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?”

 

 

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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.

 

NO SURF… No, there’s always surf…

…somewhere. Usually somewhere else. I’m, luckily, pretty busy painting, today being the only day lately where rain isn’t threatening or falling. Since there are no swell forecasts that predict anything close, and I don’t have time to go to the coast, I googled/yahooed ‘no surf,’ got this image.

Luscombs

The cove is, evidently, now called ‘No Surf Beach,’ along Sunset Cliffs. I actually have a couple of stories about the spot. The first involves Stephen Penn and I, both twenty years old, freshly married and living in San Diego. Steve, formerly of Marin County, and his wife, formerly Dru Urner, formerly of Fallbrook, were living in Ocean Beach; Trish and I in Pacific Beach. Our daughter, Drucilla (born on earth day, April 22, 1980, before it was Earth Day- and, oddly enough, as I edit this, it’s again Earth Day- Happy Birthday), is actually named after Dru, a promise Trish made to Drucilla Urner, evidently in typing class back in high school.

It was 1972, and Steve and I went looking for waves. I had surfed Sunset Cliffs before, but at Luscombs, the point in the distance, and once at New Break (with Bucky Davis and Phillip Harper, walking in back in 1967- we had no problems with locals). When Steve and I arrived at the little parking area in the foreground, there were four or five surfers at the little peak. The tide was lower and the peak was closer to the foreground point. I thought these other surfers were less a problem than Steve did. “They’ll leave,” I said. “Just start catching waves.”

Now, I don’t want to sound all aggro about this, though I may have been a little more exuberant while trying to convince Stephen to go out. It was either here or Ocean Beach jetty. Surfing mostly Crystal Pier, mostly after work and on weekends, with strangers, since Trish and I got married in November 1971 had pushed me toward a sort of ghetto mentality. It wasn’t surfing Swamis beachbreak with friends. This was city surfing. No eye contact.

Yeah, still dealing with my wave lust, bad manners. I wasn’t, I insist, pushy, merely persistent, going for position when possible, always ready for waves someone missed or fell on.

Three hours or so later, with three or four different surfers sharing the lineup, with the tide filling in and the waves ending on the mossy ledge beyond the pinnacle rock, Steve and I were climbing back up the cliff. With almost all of my surfing done between/before/after school/work/other-seemingly-or-actually important-stuff, forty-five minutes to an hour an a half, with me mentally breaking it into fifteen minute ‘heats,’ this was one of the longest sessions I had surfed. I was exhausted.

Maybe it was the competition. I couldn’t get out of the water before Steve; and the waves kept coming. I have more to say on the whole waves vs. life subject, but … Oh, gotta get to some actually important stuff. If I get some work done, and the waves… you know… I’ll be ready.

Later. WAIT! Since there’s no waves in the local forecast, and not mentioning how Adam Wipeout scored, Mike could have but didn’t, and that I ran into Darrin, who scored on the coast, at Wal-Mart, and because I’m planning on going down to my Dad’s house (now my brother’s house) in Chinook, Washington, here’s a shot I stole from a forecast site.

 

Inside Break- Reboot

INSIDE BREAK- SOMETHING CLOSE TO NON-FICTION
THIS IS AT LEAST THE FOURTH TIME I have attempted to write this story. I always got stuck on the fact/fiction thing, partially because I didn’t want to get too personal with people who might not want this intrusion; partially because any attempt at biographical non fiction, because of memory lapses, point of view skewed in one direction or another, detail editing, many other reasons, becomes fiction. So, fine; I will attempt to remain as truthful as possible.
WRITING IS REMEMBERING as much as it is creating; maybe more. Forgotten events, suddenly, while thinking of/writing a particular story, spring loose from whatever kink or coil of brain wiring they were stuck in: Example I stole (one way of looking at it) Phillip Harper’s car (an oil-burning/leaking Corvair) in Baja (Easter Break, 1968) while he was sick and our other friends were unwilling get up early to try (again) to surf the rock-strewn closeout beachbreak out in front, or to leave the big and over-crowded tent to surf one of several legitimate point breaks we’d seen on the way down.
Though I remembered we were staying at a place on the beach, featuring a trailer park, a motel, and a cantina that looked like a gas station, which it may also have been, I couldn’t immediately remember the name of the place. We were actually mostly staying in someone’s parents big tent just outside the trailer park. Though Phillip’s stepfather had the use of a trailer for Phillip, his brother Max, stepbrother Mark, and invited friends Ray, Melvin, and me; because Dana and Billy and Mark had invited themselves along) earlier, I couldn’t remember the name of the place when I started writing this, but, because I was sure I’d driven the borrowed Corvair to K-54, but wasn’t sure that was actually correct, I went to the computer.  Cantamar. Or course. Still there.                                                             Hmm; was it K-55? Surfline claims that K-55 is a reef break, and I’m sure this was a point break. I did, perhaps, catch a few waves; pretty big ones, then lost my board trying to roll under one (term, at that time, ‘turning turtle’). I can, actually, vividly recall the board (the 9’9″ Surfboards Hawaii noserider, ‘found’ buried in the sand at Tamarack by some member of the Brooks family, from down Debby Street from my house, when they were grunion hunting, and given to me by Wendy Brooks’ father, over her objections, when they moved back to Texas) getting ripped from my hands; the lesson being, ‘keep your grip tight but your arms flexible.’
Just to finish this part of the story, Phillip wasn’t too sick to join up with the others, Dana’s old Corvair wagon and Ray’s (actually, as with my house a few sentences back, the cars may have been owned by parents, though they were pretty crappy vehicles) Ranchero suddenly, and dramatically pulling into the dirt lot, skidding, stopping near me, six highschool age (most of us were juniors, Billy, younger brother of a contemporary for whom surfing didn’t stick, may have been a sophomore, even a freshman) surfers bailing out as I secured the board with the newly-acquired ding onto the Aloha racks. “Your mom said I could take it,” I said Or may have; something to the effect. “You were in the motel with your mom and sister (Trish. not my Trish, but prominent in the bigger story); she didn’t want to wake you up.” This was interrupted and followed by a chorus of “fuck you,” that, eventually, by “How was it?” and “How did you do?”                                                          They hadn’t brought boards. We caravanned back to camp, later surfed some blown-out beachbreak south of Ensenada; though, maybe the next day, in the afternoon, the usual closeouts at Cantamar were lifted by genuine offshore winds.                                                    Better. Much better. I had convinced/forced Max and Mark, into filming; mostly me, with my super 8 camera.
Later, I put some of the footage together, showed it at school, several times; narrated by, of course, me. “Hanging ten? Hard to tell in the glare. Let’s say…yes.” There was a part where some of us are hanging out around a table outside the trailer. This was just after (not caught on film) Trish played footsie with me, and I, shocked, jumped; and she asked Ray, “How’s he ever going to get a girlfriend?” and I said (or should have, or could have, or wish I had), “Well, try it again;” and Ray, of course, sided with her on the girlfriend issue. And there was no way she’d ever do it again. No.                                                                               So, a bit of smoke from an unseen cigarette (this was before I’d had my first one) is visible in the movie version, to which I always said, “It was very cold down there.” It got a laugh; though not, after the first showing, from Ray.

insidebreakgoodversion 001

OBVIOUSLY I GET SIDETRACKED too easily. SO, I’m going to get to, and try to stick to the story of one trip from Fallbrook, across Camp Pendleton, to San Onofre, with one of my first surfing heroes, BUCKY DAVIS. This was in the spring of 1967. Things were escalating in Vietnam, the base was crazy busy, and we, just wanting a few good waves, were edging ever closer to making critical personal decisions on life and love and war and surfing.
BUT, don’t expect a laser focus. There’s just too much overlap with other trips and other stories. I’m at this moment, stuck on whether or not Bill Buel was on that trip to Cantamar. I’ve long replaced him in my own version of the San Onofre trip with Ray, with whom I made many other surf trips (mostly because I never liked, and even had some resentment or fear of Bill Buel).                                                                                                           And, once it was Ray with Phillip and me, me riding (for once) shotgun, in Bucky’s VW bus; the story definitely became fiction. So, Bill’s back in. This should be easier.
SO, NEAR-NON-FICTION.

Dru Harrison, Waddell Creek, Color

Too much? Hey, it’s from the late 60s, ma-an.

Image (41)Actually, the color version is so much brighter on paper. Wait, I just tipped the screen a bit. Yeah, there it is.  Rich Wilken took the photo this was taken from. By ‘taken,’ I mean, look at the photo, draw. Just looking at the photo in “The Perfect Day,” the fortieth year anthology from “Surfer” magazine, the smoothness of the black and white version is a tough thing to duplicate.

Smoothness is the essence of style. That ability to ignore the critical, not think of the negative consequences; back against the wall; pressure on the back foot, eye on the lip twenty yards down; project; that would be stylish.

I remember Dru Harrison from surfing magazines; and, because I’m posting this, I just did a little mini-search. He was born a year before I was, surfed his ass off, died in 2003. I do remember reading something about it when he passed. Alcohol-related. Shame. Not the only surfer gone early, missing out on sliding a few more glassy walls.

Okay, I’m off the subject now, thinking about when the next swell window opens. Well, not quite. I’ve been thinking that life is a marathon/relay race; we are handed a certain set of circumstances, we get moving; some slip and are trampled; others pass on a different set of circumstances to our children and those we come in contact with; and we just keep going. Yeah, I’m working on the analogy. And, bad knees and all, moving, looking forward more than back. Twenty yards down the line…

Surf Noir, Illustration for “No One That Mattered”

Trish came into the room yesterday, looked at the early stages of this drawing, asked, “A gun? What’s that for?” “A story.” “Where’d you even find that…um…” It was as if I’d been checking out porno. “What kind of story would…” “I googled ‘man with a gun in his waistband’ and, well…”

To be honest, there were some images of guys with what might be called ‘holster’ underwear, and other people with gun tattoos, including at least one shot of a woman with what my daughter Dru would call a ‘tramp stamp,’ this one of crossed pistols, on the small of her back.

Okay, now you’re opening a new tab.

Image (40)

I’ll add the drawing to the next post down; the story it was drawn for. I still haven’t purchased ink for my printer, but I will get the backlog of drawings copied so I can do some color versions. Writers are always (because we have to), begging people to read our stuff) read the story if you get a chance. I’m not ordinarily a surf noir writer, and, like the (mostly fictional) narrator, don’t have a lot of first hand experience with the seamier (but real) side of surfing, but I do have some second hand knowledge.

Image (40)Image (38)

Secret Spot, Illustration

The drawing is taken from a Rich Wilken photograph of Dru Harrison at Waddell Creek, a spot unknown to me but probably not secret; that photograph from the 40 year “Surfer” anthology “The Perfect Day,” accompanied by a piece by Drew Kampion on “The Day They Walked on the Moon,” July 20, 1969. About that, and, of course, more. In this case, the story was also about radical, for the time, surfing at a Western Surfing Association (WSA) contest at Oceanside, and some perfect (and uncrowded) waves at Lower Trestles.

Image (37)

What I remember about the day, a Sunday, is that I went surfing, and the next day, I went to the accountant’s office in Oceanside to pick up my paycheck for the previous week’s work at Buddy’s Sign Service. Buddy’s real name, because almost no one, even someone in Florida whose son would end up learning sign painting in prison, would give a child the name Buddy when Lacey, Lacey Rollins, was available (Oh, maybe Buddy was a prison name).

Buddy, with his wife, Sandy, had recently moved from a trailer in the back of his first shop, in South Oceanside, which they had moved to from a shed, to one of three upstairs apartments at what had been the “Blade-Tribune” newspaper building, 1st and Tremont, home of his new shop. Big, high ceilings; quite Loft-like. The building was a block from the Greyhound  bus station, a few blocks from the pier. With the Vietnam War still in full swing, and Camp Pendleton nearby, for a kid from what I thought was the suburbs but would now qualify as rural, this was a pretty scary/exciting neighborhood, with waves just beyond the railroad tracks.

Buddy seemed to hang out at the office a bit, and, in fact, was there, slouching in a chair, when I came in.  The woman who was making out my check, I noticed, while I was waiting at her desk, had been practicing a signature on some scratch paper. Sheila Rollins (or some other first name I’ve forgotten).

Since I, freshly graduated from Fallbrook High, considered Buddy, at 32, old; and, in fact, thought Sandy, at 21, was a little oldish, and kind of (I’m being honest here) cheap; and definitely thought Buddy was pretty white trashish. He was good at lettering- a skill, practiced and learned; rather than in any way artistic (which is the reason I went after a job as a sign painting apprentice- high(er) art). I was a bit stunned that the woman might consider Buddy- I don’t know, desirable- maybe.

“Where were you… um… yesterday,” she asked. “Surfing,” I said, and probably went into some details of where and how good she, knowing I had seen the signatures and was probably judging her (I was), didn’t actually care to hear. “You know, you’ll always remember where you were when man first walked on the moon.”

Buddy nodded at me and smiled at Sheila, then sat up straighter when Sandy entered the office.

Sheila gave me my check for whatever balance remained, after taxes, from forty hours at $1.35/hr. I would routinely cash my check at the market on the way home, or, if it was early enough, before checking out a few surf spots, maybe surfing Tamarack or Grandview. Yeah, minimum wage was $1.65 an hour at the time. I found this out a month or so later when I found a required government poster in one of the bathrooms at the “Blade-Tribune” building; right after Buddy gave me a raise to $1.50.

“No,” I told the new bookkeeper, Sandy, “You actually have to pay me more.” Sandy looked at Buddy, lettering at a 4′ by 8′ easel, standing on one leg, like Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull (so you get an image). “I can show you the poster. I mean…” Buddy looked at Sandy, looked at me, shrugged. “Next week, then. Okay, Kid?”

I’m pretty sure I surfed at the south jetty that Monday morning, but, can’t quite remember where I surfed on the day… you know, THE day.

NOTE: My  printer is out of ink. I’ll do a color version of this later.

PB Point Never Breaks

HEAD SONGS- It may have been an early Fleetwood Mac instrumental playing in my head. Whatever it was it was perfect for the afternoon, some mix of northwest swell and just the right tide creating fast lines from near Pacific Beach Point to the south end of the parking lot at Tourmaline Canyon. It was turn-and-tuck on each thin, fast, backlit wave, tuck until you are finally engulfed by the tube.

PBpointTourmlne

SUMMER SOLSTICE: The longest days in San Diego seem to end by 8:15 or so. In the three years or so, starting in November of 1971, I lived in PB, just up the long steep drop to the parking lot, I always checked PB Point. It seemed like there should be great, Swamis-like waves there; there just weren’t. No, not ever. On one summer day, unlike the first story (and probably with a different tune moving as a different wave in my head), the waves were peaky, with the best peak halfway to the actual point. I went out after work and stayed long enough to walk back up the hill in the dark, across the street to the La Jolla Bella, long since, I’m sure, condo-ed out and priced out of reach for a newly-married couple, even if both work.

ANOTHER SUMMER DAY, not working on workday, I was out on a little peak just off the actual point. Starting out shoulder-hopping, I was soon mid-peak, then back-dooring the wave, most likely on my Surfboards Hawaii twinfin, the going-right fin moved as far forward in the box as it would go, the going-left fin back because, if I must explain, I surfed differently going backside; more forward-trim going right. I also had my first leash/kookstrap on the board, already shortened by breakage because they were then made out of something like surgical tubing, effected negatively by saltwater corrosion. So, mid-peak, I took a hit, the board slid out from under me, the leash dragged me, kicking and clawing, across the reef. I came up with green stuff under my fingernails. Perfect. Go again.

tourmaline-Rocky-Bluffs--Courtesy-Lisa-Field--SanDiegoorg_54_990x660_201404241143

WINTER SOLSTICE: On the shortest days of the year, it seems, as I remember, to get dark in San Diego somewhere between 4:30 and 5pm. I mention this because, in the Northwest, way farther north, but also farther west, the longest days go close to 10pm, but the shortest days turn dark before 4:35. Interesting. Not really, but, on one of those winter afternoons, PB Point was working. It was, and I don’t exaggerate on wave size, six feet. I must admit I’m daunted by larger waves (less daunting, more excitement on a point break compared to a beachbreak), but I found myself comfortable. And the waves just got bigger, until, just before dark, it was, by my standard, eight feet and I was still more excited than concerned. The darkness closed in so quickly, exhausted, looking way down the beach toward the lights, that I decided to go up the cliff. I climbed a fence or two, went through some rich person’s yard, and walked back down the road toward home.

PBPoint

ONE MORE STORY: My friend from Fallbrook, my first surfing accomplice, Phillip (long since Doctor) Harper, and his first wife, Pam, because they had to work weekends, would often come down to San Diego, or we’d meet at Swamis or somewhere, on a Wednesday or Thursday. On one of these visits, Phillip and I were surfing quite small and pretty crappy beachbreak at Tourmaline. I wiped-out on a wave, my even-shorter leash wrapped around the back of my board, and, when I came up, the board hit me right in the eye. What was interesting was, because I thrashed (and still thrash) boards, and rarely patched them (or patch them), a week or so later the glass on the nose of the board was broken away. It would have been a different result, Jack.

OKAY, TWO STORIES: That board was getting so thrashed that I would frequently go home with several new cuts on my legs from the board. On one winter afternoon, the tide very high, most of the surfers not catching any waves, I was taking off, kicking-out close to the shore riprap, close to the parking lot. When I got out, a tourist, an older woman probably escaping snow or something, said, “You look like you were having the most fun out there.” “Probably was,” I said, some new line of blood running down my leg.

THESE DAYS, because I need new gloves, I seem to get a new wound on my hands from each session, though, donning my old (properly thrashed) suit for a second session, recently, I noticed, later, that I had new scratches on my knee where the wetsuit was ripped. Should repair that.

Chasing the Diamonds; Quilted, Kenetic, Allusive

My sister, Melissa Lynch, the real artist in the family, scolded me for being in any way apologetic for my drawings. Yeah, well; I would like to be honest. If I could capture the building blocks of always-moving water, figure out how to weave a seamless shadowed/reflective/glimmering/black/white/multi-hued image I would.

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If I could.

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Since I can’t; yet; I’ll keep trying.

Meanwhile, I’m still in the thinking-it-through phase of a piece I must write under the working title of: “Are All Surfers Sociopaths; or Just the Good Ones?”

Three Acts: ACT ONE- several highschool surfing buddies and I surf Swamis after school. The only other surfers out are three (also high school age) members of the Surfboards Hawaii Surf Team. On the drive home, my friends complain they couldn’t catch any (or enough) waves. I hadn’t noticed, being busy catching waves and watching incredible longboard surfing. ONE, PART 2- One of my friends (Ray Hicks, most likely) points out (I think this was the day I ripped out my pants and had to borrow a pair of Levis from Billy McLean) that, when encountering other surfers of about our age, I seem to puff out my chest. “Maybe you’re intimidated.” “Yeah; probably.” “It’s, uh, like a gorilla.” “You mean, like, primal?” “Yeah, probably.”

ACT TWO- During the last week of my job up the hill from Trestles, taking an hour and a half break during my half hour official lunchtime, some surfer (I’ve always believed he was a Marine Officer) burned me and everyone else (I still got some, but not as many as usual waves). When I checked back at my half hour afternoon (supposed to be ten minutes) break, the guy was still out, still burning surfers mercilessly. I didn’t hate him; maybe he was going somewhere sucky, where a rifle was mandatory, for a while.

ACT THREE- My friend Stephen Davis, last time I spoke with him on the phone, mostly about his upcoming trip to the Oregon Coast and the chance I might meet him somewhere (probably won’t happen); had to, (had to) mention how I fell out of favor with many members of the Port Townsend surfing crew (very unofficial) because, over-amped, I (accidentally, I swear)wave-hogged on a day almost two years ago. Two years ago. Jeez. When I mentioned this on the phone this morning with Keith Darrock, and that I’m no more a sociopath than he is, and I do have empathy, whatever that is, he had to (had to) mention his observation that I’m kind of loud and possibly abrasive (see how he was tactful about this?) in the water, and, also, incidentally, I do seem to “kind of strut in the parking lot.” “WHAT? ME? No, it’s just being friendly.” (I am laughing at this point, but, also, thinking. Is he right?) “Like a rooster. And, oh,” he adds, has to add, “You kind of stick out your chest. And…and it seems like you want to dominate (I’m adding ‘even in’) the parking lot.”

There is no ACT FOUR where I try to change my ways, get all friendly and nice; empathize with those who won’t (before hand) or didn’t get enough waves. Empathize. I did tell Keith I’d rather attempt to empathize than be one of those who didn’t get enough waves. Maybe they’ll get points toward sainthood. No true contrition. Sorry. At least not so far. But, I am thinking; and since I can’t afford professional help, I’ll have to self-diagnose.

STEP ONE-“Yes, it’s all true.” See you in the parking lot.