Mike’s Handmade Surf Vessels

AND “SWAMIS” FOR SALE… SOON.

(360) 775-8789- Port Townsend, Wa.

This is, actually, the first drawing I’ve done in quite a while. I have been pretty much consumed with trying to, one, survive, two, keep chopping and cutting and shaping and sanding and polishing my manuscript for “Swamis” into what I will call, eventually, and with a sincere humility, a ‘classic surf-centric novel.’ Three, try to not get skunked totally when I go searching for waves.

It’s been almost a year since I got to ‘the end,’ the end of the unexpurgated version of “Swamis,” got all excited, handed out a few thumbdrives, e-mailed word documents to some other folks, waited for the praise.

There is no profit in giving or receiving unwarranted or undeserved praise. I believe honesty is… no, I’m okay with undeserved praise; and yet, because I knew “Swamis” wasn’t done, I started re-editing, reorganizing, and, most painfully, cutting out words, my words; dialogue, description well before I got the feedback, most of which centered around reorganizing, shaping the manuscript into something… readable, with less jumping around in time… with actual chapters and stuff; something more… MAINSTREAM.

I have taken all the feedback to heart, and have thanked those who read part or all (deserved praise to those who managed that feat), and I have worked my fool ass off on building (almost said creating) a book worth the time one would spend reading.

OKAY, let’s relate it to my connection to MIKE NORMAN. He’s a part of the ever-enlarging, ever-frustrated Port Townsend surf crew; he works at the boatyard on, I don’t really know, boats. Mike has been repairing boards for himself and others for awhile, the combination of big rocks and small waves on the Strait of Juan de Fuca causing more damage per board, more lost or broken fins, than bigger waves and friendlier shorelines would. Personal testimony here. AND Mike has been shaping and glassing complete boards; AND, because he has a background in foam and fiberglass, his boards are professional grade; HANDCRAFTED SURF VESSELS.

Without scrolling back, I believe I did write about how I ripped the glass off my first SUP, sawed off about a foot and a half of what I thought was a twelve foot board, discovering it was, nope, eleven feet; so my new scarred and partially waterlogged blank was now seven foot six and not as floaty as I had hoped. After trying to get some evenness in the rail-lines, put some lift in the nose, give the board some rocker, some down rails, somewhere in there I decided, with some input from surfers who hadn’t actually seen my progress but have seen how I thrash and don’t repair my equipment, I turned the project over to MIKE.

Part of the deal on my end is I give Mike a 5’9″ Bic fish I thought I might ride but haven’t, and providing a logo to put on my and other people’s boards. This is my second, or third, perhaps, attempt. No, not perfect; but if I go back, move this, change that, cut this, add that… then it would be… classic.

NOW, trying not to use my lack of board building skills as a metaphor, I do realize that, at some point, since I would prefer to have an actual publisher, “Swamis” will require an outside editor with an objective eye. I want the manuscript to be as tight as I can get it before that happens. YEAH, it’s scary. The book has to stand on its own merits. ALMOST THERE.

GOOD LUCK to all at this darkest time of the year; sometimes there are, I’ve heard, waves, breaking, just off shore. Waves are a gift (not necessarily worth sharing). I will be trying to sell “Swamis” soon. If you can help, I did check out my gmail account recently, one I rarely use. It works. realsurfersdotnet@gmail.com

Happy Merry Solstice Christmas Whatever; and I mean it.

Big Island ‘Haole Local’ finds Surf Redemption

Now that Stephen R. Davis is kind of settling into Big Island life, and has made progress toward, possibly, becoming what he referred to another surfer over there, a “Haole Local,” I speak with him less regularly than when he was over here on the crookedy corner of the contiguous states. I mean, like, really, what do I have to say, surfwise? King tides and southwest swells and skunkings and underwater gravel migration that cuts a wave-killing channel through my favorite reef? Mean-muggers and packs of high-fiving white guys on SUPs who, obviously, got their training chasing ferry boats? How the number of new surfers add to the Olympic Peninsula demographic of most frustrated surfers per hundred thousand?

Yeah, the usual stuff, plus, since it’s this time of year where every surf trip starts AND ends in the dark, and the political shenanigans continue, unabated, as does the virus, and the unavoidably (except by Congress) obvious toll the pandemic has taken on regular folks (for example- several Port Angeles restaurants in business the 42 years I’ve been here have for sale signs in front of them) continues to rise; and, oh yeah; it’s Christmas time, which, if I had my choice, would take place in August when I actually have some money for presents (my kids don’t call me the Christmas Dick because I seem particularly jolly)… so, again, just the usual stuff is going on in my life, making it extra pleasant to get a call from Stephen R. Davis.

Steve called me to say he’d gotten redemption at a sketchy break that features a dry-reef-takeoff, a couple of cruisy sections, and an opportunity to get barreled or pummeled. We did talk after an earlier session in which one of the non-Haole locals said something that Steve understood, but, with him using the pidgin pronunciation, left me with no clue as to what he was talking about, even when I made him repeat it. But, placing it in context, because, when he looked around, all the other surfers were heading for shore, I’m guessing the phrase probably meant something like, “The tide’s too low, Haole.”

Now I imagine Steve nodding, as if he understood the implications, but staying out for an uncontested wave of two.

As I said, this time, with some water on the reef, Steve, who says, with the opportunity to surf consistently, he is surfing better than he ever has, and he was already a very good surfer; this time… redemption.

WAIT! I was just watching some pipeline footage and suddenly reef that Steve said he was doing the outfit with the two hands in the wave face, meaning one hand behind him. “Wait,” I exclaimed ( or asked, perhaps- less dramatic), “you mean like Clay Matzo at Honolua Bay?” “Yes. ” “So, you Marzoed?” ” Guess so. ” “Okay.”

Steve sent me a few photos. This one is a little beefcake-ish and buttcrack-ey, and he says it isn’t him, though he claims he can’t remember the name of the guy and, although I just don’t know of that many people who have that much fucking hair (and I have seen some Stephen Davis wannabes).

Merry Christmas from Stephen R. Davis or Stephen R. Davis doppelganger

It’s a bit interesting to me that I’m working on this while considering how much weight a 4/3 full wetsuit adds to a surfer, that with a one mil vest (with hood) and booties, all of which take in and hold a certain amount of saltwater and/or urine (no, not the hood, urine-wise); and that I have two baggies of assorted chocolates on a side table, and a selection of seasonal cookies easily available; and that working on finishing my novel “Swamis,” (self promotion here) and whatever else I’m doing from a chair that can recline if I’m too tired to sit upright is not exactly like burning calories.

I did mention the Christmas Dick thing.

Anyway, and not just because I have some free (as in no one is paying me for it) time, I will, soon, post some photos my friend and contemporary Tom Burns sent me illustrating a trip some of his friends took to the channel at Mavericks on that recent day, best in years, you are probably already familiar with. But, just because my sister Suellen sent me this, I may as well include a shot of our dad, Suellen, me, and my next sister down, Mary Jane, en route from Surf City, North Carolina to San Diego, December 1953.

“I see the big crack, yeah; but when do we get in the water?”

Merry Christmas; try not to be a (not a sexist comment- I’m talking behaviorally) dick; in or out of the water; and, for godsake, Steve or non-Steve, tighten up those boardshorts!

Too-Epic “Swamis”

My novel, “Swamis,” keeps growing, keeps reaching past ‘novel’ to ‘epic novel’ length. I keep editing it, deleting stuff, then, tightening and polishing and making sure all the little moves are clear; it just keeps rolling past the 120k word zone, that fictional border that keeps a fictional story at a readable length.

Yeah, and as much as it hurts me to cut chapters, with where I am, so close to an ending that keeps evading me in the rewriting and editing, I definitely need to cut a couple of thousand words. SO, I keep moving them to the backup, shadow story, labeled “Sideslipping” on my laptop. I have published some of these on realsurfers, and, if I can swing the computer moves, I will stick some ‘edits,’ don’t want to call them ‘deleted scenes,’ here. MAYBE ‘deleted scenes’ is acceptable.

See the source image
John Witzig photo, Australia, sixties; but it sure looks like Swamis

The following is actually two big outtakes. Remember, though there is a lot of actual people and real events included in “Swamis,” this is fiction. I transplanted my best surfing friends Phillip and Ray into situations that never happened, stuck myself in there, too, mostly so readers don’t think I am Jody. I am not. And, yeah, it’s a lot of words to delete; still not enough:

                                SIDESLIPPING- OUTTAKES FROM “SWAMIS”

Here we go:

Someone I met much later, a former member of the La Jolla/Windansea group, ten years or so older than me; old enough to have dived for abalone and lobster; old enough to have ridden a new balsa wood board, said, of surfing in his era, “We just sort of plowed.”

When I switched from surf mats to boards, in 1965, diving for and selling abalone and ‘bugs’ (lobster) for cash was already over; being a ‘true waterman’ was no longer a priority.  This only added to the mystique.  There was a certain reverence, respect, held by surfers of the “Everybody goes surfing, surfing U.S.A.” era for the members of that post-war generation; beatnik/hotrod/rock n’ roll/pre-Gidget/rebellious/outsider/loner surfers plowing empty waves. 

That is, for those (of us) who actually gave a shit.

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, if you wanted to improve, you would have to challenge yourself to ride bigger waves, beachbreaks with no channel, tough paddle outs.  You would have to learn to hold tightly to the board’s rails, your arms loose enough to move with the violence of a breaking wave.  If you wanted to surf the best waves, the set waves, even at Tamarack, you would eventually have to challenge a better-than-you surfer for a wave.

Chapter Eight- Thursday, March 20, 1969

Phillip and Ray lead the discussion about the murder and the excitement.  There was a bigger than usual crowd at the big concrete planter boxes, designed with seating all around, trees and bark inside them. The break was called ‘nutrition,’ between second and third periods, and there were two trailers set up where nutritious snacks like orange-sickles and twinkies could be purchased.  

Mostly Ray was talking, with Phillip adding key points, and Erwin looking out for any nearby teachers.  Mark and Dipshit Dave and three of the Billys were there. I was in my usual spot, standing in the planter, observing, listening.  Some of the local toughs and the cooler non-surfers were, unusually, part of this day’s group; listening; more friends of friends of Ray and Phil. 

Two of the Rich Kids came over from the Senior Area.  Mike, who had been my best friend up until third grade, jumped up next to me on the planter.  “Missed the excitement, huh Joey?”

“Guess so, Mikey.”

I had already heard the story.  My mind was somewhere else.  

“Um, hey; Joey; you know…”  I knew what Mike wanted to say.  “We’re still; you know, friends.”  He tapped me on the chest, tapped his own.  “It’s just… your dad.  Sorry.”

I tapped Mike on his chest, three times, held up a flat palm between us, went back to being somewhere else.   

In our freshman year, the most crowd-centric of several big concrete planters became the pre-school, break, and lunchtime hangout for the entire crew of Freshmen surfers (as far as we knew); Erwin and Phillip and me. With the administrative building behind it, the gymnasium/cafeteria downhill, most of the classrooms to the west, and a bit of shade provided by the trees, it was a good place for observing while still laying low, avoiding… avoiding the other students; the older students in particular; but also any awkward interactions with girls and rich kids and new kids who had gone to other Junior high schools, Pauma Valley (East, toward Palomar Mountain) and Camp Pendleton (West) and Bonsall (Southwest) and Rainbow and Temecula (Northeast).

Temecula. In my senior year, 1969, there were four or five kids from there; three were siblings; two Hanks sisters, one brother. These days, if people don’t know where Fallbrook is, they have heard of Temecula. Big city. “Yeah, sure, Temecula; out on The 15.”

Putting “The” in front of the name of highways came later, along with traffic helicopters and rush hour destination forecasts. Later.

I-15 was Highway 395 then, and Temecula was, often, twisted into Tim-meh-cu’-la; not for any good reason except, perhaps, it was more inland, farther East than Fallbrook, Fallbrook, a town that self-identified (with signage) as “The Friendly Village;” but was nicknamed, in a self-deprecating way, Frog-butt.

Again, the planter was a good place to observe the daily run of mostly manufactured dramas, crushes and romances and slights and breakups, from.  High ground.  The planter offered a good view of the slatted, backless wooden benches where the sociable girls, this clique and that one, sat (one or two sitting, two or three standing), in groupings established through some mysterious sort of class/status jockeying, some girls able to move from one group to another; some not.

The planter was adjacent to the Senior Area, a sort of skewed rectangle of grass and concrete with covered picnic tables.  This chunk of real estate was off limits and jealously guarded, mostly by guys in red Warriors letterman jackets, against intruders; though any senior who made any effort to appear cool (particularly when talking with underclass girls) would feel obligated to say the exclusivity of the senior area was no big deal to him. 

Girls.  Yeah, the planter was a good place to observe girls, some I’d known since kindergarten. Changing.  So quickly.  Heartbeat by heartbeat.  Girls.  So mysterious. 

It’s not that I didn’t try to understand how a (comparatively) poor girl with a great personality could be in with three rich girls, at least one of whom was totally bitchy (I mean ‘slightly difficult, quite mean, and unreasonably demanding,’ but I would have meant and said bitchy back then).  I figured it was because they knew each other before we figured out whose parents had more money than whose (ours).

…  

Phillip was new when we were freshmen.   He had come from Orange County; but he had done some surfing and his older sister was going out with a guy who was definitely one of Fallbrook High’s four or five real surfers.  Phillip and I shared a couple of classes.  I’d known Erwin since kindergarten.  He was a Seventh Day Adventist, which was, he explained, “Kind of like Christians following Jewish traditions.”  “Oh, so that’s why you’re not supposed to surf on Saturdays?”  “It’s the Sabbath.  Holy.  Sundown Friday until sundown Saturday.”  “Too bad.”  “Well; we have gone to, um, Doheny; somewhere we wouldn’t run into anyone from, you know, here.”  “Oh?”  “Yeah; hypocrisy and guilt. If surfing isn’t, you know, actually sinful…”  “Oh, but you know it is.”  “Sure is.”

Erwin was one of the only Adventists at our school, and he started board surfing right after junior high; about the same time I did; when his sister, Suellen, beguiled by “Gidget” movies and an episode of “Dr. Kildare,” probably (no doubt, actually); got herself a used surfboard and let her brother borrow it. 

Sinful, yes; addictive, undoubtedly.  I once, early September, just after school started, saw Erwin sitting on his sister’s board, toward the channel of the lineup.  Sunday.  Tamarack.  It wasn’t big, really, maybe a little bigger than had been average over the summer. 

“You’re in the channel, Erwin.”  “So?”  Closer to the peak meant closer to the crowd.  We challenged each other, had to go.  We both paddled, over and out; and sat, anxiously, outside of where the waves were breaking, watching other surfers, from the back, take all the waves.  When a set wave showed up, we were (accidently) in position.  We both; heads down, paddled for it; Erwin prone, me on my knees.  We both caught the wave.  I pearled, straight down, my board popping back up dangerously close to other surfers scrambling out. Erwin rode the wave. Probably quite ungracefully, but, if only between him and I, he had bragging rights.

Bragging rights, but only between Erwin and me.  Being ignored for a mediocre ride was far better than being noticed, called-out as a kook, told by three surfers, only one of them older than I was, to go surf somewhere else, go practice my knee-paddling in the nearby Carlsbad Slough.

I never did.  I persisted.  I got better.  I had significant surf bumps by the time I started riding boards that took knee-paddling out of the equation.

Sometimes I, or Phillip and I, would go (on a Sunday) with Erwin’s mom and his many siblings; sometimes Phillip (on a Saturday) or both of them (on a Sunday, after school, or on a holiday)  would go with Freddy and me and my mom.  Always to Tamarack.  Lower parking lot.  Freddy never surfed a board.  Surf mat; the real kind, hard, nipple-ripping canvas.  Sometimes Freddy and I would get dropped-off, try to fit into the crowd, ease close to someone else’s fire when our mom’s shopping took longer than the time we could manage to stay in the water.

Ray and some of the other guys our age didn’t start surfing until the summer before our sophomore year, so Phillip and Erwin and I were ahead of them, better than them.  Many of our contemporaries at least tried it.  Anyone newer to surfing than you were was a kook and/or gremmie.  Surfing had its own dress code and, more importantly, a fairly strict behavioral standard.  A code I thought, at the time.  It was fine to get all jazzed up among other surfers, going to or from the beach, but not cool to kook out among non-surfers. 

Even in the proper surf gear, Phillip and Ray, both blondes, looked more like what TV and movies said surfers should look like (unless you were foolish enough to believe Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon were anything even close to real- real surfers knew the extras, the background guys, Miki Dora especially, and Mickey Munoz, were the real surfers).  Erwin and I, dark haired; even when dressed in the requisite surf garb of the time, weren’t immediately recognized as surfers, weren’t immediately given whatever prestige we thought surfers received.

Or we were, and the prestige wasn’t what we thought it might be. 

By the time we were seniors, most of the other Fallbrook surfers our age had dropped off; surfing was less important than whatever they were doing; though they still looked like surfers and always asked when I’d gone last; always said we’d have to go, together, some time.

Some time.  We still rarely hung out in the Senior Area.  The planters.  

We all seemed to have cars; hand-me-downs from parents or older siblings off somewhere new.  We could go surfing alone.  Phillip and Ray had girlfriends, on and off.  Even Erwin had a girlfriend, Trish; not an Adventist.  Separate lives.  Separate adventures.  Romances.  Drama.  Sometimes we’d still surf together; usually not.

The stories of those adventures connected us. Loosely, probably.

I studied, I surfed. But, at nutrition and at lunch, pretending not to notice the swirl of so many stories around me, this concrete planter box was my social scene.

Surf Addiction- The First Thrill is Free

The obvious reason that there are so many people who think of ourselves as surfers, real or otherwise (and I will write about the obvious advantages of being a HODAD, later), is that, kook to pro, riding a wave is (or should be, definitely can be) THRILLING.

Get that thrill of tapping into nature’s energy, dropping in, dancing across the wave face, one with the… yeah, yeah, next time you’ll do even better. Maybe. Not to sound cynical here, but sixty-some years after I had to be, allegedly, rescued from the waves at SURF CITY, North Carolina, I’m still chasing, and occasionally fully realizing the THRILL.

It comes with the lessons, dudes, but no way is it, like, mandatory

WAIT. So, we moved to California when I was four, so this incident in which I toddled from my dad’s oceanfront (bought it cheap, sold it cheap, all washed away in hurricane) house to glory in the surf. It must have been blissful before an Aunt had to save (?) me.

Sixty-six years, and, while I’m explaining stuff, some of the least fun I’ve had were sessions where, considering myself pretty durn good at surfing, back when I was 19, 20; which, objectively, was the height of my ability (if I don’t add the increasing number of asterisks that go with age – wave knowledge does increase as knees and ankles deteriorate), when I was more pissed than blessed because performance did not live up to my expectations.

EXPECTATIONS; this is another issue. In retrospect, I should have just realized that waves are a gift, and the ride in which everything goes perfectly is rare. If a surfer can get one memorable wave in a session, he or she should be satisfied. IF NOT, there’s always the possibility of a NEXT TIME; next time, yeah, less of a crowd, more of a wave, that next time.

MEANWHILE, do consider avoiding the disappointments and frustrations; switch to being a REALHODAD. There are so many benefits. “Yeah, I surfed, Baja; bitchin’ surf camp, dudes; stood up the first day. Really. Kinda cool.”

NEXT TIME I will go into how I’ll never get past the first step in curing SURF ADDICTION, with a story of how I got mediocre waves shared with five high-fiving SUPers, obviously ripper wannabes who honed their skills riding ferry wakes off of Alki Beach, and then got to hear, again, via texts, about how other surfers I know found proper peelers, and then, because I’m so extremely childish/kookish (and I did get a few fun rides), I got all snarky/grinchy on the return texts… and then I said, okay, I was wrong; I’m not going to even look at the buoy readings the next day, and then, close to a fickle surf spot, even more fickle than most, and without a board or wetsuit (because I wasn’t going to think about surfing), I checked the buoys. FUCK! Had to be breaking. And it was, sort of, with too many surfers for the spot and more in the closest parking area. SO, YEAH; I hodad-ed it up; handed out my excuses (two of which are mention above). NO, I would rather have been surfing. My name is Erwin, and I’m an addict.

SO, I GUESS, next time I’ll write about how foolish it is, if you can’t make an actual living at surfing, to give up too much in search of the THRILL.

COMMENTS- WordPress makes it kind of a pain to write comments anyway, but it seems, right now, and I have tried to correct this, if you hit ‘comment,’ it just goes kind of nowhere. I’m getting close to finishing “SWAMIS,” the novel, and I will put in a web address to which one can send feedback; honest if not flattering. Next time.

Surf Interest/obsession/addiction…

“It’s a real thing. Surf addiction.” That’s a quote. Not from me, but from someone else accused of, and I would say guilty of, having the same addiction I’ve been accused of having, by Trish, for the fifty-two years, approximately, that we’ve been together. Oh, but I had the addiction before I met her.

Okay, I’m still at the stage where I am thinking about how to write this; which means, really, how to organize all the bits and pieces bouncing around; get all the stories and theories and ideas to flow, to break evenly, A-frame peak to shore. Yeah, I’m considering the dilemma and the choices facing those of us who have an obsession with a recreational activity/sport/lifestyle/addiction that is, on its face, kind of arbitrary and self-centered and possibly ridiculous and obviously unnecessary and… oh, you disagree? Sorry; that’s how surfing appears to someone who doesn’t realize the way one good ride on one good wave hooks even the goofiest kook, gives him or her (increasingly her) the desire to get an even better ride on an even better wave.

See the source image
“Did you see it? It was awesome! Man, I’m never gonna quit this surfboard sliding thing! Cowabinga!”

GOLF, MOUNTAIN CLIMBING, BOWLING, chess, gardening, baking, a million other activities someone somewhere is addicted to are, to be clear, equally unnecessary in someone’s image of a real world.

I’m sure you’ve also considered that surfing takes place in one of thousands of alternate universes, or even, individual universes, each one bumping into or taking off in front of someone else’s universe. Whoa; all that thinking’s TOO DEEP for me;

SO, let’s consider this PART ONE, in which I admit, or explain, or confess, as that might be closer to the truth, as I have to multiple surfers and, particularly, to non-surfers; that, in my relationship with Trish, love of my life, surfing has always been the other woman. NOT, I should add, a secret other woman; Trish knows her very well; and has her own, not to get all gender-y here, or get confusing by spending some time on the times Trish and I were in the water together (though I am thinking of one particular afternoon we were both caught outside on surf mats in some serious conditions); connection with and love for the ocean. And that connection predates… me.

THERE is a lot that goes with the easy phrasing, the other woman and our long-term affair with a true if not, obviously, faithful (fickle, angry, playful, stubbornly calm) force of nature. The ocean doesn’t love us back. Sorry. Okay; maybe sometimes; but the ocean is always beckoning; the rhythm too close to the beating of our hearts. MAYBE that’s too dramatic.

THE LATEST DRAMA in which the subject came up involved a friend (I’ll see if he’s cool with me dropping his name here) whose girlfriend (and the participants aren’t high school age, but the ‘would you rather go surfing or stay with me?’ thing is, no doubt, involved) broke up with him, again, after her latest attempt at an intervention apparently failed. The ultimatum, if there was one (dangerous, those ultimatums) failed because, as he quoted her, “You’re on your phone all day; and it’s not like ‘normal’ stuff, Instagram, Twitter, porn (she may not have said ‘porn,’ but it adds something); no, you’re looking at buoy reports and surf forecasts and webcams (surf spot webcams, to be clear).” Yes, that is true, but sometimes he’s also surfing, or more likely, hanging out waiting for waves, searching for waves.

HE was telling me about the breakup when another surfing friend called me back, no doubt to see what I knew about any possible wave activity. SPEAKER PHONE. “No, surf addiction, that’s a real thing.” There’s the quote. Now I have to check with him, a surfer as addicted as any I’ve known, to see if he’s ok with his name being sailed on the cosmic winds. I’m guessing he isn’t. ANYWAY, he disclosed that he has had some serious discussions with his wife, and he, as we all do, offers to cut back on scheduling his life around time and tides and buoy readings.

“Have you ever considered going and not telling her?” That was my question. I have never done that. Honest. No, I’m actually not lying. “Yeah; did that once. She asked me how come I had seaweed in my hair.”

THE FIRST STEP, evidently, in quitting any addiction, is wanting to quit. “So,” name redacted (at least temporarily), “Do you want to quit surfing?” Head shake. “What did he say?” “No, he doesn’t want to quit surfing?” “What about… hey, that’s a pretty serious step. He could just cut back.”

Cutback. Bottom turn. Climb back into the pocket…

The next day, having missed what another surf junkie described, me getting this second hand, third hand, maybe, as ‘the best he’s seen it in quite some time;’ the non-recovering surf addict did, indeed, head toward the shoreline, searching for whatever it is we search for; constantly, relentlessly, with a certain disdain for the things we must do (work, for example) in order to answer that siren’s distracting but clear call.

IN PART TWO… I have no idea; I’m thinking about it.

The End of the Casual Chat, or…

SPACED OUT AT ARBY’S

I have been known to talk to strangers; people in checkout lines, checkers at a checkout line, a guy who happens to be wearing a HARBOUR SURFBOARDS sweatshirt while loading a pickup outside a Home Depot (has to be a story there, huh? Yeah, there was… quite informative and interesting), random folks who just happen to ask what’s happening or who’s moving into some office I’m painting, two different guys who are waiting for their orders at Arby’s in Silverdale where I happened to be, if you’re at all interested, because, if I have to go over the Hood Canal Bridge for one reason, like getting paint, I might as well combo it all up, go to Costco, and, as a treat, bring home ssomething from Arby’s, quality-wise, somewhere near the top of ladder for franchise takeout, not that I want to get into a big discussion about it. Yes, I did once consider Jack in the Box haute cuisine, brown bag-wise (with napkins), but…

YES, I will CHAT.

But that’s all over. People are, evidently, actually getting serious about surviving the pandemic that refuses to die, and some dorky guy who encroaches into their territory might just be met with ‘THE SWEEP,’ a gesture in which the right hand (usually) is extended, palm down, fingers down, but then ‘swept’ forward, broomlike; the intended message being a quite obvious, “GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY SPACE YOU ZOMBIE!”

At least that’s how I took it when I, recently, merely leaned a bit forward to ask a gentleman if he was in line for check stand three. Maybe I was six inches into his bubble, but, yeah, I got the message. Then I looked over at check stand one, where two women were, I imagined, signing over Traveler’s Checks in order to buy cigarettes and/or a large number of Lotto tickets. Both of them, leaning way too close against the plexiglass barrier, turned to shoo away the guy waiting behind them. Yes, he did have a MAD MAX haircut and a matching facemask, and, from my angle, I could see he also had two large knives hanging from his belt, but, hey, he might have gotten offended by the DOUBLE SWEEP, with comment. Comments.

Or maybe he got the hint. I have. Yeah, it’s the end of the CASUAL CHAT.

“Hey, excuse me; are you two together? Oh, sorry for asking, it’s just, the outfits… Yeah, six feet. Got it.”

WAIT, a bit more; if you have a second: The last time, before last night, that I went to Arby’s was around November 9th, Trisha’s birthday, and while waiting for my takehome order, signs around the place warning about even trying to sit down, two other guys started chatting. Way too much info. I know I wrote about this. Not this time. There were, by the time my name was called out, six individuals, one couple, waiting, spaced out, not chatting. If another person joined the loose queue, he or she looked for the proper amount of distancing. I now know to just sideshuffle down a bit. Polite. Civilized.

THEN, this guy held open the far (exit only) door for me. “Hey,” I said, “it’s all gotten so real.” “It sure has.” So, both with our masks on, takeout bags in hand, somewhere near six feet apart, we chatted a bit. The old walk-and-talk. Nothing especially remarkable in the discussion; how Costco makes even nice people aggressively competitive, how this guy right in front of me had the last five pack of steaks in his hand, Trish, on the cell phone, wanted a five pack, the guy seemed to be considering whether to buy it or put it back, then grabbed the next to the last four pack, ALSO, and… that sort of thing. It was kind of nice. Chatting.

We will, with the help of the promised vaccines, reach herd immunity. Eventually. Meanwhile, I’ve long felt humans are not loners. I don’t want to quite say we’re herd animals, but we do enjoy being in the occasional pack. HERE’S A BIT OF PROOF in that direction. The other day, with the temperature around 40, and a damp 40 at that, I saw a group of hardcore Quilcene men, who, in other times, would have been at the big table inside, outside, drinking coffee and, yes, chatting.

“No, I wouldn’t call that six feet; would you?”

MEANWHILE, I’m getting pretty close to the exciting conclusion of “SWAMIS,” my novel; still a bit too long, possibly a bit too… chatty. Stay safe.

Six Foot on the Strait and…

Happy honkin’ Thanksgiving. I will explain the honking part in a bit. I hope waves are hitting whatever beach you’re close to, or chose to go to, or are currently at; re-checking the buoys, wondering how a seventeen foot swell in the Pacific Ocean can’t seem to find it’s way to that beach. WAITING, waiting, wait… we all know there are no waves in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and yet…

Yet I spent too many hours over the last two days answering the siren surf call. “In an hour and twenty minutes, big boy, traffic permitting, you could be hurrying to put on your cold, damp, recently-frozen wetsuit (and you should know not to hang a wetsuit outside in these parts- frost is real), enjoying the multiple pleasures and temporary (and, yes, a bit frosty) bliss of plopping your bulky self into the smooth lines of a…” Have to stop; just a bit too (I could say honest) revealing.

That was TUESDAY. Traffic permitted, ocean did not oblige. Hang out, wait, take a nap… didn’t help. Others were still waiting, other surf hunters showing up or driving on. Fickle, these sirens.

Then, WEDNESDAY, calculating, drawing on experience, hoping; couldn’t help hear the siren call. “Forget about finishing that job; the winds and tides are just perfect; the possibility of taking off deep, tucking into a tube, climbing and dropping in an almost endless rhythm, pulling out at the last possible moment; (the possibility) of these things await…” Wait. Again, I should stop there.

BUT I went, waited around rather than going to my job up the hill, no more than six minutes (traffic) away. Then I left, couldn’t concentrate on work, but did some. An hour and a half later, at the far end of when my earlier and constantly readjusted calculations said the tide wndow would close, I returned.

WAS IT all the sirens promised, what my memories of near-perfect sessions constantly remind me is possible? NO, ‘course not. I did, HOWEVER, on both outings (one long one, two shorter) run into memorable folks on the beach.

I COULD write about some of those surfers, real and otherwise. I will. But here, today, let me say something about ADAM ‘WIPEOUT’ JAMES. He was at a beach, my second trip there, yesterday, with his two boys, Emmett and Calvin. It is definitely not helpful that I can no longer seem to figure out how to transfer photos from my phone to the computer (stuck in the cloud or something). The boys and their dad all have COVID haircuts, meaning no hair cuts. As old guys did back when I was a kid with, usually, a ‘high and tight’ cut (because my dad had been a Marine, but, because he had four sons, our hair was longer than average before our next visit to the barber), and because the boys were running around the beach with an girl, I, stupidly, asked, “Who are these girls?”

ADAM AND I DO TALK, fairly regularly, on the cellular devices; but we haven’t surfed together in quite a while (his favorite trick seems to be taking off in front of me); and I was pretty excited at the possibilities.

SO, I’M LEANING ON one of his many vehicles (he implied it’s rude to ask how many), chatting about how he put a mortal crease in the Mickey Munoz 12 foot soft top I once rode, and he’s putting dollops of sun-cure resin on dings on another board, both of us talking to KEITH, and Adam’s wife’s (Andrea’s) friend, father of the girl running around with Calvin and Emmett (not a surfer or in any way knowledgeable about surfing- asked if we wear wet or drysuits), and Adam says, “Hey, Dude; six feet.”

SIX FEET? I scan the horizon. NOPE, the usual lines that look like waves but are rip or wind lines. “OH? Yeah, six feet. Sorry.”

There are, of course, other stories. There are, as always, rumors about where waves DID HIT, where the SIRENS fulfilled their promises. NO, it never was a promise; it never has been. STILL, we listen.

OKAY, HERE’S ONE MORE: Tim Nolan, discussing something about how tides can affect wave size and, let’s say, punchiness, used the word ‘honking,’ as in, “When it really gets honkin’…” I had to ask him about it. Tim’s older, but, it seems, increasingly close to my age; and the word usage took me back to the sixties. For a moment. This was on my first attempt yesterday. Then, possibly because of my advanced age, I forgot the word. LUCKILY, on my second visit to the beach, Tim and a group of paddleboarders were just returning. I asked him; he remembered. HONKIN’!

AGAIN, HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

My Surf-Friends Phone List

I am still compiling it, didn’t realize the list of surfers in my phone was quite as extensive as it is; and I had to leave before completing which of the various categories I place these surf-friends in. BUT, let me add a list here: Surfers I don’t have a phone number for, but would love to have that access; not that I would abuse it.

NUMBER ONE on that list is Big Dave. Not a really talkative guy, but we have several connections including that we both surfed Pacific Beach at the same time, me a newlywed, twenty years old, he a self-described “Pier Rat,” somewhere around fourteen or fifteen, attacking Crystal Pier with his contemporaries. I did ask Dave (and I do know his last name, probably shouldn’t include it here) for his cell number. He said he’d give me one digit at a time. “Okay, so… three.” “Yeah.” He’s never given me another digit.

I would guess… six.

ANYWAY, not to be mean. Far be it for me to ever even consider fat-shaming anyone, but, maybe it isn’t just me who has noticed that, since he lost the election in a landslide, since he stopped doing anything positive connected to being a working president, it just seems like the guy who, you know, lost the popular vote and the electoral college, it seems like he has kind of, I don’t know, let himself go.

GO being the operative word. As in, please go.

Oh, jeez; look at the time. I have to go. I’ll get back to you on the list of who I might call if I thought there might ever be waves out on the Strait. It won’t be Big Dave. He would already know.

Stay safe, avoid crowds. Staying home is an option.

The Size of Your Circle is…

…not necessarily proportionate to the size of your, um, surfing prowess.

It is related to your willingness to reach out to others. OKAY, what got me thinking about this is, well, several things. BUT FIRST, you should consider how many phone numbers of actual (could say real) surfers are in the ‘contact’ area of your phone? SECOND, ask yourself, ONE, how many of these contacts you would call from the beach if you knew it was firing and they didn’t? TWO, how many would you only call after your session to brag and/or gloat? THREE, how many would you call to see what they know about the possibility of rideable surf? FOUR, how many would you almost never call because there is an etiquette in place in which surfers don’t call other surfers and/or you would, out of respect, not just call them to chat? We can throw in FIVE, surfers you are quite willing to chat with, but have not surfed with in years, and may not surf with again.

For a sense of perspective, FOUR should be the longest list.

HERE’S MINE. Checking. SO, there’s RAY HICKS, friend since 6th grade, surfed with him extensively in our teens, major influence in my getting back in the water in our fifties. He’s in California, as is STEPHEN PENN. We surfed together when we were newlyweds in 1971 in San Diego. If that needs explaining, TRISH and I, yesterday, sort of celebrated our 49th wedding anniversary yesterday, so Steve and Drucilla (who our daughter is named after) are almost there, anniversary-wise.

SORRY, I will have to get back to this; I have to go, OH, BUT, what got me thinking about the whole social-ness thing is that I got a phone call from Darrell Wood, pathfinder of surfing in the Northwest, the other day. I had his number three or four dead phones ago, lost it. Now I have it again. AND, chatting all things surfing, including who is or is not a true wave hog, with my friend KEITH, he said he has a birthday, like, today, tomorrow, some time in here, and, of course, being, definitely, a self-described SOUL REBEL, he would like a present of waves.

THERE WILL BE MORE. REGGIE and his instagram-ing… more. Maybe tomorrow.

Words on the Water

Just to be clear, when I told a few friends that I had a near-collision with a guy who looked a lot like LibTech founder Mike Olson, I was unaware that the reason he looked like Mike Olson is that he is Mike Olson.

And it was, apparently, not a near-collision.

The incident is another reminder of the schizophrenic nature of life; and, just to complicate matters, the way things appear different from different perspectives.

SCHIZ- I was feeling really good about the whole afternoon session, other than the bailout I had to do to avoid hitting someone in the impact zone. Two days later, when I was told that my board had, indeed, come in contact with someone quite popular ’round these parts, someone I had allegedly burned two years earlier, and that I now had two strikes against me… WAIT! WHAT! Two strikes and then what?

Anyway, I was upset enough to try to reach out to Mr. Olson. After I discovered it’s really difficult to reach Mike in person, I sent an email to his company explaining the situation, how I didn’t think my board had hit him at the time, how I never intend to hurt anyone in surfing. I also contacted several people who might be able to pass on my side of the story, and two surfers who worked for LibTech in the past. One of them responded, the other still hasn’t. Okay. I understand. One must pick a side.

PERSP- From the beach, for the folks around the fire or leaning against their surf rigs, it, evidently appeared as if I was going across a wave, had plenty of room to surf past one person inshore of me, but, when I couldn’t get past the second, I bailed, fell on and grabbed my board.

This is also how the ride seemed from my angle, the wave probably bigger in my version. BUT NO; my board evidently popped up, spinning, high in the air, and came down and into contact with Mr. Olson. THEN we had words, WORDS ON THE WATER. My words were louder. AGAIN, this is true. I did say, loudly, something about paddling around, then I did apologize, mostly for getting angry. Then we both paddled back out and resumed surfing. SO, Yeah, from a certain angle, I am a villain; not that this substantially changes my reputation.

Or adds to it.

RESOLUtion- So one of the former LibTech employees did reach out to Mrs. Olson on social media, and, by chance, also surfed with her several days after the INCIDENT. She told Reggie it was sweet that I was concerned, and that her husband had received the email, and that he had been hit in the elbow and may never surf again.

NO, not really. It was one of those accidents that happen in surfing. I have been on both sides of the situation. I have bailed out, straightened out, pulled out to avoid contact. Scrapping at Swamis back in the late 60s, hoping someone will fall off on a wave I could catch, I have incurred the wrath of surfers because I affected their rides. Negatively. Or they believed I affected their rides.

I have been hit in the impact zone by other surfer’s boards in my extended surfing life. The most damaging of these incidents was at Pipes, early 70s. I was paddling out, casually. A guy who could have easily made the wave was losing it on the takeoff. I was going to go under the wave rather than try to make it over the shoulder. This is proper. Sure, I thought, he’ll have to straighten. I adjusted my paddle accordingly. NOPE, he regained his balance at the bottom of the wave, saw me at the last second, then bailed, me trying to turn turtle with a Marvel Comic perspective of a surfboard coming fully sideways and straight at me. FULL BODY CONTACT. Ow. Yeah, he and I had words. Words on the water, something like “Oh, did I hit you?” “Yeah.”

SO, when I was relating the story to a woman considering opening a card shop in Port Townsend, several days after the incident was apparently smoothed over (thanks Dina and Mike), feeling kind of, um, normal (that phase between elation/mania and depression), she, Helen, said, “Oh, ‘words on the water,’ that could be the name of your new cards.”

MAYBE. Meanwhile, paddle around when you can; bail when you have to.