I got five copies of the original drawing, just so I could, maybe, take a few risks on the colors. This is the first attempt. MEANWHILE, I keep working on the story.
EVERY time I find time to work on this novel (and it is fiction, mostly), I seem to start out at the beginning, edit, change; so much so that, when I’m out of time, I haven’t really advanced the story. SO, this is a chapter a little way into it; setting up some sort of romance I haven’t totally figured out yet. YET. I will.
WHAT is surprising is how much my partially-planned story changes as I get farther into the plot. AND what I do, after I write something new, is think about how this can be better said, better written, better told.
AND I enjoy this part of writing also. More to come.
Ginny Cole was like the magazine photos; like my best rides; I could bring her image into my mind at will; images from the few times I’d been on the beach or in the water with her. Not with her, around her. It’s not like she knew me; another teenage surfer, awkward out of the water, not skilled enough to be noticed in the water.
Ginny wasn’t the only girl surfer in the North County; there were others; but she was good. I had seen Barbie Barron, Margo Godfrey… Barbie in the water and in the parking lot at Oceanside’s shorter jetty; Margo with Cheer Critchlow at Swamis on a day that was uncrowded, big and nearly blownout; both just casually walking out, chatting; paddling for the outside peak. My two friends and I shoulder-hopped, choosing only the smaller waves on the inside.
Coolness, casualness, some sort of self-confidence, some sense of comfort in one’s own skin.
Things I lacked, things I appreciated.
The days were just getting long enough to make it from Fallbrook to the beach before dark. My 9’6” Surfboards Hawaii pintail, last of my (youthful) longboards, was on one side of the rack on Dave’s VW Super Bug, his pre-graduation gift. I think he his newer-but-stock Hansen was on the other side. Dave had picked me up as I raced from my last class. Dave floored-it across the Bonsall bridge, chose going through Vista rather than toward Oceanside. “Faster,” he said.
“Faster, then,” I said.
We were just coming down the ramp at Beacons when Ginny and another girl (no, didn’t know her name) were coming up; side by side; laughing. The stainless steel turnbuckle closure on Ginny’s shortjohn wetsuit was disconnected, unsnapped.
There was skin showing. Freckles on her shoulder. I was 17. Ginny was perfect, and she might just look at me as we passed. I gave Dave a hip check, my only basketball move, pushing him toward the railing.
“Virgin-e-ya,” a voice from behind her said; “Virgin-eee-yaaa.”
If I said everything stopped, it would be an exaggeration. But it did. I stopped.
And Virginia Cole did look at me. She blinked. She and the other girl lowered their heads, their smiles gone. They passed Dave and I single file, Ginny in front.
There were three guys, in street clothes, at the bottom of the ramp, kind of congratulating each other. They weren’t surfers. The guy who had made the remark was in the lead, crushing and tossing his empty beer can into the brush as they headed up. Dave shook his head, tried to step in front of me. He wasn’t fast enough, convincing enough. At the halfway point of the path, at the curve, I blocked them with my board, held sideways at my chest.
“What?” It was the lead guy; maybe a bit flushed; his smile changing to a sneer. Maybe not quite a sneer; just one of those ready-for-confrontation looks.
“Nothing, A-hole; just thought you might want to rest a second.”
“Fuck you.” The front guy, and I probably should give a more complete description of him and his high school-aged buddies, both adding their backup “fuck you;” but I won’t. He was just another high school jerk.
“You were a little disrespectful. Don’t you think; Jerk?”
Jerk’s crew and Dave looked up at the top of the bluff. Evidently Ginny and her friend were looking down.
“Ginny… Ginny Coldddd. She’s a stuck-up fuckin’…”
I’m trying to go through the words a teenage jerk would give for a girl in 1969. It would have been stronger than bitch, but certainly not cunt; that would be nuclear. Twat was almost nuclear. Not so much a west coast slang. It didn’t matter. I dropped the board. Jerk and his friends looked at it.
Hitting someone in the face is nuclear. The shoulder, maybe; was acceptable. “Harder!” “That all you’ve got?” Push, push back, a few glancing blows and a tie up; this was suburban teenage fighting. And, as Jerk pulled his right arm back, I hit him with a straight shot that bloodied his nose and lip.
It wasn’t full speed. I had held back.
The other two guys were, obviously, trying to decide between fight and flight. Everything stopped. Again. I looked at my hand. Jerk put his left hand to his face, looked at the blood. The other two guys looked at the blood on his face and hand, stepped away from their friend.
“Devil Dogs,” Dave said to the friends, his biggest smile on his (slightly-pimpled, had to add this) face; “Joe’s a fuckin’ Devil Dog.”
I picked up my board. There were several drops of blood on it. I wasn’t sure if I was thrilled or sorry. Not enough of either.
“It’s just… um… you were rude.” Jerk looked like he might apologize; or, worse, cry. “Hey,” I said, taking Dave’s towel off his board, handing it to Jerk. “My dad made me go. It’s really… it’s Devil Pups. Marines. Didn’t want to go.” I stood aside, opening the ramp. “We’re going to go surfing now.” I took the towel back, handed it to Dave. He took it with a shrug. “Just, um; you’re okay, huh?”
Jerk nodded. We walked on.
“Hope he doesn’t cry,” Dave said. “Your dad… I mean; if you ever even…” As we reached the sand, the sun way too close to the horizon, Dave ran next to me, looked closely at my face.
I wasn’t crying, quite, but I was not thrilled. I wasn’t sorry. I’m pretty sure I smiled, maybe even laughed. “Devil Dogs!” I ran for the water, didn’t look back at the bluff until I was knee-deep. The sun bounced back at me off windows, car windows, house windows. Silhouettes. Maybe one of them was Ginny, I thought. Maybe I was wrong.
Dave caught a wave before I did.
On June 8, 1969, President Richard M. Nixon said 25,000 troops would be out of Vietnam by August.
SECOND WEEK OF JUNE, 1969
Almost leaping from stair to stair, I was looking at the water, the fuzzy horizon, the lines; counting, then recounting the surfers already in the water; trying to beat any other surfers who missed the true dawn patrol. Swamis was, finally, it seemed, breaking; tide dropping; swell, hopefully, increasing. It would get crowded.
Two surfers were walking from halfway up the point, along the water’s edge. I wasn’t focused on them; they were shapes, so familiar; surfer and board, nose-up or nose-down, more-or-less crosses in the grainy light, the shadows of the bluff. One was walking faster, trying to catch up. “June,” I heard, or thought I heard; then, more like a question, “Junipero?” Then, closer to the guy in front of him; “Jumper.”
“Jumper,” I thought. Jumper. Now I almost focused.
Almost. It was a moment, still just a moment, between a surfer reaching for, and touching the other man’s shoulder- it was Sid, reaching; Sid, a locally-known surfer; Surfboards Hawaii team rider; known to thrash his boards; known to take on crazy waves, to burn valley cowboys and out-of-town surfers, even Orange County magazine surf stars down to trade crowded beach breaks for a chance at Swamis point break magic- Sid, featured in a small, grainy, black and white ad in “Surfer” magazine.
I must have blinked. Sid was flat-out, on his back, parallel to that line where the sand turned hard with the receding tide. His board was floating in the shallows, Jumper’s board pressed, nose-first, to his neck; Jumper’s foot on his chest.
Jumper. Fucking Jumper. He was back in town, back at Swamis.
If we could just ‘backspace’ time ten seconds, not all the time, but for those moments we witnessed but couldn’t immediately process. Maybe ‘replay’ is more accurate. Ten seconds.
Fifty years gone, I’m trying to replay moments, bits and fragments and images and strings; strings of time; so many strings; some tangled, some free.
Oh, I broke free of the North County scene years ago; lost my contacts, forgot names, confused and overlapped stories from Grandview and Pipes and Cardiff Reef. I do still remember specific rides among thousands; remember, almost precisely, the times I was injured; held down, hit the bottom, was hit by someone else’s board; but, and I’ve tried, I can’t remember Sid’s last name.
But I remember Jumper.
In another moment, with me even with them, trying to be cool, to not look, both surfers were sitting on Jumper’s board. Peripheral vision. No, I probably did turn my head. Never was cool.
Jumper’s hair was shorter than mine, but, even with the patchy start of a beard; he was recognizable, the same guy from, probably, four years earlier, back when I was just switching from surf mats to boards; back when he caught any wave he wanted any time he showed up. The Army or prison; stories about his disappearance varied; rumors among high school friends who quoted various upper classmen, scattered pieces from other people’s beachfire conversations.
“I heard he moved to Hawaii,” or, “No, Buttwipe; Australia. Or New Zealand.” Or, “Chicago.” “No fucking way.” “San Francisco, then.” “Nooooo.”
Then someone would go into a Jumper surf impression, with play-by-play commentary, on any nearby surfboard; Right arm back, elbow cocked, hand like a conductor’s, flowing with the up-and-down movements on the imagined wave; subtle, the left arm lower, hand out flat; punctuated with, rather than the classic cross step to the nose, the quick shuffle, the jump; then a crouch and a shift to a more parallel stance, right hand in the wave, left hand grabbing the outside rail. Twist, weight forward; the fin would pop out of the sand.
Someone else would repeat the performance, only, left foot on the tip in a solid five, upper torso shifting to face the wave, arms spreading wide; he would pull the skeg, make the rotation, yell, “Standing island pullout”, and shuffle back on the board, casually drop to his knees, ready to paddle out.
Yes, I participated in this. Yes, I tried to develop that “Jumper” conductor-dancer flow on my skateboard, pivoting, slaloming down my block, on inland hills, miles from the ocean. I had a long enough board, eventually, to go with the cross step; more like Phil Edwards, Micky Dora.
Jumper was probably my second surf hero. Maybe third. Heroes dominated lineups, kooks and kids gave way, gave waves, watched them. Now Jumper was, quite possibly, crying, one hand on Sid’s shoulder, one of Sid’s on his. It was Sid who looked around at me with a ‘fuck off’ look.
Peripheral. No, I’d looked back.
I looked away, kept walking. Still only a short distance away, I did what every surfer does, and always has; studied the ocean for a moment before committing; disciple before the alter.
When I looked back, from out in the water, from my lineup, the inside lineup, Sid and Jumper were half way up the stairs. Sid was one step ahead, one above. When two guys came down, Sid, probably because he didn’t know them, or because he did, made the down-stair surfers split up and go around. Jumper moved behind Sid’s block.
A set approached. Surfers, who had been straddling their boards in the lull, dropped to prone, started paddling. At this tide, some of the waves from the outside peak were still connecting all the way through. The first one didn’t; the surfer on it lost behind a section. Two surfers went for the shoulder as I stroked past. The second wave swung wide, peaked-up on the inside. I had it to myself; another takeoff, drop, turn, cutback, back and forth to the inside inside, fitting my board into and through that last little power pocket, peeling over the palm of the finger slabs that opened to the sea. A little standing island pullout into the swampy grass. Swamis.
THIRD WEEK OF JUNE, 1969
If the Noah’s Ark trailer park wasn’t still there, there on the north end of Leucadia, yet another trailer park squatted up against yet another bluff along 101, protected from the south winds; if it wasn’t still there in 1969; it had been there on those trips with my family, down the coastal route to San Diego.
I understand there’s a jetty there now; Ponto.
I also can’t clearly remember if the fields north of Grandview, the original Grandview, the fields along those bluffs were fields of tomatoes or strawberries. I know there were no houses. There were the Leucadia greenhouses. Flowers. It was what Leucadia was known for. Poinsettias.
Maybe not these particular greenhouses.
Turning off 101, I drove past several. One, and this had been pointed out to me by several of my high school surfing buddies, belonged to the family of Jumper Hayes. On this morning, still dark, what the forecasters called ‘early morning and evening overcast,’ or ‘June gloom’ hanging on, almost misty; I saw Jumper’s old pickup, almost-flat paint a weird shade of green in the light of the yard lamp, parked outside one of the greenhouses. Only the tail, fin over the tailgate, showed this farm rig was a surfer’s vehicle.
I gave myself a bit of a self-congratulatory nod, a quick smack on the shifter, three-on-the-tree; double-clutched down to second, gunned it.
It had become my workday predawn move, up and down Neptune, checking out Grandview, Beacons, Stone Steps; possibly surfing whichever one had a more consistent peak. Or a peak at all. If it was bigger, big enough, I would push the fourth-hand Chevy four door farther, along the bluff, the increasingly-fancy houses blocking any view of the water, past Moonlight, down and around the Self Realization compound, to Swamis.
Or, depending on my hours; if it was still light when I got off work, I would turn onto 101 at Cardiff reef, pass the state park, try to get a glimpse of Swamis over the guardrail. If it was breaking big enough, you could see it. I would hit the parking lot and get out. Even if it was dark, I’d check the view from Boneyards, past what my high school friends and I called Swamis Beachbreak, onto and beyond Pipes.
And then back. And repeat. Maybe there’d be some last-lighters, still hanging in the parking lot; their stories of new and past glories punctuated with a hoot or a laugh; headlights and streetlights in a descending darkness and a dim glow from the horizon.
Swamis was where I wanted to surf. June gloom or bright offshore glare; breaking or not. What I felt, and was totally aware of feeling, was that my choice of route and destination was mine, mine alone; that I was pretty fuckin’ close to being free.
Within reason, of course.
NOTE: For a short period of time, but right about this time; well past ‘groovy,’ way past anyone remotely cool (or young) calling anyone a ‘Hippie,’ I made the adjustment, from ‘fuckin’, dropping the ‘ing,’ to Fuck-ing, emphasis on the ‘ing.’ This was after running into a guy, Gordie, from my high school at a liquor store in Vista. He now, suddenly, sporting long hair (longer- Fallbrook had a dress code and we’d just graduated), parted in the middle (of course), and clothing that denied his quite-upper class upbringing. “We just don’t fuck-ing see each other, man; like, like we used to.” And he was, obviously, stoned, an even more-stoned girl, possibly still in high school, headband, boutique-chic top, nodding, eyes unable to focus, next to him. Gordie put a hand on my shoulder. I looked at his hand, put my package of Hostess donettes and quart of milk on the counter, pointed to a pack of Marlboros, turned back to Gordie. He sort of gave me a look when I scooped up the cigarettes. “I know man, Gordie; you probably don’t fuck-ing smoke… cigarettes.” He and the girl both giggled. So uncool. “Peace, man.”
Yeah, flipping the peace sign was probably pretty much over, also.
My relative freedom isn’t, perhaps, relevant to the story. Maybe it is; these were times when ‘freedom’ and ‘peace’ and ‘revolution’ were frequently used in the same sentence. For someone just out of high school, working various shifts at a supermarket with a view of the ocean; joy and loneliness and a sense of being part of some magical mystery could all be felt in a very short span of time; and repeated, randomly. Mysteries.
Why, I had been asking myself, did Sid call Jumper ‘June,’ with a hard J; not a H sound. If his real name was Jesus; well, anyone would instantly know it’s not Jesus, like Jesus Christ, but Hey-Seuss, like Hey, Doctor Seuss, dropping the ‘doctor.’
Mysteries ask to be solved. Beg, perhaps. Rumors. Surfing, waves, surfing waves was a mystery. Board surfing was more than just drop and hang on. Tamarack was obvious; one peak in front of the bathrooms on the bluff, a bit of a channel; a parking lot at beach level. Good place to learn; sit on the shoulder; wait, watch, study; move toward the peak; a bit closer with each session. Get yelled at; get threatened; learn.
Eventually, you would have to challenge someone for a wave.
But there were always rumors of better waves, great waves, magical and secret spots, places uncool freshmen kooks weren’t supposed to know about, weren’t supposed to show up at.
Grandview was fairly easy to find. There was a Grandview Street off 101 in Leucadia. Still, when I showed up there with my friends, now sophomores, we got looks. Punks, Kooks; not ready for Grandview. The hardest looks were from other San Marcos, Vista, Fallbrook, Escondido surfers; other inland cowboys.
ANOTHER NOTE (SORRY): Inlandness was in direct proportion to distance from the coast. Where I lived we called Escondido Mexican-dido. That was, of course, insensitive; maybe; but I understand Meth-condido has replaced it.
As with, probably, anywhere, in order to fit in, you had to persist. I did. As my contemporaries and I searched out new locations; San Onofre, occasionally Oceanside; as some dropped surfing, traded it for parties fueled with liquor purchased by Marines, marijuana bought from friends of friends, I had become another surf addict; and Grandview was still on my route.
By the end of my senior year, I had become accustomed to going surfing alone.
And now, here I was, almost a local, slipping and sliding down the more-sand-than-sandstone between houses, original Grandview, the real Grandview; and ahead of the ultimate local, back after four years or so, Jumper Hayes.
Peace and freedom and revolution.
MAY OF 1969-
I have to drop back for a moment. The story hinges on this. Chulo Lopez had been killed, murdered. His real name wasn’t Chulo; nickname; I can’t remember his real first name. It was in the paper, even on the San Diego TV news. “Horrific” the reporter said. “The Sheriff’s Office said he was probably dead… probably… when his body was ‘posed’ against the thick white walls of the Self Realization Fellowship compound, doused with gasoline, and set ablaze. Set ablaze.”
The reporter stepped aside. The blackened areas on the white white walls formed a sort of outline, similar to that around a candle. The TV camera followed the burn marks up to the gold bulbs atop the wall. There was a sort of symmetry, a repetition. “Set ablaze.”
The walls were back to white when I next went to Swamis, against my parents’ warnings, two days later. It was a Saturday. Weekend. A predicted swell hadn’t materialized, a south wind was blowing. Maybe it would clean up, even get bigger. So, wait. Surfers I knew well enough to give or return a half-nod, four of five guys, one girl, were sitting on the guard rail; a small carton of orange juice or chocolate milk in their hands; maybe a cold piece of pizza; one or another of them glancing back toward the compound.
I lit up a cigarette, noticed none of them were smoking, squeezed the cherry out, pulled the donette package out of my windbreaker pocket. Frosted, never chocolate.
It seems wrong to me, now, it’s obviously wrong; but, somehow, when I was a teenager, it seemed all the surfers were somewhere around my age. Some younger kooks, some older surfers. Not many; or maybe I just didn’t focus on them; maybe the ones who were well known; names spread through a parking lot or lineup: L.J. Richards, Mike Doyle, Rusty Miller; surfers you would definitely keep track of; just to see if they were all that good. Better. Were they better?
How much better?
But these were days of evolution in surfing; shorter boards, more radical moves, backyard soul shapers, V bottoms and downrail speed machines; and the new heroes were younger; more like my age; s-turns and tube stalls and 180 cutbacks.
“Chulo,” someone said. In my memory there was a sort of muffled chorus, “Chulo,” from the surfers on the guardrail. “They’re saying it’s some sort of cult thing. Maybe it’s related to… you know, those monks burning themselves up over in Vietnam.”
It was an older man, Wally; who threw pots for a living; sold them wholesale up in L.A. He had walked from the direction of the outhouse (still there at that time) and the stairs (probably two other systems since then), stood between the bluff and the guardrail surfers. There were a couple of us in the parking lot. Second tier.
“Jesus freaks,” someone said, actually more like a question…
The official greeting from Dirty John, if you pass him in traffic along the rag-tag stretch of Surf Route 101 that goes through Quilcene, Washington is the double eagle flip-off.
This also might be the greeting (if you’re lucky enough to be his friend) at the Post Office, at the Fire Hall, or pretty much anywhere else in town. The proper response is to return the favor.
Not that I mind.
If we talked about surfing (and I seem to include it in most conversations), John always recounted his childhood on Coronado Island, Admiral’s Row.
“I had a big, long board, and my thing was to go out on the biggest days, and just take off.” “You mean, like, um, go straight?” “Yeah.” “Sometimes I’d paddle across the bay to Ralph’s.” “Across San Diego Bay?” “Yeah, why?” “Because it’s crazy.” “Oh. Maybe.”
The ‘maybe’ was accompanied by a bit of a smile.
I’ve known John for over 37 years. We were new guys in the Quilcene Fire Department in 1981 (Trish filled me in on this). John’s a tough guy, as tough as they come; but, send him on an aid call where a child is hurt (Trish, John, and I were Emergency Medical Technicians for years), and John’s empathetic side would be revealed. And he loved cats. Our kids called him John McKitty.
John got to Quilcene because there was a halfway house here at the time. He freely admits he, son of a career Naval officer, abused drugs.
That was years ago. John traded hard drugs for working hard, drinking copious amounts of Pepsi; he held on to smoking cigarettes, added chewing tobacco.
When he got COPD, emphysema, he quit smoking. He refuses to be on oxygen.
It would embarrass John if I… shit, even knowing about this piece would embarrass John. If I listed the times he helped us out, cutting down dangerous trees in our yard with fellow curmudgeon George Hansberry, towing my truck when the wheel fell off… more; it would definitely embarrass him; might just anger him.
I saw John the other day in the local bank. There was a line, and he was waiting in a chair. “How’s it going?” John’s voice was a whisper. I tried to whisper. “Not so good.”
He told me about the cancer. “Lung cancer?” “Pancreatic.” “Oh.” We all know the prognosis. Not good. “When did you get the, um…” “Two weeks ago.”
“I just inherited a… money,” he said. “Oh.”
There was a pause. “Spend it,” I said. “I am,” he answered. He nodded toward a new Suburu outside. “I bought that for Melinda,” he said. “Good. Uh, hey, sorry, man.” “It is what it is.”
When I was done with my transaction, John was standing at the counter, next teller over, saying something about having chemo the day before. “Um, uh, yeah; but you feel better, huh?” “Yeah. Better.” “Um, what was your last name, again?”
“You probably think his first name is ‘Dirty,'” I said. “it’s actually not.”
“I couldn’t do this is it wasn’t in a public space,” I said, giving John a sideways shoulder hug. “He’d hit me.”
He didn’t, but he did give me a semi-hidden version of the official greeting.
Swimming in to retrieve my board, so close to banging, again, against the sealife-encrusted rocks, I couldn’t help but think my fears of surfing this spot were being realized.
Not only did I lose my board on my first wave; but it was on my birthday.
Okay, really can’t say too much about the particular spot. It’s kind of a secret spot, accessible by winding roads, trails, a steep cliff, rocks; and then there’s the water; cold, bull kelp heads floating with the rising and falling of the inshore.
I did take a couple of photos of the spot. A friend, who was way out on the Olympic Peninsula, camping; and had agreed to meet me there, but, and this is not atypical; by the time I got close enough to take the photos, he was already dropping into wave after wave.
Okay, so, if I had fastened my leash before I paddled out (didn’t, because of the kelp), or had fastened it securely once I got out (they’re made to easily remove, rather awkward to put on underwater), or if I’d made the drop (the face dropped under me, I freefell) I wouldn’t have been swimming.
I’ll probably sneak the photo onto the site some time in the future.
Yeah, I did make some waves, and did wipe out a couple more times; but, with crazy indicator waves even farther out, with lines coming out of deep water; suddenly steep, scary steep; getting pitched, getting hit by the lip, getting a few quick barrels; hooting way too loud on my rides, or when watching my friend freefalling, blasting through sections… the session was, as memorable, magic ones often are, intense.
It was all pretty much over in an hour and a half or so. I had managed to save some energy for the paddle and climb and walk… and it was great. Thanks for sharing; it was my favorite birthday present. Here’s my return present: I won’t say more about the spot. As surfer Tim Nolan, who will always be older than me, says, “If you tell people too much about surf spots, you take away their joy in discovering them.”
So, this session goes in the mental file with the time I got perfect peelers at a rare (tide/swell direction/magic factors) sand bar at Noluck, the time Crescent actually had lined-up rights (45 minutes and gone- shared with my friend Archie), a list of other outings including three hours at a Sunset Cliffs peak with Steven Penn, 1972, and… hey, go through your own list.
In surfing, I’ve long believed, we sort of pay for the gifts we receive. The thrashings, the wipeouts, the relentless impact zones, the cold (let’s throw in the crowds), the skunkings; and then… again, think about the gifts surfing has given you.
Just to calm down, and since it was my birthday and I had no strict schedule, I stopped off at a well know break on the Strait. No one was out. It was small. It was so easy.
Meanwhile, here’s the latest logo design for the DISCO BAY OUTDOOR EXCHANGE:
EMERGENCY UPDATE- I have to add this because sometimes what’s in my head isn’t on the page. SO, if my car had gutters, like the old days, I could use Aloha racks, again, like the old days. AND, if the car had those front-to-back rails on the roof, the racks I purchased from Amazon (I’m a first time buyer- Trish isn’t) would have worked.
Well, I vowed to make them work.
*The $300 is just an estimate based on the money I didn’t make working, so… asterisk. I just wanted something to replace the soft racks I’ve been using for long enough to be on the second set. The springs on the buckle/tighteners wear out, you can back up and catch the loose straps under a tire and… rip. Yeah, both at once.
And there’s the bonus feature of rain running down from the board, down the straps, and drip, drip, drip, directly on the seat.
Or the person seated in the seat.
Actually I got the second set from my friend, Archie Endo. Thanks, Archie. And, then, because I’m cruising down the road in a 1985 Toyota Camry wagon with the straps about, max, four feet apart. Fine if you’re packing a six foot board, but, with a ten-sixer, it’s wise (and this seems even wiser when you’re facing log trucks and semis on two lane roads) to add a third tie-down.
OH, if you just can’t help but notice the bent antenna; um, yeah; bent that with the big-ass board. Radio didn’t work anyway. It did, then it didn’t want to change channels, then; and this is most likely related to when mice got into the dash board… eerkkk.
SURE, once in a while there’s an odd whine from the back speakers, once in a while some Christian channel comes out of nowhere.
Not really, kind of a variation on my belief that, if nothing else comes in on radios that otherwise work, on the way, say, in the seemingly endless boonies, heading down toward Seaside; you can always get preaching or country western.
Your choice. Now, all I have to do is cover up the bolt ends that are on the ceiling. Not a problem unless, say, a deer or cow is in the road and I hit it and/or the ditch, and then hit the overhead. I only mention it because, well, this has happened. Different rig. Years ago, no actual bolts coming through the ceiling panels.
THEN AGAIN, that car had rain gutters.
Meanwhile, there continues to be flaaaaaaaat conditions on the Strait of Juan de Fuca; but, when a swell heads this way; I’ll be styling.
Straps. Now I’m thinking about straps.
AND, if you notice the paint cans in the driveway. Sorry; it’s painting season.
My friend, ‘Hydrosexual’ Stephen Davis recently went from the Big Island to the Windy City. He’s doing some work with his friend, Cosmo; who, after visiting Hawaii, decided he wants to move there.
BUT FIRST, Steve stopped off in Port Townsend. We were supposed to meet up, but I was working and he has a lot of friends. Weirdly (not really for Stephen or me), he found me getting a drawing reproduced at The Printery. He was cruising around with Lisa, a surfer he met in Baja, who actually lives and teaches school in North San Diego County (near where I was raised), and reminds me of what Courtney Conlogue might be like at fifty-something.
So, Lisa started giving me the kind of “are you a real surfer” kind of grilling I tend to practice. Actually, she started with, “So, you surf?” “Kind of.” “Oh,” Stephen said, “Erwin has great wave knowledge.” “Uh huh.” Then back to me, “Do you know Blackie, Bonzo, Little Snickie…?” “Um; I left there almost forty years ago. Do you ever surf Pipes?” “Sometimes. You know, old guys surf Tourmaline.” “Yeah; I used to live up the bluff, in P.B. Like, in 1971.” “Oh. Yeah.” “Do you know Joe Roper?” “Joe Roper? Of course. He’s the only one I’ll let work on my Skip Frye.”
Sensing I was holding my own, maybe with a B-, I told a story about stealing a design from Morey/Pope that Skip was working on at Gordon and Smith (the waterskate, though I couldn’t think of that under the pressure), having it built/pirated at the PB Surf Shop, and, first time trying it; there’s Skip on the beach. Yeah; Skip Frye.
MEANWHILE, Stephen and Cosmo have spent some Chicago time at museums and other highbrow locations.
BUT, and I know this is going on a bit, I want to get to Stephen’s story. Steve is my Wal-Mart call; someone to talk to when I’m following Trish around. On one call, he told me he wants to submit a story of how he had a new take on all the posturing and posing and preening associated with surfing. “Preening?” “Yeah, P R E E N I N G.” “I know how to spell it, Steve; I just love that you’re using it.”
“Old Man Winter,” original charcoal by Stephen R. Davis.
No, sorry; lost it (temporarily). I’ll post this, then post the version with Steve’s story. Mostly I’m worried about losing what I’ve put together so far.
I may be a real surfer; but I’m definitely not a real computer dude.
OKAY, I can’t seem to get it here. I’ll just retype it. Here’s Stephen’s latest story:
I was bailing the Big Island and my shoulder was feeling good. There was a new, pumping South Swell, so I decided to catch a few waves.
I had surfed quite a bit in the last few weeks. The swell had been relentless.
I explored a bit. I checked out some spots off the beaten path I had been wondering about, but, not knowing the swell angle and the direction, nor the relative position of most of the lava rock points and reefs, my regional knowledge was still a work in progress. Old standby spots seemed to be the ones firing, and they had been firing. Local rippers with shoulders the size of coconuts were casually, nonchalantly packing and petting low tide bombs where the reef seemed too close to the surface for any personal comfort level.
Hilo-side and Puna folks were migrating to Kona side also, because of the unprecedented lava activity, borrowing old, yellow, dinged-up longboards and railgrabbing gnarly, late drops and pulling it, coming out of massive amounts of exploding white water, while I watched from the inside corner on my old 6’8″ Al Merrick, “Big Willy,” waiting patiently.
Echoing in my mind was Cap, constantly telling me, “You need a bigger board,” as only a charter boat Captain can. Hmmmmmm…. in his mind the 10′ popout Infinity he ‘gave’ me to fix for him (?), with the GoPro mount right where I would want to stand on the nose, combined with the thruster set-up (??) would get me more waves, and serve as what Cap refers to as ‘crowd control.’ I seriously don’t want to think about what was in the old wax on that thing. Though I am grateful for the gesture, it just definitely was not my preferred solution to this crowd situation. I’m sure it would have been fine, but it just is not my style.
I came to the Big Island to ride waves on a short board with no wetsuit, and I was fine up until the head-on collision when my right shoulder was injured. After rehabbing it for months, along with the whiplash in my neck, I really wanted to be back on “Big Willy.” I had pulled her out of the wreckage, cleaned the broken glass out of the wax, fixed the dings, put a new deck patch on her (ERWIN- Wait, Willy’s female?), and even bought a brand new leash for her. Ya, she is old and yellow, but she is my shortboard. I bought her when my Mom passed away, when I realized just how fleeting life is.
The swell was pumping and I wanted to carve going fast.
After being caught inside on two huge sets of empty lineup with ‘victory at sea’ conditions, I positioned again, on the corner, to wait for the wide-swingers. I went for one no one could get, and, rather quickly, ejected, hanging and slowly descending into oblivion, perfectly, with the lip I wasn’t in, and I knew it.
Oh, well. Went for another one, more resolute, after another waiting period. Couldn’t get to my feet. Hmmmm. Now I wanted it bad. Waited for another one. Same thing. These were extremely stretched-out, hollow lefts hitting a shallow reef, but the waves were familiar to me. I knew I could do better.
Finally, I popped to my feet on a nice roll-in, managed a big backside roundhouse-to-foam-bounce, then hit the lip and landed it as the wave finished it’s destiny on the reef. OK, now I could go in. I caught a good one.
The next day I went to check a fun, family spot. It was a weekend morning, glassy and closing-out at the small takeoff spot. There was one makeable bomb per set, and about 20 or more, no doubt, preening ‘locals’ that I had no interest in competing in the lineup with. I am old, and I have fought the dragon that is my ego, and have no interest in proving my worth to anyone. Nor do I have any urge to be judged or evaluated by strangers. Mind you, I am happy to have been evaluated by my long time counselor whose awareness and ‘judgement’ of me I trust.
What to do? As I sat on the beach, I noticed the Keki on the inside, catching little pockets, and laughing all the way in and back out to their inside takeoff spot. This surf spot is notoriously family friendly where folks come to find Aloha and be together. People bring friends who don’t surf there to learn, and there is an illuminating Vibration of Love that can be felt if one tries.
I decided to go out on my forest green 7’6″ funboard, and to stay inside with the Ohana. I was next to two little girls, walking their longboards on inside nugs, and a father teaching his young son to surf. I had so much fun, and felt so much joy in the warmth of the sun, the laughter, and the little pockets and walls-a-plenty. I was trimming along, with the clear, beautiful water, the reef, and the sea life. I caught a dozen incredible waves, and remembered what it felt like to truly play amongst friends.
Asa result of my parenting, I have an ability to learn from children, and this was no different. I relearned what it means to play, and to share, again, and how nice it feels to celebrate, and to be celebrated for catching and riding a wave that offers that vibration back as a child. I learned the value of a smile.
…and, as always, I’m just glad to get some waves. Swell windows along the Strait of Juan de Fuca are small, tight, and reliant on so many variables. And I wouldn’t have even been checking them out or considering surfing on a weekend if I hadn’t had such an exhausting work week; work completed on a frustrating and not-really-all-that-profitable project at about 8pm on Friday, painting stuff piled back into the van, check ATM-deposited.
EDIT; [Hey, wait; was International Surfing Day June 16, or is it June 22nd? Kind of confusing. Doesn’t really matter; I surfed on one of the possibilities, not sure about next weekend; or any weekend, but, since this weekend is gone and the reports are in, it seems like those who really wanted northwest waves got some. So, good.]
It was a Hobuck weekend for sure. It was the kind of Olympic Peninsula weekend Seattle-Siders dream of. White Reggie Longstroke had taken off on Thursday night to secure a prime spot. Temperatures were predicted to be in the 80 degree range, no big disturbing winds, moderate swell.
I definitely had no plans to go to the coast, and was trying to get all the parties together to start another job, miss the mob. I was hoping for a small swell window, like, checking, like today, right now. It’s a maybe, but… yeah, someone might be getting some waves.
Big Dave, who I’d run into on Wednesday or so, me on my way to a job, he standing by his Jefferson County dump truck, waiting, evidently, to fill in some pot holes on the Center Road, and who I really just wanted to clue in on a session I’d had (and he’d missed) with Clint and I pretty much the only surfers out; but he had to tell me the coast looked to be the bet for the weekend, and, man, I really missed the Memorial Day surf at La Push.
“Wait,” I said; I was checking out the camera, swear I caught an image of you bottom-turning on a wave.” “Probably. I was out there.”
I must add that I also got a clue, texted from an unnamed surf zealot down the canal, that there might be a little window that might not show on the forecast, even on the buoys.
“My board’s still on my car,” I texted; “What time r u thinking? 6? 5?”
No response to my “Going for it” text at 4:30. Knowing he had graduation parties to go to, probably from Shelton to Chimacum, I just knew he was already on it in the pre-dawn light.
Okay, this isn’t actually the lineup when I arrived at around 6;45. I did take some photos with my phone, but can’t figure out how to send them to my e-mail. It was similar, but cleaner; the tide already low and headed for the lowest low (I’m told) of the year; and the swell was dropping, had dropped overnight, one surfer was out, one was headed out, two more were suiting up, and, well, I had to get out there.
Adam Wipeout wasn’t already there, but, with all I didn’t know, he might have been somewhere, hitting waves bigger and better.
It was pretty much over two hours later when I slogged through the mid-cove quicksand. Window closed. On the way home I did pass a lot of surfers, even more kayakers, as many rigs trailering boats. Hopefully each of those folks found something to enjoy. With a rising tide, there could have been another window. And there’s always the coast. Hobuck, La Push, various spots in between… maybe.
Geez, it’s already late; got to get to work.
When we hang out with other surfers, we kind of brush up against their lives, their stories. We get a brief glimpse, a snapshot.
It’s not clear, and it’s nowhere near a complete picture of someone else’s life; and it’s not enough.
This piece is about a recent trip. Archie, still not recovered enough from the stroke he suffered over a year ago to surf, riding with me to check out one of his favorite surf spots. Finding actually ‘surfable’ (Archie’s term) on the Strait of Juan de Fuca was, as always, a gamble; and this run was scheduled less on surf forecast, and more on time left before Archie had to (today, in fact) return to his working life (middle man in the fishing industry) in Thailand.
That’s not enough information. Atsushi “Archie” Endo, duel citizen, learned to surf in Japan. Somewhat a radical, he was never interested in short boards. He surfed (and will again) with a throwback, 1960s glide; all about wave positioning edge control. I’ve never seen him even try to noseride. He plays drums and (I’m going to say it) bitchin’ surf guitar, and has an incredible interest in music and language.
An expert in salmon (though now, I think, he’s mostly dealing in Tuna) Archie’s expertise has taken him to coastal locations all over the world.
Archie is also known for his collection of retro vehicles. This photo was taken a few years ago. Note the lack of surf in the background.
(above) One of Archie’s cars.
On this trip, the only one at this not-secret-spot was Big Dave. While waiting around for the tide to get a bit better (or the waves to get bigger, or something), I probably learned more about Big Dave than I knew from the run-ins with him over the past dozen years.
It’s Big Dave on the left, currently sporting a beard. Now, here’s our connection: When I moved to the Pacific Beach area of San Diego, 20 years old, 1971, Dave was, along with Joe Roper, one of those Crystal “Pier Rats” (his term), 15 years old. It’s not like we hung out; but we were, no doubt, in the water together numerous times.
Archie, at some later date, lived in San Diego; and, he says, one of his favorite surf spots, anywhere, was the P.B. Point, Tourmaline Canyon area. “I lived right up the bluff,” I said. “My parents lived on Thomas Street,” Big Dave said. “In the neighborhood.”
Now; what I learned. While I came to the northwest up I-5 in a U-Haul, Dave sailed here from Hawaii. Dave has stories of sneaking into Ralph’s, having a friend’s boat hit the rocks at Dolphin Tanks, other stories that make the best of mine seem pretty punky.
So; that’s the past. Nowadays Dave is noted for extra long sessions. While I had heard he spent eight hours straight in the water on a recent swell, he said, “It was more like ten. It was a ‘one more wave’ kind of thing.”
Dave, again, on the left. It’s not just like he sits there. Big Dave catches a lot of waves.
So, on this day, with Archie watching from the stadium chair Trish insisted I bring, Big Dave and I were trading off waves. When I said, because the waves were sectioning-off, I had to go down the line a bit rather than stay in the pocket, he asked, “What part of Seattle are you from again?”
When I insisted I was staying high on the waves in order to make the inside section, with the option of pulling out or doing a floater (as opposed to dropping low and ‘barrel dodging,’ an Adam Wipeout phrase), Dave gave me a bit of a tutorial on sideslipping. On my next wave, approaching the inside section, with him paddling out, I reached (as per instruction) for the outside rail. “Hey, what about the paddle?” Then I went high on the wave, sideslipped back under the lip and onto the face. As per instruction.
It’s not like I haven’t done this before. That’s my defense.
I did take a break after three hours or so, with the excuse that it was rude to leave Archie alone on the beach for so long. Archie insisted he was enjoying it. So, back out for another two hours.
I’m pretty sure Dave got out before Archie and I left. He probably went back out for ‘one more wave.’ Or so.
We do run into some colorful characters in life. I can keep up with Archie on Hotmail. Big Dave drives a dump truck for Jefferson County; I see him occasionally on the road. Here’s how close we are: When I asked him for his cell phone number, he said he could give me one digit each time we meet. Adam James thought this was the funniest thing. “You could probably guess the first number is a three; huh?”
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?
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.
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.