I received this comment in response to one of the most popular, over time, posts, “Tom Decker and Jeff Parrish.” Noticing the consistent number of hits the piece seems to get, I thought either Tom Decker, well known to pretty much anyone who surfs at Westport over the last twenty-five years, is a name people google, then find my article; or Jeff sends friends to check out what I wrote about him. I’ve had a sort of suspicion that, always just trying the real story, I may have written something that would or should offend Jeff. Since Jeff’s wife, Ruth, has started surfing, and, actually, before that, he seems to have other people he prefers to surf with (and, yes, I am somewhat hurt by this, but no longer whine about it when I see Jeff’s father-in-law, Jim Hodgson, at the post office.). Because I got this comment, I checked.
Yeah, maybe Jeff had a tough outing, called-out by Mr. Decker; but he’s not alone in that. I do drop the name (Tom Decker, though I always ask people from Seattle if they know Jeff. “Which Jeff?” They all know at least one) with folks from Westport, or those who say they surf there a lot, when I see them looking for waves on the Strait. Maybe Tom has mellowed; other names are mentioned as enforcers at the Groins and the Jetty.
So, here’s the contribution:
If it’s of any value to the surfing community, I’d like to recite some first-hand oral history about Pt. Grenville.
I surfed there from 1967 to -69, when I was in high school. We just showed up with surfboards and camped for the weekend, without any fuss from “authorities.”
Then, in 1969, we showed up as usual, and a truck pulled up and a well-spoken, close-shaved Indian came over to us in an very authoritarian manner, and spoke to us ominously, “Where are you boys from?”
“Bremerton,” we said.
Then he looked at the rock cliffs covered in grafitti, and most of it was the names of various high schools painted in great big letters in a wide variety of colors.
He paused and said, “If I looked up at these rocks and saw ‘West Bremerton,’ or ‘East Bremerton’ written here, I’d arrest you and put you in jail. But as it is, you can just leave.”
So we got kicked out, and never went back. Good thing us Bremerton guys specialize more in thievery and violence, and “school spirit” was for “soces.” Besides, our writing skills were sketchy, anyway.
In 1970 I heard that some friends tried to go there, and the Quinaults confiscated their boards and they had to pay fines. I left the state in 1970, and have not heard anything about it since, except for your piece on this web page.
BTW, concerning Washington surfing at the time, I had the feeling that Pt. Grenville was the only place, because the waves were dependable. I wasn’t part of any big surfing “scene,” because there were so few of us, so I don’t know if there were many guys scouting all the coastline in the state, looking for a good break. In those days, I’d never heard of surfing at Westport. (What’s more, I lived the 1970s in San Francisco, and never heard of Mavericks, though no one else seemed to know about it, either.) People in Bremerton were always going there for more fishing. When we got out of high school, it seemed like everyone went to Hawaii, got jobs, and stayed for awhile.
Aside: We didn’t use wet suits. When I was aged 6 to 9, I spent the summers living in a tent and a beach cabin at La Push, because my father was a commercial fisherman out of there & Neah Bay. My mom told me, “Just wait till you get numb, and you can play in the surf all day.” She was right. Last time I did it was 2010.
So, I really don’t know anything about Mr. Burks except that he must be about my age, possibly another member of the class of 1969. And I have heard a few stories about Point Grenville in the mid 1960s, some which might explain why the beach was closed. Still, the image of some waves peeling off that point…
Here’s my latest illustration: