Surf Session Highlights, Full Mooned, Updated Illustrations from the Last Century

In no particular order, I thought I’d give some highlights from some recent surf sessions. Bear in mind I have a certain obligation, not merely imagined, to never ever mention anything that comes close to confirming there are ever good waves on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

This isn’t difficult. The predominant swell condition is flat. This is undeniable. When waves do show up, the winds that blow into or out of the rather narrow passageway can, east or west, seriously scallop the faces. Rapid tidal shifts and the very angle of wave-to-coast can add to rip/drag conditions; and, since we all check out the same forecasts, and because semi-optimal conditions are sort of rare (rare-ish), and each of us has our own formula of size/angle/tide/period/wind, even the slight chance of waves over a foot high brings, yes, crowds; frustrated, desperate surfers of all ages and abilities ready to head out into…

…waves surfers on most coasts would pass on, or wait out, hoping for something a bit cleaner, bigger, better.  There have been major skunkings; lines of Westfalias, camper-laden trucks, SUVs with tiny boards stuffed inside, RVs, work rigs, Mad Max vehicles with stacks of various-sized equipment; families, church groups, surfers on dates, power couples, buddy-groups of four or five; beginners and rippers, lone wolf dudes in guaranteed cool surf wear; all cooking up breakfast on little burners, or chatting with someone they know from the Udub, or looking for a (better) place to park; all asking about other spots, all looking out at the water; too many people bobbing around and too few waves. Or none. Or sub-epic.

There is no guaranteed formula. Really. If there was… shit, it’d be worse.

STILL, stories persist of persistent surfers waiting, waiting, and scoring; OR, better, getting somewhere just before it goes off. WHAT? Where? When?

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HEART ATTACK: If I suffer one, it’ll be when I do see what passes for great surf in these parts. I have, in the fairly recent past, in my haste to partake, left my shirts (we layer ’round here) on the hood of my car (and/or a window or door open) in a downpour (forcing me to shop on the way home wearing a pervy barn coat), yelled out exclamations that would make an Australian blush (sorry kids, sorry Mrs. Nolan, sorry church groups) and, partially because I am notoriously slow getting into my wetsuit (doubles as stretching/warmup), urinated way before I reached the water.

And, even when I tell myself (and others in the water) that I’m going to “be casual,” I rarely am.

BAD ASSES AND SURF ASSESSMENT: We all have stories of past glories. I quit telling some of mine because, yeah, if I surfed (un or less crowded) Swamis in the 60s, Trestles (parking at Lowers) in the 70s, big days at Windansea and Sunset Cliffs, shouldn’t I surf, um, uh, better?

Doesn’t seem to matter. It might just be, in each of our minds, with one or more asterisks next to our mental wikipedia page,  we rip. This is fine. That is, I won’t call you out if you don’t call me out.

Recently, trying to time my arrival after the overnight-and-hanging west wind died down, I got to a not-secret spot with the tide way too low, waves at the indicators, the wind still howling, and twelve surfers in the lineup. Picture a line of black marker buoys, like those for crab pots, left to right. Because I know some of the folks hanging out or waiting around, I took my time, chatted it up. By the time I paddled out there were nine surfers, then seven. When I moved over from the rights, I was the only one out.  I found a few good ones in the mix, did a lot of paddling, got out of the water. So, no one was surfing.

There was a group of about five surfers hanging out kind of close to my car as I limped up the beach. “Everyone’s a badass on the beach,” I said. “How come you badasses aren’t out there?” “Good on you,” one of them said, “you got some waves.” “Uh huh.” “We were waiting for one more badass.”

NOTE: This didn’t actually translate into them wanting to hang with me, artifact from a century these dudes barely remember.

I took a break, talked to some other surfers I know, met Jeff’s son. And, though there were many coolly-decked-out surfers on the beach, no one was out. Because, partially, I had to pee and didn’t want to take off my wetsuit (okay, mostly because I couldn’t get my wetsuit off without peeing) and I wanted a few more waves, I went back out. I surfed alone for about twenty minutes. The wind had calmed down. It was better.

Then Jeff came out, and his son. Then, suddenly, it seemed, there were, again, twelve (different) surfers in the lineup. Then the wind came back up. One more ride to the fence. And another last ride. Limp up the beach. I had a little discussion with Darrin and Melissa on how good it got the last time I saw him at this spot, AFTER I left; about the time Adam Wipeout and Chimacum Cam (as opposed to Timacum Chimacum) showed up.   I hit the road for Costco and home. I passed at least four surf rigs on the way; more surfers hoping to be there when it got good. The wind, as far as I know, kept blowing as the swell dropped.

STILL, I don’t know what happened the next day. Might’ve been epic. Someone will have a story. UPDATE- Yeah, better, allegedly.

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TUGBOAT BILL: I’ve run into him often through the years. He introduces me to others as someone who is “Absolutely ruthless in the water.” “No, no,” I insist, checking out the stranger. Most recently he had Mr. Smythe (sp?) with him, and asked if I knew what surfer would be pulling onto 104 from Center Road in a gray pickup. I didn’t know. It turns out the very pickup was in the parking area. “Let’s go see who the hell he is,” I said. It turns out he’s a fisherman, formerly from Maine (as I remember) wondered how he could keep from getting skunked coming to the Strait. “Can’t help you, kid,” Bill said. “Do you check the buoys?” “Buoys?” “Hmm. Can’t help you, kid.” All I said is, “Buoys.”

CONCRETE PETE: Another old guy, though not as old as me. On the day from the previous story, after the three surfers who dawn-patrolled got out of the water in, pretty-much, defeat (including Bruce, the ‘Mayor of Hobuck’, according to Adam Wipeout, some guy White Reggie identified as the owner of several pot shops in P.A., and some guy Reggie said was known to be confrontational in the water) I ended up (because I hate getting skunked) surfing alone on some one footers.

Thinking this was it, and because it didn’t seem to be raining, I got out, got dressed, was ready to go to work. Then the waves got a bit bigger. I put on my other wetsuit (Yes, I do own two- so worth it), went back out. Again, people who were waiting (including Tugboat Bill and Mr. Smythe and the fisherman) also went into the water. Double session.

When I was getting out, I saw a truck backed up to the berm, some guy, struggling to get into his wetsuit, yelling at me. By name. Unable to determine who it was in the glare, I decided I should approach. It was Concrete Pete, and, perhaps thinking it was 1964 and he was Miki Dora, he shot me a B.A. All in good fun. “And that’s my best side,” he said as I turned away. NOTE: Bare ass; variously described as mooning. Full mooning.

“Did you see anything you didn’t want to see?” Trish asked when I told her the story. “I didn’t want to see any of it.”

TOM BURNS: Tom is very close to my age, a lifelong surfer, and he’s on my short list of people to call to discuss the latest session and/or skunking. The last time I called he was on I-5, en route to Dana Point, hoping to score some pre-dawn sessions down that way. If you think I’m a name dropper, you should talk to Tom.  if you think I have stories… again, Tom. If you do, he’ll probably remember your name.

THIS is way too long. I want to write about how someone accused me of being a ‘surf whore.’ No, I’m not sure what it means, either. I do admit to being a ‘paint-whore,’ and, if this means I’ve somehow sold out, no, sorry; haven’t had any real offers. If it means I’m selling out local spots; no; not really. Oh, except Westport. Go there. Go there now.

I ALSO want to write about surf thieves. Someone broke into Stephen Davis’s storage unit, stole his tools, his kite surfing equipment. AND, evidently, someone had a board stolen while (from what I’ve heard) parked on one of those side roads leading to a remote surf spot. LATER on that subject, but, if there is any Surfer’s Code, it definitely doesn’t include stealing. The occasional mooning? Up for debate.

I’m adding to some of the drawings from the 1980s I recently found in my attic. More coming. Yeah, kind of like waves.

 

 

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Contacts From the Past

I had to crawl around in the attic, trying to find some obvious sign of a short circuit. Didn’t find it (which means it’s somewhere in a wall, or, I’m suspecting, the light fixture I installed- had to quit looking to go surfing), but did find some old artwork.

During my tenure at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (a transfer there got me here from San Diego), I got into the sign shop (I had, after all, started out as a sign painter apprentice, 1969, Oceanside). While there, I took advantage of having a drawing board to, well, draw.

Most of the drawings started out on 17 by 22 inch paper, too big for most printers, but, because I was also doing posters (and I grabbed any artsy projects that came in- keggers, picnics, that kind of civil service boondoggle), I took advantage of the shipyard photo lab to get illustrations photographed.

I do have some surviving silk screened posters (if they are artsy, I’d prefer to say serigraphs) as well as some (and, sadly, not very many) originals. These are SOME of the contact prints I had in a padded envelope inside a now-moldy box. They are all pre-1990 (when I left the shipyard), and, if there is a difference in my style, and I would say there’s been some (maybe) development, if not (necessarily) improvement.  The bigger difference is that I took a lot of time on each illustration, lunchtimes, breaks, and, I think I mentioned, I had a Civil Service job.

Many of the contact prints are too small, the detail too dark. I’m going to get them blown, hoping to open up some light between the lines.  We’ll see.

When I took some of the prints to show my friends, Trish became very possessive of some of the drawings of Victorian houses in Port Townsend I did, claiming I’d ruin them somehow.  I didn’t, but, in the excitement of seeing waves, I did leave my shirt on the hood of my car. And then it rained. You know how soft racks leak onto car seats in heavy rain? No, the drawings came through it, but I got to go to Safeway with no shirt and a heavy, pervert-esq coat. Yes, fully zipped.

So, here are a couple of examples. I want to say “Portraits from the Artist as a Young(er) Man.” So, each one, and there will be more, is over 28 years old.

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Captain Sketchee in Color

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.

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“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.

Apre’s Surf and Avant Anything Else; Captain Sketchee’s Sport Togs and Fashion Garb

“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.

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“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.

Not Always According to Plan

It’s a bit of a, I don’t know, irritating thing, to me, that, despite planning out an illustration, thinking it through, actually picturing it in my mind; once I check out reference material, once I start drawing… it comes out…pause… different.

Here are two drawings (please, just because of the fragility of my ego, don’t call them sketches) I finished today. I’ll let you in on what I hoped for after this:

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Simpler. I was thinking of the way photos, back in the early 70s, mostly, late 60s, were broken into three shades (dark, mid-range, and light). Psychedelic? Maybe; depends on the colors selected.  Next time. I’m kind of at the ‘still wild’ phase (“Still Wild period- not sure); and, based on advice from some guys who purchased some of my work (thanks Dave and Joey), I am kind of making my name a bit larger. I’m thinking of going with “Original Erwin.” Branding.

Ego. And, yes, Doctor; maybe doing an Orca is some pathetic reaction to Stephen Davis selling his whale painting (check’s in the mail); AND having some (quite a few) commissions for more original Stephen paintings.

Maybe a little. I have wanted to do a drawing of an Orca for a while. I also wanted to write something about a recent suicide slab session I observed, rather than participated in. I did give kudos to those brave souls who risked it, each one paying dearly for a (precious) few quality rides.  Not really wanting to be the observer, on this occasion, not participating may have been the right decision.

Meanwhile, I’m still thinking…

OH, this is the day following the above post. My new stuff goes to twitter and Facebook, and, evidently, C.L. Flint is a follower (wait, maybe he’s a Friend; and, yeah, I do know him in real life) and commented that I should finish the killer whale, as in add the rest of the Orca (he called it a fish. No). So, I did. Now, I do think it’s sort of clever to have part of the drawing outside the frame (it’s my ‘outside the frame’ period). In this case, maybe C.L. is right. Here’s a side by side:

Skunked, Semi-Skunked, Just Plain Missed It

Not that I’m making excuses. Probably nothing is more frustrating to a surfer than the ‘could have gone.’  This applies to the time you ‘haired-out’ (retro term) and didn’t drop into a wave that, viewed from the back, broke perfectly; and to the time you didn’t go because you didn’t believe it would be ‘all time;’ and to the time you didn’t pay attention to the conditions, finding out later that a small window opened up, some of your friends hit it, and, of course, it was all time. Or maybe just epic.

Then there are the times the conditions look great, you cancel a few things, put off a few more, and go. Not epic, not all time. If you’re lucky, you can get a session under the ‘practice’ heading. “Practice for what?”

You know; for the time you’re the one who hits it right.

Meanwhile, I am continuing to work on illustrations.

Image (30)I have a couple more I’m taking to The Printery in Port Townsend today. One is of “Hobuck,” the other is a sort of Northwest version of an Aloha print. I’ll explain later. Later.

Meanwhile, if you’re cruising to the wild Olympic Peninsula, stop off at Tyler Meek’s Disco Bay Outdoor Exchange on Surf Route 101, Thursdays through Mondays. He has gear for all your vices, and some of my illustrations.

Something Other than Surfing…

…maybe that should be a question. When there are waves, or even the possibility, even (more) the probability of surf, tensions rise. Every surfer wants a chance at dealing with quality waves.  Some do, and are elated; others, for various reasons, miss out on opportunities and are frustrated. Tempers can flare.

Shit happens. Work, family responsibilities, broken equipment or vehicles, power outages, not taking a chance on iffy conditions, other shit. Shit!

And it’s not just that you (or I) aren’t committed, or committed enough to the lifestyle/sport. We rearrange our schedules the best we can, but, sometimes, we just hear about classic conditions after the fact. Sometimes we witness classic conditions but can’t, for any combination of the above or other reasons, participate.

That happens. I haven’t really  gotten over, or, at least, I still remember, painting a house on the bluff above Stone Steps, late in the afternoon, with the waves glassing-off, lining-up, and only a few surfers out. Yeah, I kept painting; felt I had to finish the project.

Still, those waves… they may not have been as great if I’d surfed them, but, in my memory, they were sooooo good.

WAIT. I’m adding this, just in, photo of Hydrosexual Stephen Davis (I was going to drop the hydrosexual part because of spam from sex-related, um, spammers, but Steve kind of likes the description/title) doing something besides surfing, work as part of the crew on a catamaran off the Big Island. OH, and he did the artwork for the t-shirt.

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Anyway, I am trying to do a bit of a pivot in my career, and I’ve actually started drawing things not surf-related. Here are some examples:

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What unites us as surfers is not our performance level; it’s more that we have suffered the frustration of getting caught inside, of missing or wiping-out early on a great wave, of watching someone else wail on a wave we could have been on, of hearing about or seeing wonderful surf we can’t get into, of driving a long way to get skunked. It’s sad and just wrong to get frustrated enough to unload verbally or physically on another surfer; particularly when, if there were no waves, this would be someone you’d be chatting with; a friend.

Even the best, longest ride is short compared to real life. What we really save is the memories. I’m sure we’d all rather have pleasant ones.

And, no; all this peace talk isn’t because someone took offense with my wavehog ways. I mean, people have, not recently; it really relates to friends going off on other friends.  Friends. It’s sad. It’s fixable.

I am continuing to do a series of  landscape drawings, anxious to expand my scope. I currently have some illustrations at Helen Gunn’s gallery uptown Port Townsend, some at Tyler Meek’s  Disco Bay Outdoor Exchange in Discovery Bay, and, once Adam “Wipeout” James sees my HamaHama drawing… I mean, my friend Adam James… and, yeah, working on it. Committed. See you.

OKAY, here are the first of my Olympic Peninsula landscapes:

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New Shadows and Deep and Steep Drop

I have some new illustrations, freshly reduced, ready to add color.

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I had already done the color on the larger version of the (above) drawing, but didn’t like the blend on the lower part. So, once it was reduced, I added some more lines (and a little more color).

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I’ll add some color to other drawings, but, for some reason, I get less excited about the color part than I do the original drawing. When I get going on a drawing, and I’m pretty happy with my progress, what I seem to think about is how I can screw it up. And color is another opportunity.  So… less might be better.

Meanwhile, waves seem to be missing the Strait. Now, the coast… it’s another story.

Story Somewhat Related to Bruce Brown…

Phillip Harper, Trish Harper, Ray Hicks, Bucky Davis, My Sister Suellen, My Mom, Bob Dylan, and The Endless Summer

Posted on February 16, 2014 by Erwin A. Dence Jr. under Uncategorized

“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…

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[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.

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.

“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!