Thrashed, Trashed, Clipped, Rocked and Rolled at (naming names) Seaside

If you roll up to the parking area at Seaside Cove and notice the wind isn’t howling, the sun is out, full force, the waves are… well, it’s a little hard to judge because no one is out, and you… stop. No one is out; take that as a hint. It isn’t a secret spot, and, a couple of days after Labor Day, there still should be some long weekenders hitting it; and it was just about time for after-workers, locals, soft top renters, someone.

Rather than heading out from the sand-bottom of the Cove, I was going to save myself the paddle out through a hundred yards or so of waves, wavelets, chop from previous winds, a northwest swell mixed and comboed with the chop, sidechop bouncing off the rocks… yeah, the rocks; I would pass the confusion, slip down the dry rocks to the slippery ones and ease in, past the confusion, straight out to the lineup.

Such as there is a lineup. I would pick off a few lefts, maybe, close to the rocks, some of those rights that peak, offer a drop, and an exit; staying away from the lefts that drop you off in the impact zone. Yeah, and maybe I’d head up toward the Point; I mean, like, this time there weren’t any Locals out to be irritated, and, from the still-dry rocks, it did look like there might be a few zingers out there.

NOW, let me explain the rocks. Boulders, really, each one seemingly planted erect, like an obelisk, few lying sideways, as one would think they should; rather like a field of boulders, not dropping off quickly into deeper water, but more rocks farther out; and, with one foot wedged between this monument and another, my leash wrapped around another, somewhere behind me, I discover I’m nowhere near a place where the waves aren’t hitting.

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Fifteen minutes, or so, later, I had moved my van over across from the bathrooms/shower, changed to my shorter-but-stronger leash, one that probably wouldn’t rip loose from my ankle like the other one did, and was back out, through the wavelets and waves and cross-chop. Somewhere in the time I was regrouping, deciding whether to go back out or go back to my Dad’s house in Chinook, two other surfers had come out.

I caught a wave, nice peak, dropped in, didn’t make my decision on which way to go in time. Bloop. Regroup; paddle back out, just in time to be just inside of one of the two surfers to drop into a head high wall just in front of me. BLOOP! “Sorry, man.”

“No problem,” he said.  A few moments later he said, “I have to give you credit. I was watching, through the binocs; you took a thrashing; didn’t give up.” Self-identified as a 25 year local, Jason (this is after I explained I only surf Seaside when I’m visiting my Dad, and usually surf the way-more-in-control waves in the Strait) gave me a few tips on clearing the rocks, like, maybe, wait for a lull. “Lull, yeah. Thanks.” “You know,” he said, “all my friends have surfed in the Strait; I’ve never been.” “Well; maybe when you get, you know, older.”

Mostly I was grateful to get some kind of props for trying to recover from the worst thing on a real surfer’s worry list, looking awkward/gooney/kookish/out of control; way worse than wiping out, blowing a takeoff on the wave of the day (no, that’s worse, if only slightly). Adding witness to either of the above-mentioned terrors compounds the event.

So, I caught another left, with Jason inside to witness something less kook-like; dropped while driving, got into a great position on the wall, then got clipped, just barely, by the lip, and… BLOOP! Roll. Regroup. Blow more water out of my sinuses. A few more waves, a couple of closeouts, a right that hit deep water and vanished; and a long wave, made the drop, drove through a tube, hit the open face, slid into a turn, went for another… BLOOP!

Now I was caught inside, well into the miles of beachbreak between the Cove and the Columbia. It was enough. When I got back to my van, there were two people fooling around in the near-shore reforms, and, squinting toward the horizon, fields of rocks and Jason was nowhere to be seen.

ADDENDUM- When you have a tough session, all one wants to do is make up for it the next time. I was planning on going the next day, maybe somewhere else, but was actually in the area to paint my Dad’s addition; and I had to get back home. My friend, Hydrosexual Stephen Davis, and his son Emmett, came down during the night, checked out Seaside the next morning. Overhead, waves breaking on the horizon, northwest wind. “You aren’t missing anything,” Steve said on the phone. Later he and Emmett hiked down to one of the secluded coves, paddled out to some low tide closeouts. “Worth it, Steve?” “Yeah.” That’s when, in retrospect, one decides a couple of nearly-made tubes might be counted as a success. But, next time…

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Don’t Challenge the Locals, unless…

…I was just about to leave, anyway; after my third trip onto the rocks (boulders, really); but I figured I’d paddle a little farther up the point, just to see… what?

That was my mistake. It’s clear now; but it wasn’t at the moment the white-haired guy started yelling at me. Yes, he had been silent when I was surfing the next peak down, though he had given me the stink eye when I sort of approached the main peak, a glare in response to my nod (and a nod, unreturned… ooh, that does say something).

But this time, I had paddled past him, farther up the point, taken the ‘inside’ position. This was, at any break, and particularly at a notoriously localized Oregon break, criminal. And I was on an SUP. True, bad knees, a bad ankle, and way too much weight (confirmed by photos my sister Melissa took) tends to keep me from standing on any but the longest waves) and these barrels all ended up on those boulders.  Stay too long over the boils, or get caught inside, it’s, well, difficult; but (this guy, probably my age, was on a short board- and I never really saw him make a wave- irrelevant, I know, but…) I was on a big board, pushing to the head of the pack (three other surfers, pack-wise), the point of the spear. It was like I, the non-local, was making a statement. He had to say something.

“Why don’t you… those things… one of our guys had to be airlifted outahere…geez… why don’t you go over to…” he nodded (unfriendly kind of directional nod), toward the miles of mushy and/or closeout beachbreak to our north… “those things don’t belong…”

“Yes, they can be dangerous,” I said, and paddled north, catching one more barrelling rock-roller, careful to pull out the back over the outside boils.

I had some time to think about the little confrontation, that, obviously, the local won, on the long paddle back, (catching another couple of mushburgers in the kook/non-local/SUP-allowed area. “One of our guys.” This wasn’t me. Only a little ironically, I had a discussion earlier with a guy in the parking lot on how locals “get all butt-hurt” when someone they don’t know makes the trek or paddle over to this semi-sacred spot.

Butt-hurt.

Another surfer, over at the showers, said a sponsored shortboarder he knows had to walk past the fire on the beach, in someone’s yard, where the locals sometimes hang, got heckled; then ripped it up enough that he was ‘nearly embraced’ on his way back past the same fire. The next guy in line for the shower (and I gave way) actually was the guy who was hit by some SUP A-hole’s board, suffered a concussion, and had to be airlifted out. Was that a lot ironic, or merely a lot coincidental?

He was nice, 68 years old, thin, formerly of the Sunset Cliffs area of Ocean Beach, San Diego. “Luscombs; that’s where I cut my teeth.” “Yeah, I’ve surfed it; mostly when I lived in PB.” He knows the guy who asked me to leave. “Yeah, well; give him my best,” I said.

I immediately went back to thinking about the confrontation. “I’ve never run over anyone,” I had said to the SUP victim, not forgetting (but not mentioning) that I had once run into Archie’s board. And I told him about my worst-ever, non-self-inflicted injury, a full-body hit by a guy on a regular longboard. Still, he had to mention how SUP’ers can catch more waves, overwhelm a lineup. No, that hadn’t been me. Not that day, anyway. I did wait my turn; I did sit ‘down-wave’ from the main peak.

Melissa told me that no one owns the ocean, and I shouldn’t help carry someone else’s garbage; and, when I didn’t, she said “just get over it.” I’ve had more time to think about it. Maybe a couple of those locals might show up to a beach I frequent some time. Thinking, still thinking. I’m back home on Surf Route 101 now, another spot on my list of places surfed (next to Luscombs, maybe); but I am going down to do some work on my Dad’s house soon.

Thinking, just thinking. Oh, and now I’m wondering if the victim, who hadn’t been out at the sacred spot on this day (though he said he reached his quota- 15) was hit over in the main break. I mean, wouldn’t that kind of suggest it wasn’t the board, it was the paddle-past?

 

Barrel-Dodging With Adam Wipeout

Evidently my paint sales people remember my surfing stories; or some of them; tales of two foot waves and rocks and ear infections and surfers who, on hearing how great the waves were on a Saturday, show up at dawn on a Sunday when the waves are half as big. Yeah, I’m talking about Adam “Wipeout” James, who said he couldn’t think even about surfing while he had so much work that just had to be done.

But there he was, actually getting out of the water when I rolled up. And then he was too tired to go back out. And then he did.

And then, in position for the ‘wave of the (this particular, would have been average the day before) day,’ Adam blows the takeoff (he did well otherwise, other than an ‘off the back’ that was supposed to be a cutback).

Sure, it can (and has, and will) happen to any of us. There’s a penalty (worse in Hawaii, I’ve heard) for this particular type of incident, no doubt mentioned by me, possibly reinforced by Keith Darrock, one of the other surfers out this day (and the day before, and pretty much any time the place breaks), and someone who hates to see a rideable wave go unridden. “Wave of the day, Adam.”

Adam, though remorseful, nevertheless struck back. “At least I’m not a barrel dodger,” he said, paddling for the next non-wave of the day, watching to see if I’d challenge him for it.

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“Barrel Dodger?” Pause. “Me?” Wait; let me think. Have I ever dropped low, under a falling section, rather than staying high, risking getting pitched into the rocks? Have I?

If I have, I won’t again. Thanks Adam.

PB Point Never Breaks

HEAD SONGS- It may have been an early Fleetwood Mac instrumental playing in my head. Whatever it was it was perfect for the afternoon, some mix of northwest swell and just the right tide creating fast lines from near Pacific Beach Point to the south end of the parking lot at Tourmaline Canyon. It was turn-and-tuck on each thin, fast, backlit wave, tuck until you are finally engulfed by the tube.

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SUMMER SOLSTICE: The longest days in San Diego seem to end by 8:15 or so. In the three years or so, starting in November of 1971, I lived in PB, just up the long steep drop to the parking lot, I always checked PB Point. It seemed like there should be great, Swamis-like waves there; there just weren’t. No, not ever. On one summer day, unlike the first story (and probably with a different tune moving as a different wave in my head), the waves were peaky, with the best peak halfway to the actual point. I went out after work and stayed long enough to walk back up the hill in the dark, across the street to the La Jolla Bella, long since, I’m sure, condo-ed out and priced out of reach for a newly-married couple, even if both work.

ANOTHER SUMMER DAY, not working on workday, I was out on a little peak just off the actual point. Starting out shoulder-hopping, I was soon mid-peak, then back-dooring the wave, most likely on my Surfboards Hawaii twinfin, the going-right fin moved as far forward in the box as it would go, the going-left fin back because, if I must explain, I surfed differently going backside; more forward-trim going right. I also had my first leash/kookstrap on the board, already shortened by breakage because they were then made out of something like surgical tubing, effected negatively by saltwater corrosion. So, mid-peak, I took a hit, the board slid out from under me, the leash dragged me, kicking and clawing, across the reef. I came up with green stuff under my fingernails. Perfect. Go again.

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WINTER SOLSTICE: On the shortest days of the year, it seems, as I remember, to get dark in San Diego somewhere between 4:30 and 5pm. I mention this because, in the Northwest, way farther north, but also farther west, the longest days go close to 10pm, but the shortest days turn dark before 4:35. Interesting. Not really, but, on one of those winter afternoons, PB Point was working. It was, and I don’t exaggerate on wave size, six feet. I must admit I’m daunted by larger waves (less daunting, more excitement on a point break compared to a beachbreak), but I found myself comfortable. And the waves just got bigger, until, just before dark, it was, by my standard, eight feet and I was still more excited than concerned. The darkness closed in so quickly, exhausted, looking way down the beach toward the lights, that I decided to go up the cliff. I climbed a fence or two, went through some rich person’s yard, and walked back down the road toward home.

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ONE MORE STORY: My friend from Fallbrook, my first surfing accomplice, Phillip (long since Doctor) Harper, and his first wife, Pam, because they had to work weekends, would often come down to San Diego, or we’d meet at Swamis or somewhere, on a Wednesday or Thursday. On one of these visits, Phillip and I were surfing quite small and pretty crappy beachbreak at Tourmaline. I wiped-out on a wave, my even-shorter leash wrapped around the back of my board, and, when I came up, the board hit me right in the eye. What was interesting was, because I thrashed (and still thrash) boards, and rarely patched them (or patch them), a week or so later the glass on the nose of the board was broken away. It would have been a different result, Jack.

OKAY, TWO STORIES: That board was getting so thrashed that I would frequently go home with several new cuts on my legs from the board. On one winter afternoon, the tide very high, most of the surfers not catching any waves, I was taking off, kicking-out close to the shore riprap, close to the parking lot. When I got out, a tourist, an older woman probably escaping snow or something, said, “You look like you were having the most fun out there.” “Probably was,” I said, some new line of blood running down my leg.

THESE DAYS, because I need new gloves, I seem to get a new wound on my hands from each session, though, donning my old (properly thrashed) suit for a second session, recently, I noticed, later, that I had new scratches on my knee where the wetsuit was ripped. Should repair that.

Adam Wipeout’s Realsurfer Guide- Number 3; The ‘Roll-up-the-window’ and the ‘Double Over-the-falls’

realsurfersOvrtheFlls I actually started doing a drawing/cartoon/illustration for this, but have a time crunch trying to get a major-sized job completed so I can (hopefully) have a day off during the week to hit what looks like the run of swell we’ve been waiting for. Sound familiar? The scheming, hoping, dreaming, mind-surfing, knowing you’re missing good (possibly… no, probably) waves with the promise (often imagined, often broken) of catching better waves?

Anyway, Adam Wipeout is a real person, totally stoked, more of a name-dropper, and definitely more of a name-rememberer than I am; but, since his nickname seems to be sticking, and because I actually got the ‘roll-up-the-window’ simile from him, he seems like the perfect spokesperson for realsurfer hints and tricks and techniques. Try any and all at home.

NUMBER ONE- might be that it’s all right to pee in your wetsuit or trunks, and might actually provide some temporary warmth, provided you’re at least genital-high in the water. It would be kind of embarrassing to be leaking yellow from the leg of a dry wetsuit (though the process of suiting-up with pumping waves visible can create an urgent need to go- at least it does for me). Washing of the wetsuit later is up to your own personal hygiene standards and practices. But, good idea.

NUMBER TWO-  Never do a number two in the water. Okay, maybe, not confessing here, and, besides, statute of limitations, I may have done it once; way back, in an emergency, pulling down the trunks, underwater, and I was the only one out at, let’s say, the Oceanside South Jetty just before dawn, but, since it was a floater and not a sinker… lesson learned, lesson passed on.

NUMBER THREE- The technique is this: It’s a head-high wave, and, because you’re not sure you’ve actually caught it, you jump up, just like you’ve practiced, just like you do several times a day at your work, for more practice. It turns out you didn’t quite catch it, and you’re almost standing, maybe too much weight on the front foot, and you’re dropping in too late and too out of control. You stick both arms out perpendicular to your body, if your body was actually standing straight up, and you rotate those arms, just as if you were rolling up (or down) the windows in your car. I guess this would assume your car was, maybe a tiny smart car without automatic windows. Anyway, that’s the image. Arm rotators. Or, picture you’re at Waikiki in 1914 But, this attempt at rebalancing doesn’t work, and, as the wave drops out underneath you, the lip crashes into you as if you were (like, on purpose) performing a full body head-dip, and you go over the falls.

This is the first one, the single. Then, because the wave is so powerful, you’re sucked up from the trough and… no amount of arm-rolling can save you now, you go up and over the falls the second time, your board… you have no idea where your board is, you just hope it doesn’t hit you. You (and I really mean Adam) don’t need another thigh bruise like the time you tried the SUP, caught the outside (beach side) rail. Ouch! Still better than catching the outside rail, having the board come up, sideways, between your legs, as you do the single over the falls in the shorebreak. Happened to me. Once. Tamarack. Only once, though the-board-to-the-nose when I tried to push out through a wave and lost my grip on the rails… a couple of times. Tamarack, K-54. Oh, and now I’m remembering several instances of the dick-n-balls board slam/slap. Tamarack, Swamis, Pipes, etc.. This is less likely in a wetsuit than in loose board shorts, but usually means you didn’t get the nose-knock but did catch some air on the way out, then… ‘ouch, me hardies!’ (this is a response to this type of injury used by my son, James)

But, we learn. A hint from me, though I don’t remember ever having performed the double over the falls, and I’m way too cool to do the window-rolling thing, more likely to do the dismount/bail with accompanying yelp/scream: When you’re helpless, being thrashed by the wave, and you’re not sure where your board is, and you’re assuming the fetal position, both hands over your head… well, good luck. I have to go.

Thanks Adam. Get working on Number 4; how to look like a surfer and where to find the perfect apres’ surf hangout spot that isn’t actually a parking area or Goodwill, the real surfer’s clothing supplier.