Sasquatch on the Tide Flats

NOTES: The word Patagonia refers to a land of giants.

-Sasquatch sightings in the wild Olympic Peninsula in Western Washington are a bit higher in the HamaHama region along Hood Canal.                                                                -The extended family of Adam “Wipeout” James has been logging, farming, and maintaining shellfish beds for generations.                                                                      -Whether surfing, working the tide flats, or representing HamaHama Seafoods all around the country, Adam’s life is more aligned with the cycle and pattern of tides than that of night and day.

THIS is fiction, as in, ‘could be true;’ and, really, it should be titled:

WHY I’LL NEVER GET THAT PROMISED PATAGONIA FLEECE PULLOVER

MORE NOTES/EXPOSITION: Adam is, quite possibly, the most gregarious person I’ve ever met. Eternally outgoing, willing to talk to just about anyone; I sort of wrote his behavior off as trying to fit in with the surf crowd, something in keeping with my impression that he believes there is some sort of unofficial Surf Community.                                             -Yeah, maybe; or maybe it’s the same more salt-water-connected than blood-related tribe I’ve been around for the last 52 years (or so).                                                                        -Adam remembers other surfer’s names, gets some background on others in the water and on the beach; and, I don’t know, it’s kind of catchy. Or I’m kind of competitive. Knowing Adam has made me, maybe, a bit friendlier. More on the beach than in the water.                                                                                                                                             -Adam has established some sort of relationship with Patagonia. They wanted, possibly, to make some inroads into the work clothing market, take some market share from Carhartt.                                                                                                                                             -SO, Adam scored some clothing, got some photos taken, set up mutual surf friend (and contractor in the boat building/repair world), Clint, with a modeling opportunity.      -AND, maybe because I wear my HamaHama hoodie out in the world, representing, Adam scored a xxxl Patagonia pullover for me. “Double xl is big enough,” I told him on the phone, both of us trying to figure out when and where to go surfing based on the latest forecasts, buoy readings, tide reports, and anecdotal/historic bullshit.

“I was just trying it on,” Adam told me, after the INCIDENT; “It fit over the rest of my gear.” “Because it’s a triple xl, Adam.” “Yeah; right.” So, finally, here’s my piece on Adam’s story:

Since it was a warmer night than expected, Adam left his (my) Patagonia pullover, a jug of water, and a burrito left over from dinner in a pile, just where the narrow path leading down from his house hit the beach. This was his own small section of tideflats. A moon, a few days past full, was rising above the trees and scattered lights on the Kitsap Peninsula, a mile or so across the ancient (ice age old) fjord. English explorers named this the Hood Canal, another finger (and not a canal) reaching from the various bodies that make up Puget Sound.

His characteristic miner’s style headset light on his wool cap, flannel shirt, rubber boots and protective gloves, and a five gallon bucket in each hand, Adam set out across the rocks and gravel.

He had missed the ebb tide, and, forty-five minutes into the flow, was thinking about surfing, about waves; swell size and angles and periods, and winds. With just a hint of an east wind spreading texture on the always-moving water; the decision was, as always, whether, in the morning, he should go down Surf Route 101 and out to the coast or up the same highway to the Strait. Deciding which oysters to pick was, after years of low tides, second nature.

The moon was only slightly higher when, his buckets full; he looked south, well beyond his headlamp’s ability to see clearly. It was…no.

What Adam thought could be (not unheard of) a bear, smashing shells with a rock; stood up, pouring an oyster into its mouth. Standing, it was… it was very tall. And it looked at him.

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“It?” I asked, just the other day, on the Strait.   After four hours or so in the water, I was out and fully dressed. Adam, who arrived later than I had, having checked out several other possible locations, was sliding on a now-slightly-used canvas Patagonia jacket (probably a size large). “Have you seen, like, elk, deer, bears… out on the tideflats?” His gesture said, “Yes, all of those.” “Poachers?”

He laughed. “Yeah. That’s what I was thinking… a couple of years ago…” Adam cut himself off to say something to a group that had just pulled into the parking area; two softtops and two other boards on the roof, three guys and a woman climbing out.

“You have any more coffee?” he asked me. We had each had some after we both got out of the water the first time, before we noticed the rights seemed to be working (sporadically- I drifted back to the lefts where Big Dave was still surfing).

“Yeah; just don’t drink the last of it. Why don’t you bring a thermos?”

Half a cup in his (I’m guessing) hip canning jar mug, Adam walked over to his next (potential) friends as I tied-down my board, then put on the fleece-lined, flannel, old man coat I’d purchased for eight bucks at the Port Angeles Goodwill, shortly before I discovered I could get a new version at Costco for under twenty.

“Surgical strike, then. Great.” This is what Adam was saying to one of the four-person-group readying to attack the mostly-mediocre (I’m legally bound to never say ‘great,’ though, on this day, they weren’t) as he backed away from them and toward me, turning to say, “Surgical strike.”

I, no doubt, shrugged. “Poacher?”

“Oh, yeah; that’s where I might have screwed up. I couldn’t tell… he was kind of out of range. He was, um, thick enough, that I couldn’t really tell how tall he was. I think I said something like, ‘Hey, Buddy… Dude; you know that these tideflats are…’ I almost said, ‘mine.’ Or, maybe I did.”

I poured out the last of the coffee into my Seahawks mug. A third of a cup and almost luke-warm. “Now, Adam, I told you I wasn’t going to tell you, again, that the best wave I saw all day is the one you were too far over to make… so pretty.”

“No, the best wave was the one I took off in front of you on.”

“Yeah, maybe it was.” With Big Dave and I kind of, possibly, maybe, catching a lot of the available waves, Adam and others had moved up the reef. Not really working. Adam moved back over. On one of the larger waves, Adam took off in front of me. I surfed up next to and under him, and actually said (not yelled, but in the heat of the moment), “I hope you don’t think I care more about this board than this wave.” We both made the wave, and Adam said, “You should have gone past me.” “You should have dropped down.” “Yeah, next time. Fun, huh?”

“Yeah. Fun.”

At some point, and it was probably when he heard the growling, deep, low, but intensifying; Adam realized this wasn’t a poacher out on his tide flats. And it wasn’t a ‘Buddy’ or a ‘Dude.’

Turning toward the beach, walking slowly, at first; his lamp turned off, looking up at the yard light at his house; Adam didn’t break into an all-out run until he approached the high tide line. Still, he never thought of dropping the buckets, even when audible (and getting closer, quickly) heavy breathing, huge feet sliding and splashing across the shallows, got closer.

Closer. Adam swears, now, he could feel the creature’s breath, smell something that, when he considered it, smelled somewhere between burnt driftwood and seaweed. Not that he was considering subtleties of smell as he ran. Near the high tide mark, Adam dropped both buckets; one spilling over, the other staying upright.

It wasn’t a growl, almost a laugh as the Creature passed him. Passed him. Adam may have shrieked. May have; but then he froze. A bucket swinging from one hand, the creature (let’s call it a Patagon’, a giant) stopped at the path, turned, sniffed, looked at Adam. Maybe he studied him for a moment: Brown hair, big mustache, beard halfway-to-full. He looked at the brown hair on his own arm for another moment as he raised Adam’s leftover burrito, ate it in one bite, drank half of Adam’s remaining water (the rest pouring down his hairy chest), and, when Adam turned his headlamp back on, the Patagon’ blinked.

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“Then, his head kind of turning this way and that, he sort of smiled. Big canines. Big. I did kind of a (demonstrates) fist bump kind of thing, then, maybe, like a peace sign. I, um, (demonstrates again) kind of hit my chest, said, “I’m Adam.”

“Of course you did.”

The Sasquatch licked his huge fingers, grunted something; four syllables. Adam answered with a, “You’re welcome.” The Patagon’ looked at Adam’s (could have been mine) fleecy pullover, then back at Adam. “It won’t fit you,” Adam said. “But, maybe… special order… I know people.”

Too late. The coat tucked/stuffed under one arm, the bucket of oysters hitting a few branches, Adam’s new friend glided (Sasquatch(es) supposedly glide) along the shore-hugging scrub brush, bounded up an unseen path farther south as a cloud covered the moon.

“Low tide’s about forty-five minutes later tomorrow night,” Adam said into the darkness, walking back to retrieve the other bucket of oysters, thinking (he claims) about how much I would have loved that sweatshirt.

“Hey, nice session,” I said, reaching out to exchange a fistbump. ”And… nice story.”

“Yeah. Um… so, you, uh, didn’t wear the HamaHama sweatshirt today?”

“No, but…I could explain that, but…” No, I couldn’t beat Adam’s story. It would take aliens, space aliens. “Next time. And, um, next time, you drop down and I’ll go past you.”

BONUS STEPHEN DAVIS, with explainer. Stephen, recovering from his recent Tuck-and-rollover accident on the Big Island, sent a photo of his most recent painting. Thanks, Stephen, paint some more. NOW! PAINT!

 

 

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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.

Selected (Eeeeeeeek!) Rat Tales

 

 

FIRST, I’m only saying ‘Rat Tales’ because it has a certain sound to it. ‘Mouse Tales’ doesn’t have the same impact. Varmints, rodents; It is interesting that many of us consider Squirrels cute, despite the damage they can do, but recoil at even the mention of mice; the cringe-factor going up as the varmints increase in size.

Before I wrote this piece, adapted from and originally written for a monthly newsletter put out by Quilcene’s Community Center, I did mention that I intended to attack (yes, attack) the subject with Bob Rosen, the Director. “Nobody wants to hear about, er, that.”

Then I told him how mice got into the dashboard of my surf rig, and, short-story-slightly-shorter, they chewed through just the right wire that (luckily enough, because I’d been out where the cellphones don’t work) allowed my car to crank but not start; parked in front of the NXNW Surf Shop in Port Angeles.

Frank Crippen, the shop owner, not fully pleased to have me hanging out for several hours, agreed to allow me to put my board in his shed.  The car was towed up the hill to a local garage. After a cursory check (smell, mostly) of the dashboard, they were not stoked.  Trish, shopping in Silverdale, had to come pick me up. It cost me seven hundred dollars to get it running, three hundred more like an out-and-out bribe. Worth it.

“Oh,” Bob said, “Let me tell you how to keep mice out of your car.”

“Yes,” I said; “See, everyone has a story.”

Last winter was long and cold and a particularly bad one for rodents (only, to be fair, looking for some warmth) moving into places we don’t want them, cars, garages, houses. I do hope this winter, for many reasons, isn’t as cold.

Another failed “New Yorker” submission, this one dealing with Church Mice waiting for the “Hallelujah-ing” to start.

Still, here are a couple of anecdotes:

Evidently, I got exactly the wrong counter person at the Port Townsend auto parts store when I asked if they have any special thing (I was thinking electronics) to keep rodents out of vehicles. “Do you live near farms? In the city? The country? Have neighbors? Feed birds?” Before I could answer any of these questions, he threw out his hands in surrender. “There’s nothing we sell, nothing we can do. Nothing. Anything else?” “No, nothing.”

“My dog,” the woman said (and I can’t remember where this was or how the subject came up), “and we didn’t train him to do this, but he smells rats.” In her story, a friend came over for a barbeque, the dog took a great interest in the guy’s car. “You have a rat,” she told her guest. Her husband pulled out a compressor, blew air into the engine, the rodent jumped out, the dog killed it; or, as she put it, “took care of it.” And then, she added, “We all had some barbeque.”

I arrived at a house in an upscale neighborhood to give a painting bid. The homeowner had installed rat-sized, snapping-style, old fashioned traps, about ten feet off the ground, on the corner boards. A bit surprised, I asked, wondering if exposed rat traps (or rats, for that matter) were allowed within the area’s covenants.  “Does it work?” I was imagining long-dead rodents hanging as, perhaps, a warning to others. “So far,” he said, “and it’s kind of, um, decorative.”

It did seem to be humorously ironic, more to me than the woman at checkout, that there was one of those packets (and there are several brands available) with a smell meant to deter rodents (rumored to be a combination of mint and coyote urine), on a shelf between the bags of bird food.

Rather than throw out my hands absolute surrender, I have taken advice and steps. “Drier sheets,” I’ve been told. “New ones.” Oh. “Mint.” Yeah-okay. “Supersonic.” Maybe. “Poison.” Scary. “Flashing lights.” Got ‘em, think it’s like disco for mice. “Younger cats.” Not right now. “Electronic zapper.” Oh, yeah.

Meanwhile, as I work on my mint-moat, a rat-smelling dog and a compressor seem like good ideas. Oh, and, for some reason, barbeque.

 

 

Stephen Davis Gets a Barrel (Roll)…

HEY, REALSURFERS, my site is a mess. I’m aware of this. I decided it might be easier to just do a monthly thing, adding new stuff when it comes up; probably not a good idea, but… hey, here’s something I came across in my many-times-daily search for whatever information I can find to determine when I can best avoid getting skunked.  IS IT A GHOST SURFER, or someone who went out in storm surf, found a corner of a wave in the corner of the bay, and got on camera?  I don’t know; couldn’t help but share it.

OKAY, and, incidentally, it’s also Barrel-roll Stephen Davis’s birthday; and he’s lucky to have made it to this one. Read on; there’s other new stuff.

…ADAM WIPEOUT wades into the crowds in Southern California; ARCHIE ENDO heads back to Thailand; the (UNOFFICIAL) PORT TOWNSEND CREW (with HamaHama backup/alternate) hike (to a non-secret-but-unnamed spot) in, separately and together, and score; MANY SURFERS travel and get skunked; ANOTHER BEACH ACCESS IS SHUT DOWN, another ACCESS IS THREATENED; I sneak in a few sliders before THE WESTPHALIANS show up;  and other news that doesn’t include revealing any secret spots on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Steve at one of his day jobs, pre-roll.

But first… Headed up a Big Island highway at six in the morning on Friday the 13th, en route to his job (one of his jobs) as a crew member (and guy who swims with dolphins AND tourists) on a catamaran built and owned by legendary surfer Woody Brown; Hydrosexual STEPHEN DAVIS, in his words, “Nearly met my maker.”

“Oh,” I said, Saturday afternoon, Steve having called me back while I was on a slippery roof trying to finish a paint job; “But you’re okay. Right.” “Kind of. I’ll send you some photos.” “Okay. I mean, but you’re okay.”

“Mostly. The first thing I did when I got out of the car was say, ‘Mother-fucker!'”

We both laughed. Since he was okay, I was imagining Steve’s impression of me in boss mode, crouching-down, hands splayed-out, saying, “What the fuck?” Yeah, it’s pretty accurate; at work; never in the water- very chill, not as chill as Steve.

I didn’t look at the photos until a couple hours later. Steve’s quick reactions, no doubt, saved his life. A DISTRACTED DRIVER was in Steve’s lane, head-on. Steve swerved, the other car hit him in more of a glancing blow.

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WAIT! WHAT! Yeah, a glancing blow that…WHAT! I had to text Stephen. It went like this:

“Did your rig flip?” “Several flips and spins. It was upside down when it came to rest. Had to kick the door open all laying on my head.” “Geez, man, just had a chance to look at the photos. thank you Jesus. Trish and I are en route to Mass.” “Ya. Super grateful.(emojis) Will you thank God for me please?” “Sure, already working on it, and trish has a bit more clout, and I’m sure your appreciation is noted. You were definitely barreled.”  “Gracias. (more emojis).”  A bit later; “Okay, mentioned your accident to the Priest. You’re all set. Be strong. No, you are strong.”  “Mahalo (emojis).”

Now, please don’t think I’m like, super religious; but I am a believer in something mysterious and beyond our understanding.  I think Stephen ‘Barrel-roll’ Davis is, too. I was ready to drop the ‘hydrosexual’ part of Steve’s nickname anyway; getting too many spam attacks from porno promoters.

OKAY, I have to go. I’ll get back to the other alluded-to news; but, ARCHIE seems to be stronger than when he arrived in the northwest after over 90 days in the hospital after a stroke in Thailand. Part of this has to be due to the above-mentioned Stephen Davis taking him to the pool in Sequim. “He lit up like Christmas,” Steve said. AND Archie is talking about getting back in the surf. Better. He better.

ADAM JAMES, on a surf-and-oyster-sales-related trip, surfed Pipes, twice at Swamis, another time at San Onofre (that I know of), tried to teach northwest-style surf etiquette to my old surfing grounds.

WAIT, here’s an UPDATE (October 16)- Now Adam has added MALIBU, VENTURA POINT, AND COUNTY LINE to his list of Southern California conquests. Nice business trip.

County Line from the rental van.

SO, parking in someone’s yard to access a rivermouth break west of Port Angeles, which has been shut down before, is shut down again. Plans for a Land Trust parking area are stalled, on hold, or just not happening, and the alternative is a long walk. When some surfers from Port Townsend hiked in from one direction recently, they found other surfers from Town who hiked in from the other direction.

AND, AGAIN, people who camp out overnight in a parking area/access to another rivermouth spot are SERIOUSLY RISKING the closure of this area. IT IS PRIVATE PROPERTY. Park somewhere else. Please.  Thanks. As far as surf etiquette is concerned; it takes some nerves to tell a local at any break that, “Hey, that was my wave.” And, I think Adam is planning on hitting Malibu before he comes back home. “Excuse me, but; you know; I’ve been waiting, and…”

No, Big Dave Rips

Jeffrey Vaughn seemed to be enjoying the waves (part of this is that there were waves). It was stormy, west wind blowing (this is sideshore on the Strait of Juan de Fuca), and, maybe it was the tide, maybe the angle, but waves that, typically, hug the reef and peel, were, mostly, closing out, rolling through.

Waves were breaking on outside, Indicator reefs. Rain squalls, clouding the view to the west, would approach, roll through, further chopping-up the lines. Then pass by. Sun would, randomly, break through, adding blinding reflections on ribbed wave faces.

Some waves, that should have been lefts, almost looked like rights. I know better, usually, than to drop into these chunky, deeper water waves. You can drop into a long wall, speed for fifty yards or so and pull out, as you would on most beach breaks, or drop down under the first closeout section, pull back into some non-critical, not-steep wall, and bounce around well past the fence (this is the measure for a long ride at this spot).

Still, even on more lined-up waves, there was a tricky inside section that, if you made it, it was great. If you didn’t you’d get punched, pitched, or, again, be forced to drop down, try to work past it. Oh, I guess you could straighten out.

Jeff was taking off on the outsiders, big smile on his face, dropping-in while I’m going up the face, looking to see if the next one is going to break farther out; and he was picking off  some of the up-the-reef peelers, dropping in with his patented and classic South Bay longboard style, hands on the wall as he wailed toward the inside section.

When he got out he climbed up on top of his Mad Max-meets-heavy-duty-off-roader-adventurer van, snapped some shots of Big Dave and, yeah, me. Thanks, Jeff.

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Top-Discussion mid-session (I was out for about three hours, then a break, then an hour or so more, Dave was out when I arrived, still out when I left- at least 6 hours straight) with Dave, mostly about how access to a favorite spot has, again, been cut off. Or, maybe, about how he’s sometimes mistaken for me, and vice-versa. He’s five years younger, and was a Crystal Pier rat (his words) when I moved to Pacific Beach, San Diego, at 20, in 1971.

Second shot-Me setting up for the tricky inside section. Yes, there were bigger waves.

Third shot- Dave setting up for the tricky inside section. And, yes, the camera takes two feet off the height of a wave and adds twenty pounds (minimum) to the size of a surfer.

Bottom- Dave vertical. There were bigger waves. Really.

NOTE- While I was taking a break, drinking two cups of coffee, one of three guys loading up in a black jeep parked next to me, after taking a couple of cell phone shots of Dave, said it’s nice that someone like me is still ‘out there.’ “Thank you, young gentleman,” I should have said, instead of asking, “You mean old?” Of course he did. Maybe this, and the unspoken challenge of Ironman Big Dave, made me go back out for ‘five more waves,’ that, when it glassed-off, turned into fifteen or so. It was either that or that I’d peed in my wetsuit. Either way, thanks for the photos, Jeff; thanks for the waves Juan.

Under the Brow

Somewhere between waking up a little later than I had planned, trying to get up the energy and necessary excitement level to drive to a job I have to (HAVE TO) get completed before Monday, that project twenty miles out on a (relatively) wilderness peninsula; somewhat after I stepped in cat barf (easily detected with bare feet), had to deal with the same cat’s (Snickerdoodle’s) latest incredibly, unbearably stinky crap (each installment demanding instant removal from the litter box and the house), made a pot of coffee for today’s thermos full, microwaved a cup of yesterday’s leftover, turned on the light in the art/breakfast nook, found the magazine and the photo I would use as reference, then…

…oh, yeah, then I decided, after getting fresh boxers and socks for today from the laundry room, that I could actually use the Seahawks shirt I had worn, yesterday, for Blue Friday, but hadn’t worn to paint in; fresh enough; so I set the magazine and (I think) my drawing/computer eyeglasses on top of the stuff on top of the heater near the door I went out to retrieve my shirt. This particular pair of cheaters is too strong for watching TV (or for walking around), but perfect for making a lot of lines make sense. Some sense.

I looked. Couldn’t find them. Got a flashlight, dug around under the piano and the heater, retraced my steps. Gave up. The clock is ticking. Got to get to work.

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This is drawn with my painting (trim-cutting mostly) glasses, a few specks on the lenses. It’s not an excuse, it’s an explanation.

MEANWHILE, I got some new earplugs. I’ve been using these orange-ish waxy plugs purchased at Walmart, but, if I wipe out enough times, I always seem to lose one. Then I rip the other one in half. Then, as happened this week, I might lose one of those. If I don’t wear earplugs I will get one ear or the other plugged up. It’s not always immediate, but this last time I lost hearing in my right ear before I made it home. This deafness is quite irritating to people (Trish mostly) who think I should hear what they’re saying.

It’s also quite irritating to me, constantly trying to clear the ear, dealing with that drop of the ocean caught between the bone growth (diagnosed when I was 20 year old) that has been narrowing my ear canals, and my ear drum. Slosh, slosh, clearness, hey… replugged. Silence. “What?” I’m constantly snapping my fingers next to my ear, checking.

AFTER googling ‘surfers’ ear’, it seems like the best solution is surgery. Drilling or chisling. NOOOOOOooo! WELL, we ordered and received some new plugs, seemingly identical (except for the strap connecting the two) to the ones endorsed by Tom Carroll, but cheaper from Ebay, possibly because of the lack of his endorsement. I’ve checked them out, can’t wait to use them.

MY HOPE is I don’t find my drawing glasses the same way I found Snicky’s barf. Cruncccccccchhh.

ADDITIONALLY, because it seems to be a deal, with attacks from the tweeter-in-chief; it seems like everyone should take a note from the Seattle area high school football team that took a knee during the national anthem. This shows no disrespect, and, in fact, probably shows more respect for what our country stands for (I won’t add ‘allegedly’, ‘historically,’ or ‘supposedly’- for the sake of not arguing), while noting that social inequality is real. Really.

If I lost you in the lines…

…in the glare, in the crowd; I know I’ll see you later.

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It’s high season for painting houses, and quite a short season it is here in the great northwest. It might be considered fortunate that it’s off-season for surfing, even on the coast. I would love more time for writing and drawing and, yeah, I’d like to see something a bit more promising in the surf forecasts.

So, this one time… this one time I moved over from the rights as the tide flattened them out. About the time I got to my preferred lineup for the lefts a set approached. Big Dave was the only one farther out than I was. “Oh,” I said, “I’d love to take that first one.” “Well,” Dave said, “It’s your birthday.”

It wasn’t. But, recently, it was; and there was a bit of a bump, and… okay, it wasn’t classic; there were roll-throughs and closeouts and a sideshore wind, and, along with the many waves I caught during my five hours in the water, there were several pretty nasty wipeouts, cuts on both hands, a wound on my calf, sore muscles, and one ear plugged up for several days.

And now it’s back to sweating, painting some crappy apartments in Bremerton.  But, I am taking a little time to finish a drawing, do some (this and other) writing, study the forecast. My thinking is: I’m not getting any younger.

UPDATE: Archie Endo has returned, at least temporarily, from Thailand. The stroke he suffered there has left him physically weaker, and he thinks it’ll be a while before he can get back to his soulful and stylish longboard surfing.   Stephen Davis and Mike “Squintz” Cumiskey helped him get settled back into his house.

Hydrosexual Stephen Davis, who just left for the Big Island this morning, took Archie to the pool in Sequim, and said, when Archie got in the water, “He just lit up. You could see the energy coming back.”  Archie confirmed this. Hopefully, with some proper therapy, we can see our friend parallel-stancing his way across some northwest waves.

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.

Sum-mer-time… Skunked on the Strait, 66 degrees at Swamis, 1967…

The surf report and forecast for the Northwest portion of the contiguous U-nited States of A-merica (dashes added to more closely reflect prideful way we pro-nounce stuff) is pretty bleak. You’d have to believe the Pacific Ocean could churn up something more than a two foot swell.

Hey, it’s summertime. Painting season. Hydrosexual Stephen Davis and I, both of us drinking coffee, were each sitting in doorways of our vans, paint gear spread around. I asked him about water temperatures in Baja (last fall) and Hawaii (this last winter). “Oh,” he said, “Baja was right between trunking-it and wetsuit temperature; probably 66 degrees or so.”

“Oh,” I said. Pause, both of us nodding our heads. “You know, back when I was a teenager…” Now Steve was trying to avoid rolling his eyes. “…when the water temperature got up to 58 degrees, somewhere around Easter; if you were still wearing a wetsuit… and bear in mind we only had shortjohn wetsuits… you were a pussy.”

“Uh huh. Pussy.” “Really. And you couldn’t put one on until it got back down to 58, somewhere around December; before Christmas, anyway.” “Uh huh.”

Image (205)

What I didn’t bother to tell him, but probably drifted off into remembering, was an early summer morning when Phillip Harper, Ray Hicks, possibly Mark Metzger and Billy McLain, and I; no doubt in two cars from Fallbrook, all hit Swamis at about the same time.  I was first down the stairs.

I surfed Swamis enough from 1965 to see the basic reef, sort of fanned, overlapping shelves, hold up while the shoreline would change more dramatically; erosion, refill. Seasonal. The wave conditions went from one high tide peak too close to the bigger rocks; to mid-tide and two distinct peaks; to ultra low tide, one running crazy and almost hollow wave; from the December ’69 swell; through dawn patrol, after school, between classes-at- Palomar and work-in-Oceanside sessions (pre-1971); to the times I lived in Encinitas (’74-’76) and could sneak in a few; to New Years day ventures while working in San Diego because I didn’t have work in the Northwest (1991,’92); everything from Santa Ana mornings to south wind chop, onshore, glassy; overhead to flat; overcrowded to almost empty; with so many memories… they’re all memories now; haven’t surfed there in twenty-five years.

On the particular morning I was remembering while talking with Steve, shadows of the bluff extending into the water, there was a chalk board on the still-empty lifeguard station. “Surf 2-3, water temp- 66.” Whoa! Warming up! We would probably end up surfing what we referred to as Swamis Beachbreak, the quarter mile or so between Swamis proper, and Pipes, pretending there was a better lineup off this rock than off that. “Hey, I WAS on the nose!” “Hey, did you see that rollercoaster?” “Hey!”

I hit the water straight out in front of the stairs, caught a left just as my friends hit the sand. “Hey!”

Not that Stephen would be all that impressed. “Uh huh. Do you have any more coffee?”

self realization

“Uh. Um. Yeah.” I’m certain many of us will look back on the times we went searching for waves on the Strait. Sometimes it can be… “Waves?” “Waves? No, I got skunked.” “Then why are you smiling?”

 

 

With Apologies For Burning the *(Now) Unnamed Longboard Local,

…the LONGBOARDING LOCAL, who, after a tough week (evidently), paddled out at a spot, a fickle point break, where he considers himself a local, with a fairly obvious and focused attitude that he was there to surf.  I saw him paddle past me, mustache waxed, ready to rip, crowd be damned (okay, this is a judgement call by me, a guy whose motto is, ‘I’m here to surf.’)

DEFINITION- A Sociopath is someone who knows something he or she does is wrong, yet continues to do it. I’ve often thought all good surfers are sociopaths. This probably isn’t totally true, but what it takes to be good at anything is a certain competitive drive. To be good at surfing, an, admittedly, self-centered sport, increasingly, with more crowded conditions, takes a certain amount of aggressiveness. If I can stop just sort of confessing to being a sociopath, I will admit to being, at least in the water, aggressive.

John Peck, a legendary surfer, somewhat older than Erwin Dence, doing (and obviously enjoying) a bit of kneeboarding. Photo by Nathan Oldfields. Find it, if nowhere else, at mollusksurfshopscom

DISCLAIMER (Or maybe it’s a ‘claimer’) ONE- a) If you can’t walk to a spot in less than, say, forty-five minutes from your home, you’re not a local. b) If you pay to park, you’re not a local.  c) Mitt Romney is a local at Windansea, Bob Dylan at Malibu. Or would be if they surfed.  d) The guy who lives in his van is probably More Local than you.                 SO, we go to ever-expanding circles of Local-ness; the above-mentioned Longboarder Local being Local-er than I am, with me being Local-er than, well, lots of people.  AND I have been a TRUE LOCAL several times; Pacific Beach, Encinitas; AND, some credit must be given for working in close proximity to surf. ADD Oceanside Pier to my local history; I worked two blocks and some railroad tracks away for over two years. OHHH, and add Lower Trestles; I worked up the hill, with a view of the place, and drove out on the beach every working day for ten months (an hour and a half lunchbreak, a third of it legal)  in 1975.

SETTING THE SCENE- I was actually, after getting skunked (or unwilling to wait for a possible properly-aligned swell/tide/wind/crowd combination), the first one in the water on this particular afternoon. And it was working. So, yeah, hurry, gorge it up.  BUT, too soon, others showed up. First it was two guys, friendly nods followed by the guy on the bigger board totally taking off in front of me. I didn’t freak out. I did, somewhat later, return the favor. SO, Even. THEN, more surfers showed up. ONE goofy-footer was totally ripping; down the line, under the lip, a few controlled freefalls. Everyone else was surfing. I, 65 year old guy with pretty screwed-up knees, was (and maybe this seems counter-intuitive) kneeboarding, taking off farther up the line, driving across. I was totally enjoying it. A longtime local, and the best kneeboarder on the Strait of Juan de Fuca who wears fins, someone who I first surfed this spot with (with as in, he was also out) in 1979, was catching some waves, always in the barrel. Hey, he was kneeboarding.

DISCLAIMER TWO- RELATIVE AGE OR LONGEVITY in the sport aren’t valid arguments for any kind of preferential treatment. They never have been.  Having said that…                                                                                                                       DISCLAIMER THREE- THE DISPARITY in surfing equipment is an issue that contributes to tension in the surf zone. I have felt the frustration when I’m on a longboard and three A-holes on SUPs show up, their training in lakes and at Yoga Camp obvious.      ADDENDUM to the disclaimer- I started on longboards in 1965, made the switch to shortboards; never rode another longboard until 1989, never rode an SUP until I was 60.

SO, on the first wave I saw ridden by Longboarding Local, he was driving, hit a section, lost his board. Leashless, Longboard Local’s loose board came perilously close to hitting (she would later say ‘decapitating’) a woman who would, a little later, catch one of the waves of the day. Longboarding Local seemed angry that he had to rock dance his way in.  OKAY, so it’s sort of badass to not wear a leash, but, in crowded conditions, PERHAPS sort of irresponsible.

NOW, I had actually gotten out of the water after two and a half hours or so, AND the surf had dropped, the crowd increased. BUT, my friend, who I’ve advised to deny any friendship, after surfing elsewhere, had moved to this spot, and claimed more sets were coming.  I went back out.  HE WAS RIGHT; after what was probably a 45 minute lull, a set approached, and I, inside, was paddling out. As were others. As was Longboarding Local.  The woman Longboarding Local’s loose board had nearly decapitated took the first one. Someone else, possibly her boyfriend, was on the second. I turned for the third. Longboarding Local was, I swear (judge or judges), still paddling out when I turned and committed. BUT, deeper than I was, he turned and took off.  I COULD HEAR YELLING (despite wearing earplugs and my right ear pretty much plugged, again, from the narrowing of the ear canals, that caused by bone growth, that exacerbated by surfing in cold water, that condition first diagnosed when I was 20) behind me, I could feel Longboarding Local’s presence. I pulled out as quickly as I could. These weren’t two person (or PARTY) waves. MAYBE Mr. Local would have made the wave. I’m certain he thought so. I caught the next one (yeah, guess there was another), cruised out of the possible-confrontation zone.

PADDLING back up the point, I couldn’t hear anything, but could see big arm gestures; L.L. making his case to my (although he doesn’t, as I’ve said, have to claim it) friend. WHEN I got even with my friend ______, he wasn’t entirely sympathetic to my explanation.

PRIORITY RULES (historically)- There was no ‘taking turns’ back when I, still thirteen years old, was learning to surf. A wave belonged to the surfer farthest out, closest to the peak. That was it. This was enforced through  peer pressure and intimidation, real or imagined. IF YOU wanted to challenge the big dog, you moved closer to the peak, farther out. IF YOU waited for your turn, you got one, occasionally. IF YOU wanted all the waves to yourself, you pretty much weren’t out on a great day at a great spot.  A LOT of surfing at a good spot (picture Swamis, late 1960s) consisted mostly of moving around, sharking the  inside, waiting for a wave everyone missed of someone fell on. SCRAPPING. IT IS a classic situation where someone sits too far over, can’t make the first section. OR, someone goes for a wave, you don’t, and that person does not catch the wave. AGAIN, differences in equipment have made this more of an issue than in the past; THOUGH, not actually catching or blowing a wave that then goes unridden, particularly if done several times, will not make anyone popular.

PRIORITY RULES (current)- No matter how many times I’ve had this explained to me, I still don’t get it. If I get a set wave and you don’t; and you’re waiting on the shoulder; I shouldn’t paddle out past you, looking for the next set wave? I should allow you to opportunity to go for it, unchallenged? It’s your turn. MAYBE these new rules are the work of surfers who… okay, I’m not going on about ‘participation’ awards and such things… these rules are, at least partially, the result of increasingly crowded conditions. AND they’re really more a WISH LIST than something adhered to.

OKAY, I have tried going by the new priority etiquette. Really. I know how painful it is to not go for the one wave in a one wave set. I had a brief version of this discussion with _____, acknowledging I’d done L.L. wrong. “Well, you could apologize.” “I could.” I paddled up the point, got even with Local Longboarder, apologized. “I come here to get away from this shit,” he said, his arm gestures a bit refrained in comparison to earlier. “We all do,” I said. Not sure if L.L. heard me as I paddled away, but I did say I was leaving,  he could have all my waves. I heard he settled down after I left. Great. Sorry, Longboarder Local. I owe you one.

ONE.

*I’ve actually had a bit of discussion about this incident; the kind of thing that happens, one would guess, thousands of times a day around the world. But, I chose to write about it. If part of my point is that Longboarding Local overreacted, it’s easy to say I have also. “Okay.” AND, some have told me my apology doesn’t seem truly sincere; AND, in fact, almost seems like I’m burning the guy again. “What?” Anyway, I have decided to delete his name. If you just loved the pre-redacted version so much you printed up a copy, please burn that. Really. I’m sincere, here. Truly.