I got five copies of the original drawing, just so I could, maybe, take a few risks on the colors. This is the first attempt. MEANWHILE, I keep working on the story.
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?
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.
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.
FIRST: When you miss out on a great/epic/all time session; it isn’t that we don’t know what we missed; it’s that we do.
SECOND: Let’s say you plan out your future. A to B to C. Sorry, doesn’t really work; there are these little surprises that change the path, each one changing the future. Cause/effect; if, for example, Howard had fired me as Buddy told him he should, I wouldn’t have been a sign painter apprentice long enough to get a job as a painter, and… and on and on… to now. So it is with these overlapping stories of Hydrosexual (because he loves all things water) Stephen Davis.
STORY ONE- THE WHALE PAINTING
Steve called me the day after he sold the painting for $3,000.00 USD. He said he kind of picked up that I had some sort of (“why him and not me”) resentment from our phone conversation from the day before. “Yeah, but I’m still 95% stoked and happy for you.”
IF… Stephen wasn’t a trained/schooled artist with an incredible eye, none of this would have happened. BUT, if he hadn’t moved from Colorado to Port Townsend to go the the Wooden Boat School, he might not have gotten SO into surfing. IF he hadn’t had the opportunity to go to Northern California to do (originally) carpentry on a farm, he might not have had the financing to go to Baja for an extended stay. If he hadn’t met Pepe’, he might not have seen Pepe’s amazing photos of whales in the Sea of Cortez.
Circumstances kept Stephen from returning to Baja, BUT, because Oceana’s father has a tourist-centric shop on the Big Island, and it needed help during the tourist season, Stephen went to Hawaii. Besides surf, one of the perks is the use of a condo, with, evidently, space to paint. AND, Steve picked up a side job as a crewmember on a catamaran, built by Woody Brown, owned by CAP (he’ll show up later). Part of Steve’s job, evidently, and I’m sure there are some less-fun aspects, involves swimming with tourists and dolphins and whales.
A woman who works on the boat suggested they could use t-shirts as advertising. “Maybe with a picture of a whale.” FAST FORWARD- Steve did the painting, t shirts were produced. Yes I have one. Yes, I’ll get it signed next time I actually see Steve. Meanwhile, Steve sells this first whale painting to Cosmo, a friend who escaped Chicago winter, hung out in Hawaii for a month or so.
THEN, this guy from Georgia whose daughter is opening a gallery, just happens to get on Cap’s charter boat. Maybe it’s the t shirt. Whale painting? CAP hooks Stephen up. Steve gets to work, quite frantically, on another, larger whale painting (also based on a Pepe’ photo). He has a meeting scheduled. RIGHT HERE let me explain a little about how Steve does business. Kind of casual; as in, “I don’t know; whatever you want to pay me.” Somehow, this seems to work. Plus, Stephen has wide ranging and mad skills. He’d say, if you ask him, “I can do that. I’m pretty, um, mediocre;” but he means ‘I have mad skills at whatever you need.’
NOT THIS TIME. Steve solicited advice; even from me. “Yeah, I’m going to have a price in mind. $3,300.00. I promised Pepe’ ten percent, so, it, uh, makes sense.” “Thirty-three. Yeah. Sure. That’s a lot of… hey, um, don’t forget; if they make prints… you’ll need to get a percentage.” “Yeah. He said they’ll make prints. And, get this, his daughter is talking about opening a gallery in New York City.”
STEVE may have been kind of excited. You know how you’re planning on going surfing the next day, and it might be really great; and want to wake up at five? No, you wake up at three-thirty, can’t get back to sleep. Stephen texted the potential buyer at 11:30 or so, said he had a bit more work to do on the painting, but… “Go to sleep. See you tomorrow.”
NO, he didn’t sleep. MEANWHILE, and probably con-currently, Stephen was in contact with Cosmo. “What would you sell the painting for? I mean, how much? Uh huh. No, not asking you to sell it. But…” So, if Cosmo’s painting was worth two thousand, and the new one is much larger…
THIS was the basis for Stephen’s sales strategy. I was driving home, about to hit the second roundabout, when I got the text. “I sold it!” Yes, I illegally called him back (texting is probably more illegal- same fine). “Whaaaaaat?”
THE STORY isn’t over. I can picture Stephen at a New York City gallery opening, man bun in place, orange pants, prescription shades, fancy people. Painting many many images of waves, Steve claims, helped him with this, hopefully breakthrough painting.
SINCE he does occasionally, ask me for advice, and because he says he’s forgiven me for my jealousy, I will add that I told Steve, “Nothing leads to big success like some success.” “What? Hmmm. Yeah. Thanks.”
HEY, I was thinking of how my son, James, now a professional guitar player, first got some notice for his skill in high school; inspiring him to get better. MY ALTERNATE PHILOSOPHY is that some of us are stubborn enough that, though things in life, including surfing, are more failure than success; we continue. ONCE we’ve tasted some success, possibly a near-perfect ride on a great wave, we want more.
I’m out of time. Gotta go. I’ll save the other Stephen Davis (surfing) story, “Haole Won’t Go.” Here are a couple of photos of CAP Steve sent me.
…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.
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:
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:
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.”
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?”
“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?”
“It’s always Summer…”
Another legend passed; and the various waves continue rolling. On. Thanks for the warmth.
I do, actually, have forty covers printed up and ready for the next addition of the Realsurfers Coloring Book, most of those long-promised and, hopefully, eagerly anticipated. Here are two new drawings:
You may notice the drawings, square (I swear) to the page when I drew them, come out crooked-ey on the computer. This is some issue with my scanner; page up against the stops, and yet… errrr-arrrr.
This was kind of the issue the last time I had some printed. I had edited, and added, using original drawings for the newer pages, reusing the previous pages for the rest. And they all came out crooked.
This has caused me, probably, more grief than necessary. I want to start fresh, from the originals; couldn’t find some of the ones I want. Some were actually colored-in, others were given away, others are god knows where.
MEANWHILE, waves occasionally show up.
IF I could say something about my style; the sort of checkerboard deal might be a throwback to my early art studies at Palomar Community College; pencil drawings on display with a similar patterning, though rendered in a different medium, a somewhat common feature. Starting with the crosshatch pen-and-ink style, I have tried to infuse longer lines and more movement, a hopefully-kinetic, hopefully-flowing energy. Deciding to do the coloring book HAS influenced my drawing. Cleaner, maybe.
STILL, I do sometimes work on non-surf drawings (and, hey, did you notice, I seem to draw more rights than lefts?), and would like to do a collection of non-coloring book pieces, some checkerboard patterns included.
…and two new realsurfers Coloring Book possibles. First, Stephen is back in the cold, snowy and great Pacific Northwest after, I’m not sure, but a long time away, Hawaii, Baja, California, Oregon. He hit Seaside yesterday, just in time for slight offshores to change back to howling onshores. I actually tried to find him in the parking lot on the… geez, is this a secret?… camera. The movement of the camera was too jerky and I was getting competing phone calls about work, real life stuff; never caught him or his van (the camera seems to usually be focused in on something other than the actual waves; which is fine) did catch the beginning of another round of sleet.
Next, evidently, after making some money, Stephen is planning on returning to Hawaii, but not before he fills in a few details and shares a few stories.
Money. Yeah. If he’d had more, Steve says, he’d have stayed longer. Not much sympathy from me, actually.
As always, I showed Trish the new illustrations. “Uh huh,” she said of the “speed line” drawing, “You should add some flowers,” of the second one. “It’d be more… I mean, I’m thinking this is black and white and psychedelic, but, flowers…?” “People like flowers,” she said. “Uh huh” I said. Saving one without flowers, I’m going to add some flowers. Like everything, more later.
You can win in the water and still lose the session in the parking lot. I was discussing this with Stephen Davis, still couch/spot surfing, with some kite surfing sessions thrown in, up from Baja to the Great Northwest. Surfers may spend as much or more time in parking lots and road pullouts and overlooks and on the beach than in the water. And, perhaps because surfing… no, I really don’t know why it gets so competitive, but we have to admit it does.
First, here’s a drawing:
Since it wasn’t clear it’s a wave from high above, not some random abstraction, I colored it. Since my scanner repeatedly failed to scan the cropped color image. Okay, still abstract… with explanation.
So, let’s see if Steve’s account of an incident at an unnamed Central California coast spot comes through. It’s exactly how I received it:
Yesterday, 10:33 PM
Oops. I accidentally hit send.
Yesterday, 4:59 PMYou
Ya, so here is what happened.I was hanging at the beach with Jesse. Drinking coffee. We met Stacy and this other sup guy and talked about what the wind would do.
Here’s the new drawing for the header. It was inspired by another awesome photograph I received from Stephen Davis; yeah, the lover of all things water, who, incidentally, is headed back to the Northwest after a long stretch and many adventures south of the wall. I’m sort of anticipating some stories (having had a brief preview on the phone yesterday, Steve in San Diego, me hoping the weather would stay warm enough to paint a bit longer; Steve evidently unable to hear me, answering questions he thought I might be asking. “Yeah, it’s a drainer, you have to dodge rocks; there’s sea urchins; surfers have had brain damage.” “Wha??”
The drawing, which I had reduced at The Printery, evidently not enough to get the whole thing on the header, partially because the line version doesn’t show up well. Here, then, is the full width version:
Okay, here’s my other recent surf drawing (I do sometimes draw non-surf stuff). I’m considering redrawing it. I’m pretty happy except (and this has happened before) I’m not so stoked on the surfer’s overall look. Maybe, then…
Maybe I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here; probably should stretch these out. Crappy weather has given me more of an opportunity to draw, something I won’t have once painting season gets here. Here:
So, okay; I see a few too many scanner marks. Errrr. My scanner/computer connection is quite aggravating. Won’t line up straight. About a third of the scans fail and have to be redone; I’m getting so many scans on my computer I have to scroll down for each new entry. Probably stuff computer literate people have figured out. This is sort of a random mosaic pattern created by my page dealeobopper. I’ll go back and post larger versions.
Yeah, the surfer in the color version is actually too green in real life also.