With all the time I spend at THE PRINTERY in Port Townsend, I can’t really explain why I didn’t get a scannable 8 &1/2 inch version of the white and black version of my third attempt to draw a bottle on a beach. BECAUSE of an accident in which the illustration part of the poster was reversed, color-wise, with some very interesting results, I attempted to add some color to what would otherwise be black background. Two attempts, with the colors from the first used as a sort of chart to narrow the palette for the second. Purple becomes kind of, almost yellow, green becomes one shade of blue- like that.

Live and learn, experiment, fail, try again. I am not yet satisfied with the results, with my next attempt at coming out with something, perhaps, less psychedelic, more like… I don’t know. We’ll see. I got the white and black version printed on watercolor paper (or something close) and I’m going to do a sort of wash.

Bear in mind, everything that is in color here would be black. Not horrible, but not nearly as much fun. SO:

More sparkle, less crazy… We’ll see.

KEITH DARROCK is the Librarian/ripper and the curator for the EVENT. I called him over to the Printery to check out and pay for the posters. He assigned me to getting some distributed out to the JEFFERSON COUNTY locations. “Wait a minute, Keith,” I said, “I’m, like, a volunteer, and…” Yes, I took on the task anyway. IF YOU are cruising up or down SURF ROUTE 101 between now and the 30th, check out the sign the folks (actually one folk) at the QUILCENE VILLAGE STORE (QVS to Adam Wipeout, Mary’s Village Store to longtime locals) made from a postcard of mine. It’s at 101 and Columbia. AND THEN, go inside, check out this poster at the checkout counter. YES, Quilcene is a way hipper place than when we moved here.

AND, even hipper, the CHIMACUM FARM STAND, a cooler version of the Sunny Farms in Sequim, also has a poster AS WELL AS some copies of STEPHEN R. DAVIS’S latest postcards.

Steve is one of the eight artists currently lined up for the event. And there will be, as advertised, music and some talking story. It’s coming together. MORE NEXT TIME.

Remember, as always, to respect ownership of original material. I do reserve all rights to my stuff, BUT, when you show up for the BIG EVENT, you might have the opportunity to purchase works by a member of a pretty eclectic group of artists in a pretty wide range of styles. And I’m hoping to have some ORIGINAL ERWIN t shirts (unofficially) available.

The colors I loved in the original I also love in the reversal.

SHAY… Painting

WordPress makes this all way more difficult than it should be. I’ve already lost the post twice, had to sign back in both times. Each time I get a bit more frustrated. OKAY. I’m so, so, so fucking calm now. Deep breath. Probably something karmic about all this. SHAY is a yoga instructor as well as a surfer and an artist.

TRYING AGAIN, here are a few examples:

Where I went wrong was trying to move images around and trying to enlarge them. Note to me: Never hit ‘back.’

SO, pulling info she texted me: Shayann Marie Hoffer started painting early. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Saint Cloud State University in Minnesota and post graduate studies in painting and printmaking at University of Oregon, Eugene. She has been a yoga instructor since 2007. FIRST TIME SURFING (or at least jumping, in a thick wetsuit, Lake Superior). She learned to surf (like, I guess, surf… classes?) at Hookipa Point on Maui, back to wetsuits in the cold and fickle Pacific Northwest.

CORRECTION: No surf classes. She went out on smaller waves with kids and (other) kooks. So, okay.

Hopefully Shay will have some of her works at the upcoming THIRD OCCASIONAL SURF CULTURE ON THE STRAIT OF JUAN DE FUCA AND THE SALISH SEA EVENT on Friday, June 30, 6pm, Port Townsend, Washington. Curated by surf-frothed librarian KEITH DARROCK (though I want credit for coming up with the ‘occasional’ thing), the event will feature some hanging out and some wall-hangings by LOCAL SURF ARTISTS Christian Coxen, Stephen Davis, Jesse Joshua Watson, Reggie Smart, Tim Nolan, Nam Siu, and me. Keith is promising goodies and, maybe just as counter-programming, a group playing classical music. I’m not sure all the participants are planning on speaking, but I am. I’ll be trying not to sing, but…

To see more of Shay’s art, go to https://shayannhoffer.weebly.com

Oh, yeah, and her paintings, as with all original materials on realsurfers.net are protected by copyright.

And now, if this doesn’t all disappear into the ether…

Protecting the Occasional and Promises of More Art to Come

The reference photo for this drawing was of MIKE PURPUS at some place I had never heard of, Waddell Creek. SORT OF interesting story- I was selling prints at the much-missed (possibly and particularly by me, since I could go surfing, pick up a few bucks on the way home) DISCO BAY OUTDOOR EXCHANGE. On one such visit, owner TYLER MEEKS said someone had been interested in the color version of the drawing, and (Tyler thought this was almost as amusing as the customer who complained about some wave hog that just might have been me while buying some of my stuff) asked him “Where is this place, SECRETO?”

ANOTHER perfect scan (above).

ANYWAY, with local ripper KEITH DARROCK on a slow trip down SURF ROUTE 101 and HIGHWAY 101 to San Francisco (without a board), checking out as much coast as possible. THE PLAN is to meet up with the mighty QUINN, part time Port Townsend-ite, sometime San Francisco area (work is the explanation) guy, and, perhaps, surf a few waves.

I’ve gotten a few updates, a few images. I COULD SHARE the shots of empty waves that, according to Keith, “WE would definitely FROTH over.” I could, but, here’s what I’m thinking: With surfers loathe to share names and locations and tide/swell/wind info with others, focusing on someone’s SECRET SPOT has got to be, like, criminal.

BUT I enjoyed them. Thanks, Keith. Good luck. Let me know.

It seems pretty obvious that, with so much coastline, there are spots that, though probably not as fickle as the Strait of Juan de Fuca, occasionally offer really fun if not outright epic waves. AND these spots have regulars, locals, surfers who guard the secret-ness of these rare gems. What works in the hard-core surfers’ favor, is the very fickleness. If you want to go hours into the wild to seek a dream spot, dream session, good luck. MEANWHILE, spots that weren’t considered great options with less surfers (“D Street” is my go to example), are, with small enough waves the general surf size most days, labeled as home breaks by… someone.

Maybe it’s you.

WHAT I wanted to post today is some artwork by OLYMPIC PENINSULA surfer, SHAYANN MARIE HOFFER. Okay, let me see if I can… no, you’ll have to wait. Shay does have a degrees in art and printmaking. Anyway… next week.

As always, remember original work on realsurfers.net is protected by Copyright, all rights reserved by Erwin Dence, Jr. Thanks.

Art, WSL, Cuts, and… POWER OUtAGE!

I tried really hard to have today’s post UP AND ONLINE by ten am. SORRY. 9:45, big power outage. I’m dealing with it. I got the boondocks-necessary generator going. Great! Hooked up the router and a few other items, went back to working on this. OOPS. Out of gas. Luckily, I didn’t put it all in my van. Back up and going. NOW, of course, the power came back on and I’m afraid to switch back over and lose whatever I haven’t already lost.

I did go on a little too much on the WSL stuff. I intended to just post some of my new illustrations.

OKAY, that:

JUST A BIT of explanation- The top part of this image is all I felt I could save from a larger drawing. The lower part was intended to be a WOLF. Maybe it’s the ears, but even I think BEAR. Oh, and maybe it’s the computer, but the colors seem to have come out way better than usual. WOLF/BEAR.

NOW, what I overwrote about the WSL:

It has become quite popular to criticize the shit out of the WORLD SURF LEAGUE, so… why shouldn’t I?

OKAY, I will.

Though I do appreciate that I can watch surf contests from all over the world on my big screen TV, and after I repeat an assertion I frequently make to doubters and haters that the difference in the wave riding skills of top-level competitive surfers and even above average non-competitors is proportionately greater than the difference between your local rippers and those who can objectively be labeled as kooks. HAVING SAID THAT, I leave a lot of room for those free surfers who are as good, and often better, as the men and women who seek fame, fortune, whatever, by subjecting themselves to the boredom and tension and the whims of judges.

OH, yeah, judging is SUBJECTIVE, subject to some person’s opinion on whether this air is more difficult than that carve, whether a floater is more functional than a kick-stall, whether making fifteen jitterbug moves is cooler than just being in the optimum position. People, even judges and even commentators and company executives could, maybe, even possibly, evenly reasonably influenced by companies that sponsor surfers as well as surf contests.

NOT THAT this happens, or that the WSL would bend a bit to keep or to even get popular surfers on the tour, or… or, or…

BUT a little behind the scenes stuff from the two seasons of that series about, you know, winning and whining and (I couldn’t remember the title and didn’t want to take the time to search further- but I did watch every episode), showed that in judging, there is a head judge who makes sure the other judges are on the same page. SO, yeah, totally subjective, semi regulated and controlled.


SHIT! I didn’t want to get this involved. THE MID-SEASON CUT was completed. Twenty-two men, ten women. Elation and tears. I stayed up a little later than I would have to watch some critical rounds of the WSL contest at MARGARET RIVER, WESTERN AUSTRALIA.

YES, it was the last heat of the day, but as soon as it became apparent that SALLY FITZGIBBONS was going to lose, I turned it all off.

NOW, I do find it easier to follow women’s surfing. Not all of my surfing friends even give a shit about contests. Some do. Some have favorites. My daughter, DRU, thinks Tyler is a bad ass. She is. TRISH, based on watching, kind of over my shoulder, a contest from Huntington Beach a few years ago, became a COURTNEY CONLOGUE fan. I wasn’t, so much, but Trish keeps asking me, “How’d my girl do?”

Oh, she was underscored, just as she was in the BELL’S BEACH contest. A fierce competitor, Courtney didn’t make the cut. Sorry.

AND NOW, Sally Fitz, Sal, she’s out. Didn’t make the cut. Because Sally lost in the quarterfinals to Caroline Marks, this other woman, who, I believe, Sally defeated earlier, is in the top ten, and is still on the tour, and Sally… well, I don’t know. I turned the TV off and went to bed.

HERE is how to defeat a contestant as experienced, as capable, as skilled in SURFING TO THE CRITERIA as anyone- Sally: Give her a 3-plus on a well-surfed wave. Give Caroline a 7-plus for a similarly surfed wave (but backside). This difference in scoring puts Sally at a disadvantage. SURFING well is all about confidence. Surfing scared or angry or tentatively is not a losing strategy. Sally fell or took off on the wrong wave. Caroline got a well-deserved score. She won the heat. And she would have without any scoring help. Sally didn’t get a last second gift/miracle buzzer beater wave like CARISSA MOORE did in the heat before hers.

Sally’s out. She had a long career. She’s popular. She may or may not go on to the CHALLENGER SERIES.


There is a WINNING FORMULA. With so much study done on how to win a heat (priority and time management, having that Kelly Slater turn on lock, knowing which claim to throw when), watching eight heats in a row has become… kind of… less thrilling. IF A SURFER can’t figure it out, hire a coach, do the work (always gets me, surfing as work), perfect that tail slide and that fin drift, remember to cut your competitor off from a last wave even if he or she can’t possibly get enough points to beat you (these are not your friends in the water), be ruthless… and always appear humble in the post-heat interview, always wear the hat and the sunglasses.

I watched a child/teen contest recently, from Trestles. The formula worked. Turn, turn, off the top, fin slide. If the kids didn’t have the moves down, they will. Coaches, sponsors, judges. 

ALL THIS SAID, I don’t exactly know how the WSL could do a better job. AND I do enjoy the big screen coverage. WAIT, how’s about they mix up the time-filler ad between heats? How about… I’m thinking. If I can’t sit through a bunch of heats next time, maybe I’ll just watch the shorter versions on YouTube.


First, I guess, excuse me for not keeping to a pattern I have only recently tried to set: Posting something new on a Sunday. Yes, it was the Super Bowl, but, no, I didn’t watch it. The Seahawks weren’t in it and I really didn’t care. Besides, I had to work.


Work is, theoretically, what we do so we have some money and some time to go in search of surf. Oh, yeah, and it helps with the eight hundred dollar electric bill from the mid-winter water heater fiasco in which the failing heating element caused the water heater to be on, two-hundred-twenty volts, like, way too much of the time. It has been fixed. Nightmare. AND, two months before that, there was the leaking pipe situation that turned the old laundry room into a steam room. I tried to ignore, and then downplay the problem. Four hundred dollar heating bill. Fixed it. So easy, so quick. Two hundred and twenty-five dollar month. Then, the biggie. ANYWAY, paid the bill.

NOW, surf.

No. Even though the predictions and rumors and stories of waves have been going off like a, I don’t know, Super Bowl halftime show, I sort of kind of promised not to run off until the job that is helping to pay for the above mentioned… problem, so, no surf. WORK.

If I haven’t actually written about this subject, it certainly has come up several times recently. I am and have always been a sort of surf whore. There may be two sides to this:

ONE, I have historically passed on waves for the opportunity to make some money. And often, not that much money. So, admitted Paint-whore. There’s a whore’s regret with this; I never remember the project I committed to, but I always remember what I missed. Example: Side job, 1970s, on the bluff above perfect and glassy waves at Stone Steps. So beautiful. Sob.

TWO, I have, again, historically, traded the joy of my presence on a surf trip for a ride to the beach. This started with my mother. “Please, please…” and continued in high school with upper classmates; “Please, please…” And, even when I got a license and a car, the cars were always junkers and frequently broken and awaiting my mechanic father’s repair work. So, as I was telling my high school surf friend, Ray Hicks, on a call the other day (just to see if he’s doing, slash, maybe surfing), I quite frequently accepted rides to the beach with, well, pretty much anyone who was willing. Surf Whore. Of sorts. The only incentive for any of these volunteers, some of them pretty much kooks, was that, and a lot of this was because Fallbrook is not exactly a beach town, they got to surf with, possibly, arguably, the best surfer in the school. Not that I was in any other way cool.

NOW, because I do discuss whatever is going on with pretty much anyone, I have been bringing up the current situation in which my trusted 1987 Toyota died an inglorious death, and my work rig is in some state of advanced breathing problems (cough, cough, choke- runs fine on the flats and downhill- at 45 and under), and I have been put in the position of having to ask others if I can go along with them if they head out. “Please, please…”

IN MY DEFENSE, my current deal is, in addition to the snappy banter and impolite patter to and from, and getting to surf with some old guy with a big board and bad knees, I will offer to share the price of gasoline and/or treat the driver to a delicious meal at Frugal Burger. An opportunity to cruise through Costco for just a few items is, of course, optional.

THE REASON I am using this is this: Shirley MacLaine wrote that her portrayal of a Paris prostitute was one thing, but talking about it on TV was another. It was not appreciated. An interviewer rushed to a commercial when she described the character as not a high class escort, but as a sort of bargain shopper’s choice. Yeah, I get it. Surely, Shirley.

Maybe I didn’t make the benefits of having a ridealong like me clear to CHIMACUM TIM. I very recently got a text from Tim, saying, and I will quote, “Sorry man I didn’t give you a call to go surfing no friends on powder days.” I believe that’s a skiing/snowboarding thing. TIM does seem to believe that a mention in realsurfers.net is, I don’t know, worthwhile, so maybe not inviting me might further up his profile. Sure. Okay, Tim, no mushroom burger for you.

MEANWHILE, I’m hopeful as I wait for my next electric bill.

Oh, and look for another exciting posting next Sunday.

Pulling on the Art World Door

This is one of the paintings realsurfer and real artist Stephen R. Davis has been producing during, and particularly since his epic battle with Lymphoma. Not that it’s over. Steve is offering limited edition prints and posters and cards of this and other paintings. I asked him to send me the image and the contact info so others can get in on purchasing some of his work. I don’t really communicate with him on ‘social,’ BUT I will get the connections sorted out.

MEANWHILE, I am perilously, dangerously close to finishing the manuscript for “SWAMIS.” I mean, like, today if I don’t get distracted by rumors of waves. THE ISSUE is, how to sell these things, also including ORIGINAL ERWIN t shirts and, yeah, I have some art works of my own (less so with my dark-of-winter obsession with finishing the novel.

BUT, and this is related, my daughter, Drucilla, also engaged in her own battle with cancer (Fuck Cancer), is getting back into the work mode, AND she has skills in setting up some platform on which Steve (and our mutual artist friend, Reggie) can market our work.

AS FAR AS the selling “SWAMIS,” I have some ideas. First among them, as I try to find an agent, is offering a limited edition version, printed on regular paper, and contained in a Pee-Chee folder, a critical item in a 1960s students’ life, and something that is a part of the “Swamis” narrative. With pockets on both sides of the folder, a reader could easily slide pages read from one to the other. AND I would include artwork I have done in connection with the manuscript. ALL NUMBERED AND SIGNED, of course.

AS WITH Stephen’s contact info: I will have to get back to you on that.

AS FAR AS rumors of waves; probably just rumors.

The Surf Community, and, admit it or not…

… like it or not, there is a worldwide community of people who understand that beyond the ‘that was fun’ level of casual wave riding, there is something more, something deeper. There are deeper levels, not merely in performance, but of connection to the energy of the ocean. It is not necessarily spiritual, but it is a respectful of the ocean, and appreciative of the gifts received. That surf community- in particular the northwest surfers who roam the coast and the Strait, and occasionally, the larger world- we, us… we have just lost another real surfer in a tragic, cowardly, criminal way.

Update- December 15- A suspect has been arrested. He has, according to the “Seattle Times,” admitted to driving a Ford pickup that, allegedly crashed into a fence and struck Omar.

This won’t bring closure. Nothing really does. It may not bring justice. It has been easy to believe that no one would be held to account. Though the circumstances under which the suspect was identified are still unknown, the news is somewhat gratifying. Still, the loss to family, loved ones, the surfing and greater community is incalculable.

Every rideable wave is a gift. We remember the best ones long after they are gone.

Omar will be remembered.

Information is still hard to come by, but what began as a missing persons report turned into a hit and run. Fatal. Hitting a pedestrian may or may not be an accident. Leaving the scene is not. Omar was near his home in some part of what to me is all, whether it’s Burien or Bellevue, one big and confusing city. Seattle/Tacomapolis. He was out for an afternoon walk. Bear in mind that four pm is pretty much twilight. Omar didn’t come home. Missing person.

Evidently Ian, formerly of Urban Surf, posted the missing person report on ‘media.’ According to the call I had with Adam, after I missed a call around six-thirty pm the next evening/night, Reggie saw the post and responded with, “Is this a joke?” Not a joke.

The posting was deleted. I was, not at all ironically, in traffic headed home from completing a small project in Tacoma (last exit before I-5, go straight until it dead ends, turn right, third building to the right), trying to hear Adam over the (still) rush hour traffic, all the other drivers hellbent to get somewhere and me just trying to not get into an exit only lane. And Adam was subdued. “So, man, it’s just like…” He was saying ‘man’ a lot. “So, Omar… yeah I know Omar. Just, just… what happened? Is he… it’s something bad, isn’t it?” “Well, man… Yeah.”

The call dropped with me on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. I pulled off at Port Orchard exit to get some gas. The light at the end of the offramp was green. I could have just gone. I was turning right. There was a woman walking across the road in front of me, two backpacks on, headphones, a cell phone in her hand. It isn’t like this was a town; it was another freeway exit with two gas stations, two fast food places. Again, that a car/pedestrian accident could have happened is in no way ironic; it is coincidental. I was thinking about Omar.

I heard about Omar, probably, before I met him, most certainly from Reggie. And I have seen Omar many times over the last several years. If surfers have varying levels of competitiveness in the water, if surfers break into tribes seemingly without provocation; whether forced by fickle waves or by choice, when hanging out in parking areas with other surfers, it is actually kind of hard to not be a little more than just polite or civil. Given enough time, we might just become, perhaps, decent to people who are looking for the same thrills and sensations you or I are. And, if that person is genuinely nice and obviously decent, it should be impossible to rationalize being a dickhead. Should be.

The last time I saw Omar was such a situation. He was parked next to me. I had surfed, but was not ready to leave. It could get better. It might. I pointed at Omar’s car. “No racks,” I said.

Omar pointed, then got out. There were several boards on the rocks in front of his car. “They fit inside,” he said, reaching back into his dedicated surf rig for a wetsuit. The waves might get better. They will go away.

I’m considering if I should include what Omar and I talked about for ten minutes or so. Since I am often accused of not having a filter, of not being able to not talk about what is on my mind at any given moment, I will. A little. White people. Yeah. Maybe it is because I had just received the DNA results back from the 23 and Me thing and I am not what I claim to be. None of us are. If you say something negative about Black People or Jewish people or Native Americans, I might just say that I’m part Black or Jewish or Native American; just to see how you respond.

Omar responded calmly and politely to my rant. If it seems to you that I brought up a subject obviously race-related out of white guilt or bring it up now as some sort of virtue signaling, no; it is what Omar and I discussed, and even if I choose to delete two paragraphs here, our discussion will remain in my memory. Again, I was ranting, Omar as someone wise enough to be calm.

Still, at this moment, half a day after the missing person was found, with questions unavoidably filling in the places where there are no facts, no reports, no answers; it all goes very scarily negative.

So I will remember that when I said that blue eyes are a mutation, and that people who trusted those with blue eyes did so at their peril, Omar looked at me. We both laughed. Omar asked, “You going back out?” “No. Maybe I’ll… watch. Rip it up!”

The loss of Omar is, after the recent loss of Gabe by drowning, another tough blow for the de facto northwest surf community. Prayers and best wishes, never even nearly enough, to Jasmine and the rest of Omar’s family. As far as justice… justice… now I’m thinking about justice.

“Swamis” before Christmas

It has become an unwanted tradition that work is scarce in the short cold days on both sides of the winter solstice. If Christmas came in July… different story. “Swamis” the novel, has been almost done for far too long. In ‘The Time of Covid’ I completed two versions and an outline/treatment, all with the same issue: A lack of focus, what one person who tried his best to read the second unexpurgated version, he claims, called “A slice of life… too much so.” So… slices. He was, of course, correct. I blamed the narrator, Joseph Atsushi DeFreines. Focus, focus… uh, what?

I have been devoting as much time as I could to turning a manuscript into a novel.

I believe I am closer, but not… quite… there. Yet. And, kind of a surprise to me, the relationship between Joey (aka Jody) and Julia Truelove Cole (nickname Julie) has taken up a higher percentage of the manuscript. I credit Julie. It is the beginning stages of a complicated (I hesitate to say) love story.

The timeline has been shortened. I plan to end the story where it begins; Jumper Hayes, severely wounded in Vietnam, returning to the surf at Swamis- after the death of his best friend, Chulo and Swamis parking lot character, Gingerbread Fred. Sequel? Impossible to say. I need to complete this one. Bonus – Overwriting the shit out of my manuscript has given me so much other material, so many side stories. Over-thinking and over-explaining the characters has made them real enough in my mind that I can almost predict what each would do in a different situation. Other than Joey and Julie. No, none of the characters behave as planned.

Which is great. I started the latest re-write, slashing at the dialogue and action that didn’t move the plot, probably a third of the way into the manuscript. I devised new ways to insert details into the manuscript, a line rather than a page. It has helped. With a fairly clear vision of how to end the novel, with the newer chapters having a more consistent flow and style, I still have to go back and work on the beginning.

Without going off on how fiction eliminates too many of the side characters to focus on developing relationships between the main ones, edits out too many slice of life moments to focus on moving the narrative quickly enough, I admit to doing the same thing. Joey’s detective father, and Jumper, though still key players, move into the background. Action wise, the story still has three incidents in which characters die. No car chase, however, no violent revenge. Not yet.

With all the side stories I have to eliminate, one that I could never quite fit into the narrative timeline is one I include in a rewritten Introduction. The two versions are not all that much different, but I took the opportunity to include an actual surfing story. Q Oh, the joy of just making stuff up!

BUT WAIT! Before we get to that, here is this posting’s… WORD ON THE STRAIT with AARON LENNOX- “Salivating with a chance for froth!” Some explanation might be needed here. While the official position is that there are never any good waves on the Strait, and that the best we can hope for is “Almost,” as in almost good or even almost rideable, occasionally, in the midst of real and actual doldrums, there is some hope for an ‘almost’ session. This becomes a serious topic on various text threads between surfers. Secondary Word- “Some people are polythreaderous. They have multiple thread partners.” What?

Anyway, if you’re in a pre-froth state, just starting to salivate… good luck.



San Diego County Sheriff’s Office Detective Sergeant Joseph J. Defreines was asked to speak at a meeting of the Chambers of Commerce from several cities and other unincorporated towns in the North County. He was there to answer concerns about marijuana. In particular, he was asked to address how to control the growth of growing and selling the illegal crop. It was August of 1968. Tall, well built, blonde, my father was quite impressive in his full uniform. Daunting, even. “You ask me about arrests,” he said. “You tell me who to start with; you don’t say where to stop.” The room was, after my dad allowed the coughs and whispered comments to subside, quiet.

“The world works at an acceptable level of corruption,” he said. “As business… people, you understand this.” The chairman of the Oceanside Chamber stood up. “You’re not the first person to say this, Joe.” “Probably not,” my father said, lifting a heretofore full glass of red wine, “Then let me add…” He toasted the room in three slow moves, making eye contact with selected people in the room, then took one drink that emptied most of the glass. “It’s not a particularly low level.”

Joseph Jeremiah DeFreines- March 15, 1926- February 27, 1969.

I choose to start the story at exactly this time and place, Monday, June 7, 1969, because, though my father was dead; though I was responsible for his death; though I was facing the draft, college, or Vietnam; though everything in my life was uncertain, muddled, frightening; I was exactly where I had long wanted to be; Swamis Point with a four-foot swell.

            The stories we are told, the stories we tell, are taken and reshaped from some bigger story, one without some definite beginning or contrived and convenient ending, one that continues after the players move on. Or die.

All good surf stories start or end in the dark. Some barely awake surfer powered by anticipation, fumbling with wet towels and trunks, trying to beat others with the same incentive, to get a few seconds-long rides on liquid energy, possibly making a wave that shouldn’t have been made.

I have selected scenes, and cut scenes, and edited passages, manipulating if not controlling the narrative. This story will begin and end in the dark. As such, “Swamis” is a surf story.

            “Swamis” is a coming-of-age story as well. It has to be. I was almost eighteen, an inlander, dreaming of being a local in the North County beach towns, dreaming of some sort of relationship with my idea of the perfect surfer girl. Not one who sat on the beach, one who complimented her man’s ‘good rides, made excuses for awkward rides, my vision of a perfect surfer girl was of one who surfed. I had one in mind.

This is, then, a love story. The best love stories end sometime after a shared sunset, perhaps, in the dark. This story will, also. Not that that story, with romantic visions hit hard by real life, was over.

            Mystery? My father constantly added to his collection of easily dropped aphorism, little witty sayings. “There are no mysteries,” he would say, pausing in this one, as he did with most, before finishing with, “Someone knows.” Another pause. “You just have to ask the right person.” Pause. “Or persons.”

That Joseph DeFreines had an assortment of phrases at his disposal is not a mystery, really. My grandfather was a preacher. A preacher needs a certain ready-to-go phrases. Here is an example, passed down from my grandfather: “I search for a glimpse of the reflected glory of our Lord and Savior in the countenances of my brothers and sisters.” I never met the man. He didn’t go to my father’s funeral. I didn’t go to his.

There are mysteries in my novel. Some are solved. Only a few are resolved. Though I am trying to write the story fifty-plus years on, I have always taken note of details, almost forcing myself to know and to file away moments, images, dialog, back stories of people only tangentially connected to a straighter storyline; these are important to me. I have deleted and edited and manipulated so many side stories and characters to present a reasonable version of a flawed-character-as-detective novel. Please make note of and accept my apology for straying from a simpler narrative.

I have the stories retrievable from my memory, and I have notes. Years and years of notes.

I am setting a deadline: Completion, with something worthy of getting copies made, before Christmas. Before. It might make a great gift. Let’s see- Original manuscript, with illustrations, locally printed, packaged in a customized PeeChee folder (a reference to habits of the fictional author); Oh, and limited edition, maximum of one hundred copies, hand signed by the author/illustrator… WHOA! I better get to work.

NOTES: Information on the recent drowning is still going back and forth on the various social threads. When I have more info, I will let you know. ALSO, all the rights for everything in this and all postings on realsurfers.net is copyright protected. Rights belong to Erwin A. Dence, Jr. ALL QUOTES by Aaron Lennox, including “Word on the Strait,” belong to him.

Drowning Rewritten

There’s no way this version of an essay, a replacement for one lost to the misunderstood mechanics of Mac and Microsoft, could be the same. Retelling, rewriting; stories change, only imagined word magic is dulled, made somehow transparent. They are only words.

If you are kind enough to read this, please scroll down to the previous posting. Something related to this piece was written and meant to go there. Thanks.            

Drowning. Someone drowned surfing on the Strait of Juan de Fuca on Sunday. I didn’t know him, but I do know he was someone’s sibling, someone’s child, someone’s love. Perhaps I surfed with this young man, passed him on the highway or the trail, saw him in the parking area. I couldn’t put a face to the name that was being spread on the fir cone wireless, the various and overlapping circles of surfers and their surfer and non-surfer friends.

I do know something about him.

While there is little information on the actual cause of the drowning, the conditions in the water at the time are known; a rising swell in a narrow bay, mostly closeout waves, rip currents running parallel to the beach, other surfers in the area. He was pulled from the water by another surfer, a friend of a friend of mine. Attempts to resuscitate failed.

The scene was, by all accounts so far, chaotic and tragic.   

More is already being discovered about the victim. As always, this adds to the tragedy.

For all our competitiveness, for all the ‘my crew’, ‘your crew’, ‘local’, ‘regular’, ‘outsider’ divisions, surfers, out of the water, are united. I realize it’s a ridiculous conceit of mine to draw some distinction between real surfers and… everyone else. It is my belief that you do the same. Slightly different criteria, no doubt.

While surfers understand something about drowning, it is also known by anyone who has ever choked on water that went anywhere even close to the lungs.  

Just one jolt of that; mistiming the top of a wave you’re paddling over, breathing in too quickly after a wipeout; you will remember other times when you sucked in water or heavy foam instead of air, times you’ve choked and sputtered, times you were afraid you might not make it back to shore. If you or I haven’t been knocked unconscious by a rock or a surfboard, haven’t been held down longer than we can hold our breath… we’re lucky.     

We forget that. Too easily.

Writers have, for the history of writing, almost romanticized drowning. Perhaps it is the notion that, in the end, it is, according to survivors, a sort of peaceful thing, a surrender to what is inevitable for all of us. Death. Not a violent, painful death, but a… No, that’s fiction. There is a reason for the phrase, “fighting to the last breath.”

I decided long ago that I do not want to drown. I don’t want to think about drowning.

And yet I am.


WORD ON THE STRAIT- I want to give credit to Aaron Lennox for this phrase. Despite other claimants, Aaron is the only surfer who, in my years of surfing, ever successfully pushed me off my board on a wave. Yes, leash grabbing- different thing, Ian. The words for this posting are (hope I get this right- don’t want to call Aaron again to ask him… again): COMPETITIVE AGGRESSION. No, I don’t really understand it. My first reaction was to say how aggressively competitive I am. “Yeah, I am aware.” The page, evidently relates to people needlessly going dickwad in comments on some new (and immediately quite successful) Facebook page concerning Toyota-based campers. Look it up, I’m taking Aaron’s word it’s out there. Since Trish and our daughter Dru moderate a Facebook site, I did tell Aaron that the advantage he has is that he can cut off commentary and/or kick folks off. “They troll, but you… control.” “Yeah.”

The word on the Strait discussion was a few days ago. On Sunday, a surfer drowned on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This became the story. The fir cone wireless and the cell phone connections began almost instantly after the tragedy. News is still sketchy. I will update when I know more. DROWNING is something any surfer has some familiarity with.

In trying to copy a piece I wrote on drowning from Word, the goal being to paste it here, I eliminated about four hours of work.

I wrote it WORD rather than on this site because I have lost stuff in the past. And still, it is gone. I blame Dru’s Apple computer.