Surviving the 50th Anniversary of My 17th Birthday… and More

Swimming in to retrieve my board, so close to banging, again, against the sealife-encrusted rocks, I couldn’t help but think my fears of surfing this spot were being realized.

Not only did I lose my board on my first wave; but it was on my birthday.

Okay, really can’t say too much about the particular spot. It’s kind of a secret spot, accessible by winding roads, trails, a steep cliff, rocks; and then there’s the water; cold, bull kelp heads floating with the rising and falling of the inshore.

I did take a couple of photos of the spot. A friend, who was way out on the Olympic Peninsula, camping; and had agreed to meet me there, but, and this is not atypical; by the time I got close enough to take the photos, he was already dropping into wave after wave.

Okay, so, if I had fastened my leash before I paddled out (didn’t, because of the kelp), or had fastened it securely once I got out (they’re made to easily remove, rather awkward to put on underwater), or if I’d made the drop (the face dropped under me, I freefell) I wouldn’t have been swimming.

I’ll probably sneak the photo onto the site some time in the future.

Yeah, I did make some waves, and did wipe out a couple more times; but, with crazy indicator waves even farther out, with lines coming out of deep water; suddenly steep, scary steep; getting pitched, getting hit by the lip, getting a few quick barrels; hooting way too loud on my rides, or when watching my friend freefalling, blasting through sections… the session was, as memorable, magic ones often are, intense.

It was all pretty much over in an hour and a half or so. I had managed to save some energy for the paddle and climb and walk… and it was great. Thanks for sharing; it was my favorite birthday present.  Here’s my return present: I won’t say more about the spot. As surfer Tim Nolan, who will always be older than me, says, “If you tell people too much about surf spots, you take away their joy in discovering them.”

So, this session goes in the mental file with the time I got perfect peelers at a rare (tide/swell direction/magic factors) sand bar at Noluck, the time Crescent actually had lined-up rights (45 minutes and gone- shared with my friend Archie), a list of other outings including three hours at a Sunset Cliffs peak with Steven Penn, 1972, and… hey, go through your own list.

In surfing, I’ve long believed, we sort of pay for the gifts we receive. The thrashings, the wipeouts, the relentless impact zones, the cold (let’s throw in the crowds), the skunkings; and then… again, think about the gifts surfing has given you.

Just to calm down, and since it was my birthday and I had no strict schedule, I stopped off at a well know break on the Strait. No one was out. It was small. It was so easy.

Meanwhile, here’s the latest logo design for the DISCO BAY OUTDOOR EXCHANGE:

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Black Flagging-It

I’m not sure if this current flag, a sign keeping surfers out of a zone so non-boardies can float and bob and cavort, is the same one they used back when I was defying them.

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I probably thought of this because I’ve been spending (somewhere between investing and wasting) some time watching the Supergirl Pro from Oceanside Pier. I did lose a portion of my interest when Stephanie Gilmore didn’t advance, a little more when the waves dropped off, but, hey, I did spend a lot of time at this pier.

It was the go-to spot for beach-going when I was a kid in Fallbrook, 20 miles away, wading out among the marines and their girlfriends (there was a lot of “From Here to Eternity” style romancing, I noticed), learning about the power and excitement of waves.

I did have to, sort of, get rescued, once, by neighbor mom, Arthella; when, around 8 years old or so, I pearled my styrofoam surfie, broke it in half with the collision between sand and stomach. Not that I really needed rescuing.

Fast forward to the party celebrating graduating from 6th grade. I was the almost-12 year old wearing the speedos, just like my Dad.  None of the other boys were wearing them. I would say more, but modesty…

Fast forward to 1965, the prestigious Oceanside Invitational happening, and, while my sister, Suellen, was (embarrassingly, for me) getting autographs from surfers on the beach (and the only name I remember is Mike Doyle, his mother bringing him a sack lunch), and despite my only having started board surfing a month or so before, I paddled right out among the warming-up competitors (embarrassing, no doubt, for Suellen). No, I had progressed to jams by this time.

What I didn’t know until last night, when Trish and I were google-mapping to see what the building I worked in, Buddy’s Sign Service, 1st and Tremont, looks like now; is that Trish was also at that contest, not getting autographs from surfers, not doing anything embarrassing.

Oh, got to go. Part II coming soon. Oh, second semi-final is on, but I have to go.

Not Keeping Up with Stephen R. Davis

My friend, ‘Hydrosexual’ Stephen Davis recently went from the Big Island to the Windy City.  He’s doing some work with his friend, Cosmo; who, after visiting Hawaii, decided he wants to move there.

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BUT FIRST,  Steve stopped off in Port Townsend. We were supposed to meet up, but I was working and he has a lot of friends. Weirdly (not really for Stephen or me), he found me getting a drawing reproduced at The Printery.  He was cruising around with Lisa, a surfer he met in Baja, who actually lives and teaches school in North San Diego County (near where I was raised), and reminds me of what Courtney Conlogue might be like at fifty-something.

Outerknown Fiji Women's Pro

So, Lisa started giving me the kind of “are you a real surfer” kind of grilling I tend to practice.  Actually, she started with, “So, you surf?” “Kind of.” “Oh,” Stephen said, “Erwin has great wave knowledge.” “Uh huh.” Then back to me, “Do you know Blackie, Bonzo, Little Snickie…?” “Um; I left there almost forty years ago. Do you ever surf Pipes?” “Sometimes. You know, old guys surf Tourmaline.” “Yeah; I used to live up the bluff, in P.B. Like, in 1971.” “Oh. Yeah.” “Do you know Joe Roper?” “Joe Roper? Of course. He’s the only one I’ll let work on my Skip Frye.”

Sensing I was holding my own, maybe with a B-, I told a story about stealing a design from Morey/Pope that Skip was working on at Gordon and Smith (the waterskate, though I couldn’t think of that under the pressure), having it built/pirated at the PB Surf Shop, and, first time trying it; there’s Skip on the beach. Yeah; Skip Frye.

MEANWHILE, Stephen and Cosmo have spent some Chicago time at museums and other highbrow locations.

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BUT, and I know this is going on a bit, I want to get to Stephen’s story. Steve is my Wal-Mart call; someone to talk to when I’m following Trish around. On one call, he told me he wants to submit a story of how he had a new take on all the posturing and posing and preening associated with surfing. “Preening?” “Yeah, P R E E N I N G.” “I know how to spell it, Steve; I just love that you’re using it.”

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“Old Man Winter,” original charcoal by Stephen R. Davis.

No, sorry; lost it (temporarily). I’ll post this, then post the version with Steve’s story. Mostly I’m worried about losing what I’ve put together so far.

I may be a real surfer; but I’m definitely not a real computer dude.

OKAY, I can’t seem to get it here. I’ll just retype it. Here’s Stephen’s latest story:

I was bailing the Big Island and my shoulder was feeling good.  There was a new, pumping South Swell, so I decided to catch a few waves.

I had surfed quite a bit in the last few weeks. The swell had been relentless.

I explored a bit. I checked out some spots off the beaten path I had been wondering about, but, not knowing the swell angle and the direction, nor the relative position of most of the lava rock points and reefs, my regional knowledge was still a work in progress. Old standby spots seemed to be the ones firing, and they had been firing. Local rippers with shoulders the size of coconuts were casually, nonchalantly packing and petting low tide bombs where the reef seemed too close to the surface for any personal comfort level.

Hilo-side and Puna folks were migrating to Kona side also, because of the unprecedented lava activity, borrowing old, yellow, dinged-up longboards and railgrabbing gnarly, late drops and pulling it, coming out of massive amounts of exploding white water, while I watched from the inside corner on my old 6’8″ Al Merrick, “Big Willy,” waiting patiently.

Echoing in my mind was Cap, constantly telling me, “You need a bigger board,” as only a charter boat Captain can. Hmmmmmm…. in his mind the 10′ popout Infinity he ‘gave’ me to fix for him (?), with the GoPro mount right where I would want to stand on the nose, combined with the thruster set-up (??) would get me more waves, and serve as what Cap refers to as ‘crowd control.’ I seriously don’t want to think about what was in the old wax on that thing. Though I am grateful for the gesture, it just definitely was not my preferred solution to this crowd situation. I’m sure it would have been fine, but it just is not my style.

I came to the Big Island to ride waves on a short board with no wetsuit, and I was fine up until the head-on collision when my right shoulder was injured. After rehabbing it for months, along with the whiplash in my neck, I really wanted to be back on “Big Willy.” I had pulled her out of the wreckage, cleaned the broken glass out of the wax, fixed the dings, put a new deck patch on her (ERWIN- Wait, Willy’s female?), and even bought a brand new leash for her. Ya, she is old and yellow, but she is my shortboard. I bought her when my Mom passed away, when I realized just how fleeting life is.

The swell was pumping and I wanted to carve going fast.

After being caught inside on two huge sets of empty lineup with ‘victory at sea’ conditions, I positioned again, on the corner, to wait for the wide-swingers. I went for one no one could get, and, rather quickly, ejected, hanging and slowly descending into oblivion, perfectly, with the lip I wasn’t in, and I knew it.

Oh, well. Went for another one, more resolute, after another waiting period. Couldn’t get to my feet. Hmmmm. Now I wanted it bad. Waited for another one. Same thing. These were extremely stretched-out, hollow lefts hitting a shallow reef, but the waves were familiar to me. I knew I could do better.

Finally, I popped to my feet on a nice roll-in, managed a big backside roundhouse-to-foam-bounce, then hit the lip and landed it as the wave finished it’s destiny on the reef. OK, now I could go in. I caught a good one.

The next day I went to check a fun, family spot. It was a weekend morning, glassy and closing-out at the small takeoff spot. There was one makeable bomb per set, and about 20 or more, no doubt, preening ‘locals’ that I had no interest in competing in the lineup with. I am old, and I have fought the dragon that is my ego, and have no interest in proving my worth to anyone. Nor do I have any urge to be judged or evaluated by strangers. Mind you, I am happy to have been evaluated by my long time counselor whose awareness and ‘judgement’ of me I trust.

What to do? As I sat on the beach, I noticed the Keki on the inside, catching little pockets, and laughing all the way in and back out to their inside takeoff spot. This surf spot is notoriously family friendly where folks come to find Aloha and be together. People bring friends who don’t surf there to learn, and there is an illuminating Vibration of Love that can be felt if one tries.

I decided to go out on my forest green 7’6″ funboard, and to stay inside with the Ohana. I was next to two little girls, walking their longboards on inside nugs, and a father teaching his young son to surf. I had so much fun, and felt so much joy in the warmth of the sun, the laughter, and the little pockets and walls-a-plenty. I was trimming along, with the clear, beautiful water, the reef, and the sea life. I caught a dozen incredible waves, and remembered what it felt like to truly play amongst friends.

Asa result of my parenting, I have an ability to learn from children, and this was no different. I relearned what it means to play, and to share, again, and how nice it feels to celebrate, and to be celebrated for catching and riding a wave that offers that vibration back as a child. I learned the value of a smile.

Aloha.

Blame Laird Hamilton if you must, but…

…Chimacum Tim just got a seven hundred dollar (a bit more, plus the board) space age whatchamacallit, and can’t wait to Foil the Strait.

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“Um,” I asked, “how do you, like, catch something… I mean, it, it just kind of seems like…”

“Well,” he answered, “in the videos…”

I sent this photo to several of my friends, Keith “no, I’m not calling you with wave reports” Darrock, Adam “Wipeout” aka “Roundhouse” James, and Hydrosexual Stephen Davis.  Adam hasn’t responded since he told me, “Erwin; I told you it wasn’t going to be working.” Keith texted, “looks flat.” Stephen Davis, who correctly predicted that the latest craze (oh, they’ve been around a while, but not for, you know, regular surfers) from Hawaii (at least Maui and the big island) would eventually show up on the far northwest of America.

Anyway, having already practiced my standing-up on a standup paddle board, and, maybe snagging a half-session’s worth of tiny peelers, I had to go, and Tim, who works on the Washington State Ferries, moved on to somewhere else.

Wait, maybe, on a choppy cross-Sound crossing… I’m just thinking… Tow-in. If you see Tim cruising across the Strait or the Salish Sea, please take a photo. Wait. No. Vid-e-o.

Meanwhile, if you’re headed for (or home from, skunked) the fickle and highly-questionable  (as in, “Are there waves there?” “Not really.”) waves of the Strait or the West End, stop in at the Disco Bay Outdoor Exchange. They have lots of gear, plus some work by local artists (including me); and Tyler might enjoy your tale of ‘can’t miss’ forecasts gone awry.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ONE.

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

 

 

 

The Right Wave Will…

…wash the grownup out of you.

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I have seen a few grownups who surf. They probably shouldn’t. It just has to be too frustrating dealing with the snakings and the non-looks and the stink-eye, AND, all the while, trying to maintain some sort of ADULT-NESS.

If surfers try to, let’s say, exude a sense of COOLNESS, the sight waves, lined-up, peeling, even if nowhere close to perfect, can seriously damage the facade. Oh, you can maintain the posture, but the glint, the Mona Lisa expression… A great ride, that one section that you shouldn’t have made, but did; that one wave where your board suddenly leapt to light speed, that one cutback you made despite throwing in some extra oomph; Owwwwww! The coolness is gone.

KOOK OUT!

‘GIDDY’ is the word I’ve heard over and over by surfers who would otherwise pass as adults. “I was laughing the whole time.” “It was, it was… I can’t even tell you how…”

Yeah, we know.  Cool it.

All right. I’ve been thinking of the time between surf sessions. I’m doing a little research based on some vague remembrance of a movie about composer Nicholai Andreyevich Rimski-Korsakov. You’re not surfing right now. Are you getting mentally prepared? Does the down time… yeah, thinking about it.

The Line Between Respect and Pity

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.

It’s not me, though I did once have a VW bus (and hair)

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.

just coming up. Photo by Jeffrey Vaughan.

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.

 

Hydrosexual Stephen Davis On His Way Back UP

Evidently spring is finally coming closer. After driving through some snow, surfing in a squall, changing back into street clothes (socks are surprisingly difficult to put on frozen feet) in another round of sleet, driving back through rounds of sun, rain, more sleet, more sun… yeah, another surf trip in the great Pacific Northwest.

I’m not sure how long it took Stephen to get from lowest Baja to San Diego; almost long enough to get over getting sick from surfing in storm-runoff. But, with people lined up to stay with along the way, it’s taken one day from San Diego to Huntington, one day more to Rincon and beyond…

Here’s a shot of Rincon, the note saying (only) “Rincon with 4 out.” I sent a reply. “Did you go out?” I would have gone out, even if there were, I don’t know, 8 people out.

rinconrincon2

Oh, I’m sorry… maybe it’s Rincon.