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.

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Thrashed, Trashed, Clipped, Rocked and Rolled at (naming names) Seaside

If you roll up to the parking area at Seaside Cove and notice the wind isn’t howling, the sun is out, full force, the waves are… well, it’s a little hard to judge because no one is out, and you… stop. No one is out; take that as a hint. It isn’t a secret spot, and, a couple of days after Labor Day, there still should be some long weekenders hitting it; and it was just about time for after-workers, locals, soft top renters, someone.

Rather than heading out from the sand-bottom of the Cove, I was going to save myself the paddle out through a hundred yards or so of waves, wavelets, chop from previous winds, a northwest swell mixed and comboed with the chop, sidechop bouncing off the rocks… yeah, the rocks; I would pass the confusion, slip down the dry rocks to the slippery ones and ease in, past the confusion, straight out to the lineup.

Such as there is a lineup. I would pick off a few lefts, maybe, close to the rocks, some of those rights that peak, offer a drop, and an exit; staying away from the lefts that drop you off in the impact zone. Yeah, and maybe I’d head up toward the Point; I mean, like, this time there weren’t any Locals out to be irritated, and, from the still-dry rocks, it did look like there might be a few zingers out there.

NOW, let me explain the rocks. Boulders, really, each one seemingly planted erect, like an obelisk, few lying sideways, as one would think they should; rather like a field of boulders, not dropping off quickly into deeper water, but more rocks farther out; and, with one foot wedged between this monument and another, my leash wrapped around another, somewhere behind me, I discover I’m nowhere near a place where the waves aren’t hitting.

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Fifteen minutes, or so, later, I had moved my van over across from the bathrooms/shower, changed to my shorter-but-stronger leash, one that probably wouldn’t rip loose from my ankle like the other one did, and was back out, through the wavelets and waves and cross-chop. Somewhere in the time I was regrouping, deciding whether to go back out or go back to my Dad’s house in Chinook, two other surfers had come out.

I caught a wave, nice peak, dropped in, didn’t make my decision on which way to go in time. Bloop. Regroup; paddle back out, just in time to be just inside of one of the two surfers to drop into a head high wall just in front of me. BLOOP! “Sorry, man.”

“No problem,” he said.  A few moments later he said, “I have to give you credit. I was watching, through the binocs; you took a thrashing; didn’t give up.” Self-identified as a 25 year local, Jason (this is after I explained I only surf Seaside when I’m visiting my Dad, and usually surf the way-more-in-control waves in the Strait) gave me a few tips on clearing the rocks, like, maybe, wait for a lull. “Lull, yeah. Thanks.” “You know,” he said, “all my friends have surfed in the Strait; I’ve never been.” “Well; maybe when you get, you know, older.”

Mostly I was grateful to get some kind of props for trying to recover from the worst thing on a real surfer’s worry list, looking awkward/gooney/kookish/out of control; way worse than wiping out, blowing a takeoff on the wave of the day (no, that’s worse, if only slightly). Adding witness to either of the above-mentioned terrors compounds the event.

So, I caught another left, with Jason inside to witness something less kook-like; dropped while driving, got into a great position on the wall, then got clipped, just barely, by the lip, and… BLOOP! Roll. Regroup. Blow more water out of my sinuses. A few more waves, a couple of closeouts, a right that hit deep water and vanished; and a long wave, made the drop, drove through a tube, hit the open face, slid into a turn, went for another… BLOOP!

Now I was caught inside, well into the miles of beachbreak between the Cove and the Columbia. It was enough. When I got back to my van, there were two people fooling around in the near-shore reforms, and, squinting toward the horizon, fields of rocks and Jason was nowhere to be seen.

ADDENDUM- When you have a tough session, all one wants to do is make up for it the next time. I was planning on going the next day, maybe somewhere else, but was actually in the area to paint my Dad’s addition; and I had to get back home. My friend, Hydrosexual Stephen Davis, and his son Emmett, came down during the night, checked out Seaside the next morning. Overhead, waves breaking on the horizon, northwest wind. “You aren’t missing anything,” Steve said on the phone. Later he and Emmett hiked down to one of the secluded coves, paddled out to some low tide closeouts. “Worth it, Steve?” “Yeah.” That’s when, in retrospect, one decides a couple of nearly-made tubes might be counted as a success. But, next time…

Setting Out the Beach Chairs

The title has nothing to do with the drawings; but it has everything to do with surfers who check out every spot on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, then get to a place that’s actually working at about the time it stops doing so.

Image (47)Not that it’s happened to me. No, of course it has. Right now, trying to figure angles and tides; I wouldn’t bet on going to…you know, one of those spots… but, if I screw around, it might even be too late to go to… darn. Let me check those buoys again.

Image (48)I drew this larger, to fit a found frame, and, when I got it reduced, it was on paper a little too slick for the color. Not an excuse, an explanation. I have a load of wood and roofing in and on my work van, and no gas, and… checking the buoy. Oops, gotta go.

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“So, like, it’s, um; where did, you know, these waves come from? You know?

The guy on the left,  Sheep-collar Beardman, says, “Hey, Robin Hoodie, look at Mr. ‘I-just-rolled-in-from-Houston’ Tourist with the camera-slash-smartphone; like he’s never been to a wave park before.” The  to-remain-unnamed guy in the van with his own camera-slash-smartphone says, to himself, “Whoa; Derisive Derrick just turned into Drop-in Derrick! He burned Shortboard Aaron sooooo bad! Badly. Third degree burning! And I have proof.”

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Robin Hoodie, without looking away from The Tourist, cleverly disguised in a “Surf Galveston” t-shirt (under the unbuttoned Costco shirt), asks Beardman, “Yeah, um, I know all about these here waves. It’s all because they don’t have a sewer system in Victoria.” “You’re wrong, man; the waves come from… but, uh, no; I mean, uh, what do you mean?” “It’s scientific, Doofburger; they have, like, collection tanks, and…” “So, it’s like a big ass toilet?” “Yeah…” laughing… “Really big ass. Like your mother’s.” “Hey, not fair, Dingledork.”

Meanwhile, out in the wavepark, Shortboard Aaron, riding, today only, a really big ass homemade board someone found in a barn over on Marrowstone Island, gets a flush-roller to himself as Drop-in, peering into the water, stands up on his standup paddleboard, the glasses he was so casually sporting, now somewhere among the rocks.

“Let me review my photos,” the still-unnamed-guy in the van says, temporarily distracted by the image in his sideview mirror.

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“Okay, there’s the shot,” VanMan says. “Oh, and here’s one with, I think it’s Longboard Aaron and… those must be the folks from the Mercedes. Tourists, wondering where the heck these waves came from.”

The guy at the computer (me, obviously) says, “I better blow that one up. I wonder what those people are saying.”

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“Sure,” the woman (on the left in photo) is obviously saying, “Romantic walk on the beach my ass. He’s  trying to look cool and all Port Townsend-y. I don’t care about surfboarding and how waves from Russian come down the Strait of Juan de Fuca.” Aaron, back in the soup, is saying, “Nice fade, Derrick. Next wave I’m burning you. Don’t care if it IS your birthday.” Drop-in is saying, “I’d be cooler if I hadn’t lost my cool shades.” The man with the hip beanie is saying, “Find!! And I think they’re the 100 percent UV-blocking kind.” “Uh huh,” his wife says, wondering if he’ll help her up to the parking lot. “Sorry we didn’t see any great whites,” he says, actually having meant to say Orcas or Killer Whales, but distracted by his new self image; “they have a great DVD back at the B & B.” The woman says something under her breath, as her husband, an unbagged and sand-covered piece of dog poop squishing from the heel of his sandals, ponders how wonderful it would be to live a beach comber’s life, then says, actually quite loudly, knowing Poopy Sandals isn’t listening, “and when you said great whites; silly me; I had a different thing in mind. Moby Dick my ass.”

Meanwhile, over in Victoria, someone pulls the handle and, Woosh.

Wait, wait; the forever-unnamed photographer and observer told me that, a bit later, the Tourist met up with Beard and Hoody, inquiring about legal weed. “Weed?” “Yeah, ya’ll; like, dope, mary jane; mari-jeuh-wanna. I hear it’s legal, and, well; figured you’d..” When he realized both were (this is a quote) “a bit drunk and a lot stupid; though that’s kinda like being stoned,” the Tourist, who, without being asked, admitted he wasn’t a Galveston local but (another quote) “I am perty much accepted as one,”  and noting the waves had disappeared, asked, “So, what time does the next tanker go by.” “Tanker?” Beard said, laughing. “Tanker,” Hood said, rubbing the start of his own beard.

The guy in the van, window rolled down, scanned the horizon, over toward Victoria.

Hydrosexual Stephen Davis Spiderman’s Pilings

Ten days after my SUP paddle ended up stuck in the wire rope that holds the three pilings together  (making it, technically, a dolphin), I was surprised to find it still there, still looking like an antenna.

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Unlike the session where I lost the paddle, this time Stephen and I were the only ones out. Jeffrey Vaughn, a longshoreman (who also identified the pilings as a dolphin, probably used back when the area was a source for extracting and shipping clay), parked in front of the rights, took a lot of photos, but was changing into his suit when Stephen borrowed my SUP (he was riding a classic Phil Edwards model Hobie), and paddled over to the dolphin.

Having tried unsuccessfully myself to scale the ancient poles on the day of what I’m now calling ‘a prank of opportunity,’ I didn’t have much hope that Stephen (to refresh, I call him hydrosexual because he loves all water sports; ice hockey, skiing, kite surfing, classic paddleboard racing, sailing, etc.) could actually free the monument to my (yeah, we’re talking about the husky old guy with the gorilla hands) unappreciated lineup dominance.

Having already shed my booties, seeing Steve ‘chimney-climb’ between the pilings and then climb onto the dolphin, I ran down the rocky beach. Jeffrey would miss the shot. Two Natives, a father and son I’d seen here before, were pulling their crabpots, loading their boat onto the trailer. “Yeah, I saw the paddle. I think it had a flag on it for a while. It’s been there since that one day when there were lots of surfers here.” “Yeah, it’s my paddle.” The son thought this was quite amusing. “But you got it back.” “Yeah.”

I asked Jeffrey to try to make me look skinnier. Maybe he did and this is the result. I’m going to hang onto the paddle Nick so kindly gave me (loaned, I’m saying), ready to return it the next time I see him.

The First Book Of Nick

It was one of those days when the waves didn’t match the buoy readings. The direction and size recorded have produced decent waves in the past, but not this morning. At least not yet. Stephen Davis had called my cell phone (not allowed to bring it into bedroom after this) at 3:30 or so in the morning, said he was already at Fat Smitty’s, didn’t think he could wait for me.

And he didn’t. By the time I got to the pullout, most of the front row view spots were taken, and Stephen’s van was backed up to the bluff, he nowhere in sight. Other surfers, none suited-up, were drinking coffee, making breakfast on little camp stoves, or merely staring through foggy windshields. It was a lovely morning on the Strait of Juan de Fuca; clear, calm, the sun peaking over the little headland to the east; just typically weak semi-high tide waves, and (only) one guy out, he on a SUP.

Tom, up from Olympia, called me over to where he was standing with Jeffry, the longshoreman, with a, “Hey, you think it’s gonna work?” I hoped so, and had to comment on the number of surfers ready to get amped-up and hitting-it should even one decent set show up. “Evidently we all read the same forecasts, huh?”

About this time the SUPer caught a wave only a SUPer could catch, rode it to where it fizzled in the hole just offshore. Lacking any sense of proper restraint, I hooted and yelled, “Go! Go! Owwwww!” A bit surprisingly, several other surfers down the way joined in. The hooting, not the surfing. Tom and Jeff didn’t walk away; also surprising. They would go elsewhere, maybe back toward Port Angeles, while other surf rigs, doing the pull-off and drive-by check-out, and going by the surf truism of “It can’t be good; there’s only one guy out,” kept going west, to the coast if necessary (I assume).

I was the second surfer in the water. The first guy out said he hadn’t been surfing all that long, and possibly didn’t know all the rules. “Fine.” After he attempted to take off in front of me or did take off several times, I told him that I actually catch almost all of the waves I go for. “Oh, okay.”

A bit later, during a lull, I asked him what he likes about surfing. He had obviously starting as an adult (somewhere in his forties, I’d guess). “Well,” he said, when I’m on a wave, I feel like God.”

“Um; okay.”

Perhaps I should mention now that, though I didn’t recall meeting or seeing him before, he seemed to know who I am, and said something about my writing. Something positive. All right; so, here’s someone I can’t, like, hate (not that I’m into hating). And, we were the only two guys out, so, no problems.

Several wave exchanges later, I had to paddle over and ask, “So; when you say you feel like… did you mean ‘A’ god, or, like, um, uh, “The” God?”

“Well, Erwin (he may not have used my first name, but let’s say he did); if I’d said ‘A’ god, it would have an entirely different meaning; now, wouldn’t it?”

It would. “Okay then.”

A while later, as the tide dropped a bit and the waves came up a bit, an attractive blonde woman paddled out on a longboard. “Did you come out because you saw how I was ripping it up?” I asked. She said, with an Australian accent, “It (that being my ripping) was a bit impressive, actually.” She proceeded to catch a few waves, surfing well.

Then another guy came out. I’ll save some intrigue here; the guy was her boyfriend, and, I think, co-worker, and, while she had surfed most of her life, he was in his later forties and had been surfing for about a year (kind of the ‘power couple’ re-configured). “Are you out because it looks like we’re having so much fun?” I asked.

“I didn’t drive three hours to not have fun,” the guy said. Oh, her name is Emilie (or Emily), and his is… later heard, but didn’t retain his name; but, a few waves later, he asked, while eyeing, and then paddling for a wave I was also going for, “How do you feel about drop-ins?” “Not fond of them,” I said, riding behind him until, going too slow, the wave broke on him and I had to pull through.

Several waves later, with the waves continuing to improve, but only slightly, other surfers joined the party. Stephen woke up and paddled out.  I went for a (probably more like ‘another’) set wave, but The Boyfriend was paddling, head down and oblivious to me, for the same wave. It was either bail or run over Hugh (I was calling him Hugh; not sure why. I only learned his girlfriend was named Emily because I asked her if I could call her Sally. “No, not fond of Sally”).

Naturally, I bailed. But, there was a wave really close behind it. I took off, but, down the line, god (I refuse to use the capitalized version out of respect for and fear of, you know, the real God) took off. I rode behind him all the way to the shorebreak, then paddling back out, mentioned how, when I was learning to surf, as a thirteen year old, if I’d done that, I’d have heard about it.

I should say, when I did take off in front of people, I did hear about it.

“No, no,” he argued, “you went for the first wave and didn’t catch it. You lost priority.”

Maybe you can sort this out in your own mind or with others. There is more to this story, with a connection to “The Paddle Incident,” all coming up, with photos, in “The Second Book of Nick.” Soon. Coming soon. The Second. Coming.

A Temporary Monument to A Notorious Wave Hog

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

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I might agree if it wasn’t my paddle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Erwin Would Go

Sure I would; but what if the waves get over two feet?

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When I traded out five hundred dollars left on a painting job for an eleven foot SUP a few years ago, it was never my intention for this to be my go-to board for surfing on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Now dinged to shit and weighing five pounds more when I get out of the water than it did going in (I’d fix the dings but I keep thinking it’s not my go-to board), it is, indeed, the board that fits the conditions. That is to say, if I didn’t have it, I’d be walking out on the reef, looking to the heavens, watching perfect little peelers not quite clearing the rocks, and pray (closer to asking, really) for just another foot of wave height. It has happened. A lot. That is, the asking/praying; the increasing swell, not so often.

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The undervalued part of riding a standup paddleboard is, that, while it does enable a surfer to catch waves outside of the normal takeoff zone, and outside of other surfers, it also enables surfers to ride waves even a longboarder couldn’t get into. So, as happened just yesterday, when I pull up to an empty beach pullout, look at empty-but-barely rideable waves; and, though I’d hope for another foot of wave face, there was no doubt I’d be going out. “It’s practice” I tell myself, and others, “for when it gets, you know, bigger.” My motto is, after all, “I’m here to surf.” It’s the riding of waves that matters to me.

That's Keith Darrock tucking into the outside bomb. Keith described the waves this day as 'kind of weak,' but went out anyway. The question Keith and I ask each other when waves are borderline flat, is, "Would Rico go?" Unfortunately, Rico moved to Maine, probably going on a few thigh-to-knee rollers there.

That’s Keith Darrock tucking into the outside bomb as I contemplate a move to the right with a move toward the nose. Really. Keith described the waves this day as ‘kind of weak,’ but went out anyway. The question Keith and I ask each other when waves are borderline flat, is, “Would Rico go?”  Rico (Moore, I think) moved to Port Townsend, surfed even waves I wouldn’t make a try for. When he broke one of his fins on the rocks, he fashioned an embarrassingly crude one out of wood; then broke that one off (lots of big rocks, some popping up in the waves). Rico has since moved to Maine, probably  (hopefully) going on a few thigh-to-knee rollers there.

No, I’m not so stoked on posting these photos of me. I’ve put it off, but, since I’ve lost, like, three pounds since these were taken by Tim Nolan, who also would go on any size wave, here they are. Meanwhile, once my go-to board dries out again, maybe I’ll find some time to patch those dings. Oh, and I promise, no more shots of me unless it’s head high. Okay, chest high. And now I’m hoping and praying for overhead. However, if I can catch a wave, I’m going.

Archie Endo shot this one. It's, like, waist-high, right?

Archie Endo shot this one. It’s, like, waist-high, right?

First in a Series of Newly-Colorized B&W Drawings

Because I actually have a large number of drawings in my portfolio, and wanted to display as many as possible for the recent (and extensively covered in realsurfers.net) Surf Culture on the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Salish Sea Event, I took some time, dug through various shelves and drawers and drawing books, and found quite a few of the variously-sized originals, some previously-made copies; took them all to The Printery in Port Townsend, and, with a lot of help for the money, got them sized to fit on 8&1/2 by 11 inch shinier, heavier stock, and placed them in five stacks on a six foot piece of 12 inch wide pine.

Almost instantly I wanted to add color to many of them. Oops; too hard to color on the shiny stock. But, I do have a scanner/printer. Here’s the first. There will be more.

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Not so stoked on the way yellow reads like semi-worn out magic marker, but, not apologizing. And, somewhere here I’ll have to write about how I got some small waves today; small but… hey, look for both “Erwin Would Go, But What Will He Do When It’s Over A Foot?” and “If You Were Happy With Your Last Session, Don’t Talk to Adam Wipeout.” I have some photos; might even have some of me on really tiny waves.

In Case You Missed the Surf Culture Event

Here’s the piece I read, with minimal ad-libbing, at the recent Surf Culture On the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Salish Sea Event. I plan on adding some more photos, but it’ll probably be in another post. A pretty successful event- no one drowned, though I did hear some coughing.

CONJURING UP SOME MAGIC

ONE- I knew the two young guys, one on a soft top, the other on a yellow-but-at-one-time-white board were from Gold Bar, a town somewhere between I-5 and the Cascade Mountains. Because I asked them. Nicely. But I always ask surfers I haven’t seen before. This time, we were at a spot that, legend has it, sometimes features rights, off the island. That’s a clue. I’ve only experienced this lowtide phenomenon once; closeouts across the small bay many times.

Archie and I had gotten skunked at the place we had wanted to surf. At this spot there was a sandbar, there was a makeable right. There were several other surfers out, including a guy on the longest longboard ever, paddling with way too much nose out of the water (sure sign of a beginner/kook), but waiting in the perfect spot, catching the best waves (as in, the ones I wanted), jumping up, clumsily riding, arms flailing, and, somehow, making waves.

“Hey,” I said, nicely, “you don’t need that much nose out of the water.” “Hey,” he said, kind of snottily, looking at me kneepaddling a stand up paddleboard; “aren’t you supposed to be standing up on that thing?” “Oh,” I said, “yeah, I think so.” Eventually, whether or not he appreciated it, the surfer from… I didn’t ask where he came from… he got a rare treat; really great waves. Archie and I enjoyed them for another forty-five minutes after Long Longboard Guy left. Then the waves left.

But, the Gold Bar Boys. On this day it was a very high tide and the waves were wrapping around what in normally beach rather than sandbar. The best waves ended up in the creek. Another clue. “Um, maybe, if you want to actually catch waves, you might move over here,” I offered. “Thank you, sir.”

So, several waves later; and this was a few years ago, and I was on a non-SUP… just so you know… I took off and did what old fat guys who have ripped or torn, or merely worn out, tendons and ligaments on each knee, do on very small-but-peeling waves; I rode them on my knees. That made the wave, like, chest high. One of the Goldies was on the shoulder, doing the head down paddle-like-you-mean-it, and… and I know every gremmie practices this, the jump up to spiderman move, on the carpet of his mom’s house, out in the schoolyard to impress inland girls, wherever, and, whether they’ve actually caught the wave or not, the beginner is likely to leap up.

This time Goldie did catch the wave, jumped up, arms pumping, and actually was trimming down the line, on the shoulder, totally unaware I was behind him. Kneeboarding. It’s a long wave, as I intimated, and, though my fin was almost dragging, I kept going, into the creek. The wave sort of died in the deeper water, I did a smooth pullout while he just sort of stepped off the side of his board. He didn’t appear shocked he had ridden a party wave with a guy who isn’t fond of party waves, turned to me and said,

“That was EPIC!”

“Um; yeah, it was.”

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TWO

Up until a certain point in my board surfing… career, life, experience… I truly believed, and frequently stated, that I could remember every wave I’d ever ridden. And, further, I believed that there was something magical about catching, riding, or even watching a wave from the first line on the horizon, to the last wash up the beach.

I still believe in the magic, and, though I have trouble remembering individual rides, even from my most recent session, my mental harddrive is crammed with images from 50 years of board surfing, with mat surfing, surfie surfing, body surfing before that, and, possibly, I like to believe, even some foggy recollection from my first three years of life, on the beach in Surf City, North Carolina, toddling down a bit of an incline, somewhat ahead of my mother, toward the waves.

Waves. The early morning light on the east coast is like evening on the west; the view from the water reverses the colors, dawn to dusk. In winter, on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the sun hugging the mountains, it’s dawn all day. And then it’s dark.

The images are all so clear; things I’ve seen- storm surf with sideways-ripped waves, lines of broken soup to the horizon, indicator sets in the kelp beds with the greenest color on the wall as each wave lifts, toward the peak angle on a surfer hard against the wall, a whale in the darker corner of a cove blowing a geyser, the view of waves between the houses and along the low sections of old Highway 101, Oceanside to La Jolla, nineteen fifty-something.

And more. I can conjure up the photo of Rincon from the hill, from a mid-sixties “Surfer” magazine, a guy on the hill at dawn, witnessing lines to the horizon, and… and maybe you know the photo.

So, my beginning hypothesis was: If we store a mental slideshow, and add to it over time, then, if a surfer wants to do some mind surfing, at any given time, those images can be brought forth, and that would be magic. And I want surfing to be magic.

The problem is, all our memories are fiction. There’s some Master Record of All Truth, and then there’s our version. “Overhead and glassy at an afternoon session at Cardiff Reef in 1967, the time Phillip Harper had to get rescued?” Maybe.

And that photo. I looked for it online. No, it was afternoon, the same lines at Rincon to the horizon, and published in “Surfer” in 1973. 1973? What? Can’t be. I wasn’t studying surfing magazines in 1973; maybe a glance at the grocery store.

If I’m wrong about that, what about the image of the competitor freesurfing before the Oceanside Invitational in 1965? My slideshow has the guy taking off, dropping with the wave, an attempt at a headdip turning into a vicious lip-to-the-head, pile-driving wipeout. Wrong. I was the kook, paddling out because I was too embarrassed by my sister, Suellen, running around the beach, collecting autographs from surfers like Mike Doyle, even chatting with Doyle’s mother, that kind of thing. The real truth might be that the surfer possibly could have made the wave if some gremmie hadn’t been directly in his way.

Still, I like my fiction better.

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THREE

It was still an hour and a half before dawn when three Peter Pans met at Fat Smitty’s, quickly moving boards onto and gear into the vehicle owned by the oldest of the three Pans. Heading west/northwest, coffee and expectations bouncing around inside, there would be adventure and excitement on this, as with most expeditions. Stories would be created: The drunk/or/sleepy driver; traffic tickets; a ripped-loose leash and a lost board saved by Big Dave; waves cresting near the pilings; the guy with the Shamrock on his board shoving Brett’s board back as he attempted to even a score for undue set wave hogging, and the follow-up screaming match in the lineup.

But, each of the Peters ended up with his fictional(-ized, maybe just slightly) account to save; each of us caught enough waves, got enough good rides. Other things, like real life, could be discussed on the way back home.

A few days after the above session, Jeff, a guy I occasionally sought waves with before his wife, my daughter’s old school friend, Ruth, got into surfing and they became what I call a ‘surfing power couple’, and who I didn’t realize was on the beach on that day, sent me a video of me ripping three bottom turns and totally in position on three sections before making a smooth kickout.

So, I was right. I do rip.

stevebisselRincon

FOUR

So, here’s the go pro my daughter bought me. Thanks, Dru. GoPro selfies always, and it doesn’t matter if the surfer is on a small wave or huge, just look like someone doing calisthetics. But, a shot down the line… better.

If you could access your mental slideshow, bring up a just-glassed-off afternoon session. Now, a wave approaches. You paddle over to get near the peak. You wait, wait, then turn, throw your weight down, then use that rebound to start your paddle. One stroke, two; you’re dropping. You lean a bit more toward the peak, allowing the board’s dropping ease your leap to your feet, with, in the same motion, a smooth turn off the bottom. You spot a place high on the shoulder and down the line… When you hit it, you’re so close to the top, ribs of feathering wave in front of you. There’s a real question as to whether you can make the wave. You shift your weight forward, allowing the back inside edge of your board to release.

There’s one moment, the briefest of moments here for you to tuck, drive…

All right, so you made the wave. Great. Or you wiped out. That happens. No big deal, unless you had put yourself in that one moment; then it’s memorable. Click.

Now you’re looking up the barrel at me in a similar moment. I’m standing tall, allowing the lip to move my hand back and down as my board freefalls a bit. At that questionable moment of making it or not, I just can’t help but channel some ancient surfing magic, and lean back, arch, and I may be screaming some one-syllable non-word. “Owwwwww!” which really means, “hey, look at this.”

I want you to add this image to your harddrive, and, later, when you bring it back up, and bearing in mind you just got a great ride, you can only respond by saying, “That was EPIC!”

May all your sessions be epic. May all your magic be real. Thanks