Somewhere on the (Surf) Sliding Scale

Let’s discuss the FROTH SCALE, the STOKE SPECTRUM; the level to which your adrenalin spikes and your heartbeat soars in a direct relationship (or proportion if your mind is more math-ish) to rumors, predictions, short term forecasts of waves; and, more specifically, how you react to those soothsaid prophecies (as in, “Did you see the forecast for next Wednesday [only an example]?  Sooooo sickkkkkk.  Dude.”); adding in how you *spontaneously, viscerally respond to the anticipation factor, the increased possibility of real-life, rideable, possibly-rippable, possibly-uncrowded, possibly-perfect waves as you approach a beach; and then, we’ll add in how you react when the actual waves and the actual conditions, skunk-to-score, shit-to-all-time classic ultimate; this reaction, the **intensity of this reaction shows where you are on THE SCALE.

So, yeah; pretty much just standard surf talk.

EXAMPLE ONE- You’re probably, statistically, way more likely to get a speeding ticket heading for waves than going from waves.

EXAMPLE TWO- Access to beaches, including possible surf spots, on the Strait of Juan de Fuca often requires a hike.  Often, the waves cannot be seen until one is close.  There’s faith and hope but no guarantee.  If you have hiked a mile, half of which is steeply downhill on a muddy, slippery path, and you, on first hearing waves, even before trying to discern the relative strength of the waves or an interval; break into a run… that’s probably three-quarters of the way up the scale.

*The actions our bodies take without our minds playing a major role (breathing, breathing, digestion, for example) are generally categorized as part of the bodies’ autonomic system.  Yeah, yeah; we’re talking about how we react in the moment, without allowing our trained, worn-down and cynical brains to lessen the impact.

**Flight or fight; fear or some sense of invincibility; depression or elation.  The worst and lowest place on the scale is ***NO REACTION.

OIPRLMRBSF8

FORGET THAT; we’ll start with WETSUIT WORTHY.  It seems fitting to have Jack O’Neill, pretty much the soul daddy of cold water surfing hypothermia prevention garb, trying to decide if the waves are worth turning a not-quite-dry wetsuit back to right-side-out.

You, no doubt, have stories of times you went out when the surf was marginal, only to discover it turned into something epic.  Place that story on the scale.  Sure, you can embellish it a bit, after the fact.  This is where our brains add the color.

There is, of course, GIGGLE WORTHY, HOOT WORTHY, WET YOUR WETSUIT BEFORE IT’S ON WORTHY.  There is, or shouldn’t be a CALL YOUR FRIENDS WORTHY.  Maybe way after the fact.  At the top of the scale, just after HYPERVENTILATION WORTHY is HEART ATTACK WORTHY.

It doesn’t mean you are required to have one.

***I didn’t mean to go to three asterisks, but, if you see pretty darn good surf conditions and have no reaction, QUIT SURFING.  NOW.

Another Negative Image

FIRST, it’s not surf season along the Strait of Juan de Fuca. One must go coastal. Some friends of mine recently did; sharing an adventure that anyone who doesn’t live in the Pacific Northwest would consider the classic Pacific Northwest surf trip: Hiking with backpacks and surfboards, dropping down ropes (and climbing back up again) to possibly-never-surfed spots… exhausting.

OR, one could go to Westport, look for a parking spot, look for an empty wave.

OR, one could work. It is painting season, yes; but my wetsuit is dr-yyyy-yyy; and, yes, I’m thinking coastal.  Coastal.

MEANWHILE, I did complete a new drawing; meant to be reversed, black-for-white.  I don’t really know how this is going to work until I get to a print shop.  SO, last night, sort of hoping to run into the guy (Jay) at the Sequim Office Depot, who has a handle on such things, I, instead, ran into a person who asked another employee how to do the reversal. She wasn’t sure, either; and the first two attempts saw the image reversed but the black staying black.

“No, I kind of meant…”

ON the next attempt, what had been black was now red.  “Whoa! Didn’t know you could do that.”  “I guess we can.”

On the next attempt, we (with my input and the other Depot person’s advice) got it right.

“OH, but, um, can you do other colors?”  They looked it up.  “Red, yellow, magenta, blue, some other color.”  “One of each, please; full-sized; then a couple of eight and a half by elevens.  Please.”

NOW, suddenly, I’m a little irritated with myself that I didn’t get some smaller, as in scannable on my printer, versions of the ones in color.  Here’s the black-for-white version:

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I did lose some detail here; I’m blaming my scanner.  Now, imagine everything that is black as red, or blue, or…  and now imagine you are, quite exhausted from the hiking, out of a beach with silvery-shiny-glassy-empty-near-perfect waves.  And now imagine… whatever you want.

No, not being stuck in traffic.

Either You Froth…

 …or you don’t.  This may be a distinguishing feature of all real surfers.  Anyone can enjoy the basic beauty of a perfectly formed, peeling wave.  Basic. Beauty. Energy made visible, even violent; distant wind, steady or sudden; moving, pushing, transferring its power to the water; disorganized bundles hitting other forces, tides, waves from other winds; traveling, deepening, overcoming smaller swells…

 …and when they approach land, fingers and hands, points and beaches, land that has been formed by other forces, shaped by constant batterings; these lines that are the pulse, the heartbeat of the oceans, one-every-five-seconds become one-every-fifteen, four per minute…

 …and then…

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 You can probably clearly remember picking waves out of a stormy and blown-out ocean, telling your friends, or just yourself, what you’d do on that wave (presuming you could even get out).  “That one!  That one! See?”

There have been moments where seeing waves hit some indicator, outside or up the beach; paddling over the shoulder, twenty yards out from the peak, where the witnessing of the beauty of the lighting and the varied-if-not-perfect symmetry of a breaking wave is enough…

 …almost.

 

There are moments where watching a friend drop from the other side of a peak, drop-and-drive, disappear for a tick, or three, under the break, and emerge… or even not, and you’re crashing through a lip, looking toward the next wave, hoping you can paddle fast enough to line up on a hoped-for second or third wave in the set; some times that view, sharing the joy, is enough… almost.

You might just be screaming as loud as the person in the tube. 

That’s part of the joy.  You know that joy.  I’ve never met a real surfer, no matter how cool, who won’t break into a near giggle-fit at the sight of a wave… this wave, that wave, ‘that one! That one! See!”

 Hey, it’s INTERNATIONAL SURFING DAY! Feel free to FROTH OUT!

 

 

Space Awareness

I guy I was painting with, and this was a few years ago, a possibly typical, happy hour loving (definitely appreciating) individual (meaning he started and left the job way earlier than I did), told me, enjoying reduced-price beverages at a lounge in Port Angeles, that two surfers were (annoyingly, he pointed out, to fellow lounger, him) talking surfing.

“Nonstop. And, two hours later (post happy hour)?”

” Um, uh, surfing? ”

Yes.

So it was, and so it is that yesterday, checking the buoy readings the average, 8 or 15 times per day, and, because I was working very close to a vantage point on the fickle Strait of Juan de Fuca, looking (in, as usual, vain) for any sign of waves three times, but then forced, because that job was finished, to drive 50 miles away to another job, I probably spent, between illegally talking on the cellphone-while -driving, legally talking on the cellphone while hanging out in a parking lot with a view of ripples going the wrong direction, and actually talking, in person to another frustrated  surfer – um, like, two hours.

So, like… Like happy hour. And I had my own coffee (black, no, you know, painterly extras). I would add more, about what I talked with Chimacum Timacum about (Seaside locals – hint) surfer stuff, like the last times there were waves, when the next time might be, but my fingers are getting numb from typing on this tablet, and, besides, it’s time to check the buoy readings

Tim took this photo of a fiercely –  defended  spot. We talked about it.

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Waiting…and Waiting…and…

..image-125…checking the forecast. Stubbornly believing, if I check the buoys (not just those near-shore, but those in the open ocean, west and north- the ones that matter) often enough; winds and angles and period; if I check out multiple forecasts; if I overlay an optimal tide and wind situation at several different locations; maybe I’ll be able to predict the exact moment when the swirl becomes the proper energy, properly focused.

And, of course, I hope the next window is slightly before the forecasts we all look at call for it to open.  Ready to readjust my schedule to fit my idea of when and where and how far away, imagining peeling glass, properly chilled and waiting…

No, it’s me who is waiting. I’m guessing you are, too.

Meanwhile, there’s work, and, incidentally, I have quite a few drawings waiting to go to The Printery to be reduced in size so I can post them.  Something else I’m anticipating.

Spirit Guides and a surf session made…

…special.

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I called my brother-in-law, Jerome, on Wednesday when I couldn’t make the memorial. Couldn’t. That’s a loaded word; the ceremony was in Illinois and I’m… I’m here. Part of the couldn’t has to be that I haven’t faced my sister Melissa’s passing. Passing. Couldn’t. Haven’t; not sure I will; face it. Eventually, I’m just not sure when. Our (Trisha’s and my) daughter, Drucilla, made the train trip down state from Chicago several times, as the prognosis worsened and my sister weakened.

Still, it all seemed too sudden. Way too soon. There hours before Melissa passed, Dru would return on Friday, representing Trish and me, supporting her uncle and her cousins Fergus and Emma.

Oh, I know it’s real, real like our (his eight children) father’s passing last December. I know they’re both gone, not sure where they’ve gone to. Once a person realizes (or accepts or believes) we each have a soul, something separate from the body, even from the “I think, therefore I am” consciousness, something more than just BEing; one can’t help but imagine that this very more-ness is, has to be, somehow, transcendent.

There was a full moon the night my sister passed. Is that relevant?

“You know,” Jerome said, “what your sister would have wanted is for you to go surfing.”

I tried. On Friday, with friends and relatives recounting stories two thousand miles away, I worked, crazy-hard, to finish another job while monitoring the buoys. There was a chance. As is so typical on the Strait, on that long summer evening, it was ‘almost’ something. Just not quite enough. Even so, I almost talked myself into paddling out into one foot chop. Almost.

Allow me to mention the story Jerome told about the hawks. The last painting my sister completed is of three Cooper’s hawks. During the last week, with my sister Mary Jane (Janey to me) helping out, and my sister Suellen en route, three Cooper’s Hawks landed in the trees behind Jerome and Melissa’s house, and stayed there. Every day.

Spirit Guides? I’m willing to believe so.

On Monday I met up with Mike “Squints” Cumiskey, headed out. The surf was just a bit better than ‘almost,’ probably in the ‘barely’ category. Other surfers were in the water. It’s been a long, mostly-flat summer. Bruce, the Mayor of Hobuck, according to Adam “Wipeout” James, checking it when we arrived, eventually talked himself into going out.

Maybe it’s because I persisted, a paddle providing a lot of the power on many of the waves; but, at some point, I was the only one out. It would be something if I said that, for about twenty minutes, the waves improved; not all time, but lined-up, a bit more power, and every time I paddled back out, another set was approaching.

It was something.

Though most of the other surfers had left the beach for the coast or home, I have witnesses: Mike, Bruce, Cole. They agreed it was, for this day, special. Please forgive me if I give my sister a bit of credit.

A NOTE about the drawing. I told Jerome I would write something about the surf experience, and I’d do a drawing; I just wanted it to be good enough. “Oh, so, like your sister, it has to be perfect.” It was almost a question. No, but it has to be good enough.

Something on Diamonds and Dust

I have some new drawings, and, as always, trying to catch the light, the glitter and the shine, and not quite fast enough. And, my recent drawings are too large to scan on my equipment, and the copier that would work, last time I trekked to Port Townsend, was broken.

Wanting to post something I wrote for the memorial for my father, I googled (or, more accurately, yahooed) glittery surf images, looking for the diamonds. All right, I decided to use google; way more images. These aren’t exactly what I had in mind, and I’d love to give credit to the photographers- obviously I give them high praise, but it would be great to  mention those who captured the light so stunningly (if the one is ‘enhanced’ a bit; great job on that).

glitteryheartglitter2glitter3

We are all, some believe, made of stardust;
The earth containing a finite amount of matter;
Matter that is, on some level, not destroyed, not lost, but reformed.

Does this help when we have lost someone?
When we are grieving?
When those close to us pass on, when the spirit quits the body, gives up the body,
Some believe,
That spirit carries a bit of us with it;
And, then, it seems, logically, we keep a bit of that person’s spirit;
Memories we can bring back,
Images,
Some almost-tangible bit of hope as we grieve,
Some remembered wisdom,
Some deed, some moment of love or kindness or strength
We can bring back into focus,
Some bit of stardust.

That was it. I had some concern the piece might make some of my siblings uncomfortable, maybe perceived as a bit of a push on or against some religious belief.  My youngest sister, Melissa, put the program for our Dad’s memorial together, brought it with her from Illinois.  Great job. People who knew our dad from his last thirty-plus years down in Chinook seemed to appreciate the sentiment. Maybe they were remembering that twinkle, sparkle, bit of glitter in his eyes. Diamonds.

Sometimes a Seagull on the Webcam…

image-125…makes you stop for a second. Is it something in the water? Another something that doesn’t seem right, mysterious? What did you want it to be? What are you looking for?

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We know.

 

Swell of the Summer on the Last Coast

PART ONE- On Friday, seeing something, or sensing something, or just hoping for something, I found some fun waves and no one out; no one to fight for position against, no one to compare rides with, no one to, um, hang out with;  not that I mind; I was there to surf, surf rather than continuing to try, harder and harder, to catch up on high-season, mid-summer painting projects.

I had missed the best of the low tide rights, rights so rare on the Last Coast, the swell angle necessary to penetrate sliding sideways against the hooks and points and rivermouths and crannies of the Strait creating lefts where a straight-on swell wouldn’t; still, there were some sets hitting the indicators on the rights side, and rideable waves following the outline of the green-slimed rocks creating some punchy little rides. And no one out, maybe only one rig pulling through the turnout, briefly. It can’t be good, there’s only one old guy out. Move on.

Oh, there was Kyle, reading a book, on the beach slightly around the corner, shaded by the trees that mark a certain lineup.  I parked, putting off going back to work just a bit longer so I could find out where this guy was going. The coast? Neah Bay? La Push?  I had seen him from the water. He was sitting ashore of the lefts, an hour and a half after I arrived, ten minutes or so after the rights were high-tided-out, and the energy just not making the transfer to the next river rock point. “Kyle” he said, when I asked him. “You’re Erwin; right?” “Um? Uh; how do  you know that?”

IMG_0140 Another high-season job keeping me out of the water. You?

No, I’m not that notorious. I probably mean ‘infamous.’ But, Kyle explained, he’d been coming out from P.A. all week, went out once (too small, too much wind); but he had seen me here before, and had been there when my now-friend (friend being a broad term including pretty much any real surfer out of the water) Raja had, to general acclaim, taken my lost paddle, inserted it… yeah, maybe you know the story. It seems like everyone I run into was there for the paddle incident. “Well, Kyle; it’s supposed to get bigger; I’m surprised there aren’t more surfers cruising through.”

“Oh; they’ll be coming,” Kyle said. Now, I did, specifically, ask him if he knows Adam Wipeout; as everyone seems to. He said he didn’t. “Good luck, Kyle.”

Back in cell phone range, I spoke to Keith and Adam on the phone, just to gloat, a bit (they would, and have done the same) on my way back, passing the oncoming surfers Kyle had predicted. “Hey,” Keith said while I was getting a ‘topup’ on my oil at the Jiffy Lube, “it’s coming up. Maybe you should go back.”

“Tomorrow,” I said as an SUV with three boards and a luggage carrier passed by. To be continued (the tomorrow part)

 

TOP DOGS; Called-Out Twice in Eight Days

I’m not even saying I don’t deserve to take some grief for paddling out at a spot with a tight and critical takeoff zone on my big-ass SUP. I am saying I won’t be taking it out at this one particular spot again; already made that promise to one of the other surfers, one who didn’t say that, if he got injured because of an encounter with me and/or my big-ass board, “We’re going to have a problem.”

It’s not even like this was the only collision or near-collision yesterday. If there’s a takeoff zone of about fifteen feet, max, and five surfers angling and jostling and jockeying; well; there’s going to be some… issues.

The waves at this fickle spot break very close to big rocks, with a minimal amount of time between waves. So, imagine three guys in position, one takes off, the next guy misses the next wave, takes the next. That leaves two guys paddling out, and the takeoff is between them, or, maybe, right toward or over them paddling back out. If you wait for a turn, politely, as if there’s some sort of line in a lineup, you, might not get a wave. If you miss a wave, you’re in the impact zone. If you’re on a big-ass board and someone makes a last second decision to go, late drops… whoa! Bail and hope for the best.

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I should say five highly competitive and skilled surfers (and, yeah, I’m including myself), each of whom is capable of performing on the right wave, are just too many for the spot. Add in that the rideable waves only show up occasionally, and disappear quickly; and the competitive nature that only gets, let’s say, ‘enhanced’ by the competition, and someone’s going to get burned. And someone did. One surfer got frustrated and left; I persisted, and after the call-out by the surfer I’d have to say is the top dog in this neighborhood; and after he left, and another competitor got out; I remained until the tide shift shut it all down. It was two of us for a while; mellower vibe. Another guy, who had never surfed there before, came out; still not hostile/dangerous/hyper. Oh, maybe he thought it was an acceptable level of competitiveness.

Well; again, sorry for getting in the way. And, again, I did say I wouldn’t bring the big board out there again. [DISCLAIMER: Maybe if it’s just me.] I’ll finish glassing my stripped-down and thick 9’4,” now a thick-as-possible 8’6″ wavecatcher. That should work. Or, following the advice of another surfer out that day, “lose 50 or sixty pounds and go back to riding short boards.” Yeah, it was a hurtful comment, but I may have given him a pass when I said “I can’t do anything about getting older; I could get thinner.”

I suppose another option would be to quit.

No. Oh, I’ll be riding the SUP at the proper (determined on a case-by-case basis) spots, gliding between… Again, sorry, SBA; you do rip!