Story Somewhat Related to Bruce Brown…

Phillip Harper, Trish Harper, Ray Hicks, Bucky Davis, My Sister Suellen, My Mom, Bob Dylan, and The Endless Summer

Posted on February 16, 2014 by Erwin A. Dence Jr. under Uncategorized

“First of all,” I said, standing in the kitchen of Phillip Harper’s parents’ house, two bars of paraffin wax melting in a soup can on the stove, Phillip’s (second-ever, and not sun-browned like the first one) surf board, stripped and ready for a ‘pre-coat’, floating between two chairs and across the dining room table, “the theater was in no way ‘underground.’ Disappointing.”

Phillip and Ray Hicks seemed to be properly impressed that I, more country kid than either of them, had gone into the city for some other reason than to ride the escalators at Sears with my many brothers and sisters while my parents shopped.

It was at about this moment that Phillip’s sister, Trish (not my Trish- hadn’t met her yet), came in from the pantry (no one ever seemed to use the formal front door). She appeared noticeably disappointed that her brother and at least one of his geeky friends were there. Trish was followed in by her boyfriend, Bucky Davis. He was, perhaps, a bit less disappointed; a nod for Phillip, smaller one for Ray, even smaller one for me (standard cool reaction to over-amped groms). Bucky took a moment to check out the board (approvingly), then the wax melting on the stove.

“You have to be careful,” he said, both hands simulating an explosion. “A candle might be a better idea.” A single hand tipping an imaginary candle illustrated the point.

“Erwin went to see ‘The Endless Summer’ in San Diego,” Phillip said. “At an underground theater,” Ray added.

“The thing is,” I said, trying to be informative, and trying to be as cool as Phil and Ray “kind of disappointing; it wasn’t at all underground. Just a regular, um, theater. And…”

Phillip and Ray appeared less impressed than the first time they heard this. Of course; though they did seem to be checking Bucky’s reactions.

“On University Avenue?” Trish asked. I shrugged. I hadn’t driven. We’d gone down 395. It was somewhere near the Zoo.  “Well,” she said, “I saw it at State.” She paused, possibly to see if she had to add ‘San Diego State.’

No, I knew she had been spending some time down there, preparing to attend ‘State’ in the fall of 1967. Bucky would not be attending.  He was planning on going to Palomar Junior College; he’d have to go somewhere to stay out of the draft.

“When I saw it,” she continued, “Bruce Brown narrated it… himself. He was behind this curtain and…” She stopped because Bucky seemed a bit surprised at the news. At least that is what I thought, at the time, as if she had seen it without him. That would be sad, her and her new, big-city life and Bucky…

realsurfers 002

[Let me add here, fifty years after this incident, three years after originally writing this piece, that, among my first surfing friends, Trish and Bucky were the perfect surfing couple.  That they didn’t remain a couple was, bits and pieces of the disconnection playing out over, and just beyond, my high school years, tragic; tragic in that teenager’s romanticized, love-lost way.

Part of the reason I started this blog was to record how I changed from total kook, over-stoked beginner, with Bucky one of my early surf heroes, to… I don’t know… over-stoked surfer out past high school, past the inside break; my friends scattered.

My opinion of surf heroes, with Bucky the best illustration, went, along with my connection to surfing, from a sort of ‘this is magic’ awe, to a more realistic view.  Bucky had some serious life challenges. He was a real person.

Still, what I loved about Phillip’s sister, that seeming-self confidence, that willingness to stand up as an equal, is part of what attracted me to my Trish.

Still… still an over-stoked surfer, awed by the magic… still I, somewhere in the part of me that never got past adolescent romantic, I’ve held out a notion that Bucky and Trish could… yeah, maybe I just hope they, and all my scattered surf heroes and friends, including Phillip and Ray… have been, mostly, happy.

And, I am grateful, while I’m anxiously awaiting my next surf adventure, that I have such great memories of interesting, and real, people. And someone to share current adventures with.]

I’m sure I was mostly trying to hide being impressed. And out-cooled. Again. Always by her.

“Bruce Brown? In person? That’s… cool.”

After all, it had been impossible for me to be really, even passably, cool, at the above-ground theater, hanging with my older sister, Suellen, AND my mother.

Still, hoping to in some way to compete with Trish Harper, I said, “Yeah, well; they had these previews for a movie with Bob Dylan, and…”

“’Don’t Look Back’,” Trish said.

“Huh?” Phillip and Bucky and Ray asked, pretty much at the same time.

“Uh huh,” I said; “and Bob Dylan’s, like… he’s holding up these…”

“Cue cards,” Trish said.

“I guess. Yeah. And my mom starts laughing.”

“Laughing?” Phillip and Trish and Bucky and Ray all asked.

“Yeah, laughing; and… I mean, not even Suellen is laughing. No one’s laughing.”

“Because it’s Dylan,” Trish said, serious and almost indignant.

“Yeah, Dylan; Bob Dylan. But, pretty soon, someone else starts laughing. And then more people are laughing; and then everyone’s laughing. And Bob Dyl… Dylan, he just keeps dropping the cards. And…”

By this time, in the kitchen, I was also laughing. Phillip started to laugh. Ray, studying Bucky’s face,  allowed himself to join in the laughter. Then Bucky looked over at his girlfriend (not laughing), maybe thought for a moment about how he didn’t see “The Endless Summer” at ‘State’ with her, with Bruce Brown personally narrating; and he laughed.

And then the wax exploded.

Bruce Brown, revealing the stoke and the magic and the awe to a larger world, stepping behind another curtain. Rest In Peace. And thank you.

Why Surfers Quit, Why I Won’t, and Why Ray Hicks (and others) Can’t

It’s not that I haven’t felt (perhaps properly and rightly) old while surfing, it’s just that I haven’t felt that way lately.

Just started and I have to clarify. I may not feel my age (not quite 64) ‘while surfing,’ but aches and pains (nothing serious) and fatigue (of the very best kind) generally follow a session. Then again, my average time in the water is now somewhere over two hours, and I don’t bob and wait, meditate and chat (maybe a little chatting, just to seem friendly, between sets); I shark the lineup, with the goal of surfing until I can barely drag my board back up the beach.

This is usually my goal; to surf (as long as the waves are good), as long as I can, to surf to the best of my ability, and to possibly, maybe, improve my surfing a bit. Oh, and to have fun.

This is so different than sessions when I was younger; an hour or less at Oceanside Pier or the south jetty before work; forty-five minutes (on my half hour lunch break) in the water at Lower Trestles when I worked up the hill painting Marine Corps housing; hitting Swamis between classes at Palomar and work at Buddy’s Sign Service; even a couple of runs over the hill to Sunset Cliffs with Raphael Reda when we were working on submarines at Point Loma. Yeah, it’s a bit of name-dropping, even bragging. Those were all years ago.

The one time I do remember surfing three hours straight was at a little reef at Sunset Cliffs (just north of Luscombs) with Stephen Penn. I was twenty years old, surfed all the time, and I was totally exhausted.

SO, in my last surf session, earlier this week, after wasting too much energy punching through and trying to find a shoulder, kicking-out or straightening out on closeouts (wouldn’t say I sucked, considering), I drove elsewhere (in my wetsuit) took another hike to a grinding rivermouth/pointbreak. The only other surfer out was pulling in early, sliding down the line. I couldn’t get in early enough on my smaller (smaller than his, way smaller than the one I usually ride) board, couldn’t really handle the drop/turn, though I did get a nice but quick view of several tubes. Basically I sucked, took a thrashing, and couldn’t help but think, feeling every rock on the walk back through my booties, “Maybe I am too old for real waves.”

NOPE. By the time I reached my car, the negativity had changed to, “Next time I’ll go here first. I’ll have the right mindset. Maybe I’ll finish glassing that fish I cut down from my old nine-four. It’ll paddle better. Next time…” Scheming, planning, getting my mind ready to up the rhythm, up my game, drop the casualness, take off on an angle and streak.

I did a selfie, planning of calling it

I did a selfie, planning of calling it “Portrait of a Nineteen Year Old Surfer forty-five years later,” but, one, was horrified when I saw it, and, two, well, refer back to one.

HERE’S how most surfing careers end: You don’t go for a while, and there are a million reasons not to go, only a couple to go (“I WANT TO” and “I HAVE TO”); and when you do go, your surfing is not up to where you think it should be. So, you’re less eager to go next time. So you don’t. Hey, work is important. For most of us, work is necessary. Still evil, mostly. I wish it wasn’t, necessary, but my career was my main excuse for years.

NOW, I’ve already given credit for my old friend Ray Hicks for getting me motivated to get back into surfing, something I hadn’t thought I’d given up, just hadn’t gone in a while; until he and I went surfing and I truly, totally, in-arguably sucked. Not so bad if Ray hadn’t just glided into waves, turned and wailed. BUT, if that competition, based somewhat, I have to admit, on my thinking, “I was always better than Ray, and now….(both self-assessments)”  was an impetus to get back into more regular surfing over ten years ago now, my new motto rather quickly became, “If not now, when?”

The main impediment to my surfing more has become the unwillingness of waves to come down the Straits of Juan de Fuca and my unwillingness to drive to the coast; meaning, when the forecast starts looking good, I start the frothing/ scheming/planning/imaging process. If it looks like it might be good for three days, I HOPE to go twice. At least once. “I have to go, want to go, really need to go.” If I haven’t gone for a while, my wife, Trish, to whom surfing has always been the other woman, will ask, “When are the waves coming? You HAVE to go.”

RAY HICKS has not been surfing nearly enough lately. Yeah, he’s been busy; yeah, yeah, San Diego’s North County waves are crowded or crappy, or both; yeah, yeah, yeah…no. Ray HAS to go. I’m totally kicking his butt; on wave count if not on style points; and one of these days, I will go down south.  Ray and his wife, Carol, are going to Hawaii in June, so he says maybe he better get to surfing. Practicing. UM… YEAH. And I want some Hawaii action photos, if possible.

TIM NOLAN, of “Tim Nolan and the Wave of the Day” fame (google it), is a few years older than I am. He needs to keep surfing. Like, forever; as does the guy with the white beard whose name Adam Wipeout actually knows, and who, Adam claims ‘has Hobuck on lockdown’ (or some similar phrase,though I’ve never seen the guy really standout at the northwest version of Waikiki or San Onofre). I need surfers around who are older than I am, just to remind me I can keep going. I’ve got at least four years or so after Tim quits, and he shows no signs of quitting.

I KNOW I’LL NEVER BE AS GOOD AS I WAS WHEN I WAS NINETEEN. If you’re nineteen and cocky, and want to remember yourself as a great surfer, QUIT NOW! Really. Otherwise…

“INSIDE BREAK” The Novel- INTRODUCTION

NOTE: I started realsurfers.net to have some ownership on the two words, real surfers, and to tell the story alluded to in the introduction (below). Maybe I didn’t realize I had so many other stories to tell; maybe I didn’t realize I still have a surfing life. So, I plan on serializing the novel that fictionalizes the real story and wraps other stories around it. It will, unfortunately, be in reverse order, but, after a few chapters, interspersed with other pieces, I’ll consolidate. When it’s all done; I’ll probably change the name to “Real Surfers,” what I always wanted to be.  I did a drawing, but I didn’t think it fit the mood, didn’t want to wait until I have the time to do one I actually like, so… here we go… thanks for coming along.

INSIDE BREAK
Love and Wars and Surfing and Some Amount of Magic

INTRODUCTION-
Surfing is part of the soundtrack; whoosh, wait, wait, wait, whoosh. Always has been. Well, maybe not surf itself; but it is the tides and winds, moving in waves, and the waves themselves, maybe even time itself, another wave, spinning ever outward, all providing the heartbeat of the planet. Whoosh…wait…wait…wait…whoosh.

“So, Dad; it has to be fiction?”
“Because… you know our memories are…”
“Corrupted? Flawed? Inaccurate?”
“Hmmm. Ha. Yeah.”
“Maybe your original story could be enough. Jeez; I’ve heard it for years; headed for San Onofre; you and Phillip Harper and Ray Hicks and…”
“Dru; I’ve asked Ray. He doesn’t remember this trip. Others; yes. I think it was always Bill Buel. See? I edited him out; stuck Ray in, because Ray was… because I never liked…I mean, Bill wasn’t my friend; Ray and Phil were.”
“And you were riding with Bucky Davis, your surf hero…”
“For a while. That’s part of it. If I broke down my… shit; it’s really just another surfer coming-of-age story, but, at such an, an almost unique angle. If …and, if I could break down my surf history, to, like, chapters; it’d be illustrated with the times I went surfing with Bucky Davis. Like five or six times over five or six years. Grandview, New Break, Swami’s, the last time… your mother was there… at the beach by the state park… South Carlsbad. and part of this, this bigger story, is how my image of Bucky and…”
“Matured. And there’s the love story; Bucky and Phillip’s sister. Trish.”
“Yeah; and, again, I don’t really know. We never know about other people’s lives… or loves, and I’m such a fucking romantic, I wanted that to…”
“To work out. But that’s all… it’s the hidden story, Dad; the, um, interplay between what you thought, that so many things were magic, magical; and what was real. The, I guess, surface story, is of you guys going from Fallbrook, across Camp… Camp?”
“Camp Pendleton, 1967; the Vietnam War in full swing, and the Marines, really, were all just a couple of years older than Phil and Ray… I’m sticking with Ray, and I; and Bucky was… he was right at draft age. And the war; everyone thought, was going to go on forever.”
“Well, it didn’t. New ones. But, you know, some other stuff happened on that trip.”
“Yeah. Yeah, it did; but, this far removed, this far gone, it seems… stopped by a Highway Patrolman and hassled before we even got to the back gate, running out of gas, pushing the VW up a couple of hills, coasting down, pushing it into the little PX outpost in another tent camp as marines marched by, us all cool surfers and they ready to go to… see? It seems like fiction, even to me; like I’ve seen it before.”
“But you did. And… see, even I know the story. And you did surf at San Onofre.”
“The surfing was almost incidental; I don’t really remember it, specifically. Another session. Just like with Ray, huh?”
“But the story; it ends up at Tamarack. Tamarack, right? After Bucky tore up his Dependent ID card, and couldn’t ever go back on the base; and you’re riding shotgun… for once. Right? And Phillip and… and we’ll say Ray; they’re asleep in the back, and Dylan comes on the radio.
“It was ‘Rainy Day Women #12 and 35.’ Rare on ’67 am radio.”
“Right. And, pretty soon you’re singing along, beating on the dashboard. And pretty soon, maybe because this was the perfect song for the perfect scene; you could see and hear the waves, just about to get glassy…”
“The afternoon glassoff.”
“The soundtrack and the… the soundtrack. And now; I love this part; Bucky, so, to you, ultra cool; Bucky’s beating on the dashboard, also, and you’re both trying to sing along.
‘Everybody must get stoned.’”
“Ev-ry-bo-dy mussssst get stoned!”
“Dad?”
“Yeah?”
“Can you still see it?”
“Yeah.”
“There is magic in there somewhere.”
“Thanks. But, Dru; you know; now; because I… because real life doesn’t live up, maybe, because I’m going to steal other things I’ve seen, from other people’s lives, move things around; and, and, mostly, maybe, because I haven’t, um, lived up… it’ll be fiction.”
“Dad? Has your life contained enough… magic?”
Woosh, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait… woosh.
“Yeah.”

A Couple of Mysteries On and Beyond the Straits of Juan de Fuca

I’ve been working in Port Townsend for the past week or so, hoping some waves come down the Straits of Juan de Fuca and grace the local shoreline. This is frustrating business, and, with windows in which actual waves actually break small, I just missed a couple of times. Tide too high, swell too south, not enough prayer, whatever.

On Tuesday evening, having already checked earlier, I pulled into the parking area in a downpour to see both of the guys out catch a couple of waves each… then, waiting, waiting… nothing. I went to the Penny Saver and talked with a guy I’d seen at the beach. His name (I asked later) is Will, and he’d just moved from the ‘West End,’ knew a few local surfers.

Nothing hitting on Wednesday. Or Thursday.

I did go out on Friday. One other guy, Tim (I ask names but usually forget them)who had cruised around and had been skunked on the Straits, thought he’d found some. He was wrong. I hit a few rocks, did a pull-the-fin-sideslip a couple of times, paddled in, gave myself a 6.5 for the dismount.

On Saturday, a few actual waves were showing, and the crew that would show up at the best-guess time for waves wasn’t around, evidently headed west to the Far Straits or the Farther Coast. Keith Darrock was out, and an electrician (Brett or Brent) who said he and I had ‘shared blood’ on job sites, and the waves were, indeed, slightly larger. Still, they pretty much disappeared after an hour or so, but, later, Keith already dressed, the set of the day came in. Then, waiting, waiting… ready to go back out… nothing.

On Sunday I listened to the Seahawks, did some repairs after the previous week’s rain and wind.

On Monday I was supposed to go west with Stephen Davis. I punked out,  now having to catch up on work missed while hanging around looking for surf, talking surf. The swell was WSW, not conducive, typically, for the Straits.

On Monday night, working late, Trish called me to say the Port Townsend fire department was conducting a search off Port Townsend for someone who had said he was suicidal, and whose car was found in the parking area at the very beach I had (sort of) surfed so recently.

Later Monday night, Stephen Davis sent me this photo. No information. Maybe it’s that spot Steve and I had promised each other we’d hit, a spot I’d heard about for years. You now know as much as I do. Now. Another mystery spot.

image

It’s Tuesday. I checked the buoys, checked the forecast, checked my hotmail, wrote my friend, Ray Hicks, my longest-term surfing friend (off and on, known him since 6th grade), checked ptleader.com for any update on possible drowning/suicide. Sadly, there was something; a body had been pulled from the water half a mile or so down the beach from the place I’d so recently surfed.  The name hasn’t been released yet. It’s tragic.

Mystery. Mysteries. I’ll find out more about this wave, whether Stephen surfed it; how much I missed. Later. If all is never really fully revealed, frequently enough is.  Meanwhile… meanwhile we wait. Or we go looking.