OKAY, I’m probably through with Captain Sketchee. Partially, well, mostly because Trish is sick of seeing illustrations of creepy old men. I guess it’s bad enough living with one.
OKAY, I’m probably through with Captain Sketchee. Partially, well, mostly because Trish is sick of seeing illustrations of creepy old men. I guess it’s bad enough living with one.
and ready for more.
More what? More whatever; as long as it doesn’t require running or excessive sweating. No, and he’s done with nude beach volleyball (something about the leaping). He is educated (and he can list his credentials), opinionated, and ready to discuss several non-urgent, not-really-controversial topics in any one of several casual settings, including surf beaches and/or surf-adjacent parking areas.
“They’re called car parks in much of the world,” is just one of many pieces of info he’s willing to share. Plus, Captain Sketchee has an encyclopedic knowledge of pretty much every wave he rode from 1963 to 1968, the year he used his Uncle’s influence to get into the Coast Guard Auxiliary, just the start of his auxiliary naval career (the ‘Captain’ is strictly honorary).
“Yes, I hot-dogged the outside section, did a spinner, dropped a BA, cheater-fived right past one of those kooks on a 7’6″ garage soul ‘experimental’ board, did a soul arch and a standing Hawaiian in the shorebreak; Tamarack, September 17, 1967. Ebbing tide, afternoon session, fourteen completed rides, one swim, three ‘call offs,’ one verbal exchange, one deferred confrontation on the beach. Early cloud cover.”
The Captain is also known to distribute sage insight such as: “I probably should have made a few friends along the way, but… friends, inevitably, want to share a wave. One (I’ve found that, if he says ‘one,’ he probably means himself) evidently, has to be willing to go alone. All alone.” This might be followed by, “No one drops in on someone he or she (rather than using the more common, less elegant ‘they’) respects, so, blast it all, why’d you totally flamin’ burn me?”
“I don’t think I ‘totally flamin’ burned’ you, Captain; you blew the takeoff on the previous wave, missed two before that; I just… maybe I just lost faith. Sorry, I said ‘previous.’ Maybe ‘preceding’ might have been a better choice. What say you?”
CAPTAIN’S LOG- Surf Date, 03/11/18. Secret spot of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Muddy parking area/pullout. Very small reef break. Sunny but East wind side chop. Four completed rides. One semi-barrel. Two drop-ins. One verbal situation. One shared ride. One confrontation diffused. Going to Westport tomorrow. Ample parking.
Yeah, okay; I was just going to post the photo. Got to go.
“Avant,” Mr. Sketchee told me, evidently including me with the ‘Surf Fashion lemmings’ and ‘Thrift store dumpster divers,’ “is French, and thereby, mas’ sophisticato, for ‘before.'”
“Mas’ sophisticato?” I asked, knowing, that as another figment of my imagination, Captain Sketchee got his start in fashion at the Port Angeles Goodwill (just down Lincoln from the North by Northwest surf shop) when he found some faux (more French) Admiral’s nautical coat; unfortunately not in the proper size.
“It’s creepy,” Trish said when I showed her this drawing; “Why would you want to draw… him?”
“T shirts,” I said. “I’m going to add some waves, some lettering… and, besides, he was Mr. Creepee, originally; but, um, he’s, uh, evolved. And, anyway, what about the drawing? Clean, tight; medium lines?”
“The drawing’s fine, but… nobody wants that on a t shirt. I mean, do you?”
I kind of do. I mean, with the lettering and… quality t shirt, and… in my size.
“First of all,” I said, standing in the kitchen of Phillip Harper’s parents’ house, two bars of paraffin wax melting in a soup can on the stove, Phillip’s (second-ever, and not sun-browned like the first one) surf board, stripped and ready for a ‘pre-coat’, floating between two chairs and across the dining room table, “the theater was in no way ‘underground.’ Disappointing.”
Phillip and Ray Hicks seemed to be properly impressed that I, more country kid than either of them, had gone into the city for some other reason than to ride the escalators at Sears with my many brothers and sisters while my parents shopped.
It was at about this moment that Phillip’s sister, Trish (not my Trish- hadn’t met her yet), came in from the pantry (no one ever seemed to use the formal front door). She appeared noticeably disappointed that her brother and at least one of his geeky friends were there. Trish was followed in by her boyfriend, Bucky Davis. He was, perhaps, a bit less disappointed; a nod for Phillip, smaller one for Ray, even smaller one for me (standard cool reaction to over-amped groms). Bucky took a moment to check out the board (approvingly), then the wax melting on the stove.
“You have to be careful,” he said, both hands simulating an explosion. “A candle might be a better idea.” A single hand tipping an imaginary candle illustrated the point.
“Erwin went to see ‘The Endless Summer’ in San Diego,” Phillip said. “At an underground theater,” Ray added.
“The thing is,” I said, trying to be informative, and trying to be as cool as Phil and Ray “kind of disappointing; it wasn’t at all underground. Just a regular, um, theater. And…”
Phillip and Ray appeared less impressed than the first time they heard this. Of course; though they did seem to be checking Bucky’s reactions.
“On University Avenue?” Trish asked. I shrugged. I hadn’t driven. We’d gone down 395. It was somewhere near the Zoo. “Well,” she said, “I saw it at State.” She paused, possibly to see if she had to add ‘San Diego State.’
No, I knew she had been spending some time down there, preparing to attend ‘State’ in the fall of 1967. Bucky would not be attending. He was planning on going to Palomar Junior College; he’d have to go somewhere to stay out of the draft.
“When I saw it,” she continued, “Bruce Brown narrated it… himself. He was behind this curtain and…” She stopped because Bucky seemed a bit surprised at the news. At least that is what I thought, at the time, as if she had seen it without him. That would be sad, her and her new, big-city life and Bucky…
[Let me add here, fifty years after this incident, three years after originally writing this piece, that, among my first surfing friends, Trish and Bucky were the perfect surfing couple. That they didn’t remain a couple was, bits and pieces of the disconnection playing out over, and just beyond, my high school years, tragic; tragic in that teenager’s romanticized, love-lost way.
Part of the reason I started this blog was to record how I changed from total kook, over-stoked beginner, with Bucky one of my early surf heroes, to… I don’t know… over-stoked surfer out past high school, past the inside break; my friends scattered.
My opinion of surf heroes, with Bucky the best illustration, went, along with my connection to surfing, from a sort of ‘this is magic’ awe, to a more realistic view. Bucky had some serious life challenges. He was a real person.
Still, what I loved about Phillip’s sister, that seeming-self confidence, that willingness to stand up as an equal, is part of what attracted me to my Trish.
Still… still an over-stoked surfer, awed by the magic… still I, somewhere in the part of me that never got past adolescent romantic, I’ve held out a notion that Bucky and Trish could… yeah, maybe I just hope they, and all my scattered surf heroes and friends, including Phillip and Ray… have been, mostly, happy.
And, I am grateful, while I’m anxiously awaiting my next surf adventure, that I have such great memories of interesting, and real, people. And someone to share current adventures with.]
I’m sure I was mostly trying to hide being impressed. And out-cooled. Again. Always by her.
“Bruce Brown? In person? That’s… cool.”
After all, it had been impossible for me to be really, even passably, cool, at the above-ground theater, hanging with my older sister, Suellen, AND my mother.
Still, hoping to in some way to compete with Trish Harper, I said, “Yeah, well; they had these previews for a movie with Bob Dylan, and…”
“’Don’t Look Back’,” Trish said.
“Huh?” Phillip and Bucky and Ray asked, pretty much at the same time.
“Uh huh,” I said; “and Bob Dylan’s, like… he’s holding up these…”
“Cue cards,” Trish said.
“I guess. Yeah. And my mom starts laughing.”
“Laughing?” Phillip and Trish and Bucky and Ray all asked.
“Yeah, laughing; and… I mean, not even Suellen is laughing. No one’s laughing.”
“Because it’s Dylan,” Trish said, serious and almost indignant.
“Yeah, Dylan; Bob Dylan. But, pretty soon, someone else starts laughing. And then more people are laughing; and then everyone’s laughing. And Bob Dyl… Dylan, he just keeps dropping the cards. And…”
By this time, in the kitchen, I was also laughing. Phillip started to laugh. Ray, studying Bucky’s face, allowed himself to join in the laughter. Then Bucky looked over at his girlfriend (not laughing), maybe thought for a moment about how he didn’t see “The Endless Summer” at ‘State’ with her, with Bruce Brown personally narrating; and he laughed.
And then the wax exploded.
Bruce Brown, revealing the stoke and the magic and the awe to a larger world, stepping behind another curtain. Rest In Peace. And thank you.
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.
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.
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.
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.
…in the glare, in the crowd; I know I’ll see you later.
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.
“It’s always Summer…”
Another legend passed; and the various waves continue rolling. On. Thanks for the warmth.
I’ve been trying to get an image of how thick that line is for a couple of days; or even if this is the line I’m really concerned with. Maybe, probably, I’m a bit too sensitive to my own position, as I, um, mature… okay, we’ll just say ‘age,’ in the overall surfer lineup. Maybe? Definitely. Actually, I always have been.
When I first started board surfing, I’d sneak into the pack at Tamarack as if I belonged there, a big, kook smile on my 13, almost 14 year old face. Soon I was paddling, head down and blind, into a wave at Swamis that, undoubtedly, had someone on it, with me as an impediment to a great ride. I did stay in the lagoon section at pre-jetty extension at Doheny, an eye on the surfers out on the reef. I was learning, frequently thrashed by waves, but always happy to be out there.
It wasn’t too long a time before I tried, hard, to be one of the better surfers out on any given day. Competitive.
This hasn’t changed in fifty-two years. Hasn’t changed yet. Yet, though I’ve always pushed them, I’ve always known my limitations. At least I knew there are limitations. When I was a kook, I knew it. If I didn’t, other surfers told me. I was told to go (by one guy in particular, but also by consensus) to the Carlsbad Slough to practice knee paddling when I pearled on an outside wave, causing four or five surfers to scramble. I didn’t go, but moved away from the main peak. I was sent to the south peak at Grandview when I lost my board in a failed kickout, putting a ding in John Amsterdam’s brand new Dewey Weber Performer. I did go, looking longingly back at the rights.
Another lost board incident, with a near miss with some stinkbug-stanced kook Marine swimming after his borrowed-or-rented board found him standing on my board in the shallows. “You like this board,” he asked, threatening to break it into “a million pieces if I ever tried to hit him with it again.” He had two friends to back him up; I had my second brother down, Philip. “Okay.” Still, I paddled back out, ten feet away from him and his friends, brave look on my face.
I persisted. With the nearest waves twenty miles from Fallbrook, I always went out. South wind, north wind, white-caps, big or small. There were setbacks, times I just couldn’t connect, couldn’t get into the rhythm; days where trying to get out for another closeout seemed like more work than it was worth; but I was improving.
Hey, this will have to be part one; I just have to go, and I don’t have the whole arc figured out. I’ll be sixty-six in August; I’m still as stoked (and as immature, emotionally) as ever; still want to be, during any given surf session, competitive. I do admit to having more handicaps than I’d like. I’ve adjusted. Bigger board, mostly.
I had two sessions this week; the first, at a mutant slab with a massive current. I was humbled. While I was thrashed and sucked, others were thrashed and got some great rides. I would love to say I wasn’t embarrassed as much as disappointed in myself. That’s what I’d love to say; the truth is, again, I’m still working that out. Possibly to make up for this, I went to a more user-friendly spot the next day. I didn’t suck.
Not really surprisingly, a couple of older surfers I’ve surfed with before showed up. When the waves went from almost flat to pretty darn good, one of them, as cool a surfer as one would meet, admitted that, when he sees great waves, “I just get giddy!”
This giddiness, something so profound that we can forget the posturing and coolness, is at the very heart of surfing. It’s something common to all real surfers. Maybe it takes a better wave to bring it out in some, but that bustable smile is there. We’re all, occasionally, humbled. The ocean always gets the last word. Not actually ready to be humble, yet, I’m persisting.
There is just too much tension and guilt on the fickle Strait of Juan de Fuca right now. TENSION caused by too many surfers showing up any time there’s a chance of actual waves actually breaking, GUILT from believing that talking about, and worse, writing about, and way worse, sending photos of anything bigger than a dribbler, sharing too much information with too many people.
SHARING; who’d have guessed it’d be a bad thing? We’re all taught to share from pre-school on… but Damn it, we don’t want to share. We’re surfers, ready to go it alone. That is, if we have to.
BUT, maybe we’re all POPULATION DENIERS. I’ve often said “Uphere (the Pacific Northwest) Now is like Downthere (Southern California) Then (the mid sixties, still post-Gidget, like it’s her fault).” And it still is, and it has been- a low surfer/spot ratio; call a few friends to have someone to go with; an opportunity, an adventure, sometimes finding a good and uncrowded spot to surf; and a chance to make new friends. But, it’s now more crowded, and likely to continue in that direction, but, with the coast being pretty harsh, and jobs mostly inland; the chances of… yeah, more crowds, it’s happening; and sorry, it’s not ALL my fault.
In an attempt to chill the fuck out, I’ll never post a photo of a recognizable NW spot, or name even a well known spot, and, maybe you remember my heading photo, riding a seemingly-endless wave. GONE. Obviously too many kooks saw that shot, asked ‘where is that; I gots to go there,’ and, boom, 37 people in the water.
I did start this site to get my drawing out there, and to write about my former surfing experiences; never really thinking that I’d have such a vibrant current surfing life. And I’ve loved it, and do love it; but now the BLAME game is in full play, and I’m on more than one list. Gidget, people aren’t hip to Gidget; we now blame people who are just too damn chatty, too exuberant. Well, most of my surfing career has been on my own, surfing in crowds, none of the members of which could be classified as friends. GHETTO MENTALITY. I wasn’t loud in the water; I competed for the best waves. I’ve done it; and I can still do it.
It is fun surfing with friends. More fun, even; all bullshit aside; and there is that TRIBAL thing; most of us willing to admit we want to be part of that often-dysfunctional group. “Oh, you surf? Hmmmm.”
SO, I’ll be following my friend, Hydrosexual Stephen Davis, currently on a solo trip towards Mexico. I’ll be doing some drawings ala Griffin/Stoner (Who?), but right now, I’m posting a few shots he’s sending me. If it’s your local spot, or you think it’s a secret; I don’t care. It’s not like you and I are friends.
Don’t let the lack of crowds fool you, though Stephen said he surfed a really good point break with seven or eight others out, and everyone “Was pretty nice. Sharing.” Whoa; there’s that word again.