“SWAMIES”- INSIDE THE LINEUP

I continue to be baffled by computers, and get tangled and confused even with tasks I’ve previously performed successfully; like transferring something from the 35,000 plus words I’ve written so far on my novel, “Swamis.”

BUT, this particular chapter with actual surfing in it, which was set earlier in the narrative, had to be moved, just to lessen confusion for readers, from around page 42 to somewhere in the high 50s.  I was able to highlight, copy, and transfer the words, intact, but three attempts to move it from the thumb drive too realsurfers, doing some refining each time, failed.

AND I lost the changes.

SO, here I am typing it onto the site.  I do have some other actual surfing in the manuscript, and plan on writing more, and (spoiler alert) the novel will come to some sort of conclusion during the famous December 1969 swell, though probably not on Big Wednesday.  Maybe on ‘Still Good’ Friday.

REMEMBER, although I surfed Swamis every day during the swell, with varying degrees of success, “Swamis” is still a work of fiction.  That is, the story and characters are fictional, mostly; THE WAVES ARE REAL.

INSIDE THE LINEUP

Jumper was the farthest surfer out, sitting on the Boneyards side of the outside peak, looking at the horizon.  There was a pack on the safer side of where most waves would start to break. As always. Swamis.  There was that string of surfers, with another pack in the vicinity of the inside peak.  At this tide, probably a third, or so, of the waves, the bigger waves, would connect all the way across.

Jumper seemed to feel someone approaching, or he heard the splash and glide of my paddling. He didn’t look around, but rotated his board enough to catch me in his peripheral vision.

“You didn’t call… could have called Tony; given me a head’s up.”

“Figured you’d know.”

I did. “I did. Of course. Cardiff’s… the parking lot is full, and…”

“So it must be good. Huh?”

A line on the horizon started to thicken, darken, take form; a wall, the peak of it fifty yards over from me, farther for Jumper. I could see the lineup come alive; surfers dropping to prone, paddling out and toward us.

“Number three,” Jumper said. “Block for me.”

“Fuck you, Jumper,” I said, stroking hard, out and toward the first wave.  I looked-off three guys also trying to get in position, turned, sank the tail of my board, stroked hard, and took off. I dropped in, made the down-the-line bottom turn, knowing, if it didn’t look like I would make the first section, shoulder-hoppers would take off.  If they didn’t kno0w wave etiquette, didn’t know who I was, or didn’t care, some fool might drop in anyway.

Some surfers, taking off from the outside (weirdly enough, called the ‘inside’ position- closest to the peak) will whistle at the attempted interlopers, or yell something like, “I’m on it!”  Or something harsher. I tried to resist those urges; but I had been known to come as close to any surfer dropping in that… maybe it was an intimidation tactic. Maybe.

I was more likely to just yell, “Go!”

I leaned hard into another bottom turn, looking off two new scrappers. I aimed for a place high on the steepening wave; hit it, tucked into a short tube. Then, while I’m trying to deal with the board speed on a weakening shoulder, someone did drop in.

“Fuck!” I tried to cutback, couldn’t, fell sideways, awkwardly, trying to fall onto my board, or, at least, close enough to grab it.

Nope.  The guy who dropped in, totally unaware (probably) that he was almost hit by my board, (probably) had one of the best rides of his surf life; while I hoped my board would pop up within a swimmable distance before the second wave of the set hit. Nope. Almost there, then… whoosh; more swimming.

Three kooks were sharing the second wave, which had, as I would have predicted, swung wider, more toward the inside peak.  The guy in front stayed in front, the guy in middle tried to stay in position, the back guy (who should have had priority) got (and this is pretty standard, though, sometimes the front guy pulls out- etiquette)  knocked off the wave. I ducked under rather than (and this would have been good etiquette) making a grab for his board.

The third wave, number three; that was the wave. Of course. I just stopped swimming, turned around, bouncing in the eel grass on the ledges, keeping my head above water. I watched Jumper backdoor the peak; tucked-in, covered; emerging, still high on the wave, most of his body above the lip, backlit for a mind-extended moment; then unweighting, redirecting, s-turning while dropping to the bottom. He leaned forward and into the wave, body stretched-out, front hand pointing down the line.

As the inside section formed, he kick-stalled (another freeze-frame-moment in the flow), crouched, and disappeared again.

Some gremmie retrieved my bo0ard, shoved it out to me, just as Jumper finished his ride with an in-the-closeout island pullout, the tailblock of his board coming quite close to me.

He brushed back the water, pulled the hair out of his eyes. “No, fuck you, Jody.”

“Nice ride, man. Number three. Outside peak. Why’d I doubt?”

“Because you, my friend, lack faith.”

“”We’re not friends.”

Another set caused us both to wait, reef-dancing on the finger ledges. “We are. I am the best fucking friend you’ve got.” He tapped me on the chest. A little too hard; looking for my reaction.

“Then, friend; why didn’t you tell me?”

“You’re the detective.”

“Fuck you… again, man. You heard Dickson. ‘There ain’t no eighteen-year-old detectives.’ Right? Stoolies, narcs, informants. Undercover, um, agents.  Not interested. But you…”

“Yeah, me. Me; I am interested. Stoolie, narc, informant, undercover… yeah.  And you, you need to stay away.” My expression, evidently, changed. Way too readable. “You aren’t going to… stay away.” Nope.  “You should.”

We both saw the break in the waves, the chance to paddle back out. We both leapt onto our boards. Jumper almost instantly jumped off his, blocked me from paddling. “First of all, Joseph; you were interested. Second, it was me who said ‘eighteen-year-old detectives.’ Dickson thought you were still seventeen. Friends.”

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Jumper got back onto his board, paddled through a wave and toward the channel. He paddled toward the pack at the inside peak, past the shoulder-hoppers and the scrappers, past the sitters, the channel markers, those folks afraid to go on set waves, afraid to get caught inside.  Those who knew who Jumper was would, if in his direct path, move aside, their feet moving like ducks, rotating.

I tried to paddle out inside (closer to shore) the pack, and got caught by a four wave set. I had almost made it past and through to the outside when an older guy (probably pushing thirty), but an obvious beginner (stink but stance, big arm movements) from Escondido (at least that’s where his license plate frame said he bought his flashy black Monte Carlo), wearing out-of-date, out-of-fashion jams over his wetsuit (for modesty, perhaps, but totally impractical- they wouldn’t ride up, almost instantly rip out) had to fall on his flashy board to avoid hitting me.  His anger only added to mine.

“Fucking paddle around, Kook,” he yelled. Hand signals were added; big arm movements. “Don-cha-fuckin’ know nothin?”

I chose not to be angry. “Sorry, sir. You were… (I made a smooth hand/forearm gesture) surfing so very well. Sir.” Nice guy/apologetic smile.

“Um. Oh. Well. Oh? Yeah?”  I nodded. He smiled.  Now he had a story. “Well; next time…”

I was already paddling, again, taking the inside route.

 

 

December’s Lost Boards- Swami’s ’69, Straits ’14

lostboardimagephoto by Steve Kohr, stevekohr.com

12/28/14- FORMERLY SEMI-SECRET SPOT- STRAITS OF JUAN DE FUCA.
It would be half an hour before the winter sun would rise, and even then it would be blocked for hours by the Olympic Mountains, then the nearer tree lines. In fact, at this time of year, on the north shore of the west coast, the sun merely hugs the mountains like an all-day dawn. At 7:30 am, what could be seen was grainy, almost colorless; headlights in the parking area, semi-clear sky, the water was the color of drowning, of death at sea.
And I was in it trying to swim, side-stroke, one hand on my paddle; and I hadn’t even caught a wave yet.
Yeah, it’s over-dramatic; but I was the one caught in it, swimming because I had tried to cut across the usually waveless channel, the deep spot between two reefs; so confident; thinking I could snag an inside left on my way out to a lineup in which the first members of the dawn patrollers were trying to find the perfect place to take off in a crazy sea.
Sure, I’d seen, even in the dim light, the sets breaking on the outlside indicators, the roll-throughs, the waves that closed out the channel and the ones that could provide those storied rides that start on the outside reef and end up past the parking area, past the fence.
“I ended up way past the fence, man.” “Whoa.” Meaningful.
But this is my favorite spot on the Straits of Juan de Fuca; I’ve surfed here (first time, 1979, next time 2005, if this means anything) in every condition, from low tide rights you couldn’t catch with a regular board, fin clicking across rocks; to those just-mentioned left peelers; to bouncy just-after-a-storm surf, waves blown by winds from sideshore squalls, rain or sleet, cold offshores from fresh mountain snow; fun, user-friendly conditions- but I’ve also surfed days with these outside roll-throughs, almost out of control, where the hard part was not panicking, holding my position, waiting for the reef to catch the bottom of the swell, to shape it properly.
Big Dave had been on the wave, dealing with an inside close out, almost directly in front of me; the wave that ripped the leash that, evidently, hadn’t had enough Velcro ‘bite.’ It wasn’t a big pull; my board was just gone.
Oh, I could see it, tantalizingly close, just out of reach; then, another wave, and it popped up again, farther away.
I was only yards from the beach, but I knew the waves wouldn’t help push me to shore. The tide was too high, washing up on the river-rock bank; pushing up and rolling rocks and foam uphill. Then there were clackity-thunk sounds as the energy tumbled back down, crashing into the next surge. I knew there would be no bottom to put my feet on to take a last leap forward.
still, not panicking.

swamis69actual shot from ’69

DECEMBER OF 1969- SWAMI’S-
It was the second day of the famous swell. I had survived the first, seriously undergunned with my regular short board (probably around 6’6”) in well-overhead waves with an unusually strong Santa Ana offshore. Yes, I was one of those guys hanging on the shoulder. In my memory bank’s version (probably in a Super 8 format- still), I was out very early and the tide was at that height where there is no inside and outside; merely a long wall that required a crazy-late takeoff, offered a crazy-long barrel past the shoulder-hoppers, and rewarded the best surfers with the best rides Swami’s could possibly offer.
I know I didn’t do a ‘paddle (in) of shame,’ but I couldn’t say I caught anything but a few insiders.
But, on the second day, the waves only a bit smaller, on a different, longer (still round-nosed- hate a pointy nose) board, the weather was stormier, the tide lower, the waves more broken up, and I was attacking the inside lineup, lined up on the palm tree on the cliff, that below the solid line of onlookers at the edge of the parking lot; scratching into waves that ‘went wide’ and peaked on the inside lineup or had closed out on the guy riding from the outside peak.
Still, I was looking for the smaller waves. I caught a few, but it was rough. I did keep getting caught inside, part of the crowd the riders had to navigate. The thrashing-to-riding ratio wasn’t really going my way, and too many waves I wanted went to others. “One more wave” I told myself.
And I caught it. If you know Swami’s, particularly the inside section, you know there’s a drop and a wall, then an area to cut back, cruise back and forth, and then, over the grassy finger slabs inside, often there’s another little section. Maybe I was too far outside. I made the drop and was totally in position for the wall. Too far back.
It wasn’t like the worst wipeout/holddown of my career, another wave at Swamis where I fell from the top (of note: On a turn, not dropping-in), to the trough, had the wind knocked out of me, came up seriously out of breath, sucked in part of twelve inches of foam. This was more a whacking, a full-body punch, the energy as much out as down.
I wasn’t panicking. I was swimming. “Fine,” I thought,” I’m done for the day.”
STRAITS- After a couple of shorepound knockdowns I found footing, slogged up the steep beach, my paddle in my hand; breathing in deeply, coughing out. The water, probably 45 degrees or so at the nearest buoy, is so much colder when you’re between two streams coming off fresh mountain snow; and seems even colder when you’re swimming.
My board was not on shore, however. It had drifted down past the fence and was headed out. I hurried down the beach until I was even with it. In that time it had moved farther out, headed toward the other reef. Tim Nolan, who, for once, I had beaten to the beach, was ready to paddle out. I was too far away to yell at him to help me and a bit too shaken up to swim, my board now a hundred yards out. I threw the paddle up onto the higher beach and thought, “Maybe it’s just not my day.”
FATE AND KARMA- Each of these seems to be about things in life kind of evening-out. My own philosophy is somewhere in there.
Maybe it was because I had thought it amusing when I saw someone in a car with a longboard getting a ticket over by Discovery Bay when I was on my way home from working in Port Townsend that, earlier this very morning, I had gotten a speeding ticket near Port Angeles. Maybe it was fitting that several of the folks in the rigs in the parking area had passed by us (Stephen Davis, Keith Darrock also in my car) in front of the car with the flashing lights, maybe it was only right other surfers should mention it, chuckling as they did.
Maybe there’s some wicked form of Fate/Karma in that, cruising up Surf Route 101, we chanced to be behind someone either sleepy or drunk, weaving across the center line, then across the fog line; and Steve called 911, and we gave them the license number; and I had Steve tell them the car would be behind a white car with several boards on top; and, when the officer returned with our tickets (Keith got one for no seatbelt- also, really my fault), the drunk-or-sleepy guy drove right past.
“I hope he gets home all right,” the State Patrolman said.
That karma’s on him. Maybe. Oh, and maybe it’s this: The last time I was out in similar conditions in the Straits, the first (and only) guy out that morning tried desperately to catch an inside wave, caught the third he tried for, came in, ran up the beach, and, wide-eyed, asked, “Is it always like this?” “It’s never like this.” Another surfer and I, both on longboards, started paddling out, he a bit closer to the reef. A wave closed out immediately in front of us. I turned turtle. When I came up, he had lost his board. I kept paddling.
At least he was close to the reef.

swamis69two another retro shot; I’d be further to the left.
RESOLUTION-
IN 1969, not finding my board on the rocks or beach, members of collective crowd on the bluff were pointing and yelling, “It’s in the rip!” It was. I looked up, looked out, swam almost to the inside lineup, climbed on my board, caught one more wave. A good one according to my Super 8 file; and went in, did better the next day.
THE OTHER DAY I almost thought I’d lost my board forever, thought I’d be watching Keith and Stephen deal with the Dawn Patrol Syndrome, watching the waves get more and more crowded. But, Big Dave left the lineup, paddled over, grabbed a hold of my board, started paddling it in. Push, paddle, push. When he got close to the inside waves, I swam out. I still had a bit of trouble getting it and me in. When I did, I dragged it (by the leash) up the beach, took a break, reclaimed some (not quite all) of my usual confidence. Four hours after Keith was the first one in the water, the day now sunny, the tide more normal, the waves more in control, way too many people in the water, we all agreed it had been, ON BALANCE, a great session. Each of us had a few good ones, a few ‘past the fence.’
Maybe not for everyone (there were some words exchanged among others, at volume, in the water), but for each of us.
THANKS, Big Dave; I owe you (another) one.