Strait Solstice Report

It’s drizzling outside. Heavy drizzle. I’ve been working for about two and a half hours on the latest rewrite/edit of “Swamis.” That would be about as long as my last surf session, if one doesn’t count getting into and out of a wetsuit; so, sure, writing session.

The Summer Solstice might mean something different out here on the Olympic Peninsula than it does elsewhere. This area, more specifically the Strait of Juan de Fuca, has become, with my lack of surf travelling, my locale. It’s a strange world where surfers wait for ocean swells to find their way forty, even eighty miles into a narrow (compared to the open seas) opening; and then we hope they, diminished in size by the journey, hit the right beach at the right angle on the best tide, and then become a really good (I am tempted to say ‘righteous’) wave.

Oh, and we’d prefer glassy and uncrowded conditions, and, if it isn’t too much to ask for, a little more size. Huh?

ANYWAY, without going through what I went through to get in my last session (hint- daylight is, like, seventeen hours) within a very narrow window, and without mentioning the number of times I was skunked or near-skunked, I will now pivot to a story from elsewhere and elsewhile:

Shuichi Conces

This is a photo Trish found on Facebook while doing some sort of research after she got a friend request from Don McLean, a guy in my class (1969) at Fallbrook High. Don tried surfing, didn’t stick with it, but his younger brother, Billy, did surf, and did manage to get my other friends and I in trouble on more than one occasion.

In fact, of the two times I spent time in custody of the Police, the second time, for curfew, along with Phillip Harper, Ray Hicks, and Mark Metzger, was almost totally the fault of Billy McLean. I have written about it. I’m not sure if Trish accepted Don’s request.

The first time I was held, for truancy, Shuichi and some other older guy (might have been the other guy in this photo) were with me. I was held, they lied, said they were going to Palomar Junior College, I got to follow the cop in my hand-painted psychedelic 1958 Buick, hang around the Oceanside Police station until my mother, who knew I was headed for a car show in San Diego, and, well, might as well go surfing, came from work to pick me up; me, still dressed in trunks, holding my driver’s license they finally returned to me; oh, and by the way, the only reason they put me in the holding cell was because I was just too nosy, checking out the station, reading stuff coming off the teletype. Criminal. No charges.

That’s pretty much the story, other than my mom did not allow me to continue on to the car show, and she did feel obligated to turn me in, in person, to the school. Detention.

Notoriety. Another story. “Oh, no; they did lock the cell. What? No, an hour, hour and a half. At least.”

The narrator of “Swamis,” Jody DeFreines, is the son of a white father and a Japanese mother. I wrote him as such because, with surfers from the sixties self-identifying as loners and outsiders, I wanted him to be more of both. I was influenced, also, because two of my longtime friends, George Takamoto and Archie Endo, are of Japanese descent.

Oh, but Shuichi is closer to Jody. We (Phil and Ray and I) once rode with him, after school, to El Toro Marine Airfield in Orange County, where his father was stationed. The plan was for him to visit his dad for a while, then we’d surf San Onofre. It seemed to me his relationship with his father was a bit, um, fraught. We waited. He came back. It was too late to surf.

Shuichi was at least one grade ahead of me. Because I made sandwiches for my six siblings and parents, and his mother, evidently, did not, he started buying lunch from me, the proceeds I then used to buy ice cream bars and such. Or gas money. I could make more sandwiches.

He was in my art class. We had a pretty redneck-ish teacher (I took four years of art, not that it shows) who once, because he feared break-ins, actually considered rigging a shotgun over one of the doors. He did, at least, discuss it. Oh, and, this tidbit might transfer somehow to “Swamis,” (changed to mostly male Big Jacket photography students) the regular teacher seemed kind of pervy toward the girls; and most of the students were girls. Artists? Yeah.

At one point we had a substitute teacher, a woman artist from La Jolla, very hip and chic, who said Shuichi should seriously consider, as a career, being a gigolo. I’m not positive she ever gave him this advice. She did tell me, and I was under the impression that she may have had some actual clients in mind. I, of course, did tell him what she suggested. Again, evidently Shuichi was eighteen as a senior, so, almost-sorta-kinda-not so shocking.

It was to me, of course. I don’t know that he didn’t follow that line of work. His latest Facebook posting showed him, fairly recently, getting married; so, I would guess, not for the first time. He still looked good. His work history seems to reflect sales, and representing this company or that, so… good on him.

OKAY, so, like somewhat over an hour on this, this session. Happy solstice to all, no matter how far waves have to travel to get to you; and remember, it’s all downhill now for the next six months.

Stuck in the Suck… One Rib Too Far

It’s not, really, that the waves were all that dangerous or scary; it’s just that they were breaking too close to the beach.

Beach break.  Shore break.

I can’t say I’m not spoiled by reef and point breaks, waves that seem a bit more, um, polite, reasonable, more consistent.  On the Olympic Peninsula, the prevailing condition being flat or flat with winds blowing so frequently (and often briskly, gales from south to east to north to west, sometimes in one day) against any swell direction that might bring some sign of swell to the Strait, and even with buoy readings that suggest, almost guarantee rideable waves, the prevailing condition can win.

SKUNKED.

What is worse, figuring I’d figured it correctly, that I just might score, seeing even the super weak wavelets coming out of the dark and (despite the forecast) wind-torn deeper water, die among (as opposed to lined-up bombs sliding over) the rocks of a reef; a dark squall bringing a downpour; I discovered I might have been almost the only one dumb enough to believe the odds and the gods favored surf.

WAITING. Maybe it’s the tide; maybe it’s just…. a 47 (or so) minute nap, the downpour now the heaviest sort of drizzle, the windows now as fogged inside as they are wet outside; wet; that kind of wetness where they’re just covered in vertical rows of tiny drops, hanging there; one drop in each row gaining enough weight to fall down onto the next; but, and I would have awakened, no one else has even pulled in to see if there are waves.

So then one, meaning me, feels dumb for even trying.

BRIEF INTERMISSION- Here’s the negative, black light ready, version of the Soul Rebel illustration:

Scan_20191205

OKAY.  There might be some options.  This is how I ended up hiking to a spot that offered three foot plus waves, still not clean, not friendly, ribs in the swell caused by sidewinds; breaking along (more like on) a steep beach where, eight feet from shore, the water’s eight feet deep.  Overhead.

SO, yeah; look for a corner, take off, drive hard, pull out before it all crashes.  There’s no channel to ease into.  There are sections, sort of separated by those sideways ribs.  A bigger wave should break farther off the shelf that is the shore.  Two successful-if-short rides are followed by one on which I went a rib too far.  Oops.

Stuck in the Suck, I was down in the trench, my board skittering up the beach with each wave, each wave rag-dolling me as I attempted to crawl up and onto the shelf.

OKAY, now I’m determined.  Drop, turn, burn, pullout. Repeat.  Not super thrilling.  BUT THEN, again, going for another section, an extra little chunk of water… Suck, stuck, rag-doll, crawl, try again.  After somewhere around fifteen waves, having ridden one three ribs and a ways down the beach, I got out without suffering a third knockdown. Enough.

FUN.  So, here’s my takeaway, based, largely on something I learned in Psychology 101, Palomar Junior College, 1969:  All passion (read froth or stoke or lust or hunger) seeks to eliminate itself; to diminish that desire that so often overrides logic and morals and common sense.  This lust/froth/stoke/hunger, extended by the ‘one more wave’ syndrome, can be more quickly diminished in sketchy, ‘one section too far’ conditions.

THEN, as passion does, passion returns.  NEXT TIME…

 

 

 

Slow Down, No ThrowDown at the BroDown

“I always try to compete to be the best,” I said.

Now, I can, and do, edit what I write.  What I say in real time, however, is out there, it’s gone, in the time zone of ‘past,’ mostly ‘past imperfect’ tense.

Tense. Yeah. Five more minutes, I figured, and the guy who had been all “Aloha” was going to, possibly, want to throw down.  He had, he said, a history.  He had, he said, given a well-known Westport enforcer a beatdown years ago.  Cops were called.  Westside Oahu. Makaha. He knows Sunny, calls Buffalo ‘Uncle;’ said he did some enforcing.  Despite my being seventeen years older than him, he didn’t call me Uncle.

Now, after I went over the story with a couple of friends via cellular device, I began to believe I had, perhaps, over-reacted.  Maybe it was because the thought of someone actually throwing punches over some imagined (or even real) affront in the waves just seems like over-reacting.

Then I called Trish. “You have to think about what you say.” “Uh huh.” “What exactly did you say?”

Oh. So, again, let me rethink:

 

 

Discussions on who has priority.

It’s all about the windows.  The tide was going to drop off, the swell was supposed to drop, the wind was forecast to increase, and not at a good angle, not offshore.  There’s always the chance that you’ll get skunked; especially when the buoy readings, at the last place where my phone works, had already dropped to a size where, in my memory of collected skunking/scoring, the numbers favored flatness.

So, when I rolled up and saw waves… um, maybe I kind of over-amped. Pretty much a record time for me to get a suit on, booties, earplugs… and only two guys out. Guys I didn’t know.  Three surfers, three wave sets; shouldn’t be a problem.

The one surfer had just finished a ride and was lying on his very large standup paddle board. “You guys are probably exhausted from catching so many waves,” I said, paddling past him toward my lineup spot.

WAIT: Etiquette check. Perhaps I should have followed him, making sure to sit ‘outside’ of whatever position he decided to take.

THEN, scrapping around to catch waves that showed up on an outside reef, them, mostly, backed-off, regrouping on the main reef, I did, and I admit it, take off on the same wave as the other SUPer.

WAIT: Even if the guy closer to the peak, farther outside, missed a couple of waves, I probably should just let the wave go unridden rather than go for it.  Probably.

THEN, because I lost one of my earplugs, and didn’t want another three days of one-ear hearing, I went in, hung out with a couple of guys who were waiting for the incoming tide; giving the two other guys free rein.  So, nice.

THEN, MORE SURFING, more jockeying for position, but no more take-off-in-front-ofs by me.  Three wave sets, shouldn’t be a problem.  When it looked like the big surfer was going in, I did comment, “Hey, I know boating season started yesterday, but, um, do you have a license for that boat?”  Joke, yes; but the board, I swear, almost filled the bed of his small-sized truck, side to side. Very wide.

THEN, with the wind coming up and the tide bottoming-out, with more folks starting to fill the parking area, Darren deciding to paddle out before it got worse, I was changing-out on the beach, next to the big guy with the big board.

WAIT: There were, in retrospect, a few things I said that I probably shouldn’t have.

AFTER the big guy, who was pretty (and rightly) proud that he’d dropped many pounds, but had gained some of the weight back, then downed another beer, I could have avoided saying he should switch to coffee.

AFTER he said he’s sticking with the custom board, and said maybe he’s kind of a pussy, I didn’t need to say I think anyone who rides an SUP under 60 years old MIGHT BE (here’s a can’t-backspace words example- I said IS) a pussy.  Probably a mistake.

AFTER he said that if he see’s someone paddling past other surfers, taking off in front of other surfers, he has to say something (Pretty sure he meant me), I did say, “Hey, I only took off in front of him once.”  He disagreed.  Okay.

WAIT: Maybe I really shouldn’t have said that I don’t really get the whole paddling past other surfers thing. I paddle to my spot, everyone else is entitled to move. If my lineup is the one they want to use, come sit next to me, even inside me.  Paddle.  Move.  Jockey.  “Back when I started surfing, the best surfer got the most waves.”

“OH,” he said, possibly moving a bit closer to me, “Do you think you were the best surfer out there?”  Out of three. This is where I said, “I always try to compete to be,” and he came back with, “You aren’t.  See that guy over there?” Now dressed, talking to Clint. “He rips!”

OKAY. This is when, exactly, I thought about the last time I ever was involved in serious fisticuffs.  I was about 13. Butch Standefor. I only cried because I was frustrated because, though I wasn’t hurt, he wasn’t either.  SO, I lost. CLEARLY.

THEN I thought about my father.  He would throw down up until he died.  At 92.

SOOOOO, I walked away from the BIG GUY, he re-suiting to go for another session, his last word to me, “Aloha,” walked over to the other guy, shook his hand, introduced myself, apologized for the ONE time I took off in front of him.  He was nice.

LESSON LEARNED.

No, you don’t have to believe me. But, if we’re out together, sit by me. We can discuss which wave is who’s. Aloha.

 

Summer Stories (1) At the Sequim Costco Gas Station…

…just to not be unfriendly (yeah, it’s almost a double negative- evidently now acceptable), I said something (probably a “How’s it going?”) to the woman on duty, her job to wanders around the gas pumps, answering questions like, “Prices going up or down?”, “Which way do I slide my card?”, and “Nice day, isn’t it?”

“Fine,” she answered. I would say she was an older woman, but, increasingly, ‘older’ can still be younger than I am. She checked out the 10’6″ Hobie Standup strapped on my Toyota wagon. “How’s your day going?”

I was, of course, though my small and half-full (not half-empty) tank would be filled rather quickly; and because there was no one waiting impatiently behind me; ready to tell her more than she wanted to know about how my day was going.

Okay, so this isn’t a photo of her; it is from Costco, and I do like the samples. It’s kind of a tradition of mine, stopping at Costco on the way home; kind of like lowering the cost of the surf/shopping trip. AND, when I’d go surfing with my friend Archie Endo, we’d hit the samples almost as hard as the locals, swarming and swooping, elbows and walking sticks flailing, rather like a crowded lineup.

costco 2

So, instead of the hairnet, the attendant was wearing a boonie hat, last year’s model, and while I was blathering about how, yeah, I’d always surfed, learned in California, and, on this day, someone had said that my riding a bigger board was cheating, and I’d said, “Well, they’re available for purchase,” and I, at least thought- did say later, to several people, “There’s catching waves, and there’s riding waves;” it came out that she had lived all around Orange County, including Dana Point, home of Hobie,  and had graduated from high school in Mission Viejo in 1973 (yeah, younger).

“Whoa,” I, undoubtedly said, “When I was a kid in the North (San Diego) County, there was nothing there.” Evidently, while Fallbrook Union High School had been around for years, her high school started in 1966.

“I was always around surfing,” she said, “but never took it up. It’s great that you’re still doing it.”

“Yeah,” I said, “even if people think I’m cheating.”

Now it was time to move. Someone was behind me, the tank was two clicks over full, I had done the math (32mpg- great, though it varies).

She had time to tell me that she had once driven a bus with a rider who surfed named Dino Andino. “And his son is…” “Yeah, Kalohe.”

“You know,” she said as I pulled away (and I might be forgiven if I took her look to mean ‘fuck ’em’), “keep on surfing.”

Oh, I intend to.

Big Dave Sets the Record Strait

Let me trace back the rumor: I heard it from Adam ‘Wipeout’ James, who heard it from Frank Crippen, owner of the North by Northwest Surf Shop, the local shop for the Olympic Peninsula; Big Dave had been hit in the face during an altercation at one of the (frequently overly) popular individual surfing spots at a rivermouth/point/beach surf playground that [legally-required disclaimer] actually very rarely breaks.

Wait! Wait! “Big”  Dave, the guy who rides a standup paddleboard like a regular longboard?

So, today, Keith Darrock and I got to a different rivermouth/reef break [that even more rarely breaks], ran into Tim Nolan, a kid named Cooper, there with him, and, down the beach a ways, there was the very same Big Dave, the guy who was a 15 year old surfer at Crystal Pier when I moved to Pacific Beach in 1971. Keith said he very rarely surfs this spot [partially because of the already-mentioned fact that it so rarely breaks], “But, every time I do, there’s Big Dave.”

DCIM101GOPRO

The record had to be set straight. I asked, out in the water, but Dave (hey, it’s not like I know him well enough to know his last name- for all I know ‘Big’ is his first name) repeated the story for Keith as we left. He’s eating, like, I don’t know, hummus.

DCIM101GOPRO

DAVE’S STORY, paraphrased extensively: “Things got out of hand.” “Yeah, but, specifically to the allegation that you were punched in the face…” “He just sort of grazed me.” It seems Dave was surfing alone for a while; and then it got crowded,and this one guy was turning and cutting other surfers off. Dave took offense. [insert grazing punch here; I think]. However, somehow Dave came into possession of the younger guy’s short board, which he used to stab the fellow in the chest with, then slash at the guy (I’m imagining a big-ass sword here), then threw the board, sort of sideways, I’m guessing, striking the guy about the shoulders, head, and chest. Going back to his own board, Dave then came close to running the guy over on the next set wave.  “It was pretty unnecessary,” Dave said.

Now I’m forgetting everything about the alleged incident at an unnamed spot that very rarely, if ever has waves. But, meanwhile, librarian Keith Darrock pointed out that I constantly say ‘Straits of Juan de Fuca.’ “There’s only one strait. Singular. It’s the ‘Strait’ of Juan de Fuca.”

I stand corrected.