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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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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.

 

Debriefing Hydro-Sx’l Stephen Davis…

…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.

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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.

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.

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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.

Locals Only Kooks Go Home

Locals Only Kooks Go Home!

“IT’S SUNNIED-UP,” Scott ‘Scoots’ Walter said, into his cell phone, as his truck, mid-sized, an eight foot board on the canopy rack, made a turn onto a residential street. “You there? Mark? Evidently not. Okay. I’m going dark.”
It was, and this was surprising,  going to be one of those days where it clears up just before sunset; the sideshore winds just stop. Scoots found the pullout on the bluff was empty except for the old Subaru four door. The car was a faded mildew green/gold color, any hint of former shine accidental, and most noticeable near the driver’s side door; where arms had rubbed against the roof while tying or untying a board from the obviously-homemade wooden racks. There was, if one looked, a little more shine near the hood and trunk latches.
Scoots, without checking the lineup, was looking at the car, the flattened tires. The car appeared empty, though tough to tell with the side windows darkened. And then there was the windshield.
“Fuckin’ Mark,” he said. Then, pulling alongside the Subaru, he did look at the waves, just over to his left…
“WHOA!” Scoots leaped from the truck, leaving the door open.
So clean, so lined-up. One surfer out. Only. It was The Guy, obviously, the guy who owns the car with the flat tires and “Locals Only Kooks Go Home!” in wax on the windshield.
That Guy, in the glare, two-stroked into an almost-glassy peak, angled to the left, waited until he reached the bottom to stand, that move melded with a too-casual bottom turn, rising back to mid-face, gliding higher. He kick-stalled near the top, crouched, tucked in.
“Owww!” No one, really, could hear Scoot’s uncontrollable (or merely uncontrolled) hoot. Two steps toward the bluff; look, stop. The Guy was just slicing back from the shoulder, the spray up and lost in the sunlight. Scoots walked backwards, eyes on the waves. He opened the hatch on the canopy, dropped the tailgate, pushed the twisted hose and a compressor over to get to the cracked plastic bin. He pulled it over and out, allowing it to drop to the ground. He grabbed his inside-out, cold, sandy, twisted wetsuit. Water flew when he flung the suit out and around.
A wet wetsuit will cling to your legs, your arms, and Scoots couldn’t get his untangled or pulled-up quickly enough. He’d hit a window of opportunity, and windows can close quickly. And the sun was angling toward the glistening horizon like…
“Fuckin’ Mark” he said, looking at the tires on the Subaru as he threw the straps off his board.
“Fuckin’ Mark” he said, as he threw his gloves out of the bin, joining his booties on the tailgate. Grabbing a partly-worn bar of wax, he shook his head, looked for his leash in the dark, crowded truck bed.
“Fuckin’ Mark” he said, reminding himself that he had put the stem caps back on; realizing he’d have to, at least, refill the tires before he could… “Fuck.”

THE SUN WAS MELTING at the horizon when Scoots ran the last twenty feet or so from the path at the bluff to his truck. Still, he took a moment to look back. Melting, this was the metaphor Scoots had thought of, even in the water. Music; jazz, really; from “The Endless Summer,” was playing in his head, though, looking, again, at the words waxed onto the Subaru’s windshield, a faster, newer tune took over; his background tune for riding pumping point breaks.                                                                                                                               His wetsuit pulled down, Scoops was cleaning the windows on the Subaru with a six inch broad knife and acetone-soaked rags when The Guy came up from behind him.
The Guy’s eyes, suddenly too close to his, were bloodshot. Saltwater. Dehydration. They had to be more bloodshot than his. The Guy didn’t seem overly curious about what Scoots was doing. He stepped around him, setting the board on his car’s rack.
“Your last wave…” The Guy said, “it might have been the wave of the day.”
Scoots was too busy to do more than nod; saltwater dripping on the Subaru, some squeaking from the wetsuit rubbing on the fender; scraping and smearing with serious strokes.
“Fuckin’ Mark, huh?” The Guy said, reaching around to his back, feeling for the cord for the zipper, throwing it over his shoulder, let his comment hang.  “Huh, Scoots?”
Scoots pointed at the fully inflated tires with a cold acetone rag. “I, um, have a compressor and, and a, a generator. It was…” Scoots knew it was too late to… to lie; he just couldn’t quite think of a reasonable… “Yeah, that was a great wave.”
The Guy had a key, evidently out of the little pocket most wetsuits have (though Scoots had never used one), and unlocked the driver’s side door. He reached in, unlocked the back door, then opened it, threw a blanket onto the back of the front seat, passenger side, pulled out two large aerosol cans, and set them on the roof. “Guess I’ll save these for next time. Scoots. Oh, and thanks for coming back.”
“Fuckin’ Mark,” The Guy said, slightly behind the same words from Scoots.

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“MOTION ACTIVATED,” The Guy said, dusk filling-in; that grainy grayness you can almost feel. There was some music, mid-sixties Dylan, “Blonde on Blonde,” coming from the Subaru. “Most expensive thing about the car,” The Guy had said. And there was the music rising up from the water; familiar rhythms.
Scoots and The Guy, both now dressed in almost-matching Levis and hoodies, were looking at the back of a camera now perched atop the Subaru.
“Fuckin’ Mark; man… don’t…” could be heard from the camera, the two surfers nodding. At the camera, not each other. The Subaru, now, had its hood up, all the doors open. The generator, a compressor, a gas container, hoses and wires were all spread about, seemingly kicked next to, and almost under Scoot’s truck. “Fuckin’ pussy, Scoots. Whimp-ass coward. We’re making a stand,” the camera said, in Mark’s voice.”
The Guy motioned toward the truck. “Weren’t you afraid someone might…”
“It’s Mark’s stuff.”
“Oh. Okay.” They both laughed. “Maybe Mark was a little frustrated. Crappy waves; crowded; all those city people…I mean; on a Wednesday.  Me, me maybe getting too many waves for his liking.”
“No, he’s just… Mark’s pretty much always an asshole.” There was a brief pause.  “His stuff…” Scoots made a swooping arm movement, “…He just had to tell me how he had unloaded it all so I could go surfing with him this morning. Nice of him.”
“Yeah; nice. But, the asshole thing… Well, that’ll… that… frustration. Anyone….” There was another, longer pause, The Guy was helping Scoots reload Mark’s equipment. “I know assholes. I’m… in real life… a lawyer. No, really; sold my soul years ago. Before law school, even.”
“Sales whore,” Scoots said, pointing at himself, effecting a fake smile.
“Funny,” The Guy said, my Mom… she was from the south, and she always pronounces Lawyer like…’Lie-yer. Lie.'”
“Mark’s a contract-whore,” Scoots said. “Contractor.”
“We’re all surf sluts, though; huh?”

BOTH VEHICLES, lights on, heaters going, were idling, Dylan singing, “Please don’t let on that you knew me when…” Scoots and The Guy, at the edge, were looking at the the waves, defined now, only, by the lines of soup behind the curl. “The problem with being a local,” Scoots said, pausing to think of how to phrase it…
“The problem is,” The Guy, who had yet to reveal his name, said, “is you can’t go anywhere else and still be…”
“That’s true.”
“You know Devil’s Point?” Scoot gave an ‘of course’ nod. “Ever surf there?”
Another nod. “Paddled over a couple of times. Hardly ever breaks.”
“No; not today, for sure. Wrong direction, wrong wind… anyway; if you want to… So, you know those houses by the point?”
“Yeah.”
“Third McMansion from the end; over where the rights… I mean, when they actually do break…so, um, punchy.” There was another pause, The Guy seemed almost apologetic. “Yeah; the house; wife hates it… salt spray on the windows. But, hey, you’ll never see this car there,  and I definitely don’t drive it to work.” The Guy laughed. “Actually, I have to keep it in the garage so the neighbors don’t…” Another laugh. “Assholes.” Anyway; if it’s breaking…”
“Really?”
“Yeah. Park by the greenhouse. Only, one condition, Scoots…”
“Don’t bring fuckin’ Mark?”
Now they both laughed. “No, if you bring him. Oh, and, if you do, it can’t be until after you’ve told him I said he’s a whimp-ass coward. Oh, and incidentally; you cut him off at least twice.”
“Because we’re friends.”
Scoots stuck his hand out. The Guy had a cell phone in his. “Give me your number.”
“Phones don’t work here. No reception… that’s part of why I…”
“No. No service. Fine. Contacts list. Um. Scoots. Still… Just in case. I mean; accessory, accomplice…”

“SELFIE?” THE GUY asked half a second before the camera’s light flashed.
“More evidence?” Scoots asked, wondering if he should give his actual phone number, his actual name; wondering what he’d trade to get access to a fickle, but sometimes-perfect wave.”Remember, I’m still a lawyer; and, well, we’re not friends. Scoot…” The Guy walked toward his car, reached inside the driver’s side door. A spray hit the windshield as the wipers swept across a white-but-oily spot.

The Subaru pulled out ahead of the pickup, Scoots still pondering whether The Guy meant that, because they’re not friends, he shouldn’t take off in front of him when… yeah; Devil’s Point. Yeah. The cell phone chimed when the truck got closer to town.  The third of four voicemails began, “Surf slut Scott, it’s surf slut Jonah…”

Hydrosexual Stephen Davis Goes South: Part I

There is just too much tension and guilt on the fickle Strait of Juan de Fuca right now. TENSION caused by too many surfers showing up any time there’s a chance of actual waves actually breaking, GUILT from believing that talking about, and worse, writing about, and way worse, sending photos of anything bigger than a dribbler, sharing too much information with too many people.

SHARING; who’d have guessed it’d be a bad thing? We’re all taught to share from pre-school on… but Damn it, we don’t want to share. We’re surfers, ready to go it alone. That is, if we have to.

BUT, maybe we’re all POPULATION DENIERS. I’ve often said “Uphere (the Pacific Northwest) Now is like Downthere (Southern California) Then (the mid sixties, still post-Gidget, like it’s her fault).” And it still is, and it has been- a low surfer/spot ratio; call a few friends to have someone to go with; an opportunity, an adventure, sometimes finding a good and uncrowded spot to surf; and a chance to make new friends. But, it’s now more crowded, and likely to continue in that direction, but, with the coast being pretty harsh, and jobs mostly inland; the chances of… yeah, more crowds, it’s happening; and sorry, it’s not ALL my fault.

In an attempt to chill the fuck out,  I’ll never post a photo of a recognizable NW spot, or name even a well known spot, and, maybe you remember my heading photo, riding a seemingly-endless wave. GONE. Obviously too many kooks saw that shot, asked ‘where is that; I gots to go there,’ and, boom, 37 people in the water.

I did start this site to get my drawing out there, and to write about my former surfing experiences; never really thinking that I’d have such a vibrant current surfing life. And I’ve loved it, and do love it; but now the BLAME game is in full play, and I’m on more than one list. Gidget, people aren’t hip to Gidget; we now blame people who are just too damn chatty, too exuberant. Well, most of my surfing career has been on my own, surfing in crowds, none of the members of which could be classified as friends. GHETTO MENTALITY. I wasn’t loud in the water; I competed for the best waves. I’ve done it; and I can still do it.

It is fun surfing with friends. More fun, even; all bullshit aside; and there is that TRIBAL thing; most of us willing to admit we want to be part of that often-dysfunctional group. “Oh, you surf? Hmmmm.”

SO, I’ll be following my friend, Hydrosexual Stephen Davis, currently on a solo trip towards Mexico. I’ll be doing some drawings ala Griffin/Stoner (Who?), but right now, I’m posting a few shots he’s sending me. If it’s your local spot, or you think it’s a secret; I don’t care. It’s not like you and I are friends.

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Don’t let the lack of crowds fool you, though Stephen said he surfed a really good point break with seven or eight others out, and everyone “Was pretty nice. Sharing.” Whoa; there’s that word again.

Surf Side Trip South to Northern…

…California, and I only started it this way because I was avoiding saying ‘NorCal,’ or is it ‘NortCal,’ or ‘Callie De Norte’;’ the cousin to ‘SoCal’ and ‘Cali (sp? it’s not Callifornia);’ each of which sort of bugs me and smacks of attempts at coolness and/or familiarity; as in, “Whoa! You’re from Cali?”  “No, I was raised in Southern California, but I was actually born in Surf City, NorCar (pronounced ‘Nor Care’).” “NorCar?”

Yeah, that was me attempting to sound cool and/or familiar with a place I left at three years old. BUT, here’s this story. My friend, Hydrosexual (his rampant relationship with all things water, including the frozen and powdered varieties, is explained elsewhere) Stephen Davis, down and working in the coastal foothills of Northern California, took some time off to cruise down to Santa Cruz. He called to see if the waves he predicted for the area in which I surf actually showed up, and if I, part of the ever-increasing surf population in the area I will no longer reference (explained in a minute), actually caught myself a few.

They did, I did, but now, as he was crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, I was headed to a Ghost Conference in Port Gamble. No, first to Costco, then on to the conference to meet up with Trish, our ex-daughter-in-law, Karrie, our grandson, Nate (or N8, cooler spelling), and our daughter, Dru… and various ghost hunters, busters, believers, skeptics, groupies; the festivities under the direction of Pete Orbea, married to Mollie, lifelong friend of Dru’s.

SO, a shoutout to that event. BUT, and MEANWHILE…

santacruzdavisAnd, then, on the way back…fortpointdavisOH, wait, are these secret spots? Will showing these images increase the number of surfers and hodads and posers (same as hodad, but, if you didn’t know that, you, well, may actually be a poser, poseur if you’re a more-nuanced hodad) and power couples and enthusiasts and parking area maestros and lineup primadonnas?

DEFINITELY, and that’s why I will never again mention anything about waves, surf, or surfing in ____ ________, ____ _______,  and any other spot on the ______ __ ____ __ ____, or even ______; though I will continue to boast of the merits of Westport. Go there, go now.

NOW, it’s hard for me to believe that my site has done all (or even much of) the damage, brought 40 souls last Saturday to the lineup at any (unnamed) spot that surfers who have survived the high-percentage of skunkings, the driving, probably surfed barely-big-enough-to ride waves, endured endless hours of waiting through ‘almost’ conditions, and occasionally found a few peelers.

NO, I BLAME the folks who lucked-out, then told their friends, bragging, exaggerating the size and cleanness and uncrowdedness and length of ride and… AND, having lucked-out, these same surfers try to repeat the rare session; with a few friends.

My friend, Keith ______, is willing to go through my site, remove/redact any reference, quote or tag pertaining to ????CXCkkppplmnno (it’s a list); so, if you think there is any secret info or insight on finding waves on the _____, better just start here and keep reading. START NOW.

MEANWHILE, Archie Endo, still in Thailand, is improving, doing some Facebooking. Archie Endo; worth looking up. AND, HERE’S SOMETHING I’ll make into a whole post: It seems the welcoming ALOHA SPIRIT has been replaced by a sort of disgruntled, begrudging, half-hearted acceptance of increased numbers in chilly waters.  AGAIN, working on that.  OH, and I’ve decided the swells seem to peak a mathematically irritating number of times on weekends because more people are praying for that. Like the 40 surfers at ____ ______ last Saturday.

Not my fault. I was sliding a few at _____ _____. And Stephen was sneaking up on the main peak at some no-doubt well known Santa Cruz spot. He didn’t actually tell me which one. No, I understand. It’s okay.

Thrashed, Trashed, Clipped, Rocked and Rolled at (naming names) Seaside

If you roll up to the parking area at Seaside Cove and notice the wind isn’t howling, the sun is out, full force, the waves are… well, it’s a little hard to judge because no one is out, and you… stop. No one is out; take that as a hint. It isn’t a secret spot, and, a couple of days after Labor Day, there still should be some long weekenders hitting it; and it was just about time for after-workers, locals, soft top renters, someone.

Rather than heading out from the sand-bottom of the Cove, I was going to save myself the paddle out through a hundred yards or so of waves, wavelets, chop from previous winds, a northwest swell mixed and comboed with the chop, sidechop bouncing off the rocks… yeah, the rocks; I would pass the confusion, slip down the dry rocks to the slippery ones and ease in, past the confusion, straight out to the lineup.

Such as there is a lineup. I would pick off a few lefts, maybe, close to the rocks, some of those rights that peak, offer a drop, and an exit; staying away from the lefts that drop you off in the impact zone. Yeah, and maybe I’d head up toward the Point; I mean, like, this time there weren’t any Locals out to be irritated, and, from the still-dry rocks, it did look like there might be a few zingers out there.

NOW, let me explain the rocks. Boulders, really, each one seemingly planted erect, like an obelisk, few lying sideways, as one would think they should; rather like a field of boulders, not dropping off quickly into deeper water, but more rocks farther out; and, with one foot wedged between this monument and another, my leash wrapped around another, somewhere behind me, I discover I’m nowhere near a place where the waves aren’t hitting.

seasiderocksjustrocfksseaside

Fifteen minutes, or so, later, I had moved my van over across from the bathrooms/shower, changed to my shorter-but-stronger leash, one that probably wouldn’t rip loose from my ankle like the other one did, and was back out, through the wavelets and waves and cross-chop. Somewhere in the time I was regrouping, deciding whether to go back out or go back to my Dad’s house in Chinook, two other surfers had come out.

I caught a wave, nice peak, dropped in, didn’t make my decision on which way to go in time. Bloop. Regroup; paddle back out, just in time to be just inside of one of the two surfers to drop into a head high wall just in front of me. BLOOP! “Sorry, man.”

“No problem,” he said.  A few moments later he said, “I have to give you credit. I was watching, through the binocs; you took a thrashing; didn’t give up.” Self-identified as a 25 year local, Jason (this is after I explained I only surf Seaside when I’m visiting my Dad, and usually surf the way-more-in-control waves in the Strait) gave me a few tips on clearing the rocks, like, maybe, wait for a lull. “Lull, yeah. Thanks.” “You know,” he said, “all my friends have surfed in the Strait; I’ve never been.” “Well; maybe when you get, you know, older.”

Mostly I was grateful to get some kind of props for trying to recover from the worst thing on a real surfer’s worry list, looking awkward/gooney/kookish/out of control; way worse than wiping out, blowing a takeoff on the wave of the day (no, that’s worse, if only slightly). Adding witness to either of the above-mentioned terrors compounds the event.

So, I caught another left, with Jason inside to witness something less kook-like; dropped while driving, got into a great position on the wall, then got clipped, just barely, by the lip, and… BLOOP! Roll. Regroup. Blow more water out of my sinuses. A few more waves, a couple of closeouts, a right that hit deep water and vanished; and a long wave, made the drop, drove through a tube, hit the open face, slid into a turn, went for another… BLOOP!

Now I was caught inside, well into the miles of beachbreak between the Cove and the Columbia. It was enough. When I got back to my van, there were two people fooling around in the near-shore reforms, and, squinting toward the horizon, fields of rocks and Jason was nowhere to be seen.

ADDENDUM- When you have a tough session, all one wants to do is make up for it the next time. I was planning on going the next day, maybe somewhere else, but was actually in the area to paint my Dad’s addition; and I had to get back home. My friend, Hydrosexual Stephen Davis, and his son Emmett, came down during the night, checked out Seaside the next morning. Overhead, waves breaking on the horizon, northwest wind. “You aren’t missing anything,” Steve said on the phone. Later he and Emmett hiked down to one of the secluded coves, paddled out to some low tide closeouts. “Worth it, Steve?” “Yeah.” That’s when, in retrospect, one decides a couple of nearly-made tubes might be counted as a success. But, next time…

Swell of the Summer on the Last Coast

PART ONE- On Friday, seeing something, or sensing something, or just hoping for something, I found some fun waves and no one out; no one to fight for position against, no one to compare rides with, no one to, um, hang out with;  not that I mind; I was there to surf, surf rather than continuing to try, harder and harder, to catch up on high-season, mid-summer painting projects.

I had missed the best of the low tide rights, rights so rare on the Last Coast, the swell angle necessary to penetrate sliding sideways against the hooks and points and rivermouths and crannies of the Strait creating lefts where a straight-on swell wouldn’t; still, there were some sets hitting the indicators on the rights side, and rideable waves following the outline of the green-slimed rocks creating some punchy little rides. And no one out, maybe only one rig pulling through the turnout, briefly. It can’t be good, there’s only one old guy out. Move on.

Oh, there was Kyle, reading a book, on the beach slightly around the corner, shaded by the trees that mark a certain lineup.  I parked, putting off going back to work just a bit longer so I could find out where this guy was going. The coast? Neah Bay? La Push?  I had seen him from the water. He was sitting ashore of the lefts, an hour and a half after I arrived, ten minutes or so after the rights were high-tided-out, and the energy just not making the transfer to the next river rock point. “Kyle” he said, when I asked him. “You’re Erwin; right?” “Um? Uh; how do  you know that?”

IMG_0140 Another high-season job keeping me out of the water. You?

No, I’m not that notorious. I probably mean ‘infamous.’ But, Kyle explained, he’d been coming out from P.A. all week, went out once (too small, too much wind); but he had seen me here before, and had been there when my now-friend (friend being a broad term including pretty much any real surfer out of the water) Raja had, to general acclaim, taken my lost paddle, inserted it… yeah, maybe you know the story. It seems like everyone I run into was there for the paddle incident. “Well, Kyle; it’s supposed to get bigger; I’m surprised there aren’t more surfers cruising through.”

“Oh; they’ll be coming,” Kyle said. Now, I did, specifically, ask him if he knows Adam Wipeout; as everyone seems to. He said he didn’t. “Good luck, Kyle.”

Back in cell phone range, I spoke to Keith and Adam on the phone, just to gloat, a bit (they would, and have done the same) on my way back, passing the oncoming surfers Kyle had predicted. “Hey,” Keith said while I was getting a ‘topup’ on my oil at the Jiffy Lube, “it’s coming up. Maybe you should go back.”

“Tomorrow,” I said as an SUV with three boards and a luggage carrier passed by. To be continued (the tomorrow part)

 

Don’t Challenge the Locals, unless…

…I was just about to leave, anyway; after my third trip onto the rocks (boulders, really); but I figured I’d paddle a little farther up the point, just to see… what?

That was my mistake. It’s clear now; but it wasn’t at the moment the white-haired guy started yelling at me. Yes, he had been silent when I was surfing the next peak down, though he had given me the stink eye when I sort of approached the main peak, a glare in response to my nod (and a nod, unreturned… ooh, that does say something).

But this time, I had paddled past him, farther up the point, taken the ‘inside’ position. This was, at any break, and particularly at a notoriously localized Oregon break, criminal. And I was on an SUP. True, bad knees, a bad ankle, and way too much weight (confirmed by photos my sister Melissa took) tends to keep me from standing on any but the longest waves) and these barrels all ended up on those boulders.  Stay too long over the boils, or get caught inside, it’s, well, difficult; but (this guy, probably my age, was on a short board- and I never really saw him make a wave- irrelevant, I know, but…) I was on a big board, pushing to the head of the pack (three other surfers, pack-wise), the point of the spear. It was like I, the non-local, was making a statement. He had to say something.

“Why don’t you… those things… one of our guys had to be airlifted outahere…geez… why don’t you go over to…” he nodded (unfriendly kind of directional nod), toward the miles of mushy and/or closeout beachbreak to our north… “those things don’t belong…”

“Yes, they can be dangerous,” I said, and paddled north, catching one more barrelling rock-roller, careful to pull out the back over the outside boils.

I had some time to think about the little confrontation, that, obviously, the local won, on the long paddle back, (catching another couple of mushburgers in the kook/non-local/SUP-allowed area. “One of our guys.” This wasn’t me. Only a little ironically, I had a discussion earlier with a guy in the parking lot on how locals “get all butt-hurt” when someone they don’t know makes the trek or paddle over to this semi-sacred spot.

Butt-hurt.

Another surfer, over at the showers, said a sponsored shortboarder he knows had to walk past the fire on the beach, in someone’s yard, where the locals sometimes hang, got heckled; then ripped it up enough that he was ‘nearly embraced’ on his way back past the same fire. The next guy in line for the shower (and I gave way) actually was the guy who was hit by some SUP A-hole’s board, suffered a concussion, and had to be airlifted out. Was that a lot ironic, or merely a lot coincidental?

He was nice, 68 years old, thin, formerly of the Sunset Cliffs area of Ocean Beach, San Diego. “Luscombs; that’s where I cut my teeth.” “Yeah, I’ve surfed it; mostly when I lived in PB.” He knows the guy who asked me to leave. “Yeah, well; give him my best,” I said.

I immediately went back to thinking about the confrontation. “I’ve never run over anyone,” I had said to the SUP victim, not forgetting (but not mentioning) that I had once run into Archie’s board. And I told him about my worst-ever, non-self-inflicted injury, a full-body hit by a guy on a regular longboard. Still, he had to mention how SUP’ers can catch more waves, overwhelm a lineup. No, that hadn’t been me. Not that day, anyway. I did wait my turn; I did sit ‘down-wave’ from the main peak.

Melissa told me that no one owns the ocean, and I shouldn’t help carry someone else’s garbage; and, when I didn’t, she said “just get over it.” I’ve had more time to think about it. Maybe a couple of those locals might show up to a beach I frequent some time. Thinking, still thinking. I’m back home on Surf Route 101 now, another spot on my list of places surfed (next to Luscombs, maybe); but I am going down to do some work on my Dad’s house soon.

Thinking, just thinking. Oh, and now I’m wondering if the victim, who hadn’t been out at the sacred spot on this day (though he said he reached his quota- 15) was hit over in the main break. I mean, wouldn’t that kind of suggest it wasn’t the board, it was the paddle-past?