The World Surf League, “Hard Yards,” Sharing, Not Sharing

Without permission from the World Surf League (WSL), I’ve taken a photo from their site. If they disapprove, here are several things in my argument: 1. I love the WSL  and their live coverage (and the fact there is live coverage). I’ve gotten up early and/or stayed up late to watch contests from all over the world. 2. It’s not like I make any money on this site, even IF I mention the WSL. 3. I’ll see if I can get “express, written permission…” in a moment.

This is a drawing I did for a piece on the World Mind Surfing League


Here’s the shot I’ve borrowed. Decisive scores for a close heat between Kelly and Gabriel Medina were about to fall. Kaipo Guerrera had, boldly, aggressively, just grabbed both of them, all looking at the screen in anticipation. I do always root for the overdog, if it’s Kelly Slater, and felt he should have won the heat. In the same way, having watched Stephanie Gilmore lose a close one to Carissa Moore, a heat that, if Stephanie had been scored correctly on either of her two best waves… yeah, big Stephanie fan, also, not taking away anything from anyone else on the tour, each of whom surfs better than… Here’s the truth:The difference between any WSL surfer and a regular (or ‘real’) surfer is the same as the difference between us and the casual, once-in-a-while-on-vacation surfer. Massive.

I really wanted to talk about secret spots and the information we share about secret and/or fickle surf spots. If you knew that I took off right after this moment, then got back in time to watch Stephanie win the final at Snapper Rocks, and Owen (“O Dog” according to Martin Potter) Wilson, back from a year off after a concussion at Pipeline, win a close one against Wilko (okay, I’m just going to use nicknames for people I don’t actually know); if you did some calculations on time and distance, checked back on buoy readings, tide charts, you might know something, too much, possibly, about where I surfed (and that I surfed, if I did), secret, fickle, or great. Check it out, Sherlock.

So, here’s something Potts says all the time. “You have to put in the hard yards.” That’s the thing about sharing info. My friend Daryl Wood, pathfinder in surfing on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, said surfers would see his vehicle parked on someone’s private property (with permission), and, the next time he came there, other surfers would be there. Word had spread. It’s been a while since surfers had to call people to have anyone to surf with.  And we love to brag. Other surfers have gone down trails, followed streams, explored; keeping a mental record of when a spot worked, how well it worked. Hard yards. Anecdotal becomes, with enough of it, science.

We’ve all benefited from information on where to go and when; but most of us have spent some long hours studying, waiting; have traveled in search of waves. It can be irritating when someone who hasn’t just checks out a forecast; or gets a call from the beach, shows up. “My wave.”

But I love to talk; and, if I score… so guilty. Trying to quit, but I only have a small circle of surf friends. And they have friends. Basically, if you share too much information, expect the person to share waves with you, and some of his or her friends, next time.  That said, the waves weren’t awesome the time I’m writing about;  at least not where I went. A couple of other surfers did show up, weren’t impressed, didn’t want to have wet wetsuits for the next day when, they hoped, there was a chance for some waves. “Really?” I asked.

The truth is, we don’t need more information, we need more swell. Meanwhile, next WSL event, Margaret River. I think their dawn is, geez, I don’t know; probably prime time here. We’ll see. I’ll still be rooting for the overdogs… and O Dog. And a shout out to Strider.

Late (Very Late) Evening Glassoff

“All good surf trips begin or end in the dark,” I told my friend Archie Endo as we each tried to feed frayed straps of the soft racks through the buckles in the rapidly-spreading darkness. “I agree,” he said, moving to the middle (regular, Home Depot type) strap (stops that bounce when big rigs pass). I slammed the back door on the extra lengths of the back two straps, and added, “Preferably both.”
It was well past 10pm, and the waves were, at last, almost totally glassy, the wind gone from howl to whisper, the blacker, broken-wave-front of a rain storm still to our west. We had scored. 8:10 to 9:50.

Still, several hours earlier, it seemed more likely we were going to suffer another Straits of Juan de Fuca skunking. No, I wasn’t going to be skunked. I’ll surf ankle-snappers, exposed-rock peelers, even wind-blown peakers- and I have.
Keith Darrock had been right. As he had predicted early in the morning, the afternoon westerlys had pretty much blown out everything on the Straits, and he and Rico had scored glassy peelers at the sheltered semi-secret spot. If the Straits are a place to smooth out disorganized ocean waves, there have to be some sheltered coves where crazy windswell…
“Yeah, yeah. Uh huh, lined-up; barreling. Oh, and even Rico got some good rides. No, we haven’t given up. Not yet.” Keith, of course, had called me AFTER Archie and I decided against our favorite spot (and not just our favorite spot), had back-tracked ten miles, only to rule out the backup spot. We had also failed to gain access to (even to check) a wind-sheltering, secluded cove.
Sure, it’s their right to deny access. This isn’t California, or Hawaii, or even Oregon. “You can own beach in Washington. It just takes money. I had used Archie’s new smart phone to call the number on the sign that denied us access. The woman was polite. A person could rent a cabin, but they’re booked up. “Yeah, okay; but, um, how does the surf look?” “Oh, it’s rolling in.” “Rolling?” “Yes.” “But you’re booked?” “Yes.”
I was pissed, irritated, steaming like a Bolshevik, like an uninvited socialist, from the denial of access, and well aware of the wind’s refusal to abate, and well aware of the odds against finding anything close to perfect waves (ever), when I repeated to Keith, from our conversation earlier in the day, “Maybe we’ll (still) all get lucky.”
Heading back west, I told Archie that, because we had been discussing music and the possibility of him backing me up to at least record several of my songs (Archie and the V2s is all Archie, talented on guitar, bass, keyboards, and drums- I would just play harmonica and sing, and, anyway, I know a guy who might be able to slightly fix the results, once recorded), we’d forgotten to do ‘the sign of the cross,’ my favorite thing about being a convert to Catholicism (Trish gets the credit or blame), to which I add (on surfing trips mostly) a sort of ‘gang sign’ flourish at the end. Like a hoot-out, like, “Yea, God!”
Archie isn’t Catholic (or practicing Buddist), but he is intrigued with things religious and/or mystical; so he will join in; usually with a chuckle. And, if it helps… well, that’s just pragmatism (different religion- maybe).
To back up a bit, again, the reason I was able to gamble on the chance for an afternoon session was because Trish had given my spot at an evening cultural event (a Mozart Mass performed by world class presenters) to her friend Diane. So, once I said I could pick up ‘the heavy stuff’ at Costco, and check out a possible painting project in Sequim; I was in. Archie was up for it and… Port Townsend? No, that option was over (tide shifts, subtle swell fluctuations) before Keith had called.
Another Backtrack: Adam “Wipeout” James had also committed to surfing this afternoon. He met up with Nathan Jones of Pirated Surfboards Company in Sequim to pick up a board shaped for him. Adam, Nate, and a guy from Seattle (Ian, I think) had been the only ones out when we arrived at First Choice the first time. Adam got out of the rip-and-wind-torn lefts to show me the Nate version of a classic Simmons twin fin.
Now, hours later, the wind still blowing but the faces considerably smoother, Nate and Adam got out as Archie and I suited up. “If you catch more waves per hour,” I said, “you wouldn’t have to stay out so long. I was saving that up for you.” “Good one. You guys are really going to score. It’s finally…” “Yeah, look, Archie already caught two.” “Yeah.”
The session was a workout. The push was all west to east. Amazingly strong. While there was an audience, especially, maybe Adam, I wanted to do… better. Yes, I always want to do better. Bet-ter.
And then they left, and another guy, headed to Neah Bay to do some filming, parked, watched, and eventually came out, mostly, he said, because Archie and I seemed to be having so much fun. We outlasted him- ever glassier, cleaner, better, darker.

On the way home, the rare full moon on a Friday the 13th (next one, Trish says, is in 2049) was rising over the trees and the Olympics. “Here’s a pagan deal,” I told Archie, prying my wallet out of my back pocket, opening it, waiting until the moon was fully in view; “Fill ‘er up, fill ‘er up, fill ‘er up. Thank you.”
I don’t know if Archie tried it. I called Trish as we drove through Joyce. The concert had been “wonderful, great, Diane thought it was just sooo beautiful.” “Great. The moon?” “It’s not showing. Raining.” I repeated the pagan ritual, for her.
The next day, when Keith texted he was hoping for a repeat, I told him we had all gotten lucky. When Adam texted that Archie and I had been like the old bull who said “let’s wait and catch them all,” I had to call him back. “It’s not ‘catch’ them all.” “I know. Man, Archie was killing it.” “Yeah. He always does. What about me?” “Yeah, um, well; you know… sure.”
Prayer, voodoo, pagan rituals… whatever; sometimes we just get lucky.
And sometimes we all get lucky.