With Apologies For Burning the *(Now) Unnamed Longboard Local,

…the LONGBOARDING LOCAL, who, after a tough week (evidently), paddled out at a spot, a fickle point break, where he considers himself a local, with a fairly obvious and focused attitude that he was there to surf.  I saw him paddle past me, mustache waxed, ready to rip, crowd be damned (okay, this is a judgement call by me, a guy whose motto is, ‘I’m here to surf.’)

DEFINITION- A Sociopath is someone who knows something he or she does is wrong, yet continues to do it. I’ve often thought all good surfers are sociopaths. This probably isn’t totally true, but what it takes to be good at anything is a certain competitive drive. To be good at surfing, an, admittedly, self-centered sport, increasingly, with more crowded conditions, takes a certain amount of aggressiveness. If I can stop just sort of confessing to being a sociopath, I will admit to being, at least in the water, aggressive.

John Peck, a legendary surfer, somewhat older than Erwin Dence, doing (and obviously enjoying) a bit of kneeboarding. Photo by Nathan Oldfields. Find it, if nowhere else, at mollusksurfshopscom

DISCLAIMER (Or maybe it’s a ‘claimer’) ONE- a) If you can’t walk to a spot in less than, say, forty-five minutes from your home, you’re not a local. b) If you pay to park, you’re not a local.  c) Mitt Romney is a local at Windansea, Bob Dylan at Malibu. Or would be if they surfed.  d) The guy who lives in his van is probably More Local than you.                 SO, we go to ever-expanding circles of Local-ness; the above-mentioned Longboarder Local being Local-er than I am, with me being Local-er than, well, lots of people.  AND I have been a TRUE LOCAL several times; Pacific Beach, Encinitas; AND, some credit must be given for working in close proximity to surf. ADD Oceanside Pier to my local history; I worked two blocks and some railroad tracks away for over two years. OHHH, and add Lower Trestles; I worked up the hill, with a view of the place, and drove out on the beach every working day for ten months (an hour and a half lunchbreak, a third of it legal)  in 1975.

SETTING THE SCENE- I was actually, after getting skunked (or unwilling to wait for a possible properly-aligned swell/tide/wind/crowd combination), the first one in the water on this particular afternoon. And it was working. So, yeah, hurry, gorge it up.  BUT, too soon, others showed up. First it was two guys, friendly nods followed by the guy on the bigger board totally taking off in front of me. I didn’t freak out. I did, somewhat later, return the favor. SO, Even. THEN, more surfers showed up. ONE goofy-footer was totally ripping; down the line, under the lip, a few controlled freefalls. Everyone else was surfing. I, 65 year old guy with pretty screwed-up knees, was (and maybe this seems counter-intuitive) kneeboarding, taking off farther up the line, driving across. I was totally enjoying it. A longtime local, and the best kneeboarder on the Strait of Juan de Fuca who wears fins, someone who I first surfed this spot with (with as in, he was also out) in 1979, was catching some waves, always in the barrel. Hey, he was kneeboarding.

DISCLAIMER TWO- RELATIVE AGE OR LONGEVITY in the sport aren’t valid arguments for any kind of preferential treatment. They never have been.  Having said that…                                                                                                                       DISCLAIMER THREE- THE DISPARITY in surfing equipment is an issue that contributes to tension in the surf zone. I have felt the frustration when I’m on a longboard and three A-holes on SUPs show up, their training in lakes and at Yoga Camp obvious.      ADDENDUM to the disclaimer- I started on longboards in 1965, made the switch to shortboards; never rode another longboard until 1989, never rode an SUP until I was 60.

SO, on the first wave I saw ridden by Longboarding Local, he was driving, hit a section, lost his board. Leashless, Longboard Local’s loose board came perilously close to hitting (she would later say ‘decapitating’) a woman who would, a little later, catch one of the waves of the day. Longboarding Local seemed angry that he had to rock dance his way in.  OKAY, so it’s sort of badass to not wear a leash, but, in crowded conditions, PERHAPS sort of irresponsible.

NOW, I had actually gotten out of the water after two and a half hours or so, AND the surf had dropped, the crowd increased. BUT, my friend, who I’ve advised to deny any friendship, after surfing elsewhere, had moved to this spot, and claimed more sets were coming.  I went back out.  HE WAS RIGHT; after what was probably a 45 minute lull, a set approached, and I, inside, was paddling out. As were others. As was Longboarding Local.  The woman Longboarding Local’s loose board had nearly decapitated took the first one. Someone else, possibly her boyfriend, was on the second. I turned for the third. Longboarding Local was, I swear (judge or judges), still paddling out when I turned and committed. BUT, deeper than I was, he turned and took off.  I COULD HEAR YELLING (despite wearing earplugs and my right ear pretty much plugged, again, from the narrowing of the ear canals, that caused by bone growth, that exacerbated by surfing in cold water, that condition first diagnosed when I was 20) behind me, I could feel Longboarding Local’s presence. I pulled out as quickly as I could. These weren’t two person (or PARTY) waves. MAYBE Mr. Local would have made the wave. I’m certain he thought so. I caught the next one (yeah, guess there was another), cruised out of the possible-confrontation zone.

PADDLING back up the point, I couldn’t hear anything, but could see big arm gestures; L.L. making his case to my (although he doesn’t, as I’ve said, have to claim it) friend. WHEN I got even with my friend ______, he wasn’t entirely sympathetic to my explanation.

PRIORITY RULES (historically)- There was no ‘taking turns’ back when I, still thirteen years old, was learning to surf. A wave belonged to the surfer farthest out, closest to the peak. That was it. This was enforced through  peer pressure and intimidation, real or imagined. IF YOU wanted to challenge the big dog, you moved closer to the peak, farther out. IF YOU waited for your turn, you got one, occasionally. IF YOU wanted all the waves to yourself, you pretty much weren’t out on a great day at a great spot.  A LOT of surfing at a good spot (picture Swamis, late 1960s) consisted mostly of moving around, sharking the  inside, waiting for a wave everyone missed of someone fell on. SCRAPPING. IT IS a classic situation where someone sits too far over, can’t make the first section. OR, someone goes for a wave, you don’t, and that person does not catch the wave. AGAIN, differences in equipment have made this more of an issue than in the past; THOUGH, not actually catching or blowing a wave that then goes unridden, particularly if done several times, will not make anyone popular.

PRIORITY RULES (current)- No matter how many times I’ve had this explained to me, I still don’t get it. If I get a set wave and you don’t; and you’re waiting on the shoulder; I shouldn’t paddle out past you, looking for the next set wave? I should allow you to opportunity to go for it, unchallenged? It’s your turn. MAYBE these new rules are the work of surfers who… okay, I’m not going on about ‘participation’ awards and such things… these rules are, at least partially, the result of increasingly crowded conditions. AND they’re really more a WISH LIST than something adhered to.

OKAY, I have tried going by the new priority etiquette. Really. I know how painful it is to not go for the one wave in a one wave set. I had a brief version of this discussion with _____, acknowledging I’d done L.L. wrong. “Well, you could apologize.” “I could.” I paddled up the point, got even with Local Longboarder, apologized. “I come here to get away from this shit,” he said, his arm gestures a bit refrained in comparison to earlier. “We all do,” I said. Not sure if L.L. heard me as I paddled away, but I did say I was leaving,  he could have all my waves. I heard he settled down after I left. Great. Sorry, Longboarder Local. I owe you one.

ONE.

*I’ve actually had a bit of discussion about this incident; the kind of thing that happens, one would guess, thousands of times a day around the world. But, I chose to write about it. If part of my point is that Longboarding Local overreacted, it’s easy to say I have also. “Okay.” AND, some have told me my apology doesn’t seem truly sincere; AND, in fact, almost seems like I’m burning the guy again. “What?” Anyway, I have decided to delete his name. If you just loved the pre-redacted version so much you printed up a copy, please burn that. Really. I’m sincere, here. Truly.

 

 

 

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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.

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…”

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.

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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…

Real Surfing at Semi-Secret…

what? Oh, yeah; can’t talk about it. Ever. With anyone. Maybe if I redact anything that reveals anything about when or where waves might (rarely) break on the Strait of Juan de [redacted].

So, after confirming, pre-dawn, that it wasn’t really all time at XXXXH XXXXX, I met up with XXXXX XXXXXXX at Fat XXXXXX’X. We loaded up his stuff, headed XXXX on Surf Route XXX. Originally, we were going to meet up with XXXX XXXXXXX  enroute, but he had changed his mind, opting for a later start.

Meanwhile,  XXXXX had told (texted, most likely) XXXXX that, despite the forecast and the readings on the appropriate XXXXs, and, quite possibly because of the expected heavy XXXTOR XSX winds, and, more likely, because of a need to work, he wouldn’t be venturing out for this, as always, small SXXX window.

Now, it must be added that I had borrowed a shorter, and, more importantly, lighter XXP  from XXXX XXXXXXX, specifically because it would be easier to pack into and lug out of one of several, not-secret, but not-to-be-advertised spots, or, really, even spoken of; particularly to anyone who has to drive farther than you do to get there.

This bit of localism/tribalism/selectivism goes along with the widespread but more-fantasy-than-fact notion that there are still secret spots that might provide really great waves when the better-known spots are not breaking or are exhibiting only the standard Strait weak-ass, mostly-missed-by-the-swell conditions we all have built-in excuses for. Or we surf what’s there and embellish when we talk about it.

And, packing-in on some muddy goat trail also feeds the Northwest Surfer image; if you make the effort, you will surely be rewarded with clean, empty barrels.

If only. Because I am slow in donning my wetsuit, XXXXX got into the lineup well ahead of me. Fine. Normal. When I eased into the icy (bone-chilling, deadly, really) water, discover the BXXXX will actually float me, miss a couple of waves, catch one or two, then paddle out to where another surfer is waiting, and give a friendly greeting, I’m rewarded with no answer and a look you might recognize. Imagine Jack Nicholson in “The Shining.”

What? When I ask XXXXX , about the snub/shunning, he says, “Your reputation has preceded you.” “Oh.” Allright; I’m there to surf. So I do, though I tried to stay clear of Mr. Pleasant (I’d redact, but I don’t know his real name). But, as happens, because I was going for one particular wave, I had to do a sort of cautionary “Yo” so that Mr. Pleasant wouldn’t accidentally take off in front of a particular “Old guy who puts stuff on the internet.” I mean, it might be dangerous (not on purpose, just, like, because I’m old and all).

Yeah, and I thought it might have been my rep for shoulder-hopping and wave-hogging. No; and, evidently, Mr. Pleasant’s concise critique of my website is that it’s “gay.” I don’t think he means in a homosexual way; maybe just silly and/or juvenile. NOTE: I told the story to my daughter, XXX. She translated ‘gay’ as ‘lame.’

Juvenile. I actually didn’t hear about the ‘gay’ part until XXXXX and I, after I struggled to get across a hundred yards of big, slippery river rocks and what seemed like a mile longer (and many degrees steeper) trail (and I did carry my borrowed board the whole distance); and after we, because XXXXX had a little more time than originally thought, checked out XXXX XXXXXS, the parking area filled with surf rigs and the water empty; almost back to Surf Route  XXX, we passed XXXX XXXXXXX and XXXXX on State Route XXX. They apparently had already given up on several other spots.

No, I did not reveal where XXXXX and I had surfed; but it may have been apparent to those who had been hanging out for hours, that I had surfed somewhere with waves (and it’s actually not that long a list of alternate spots). I was more than happy to have the mixed crew in the parking area believe it was CXXXXXXX, also known as SXXX XXXXX. I heard the place was getting swell, but know, from experience, it was probably CXXXXD XXT.

It’s interesting that XXXXX was all right with telling me I’m not universally popular (and, yeah, I took off in front of one guy, didn’t see him, gave him plenty of room, kicked-out, apologized), and there’s no way I could be convicted of wave-hogging), and XXXXX did say, “At least this means surfers are going to your site,” but he held back, possibly to spare some of my self image, on revealing the ‘gay’ comment.  And there I was so proud I hadn’t kooked it up, but had, indeed, gotten several rides I was pretty pleased with.

Incidently, XXXXX ripped. surfing way better than Mr. Pleasant. Sorry Mr. Pleasant. It’s true. Still, the ‘gay website’ comment… it’s like saying one is not smooth, lacks style, isn’t cool. Or is it?

I don’t know. To be called-out, or shunned, or ridiculed; that does put a damper on things. Truthfully, I’m paying heavily, physically, today for the hiking yesterday. Though it was worth it, and another spot has been added to my (pretty short, actually) mental list of places I’ve surfed in the northwest, the negativity does sort of wear on me.

Or, maybe, what I really want to do is hit a couple of other legendary, not-actually secret spots I’ve heard of; even if only once each, spots that are always reported as “All time, classic, epic, etc. etc. etc”)  I’m thinking XXX WXXXX, aka XXX WXXX, XXX XXXP, XXXXXXX XXXXR, XXXO XXXXXX, XXXX XXXXT, and, of course, XXXX B.

I’ll be the old guy who puts stuff on the internet. Watch out!Image (35)

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.

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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.

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Illustration for “You’re a writer, too… Right?”

It’s fiction. I wrote the piece first. I added the illustrations to the short story (next post down), and because I just can’t not edit, change, clarify, hopefully improve whatever I write (or draw, but can’t once the drawings have been scanned), I made a few changes.

Image (28)Partway through the drawing I decided to add the coffee. I totally lost control after that.

 

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You’re a Writer too; Right?

 

“Not professionally, not really. Not like you.”
“No,” he said, “what I am is under-fucking-employed.”
It was the wrong day; the swell at the wrong angle, size, and period; the wind and tide not optimal, the forecast slightly north of dismal; and it was rain just-warmer than snow. And it was dark. But, we both were available. We could go. We were going. He threw off the straps, loaded his (probably too short) short board on top of my (probably too big) board, threw the wet straps back at me. That I flinched amused him. I smiled as if I was also amused. And we were off.
“What I need,” he said, along the stretch that seems the most like freeway, more vehicles coming down the onramps, headed for work, “is a sponsor. All the great artists had…” His words faded off as he had to help me pour some coffee from my work thermos into my cup. “I envy those assholes who can just… write. Like it’s easy. Oh, they… I’ve seen these types; going to workshops, hanging out; so, so…But…” He removed the plastic lid and poured some coffee into his cup from some espresso stand he hit last night, “Maybe all real artists were, are, just as desperate as… how’s your work going?”
Maybe I mumbled. Maybe it mattered. Probably not. My work isn’t creative; at least he doesn’t think so. He interrupted whatever it was I tried to say.
“My work;” he said, tipping his coffee toward me like a toast, “it’s like… I mean I don’t have children… you do; it’s like my babies. I send something off and I worry, ‘is it allright? Did I say too much? Too descriptive? Not enough… enough…’ You get it, right?”
“Sure.” Sure.
“And it all… whether it goes somewhere, dies, all depends on some intern who probably doesn’t know shit, or give a shit, or even know something decent from some sort of, um, pedestrian, trite, tripe. Crap.” I just nodded. “You send any of your stuff off?”
“Not in a while. I send some to you.”
“Well. You know…” he exhaled as if he was already exasperated.”If you don’t… geez; is it all so precious?”
No. Not precious. “I’d say ‘high end mediocre.’ High end.”
“Well; dumb it down, dork. Readers want simple.”
“Yeah; but simple’s so, so hard.”
“Tell me about it. No, don’t; might be too complex and, you know, internal and shit.”

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We disagreed on which route would get us through the traffic lights and school zones. I was driving. We went by my route, got stuck behind a bus for a block before I made a cut to a back road.
“It was breaking yesterday,” I said as we turned onto the coast road.
“Who said so?”
“I heard.”
“It’s just, some people exaggerate. If I trust their word… different story.”

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Though we couldn’t see the break from the muddy-rutted logging road, we had already seen there were signs of swell. “Might as well make the hike with the board,” he said as I threw the straps toward him. “Of course, easier to walk with my appropriately-sized board than…” He just pointed. I just smiled, tried to make my board seem lighter than it is, grabbed my backpack, locked the doors. We could hear the rhythm of distant waves while still walking on fairly level ground, a narrow path between trees, ferns and bushes, everything wet, and no fresh tracks.
“You know that story you emailed me?” It had been a while since I’d sent him anything. He was way too slow to reply; and never with anything close to praise. He paused as we negotiated a downed tree in the path, “The one about the, you know… all surfing stories are pretty much alike… huh?” He followed me down the bank, my board sliding as much as being carried. “I don’t want to get hit when you lose your big-ass board. In the water, either.”
I looked around, up. “Which story?”
“I’ll tell you later. Hey, is that a… whooo… wave?”
I won’t bore you with the session report. You might not trust my word. We didn’t talk about writing on the way home; nothing about precious words, nothing about other people deciding whether your words have value, nothing about how all surfing stories are, pretty much, alike.

Oregon Secret Spot Secretly (at least covertly- sort of) Photographed

UPDATE: Here’s a shot of my nephew, Fergus Lynch, at Waikiki Beach in Ilwaco, close to my father’s house in Chinook, Washington. Wait, is this a surf spot? Ooops.

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It isn’t really a secret spot, but it is really quite well protected. While I was driving around looking for a place to park where I wouldn’t have to hike past a beachfire attended by what, from a distance, I would have to think were surfers, parked in someone’s back yard; surfers who would, no doubt, be unhappy to see yet another non-local drawn to the unmistakable (to another surfer) long distance view of glassy, heavy, twirling barrels, my nephew, Fergus, did take the hike. Not a surfer (other than the times we hit Seaside Cove while visiting my Dad- Not this trip, however, on Christmas Day), Fergus got some great shots. This is, in my opinion, the best of them.

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When it was evident that he was taking photos, one of the surfers came in, walked up to Fergus, said, “You better hide that camera.” With his next breath, he asked, somewhat excitedly and unexpectedly, “Did you get my last ride?” Fergus gave him a digital review of his photos. He had just caught the last of the surfer’s last ride, an attempted kickout close to the rocks. Perhaps Fergus, not looking like a threat, probably more like a hipster (and this is the last time I will ever use the word- hipster, that is, not tourist) tourist, and maybe more so when his parents caught up to him, got away with taking a few shots on what had to be a rare, but definitely epic (by any set of standards) day. What’s amazing to me is how great his eye is. But then, his mother is an artist. Great work, Fergus.

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I actually had to bug my sister, Melissa, to bug her son to get the photos to me. Then, because he sent it in one format… not a big part of the story; I have the photos now, and next time I’m down visiting my father, I might take that hike.

UPDATE: Just received photos from Melissa. The last one is of furtive photographer Fergus and his father, Jerome, in disguise. No, I won’t be hiking-in anytime soon.

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Susceptible

“‘The music,’ he said, he always said, always said, ‘is in the words. Pause. The words, one, the words, one, two, the words. Pause. The music, one, is in, one two, the, one, two, three, words.’ He was right.”
“No. No. I’ll, uh, admit… he had the genius thing you and I didn’t… poor us; had to earn shit; but he was always… I’ll pause here, not to sound, um, musical or anything, always… susceptible. It’s why he got screwed up originally, why he became a Jesus Freak, it’s why he got back into drugs again. Enlightened. Geez. Like, because he could drop too much acid and still seem, uh, lucid, lucid to his drugged-out and, on drugs or not, dumb-ass friends. Geez. Assholes. White trash… He thought; on the drugs thing… God, man; I don’t know what he fuckin’ thought. He thought it was easy. He thought it was all good fun. He thought wrong.”
“You’re right. Susceptible. I always thought; always believed, maybe, he… he was… was he, maybe, ni-eve? Or maybe we were because we believed in the whole ‘work hard and you’ll succeed’ bullshit.”
“Oh. Oh; yeah; yes. Definitely. Us not him. Sure. Sure, but, man; we’re still alive, still struggling. Moreover… is ‘moreover’ the right word here?
“Probably. Moreover?”
“Moreover, what he was was, mostly, he was…susceptible.”
“Susceptible? (there’s a long pause here, during which my youngest brother and I look at each other, look at several surfboards leaned up against a wall in my garage) Yeah, sure. Susceptible.”
SUSCEPTIBLE
My brother, our brother; no, he wasn’t a musician, wasn’t a poet’, maybe; probably wasn’t more than a guy who wanted to form some kind of life that included surfing whenever it was good. I don’t have to argue with our other brother about this; he’s right. Sidney took the easy way out. Well, what he thought was easy. It worked for him; for a while. I still have the board Sid gave me; classic Surfboards Hawaii pintail; no longer the clean white with the fine pin stripe at the overlap, the dings from a couple of sessions at that reef break that really wasn’t a surf spot (but was never crowded) still not patched. Still, since I have this outlet, such as it is, before I go over the story (and it’s a story I’ve told, I’ve written, I’ve re-written); let me publish something my brother did write. Maybe it is poetry. Maybe it’s just words and pauses, that, if read out loud, as poetry should be read; and, say, try this- slur over the words, because, and my brother also believed this, even the actual words aren’t as important as the music- maybe it is music.
CAR CHASE
A car door will not stop a bullet;
A door and a femur will,
There is pain; the numbness, alleged, promised, that is a lie;
Another lie.
With every car that passes I feel, or hear;
No longer able to discern a difference;
The sound of a wave;
That first sound.
Oh, that’s it, that’s right;
The same bullet that only pierced the front windshield,
My car charging the roadblock, my head down,
Hoping the motor might stop a bullet or two;
That bullet (or those bullets) took out the back window;
Collapsed: diamond chunks not blown out crumbled.
And now, headed for the sea; whoosh;
I hear the sea, whoosh; I hear the sea.
Closer.
*Syd

That was fiction. He’d left the back hatch open on his van, imagined the rest. He knew he was running. Or, more correctly, he felt like he’d been running, though he was really just hiding a darker reality behind his visible life with whatever screen** and story*** and as much sheen he could afford. For a while, it was all pretty damn shiny; surf trips, friends with names we might read in a magazine or hear on TV, vehicles that were so impractical, surfboards one should hang on a wall ridden and given as gifts. Secret gifts too good to give back. Or up.
*Changed, by Sid, from Sid, short for Sidney. Yeah; of course. **I’m thinking the facade of a house just west of 101. ***Fictions about background, actual income sources, actual investments, actual relatives; just about everything.
Oh, and I must now say this is fiction. Just a story. Don’t go looking for real life equivalents, for ‘based-on’s, though, yes, the ‘whoosh’ from Sidney’s piece (he only thought he was being chased, only imagined being shot); I did use that in a piece already posted, on the sounds of a rainy Seattle. I stole it; sure; but really, I remembered it, and I believed it to be true. Truth.

SUSCEPTIBLE-     Part One- The Devil and the Fear of Darkness
I couldn’t save Sidney. Roger couldn’t save him. By the time Roger called me about the desert airplane drop and the intercept of the small plane, and the attempted bust and the shootout and the escape, Sidney not among the bodies at the… he called it a ‘showdown,’ two guys in a four wheel drive at the junction on miles of dirt roads and the only highway back, two bodies and bags of recovered drugs when the showdown was over; when he realized the escaped member of the party, the guy the other guys tried to kill when they thought he had ratted them out; when he just knew that guy had to be Sidney, possibly wounded, but not at the scene…
“Hi, Laurie; Roger. How’s everything? You barbequing?”
“No. I know you think that’s what we suburbanites…”
“Is my brother around?”
“What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. Nothing.”
But it was something.
“Don’t fuck with me, Roger. What is it?” The pause here is probably twenty seconds. That’s a long telephone pause. Still pausing, waiting. “It’s Sidney. Sidney, isn’t it?”
“Yeah. So… yeah. Is Mikey around or not? I don’t have time to…”
“MIKEY!”

Years earlier, Sidney turned to Jesus when he decided his life had sunk low enough; about the time, he later told me, when he gave up sniffing glue, not so much because he could hear (or feel) his own brain cells popping, but because his partner-in-sniffing, both sharing the tube and the paper bags, had popped enough that Sidney could no longer understand him. “He was gone.” I should say ‘turned back to Jesus,’ since we all had enough of a religious upbringing to share the beJesus out of us, to convince us that we were probably, most likely, doomed. Because I like to wrap things up in some terse phrase, I began to claim that “we learned guilt and hypocrisy at an early age.” Because I was the oldest, I had to hide or deny (hypocrisy) my intense fear of the dark; because Sidney possibly learned more of the verses of the Bible, or paid more attention, he developed a fear of the actual Devil. Because Roger was much younger, and because our father died while he was younger, and because our mother met up with several (two, really) future step-fathers who couldn’t care less about religion (I was old enough they had little influence on me or my fears), Roger developed only a fear of failure. Intense, actually.
It was cool, in those days, to announce your love of the risen savior, the redeemer, the Lord; but the religion was mixed in with so many other notions that…I shouldn’t discuss religion, really; I had become free (by circumstance more than will) of the trappings and the niceties and the hypocrisy. The Jesus Freaks offered a simple message; as Jesus had; it just became more complicated when groups were formed, organization was needed.
Somewhere in this complexity, Sidney moved up, and, when other simple believers lost their enthusiasm and fell off, he moved on to other groups; cynics, paranoids, studious zealots who could find scripture to back up their own fears. And Sidney could study deeper, explain the subtleties in a seemingly-clear way. Groups became smaller; Sidney moved higher. And funds were needed. Money. The Devil Incarnate; in various incarnations; but real.
Now, it might be easy for you to compare what I just wrote about my brother did in impressing other druggies by merely being able to somewhat communicate. Fine, but, I, the brother with the fear of the dark, still think him a genius; and still feel the loose-but-real restraints of the morals I was taught, the things I believed; goodness and evil and redemption; I held to my fear of the dark; almost savored it. And, after all, my father told both of us how, back in the war, he had seen The Devil. In the Dark.