Surf Session Highlights, Full Mooned, Updated Illustrations from the Last Century

In no particular order, I thought I’d give some highlights from some recent surf sessions. Bear in mind I have a certain obligation, not merely imagined, to never ever mention anything that comes close to confirming there are ever good waves on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

This isn’t difficult. The predominant swell condition is flat. This is undeniable. When waves do show up, the winds that blow into or out of the rather narrow passageway can, east or west, seriously scallop the faces. Rapid tidal shifts and the very angle of wave-to-coast can add to rip/drag conditions; and, since we all check out the same forecasts, and because semi-optimal conditions are sort of rare (rare-ish), and each of us has our own formula of size/angle/tide/period/wind, even the slight chance of waves over a foot high brings, yes, crowds; frustrated, desperate surfers of all ages and abilities ready to head out into…

…waves surfers on most coasts would pass on, or wait out, hoping for something a bit cleaner, bigger, better.  There have been major skunkings; lines of Westfalias, camper-laden trucks, SUVs with tiny boards stuffed inside, RVs, work rigs, Mad Max vehicles with stacks of various-sized equipment; families, church groups, surfers on dates, power couples, buddy-groups of four or five; beginners and rippers, lone wolf dudes in guaranteed cool surf wear; all cooking up breakfast on little burners, or chatting with someone they know from the Udub, or looking for a (better) place to park; all asking about other spots, all looking out at the water; too many people bobbing around and too few waves. Or none. Or sub-epic.

There is no guaranteed formula. Really. If there was… shit, it’d be worse.

STILL, stories persist of persistent surfers waiting, waiting, and scoring; OR, better, getting somewhere just before it goes off. WHAT? Where? When?

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HEART ATTACK: If I suffer one, it’ll be when I do see what passes for great surf in these parts. I have, in the fairly recent past, in my haste to partake, left my shirts (we layer ’round here) on the hood of my car (and/or a window or door open) in a downpour (forcing me to shop on the way home wearing a pervy barn coat), yelled out exclamations that would make an Australian blush (sorry kids, sorry Mrs. Nolan, sorry church groups) and, partially because I am notoriously slow getting into my wetsuit (doubles as stretching/warmup), urinated way before I reached the water.

And, even when I tell myself (and others in the water) that I’m going to “be casual,” I rarely am.

BAD ASSES AND SURF ASSESSMENT: We all have stories of past glories. I quit telling some of mine because, yeah, if I surfed (un or less crowded) Swamis in the 60s, Trestles (parking at Lowers) in the 70s, big days at Windansea and Sunset Cliffs, shouldn’t I surf, um, uh, better?

Doesn’t seem to matter. It might just be, in each of our minds, with one or more asterisks next to our mental wikipedia page,  we rip. This is fine. That is, I won’t call you out if you don’t call me out.

Recently, trying to time my arrival after the overnight-and-hanging west wind died down, I got to a not-secret spot with the tide way too low, waves at the indicators, the wind still howling, and twelve surfers in the lineup. Picture a line of black marker buoys, like those for crab pots, left to right. Because I know some of the folks hanging out or waiting around, I took my time, chatted it up. By the time I paddled out there were nine surfers, then seven. When I moved over from the rights, I was the only one out.  I found a few good ones in the mix, did a lot of paddling, got out of the water. So, no one was surfing.

There was a group of about five surfers hanging out kind of close to my car as I limped up the beach. “Everyone’s a badass on the beach,” I said. “How come you badasses aren’t out there?” “Good on you,” one of them said, “you got some waves.” “Uh huh.” “We were waiting for one more badass.”

NOTE: This didn’t actually translate into them wanting to hang with me, artifact from a century these dudes barely remember.

I took a break, talked to some other surfers I know, met Jeff’s son. And, though there were many coolly-decked-out surfers on the beach, no one was out. Because, partially, I had to pee and didn’t want to take off my wetsuit (okay, mostly because I couldn’t get my wetsuit off without peeing) and I wanted a few more waves, I went back out. I surfed alone for about twenty minutes. The wind had calmed down. It was better.

Then Jeff came out, and his son. Then, suddenly, it seemed, there were, again, twelve (different) surfers in the lineup. Then the wind came back up. One more ride to the fence. And another last ride. Limp up the beach. I had a little discussion with Darrin and Melissa on how good it got the last time I saw him at this spot, AFTER I left; about the time Adam Wipeout and Chimacum Cam (as opposed to Timacum Chimacum) showed up.   I hit the road for Costco and home. I passed at least four surf rigs on the way; more surfers hoping to be there when it got good. The wind, as far as I know, kept blowing as the swell dropped.

STILL, I don’t know what happened the next day. Might’ve been epic. Someone will have a story. UPDATE- Yeah, better, allegedly.

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TUGBOAT BILL: I’ve run into him often through the years. He introduces me to others as someone who is “Absolutely ruthless in the water.” “No, no,” I insist, checking out the stranger. Most recently he had Mr. Smythe (sp?) with him, and asked if I knew what surfer would be pulling onto 104 from Center Road in a gray pickup. I didn’t know. It turns out the very pickup was in the parking area. “Let’s go see who the hell he is,” I said. It turns out he’s a fisherman, formerly from Maine (as I remember) wondered how he could keep from getting skunked coming to the Strait. “Can’t help you, kid,” Bill said. “Do you check the buoys?” “Buoys?” “Hmm. Can’t help you, kid.” All I said is, “Buoys.”

CONCRETE PETE: Another old guy, though not as old as me. On the day from the previous story, after the three surfers who dawn-patrolled got out of the water in, pretty-much, defeat (including Bruce, the ‘Mayor of Hobuck’, according to Adam Wipeout, some guy White Reggie identified as the owner of several pot shops in P.A., and some guy Reggie said was known to be confrontational in the water) I ended up (because I hate getting skunked) surfing alone on some one footers.

Thinking this was it, and because it didn’t seem to be raining, I got out, got dressed, was ready to go to work. Then the waves got a bit bigger. I put on my other wetsuit (Yes, I do own two- so worth it), went back out. Again, people who were waiting (including Tugboat Bill and Mr. Smythe and the fisherman) also went into the water. Double session.

When I was getting out, I saw a truck backed up to the berm, some guy, struggling to get into his wetsuit, yelling at me. By name. Unable to determine who it was in the glare, I decided I should approach. It was Concrete Pete, and, perhaps thinking it was 1964 and he was Miki Dora, he shot me a B.A. All in good fun. “And that’s my best side,” he said as I turned away. NOTE: Bare ass; variously described as mooning. Full mooning.

“Did you see anything you didn’t want to see?” Trish asked when I told her the story. “I didn’t want to see any of it.”

TOM BURNS: Tom is very close to my age, a lifelong surfer, and he’s on my short list of people to call to discuss the latest session and/or skunking. The last time I called he was on I-5, en route to Dana Point, hoping to score some pre-dawn sessions down that way. If you think I’m a name dropper, you should talk to Tom.  if you think I have stories… again, Tom. If you do, he’ll probably remember your name.

THIS is way too long. I want to write about how someone accused me of being a ‘surf whore.’ No, I’m not sure what it means, either. I do admit to being a ‘paint-whore,’ and, if this means I’ve somehow sold out, no, sorry; haven’t had any real offers. If it means I’m selling out local spots; no; not really. Oh, except Westport. Go there. Go there now.

I ALSO want to write about surf thieves. Someone broke into Stephen Davis’s storage unit, stole his tools, his kite surfing equipment. AND, evidently, someone had a board stolen while (from what I’ve heard) parked on one of those side roads leading to a remote surf spot. LATER on that subject, but, if there is any Surfer’s Code, it definitely doesn’t include stealing. The occasional mooning? Up for debate.

I’m adding to some of the drawings from the 1980s I recently found in my attic. More coming. Yeah, kind of like waves.

 

 

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Blame Laird Hamilton if you must, but…

…Chimacum Tim just got a seven hundred dollar (a bit more, plus the board) space age whatchamacallit, and can’t wait to Foil the Strait.

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“Um,” I asked, “how do you, like, catch something… I mean, it, it just kind of seems like…”

“Well,” he answered, “in the videos…”

I sent this photo to several of my friends, Keith “no, I’m not calling you with wave reports” Darrock, Adam “Wipeout” aka “Roundhouse” James, and Hydrosexual Stephen Davis.  Adam hasn’t responded since he told me, “Erwin; I told you it wasn’t going to be working.” Keith texted, “looks flat.” Stephen Davis, who correctly predicted that the latest craze (oh, they’ve been around a while, but not for, you know, regular surfers) from Hawaii (at least Maui and the big island) would eventually show up on the far northwest of America.

Anyway, having already practiced my standing-up on a standup paddle board, and, maybe snagging a half-session’s worth of tiny peelers, I had to go, and Tim, who works on the Washington State Ferries, moved on to somewhere else.

Wait, maybe, on a choppy cross-Sound crossing… I’m just thinking… Tow-in. If you see Tim cruising across the Strait or the Salish Sea, please take a photo. Wait. No. Vid-e-o.

Meanwhile, if you’re headed for (or home from, skunked) the fickle and highly-questionable  (as in, “Are there waves there?” “Not really.”) waves of the Strait or the West End, stop in at the Disco Bay Outdoor Exchange. They have lots of gear, plus some work by local artists (including me); and Tyler might enjoy your tale of ‘can’t miss’ forecasts gone awry.

Something Other than Surfing…

…maybe that should be a question. When there are waves, or even the possibility, even (more) the probability of surf, tensions rise. Every surfer wants a chance at dealing with quality waves.  Some do, and are elated; others, for various reasons, miss out on opportunities and are frustrated. Tempers can flare.

Shit happens. Work, family responsibilities, broken equipment or vehicles, power outages, not taking a chance on iffy conditions, other shit. Shit!

And it’s not just that you (or I) aren’t committed, or committed enough to the lifestyle/sport. We rearrange our schedules the best we can, but, sometimes, we just hear about classic conditions after the fact. Sometimes we witness classic conditions but can’t, for any combination of the above or other reasons, participate.

That happens. I haven’t really  gotten over, or, at least, I still remember, painting a house on the bluff above Stone Steps, late in the afternoon, with the waves glassing-off, lining-up, and only a few surfers out. Yeah, I kept painting; felt I had to finish the project.

Still, those waves… they may not have been as great if I’d surfed them, but, in my memory, they were sooooo good.

WAIT. I’m adding this, just in, photo of Hydrosexual Stephen Davis (I was going to drop the hydrosexual part because of spam from sex-related, um, spammers, but Steve kind of likes the description/title) doing something besides surfing, work as part of the crew on a catamaran off the Big Island. OH, and he did the artwork for the t-shirt.

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Anyway, I am trying to do a bit of a pivot in my career, and I’ve actually started drawing things not surf-related. Here are some examples:

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What unites us as surfers is not our performance level; it’s more that we have suffered the frustration of getting caught inside, of missing or wiping-out early on a great wave, of watching someone else wail on a wave we could have been on, of hearing about or seeing wonderful surf we can’t get into, of driving a long way to get skunked. It’s sad and just wrong to get frustrated enough to unload verbally or physically on another surfer; particularly when, if there were no waves, this would be someone you’d be chatting with; a friend.

Even the best, longest ride is short compared to real life. What we really save is the memories. I’m sure we’d all rather have pleasant ones.

And, no; all this peace talk isn’t because someone took offense with my wavehog ways. I mean, people have, not recently; it really relates to friends going off on other friends.  Friends. It’s sad. It’s fixable.

I am continuing to do a series of  landscape drawings, anxious to expand my scope. I currently have some illustrations at Helen Gunn’s gallery uptown Port Townsend, some at Tyler Meek’s  Disco Bay Outdoor Exchange in Discovery Bay, and, once Adam “Wipeout” James sees my HamaHama drawing… I mean, my friend Adam James… and, yeah, working on it. Committed. See you.

OKAY, here are the first of my Olympic Peninsula landscapes:

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Story Somewhat Related to Bruce Brown…

Phillip Harper, Trish Harper, Ray Hicks, Bucky Davis, My Sister Suellen, My Mom, Bob Dylan, and The Endless Summer

Posted on February 16, 2014 by Erwin A. Dence Jr. under Uncategorized

“First of all,” I said, standing in the kitchen of Phillip Harper’s parents’ house, two bars of paraffin wax melting in a soup can on the stove, Phillip’s (second-ever, and not sun-browned like the first one) surf board, stripped and ready for a ‘pre-coat’, floating between two chairs and across the dining room table, “the theater was in no way ‘underground.’ Disappointing.”

Phillip and Ray Hicks seemed to be properly impressed that I, more country kid than either of them, had gone into the city for some other reason than to ride the escalators at Sears with my many brothers and sisters while my parents shopped.

It was at about this moment that Phillip’s sister, Trish (not my Trish- hadn’t met her yet), came in from the pantry (no one ever seemed to use the formal front door). She appeared noticeably disappointed that her brother and at least one of his geeky friends were there. Trish was followed in by her boyfriend, Bucky Davis. He was, perhaps, a bit less disappointed; a nod for Phillip, smaller one for Ray, even smaller one for me (standard cool reaction to over-amped groms). Bucky took a moment to check out the board (approvingly), then the wax melting on the stove.

“You have to be careful,” he said, both hands simulating an explosion. “A candle might be a better idea.” A single hand tipping an imaginary candle illustrated the point.

“Erwin went to see ‘The Endless Summer’ in San Diego,” Phillip said. “At an underground theater,” Ray added.

“The thing is,” I said, trying to be informative, and trying to be as cool as Phil and Ray “kind of disappointing; it wasn’t at all underground. Just a regular, um, theater. And…”

Phillip and Ray appeared less impressed than the first time they heard this. Of course; though they did seem to be checking Bucky’s reactions.

“On University Avenue?” Trish asked. I shrugged. I hadn’t driven. We’d gone down 395. It was somewhere near the Zoo.  “Well,” she said, “I saw it at State.” She paused, possibly to see if she had to add ‘San Diego State.’

No, I knew she had been spending some time down there, preparing to attend ‘State’ in the fall of 1967. Bucky would not be attending.  He was planning on going to Palomar Junior College; he’d have to go somewhere to stay out of the draft.

“When I saw it,” she continued, “Bruce Brown narrated it… himself. He was behind this curtain and…” She stopped because Bucky seemed a bit surprised at the news. At least that is what I thought, at the time, as if she had seen it without him. That would be sad, her and her new, big-city life and Bucky…

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[Let me add here, fifty years after this incident, three years after originally writing this piece, that, among my first surfing friends, Trish and Bucky were the perfect surfing couple.  That they didn’t remain a couple was, bits and pieces of the disconnection playing out over, and just beyond, my high school years, tragic; tragic in that teenager’s romanticized, love-lost way.

Part of the reason I started this blog was to record how I changed from total kook, over-stoked beginner, with Bucky one of my early surf heroes, to… I don’t know… over-stoked surfer out past high school, past the inside break; my friends scattered.

My opinion of surf heroes, with Bucky the best illustration, went, along with my connection to surfing, from a sort of ‘this is magic’ awe, to a more realistic view.  Bucky had some serious life challenges. He was a real person.

Still, what I loved about Phillip’s sister, that seeming-self confidence, that willingness to stand up as an equal, is part of what attracted me to my Trish.

Still… still an over-stoked surfer, awed by the magic… still I, somewhere in the part of me that never got past adolescent romantic, I’ve held out a notion that Bucky and Trish could… yeah, maybe I just hope they, and all my scattered surf heroes and friends, including Phillip and Ray… have been, mostly, happy.

And, I am grateful, while I’m anxiously awaiting my next surf adventure, that I have such great memories of interesting, and real, people. And someone to share current adventures with.]

I’m sure I was mostly trying to hide being impressed. And out-cooled. Again. Always by her.

“Bruce Brown? In person? That’s… cool.”

After all, it had been impossible for me to be really, even passably, cool, at the above-ground theater, hanging with my older sister, Suellen, AND my mother.

Still, hoping to in some way to compete with Trish Harper, I said, “Yeah, well; they had these previews for a movie with Bob Dylan, and…”

“’Don’t Look Back’,” Trish said.

“Huh?” Phillip and Bucky and Ray asked, pretty much at the same time.

“Uh huh,” I said; “and Bob Dylan’s, like… he’s holding up these…”

“Cue cards,” Trish said.

“I guess. Yeah. And my mom starts laughing.”

“Laughing?” Phillip and Trish and Bucky and Ray all asked.

“Yeah, laughing; and… I mean, not even Suellen is laughing. No one’s laughing.”

“Because it’s Dylan,” Trish said, serious and almost indignant.

“Yeah, Dylan; Bob Dylan. But, pretty soon, someone else starts laughing. And then more people are laughing; and then everyone’s laughing. And Bob Dyl… Dylan, he just keeps dropping the cards. And…”

By this time, in the kitchen, I was also laughing. Phillip started to laugh. Ray, studying Bucky’s face,  allowed himself to join in the laughter. Then Bucky looked over at his girlfriend (not laughing), maybe thought for a moment about how he didn’t see “The Endless Summer” at ‘State’ with her, with Bruce Brown personally narrating; and he laughed.

And then the wax exploded.

Bruce Brown, revealing the stoke and the magic and the awe to a larger world, stepping behind another curtain. Rest In Peace. And thank you.

Explaining the Current Header

I freely (mostly because it’s so obvious) that my computer skills are lacking; particularly in the graphics area. It least that’s where I’m particularly frustrated. I think of my sister, Melissa, often; most often when I’m trying to draw.

I can no longer call her up for feedback or opinion, I can’t ask her to draw something for my site; a plan I had for teaming-up on some children’s books is not going to happen.  My work, compared to hers, is scribbling, sketching.  It should be mentioned, also, that my writing gets over-detailed, over-complicated, possibly over-thought; not something that lends itself to children’s stories.

Yet, I do think of Melissa; I do call on her spirit, wherever that is, to assist me. A high percentage of the art, or whatever it is I produce (somewhere down the spectrum), is the image I’ve worked out in my mind; then it’s all scribbling; and (if the image in my mind is perfect) the work never quite is.

When I mentioned this all to my late sister’s husband, Jerome, he said; “Oh, so, like Melissa; you think every drawing has to be… has to be perfect?”

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This is the uncropped version of Melissa’s montage. I tried, unsuccessfully, several times, to include as much of the pencil drawing as possible in the header. If I knew… yeah, if I knew how, I could have used the whole thing.

When I started surfing, my drawings were about surfing. When Melissa started drawing, her drawings were of horses. Somewhere she developed the ability to capture people; not just the image expertly rendered, but the emotion, some sense of story; perfectly.

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I’ll keep the header up for a while.  Here’s one of my drawings

Selected (Eeeeeeeek!) Rat Tales

 

 

FIRST, I’m only saying ‘Rat Tales’ because it has a certain sound to it. ‘Mouse Tales’ doesn’t have the same impact. Varmints, rodents; It is interesting that many of us consider Squirrels cute, despite the damage they can do, but recoil at even the mention of mice; the cringe-factor going up as the varmints increase in size.

Before I wrote this piece, adapted from and originally written for a monthly newsletter put out by Quilcene’s Community Center, I did mention that I intended to attack (yes, attack) the subject with Bob Rosen, the Director. “Nobody wants to hear about, er, that.”

Then I told him how mice got into the dashboard of my surf rig, and, short-story-slightly-shorter, they chewed through just the right wire that (luckily enough, because I’d been out where the cellphones don’t work) allowed my car to crank but not start; parked in front of the NXNW Surf Shop in Port Angeles.

Frank Crippen, the shop owner, not fully pleased to have me hanging out for several hours, agreed to allow me to put my board in his shed.  The car was towed up the hill to a local garage. After a cursory check (smell, mostly) of the dashboard, they were not stoked.  Trish, shopping in Silverdale, had to come pick me up. It cost me seven hundred dollars to get it running, three hundred more like an out-and-out bribe. Worth it.

“Oh,” Bob said, “Let me tell you how to keep mice out of your car.”

“Yes,” I said; “See, everyone has a story.”

Last winter was long and cold and a particularly bad one for rodents (only, to be fair, looking for some warmth) moving into places we don’t want them, cars, garages, houses. I do hope this winter, for many reasons, isn’t as cold.

Another failed “New Yorker” submission, this one dealing with Church Mice waiting for the “Hallelujah-ing” to start.

Still, here are a couple of anecdotes:

Evidently, I got exactly the wrong counter person at the Port Townsend auto parts store when I asked if they have any special thing (I was thinking electronics) to keep rodents out of vehicles. “Do you live near farms? In the city? The country? Have neighbors? Feed birds?” Before I could answer any of these questions, he threw out his hands in surrender. “There’s nothing we sell, nothing we can do. Nothing. Anything else?” “No, nothing.”

“My dog,” the woman said (and I can’t remember where this was or how the subject came up), “and we didn’t train him to do this, but he smells rats.” In her story, a friend came over for a barbeque, the dog took a great interest in the guy’s car. “You have a rat,” she told her guest. Her husband pulled out a compressor, blew air into the engine, the rodent jumped out, the dog killed it; or, as she put it, “took care of it.” And then, she added, “We all had some barbeque.”

I arrived at a house in an upscale neighborhood to give a painting bid. The homeowner had installed rat-sized, snapping-style, old fashioned traps, about ten feet off the ground, on the corner boards. A bit surprised, I asked, wondering if exposed rat traps (or rats, for that matter) were allowed within the area’s covenants.  “Does it work?” I was imagining long-dead rodents hanging as, perhaps, a warning to others. “So far,” he said, “and it’s kind of, um, decorative.”

It did seem to be humorously ironic, more to me than the woman at checkout, that there was one of those packets (and there are several brands available) with a smell meant to deter rodents (rumored to be a combination of mint and coyote urine), on a shelf between the bags of bird food.

Rather than throw out my hands absolute surrender, I have taken advice and steps. “Drier sheets,” I’ve been told. “New ones.” Oh. “Mint.” Yeah-okay. “Supersonic.” Maybe. “Poison.” Scary. “Flashing lights.” Got ‘em, think it’s like disco for mice. “Younger cats.” Not right now. “Electronic zapper.” Oh, yeah.

Meanwhile, as I work on my mint-moat, a rat-smelling dog and a compressor seem like good ideas. Oh, and, for some reason, barbeque.

 

 

No, Big Dave Rips

Jeffrey Vaughn seemed to be enjoying the waves (part of this is that there were waves). It was stormy, west wind blowing (this is sideshore on the Strait of Juan de Fuca), and, maybe it was the tide, maybe the angle, but waves that, typically, hug the reef and peel, were, mostly, closing out, rolling through.

Waves were breaking on outside, Indicator reefs. Rain squalls, clouding the view to the west, would approach, roll through, further chopping-up the lines. Then pass by. Sun would, randomly, break through, adding blinding reflections on ribbed wave faces.

Some waves, that should have been lefts, almost looked like rights. I know better, usually, than to drop into these chunky, deeper water waves. You can drop into a long wall, speed for fifty yards or so and pull out, as you would on most beach breaks, or drop down under the first closeout section, pull back into some non-critical, not-steep wall, and bounce around well past the fence (this is the measure for a long ride at this spot).

Still, even on more lined-up waves, there was a tricky inside section that, if you made it, it was great. If you didn’t you’d get punched, pitched, or, again, be forced to drop down, try to work past it. Oh, I guess you could straighten out.

Jeff was taking off on the outsiders, big smile on his face, dropping-in while I’m going up the face, looking to see if the next one is going to break farther out; and he was picking off  some of the up-the-reef peelers, dropping in with his patented and classic South Bay longboard style, hands on the wall as he wailed toward the inside section.

When he got out he climbed up on top of his Mad Max-meets-heavy-duty-off-roader-adventurer van, snapped some shots of Big Dave and, yeah, me. Thanks, Jeff.

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Top-Discussion mid-session (I was out for about three hours, then a break, then an hour or so more, Dave was out when I arrived, still out when I left- at least 6 hours straight) with Dave, mostly about how access to a favorite spot has, again, been cut off. Or, maybe, about how he’s sometimes mistaken for me, and vice-versa. He’s five years younger, and was a Crystal Pier rat (his words) when I moved to Pacific Beach, San Diego, at 20, in 1971.

Second shot-Me setting up for the tricky inside section. Yes, there were bigger waves.

Third shot- Dave setting up for the tricky inside section. And, yes, the camera takes two feet off the height of a wave and adds twenty pounds (minimum) to the size of a surfer.

Bottom- Dave vertical. There were bigger waves. Really.

NOTE- While I was taking a break, drinking two cups of coffee, one of three guys loading up in a black jeep parked next to me, after taking a couple of cell phone shots of Dave, said it’s nice that someone like me is still ‘out there.’ “Thank you, young gentleman,” I should have said, instead of asking, “You mean old?” Of course he did. Maybe this, and the unspoken challenge of Ironman Big Dave, made me go back out for ‘five more waves,’ that, when it glassed-off, turned into fifteen or so. It was either that or that I’d peed in my wetsuit. Either way, thanks for the photos, Jeff; thanks for the waves Juan.

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?”

self realization

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

 

 

Real Surfer Jack O’Neill

“It’s always Summer…”

For those of us who never met Mr. O’Neill, but enjoyed the ever-increasing comfort and warmth as wetsuits continued to get less cumbersome and more comfortable, the image of the man is tied to the photo of the man in the eyepatch. This drawing is also derived from that image.

Another legend passed; and the various waves continue rolling. On.   Thanks for the warmth.

A Nod is Good Enough- John Severson

 

 

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

I probably just froze.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

REFLECTION

The promised sand, Forbidden land,

Restraining line With sharpened spine;

NO SURFING HERE: The warning sign.

Perfection waves, Reflecting mind;

Humanity

Could be so blind.

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

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