We’re into Fall, Autumn, and West Coast surfers expect… yeah, waves, northwest swells. It’s a little different on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It always is. Planning a trip out here based on forecasts showing the numbers that should mean waves will find their way to some beach that might still be accessible might just get you skunked.
It’s frustrating for me; and I have to guess, the farther one goes with visions of lined-up peelers floating in one’s head, the more irritating and frustrating it must be discovering beautiful conditions, everything perfect except the lack of waves.
Hang around, just in case? Talk with the other skunkees about times when the same numbers, swell size and period and direction and tide and wind and all, meant, like, waves? Paddle out and hope a big boat goes by, maybe score a weak dribbler or two?
But, now, Westport, pretty much always, has waves. Here’s the Westport advantage for a ripper from, say, Fremont. No ferry waits (or expenses), no getting stuck on the Hood Canal Bridge, no traffic detours (that I know of); and waves, with plenty of like-minded folks to hang out with. Sounds fun.
Quite recently I was working with Reggie down Surf Route 101, and the numbers (see above) started looking good, tantalizingly, must-be-going-off kind of good. We fast-tracked the work, and, a couple of hours later, there we were (Reggie, froth almost visible when we split up, didn’t meet me there, he beat me there), perfect conditions and no waves.
Oh, there were rumors. There are always rumors.
And we were not alone. Concrete Pete was talking to some kid with New Mexico plates and a tiny short board on his pickup. Nam had been there since noon. No waves. Omar cruised in with multiple boards to not ride; not on this day.
Concrete Pete starts talking about how some kook was talking, at some earlier time, about how “there’s this one guy, kinda, uh, chunky; and he rides a stand up, only…” “Yeah.” “And there’s this other guy; even bigger; no paddle.” “Yeah.” “And then there’s a guy who uses a broken paddle.” At this point Pete points to his rig, containing, I guessed, a broken paddle. “Wait; you mean… you?” “Yeah; and the kook says these surfers are legends, and…”
At this moment another vehicle pulls in. “Raja,” I say. “Now, here’s a legend. Raja, the guy who stuck my paddle in the pilings at an unnamed spot (the one with pilings).” “Yeah,” Reggie says, “heard about that.”
Raja had already ventured much farther out the peninsula in search of waves, and, since he couldn’t surf the next day, he was fairly certain that was when waves would show up.
Then Omar pulls in; multiple boards on his vehicle. Then Sean and Cathy (and, possibly, their son, somewhere between 8 and 12 years old, who is becoming quite the little ripper). “Hey,” Reggie says, “there might be waves back at… (different spot, no pilings) You going?”
I was still hoping the waves would show up before dark, hoping enough that I started putting on my wetsuit, very slowly, believing that, if I gave up and went home, it would turn on before I got to Port Angeles. Worse than a skunking is a near-miss skunking you get to hear about later. “Dude, you would have loved it.”
About this time Sean and Cathy drove by, stopped.
Somewhere in here a car load of four or five young surf enthusiasts showed up; quite excited to be somewhere where waves allegedly broke; running around the beach, taking videos of each other. Tugboat Bill parked his truck at about the same time. I pointed to the stoked surf buddies, said, “Yeah, Bill; it’s like, this one time, me and Phil and Bucky and Ray showed up at San Onofre. It wasn’t anything special, but then these Orange County guys show up, and they’re all, ‘Cowabunga,’ and ‘whoa,’ and, and it’s like they’re extras in a ‘Gidget’ movie; big arm movements and all, and…”
“You going out?” “Yeah, Bill; figure I might practice standing up on my SUP; see how that goes.” “Three to the beach is a session.” “Right.” “Yeah, three standups.” “Okay; we’ll see.”
This was when Longshoreman Jeff Vaughn showed up, parked his Mad Max van next to my work van. Jeff was recently in a motorcycle accident (he was on the motorcycle), and was still recovering. I have witnessed him hang out at length, waiting, sometimes scoring. “Everything’s here except the waves.” Tugboat Bill and I both agreed.
So, somewhere waves were breaking. Canada, maybe. Raja and Bill and I and two guys trying to learn went out. Beautiful conditions. I did catch three, standing up, practiced my paddling. Bill had already caught his three before I left; one in front of me. “Payback,” he’d, no doubt, say. “Got wet,” I might have said, as others have, about the session; as if that’s even enough. No real surfer has ever caught too many waves.
Hate getting skunked? Westport. If someone asks me why I’m surfing small and weak waves, my answer is always that I’m practicing. “For Westport; next time I go down there.”