It was Tom Burns who got me the gig, two days of judging at the Cleanwater Surf Contest in Westport. Oh, I knew it would be exciting, thrilling, and I’d get some food, a place to stay, and a hundred bucks. Professional. Professional-ish. Pro-Am. Yes, I could see myself moving up the ranks, hitting the World Surf League’s Qualifying Series, then the World Tour; France, Portugal, Honolua Bay; explaining to Joey and Potts why I gave Kelly Slater a 12.9 (out of a possible 10); talking them into supporting the number.
“I have to agree, Joey; it was an incredible move. Total commitment, risking… ” “Me too, Potts; and, sure, why not factor age into the mix of Speed, Power, Flow? Say, Erwin, it’s a lay day in another surfing mecca; what do you have planned?” “Well… oh, hi, Strider. Um, maybe see what’s on HBO, maybe a nap.” “I hear that, brother; but for me, the excitement is just about out of control.” “It’s flat, man, sideshore chop; raining like a cow pissing on a…” “So, folks; another lay day here, with new judge Elwin Dence explaining best surfer of all time Kelly Slater’s remarkable…” “It’s Erwin.” “Huh?” “Huh?” “Huh?” “It’s Erwin, boys; not Elwin.” “Thanks, Rosie; love how you say my name.” “And, Erwin, what is on HBO?”
That was my image. Here’s a shot of the actual conditions on Saturday at Westhaven Jetty, Westport, Washington:
Gosh, it makes you want to suit up and run for the water. Actually, unprepared because I had to work my ass off to finish a job on Friday, I sort of packed, then got up before three am, threw stuff together, made sure I used the bathroom (this is sooo critical- for any surf trip) and headed down Surf Route 101. Then the McCleary Cutoff. Then Highway 8 (I think), then the twenty miles from Aberdeen to Westport, arriving only a little later than head judge Gary Milkie (not sure of the spelling) would have liked. The first heat was about to start, and the judging tent was set up about 75 yards from the main contest area. You know, where the out-of-the-water action is happening.
Despite Tom… wait, I should say that I originally met Tom while I was volunteering, trying to make a few bucks for the Olympic Peninsula Chapter of Surfrider, a couple of years ago. I did a crappy job as a heat check-in guy, and a shaky job as a flag changer. “Is it red and green; just green… what?” But, hanging with the judges (who mostly are about my age; I thought I did pretty well. “Red up; no, it’s orange… oh, and, way over there, yellow’s up. No, he’s down. Greennnnnnn!”
The next time I volunteered, two years ago, I signed up early, and put myself in the spotter position for all day Saturday. Evidently, it was revealed later, some other volunteers were a bit perturbed by my hogging of the position. As usual, perturbation noted, not dwelled-upon (they should’a signed up earlier). I did have one chance to judge when Tom had to go the 75 yards (imagine a triangle, bathrooms, main event area, judges tent) to go number one (he says). I was doing fine until two surfers took off on one wave, splitting the wall, three more on the next wave, one of those way down the beach.
“Errrrr! What?” “Put the pencil down,” Gary, whose normal position is stalking behind the row of five judges, asking constantly for a wave count, said. And I did.
Hey, look; I have to go. I’ll get back to this; wanting to do it right. Tonight, and I’ll upload some of my photos. These were taken by Tom Burns. That’s Sonny; Larry; me with the Seahawks cap under the hoody, concentrating (probably commentating); Gus, one spotter also concentrating, another spotter probably concentrating while trying to keep his parts warmed.
Again, I’ll be adding more later. “No, I gave him a 5.6. Oh, it’s old guys in this heat? 5.9.”
There’s no instant replay here. Just getting this from my GOPRO to here took about three heats worth of time. So, we have… no, I have to go. Now that the photos are on this site, I’ll move them around and tell a few tales that, if my performance as a judge doesn’t do it, will keep me from being invited back. No, nothing serious; but, well, you probably can see why judges and on-air talent are different (I wanted to say) animals.