-riding over-compensators might just go, “Right On, Man!”), there is a surprise twist in this little morality play. This twist is forcing me to question my initial reaction to be hurt, then pissed-off at being singled out for this little prank; then humiliated by my pathetic, clumsy, and unsuccessful attempts to retrieve the paddle (witnessed by anyone who cared to look among a gathering crowd on the beach). These feelings were followed by a momentary-but-deep (why me? am I really that much of an asshole?) depression combined by a significant amount of anger at people who I would like to think of as peers (even friends). I aimed these feelings to those responsible, and to those who (owing to a different strain of tribal-think) would never reveal who did this. This rather quickly morphed into ‘fuck them/I don’t need them,’ a throwback to my days as a loner/outsider (yeah, I know you think you are. Probably not) with a fully-functioning (as in, I got waves) ghetto-mentality surfer in Oceanside and Pacific Beach,  and Swamis, and Trestles, and made me almost proud to be the Antagonist.

Still, until I sort it all out in my mind, I’m leaving it at this. [not true- I’ve already added to this piece several times] I’ve been very satisfied with the many surfers I’ve met over my years surfing in the northwest, an contrast this, happily, with my time in California.

Here are a couple of things: I won’t drop a paddle again. I catch almost every wave I try for. If you aren’t getting enough waves, take off in front of me.  Really.  I’ve never really yelled at anyone for this (wait, once I yelled, “Really?”), though my usual thing is to sarcastically yell, “Waikiki!” or “Party!” but, my new and humbler self might just smile and say, “Aloha!”(Durn; still a bit bitter, but working on it)

I’d give acknowledgement to the photographer, but, just in case he’s maintaining a safe distance, I’ll just say, ‘nice photo.’ Oh,and Trish said, “If you had a ladder, you could have walked out and climbed up to get it.” “Oh, uh huh.”

Go-Pro-ing (mostly) real surfers

These aren’t the first photos I took with the GoPro my daughter Dru bought from her friend, DJ Trentino, and gave to me; then providing extra stuff I will probably need, including a way to make the thing waterproof. Not trying that yet. Thanks, Dru. Since the site is real surfers, I figure I should have a few shots of other surfers.

Port Townsend surfers Bob Simmons (no relation to That Bob Simmons) and Michael McCurdy (no relation to those PT McClearys) out on the farther Straits. See any waves? Me either.

Port Townsend surfers Bob Simmons (no relation to THAT Bob Simmons) and Michael McCurdy (no relation to those PT McCurdys) out on the farther Straits. See any waves? Me either. We all headed elsewhere.

Josey Paul at the same beach. Still no waves. He walks his dogs here daily, but couldn't give me a report on recent wave activity.  He said the area was once bigger than Port Angeles, center for logging, clay mining, bars, prostitutes, you know. None of them probably noticed the surf either.

Josey Paul, one of the true locals at the same beach. Still no waves. He walks his dogs here daily, but couldn’t give me a report on recent wave activity. He said the area was once bigger than Port Angeles, center for logging, clay mining, bars, prostitutes, you know. None of them probably noticed the surf either. No, someone must have.

DCIM101GOPRODCIM101GOPRO

So, I actually surfed at a backup spot, knowing the tide was all wrong, the waves would be (and were) totally closing-out. This is the third place I checked, the second I surfed. A lot of walking was involved. My line on this is:

So, I actually surfed at a backup spot, knowing the tide was all wrong, the waves would be (and were) totally closing-out. This is the third place I checked, the second I surfed. A lot of walking was involved. My line on this surf session is: “I wanted to surf there in the worst way; and I did.” I became intimately introduced to the gravel. Also, the guy surfing is on a ten foot board, he’s at least six feet tall; I’m saying the wave is… wait, let me look again.