Ginny Cole at “Swamis” 1969

This is my latest attempt at the negative-to-positive technique:

Virginia (Ginny) Cole late afternoon Swamis, 1969

I’m pretty satisfied with the illustration, at least partially because it pretty much turned out as I imagined it would, hopefully, pretty; and I don’t feel the need to go back on this drawing and make changes.

Not yet, anyway. I am considering going back to the original and adding something referencing my novel, “Swamis,” Ginny Cole being a main character in the in-progress (still) manuscript.

AND, this image may end up on an ORIGINAL ERWIN t-shirt. If not, or if so, I’ll get a signed, framed, limited edition (limited, as always, by me) copy over to Tyler Meeks’ DISCO BAY OUTDOOR EXCHANGE soon, like, maybe today.

MEANWHILE, look for, wait for, or enjoy surf when you can, make sure you’re ready to vote in November, and STAY SAFE.

“Even the President of the United States…

…sometimes must have to stand naked.” Bob Dylan

This isn’t about the president, really, it’s about writers and artists, and, no, really, it’s about all of us. I’ve often said all of us are in sales; we’re all selling something, whether it’s a service or something we *created, designed, built; or something we’re promoting.

As sales people, we’re all being judged. I’ve been working on the manuscript for “Swamis” for quite a while now, and this morning, for the first time in that same quite a while, I woke up without wanting, feeling as if I had to work on it, whether I could or not.

I spent some time yesterday insuring that I have an actual Library of Congress copyright on the story that I *designed and built (rather than saying I created it- it’s a remembering and a remix and a projection and a compilation and a fitting of character to setting) trying to fit all that into some sort of structure; chiseling here, hammering there.

NOW I’m at the naked stage, sending out the product to be judged. I can’t put a value on it, can’t grade it, can’t say your reading “Swamis” will be a worthwhile experience for you.

I think it’s genius, of course.

If one doesn’t have to be crazy to consider him or herself to be a writer, sending your work (and don’t be fooled, writing is pure pleasure, editing is work) out, naked, to be judged; the necessary part of selling the thing, and waiting, waiting, waiting for judgement… that will make you crazy(ier).

I should also mention that preparing myself to ask someone to do me the honor of reading my work tends to make me a bit nauseated. It’s like that feeling you might get (I mean, probably have had), headed for your favorite surf spot because you just believe the waves will be soooo good, then knowing that way too many other surfers will have the same idea, and you, being a sociopathic wave hog, might just have to get all scrappy and…see?

Crazy.

The unexpurgated version, all 298 pages, all 23,345 words, is being put into a book version, one copy, a ‘galley proof’ by one of my clients in the real world (in which I paint houses), Mike Kenna, owner of The Printery in Port Townsend. Thanks, Mike. I have sent electronic versions to several other people, people I know will be honest in their assessment.

There’s no profit in not being honest.

MEANWHILE, while I’m waiting, I do have the opportunity, through my connection with the (currently closed) Port Townsend Library, soul rebel stealth surf ripper Keith Darrock, to do some sort of electronic reading of “Swamis.” We’ll see. I’ll let you know. I did a test video this morning, me in the living room.

No, I wasn’t naked, but I did put a shirt on; and that was with just me watching.

“SWAMIES”- INSIDE THE LINEUP

I continue to be baffled by computers, and get tangled and confused even with tasks I’ve previously performed successfully; like transferring something from the 35,000 plus words I’ve written so far on my novel, “Swamis.”

BUT, this particular chapter with actual surfing in it, which was set earlier in the narrative, had to be moved, just to lessen confusion for readers, from around page 42 to somewhere in the high 50s.  I was able to highlight, copy, and transfer the words, intact, but three attempts to move it from the thumb drive too realsurfers, doing some refining each time, failed.

AND I lost the changes.

SO, here I am typing it onto the site.  I do have some other actual surfing in the manuscript, and plan on writing more, and (spoiler alert) the novel will come to some sort of conclusion during the famous December 1969 swell, though probably not on Big Wednesday.  Maybe on ‘Still Good’ Friday.

REMEMBER, although I surfed Swamis every day during the swell, with varying degrees of success, “Swamis” is still a work of fiction.  That is, the story and characters are fictional, mostly; THE WAVES ARE REAL.

INSIDE THE LINEUP

Jumper was the farthest surfer out, sitting on the Boneyards side of the outside peak, looking at the horizon.  There was a pack on the safer side of where most waves would start to break. As always. Swamis.  There was that string of surfers, with another pack in the vicinity of the inside peak.  At this tide, probably a third, or so, of the waves, the bigger waves, would connect all the way across.

Jumper seemed to feel someone approaching, or he heard the splash and glide of my paddling. He didn’t look around, but rotated his board enough to catch me in his peripheral vision.

“You didn’t call… could have called Tony; given me a head’s up.”

“Figured you’d know.”

I did. “I did. Of course. Cardiff’s… the parking lot is full, and…”

“So it must be good. Huh?”

A line on the horizon started to thicken, darken, take form; a wall, the peak of it fifty yards over from me, farther for Jumper. I could see the lineup come alive; surfers dropping to prone, paddling out and toward us.

“Number three,” Jumper said. “Block for me.”

“Fuck you, Jumper,” I said, stroking hard, out and toward the first wave.  I looked-off three guys also trying to get in position, turned, sank the tail of my board, stroked hard, and took off. I dropped in, made the down-the-line bottom turn, knowing, if it didn’t look like I would make the first section, shoulder-hoppers would take off.  If they didn’t kno0w wave etiquette, didn’t know who I was, or didn’t care, some fool might drop in anyway.

Some surfers, taking off from the outside (weirdly enough, called the ‘inside’ position- closest to the peak) will whistle at the attempted interlopers, or yell something like, “I’m on it!”  Or something harsher. I tried to resist those urges; but I had been known to come as close to any surfer dropping in that… maybe it was an intimidation tactic. Maybe.

I was more likely to just yell, “Go!”

I leaned hard into another bottom turn, looking off two new scrappers. I aimed for a place high on the steepening wave; hit it, tucked into a short tube. Then, while I’m trying to deal with the board speed on a weakening shoulder, someone did drop in.

“Fuck!” I tried to cutback, couldn’t, fell sideways, awkwardly, trying to fall onto my board, or, at least, close enough to grab it.

Nope.  The guy who dropped in, totally unaware (probably) that he was almost hit by my board, (probably) had one of the best rides of his surf life; while I hoped my board would pop up within a swimmable distance before the second wave of the set hit. Nope. Almost there, then… whoosh; more swimming.

Three kooks were sharing the second wave, which had, as I would have predicted, swung wider, more toward the inside peak.  The guy in front stayed in front, the guy in middle tried to stay in position, the back guy (who should have had priority) got (and this is pretty standard, though, sometimes the front guy pulls out- etiquette)  knocked off the wave. I ducked under rather than (and this would have been good etiquette) making a grab for his board.

The third wave, number three; that was the wave. Of course. I just stopped swimming, turned around, bouncing in the eel grass on the ledges, keeping my head above water. I watched Jumper backdoor the peak; tucked-in, covered; emerging, still high on the wave, most of his body above the lip, backlit for a mind-extended moment; then unweighting, redirecting, s-turning while dropping to the bottom. He leaned forward and into the wave, body stretched-out, front hand pointing down the line.

As the inside section formed, he kick-stalled (another freeze-frame-moment in the flow), crouched, and disappeared again.

Some gremmie retrieved my bo0ard, shoved it out to me, just as Jumper finished his ride with an in-the-closeout island pullout, the tailblock of his board coming quite close to me.

He brushed back the water, pulled the hair out of his eyes. “No, fuck you, Jody.”

“Nice ride, man. Number three. Outside peak. Why’d I doubt?”

“Because you, my friend, lack faith.”

“”We’re not friends.”

Another set caused us both to wait, reef-dancing on the finger ledges. “We are. I am the best fucking friend you’ve got.” He tapped me on the chest. A little too hard; looking for my reaction.

“Then, friend; why didn’t you tell me?”

“You’re the detective.”

“Fuck you… again, man. You heard Dickson. ‘There ain’t no eighteen-year-old detectives.’ Right? Stoolies, narcs, informants. Undercover, um, agents.  Not interested. But you…”

“Yeah, me. Me; I am interested. Stoolie, narc, informant, undercover… yeah.  And you, you need to stay away.” My expression, evidently, changed. Way too readable. “You aren’t going to… stay away.” Nope.  “You should.”

We both saw the break in the waves, the chance to paddle back out. We both leapt onto our boards. Jumper almost instantly jumped off his, blocked me from paddling. “First of all, Joseph; you were interested. Second, it was me who said ‘eighteen-year-old detectives.’ Dickson thought you were still seventeen. Friends.”

Image (91)

Jumper got back onto his board, paddled through a wave and toward the channel. He paddled toward the pack at the inside peak, past the shoulder-hoppers and the scrappers, past the sitters, the channel markers, those folks afraid to go on set waves, afraid to get caught inside.  Those who knew who Jumper was would, if in his direct path, move aside, their feet moving like ducks, rotating.

I tried to paddle out inside (closer to shore) the pack, and got caught by a four wave set. I had almost made it past and through to the outside when an older guy (probably pushing thirty), but an obvious beginner (stink but stance, big arm movements) from Escondido (at least that’s where his license plate frame said he bought his flashy black Monte Carlo), wearing out-of-date, out-of-fashion jams over his wetsuit (for modesty, perhaps, but totally impractical- they wouldn’t ride up, almost instantly rip out) had to fall on his flashy board to avoid hitting me.  His anger only added to mine.

“Fucking paddle around, Kook,” he yelled. Hand signals were added; big arm movements. “Don-cha-fuckin’ know nothin?”

I chose not to be angry. “Sorry, sir. You were… (I made a smooth hand/forearm gesture) surfing so very well. Sir.” Nice guy/apologetic smile.

“Um. Oh. Well. Oh? Yeah?”  I nodded. He smiled.  Now he had a story. “Well; next time…”

I was already paddling, again, taking the inside route.

 

 

Jody’s Father’s Smith-Corona Portable

CLUES are the key in writing “Swamis,” the novel. It really seems that, as I continue with the process, the story is telling itself to me. It is a mystery novel, after all, but, though I know where I want it to go; I’m constantly surprised by clues that suddenly appear.

That is, though I’m trying to break the story into little pieces, keep it off a simply-linear path, dole out the clues, flesh out the characters, keep the plot plausible; I am attacked by some new thought.

Let me admit now that I haven’t decided who killed Chulo Lopez, Gingerbread Fred, and Jody’s father.

Here are a couple of ways it could go: Jesus Freaks, Pot Growers, Pot Traffickers, Sheriff’s Officers.  I’m about 13,000 words into the story, and I just looked up the average length of a novel- 60 to 90,000. I don’t want to pad the story*.

*This is amusing to me because I keep getting sidetracked; I’m writing about people who are my age, from a certain era; I’m including real people, and (variations on real) experiences, and personal knowledge from that era, 1969; all to make the story real.

Real-er.

Although the characters are all fictional, composites, they are becoming more real to me; from sketch to renderings; and I’m increasingly aware I can’t totally control them.

SO, I’m excited to see where they go.

THE LATEST clue/plot device/whatever that came to me is the typewriter. At first it was a typewriter that Jody is using to type up a paper for Jumper; but then I remembered a typewriter, belonging to my parents (Mom mostly) I was allowed to use. A portable Smith-Corona in a case.

il_570xN.1664784855_n7tg

NOW I’m imagining Jody, typewriter on the hood of his old station wagon, parked at Swamis… oh, and I’d better look up 60s era Falcon station wagons; see how the tailgate worked, if the windows were electric or had a crank; don’t want to misrepresent.

Real, realer, realistic.

Another Chapter from “Swamis”

JULY 20TH

This was the day a man first walked on the moon. I had surfed. Somewhere; maybe Stone Steps; trying to find a little peak in the peak of Summer; summer and all that meant in a Southern California beach town recently isolated by the completion of I-5.

NOTE- There was talk, at that time, of the North County beach towns (Leucadia, Encinitas, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Del Mar) suffering when 101 was no longer the main coastal north-south route. Whether they did or didn’t depends on your interpretation of ‘suffering.’

readers_moonlanding-articleLarge

A Woman entered, looked at the handful of people scattered around the classroom, each with a stack of papers on individual desks that were exactly like the ones at Fallbrook High, and probably Vista, San Marcos, Escondido, Orange Glen, San Dieguito (those same beach towns); the districts that fed into the Palomar Junior College District. She looked at one of the papers in her left hand, erased “Biology 101” from the chalk board.

“Now,” she said, “now;” speaking louder when no one looked up after the first ‘now.’ “You people are right at the line; the cut off. Your choices… (louder) are limited. You may not get all the classes you want.”

Creative Writing; yes. And I wanted English 101. Yes, I had tested high enough to skip the remedial, non-credit English; I wanted… Art; yes, definitely. Basic Drawing. Two classes still open. Being under eighteen (it might have been twenty-one at that time), I was required to take a Physical Education class. Fall Sports was closed. Badmitton. Really? Closed. Shit. Weight Training. Still open. No. Fuck. Okay.

I was still writing, erasing, writing when Jumper Hayes entered the room, gave the Admissions Woman a big smile, which she seemed to appreciate, pointed at me with his stack of papers, and sat next to me. He scooted (noisily) his desk unit closer; like he wanted to cheat off me.

The Admissions Woman looked around at the noise, but, again, only returned what I had to believe was another reassuring smile from Jumper. I feel compelled to mention that the Admissions Woman was probably about twenty-something, something under 25, and was trying to seem a bit more professional, even stern, than she was able to. She was rather like a substitute teacher in a room of recent high school graduates, professional students, draft dodgers, returning veterans.

“Bagboy,” Jumper said; “I thought you were going to some big time University. Word is you’re a brain.”

“No.”

“Okay. Maybe not.”

“I was, but… Brain? Who would…?”

“One of those Avocado-lovin’, guacamole dip…dipshits; Bucky Davis, maybe; John Amsterdam; why would I remember? I’m not a brain… like you.”

The woman, taking a handful of papers from an older man; probably forty; scratched Philosophy II and Photography 101 from the chalkboard.

“Oh, and, incidentally, Amsterdam still hates you. Brand new Dewey Weber performer.” He shook his head, moved his hands to illustrate a board crashing on another board. “Got to hang on to your board, Bagger.” He paused. “You prefer Bagboy… or Bagger? Bagger sounds a little more…” He nodded, nearly winked. “Or Jody?”

“That was my dad’s joke.”

“Yeah; and Tony, at the market; he’s in on it.”

“They were both in the Corps. Not that they knew each other then, but…”

“As was I. As I was?” Jumper saluted; quickly, crisply; properly. He looked over at my papers. “You takin’ any English classes, um, neighbor?” When I looked back, he went back to nodding. “Wrong side of 101. You probably have to go five blocks to get across, but… well…”

When I determined nothing was following; I said, “Well… beats living in Frog-butt; huh?”

Jumper laughed, looked at the woman from admissions, gave her another, bigger smile, kept it when he looked back at me. “So, guess you don’t have the horse any more. Any longer? No longer have the horse?”

He didn’t drop the smile. I’d love to think I didn’t seem surprised. Or rattled. “No, we…” I restacked my papers, whispered, “Fuck you, Jumper;” scooted my desk away, a bit more noisily than I might have preferred. Jumper was still smiling.

Jumper stood up, his desk unit like a skirt, walked closer to me. He slid his preliminary class schedule in front of me, pointed to Criminal Justice; pointed to the same title on my schedule. “I am going on Uncle Sam, though; G.I. Bill. Semper Fi, (whispered) motherfucker. Full ride, man.”

“It’s California… Man; free education. And, besides; I’m not interested in…”

“Easy A, Jody; and… (back to a whisper) it’s a family tradition. Isn’t it?”

I crumpled up my first and second versions of my schedule in my right hand, stuck my middle finger out and a little too close to Jumper’s face. Surprised at how instant my anger had been, how it was staying at that level, and that Jumper’s reaction continued to be a smile (“Insolence,” my father would have said); I pulled my hand back almost immediately, flattened-out what had been a fist, and slapped my hand on the papers to the desktop.

“If my father… I’m… everyone knows who my father was. If I…” I looked at my form. “I’m done, June, Juni, Junipero… Mr. Hayes. Fifteen units. Full load. Done.” I stood up, picked up and straightened the other pages. “I’m not interested in being a…” I lowered my voice, looked around the room. No one was looking up from their papers. “…Fucking cop.”

The Woman erased Psychology 101 from the board just before I got to her. I looked at my form, I looked at Jumper Hayes. He still had the same smile, mouthing, “Easy A;” stepped in front of me, very close to the Admissions Woman. “We’re both taking Criminal Justice, Miss… (looking at her name tag) Julianna Esposito (stretching out each syllable). I want to find out who killed Chulo Lopez; Joseph Discenzo… Junior, here…” Jumper handed Julianna my paper work. She looked at the name, looked at me. I looked at her. Confused smile. No, she probably hadn’t heard of my father.  “…he wants to find out who killed his father.”

 

 

 

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.

blackballflag

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.

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.”

Image (205)

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?”

self realization

“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?”

 

 

A Nod is Good Enough- John Severson

 

 

IN MY MIND-VIDEO VERSION of the very brief encounter; looking past the front desk where the receptionist was still telling me that “John, John Severson, actually reads over all the submissions himself, so, so…” when John, John Severson; appeared through an open door, moving from the right to the center of the (my) frame, to the center of what must have been the visitor side of his desk. He stopped, looking at something, then turned toward the visitor side of the “Surfer” magazine office, maybe focused for a moment, and gave the almost-seventeen kid a nod.

I probably just froze.

A NOD is everything, really; an acknowledgement of co-membership, perhaps; a gesture that says, depending on who gives it, that things are all right between us.

YEAH, maybe that’s reading too much into a simple gesture. Or not. Maybe a nod is just so ancient, so basically human, we forget that each one of us learns more from studying expressions than we do from language. In a fight-or-flight world, a nod can and has stopped many a conflict.

OKAY, now I’m thinking of times I’ve paddled out into a lineup, seen a surfer I chatted with on another beach. Nod. Nod returned. AND NOW I’m thinking of my first venture out at Windansea, seeing two guys I’d surfed around in Pacific Beach. I nodded, they, sitting well on the shoulder, kept their gaze down. No eye contact. AND NOW I’m thinking of the times my nod, paddling toward the lineup, was returned with the STINKEYE.

SO, I had written a bunch of stuff, my best longhand on college-ruled notebook paper, and had sent it, along with a self-addressed, stamped return envelope, to “SURFER” magazine. I waited for fame and recognition, my writings in the preeminent surf publication, the magazine I studied, front to back; the basic visual images that popped up like a slide show in my dreams.

“They’ll probably have to put some in one edition, other stuff in the next one,” I, no doubt, thought. “My friends will be so… so stoked. Me, my writings…”

I did mention I waited, telling myself this sort of self-induced insanity (waiting for someone else to realize one’s stuff is great), is what a real writer endures.

THIS WAS ME in the summer of 1968, living in Fallbrook, twenty miles from Oceanside pier, about the same distance, straight west, across Camp Pendleton, to San Onofre. If I was riding with someone who had the proper ID card, we’d often surf there, park on the beach. Otherwise, it was go to Oceanside, north on 101 (pre- I-5 connection), deemed “Slaughter Alley.” The “Surfer” magazine headquarters was somewhere north of there. I’d find it.

A WORD on what I’d written: Mostly, I’ll have to guess, crap; the kind of overwrought drivel one might expect from a hormone-afflicted, surf-crazed, skateboarding-‘cause-I-fuckin’-live-in-the-hills dreamer, just starting to get competent at surfing might right. There were pages of the stuff.

borrowed from “Surfer,” article on John Severson staring down Richard Nixon

WHAT I WROTE as a twelve verse (epic?) poem on those blocking access to surf beaches, became, in the fall of 1968, when I was back in school, shorter, better. I’m not sure if I ever got my original pages back, but I received a check for ten dollars and a copy of the magazine.

I WAS PUBLISHED. Oh, I mean, I WAS PUBLISHED! But, what John Severson had done is take the first verse, delete everything from the middle, add some of the lines from the last verse. It had changed enough from the original that, when asked to read it aloud in English class, I couldn’t quite get it right. “Didn’t you write this?” “Yeah, yeah, but…different.” Penny had to read it. She did a great job.

STILL, it was, probably, still a bit, um, overwrought.

IN 2001, the poem showed up again, in “The Perfect Day… 40 Years of Surfer Magazine.” I was, by this time, up in the Pacific Northwest, rarely surfing. Trisha’s nephew, Dylan Scott, surfing down in San Diego, saw the coffee table book, surprise, on a coffee table at his dentist’s office. “That’s my uncle,” he, according to him, said. “Whoa. Really? My poem?” Yes, we do own the book; it’s on a coffee table.

HERE’S the poem, written by me, edited by John Severson (he even shortened the title, though I forget what it was).

REFLECTION

The promised sand, Forbidden land,

Restraining line With sharpened spine;

NO SURFING HERE: The warning sign.

Perfection waves, Reflecting mind;

Humanity

Could be so blind.

HERE’S WHAT JOHN SEVERSON DID: He gave a nod to all the punks and kooks and kids who wanted to be surfers. He took a disparate group and made us a tribe. If we don’t always acknowledge this in the competitive, sometimes combative setting of the lineup; it’s hopefully different when surfers meet in some other setting, a grocery store or distant parking lot. A nod of acknowledgement.

I’m actually a bit amazed at how shocked and saddened I am at hearing of Severson’s passing.

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.