“Seahawks and Big Dogs and Choking and…

SOB, sob, why, God, why does a team like… sob… I just wanted… they were ahead at halftime. I mean, yeah, I know the Seahawks weren’t supposed to win, but…” unattributed quote.

Trish and I were watching the Wild Card game over at our daughter’s house. The Seahawks were behind by ten point by the end of the first quarter. I promised I would turn it off and go to the market if the 49ers got another touchdown. Halftime, the Seahawks were ahead. YEA!

Trish, before the kickoff, turned the volume down. Biased coverage. I was listening to the radio version, Steve and Dave. Properly biased. Trish did turn the volume up at halftime, just to see what the Fox Sports experts, who had all agreed the Seahawks were outmatched and would lose, had to say. “Wait until the second half,” was pretty much their message. Volume off.

Partially because their commentary was behind the TV, and partially because it’s thrilling to hear Steve Raible when the Hawks do something amazing, not so much fun when they’re sucking wind. So, no sound except Trish, face at her laptop screen, saying, “I can’t look,” “We’re bad luck,” “Oh! San Francisco’s the greatest. All world! (Sarcasm),” and my loud-but-appropriate grunts of disapproval, or my less frequent and multiple-syllable shrieks of celebration.

With no other distracting sounds, and hope still hanging by some vague remembrance of every sport movie ever made and a few miracle comebacks, it became easy to notice that there are a hell of a lot of commercials during sixty minutes of football.

Early in the fourth quarter, I did notice there were other folks rather aimlessly wandering the produce aisles, or lining up for fried chicken, people who one would never imagine actually playing football, but all in various amounts of Seahawks garb, heads down, possibly still wondering if Geno had connected of a few more long bombs. and, no doubt, happy that they (we) had beaten the crowd that waited until the inevitable San Francisco celebration, with interviews featuring the all world winners.

This isn’t sarcasm. It is sardonic (sarcasm where the speaker’s pain is just too obvious) commentary.

Oh, I did see, while checking out (saved thirty cents on a thirty dollar total), a guy in the line one over wearing a Seattle Kraken shirt. And later, my friend, Stephen R. Davis, who actually did play ice hockey, told me the Kraken just defeated Boston, and that’s a big deal, and… No, not switching my allegiance. Maybe. No; I’ve said I would before. But, added to all this, the San Diego Chargers, who were once my team to root for, were killing it in their game. And then, comeback by the… I don’t know, one of those southern teams. Miracle. Sure. Why not?

MY POST GAME ANALYSIS: Underdog, Over-dog; it’s better to be the Big Dog. And, since I am kind of thinking about, and planning to write about surf heroes, I should relate this to SURFING.

YES, older surfers do like to say, “Back in my day, the best surfers got the best waves,” that kind of thing that runs contrary to sharing and caring, the kind of easily-said aphorisms that run into the reality of limited waves and increasing crowds. NOW I am thinking about PARTY WAVES and DOG SLED TEAMS. If you’re in front, there’s an expectation you will leave lots of room for the other surfer; if you’re in back, you’re dealing with the wake and chandeliers, wondering if there’s an opportunity for a go-behind. AND NOW I’m kind of wondering (and trying not to wonder or care) which teams are playing today, and, by extension, who I want to root for.

AND NOW, realizing I should have taken off for a money-making opportunity half an hour ago, I am wondering when I will get to surf next.

I got the dog image from GOOGLE. All other content is copyright protected and is the property of Erwin A. Dence, Jr. NOT THAT I WON’T SHARE IF YOU ASK NICELY.

Partying Down with the Hipsters, Surfsters, and the Grumpsters

My friend Steve was giving me a hand finishing up the staining of a cabin in the woods. The temporary renter of the cabin was a young woman who works in the wide world of psychoanalyzing and psycho-advising and psycho-counseling. She had just revealed that her partner… surfs. Not around here. “Venice.” Oh. “California.” Oh. I didn’t think Venice is particularly known for surfing. “Well.” Okay, so, he’s a hodad? “What’s a hodad?” Steve explained the term. “So,” she said, “during the pandemic, a lot of people started surfing, or were able to surf more.” Oh, yeah; for sure. “So…”

It still didn’t answer the question about hodad-ness.

So, then I told her what the pandemic did for folks out here on the fringe. For folks who only need a signal from the cosmic cloud to work remotely, remoteness was, and still is, up for grabs. Or for sale. “So?” So, more surfers. “And does that, in some way, annoy you?”

Yes. You see, I said, I seem to differentiate between surfing, and surfers who have a certain… connection… and those who do it for the… social aspects. Surfing is cool and I, um… uh… I don’t really go for cool by association.

Somewhere in here the woman made, I believe, a psycho-judgment that I was, not a sociopath and narcissist that I claimed to be, and possibly took some pride in being, but a grumpy old surfer unable to realize and/or accept that surfing is really just another excuse for healthy social interaction in a beachside setting.

Man, I hope someone else shows up who appreciates my bitchin’ trailer and my state-of-the-art board. San Onofre, 1950.

Wait. I am just another grumpy old surfer unable to appreciate the reality or share the joy? Oh, the guilt I feel. I was being accused of being self-aware and in denial of being self-aware; no, not true.

Well, maybe. I don’t know. Allow me to self-examine. I have developed some appreciation of the cultural circus aspects of surfing. Some. You know, like going to Westport mid-summer, once every other year. Festive.

When I started, just after junior high, none of my contemporaries surfed. Surfing was cool, even then. If you lived twenty miles from the nearest breaking waves, but surfed, you had an automatic plus in the cool category. Many tried it, some stuck with it. No one dropped the surfer checkmark next to his name (not sexist, didn’t seem to have any female surfers at Fallbrook High- would have been fine with it, probably). I was part of some sort of informal crew, one that broke up almost immediately after high school.

Then I wasn’t. I was a lone surfer. Sounds cooler than it is. I worked in Oceanside, then moved to Pacific Beach, University City, Encinitas, Mission Hills. I occasionally went surfing with someone I worked with or for. I recognized surfers at spots I frequented, but surfing was something one did before or after (or during- Trestles period) school, or work; forty minutes or so in the water, on average. This is where and when I developed my ‘ghetto mentality.’ Keep your head down, don’t look other surfers in the eye. These are not your friends; these are your competition. This is my often-used excuse for poor wave etiquette. I should apologize. Probably. I may have changed. Possibly.

Wait, they had, like, cool surf rigs back in 1963? Wow! San Onofre is a happening! And scaffolding. Brilliant!

San Diego, Ocean Beach, 1978: We were moving to the Northwest. I was unaware of any surf possibilities on the Olympic Peninsula. I checked out from my job before lunch. Trish was still working. It was fall, but the day was hot, and the water was still warm. I was walking out toward the pier. There was a crowd sort of hanging on the wall and in the parking lot. I don’t really remember if the surf was good or not. What I remember is the gallery, hanging out, sharing and utterly convinced of their individual and group coolness. Believing I was giving up surfing, my thought was, “Yeah; I’m too old for this shit.”

It might actually be that the older surfers are always being pushed out of the way, accused of not getting it by another next generation of surfsters, if not hipsters. It might also be true that it is difficult to maintain a certain level of involvement in a place where the waves are fickle. I have difficulty imagining what it might be like in a place where the waves are more consistent, and, undoubtedly, more consistently crowded. When I sneak away and go to some possible surf location, I do, almost always, know someone, or many someones who are also there, looking for a few waves.

There are multiple identifiable-if-unofficial groups of surfers in the spread-out neighborhood of the Strait/Islands/Northwest Coast, each with revolving memberships, that one could, loosely, describe as ‘crews.’ Or, maybe, ‘pods.’ Some surfers are actually accepted in multiple informal groupings. Some surfers are not accepted in any. Sad.

True of everywhere, no doubt.

I am actually very happy that I do have friends who surf. I’m actually fine with chatting it up on the beach. For a while. Party? Party wave?

Hmmm. Best things I can say about my therapy session is that it confirms what the self aware me already realizes, and that didn’t have to pay for it.

All TIme (So Far) Strait Skunking

“Everyone gets the same forecasts,” I am quite fond of saying, and, indeed, probably just did say to one or more of the accumulated surfers, one of whom said he didn’t self-identify as a hipster. “You could shave the beard,” I offered, if he didn’t want to look like a surf hipster. Or he could have gotten in the water if he wanted to look like a, you know, surfer. This was all taken after I got out of the water after two and a half hours of cruising on little waves, mostly alone. This sort of de facto crew was mostly there at dawn, with an incredible number of other rigs pulling in, checking it out, discussing the fact that there should have been bigger waves, better waves. “The buoys, the forecast, the…”

Yeah, well. It’s the Strait. I actually sort of set up this shot, calling for one of the VWs to tighten up so I another could fit in. And there was another one back by the main road, evidently broken down. And there’s one up on the road; maybe you can see it over the top of the others. I did, at one point, say, “Why don’t you all do a VolkswagenTrain to Hobuck.”


Maybe it’s because it’s an El Nino (gee, where’s the key for that curly thing that should go over the n?) year, maybe it’s because the Seahawks have a bye week; maybe the fact that the road closer to Neah Bay was washed out during the previous day’s rain; maybe, maybe there’s a great explanation for why a record number of surf enthusiasts, surf yuppies, some hipsters, and pretty much everyone who ever surfs in the northwest, was out. As for why the surf chose to not come down, who knows. It’s the Strait.


Different angle, same group of woulda-been surfers had there just been waves. The two folks in the nearly-but-not-quite (because they’re not like couples with matching windbreakers) matching sweaters and the city-sized dog, were probably also planning on surfing. Behind me, and I now wish I’d taken a few more photos, was a nice setup of beach-made coffee, some boutique snacks, a bottle of sparkling Pellegrino water, which, later in the afternoon, could be replaced, perhaps, with an appropriate wine. The vehicle was there at dawn when I arrived; and, when the guy sleeping inside got up, and I said the waves were big enough for an old guy like me, and wondered why all the younger folks didn’t go to the coast and take on overhead, long period swells, he… well he rolled out his yoga mat and started doing, I guess, yoga.

“Getting into my wetsuit is enough of a warm up for me,” I said. As what turned out to be a set rolled in from the darkness, I added, “It’s big enough for me.” What I didn’t say is I should have listened to Keith. He figured, and now I just knew, correctly, that the swell wouldn’t hit where I was. Yeah, I should have waited for Monday.

Oh, I should mention that behind my birdshit-splattered rig were groups of surf power couples, chatting, with new personnel being added, others giving up and trying to beat the rush for the ferries. It’s not like one can really tell a real surfer just by looking at a crowd. A Patagonia cap might not mean the person wearing it rips. However, I might offer that guys who pile out of a rig with four boards in bags on the rack, each one looking all impressed by the number of people hanging out (three surfers bobbing in the actual water at this time), and then each give a nod to the only guy, and an oldie at that, in a wetsuit… those guys might be wannabes.

Let me reiterate that I did catch a lot of waves. The couple who live down by Crescent came out on SUPs, rode quite a few; Big Dave, now again employed (which explains why he was there then on Sunday), paddled out. When the tide was about to do in what waves there were, one other guy on a long longboard came out, caught a wave. “That’s one,” I said, being friendly. What I did notice from the water was the sort of slow motion movement of surf rigs into and out of the area.  I asked Mr. Yoga before I left, “Since you never did surf, maybe you kept count of how many vehicles came and went.” “About 80, I’d guess,” he said. “So crowded,” I offered. “You’re looking at the future,” he said, “word’s out. Maybe you heard of a place called Malibu.”

I did look at the future. Gathered at the water’s edge, chatting in groups like it was a Ballard block party. I’m not hating, here; maybe it’s just my image of surfers hasn’t been properly shifted from the illusion of blue collar rebels to, to… Anyway, Keith did get surf, and Adam Wipeout and his friend Nate got surf. They drove past the scene I was involved in, made it past the now-partially opened road, checked out the coast, managed to score somewhere in between. I passed at least ten vehicles still headed out when I was cruising back down Surf Route 101. When Adam and Nate drove back past this spot, it was dead, dead flat.

“Epic Skunking,” Adam said. “Well,” I said, “I got more waves than anyone on the beach.”

Today it may be firing. NOTE: Again, I’m not hating; we all just want to have fun. Next time I’ll bring some Pellegrino water, though I’m not fond of the sparkling kind. “Maybe Wednesday” (a holiday for many) I heard a woman in the parking lot say. “What does the forecast say?” “Iffy.” Iffy for sure. Always iffy.