Secret Spot

Secret Spot

Secret Spot
Your secret spot exists at the intersection of memory and imagination.
A certain amount of desire, somewhere on the scale between longing and all out obsession, should be included.
So, maybe it’s a confluence, a perfect merging of several streams.
You’ve had, like bubbles in an endless sky; a few moments that were only sheer, pure bliss;
Joy, as if you were in that bubble, in some separate reality, some secret Shangra-La;
And though you were, probably, in the midst of some curious blend of peripheral chaos and among others, the motionless, clueless others; those others who missed your moment,
Calmly looking toward some blank horizon,
Waiting for a repeat of their remembered moment of terror and weightlessness;
But you want to repeat your moment…
Another again;
And when you do, that moment will overlay, perfectly,
Merging with and among the collected previous moments you long to,
Really long to… repeat.
And then… you look toward that blank horizon. Waiting, waiting
Again, as another bubble floats by.


My family, usually with my friend Phillip Harper along, explored several surf spots other than Tamarack in my first years of surfing (1965- ?). I paddled, head-down, ruining unknown numbers of rides for real surfers at Swamis, quickly discerned Moonlight Beach was really not a surfing beach, decided Oceanside Pier was just too rough, and had too many Marines, many new to ocean swimming, getting in the way. Or I was actually afraid I’d get in their way.
Several times we moved on down 101, past Swamis, to where the future San Elijo State Park was under construction. Pipes was named for the then-new (now considerably shorter, rusted) drainage pipes hanging out of the side of the cliff. There were several sets of stairs, and we seemed to start at about the middle of the stretch that ends, to the south, at Cardiff Reef. It all seemed about the same, wave-wise, to me, at that time.
What I do remember is how clear the water seemed to be, protected by offshore kelp, onshore winds reduced by the cliffs, and with a mostly stable rock-infused bottom contour. I swear that, wading out, floating my board beside me, I was once hit by a wave that was just so thin and transparent that…
No, okay; you don’t have to believe me.
So, here’s another memory: My mom built a fire on the beach, sort of standard surf stuff, from the plentiful supply of driftwood. Out in the water; Phillip points to the uniformed ranger sort of marching down the beach.
So, you have the image of the Smokey Bear-hat wearing ranger; add in the sort-of-chunky mother of seven, undoubtedly wearing a dress, and there’s the face-to-face, then the Ranger kicking sand on the fire meant to warm her children… and my mom’s back in his face;  and we’re imagining that she’s saying “The park’s not even open yet,” and “this is what we’ve always done,” and the Ranger’s threatening some sort of action, and…
…And he left, eventually; and my mom restarted the fire, we got warm, and she didn’t bring us back there.
But I did go back. I went back after the park opened, but day-surfers had to rotate onto a small ledge and sneak around the fence to get to the most consistent peak, Pipes Proper, or to what my high school surfing friends and I referred to as Swamis beachbreak.

When Trish and I lived in Encinitas in the mid-70s, Pipes was the main place I surfed in the area, always with an eye toward Swamis; occasionally braving the crowd there.
For the past twelve years or so, Pipes Proper has been the designated ‘home break’ for my friend Ray Hicks. He parks on the highway, passing the crew of surfers, most around our age, who, possibly retired (Ray’s still working), have purchased the yearly park pass, and watch the surf from the parking lot inside the fence, at the bluff.  Ray, already in trunks or wetsuit, cruises down the ramp/access, drops off his sandals at the rip-rack rocks, paddles out, usually to the main peak.

It all seems kind of casual to me, sort of friendly.  Sure, Ray has had two pairs of sandals stolen, replaced with cheaper models, and now he just wears the cheaper models himself; and, yes, it does get crowded when it’s good, even when it’s not, but once in a while Ray writes me about memorable rides and memorable sessions, the water so clean, the waves so thin and transparent that…


If You Look Closely

If You Look Closely

Here’s a peek into the very manic-depressive swell ‘window’ on the north shore of the contiguous United States. This is the last of a swell that missed most of the Straits of Juan de Fuca, somehow caught on the last possible corner.
If you look closely, you can see several people chatting, parking lot surfing. Some of the crowd that came and went in this particular parking lot had been out, couldn’t go out because of inconveniently-timed illness, or were just waiting to see. Meanwhile, chat about waves caught and waves missed. Others had come and gone, several surfing until the tide got too high, took naps in their cars, checked it again, drove away.
My friend, Archie “Atsushi” Endo took the photo, with me, mostly suited-up, beside him. Tim Nolan had just gotten out of the water, having been in it since the tide dropped enough to allow the waves to clear the rocky beach.
And now, the swell, reported by local surfer Keith Darrock (I’m going to say I called him- knowing he’d know) at half past dawn as “three to four feet. I’d give it an A minus.” “I should come up.”
Others did. What was unusual is that Dave, way-formerly of PB, had come here from PA. That wouldn’t normally be a sound bet. Tugboat Bill had turned right instead of going straight. New kids (there are always new surfers in PT; most move on eventually) had found the spot, hit it or missed it, or, for one reason or another, passed.
Well, no; I hadn’t gone up early. No. I put it off, had to, just had to finish some work. Archie and I had gone west on Friday evening, sure our favorite low tide right would be working. It was, at about one to one and a half; but, yeah, we went out.
And we caught a lot of waves, long, perfect, glassy, fin-draggers; in a pouring rain.
Meanwhile, on that same Friday, the corner was catching the long period, but kind of southish swell. All day.
Supposedly. And everyone I spoke with seemed to have hit it.
I checked this spot on Saturday. There’s something so alluring about an offshore wind holding up a three foot wave. See the last place in the photo, where the point hits the water? Now imagine a long line curling onto it, top blowing back. But the tide was high; too high, and, though I did some parking lot surfing with Jesse Joshua Watson, local artist, soon to have some work featured on this site (Yeah, I’m always pimping realsurfers), I couldn’t wait to see if the swell would hold as the tide dropped. The Seahawks were about to play.
In retrospect… it’s always in retrospect; I could have come here on Friday; I could have surfed first, worked later. I could have…
Well, I got five or six long lefts, had to bail once as a bigass rock unsubmerged in my path as the tide and the swell dropped in unison. Worth it.
Now, I’m totally considering deleting this post in a few days. I don’t want to further antagonize the PT locals; but, let me say this: This is the first swell that really caught here since late September.
Meanwhile, Archie is going to Japan to work for three months or so in the prime season, such as it is, for America’s bi-polar north shore. Good luck Atsushi; hope you do some surfing.

“Awkward Guy” cover illustration? Progress

So, I did some old school ‘cut and paste,’ hopefully not too evident.
Franco wanted a different lettering style for the title,
AND he wanted the subtitle and author acknowledgement to flow.
SO, now it’s, probably, at least maybe, a bit ‘busy.’
SOLUTION? More business, some subtle color.
This is a temporary posting. I’d also like to see it.
And then…? Then we’ll see.

Winter At Sea- final? drawing

Winter At Sea- final? drawing

Okay, so some of us can’t leave well enough alone. First I published the drawing with some notes as emailed to me by the artist, my sister, Melissa Lynch. Then she wrote back to say she wasn’t comfortable with my mentioning how she didn’t want to draw attention to any possible, unmeant religious implications of the drawing.
Then I wrote the story to go with the drawing; but, not totally pleased with the version, I went back in, edited it “in the cloud,” inserting Melissa’s drawing. Of course, I deleted the original posting of the drawing, so no one who didn’t see that post even knew there is no intended religious meaning to the drawing.
Then Melissa sent me another, final drawing. Thanks. So, I totally slowed my computer down trying to insert the new drawing into the text I didn’t want to further change… yet.
The drawing was too small, so, screw with the editing, several times, give up, and, and this is the result. Please read the story. Go back and forth if you have to.
Next time you drop in… well, we’ll all see.

Bill Birt and the San Onofre Octopi

Bill Birt and the San Onofre Octopi

Weekly (until I run out of them) Bill Birt Story
Before I posted it here I ran my story, “The Ghost of Bill Birt,” past the only friend from my Fallbrook surfing days I’m still in contact with, Ray Hicks, now living in Carlsbad, and still surfing.
“What a character,” Ray wrote, also mentioning in the e-mail the story he claims he’ll never forget; the one about Bill and the octopi at a minus tide 1967 San Onofre.*
With the rest of some subgroup of Fallbrook Sophomore surfers- Phillip Harper, Ray Hicks, probably Mark Metzger, Billy McLean, me, standing around a beach fire between sessions, standard practice in those days of short john wetsuits, Bill was down with the old beachcombers and the young kids examining the tide pools.
You should bear in mind that most of us were sixteen, Billy fourteen**, and we didn’t get all excited about sea urchins and starfish and the like. That is, we wouldn’t want someone else in our group to see us get excited about the perfect sand dollar. We were, no doubt, talking about whether we’d go out again, comparing rides; some talk, no doubt, about girls- so much more mysterious than waves.
So, here came Bill, glasses on but fogged by salty damp air, trudging up the fairly level beach- maybe more like marching- huge smile on his face, and, when he got close enough, we could see he had an octopus wrapped around one arm, another sort of cradled at stomach level.
There was a moment of…”Wait! What? Hey!”
Bill threw one of the live creatures onto into the fire. It just as well could have been a grenade. We all leapt backwards.
There were, of course, other first verbal reactions, most one syllable; or an extended “Shhhhhhhhhiiiiiiiiii…..” Someone may have shrieked.
No, not me.
And if I did; well; there was an octopus in the fire!
Bill looked at each of us, each of us equally horrified, and said, quite matter-of-factly, lifting the remaining octopus, obviously still alive, to eye level, moving it in a circle for each of us to appreciate. “This one’s smaller; we’ll eat it first.”***
*Because one story leads to another story, or even another group of stories, in writing this I discovered I have to tell more ‘San Onofre Tales.’ I’m working on it.
**Billy McLean is another character from my past. His slightly-crazed personality, his knack for getting otherwise-peaceful friends into trouble, no doubt aligns with some member of at least one subgroup of your own surfing contemporaries. I’m working on a few Billy McLean stories (physically wincing at the thought).
And, of course, I have a few more on Bill Birt.
***The second octopus went back in the tide pools, all of us marching down to make sure; someone apologizing to it for the murder of its friend.
No, not me. And if I did…

Thanksgiving Sessions

Thanksgiving Sessions

My answer to any question about what my family did on Thanksgiving, or Easter, or even Christmas- any holiday, was, “once I started surfing; we first went surfing.”
New Year’s Day, several memorable early morning (while partiers are still partying or passed out) sessions at Swamis.
Super Bowl Sunday; great time for an afternoon surf session.
It’s Thanksgiving Day and I have to get some work done; and, besides, the surf is not cooperating on the Straits. If I’d gone down to my Dad’s, it might be great conditions for Seaside. No; it’s (at least partially) the work thing.
However, I have had several memorable T-Day sessions. Two years ago, the morning low tide and a properly aligned west northwest swell. The few surfers out left the water before I had to; headed back to Seattle. So, just me, not quite surfed-out; saving a little energy for helping Trish out with the setting-up. Last year it was the day after Thanksgiving Day, me and a few surfing power couples, some others who camped out or just took a long weekend.
So, hopefully you’re having (or had) a surf session to be thankful for.
Already having worked this morning on a future piece on San Onofre sessions, I have to go. Now.
Now, Monday, swell moves more northerly. Always thankful for lined-up waves, I’m always scheming, looking forward to the next opportunity.

Northwest Spinner

Northwest Spinner

As much as we wish to capture a moment,
freeze movement long enough to focus on the image,
focus just long enough to create a new file,
slide it among the others,
preparing for some future dream as the reality,
cold water moving, bending, spinning upward,
forward, tide changes and subtle wind shifts…
there is no way to hold it;
merely to be a part of it, and then,
only for a moment.