Six Foot on the Strait and…

Happy honkin’ Thanksgiving. I will explain the honking part in a bit. I hope waves are hitting whatever beach you’re close to, or chose to go to, or are currently at; re-checking the buoys, wondering how a seventeen foot swell in the Pacific Ocean can’t seem to find it’s way to that beach. WAITING, waiting, wait… we all know there are no waves in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and yet…

Yet I spent too many hours over the last two days answering the siren surf call. “In an hour and twenty minutes, big boy, traffic permitting, you could be hurrying to put on your cold, damp, recently-frozen wetsuit (and you should know not to hang a wetsuit outside in these parts- frost is real), enjoying the multiple pleasures and temporary (and, yes, a bit frosty) bliss of plopping your bulky self into the smooth lines of a…” Have to stop; just a bit too (I could say honest) revealing.

That was TUESDAY. Traffic permitted, ocean did not oblige. Hang out, wait, take a nap… didn’t help. Others were still waiting, other surf hunters showing up or driving on. Fickle, these sirens.

Then, WEDNESDAY, calculating, drawing on experience, hoping; couldn’t help hear the siren call. “Forget about finishing that job; the winds and tides are just perfect; the possibility of taking off deep, tucking into a tube, climbing and dropping in an almost endless rhythm, pulling out at the last possible moment; (the possibility) of these things await…” Wait. Again, I should stop there.

BUT I went, waited around rather than going to my job up the hill, no more than six minutes (traffic) away. Then I left, couldn’t concentrate on work, but did some. An hour and a half later, at the far end of when my earlier and constantly readjusted calculations said the tide wndow would close, I returned.

WAS IT all the sirens promised, what my memories of near-perfect sessions constantly remind me is possible? NO, ‘course not. I did, HOWEVER, on both outings (one long one, two shorter) run into memorable folks on the beach.

I COULD write about some of those surfers, real and otherwise. I will. But here, today, let me say something about ADAM ‘WIPEOUT’ JAMES. He was at a beach, my second trip there, yesterday, with his two boys, Emmett and Calvin. It is definitely not helpful that I can no longer seem to figure out how to transfer photos from my phone to the computer (stuck in the cloud or something). The boys and their dad all have COVID haircuts, meaning no hair cuts. As old guys did back when I was a kid with, usually, a ‘high and tight’ cut (because my dad had been a Marine, but, because he had four sons, our hair was longer than average before our next visit to the barber), and because the boys were running around the beach with an girl, I, stupidly, asked, “Who are these girls?”

ADAM AND I DO TALK, fairly regularly, on the cellular devices; but we haven’t surfed together in quite a while (his favorite trick seems to be taking off in front of me); and I was pretty excited at the possibilities.

SO, I’M LEANING ON one of his many vehicles (he implied it’s rude to ask how many), chatting about how he put a mortal crease in the Mickey Munoz 12 foot soft top I once rode, and he’s putting dollops of sun-cure resin on dings on another board, both of us talking to KEITH, and Adam’s wife’s (Andrea’s) friend, father of the girl running around with Calvin and Emmett (not a surfer or in any way knowledgeable about surfing- asked if we wear wet or drysuits), and Adam says, “Hey, Dude; six feet.”

SIX FEET? I scan the horizon. NOPE, the usual lines that look like waves but are rip or wind lines. “OH? Yeah, six feet. Sorry.”

There are, of course, other stories. There are, as always, rumors about where waves DID HIT, where the SIRENS fulfilled their promises. NO, it never was a promise; it never has been. STILL, we listen.

OKAY, HERE’S ONE MORE: Tim Nolan, discussing something about how tides can affect wave size and, let’s say, punchiness, used the word ‘honking,’ as in, “When it really gets honkin’…” I had to ask him about it. Tim’s older, but, it seems, increasingly close to my age; and the word usage took me back to the sixties. For a moment. This was on my first attempt yesterday. Then, possibly because of my advanced age, I forgot the word. LUCKILY, on my second visit to the beach, Tim and a group of paddleboarders were just returning. I asked him; he remembered. HONKIN’!

AGAIN, HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Surviving the 50th Anniversary of My 17th Birthday… and More

Swimming in to retrieve my board, so close to banging, again, against the sealife-encrusted rocks, I couldn’t help but think my fears of surfing this spot were being realized.

Not only did I lose my board on my first wave; but it was on my birthday.

Okay, really can’t say too much about the particular spot. It’s kind of a secret spot, accessible by winding roads, trails, a steep cliff, rocks; and then there’s the water; cold, bull kelp heads floating with the rising and falling of the inshore.

I did take a couple of photos of the spot. A friend, who was way out on the Olympic Peninsula, camping; and had agreed to meet me there, but, and this is not atypical; by the time I got close enough to take the photos, he was already dropping into wave after wave.

Okay, so, if I had fastened my leash before I paddled out (didn’t, because of the kelp), or had fastened it securely once I got out (they’re made to easily remove, rather awkward to put on underwater), or if I’d made the drop (the face dropped under me, I freefell) I wouldn’t have been swimming.

I’ll probably sneak the photo onto the site some time in the future.

Yeah, I did make some waves, and did wipe out a couple more times; but, with crazy indicator waves even farther out, with lines coming out of deep water; suddenly steep, scary steep; getting pitched, getting hit by the lip, getting a few quick barrels; hooting way too loud on my rides, or when watching my friend freefalling, blasting through sections… the session was, as memorable, magic ones often are, intense.

It was all pretty much over in an hour and a half or so. I had managed to save some energy for the paddle and climb and walk… and it was great. Thanks for sharing; it was my favorite birthday present.  Here’s my return present: I won’t say more about the spot. As surfer Tim Nolan, who will always be older than me, says, “If you tell people too much about surf spots, you take away their joy in discovering them.”

So, this session goes in the mental file with the time I got perfect peelers at a rare (tide/swell direction/magic factors) sand bar at Noluck, the time Crescent actually had lined-up rights (45 minutes and gone- shared with my friend Archie), a list of other outings including three hours at a Sunset Cliffs peak with Steven Penn, 1972, and… hey, go through your own list.

In surfing, I’ve long believed, we sort of pay for the gifts we receive. The thrashings, the wipeouts, the relentless impact zones, the cold (let’s throw in the crowds), the skunkings; and then… again, think about the gifts surfing has given you.

Just to calm down, and since it was my birthday and I had no strict schedule, I stopped off at a well know break on the Strait. No one was out. It was small. It was so easy.

Meanwhile, here’s the latest logo design for the DISCO BAY OUTDOOR EXCHANGE:

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If the Session Report is, “It was really pretty…”

…it, most likely, means the waves weren’t happening. It was very pretty yesterday.

I’ve long decided to include the trip there and back into any session report; and, in the Pacific Northwest, with the snow level moving up and down with the same systems that bring swell to some spots and not to others; well, the view of the Olympics, even from the Safeway gas station in Port Angeles, is ultra pretty.

We all try to be scientific, using all the information available, plus past experience (ie; at this angle, this tide, this size, this spot was working); but we always have to factor in the skunk factor (on a similar tide and swell angle, the same spot was not working), and the “Random Theory,” that being that sometimes, even when the factors all seem slightly off, random acts of surf magic can happen.

EDIT- And sometimes everyone gets skunked.

Throw in wishing and hoping and praying, and that it’s a weekend between a constant barrage of wet frontal systems, and you get way too many desperate surfers combing the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

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My original plan was to either hit West Riverdale at dawn, before the tide got too high, with the Wrench as a backup. Or, I could go to The Outfall a bit later, when the tide got high enough.  I had things to do in Sequim, and, really, I planned on going to work on a painting project later. The problem, pre-dawn, was, the angle just wasn’t there. Oh, the swell, which had been stubbornly southwesterly, was supposed to go more northerly during the day, coinciding with a drop in swell size.

So, I made what I thought was the best decision. Nope. Lots of people at West Riverdale, all on the beach, cars piled high with boards; one guy, Tim Nolan, in the water, and the tide already too high. BUT PRETTY. Vehicles were coming, heading out farther; the coast always an option for those with enough time. Some surfers were, evidently, deciding to wait out the tide. I went out anyway. Tim paddled past me, pointed to the horizon, said something about where the swell was actually going, and got out of the water. I snagged a few shorewashers and surrendered to reality, wetsuit-driving away.

Over at the Wrench, the parking lot was packed with multi-board vehicles and warriors suiting up or suiting down. I squeezed into the back row, asked the guy in the rig next to mine if he could get out. “Hi, Erwin,” he said. It turns out it was Darrin, who provided me a ride on his board when mine was caught in the rip on a big day in December. I was also caught in the rip, my daughter on the beach, on the phone to her mother.

“Thanks, Darrin,” I said, shaking his hand a second time. I had been unable to really thank him properly when I got back out (after Keith Darrock rescued my board, and because one must go back out after a thrashing); and all this gratitude didn’t stop me from (accidentally, I swear) taking off in front of him on my first ride at the Wrench.

Thinking I was doing allright among those surfing, many of them beginners, kneeboarding weak little waves into the creek; one of several guys on standup paddleboards, evidently trying to be civil, asked me if I was new to riding an SUP. “First time, today,” I answered; not like he was so good. “Oh, you’re doing great, then,” he said, “you really seem to have the physics down.” “Thanks.” This was kind of depressing, and the waves were dying anyway.

Deciding I’d switch to only riding erect, I took off on a solid eighteen incher when another SUP hero took off in front of me. When he saw me, he bailed. “No problem,” he said, as if it was my fault, after my board went under his. “I didn’t know you were going to go straight,” I said. Next weak wave, I paddled, standing up, all the way to the parking lot. High tide. Two sessions. I was done.

More surfers, some quite excited, some not even checking the waves, going by the ‘if surfers are out, it must be good,’ were headed for the wild surf as I got dressed and headed toward Costco, then home.

I got a call from Keith while waiting for my order at the Jack in the Box. It’s perfectly acceptable to talk about great waves ‘after’ you get out of the water. I’d made the wrong decision. “You would have loved them.” Yeah. If I hadn’t had stuff that needed refrigeration, if I hadn’t just ordered a milkshake for Trish, if I didn’t know for a fact (or pretty sure near-fact) that the waves Keith and a few others (others in on this super fickle secret spot) had gorged on would be gone before I could get there…

I left my board on the car, just in case. I’ve checked the buoys since 5:30. Nope; might as well go work on the project I didn’t get to yesterday (I did do the drawing, above). Still, hoping and wishing, I’ll leave it on the car, just in case. Okay, it’s 7:13; I’ll post this and check the buoys.

Oh, and Tim Nolan did get in on the waves that had missed West (and East) Riverdale.

The Lost Paddle- The Full and (not quite) Final Story

You may have to study this photo carefully. There are some clues.

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Clint, boat shop owner from Port Townsend (with cracker), is sitting in front of Tim Nolan’s car. Beyond Clint is the man I only know as Nick. Behind Nick is his son, Adam. Beyond Nick and Adam is my SUP and my car, thermos and cup on the top, the back open. Beyond that is an older model Suburban, owned by a guy named Raj. Beyond that is some surfer who got her too late, wondering where the hell the waves went; or if there had been waves at all. All will be explained.

If you look a bit closer, you may discern a paddle on top of the heavily-damaged, never-repaired (partly because I still insist I’m not a dam SUPer) SUP. That would be the paddle Nick just, and this was shockingly gracious, gave me. I carry it with me when I go surfing, ready to return it to him when we next meet up. Tim Nolan may not be in this photo because he was taking a picture with his telephoto of my paddle, stuck in the wire rope holding two of the three pilings that instantly identify this spot. The surfer who performed the act/prank of grabbing a paddle I would have bailed to recover had the wave not been so good was, at this time, unknown. I should say, at that time.

So, I’m actually going to write this epic mystery/saga on my zip drive (rather than here, live), so… so stay tuned.

CHAPTER ONE- SURFING WITH gOD (the upper/lower case is relevant)

I asked the other stand up paddleboarder what it was he liked about surfing. “When I’m on a wave,” he said, “I feel like God.” Okay. A few rides later I had to ask, “You mean like ‘a’ god; or, like ‘the’ God?” “If I’d said ‘a god’ it’d have a completely different meaning; now, wouldn’t it?”

It would (to be continued). Wait, here’s a photo of Clint taken on a different day at another (secret, or, I should say ‘secret’) spot. It was taken by Adam “Wipeout” James, sent to me to gloat, originally, and, more recently, as part of the ongoing discussion of what constitutes ‘head high.’ Adam will also be a character in the upcoming mystery. So, yeah; okay, it does seem to be head high.  [UH-OH, couldn’t use the shot- too much extra information]. You’ll have to take my word for it; It’s headhigh, Adam Wipeout Scale; I’d say five feet, three feet Hawaiian.

 

A Temporary Monument to A Notorious Wave Hog

Maybe it was just a sort of harmless prank; maybe it’s a statement that those wave-hogging, SUP-riding, Aloha-be-damned surfers should always hold on tightly to their paddles. Yeah; even if there’s sixty yards of spinning inside tube ahead of him. And yeah, even if the set-wave-grabbing lineup Dominator is somewhere on the downhill side of sixty, with bad knees and… I mean, you should have seen him trying to get to his paddle as the tide dropped… yeah, he may have deserved this.

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I might agree if it wasn’t my paddle.

I’ve been working toward posting something on realsurfers that might go viral. A few pieces, over the three years or so since realsurfers hit the electronic cosmos, have had a sort of slow-motion version. But, what I do know is, even if someone as athletic as whoever found the paddle and jammed it into the wire rope-held pilings pulls it out, King Arthur style, the story will spread. Quickly.  After all, surfers hanging out on the Strait, waiting and hoping some sort of swell might show up, might just have to tell the tale of how the baddest-ass, kook-burning-est, wave-catchin’-est, loudest, least cool guy ever to knee-board an eleven foot board from the pilings to the fence got a sort of comeuppance.

I’d argue with the description if it wasn’t supposed to describe me.

There is more to the story; coming soon. If this wasn’t a happy ending for me (still feeling a bit outside of the tribe of mellow, never-took-off-on-anyone-ever-no-really-like-never-surfers, I’d probably guess anyone ever frustrated by SUP-riding over-compensators might just go, “Right On, Man!”), there is a surprise twist in this little morality play. This twist is forcing me to question my initial reaction to be hurt, then pissed-off at being singled out for this little prank; then humiliated by my pathetic, clumsy, and unsuccessful attempts to retrieve the paddle (witnessed by anyone who cared to look among a gathering crowd on the beach). These feelings were followed by a momentary-but-deep (why me? am I really that much of an asshole?) depression combined by a significant amount of anger at people who I would like to think of as peers (even friends). I aimed these feelings to those responsible, and to those who (owing to a different strain of tribal-think) would never reveal who did this. This rather quickly morphed into ‘fuck them/I don’t need them,’ a throwback to my days as a loner/outsider (yeah, I know you think you are. Probably not) with a fully-functioning (as in, I got waves) ghetto-mentality surfer in Oceanside and Pacific Beach,  and Swamis, and Trestles, and made me almost proud to be the Antagonist.

Still, until I sort it all out in my mind, I’m leaving it at this. [not true- I’ve already added to this piece several times] I’ve been very satisfied with the many surfers I’ve met over my years surfing in the northwest, an contrast this, happily, with my time in California.

Here are a couple of things: I won’t drop a paddle again. I catch almost every wave I try for. If you aren’t getting enough waves, take off in front of me.  Really.  I’ve never really yelled at anyone for this (wait, once I yelled, “Really?”), though my usual thing is to sarcastically yell, “Waikiki!” or “Party!” but, my new and humbler self might just smile and say, “Aloha!”(Durn; still a bit bitter, but working on it)

I’d give acknowledgement to the photographer, but, just in case he’s maintaining a safe distance, I’ll just say, ‘nice photo.’ Oh,and Trish said, “If you had a ladder, you could have walked out and climbed up to get it.” “Oh, uh huh.”

Erwin Would Go

Sure I would; but what if the waves get over two feet?

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When I traded out five hundred dollars left on a painting job for an eleven foot SUP a few years ago, it was never my intention for this to be my go-to board for surfing on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Now dinged to shit and weighing five pounds more when I get out of the water than it did going in (I’d fix the dings but I keep thinking it’s not my go-to board), it is, indeed, the board that fits the conditions. That is to say, if I didn’t have it, I’d be walking out on the reef, looking to the heavens, watching perfect little peelers not quite clearing the rocks, and pray (closer to asking, really) for just another foot of wave height. It has happened. A lot. That is, the asking/praying; the increasing swell, not so often.

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The undervalued part of riding a standup paddleboard is, that, while it does enable a surfer to catch waves outside of the normal takeoff zone, and outside of other surfers, it also enables surfers to ride waves even a longboarder couldn’t get into. So, as happened just yesterday, when I pull up to an empty beach pullout, look at empty-but-barely rideable waves; and, though I’d hope for another foot of wave face, there was no doubt I’d be going out. “It’s practice” I tell myself, and others, “for when it gets, you know, bigger.” My motto is, after all, “I’m here to surf.” It’s the riding of waves that matters to me.

That's Keith Darrock tucking into the outside bomb. Keith described the waves this day as 'kind of weak,' but went out anyway. The question Keith and I ask each other when waves are borderline flat, is, "Would Rico go?" Unfortunately, Rico moved to Maine, probably going on a few thigh-to-knee rollers there.

That’s Keith tucking into the outside bomb as I contemplate a move to the right with a move toward the nose. Really. Keith described the waves this day as ‘kind of weak,’ but went out anyway. The question Keith and I ask each other when waves are borderline flat, is, “Would Rico go?”  Rico (Moore, I think) moved to Port Townsend, surfed even waves I wouldn’t make a try for. When he broke one of his fins on the rocks, he fashioned an embarrassingly crude one out of wood; then broke that one off (lots of big rocks, some popping up in the waves). Rico has since moved to Maine, probably  (hopefully) going on a few thigh-to-knee rollers there.

No, I’m not so stoked on posting these photos of me. I’ve put it off, but, since I’ve lost, like, three pounds since these were taken by Tim Nolan, who also would go on any size wave, here they are. Meanwhile, once my go-to board dries out again, maybe I’ll find some time to patch those dings. Oh, and I promise, no more shots of me unless it’s head high. Okay, chest high. And now I’m hoping and praying for overhead. However, if I can catch a wave, I’m going.

Archie Endo shot this one. It's, like, waist-high, right?

Archie Endo shot this one. It’s, like, waist-high, right?

A (Revised) Last Look at the Second Occasional Surf Culture Event- and A Bit on Drew Kampion and Something on Author Justin Hocking

Alienating Drew Kampion is something that sits high on my worry list; right up there with being called a Kook or a Hodad (first I was thinking young surf punks who don’t appreciate the experience and innate coolness of someone who has been surfing for, forever- but then I really mean anyone, even if I’ve done something Hodad-ish or Kook-like). Mr. Kampion is held in a rare position in the surfing community. While surfers like Miki Dora and Greg Noll are admired for living a lifestyle unavailable to those of us who love adventure yet opt for some sense of security, and other surfers are noted for gloriously blazing and tragically (but, maybe predictably) burning-out, Drew Kampion has kept a toe in the waters and an eye on the changes in the surfing world since the evolution/revolution in the mid-to-late 1960s, pushing “Surfer” into new-age journalism while most of us were cutting old boards down and sticking one hand in the wave to duplicate some controlled sideslip we saw in the magazine. It would be pretty difficult to find a surf-related book without a forward or comment or endorsement by Drew Kampion. Or written by him.

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It was with great excitement that Port Townsend Librarian Keith Darrock was able to persuade Drew to come over from Whidbey Island for the first Surf Culture on the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Salish Sea Event. This photo is from the second time I ever met the legend in person. When I first met him, last time, I said, “My only hope is that this isn’t all too cheesy.” “Have no fear,” he said, “I live in the cheese.”

Well, there’s cheese and there’s cheese. As I mentioned, I’m fortunate enough to be included in a group receiving a weekly email featuring a poem by Walt Whitman. I always write back something long, frequently something about the latest surf trek to the wilds of the Olympic Peninsula; sometimes a rant. I get back (thrilled to get anything back) some terse and brilliant.  I may never reach brilliant… or terse, but I am grateful to not be called out as a poser/kook/hodad; but if I did get called out, I’d have to believe it.

REVISION/NEW MATERIAL- Just to show there were younger folks at the event, and because he was the keynote speaker, I had to get back to this to say something about Justin Hocking, author of “The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld.” Just this last weekend I ran into someone on the Strait who, like Justin, surfed Rockaway Beach in New York State.  Connection? Because Justin spent some time in Colorado, and because Stephen Davis was raised there, and because Stephen read his book before Mr. Hocking was invited to speak, and was impressed by it, Steve sort of grabbed (someone more sophisticated than I would say ‘button-holed’) the author during the after-presentation part of the program; and then I attacked him, interrogated him. “San Diego, huh… what part?” “Well, and this affected my skateboarding verses surfing; it was mostly geographical.” It turns out he lived in La Jolla for a while, then, when his father remarried, moved inland. “Not to, like, El Cajon?” “Yes. El Cajon.”

It explains a lot.  Stephen wanted to buy a book. I wanted a book. I had money, but someone else gave Steve enough for two books. “Steve, I can buy my own book.” “No, I’m buying you one.” Slightly more aggressive, maybe, than Stephen, Justin was busy writing something on mine when Keith came up, saying he wanted a book. He was out of books, but I still had some money, and bought one for Keith, offering some extra money for shipping. In my mind, it all kind of evened-out, and, anyway, I have my personalized copy.

So, what I’d like to say is, as always, there are connections, if we attack/interrogate/converse with someone enough to find them. I know this book isn’t the end of Justin’s work; I know attending cheesy gatherings and such activities is important to the promotion process; but, in the same way I hope for the best for those who are daring enough to pursue a career in the dangerous world of art and literature, like surfer/artists Todd Fischer and Jesse Watson, I would like to think Justin’s ride will find success. Go, Justin!

Hocking,Justin(AnnaCaitlinHarris)

A legend on the Strait, TIm Nolan.  Google "Tim Nolan and the Wave of the Day" for more. It's somewhere in the realsurfers.net archives. Still dominates.

A legend on the Strait, TIm Nolan. Google “Tim Nolan and the Wave of the Day” for more. It’s somewhere in the realsurfers.net archives. Still dominates. Oh, and check out the paintings in the background by Stephen Davis (center) and Todd Fischer.

part of the crowd at the event

part of the crowd at the event. Hey, there were some younger folks, also. No, really. That’s Stephen Davis with the man-bunn.

In Case You Missed the Surf Culture Event

Here’s the piece I read, with minimal ad-libbing, at the recent Surf Culture On the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Salish Sea Event. I plan on adding some more photos, but it’ll probably be in another post. A pretty successful event- no one drowned, though I did hear some coughing.

CONJURING UP SOME MAGIC

ONE- I knew the two young guys, one on a soft top, the other on a yellow-but-at-one-time-white board were from Gold Bar, a town somewhere between I-5 and the Cascade Mountains. Because I asked them. Nicely. But I always ask surfers I haven’t seen before. This time, we were at a spot that, legend has it, sometimes features rights, off the island. That’s a clue. I’ve only experienced this lowtide phenomenon once; closeouts across the small bay many times.

Archie and I had gotten skunked at the place we had wanted to surf. At this spot there was a sandbar, there was a makeable right. There were several other surfers out, including a guy on the longest longboard ever, paddling with way too much nose out of the water (sure sign of a beginner/kook), but waiting in the perfect spot, catching the best waves (as in, the ones I wanted), jumping up, clumsily riding, arms flailing, and, somehow, making waves.

“Hey,” I said, nicely, “you don’t need that much nose out of the water.” “Hey,” he said, kind of snottily, looking at me kneepaddling a stand up paddleboard; “aren’t you supposed to be standing up on that thing?” “Oh,” I said, “yeah, I think so.” Eventually, whether or not he appreciated it, the surfer from… I didn’t ask where he came from… he got a rare treat; really great waves. Archie and I enjoyed them for another forty-five minutes after Long Longboard Guy left. Then the waves left.

But, the Gold Bar Boys. On this day it was a very high tide and the waves were wrapping around what in normally beach rather than sandbar. The best waves ended up in the creek. Another clue. “Um, maybe, if you want to actually catch waves, you might move over here,” I offered. “Thank you, sir.”

So, several waves later; and this was a few years ago, and I was on a non-SUP… just so you know… I took off and did what old fat guys who have ripped or torn, or merely worn out, tendons and ligaments on each knee, do on very small-but-peeling waves; I rode them on my knees. That made the wave, like, chest high. One of the Goldies was on the shoulder, doing the head down paddle-like-you-mean-it, and… and I know every gremmie practices this, the jump up to spiderman move, on the carpet of his mom’s house, out in the schoolyard to impress inland girls, wherever, and, whether they’ve actually caught the wave or not, the beginner is likely to leap up.

This time Goldie did catch the wave, jumped up, arms pumping, and actually was trimming down the line, on the shoulder, totally unaware I was behind him. Kneeboarding. It’s a long wave, as I intimated, and, though my fin was almost dragging, I kept going, into the creek. The wave sort of died in the deeper water, I did a smooth pullout while he just sort of stepped off the side of his board. He didn’t appear shocked he had ridden a party wave with a guy who isn’t fond of party waves, turned to me and said,

“That was EPIC!”

“Um; yeah, it was.”

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TWO

Up until a certain point in my board surfing… career, life, experience… I truly believed, and frequently stated, that I could remember every wave I’d ever ridden. And, further, I believed that there was something magical about catching, riding, or even watching a wave from the first line on the horizon, to the last wash up the beach.

I still believe in the magic, and, though I have trouble remembering individual rides, even from my most recent session, my mental harddrive is crammed with images from 50 years of board surfing, with mat surfing, surfie surfing, body surfing before that, and, possibly, I like to believe, even some foggy recollection from my first three years of life, on the beach in Surf City, North Carolina, toddling down a bit of an incline, somewhat ahead of my mother, toward the waves.

Waves. The early morning light on the east coast is like evening on the west; the view from the water reverses the colors, dawn to dusk. In winter, on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the sun hugging the mountains, it’s dawn all day. And then it’s dark.

The images are all so clear; things I’ve seen- storm surf with sideways-ripped waves, lines of broken soup to the horizon, indicator sets in the kelp beds with the greenest color on the wall as each wave lifts, toward the peak angle on a surfer hard against the wall, a whale in the darker corner of a cove blowing a geyser, the view of waves between the houses and along the low sections of old Highway 101, Oceanside to La Jolla, nineteen fifty-something.

And more. I can conjure up the photo of Rincon from the hill, from a mid-sixties “Surfer” magazine, a guy on the hill at dawn, witnessing lines to the horizon, and… and maybe you know the photo.

So, my beginning hypothesis was: If we store a mental slideshow, and add to it over time, then, if a surfer wants to do some mind surfing, at any given time, those images can be brought forth, and that would be magic. And I want surfing to be magic.

The problem is, all our memories are fiction. There’s some Master Record of All Truth, and then there’s our version. “Overhead and glassy at an afternoon session at Cardiff Reef in 1967, the time Phillip Harper had to get rescued?” Maybe.

And that photo. I looked for it online. No, it was afternoon, the same lines at Rincon to the horizon, and published in “Surfer” in 1973. 1973? What? Can’t be. I wasn’t studying surfing magazines in 1973; maybe a glance at the grocery store.

If I’m wrong about that, what about the image of the competitor freesurfing before the Oceanside Invitational in 1965? My slideshow has the guy taking off, dropping with the wave, an attempt at a headdip turning into a vicious lip-to-the-head, pile-driving wipeout. Wrong. I was the kook, paddling out because I was too embarrassed by my sister, Suellen, running around the beach, collecting autographs from surfers like Mike Doyle, even chatting with Doyle’s mother, that kind of thing. The real truth might be that the surfer possibly could have made the wave if some gremmie hadn’t been directly in his way.

Still, I like my fiction better.

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THREE

It was still an hour and a half before dawn when three Peter Pans met at Fat Smitty’s, quickly moving boards onto and gear into the vehicle owned by the oldest of the three Pans. Heading west/northwest, coffee and expectations bouncing around inside, there would be adventure and excitement on this, as with most expeditions. Stories would be created: The drunk/or/sleepy driver; traffic tickets; a ripped-loose leash and a lost board saved by Big Dave; waves cresting near the pilings; the guy with the Shamrock on his board shoving Brett’s board back as he attempted to even a score for undue set wave hogging, and the follow-up screaming match in the lineup.

But, each of the Peters ended up with his fictional(-ized, maybe just slightly) account to save; each of us caught enough waves, got enough good rides. Other things, like real life, could be discussed on the way back home.

A few days after the above session, Jeff, a guy I occasionally sought waves with before his wife, my daughter’s old school friend, Ruth, got into surfing and they became what I call a ‘surfing power couple’, and who I didn’t realize was on the beach on that day, sent me a video of me ripping three bottom turns and totally in position on three sections before making a smooth kickout.

So, I was right. I do rip.

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FOUR

So, here’s the go pro my daughter bought me. Thanks, Dru. GoPro selfies always, and it doesn’t matter if the surfer is on a small wave or huge, just look like someone doing calisthetics. But, a shot down the line… better.

If you could access your mental slideshow, bring up a just-glassed-off afternoon session. Now, a wave approaches. You paddle over to get near the peak. You wait, wait, then turn, throw your weight down, then use that rebound to start your paddle. One stroke, two; you’re dropping. You lean a bit more toward the peak, allowing the board’s dropping ease your leap to your feet, with, in the same motion, a smooth turn off the bottom. You spot a place high on the shoulder and down the line… When you hit it, you’re so close to the top, ribs of feathering wave in front of you. There’s a real question as to whether you can make the wave. You shift your weight forward, allowing the back inside edge of your board to release.

There’s one moment, the briefest of moments here for you to tuck, drive…

All right, so you made the wave. Great. Or you wiped out. That happens. No big deal, unless you had put yourself in that one moment; then it’s memorable. Click.

Now you’re looking up the barrel at me in a similar moment. I’m standing tall, allowing the lip to move my hand back and down as my board freefalls a bit. At that questionable moment of making it or not, I just can’t help but channel some ancient surfing magic, and lean back, arch, and I may be screaming some one-syllable non-word. “Owwwwww!” which really means, “hey, look at this.”

I want you to add this image to your harddrive, and, later, when you bring it back up, and bearing in mind you just got a great ride, you can only respond by saying, “That was EPIC!”

May all your sessions be epic. May all your magic be real. Thanks

A Look Back at the First ‘Surf Culture on the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Salish Sea Event’

Somewhere before it was my turn to present my short story, “Locals,” I realized a twenty minute reading wouldn’t work with the somewhat fractured audience. By fractured, I really mean distracted. There was a lot going on in and around the Cotton Building, the former Port Townsend Police Station, and, for this evening, the site of the first ever Surf Culture on the Strait of Juan de Fuca Cultural Event.

The Kinetic Kar thingie was happening nearby, there was a dance about to happen at the American Legion Hall, and, hey, it was a High Season Saturday night on Water Street. Former “Surfer” magazine (and many others) editor and the man whose name must appear somewhere on any jacket for any authentic surf-related book, Drew Kampion, was just finishing a slide show. He’d been there (everywhere, with photos to prove it) during surfing’s post-Gidget, short board evolution. As a writer/journalist, Kampion was the Hunter S. Thompson, the Tom Wolfe for surfers. Yes, Wolfe wrote about surfing, but he wasn’t a surfer.

Somewhere after Drew’s casually-presented show-and-tell, with insider stories; with Archie Endo (he volunteered for this, and was very well received) playing surf tunes through a little amp; with people milling about near the tables and easels of art work by legitimate, professional artists Todd Fischer and Jesse Watson, checking out a painting by Stephen Davis that just (I mean just) sold to a surf shop in Malibu; with photographs by Christian Coxen; with some people taking to seats who clearly thought this was some other event; with people (some possibly bored tourists) wandering in off the street; I knew it would soon be my turn.

Gulp.

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This first event came together much like the actual local surf scene; word of mouth, which includes texting, e-mails, random meetings between surfers at Waste Not Want Not (used merely as an example). Keith Darrock, surfing Librarian, came up with the idea of doing a surf-centered event, possibly including me because we ran into each other while looking for surf at a sort-of secret occasional-breaking surf spot. But this is how it worked. Tim Nolan, boat designer, will be displaying his new paddleboard and the cad drawings for it at the upcoming event, partially because Keith ran into him at a surf spot past Joyce.

“Yeah, but, Keith,” I had said prior to the first event, “if it’s sponsored by the library, shouldn’t there be something, you know, like, literary?”

“You know anyone… literary?”

I recommended Mr. Kampion, who actually dedicated a poem to me in “Surfer” magazine in 1969 (possibly because I have a funny name and did have a poem, heavily edited, published in the magazine in late 1968, written when I was 17), and who now lives on Whidbey Island. Keith reached out to him, he agreed to come over, and, relief, now I was the opening act.

Except I wasn’t. I was scheduled last. I tried to appear calm, but actually was unable to see the audience through my reading (only) glasses. That was just as well. I had rehearsed, thrown in some choreography, timed my readings. I didn’t want to screw this up.

At a normal, conversational rate, it took about nineteen minutes to read through.

And so I began.

“Whoa,” someone said, (like, fifteen minutes) afterward; “I didn’t think someone speak so… clearly, while talking so… (pause for a breath)… fast.”

So, this time, for this event, with the Northwind Gallery involved, there may be a bit of a change in the demographic. I would say more sophisticated. Maybe. Maybe the Port Townsend literati. We’ll see. Most of the original artists will have works on display. Background music will be provided by Pete Raab, including a couple by Archie currently working and surfing in Thailand). Drew Kampion has agreed to come back. Author Justin Hocking will be the main act, and I’m not sure how Keith arranged this, but, wherever I am in the lineup, I’ll be reading something shorter. And slower.

But I can read it faster if I have to.

See you this Saturday, starting around 6pm, uptown Port Townsend, upstairs at the Carnegie Library.

Flyer and Update (and more updates) on Surf Culture on the Strait Event

P1060887First, here’s a shot of Port Townsend librarian, and curator of the upcoming Surf Culture Event, Keith Darrock taken by Tim Nolan on an above-average (average being flat) day at a not-unknown spot on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. “Chest high” we’re saying. You’ll notice Keith measuring.

PaulStrauchFiveFor comparison, here’s a shot of Paul Strauch, Executive Director of the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center in San Clemente, in a classic photo at Haleiwa, performing the same maneuver, formerly called “The Paul Strauch Stretch” or “Paul Strauch Five.” No comment on the wave size.

Keith will be on the local Port Townsend radio station, KPTZ, 91.9, on Friday, June 19, sometime between 4 and 6 pm, on the FreeSpin program, hosted by Ron McElroy; the program also featuring surf music in honor of International Surf Day, June 20. KPTZ is online if you’re out of range.

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All right; here’s the flyer. The graphics were done by Cindy Whacker. There will be more updates to come as other artists and exhibitors are signing on. So, check back.