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Wednesday, September 26, 2007
The boat was a place where not only our family was strengthen but friendships as well. More my father's friendships but still none of the significance was lost on the young boy. I learned how to fight fish on that boat, I learned the significance of the tides and how to stall the boat high on a current off a reef or rock outcropping and fish right down the reef, letting the current take you with the fish. These fishing outings would usually come in the late days of August through the cold days of October. But in mid-summer our boat wasn't so much used for fishing as it was for ski-bobbing and Quahoging.
Up and down Narragansett Bay (and no, I won't say exactly where) I learned to Quahog. Either off the side of the boat with the big two handled rakes which you handled like a life size pair of scissors or wading in the shallows with a single rake. I think it would be quite amusing to be able to see my younger self, maybe aged 10, maybe a little older like 12, leaning over the side of the boat with the double handled rake digging away waiting for the familiar scrape of something hard. Then to have my small frame drag the rake over the gunwale, remembering to keep the handles tight as not to loose what was in the basket, and then dig out any Hogs from the rocks and conchs.
Though I know my father was next to me for so many of these hog adventures, one instance sticks out so distinctly that it seems like it could have been the only time we ever went out hoggin. Though I would hazard to guess that said memory is nothing more than the conglomeration of all my memories lumped into one hot and sunny day on the port/stern side of the boat. While I worked the teeth and baskets my mother laid out in the bow reading a book with her hair pulled behind a ball cap, my sister was off snorkeling by herself and my father was hoggin with his mask and snorkel. He would dive, dig his knife into the sand feel for the hogs or watch them squirt out sand and silt as they closed up in defense. I was either too young for this avenue of hoggin or just didn't have the comfort of the mask and snorkel yet (I put the previous up for debate but know that it was the later, I didn't take to the mask and snorkel till later in my adolescence).
My father donated the boat to U.R.I. some years later, I'm sure they turned around and sold it, but it was for a good cause for a great aquatic studies program. Life ebbed away from fishing and hoggin for me during my adolescence. The reasons are both personal and lost and would take up far too much time to detail here in one post. I took to surfing and riding the sea instead of fishing from her bounty. I have never lost my accord with the ocean but fishing or spearfishing never took precedence over a good swell. And well, with moving to Florida at age 18 I lost the opportunity to go hoggin or fishing with my father.
It's nine years later and I've set lures (which he has handmade and sent to me wherever I've lived) in Florida, California and Alaska. It's taken the nearly four months since my return for us to hit the beach together while neither one of us were working. But still what's more impressive is that it's taken us fifteen to seventeen years to don mask, snorkel, weight belt, flippers, gloves and metal spike and re-enter the Atlantic together. He never stopped Quahoging this way and I never stopped snorkeling but I still had another lesson to be learned.
For my first time, in this manner, I dug a fair share of Hogs and Little Necks. I nearly caught a sizable adult Flounder and saw a hundred of inch long baby flounder. My father pointed out schools of small Snapper Blues and I saw a Blue Crab with a claw about the size of my own hand. We exited the water side by side with the same beat-up yellow dive bag in my fathers hand that I remember sitting in the stern of the boat and just like it sits in my memory it sat heavy with today's haul.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
"Announcing your plans is a good way to hear God laugh."
Monday, September 10, 2007
Friday, September 7, 2007
It's a matter of comfort and confidence. I'm comfortable and confident with myself, no matter what wine or water is on my table. These people I speak of lack a huge confidence in themselves. You may ask how this applies to The Swell or to the life of surfing itself and I'll put it out here and now that neither money or reputation will ever float you in the water. I have no respect for those who buy a yacht and know nothing of crewing the boat. I have no respect for surf camped adults and I have no respect for the rich with no affiliation with the non-profit.
I haven't touched the water in two days and I felt like I was losing my accord with the tide but today, off a minimal town paycheck, I bought a membership to the Norman Bird Sanctuary and the first thing I did was walk to Hanging Rock. From there I sat and looked on what I help mold for the last three months. It looked beautiful. The beach itself, three days closed, looked groomed and pristine. And here is where I engage the rich and blind; myself and a crew of kids under 20 years old sweat and bled so that this site, this beauty, this pristine, this tide, this habitat, this sanctuary, this haven, this escape and this bliss could exist for everyone.
I little expect that my 16, 17, 18, and 19 year old crew boys/girls knew the extent of what they were doing when they were scrubbing bathrooms at 8am or picking trash in the blistering sun of an August heat stroke but I hope that they had faith in my father and I. I hope they had faith in us for we were surrendering our summers, as a family, to the pleasure and enjoyment of the hundreds of thousands which came to the place we called our home, Sachuest Beach. And it's true that it's a home. It's a home to millions of person's memories and we, as a family of lifeguards and crew, had the duty of preserving and molding those memories and we did it well, we did it very well.
The Norman Bird Sanctuary and the Aquidneck Island Land Trust are doing amazing work, all year round, to keep this island (not just the beaches) undeveloped and pristine for our generations still unnamed. Please support them.
Aquidneck Land Trust:
Norman Bird Sanctuary:
Thursday, September 6, 2007
Today is September 6th, a far cry from May 24th. There was a deviation in my writings where I had imagined I would have written much more. But the beach took up far more time that I had bargained for and the addition of being one of three bartenders to help open a new restaurant took everything I had to give this summer. I hardly saw my nieces and nephew, spent nearly not enough time with my grandparents but moreover not enough time for myself and my writing.
That being said and done, the beach did lend itself to many positive aspects as well it's numerous negative spurs. I'm not going to try and detail any of these at this point, I'd be sitting here writing well in November before I could detail all the madness of being one of a few who run the most beautiful stretch of land on the Eastern Seaboard. And I'll stand by that statement. You go up on St. George's Hill and cast you sight east over Sachuest Beach and Sachuest Point and if you're not in accordance with me after taking in that spectacle then, well, you might as well stop reading this scrawl.
There was no swell this summer. Maybe five afternoons where a trace swell crept up to our southern facing points but not a whole lot more. I caught a couple of these afternoons and surfed the fish on all occasions. I had the pin-tail in the back of the truck, just in case, but never had the opportunity to break her out. I did however use our lifeguard's cache of toys to the fullest extent. I had at my disposal an array of paddle boards, kayaks and well, I guess never did take out either the dory or the van dyke boats. One of the highlights of having a solid crew of Lifeguard Captains, like we had at the beach this year, is that you are inspired by their dedication. I took to the ocean harder than I ever have in times of no swell. They would run, swim, paddle and row and it drove me to stay out of the gym and train in the elements of my passion. I even took it to another level and incorporated long distance snorkeling into my days.
Details are lacking here is this post and I am fully aware of this deviation but rest assured my readers that there are thousands of images from this summer that will grace this log well into the cold winter we have somewhere on our horizon. But that horizon is far off and though the summer is waning away it's the fall which holds the swell. So it's the fall I wait for, for the swell to grow but as for The Swell in which I write, the sets are picking up as you read sit and read this post.
Sunday, May 6, 2007
This afternoon as I drove with my windows down and the sunroof pulled back, I headed south past all the spots I'd spent so much time surfing, and i had them to my right for the last time. Laguna, San Clemente, Trestles, and San Onofre. The wind whipped through my truck as I creened my head to the right to try to catch a glimpse of the surfers pack at San O. There were cars and trucks all over the highway with longboards starpped to their roofs telling that there was some action in the water. It must have been a small day but i saw a set pull through what would have been just north of Old Mans. One guy out at the point stroking into a wave all by himself while there were three or four guys closer toward shore at the second point and too may to count waiting for the reform.
I rounded into Pentelten and thought of all the reasons why I had moveed here in the first place; a number of them all wrapped up into today: friends, surf, wind and music passing freely through open doors, a steel drum melody to surf the sunset away.
Friday, April 27, 2007
There's a milky sky of grays and blues above the Pacific as I look out to six surfers playing in the high tide push of an otherwise weak swell. But do not get me wrong, just an hour or so ago I was one of the six. Actually one of the three at that moment, but I digress. Presently I sit atop sandstone with my tin cup full of wine- I look out on Cardif-by-the-Sea and I look back on a fun session in a place I had never surfed before. I'm camping at San Eligo tonight and I got one of the best campsites, #57, in the entire camp. There's a view of the break from my picnic table and I'm on the beach level, no walking up and down the cliffs, just a few steps and I'm on the sand. I would have been happy with any site for I am just happy to get out of Orange County but to get the best site in the entire camp is really stoking me out. Call it karma, call it what you will but tomorrow in the AM, after some oatmeal, a bagel and some fresh French Press coffee. I'll be walking from my tent to the surf.
There are four surfers left and I would assume that the sun has now gone down. There is too much cloud cover to see any sky which means no sunset and also means no stars tonight. I had rather hoped that I would have been able to have a good night sky in which to watch as I sat on the beach but alas, no. Though I couldn't be further from upset at this moment. I don't even think rain could spoil this feeling for me.
I think on the fact that I'm alone right now, a thought which usually brings me any variation of sadness or depression, but now leaves me rather blase. There is nothing so unique or solitary about this moment which couldn't be shared with another -- it's just that I'm OK with it for the moment. I thought of Talia, one of the people who puts my travels to shame with her escapades, on the drive down here. I called her later in the day and we had a good laugh as I drove North from checking the surf at Torry Pines and she got ready for a business dinner in New York City. At this moment, the physical but not metaphorical, darkening moment I think on lots of people. People I love, people I want to get to know better and I think on sharing my ambition to sit on the rocks into the twilight. Though I am alone, that fact doesn't stop me from doing what I want to do and, I hazard that, that is what pleases me into the night.
I rose early this morning with the chipmunks. I kept putting off getting up and thought it was much later than 7am when I sat up in my sleeping bag. I made my coffee and my oatmeal and took them up to the bluff and sat upon a picnic table and watched the swell come in from the dawn. The wind was already hard and it was only 7:30. There were peaks and a few guys out but it didn't seem as if the tide was right for the place that I had surfed yesterday so I decided to pack it all in and drive up the coast and check for a more wind sheltered spot.
While packing I thought of how I must look to those around me. The lone wolf turning down some sort of surf and packing it all in before most people are up and I think on how they must wonder where I'm off to next. What's so important that 8:15 in the morning can't wait for...and there is no answer and that's the let down. I think south, I think Mexico--it's right there like a mysterious woman calling me from the shores. I could just keep going south, stock up on food and gas, and keep going. And I wonder what stops me...
Monday, April 16, 2007
I think on Taylor and I's conversation of late, the one of delegating time and the different avenues of pleasure. How if you take out all the other pleasures in your life and focus all your positive feelings and energy (i know i sound like a hippie) into one specific aspect of your life then that aspect which was once so pleasurable becomes tiresome and ceases to bring pleasure but takes on the roll of being a chore of pleasure. The pleasure flees from the activity and it becomes a responsibility.
I never did ask Taylor what his exact thoughts were on the subject but it's something to that extent. When I wrote that excerpt I was still in the throws of Lent and I was still sober. Now that Lent is over and I can drink again I have started to see where I took more out of my life than just booze. I was taking everything pleasurable out of my life. Even though I still saw friends I would remove some aspect of the encounter because I was without a beer in sight. I made surfing the only true aspect of my pleasure because it was something that I had never done drunk and, at the time, I was learning how to do just about everything again while sober. And I can say that being sober didn't make sense at every point. I'm not saying that either extreme is the answer but rather that either extreme is never the answer. Maybe that's what I had to get out of all of this, maybe realizing that I can't annex myself and think that I can fit into the same society I live in is an option. Maybe that I need to retool my thinking and my environment. Cole, at one point during lent, questioned my sobriety in the way that if I was to just go back to being either the party animal or the wall flower, then what would be the point of doing it at all. She brought this up at an early stage which made me question my fasting, and I can not thank her enough for she gave me an answer to a blind question I was existing in. For I'm finding now that it's not one or the other but the degree of consuming one or consuming the other.
(On a side note, I did not head south today but will do tomorrow)
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Friday, April 6, 2007
I've got a cup of coffee and my notebook as I sit on the rocks at El Porto. I await the call from Cole telling me she's out of work, so in the interim, I do the only thing which comes naturally, I go to the beach. There's a decent mix of surfers in both boards and ability.
The few times I've surfed here have been enjoyable. The fun lefts and the soft rights out in front of the power plant or who knows what it is industrial complex. I've had good luck here with the fish, stalling and continuing on into the reform - a soft wall which is good for a cutback and a crouch, pulling yourself through the back of the wave.
I feel a little antsy while watching some of the better surfers make their way through the sections and snap turn a rooster spray against the gray sunset. And though my boards are in my truck my wetsuit hangs on the balcony at home for the fourth day in a row.
Today was cliffs, around six foot with a current which could rip a hole through teflon. After crossing under the railing I was poised to traverse down the dirt cliff when I saw two guys digging for a wave. The second guy had paddled around the first to beat him out of position but as karma would have it, the first guy (who had original position) stroked into the wave of the day. I stood there board and leash in hand and watched as his red board cut high and fast across the face of a head high plus wave.
I was stretching in the intertidal when the aforementioned surfer came walking by - I told him that I watched him from the cliff and that it was a hell of a wave to the end the day day on, the kind of wave you just go in afterward. He admired my board and was shocked that it was a Becker, for his was as well. Not knowing the size we matched pintail to pintail and decided it was around seven feet. His board was numbered around a thousand, a real classic.
There's barely any sun left right now and just two black specks left bobbing in the water, the last of the El Portos
I did well today. The first few waves were nothing of glory or gloom. But as I raced up the coast, catching left after left, (A south swell in southern California is a goofy footers wet dream) I found my rhythm and the strength in the pain from my body. After each wave it was right back on the board and right back out into the breakers: hard, digging and taking lick upon lick, my head border lining brain freeze. I had the power of desire in my arms.
There were no epic waves today. One frontside crouch to put my head and shoulders under the lip, which proceeded to crash on me and I skated out from the wash onto the shoulder to finish the wave. And there was one left, a big boy I hit with a drop and stall on a great angle. I then proceeded to pump once or twice before a cutback off the lip, from which I saw a lot of open wave behind me so I returned right and cut back in the soup and raced the white up the coast. I pumped fast and she sped close but I beat her out for once and celebrated with a big swoop of a cut back. No spray off the top just a text book swoop with my knees bent in homage. The kind of wave you want to end your day on but it wasn't my last wave, and for that I was glad for that stoked the fire and made me burn my arms more and more until I neared Bolsa Chica and the yearning for a cup of coffee, a hot shower and drive up north to see one of my close friend's overpowered me and I jumped off my board and body surfed to the shore with a 6 foot 8 piece of fiberglass in-tow.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Would I have bet that within a month I'd have readers in Sri Lanka, Soul and Nepal? No way. Those first days writing about how hard it was not to grab a bottle so I would have the motivation to surf were done for no one but myself. This wasn't about anything global it was about me finding the strength to do what I loved; both surfing and writing. And as people have found inspiration in what I have created I also find inspiration from the continuation of my writings.
What is not known outright, is that I foremost had planned on using this as a scrapbook down the line when I was sidelined with a operation that would keep me out of the water. The operation was met with resistance from a greedy insurance company and has had to be postponed. So The Swell will continue on. Secondly, I wanted to capture the rest of my time here in Southern California for I knew that the duration of time I had left here was minimal. I surmised that when I returned back east that this would fetter off and be a memory, once again, a scrapbook. Though something has happened in the past two months, something which was unexpected.
As you sever one aspect of your life, other aspects which were not so vibrant or apparent seem to appear more pronounced. And as the cliche goes: when one door closes another door opens. What amazes me is that no matter how cognizant you are of yourself and of your surroundings, things change every so slightly until one day you realize that whatever aspect of your life you cut out is very much gone and so much has now had time to grow having not been encumbered by the shadow of something less important. Cut what you will; ideas, notions, grudges, relationships, jobs, material goods, TV, drugs, friends, dreams, or whatever for things that were in the shadow will grow for they have been rooting themselves in anticipation for this moment, for their chance.
In my personal statement to Brown Graduate School, which I composed and submitted last fall/winter, I expressed that I had never harbored any desire to enter the more traditional side of writing which in my perspective was journalism or editing or the "great American novel." I still feel that way on the novel aspect and I could never take the journalistic approach of an unbiased voice but when I described my person then, I had yet to trim my life. As of late I have been editing environmental papers Taylor sends my way from his interaction with the governing land boards of Hawaii. Such detailed reading of this forward thinking environmental planning has stimulated much in my mind and in unison with trying to scribe my own aquatic life I have seen where I may have been wrong in my previous desires. Taylor's papers helped open my eyes and with my heightened focus on the ocean I have begun to see where I can use my talents for something more, something beneficial to more than myself.
This is no reason but more of a result. A result of the previous reasons. I have taken a position in Rhode Island working for my Father who is Beach Coordinator for the town. I think on the surfing legend, Buffalo Keaulana, and his preservation of Makaha. He forged his space in surfing history, like so many of that time, out nothing more than respect and a humble duty for preserving the ocean which gave so much to him. And as a true waterman he raised his children with the same respect he harbored in his daily actions. I have never met this man, or anyone from his heritage or lineage, and to compare my life to theirs is to compare giants and ants. Though it may just be degrees which separate us for I was raised with a fishing pole in my hand and I can not recall a time in my life where the ocean did not bring my family food or fortune, be it with Sol or solace. I will never never ride a 20 foot wave and my father can count, on one hand, the times he has paddled out on a surfboard but he taught me how to body surf and he also taught me what it is to preserve something for someone else.
So there is the reason this forum will continue to be used upon my return to the East Coast. To update on the surf, the beach, the politics of men without our respect and the teaching of the next generation. And I write this last sentence with a wink and a grin, believing some material may surface from the four generations of my family feeding off the waters that surround Sachuest.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Saturday, March 24, 2007
I was duck diving head high waves on the way back out but instead of cursing the decision I was like a mad man digging and digging while looking up at the sets like after the last turn in 400 yard hurdle race. My literal obstacles were lined up in front of me and it was time to sprint and just let all my training run it's course. And for the first time I yearned for the crush on the 6 footer on my back as I dove under the wave. That force shooting me down, trying to rip my board out from my hands but it was to no avail as I would surface with my arms hitting the water in a windmill pattern: digging further and further. Further outside and further inside of my desire.
In the parking lot, you lock eyes and nod. Today it was three guys who fought together, two of which who were friends before and one, a new one. The fact of the matter is that you may never see these people again but there in the water, on the sand and in the lot, there's an understanding of respect. You prove it; to yourself and to them. And the nods may lead to discussing the session, the break, or the weather system which has brought these waves or like today the nods will lead to nothing more than a mutual agreement that, true, you each went at it alone but for today you fought with equals.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
But still, I didn't appreciate the solitude today. The 5 guys swapping waves and laughing around me struck a memory of last summer where I got to surf with the three surfing Lang's, and Lando. It was a day full of surfing, coupled with an afternoon beer and a cup of coffee and then a session straight into the pitch of darkness. There were hardly any waves for either session that day, but it wasn't about the quality of the wave, the session was about friendship and loosing the worry and loosing the stress. We cooked out that night in Lando's backyard, drank as many Narragansetts as there were waves surfed, Dannimal played his guitar while singing songs he wrote in Gutamala and we sat around a campfire laughing through the night. Then it was good friends, lately it's been good waves, hopefully one day they'll be seamless.
(Dannimal peaking out)
(Kaveman, Lando, Dannimal, Me, Daddy Warbucks)
(T-Rocker, Dannimal, Your Editor-in-Board-Shorts)
Sunday, March 18, 2007
In the past week Taylor and I have been swapping surf tales. This time last week he was in the middle of a 3 day surf epic between the North and South shores of Oahu. He traversed between Cliff's at Diamond Head in the South and a spot on the North Shore which has been requested to be left un-scribed. On a yellow legal pad I have a scrawl of something I wrote during the week:
"Taylor calls me this morning, 3 hours behind my late cali wake up. He calls simply to tell me that he thinks he'll never loose his stoke for surfing. I was patiently waiting for my coffee to brew while he was on his second cup and still reeling from a way point weekend of conscious surfing. Conscious in the way of choosing to step up his level of surfing. Choosing to get to the next section, choosing to push his ability, choosing to link together all of his ability both mentally and physically to drive his surfing to the next level. Abandoning any idea of wishing or looking down the wave and saying I could have or should have, He pushed it and he excelled."
We had surfed the same swell, the same swell which ripped across the south side of Oahu and then marched it's way up the coast of Baja to Huntington Beach, to my Cliff's. Here I think of the Mike Stewart story. The tale of his following, and body boarding, a swell from Thaiti to Hawaii to Baja to California to the experation of the swell within the Gulf of Alaska. One man in sync with a force of nature, following it from it's inception to it's death. Though Taylor and I only experience one aspect of this swell, it brought us both to new heights in our surfing and it was a way for two old friends, two surfing buddies who are separated by an ocean, to surf together again. I broke out my pin tail for the last two days of my session and rediscovered what three sharp skegs and a tapered tail can do for speed and cutbacks. I pushed myself as well and took some risks where a year ago I wouldn't have been so aggressive or careless (in the fun way, not in the reckless way). Doing things like: pulling into head high close out tubes and Dropping straight down in an elevator drop through 6 feet of white wash for no other reason that nobody else would have been able to get the wave and I felt it needed to be surfed (I had my fist clenched and my arm raised in triumph as I went through the white). But every wave I went for, I made the drop. 7 feet to 3 feet, I dug and then popped and stuck. Just aggressive, just hard, just like I had never surfed before in my life.
Friday, March 9, 2007
My wrist injury stems from some months ago, I'd say six or more at this point, when I fell skateboarding with a belly full of Jack Daniels and then subsequently, a week or so later, preceded to do the exact same thing again to myself. I healed the wrist then by not surfing or skating (drunk) and though it took a few weeks it healed nice and I soon forgot about the injury. I have re-injured it this time around not because of some drunken tom-foolery but because of my steadfast appearance at the gym. During this sobriety I have also resolved to eliminate sloth by working out and surfing on a daily basis. And while pushing myself in the weight room I strained my wrist but I take no excuses at this point: I wrap it and continue to lift. Light weight, high repetition. Run at least a mile and a half every day I don't surf and even sometimes after I do. My diet has changed, hardly any more fast food, no post surf taco bell, no late to work Carl's Jr., and though at night while I walk into my dark house with a to go container of Ahi Tuna or Swordfish I crave an addiction or vice I am learning to take solace in how good I feel.
I stood on the shore, facing the breakers, my feet sinking into the sand by the current ripping sand away from my feet and wondered how I would fare this day, in this spot where some three months ago in December I was bested and my limitations exposed.
My arms seem to find deeper water than they have ever before and when paddling into a wave it was like some larger hand was guiding me over the cusp and giving me an extra push. Half way through the session I contemplated my body and my performance in the water. I took into account all the hard work I had done in the past month and how all that work was now showing it's result. I forgot how simple this equation is: The harder you work, the more you sacrifice, the more time and effort (no matter how much it hurts) you put in to bettering yourself the greater the result. It's simple. I think of this as a lesson and while bobbing out there in the surf I wonder at what point I had forgotten this lesson. Or if it wasn't at a complete loss then how I let it slip into that old chest of memories hardly ever opened.
With my blood pumping and my mind racing I thought once further into the equation and contemplated the lesson in regard to the mental. I thought much on Tayor and I's conversations of late, and for that matter the conversations I have with Lando as well. We talk often of the choices of school, jobs, women, and the result of our actions in regard to our futures. I glide a few feet up and then back down, up and then back down. I skip a set and paddle out a bit further. How different, I think to myself, are our minds from our bodies and why is it that we segregate the tangible (our bodies) from the intangible (our minds). Today, I continue to myself, I have seen and felt the proof of what my sobriety, my workout, my diet and my surfing in less than favorable conditions has given way to and that is the tangible. So why is it that the mental is so hard to grasp? Is it that exercise and strengthening repetitions for the intangible are coded differently or is it as simple as we just don't understand how to recognise such growth for we are conditioned to only perceive growth as a physical attribute as in the muscles in my arms or my shoulders?
I surf my last wave in with a smile on my red sunned face, and still I didn't quite have the answer of the duality of the mind vs. the body but I also didn't feel like I had to define the two autonomously anymore. For at this period of my life, be it even this month or this season, I feel that the two are growing stronger and fusing together like a muscle ripped and frayed in exertion that will mend together to be stronger still. And I walked barefoot through the sand, felt it's warmth in the cold March winds and thought that maybe this is the answer: maybe we're not supposed to disenfranchise the two, but rather their usefulness is reached when they're connected.
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
Yea, I'm grooming my godson/nephew to be a surfer while his dad teaches him the ways of carpentry. His tool belt is epic, don't be jealous. And Megan, my goddaughter/niece, is an adrenaline junkie at age 7, she will stand up on a surfboard for the first time this summer, mark my words.
Tuesday, March 6, 2007
The whole while we were surfing the small peelers and laughing and wondering I could think of little else besides the memory of my home town back in Rhode Island and the beach which abuts my neighborhood, Sachuest Beach. I thought back on this sanctuary for twice in my lifetime whales have washed up dead upon her shores. A spectacle to all senses including awe and very much the olfactory.
It has been some years, the exact date lost in the memory, since these whales have washed up. Seal pups, birds, and fish by the dozens find that shore throughout the year but a whale, a whale brings out the town, a whale makes the paper, a whale moves you, a whale inspires the pen. It's a piece of poetry that I speak of which was written by Dannimal, or Mr. Daniel Lang to you.
I walk into my closet and remove his college thesis, "The Accolades," from my bookshelf looking for a poem whose name I cannot remember and I do this knowing full well that he wrote it while we were both in New York which would mean that it was written some two years after he graduated college. Still I sit back and read "The Accolades" for nothing more than to be inspired. Silence in my house right now, less the police helicopters outside and the sirens racing down Beach Blvd. He writes of three main themes: the celestial (both heavenly and perceivably tactile: starts, constellations, etc.); New York and being young at her volatile teat; and the sweet teaching lover that was the beaches and shores we knew as children off the southern end of Aquidneck Island. I can hear his voice while I read these pieces. I hear his voice for I had a recording of his graduate reading of which I took with me to Alaska and listened to over and over again while in woods quite foreign to even my imagination.
His line of two whales washing dead upon our shores, kept repeating in my head as I watched that mass come closer and closer as the tide pulled it in until I paddled out and found it to be a mass of fibrous roots some feet in diameter rather than a whale. And though here in this post I desire to quote those aforementioned lines I can not for his works are locked away in a file cabinet at 71 Kane Ave. in Sachuest Rhode Island and he, himself, is somewhere in South America, the exact country - even unknown. So what I can leave you is this, an excerpt from his graduate piece on the remembrance and yearning of an ocean once attached to and then lost,
"This is me recreating you.
I fold together my remembrances
and offer them with smoke to the dead
because of something that should be obvious
and never is,
the fact that you are my memory.
Not a picture, not one frame of light trapped in space
but the whole thing, lost
between the cut-offs of beginnings and ends.
Here, my vision fakes you so I can see you again.
A voyage far
from the warmth of forgetting.
Do you remember teaching me
that high tide can fix most anything,
and the ice on the sand on the shore only waits for the long sweep and
There can be a blizzard
and still the sea is massive,
snow doesn't form on the ocean."
copyright Daniel Scott Lang 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003
Friday, March 2, 2007
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
I went out today, it looked small and managable but there was no one else out. I took about 14 waves on the head before I got outside. I then sat there geting ripped south by the current until i caught my only wave which I crushed. Fast turns, high lines, all power no room for mistake and then a launch off the top like a carnival ride. A good wave. Well worth it.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
I picture a cup of coffee in a white porcelain cup while he sits at a rickety table outside of a shop, no view of the beach from where he sits but he can hear the sea birds begging and fighting for scraps and the smell, he notes as he sips his coffee, is something that he has never experienced before it's a combination of an afternoon on-shore breeze and the loose dirt kicked up in the streets. It's the sea and the earth combining in that moment, in a new hemisphere, in a time of silence. Maybe he will walk directly to the beach upon finishing his coffee or maybe he will find Chloe with her camera in hand and they will foot the path together. And upon reaching that final track of dry land before the ocean seperates the two worlds they'll leave the camera still, for this sunset is theirs and theirs only.
But I share none of this with him. I don't want to influence his action and I don't want to impede on my version of his reality so I respond to his e-mail with the following:
I imagine you down the railing from me checking the surf, both with coffee cups clad in our hands, eyes fixed on the horizon thinking thoughts of two separate worlds. Each paddling out at his own speed, each surfing his own way, in his own style, and for his own reasons. Two people existing in the same time and in the same place, seemingly doing the same thing, but in reality, each conquering or capturing or configuring his place in the swell, in the world, and in his mind. And soon enough my friend, you'll have wisdom unmatched to share with me and I'll learn it in the silence of watching a quiet sage, a nomad walking on water like a myth brought to reality by the hands of one who is blessed. We will surf together soon my friend, we will surf together soon.
Saturday, February 10, 2007
“I remember the fall and the coming of winter, the water got cold. It was a time of the west swell. A swell of change – a swell you rode alone.”
These are some of the hollowed words from the 1970’s surf movie, Big Wednesday. Since the first time I saw that movie in the dank basement of Nates Parent’s house, my life has been altered. Friendships have been strengthen and dreams sought out because of the life written and captured in this film, but not until today, February 9, 2007, have the words above rung true or done anything more than to further the plot of the film along. For all these years the words: “a swell you rode alone,” had meant nothing more than one man in the line-up. Existentialism and ones personal place in or outside the lineup were a void to us and moreover to myself.
Today, alone in my car, cup of coffee snug in my hand, fish sung atop my car, I drove down Goldenwest to P.C.H thinking that this day, this session would be no different than the one the day before, or the one from days prior. I Pulled into Bolsa Chica State Beach and walked my coffee out onto the sand, stood there in the wind and watched longboarders struggle to pick off the wind blown peaks. I harbored no thoughts of grandeur toward my forthcoming session, and simply resolved to get wet and call it what it was, me trying to cleanse my mind before a long day at work.
I left Bolsa and pulled into North Dog Beach, cut the engine and leaned upon the cliff top railing. Some lines, some peaks, no sets. I looked further south to where I had surfed yesterday: Cliffs or Dog Beach or South Dog Beach, you decide. Yesterday was my first experience at this peak, and as I joked with a fellow surfer out there, it was nothing to send a postcard back to mom and dad about but it was a good day. A new spot in a way, though it is probably just over a hundred yards north of Goldenwest, I found that it holds the swell better and has a longer line, both right and left. And though it was some 24 hours ago, I can barely for the life of me, remember how I surfed or the details of my session. I know I befriended a surfer in his 40’s. We talked shapes, had some laughs, and more hoots and cackles than anything else as he on his 7 foot “longboard” and I on my super thick fish, caught more waves that the squash tail fellas sitting inside. So looking down the beach, looking back on yesterday, I fired up the car again and drove down to the next parking lot, pulled into the same spot I did yesterday and suited up. I taped my toes, pulled on my booties, stretched the frayed rubber around my frame and then stretched out my arms. I scraped my board and then rubbed on a little wax. I walked down the cliff and then stood there, watching the size come in: three, no, four, no, five deep sets which appeared to be chest high or better. I had made a good decision.
The details of the session would be too numerous to list here and I’d honestly rather tell you of them over a cold Narraganset by a campfire so I’ll just point out a few way marks and leave the rest for our reunion.
I stroked out in what I thought was a lull in the sets but ended up taking four waves directly to the head, cold water flushing through my beard and through the neck of my wetsuit as I pushed under the thick white wash. As I came up laughing after each one, I started to feel that today would be different. I settled right into the middle of the pack and took my first wave, a low chest sized left, not too steep, not too fast, just a nice welcoming wave. I took the drop and then laid into a huge cutback right in front of one of the guys who was kind of eyeing me, but it wasn't a sharp cut back and it wasn’t aggressive, moreover it was fluid, just like a strut of a cut back, all style, all hip movement, right in front of the guy and then off through the white water and back off the wave. I don’t know where it came from, I hadn’t cut back like that since I the last time I longboarded but this time there was about four feet less of fiberglass under my feet. That first wave was all mechanical, I hadn’t thought about it at all, I just popped up and then the waves was over. On the paddle back out I thought about what I wanted to do on the next wave. Granted I had just executed a cut back that would have made the men of the 1950’s proud but I knew I could have done more, so I mapped out my ride before hand. The next wave was backside (first was frontside) and I had decided to cruise the line and gain as much speed as possible instead of the drop and the cut back, so I pumped it and pumped it and then dug my left arm into the water and just pulled the best cutback, back frontside for a second into the white water and then back backside again. When I got back up to the top I shot down the face again and when I dug my nose back into the wash, finishing my wave ::::: dig this, I had the Beatles "Getting Better" in my head . Out of no where the song just came to me and I started laughing. "It's getting better all the time."
The pop was there, the drop was there, the pump was there but furthermore the stoke was there and I was cognizant of it all. Everything; the burn in my arms, the salt on my face, the wind seen only in the spray, it was a transcendent moment in my life that I had complete control over. And I was alone. Surfers to my left and surfers to my right but not a single person with a name. It wasn’t a lonesome solitude, like I’ve felt so many times before, but rather it was full, like I had learned how to fill my void with myself, or better yet had grown whole again, completed my being. While still in the water I knew that the session was going to end well, it’s that feeling of knowing you’re going to win. The feeling completely void of arrogance and full of well deserved confidence. This wasn’t 15 foot faces, and it wasn’t the biggest or hardest I’ve ever surfed but in a way it was: I had finally faced myself; my inhabitations, my solitary fears, my weaknesses, and my self inflicted void of confidence. I don’t know how many years I had been hiding and darting in-between these flaws of shortcomings and excuses but today, today I surfed them out.
The water was cold, the swell came from the West, I surfed it, and it made all the difference that I went at it alone.
Thursday, February 8, 2007
This has sat with me for the past week or so and left me to contemplate the colloquialisms that I use on a daily basis and further more, the ones that I use within this forum to describe what is beautiful to me and to describe what moves my soul, what keeps me up at night and gets me out of bed in the morning (and for those who know me, I use the term "morning" loosely, very loosely). Both Dannimal and Kaveman have served as creative sounding boards for me for as long as I can remember and it has taken until now, until Dannimal's non-direct slander of this voice the masses of us use to describe our time in the ocean. Nor him or his brother are free from these descriptions but rather they have stepped back once further and taken stock of what it means to use fresh wordage in comparison to the habitual terminology that is intertwined into the surf culture; both in the water and in the corporate advertising office.
While driving back from Orange, which is in-land, this morning, I had my foot pressed about 80 miles per hour to the floor for I wanted to check the surf. Knowing that we were due for some swell I could think of nothing more than a session before work. Then I could think of nothing more than Dannimal's words. They sat and festered as I tic-taced through semi's and suburbans while racing to Huntington. Then it hit me. The guilt, the half shame, the personal let down of so easily using this cliched vernacular to describe my desire. I'm a writer, I have been published on both sides of this Country and some places in the middle as well, I have given reading in all four corners of this Homestead, and have a 30 page book anthologized in the sweaty catacombs of Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida and yet I use a formula un to my own.
Can I ever break from this? Do I really want to abandon it all? An entire language which I've spent the better half of my life trying to master all thrown away on two e-mails? Over head, double point break, outer reef, dredged rouge wave, throwing a translucent lip giving way to a green room with not a drop of water out of place. An epic session of lefts and rights, floaters and just getting wicked slotted, stalling and crouching to duck under the pitching peak. Brah.
Sometimes it reads like a hyped up, half drunk monkey who has a smouldering cigar clutched in this teeth, is writing the rags and web-sites I read everyday, but I understand this madness. Maybe I've prescribed to the stereotype I search to defy, or maybe this isn't as black and white as I would make it out to be here in this post. In baseball one would never refer to the pitch as "throwing it down field" or in throwing from one player to the next it is not labeled as "passing"
as it is in football but rather simply "throwing."
In either case, my dear reader, I'm going to leave you to throw my stick in my car, head down to the beach, wax it up, and go stroke out into the breakers and try and catch a line before I have to go to work and articulate how much it pains me to stand up straight and bow at the same time. And while I'm gone please read the aforementioned e-mail I have posted below. Kaveman is a warrior, a writer, a foul-weather friend and a man of our generation who forges his own artistic way.
Wednesday, February 7, 2007
Just patched up my wetsuit, carpet thread and a hooked mattress needle that looks like something out of the basement in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Drank some coffee on my porch, listened to the Stones, talked with Taylor, sowed up my suit, turned her inside out to really dry her and hopefully there will be some surf in the next few days. My booties are sitting in the corner of my shower and I spray them with Febreze to mask the funk. They stink so bad I don't even want to touch them, I guess that's what happens when you leave booties in your trunk for 11 months and then use them for 2 weeks in a row. God do they stink.
Monday, February 5, 2007
I broke my Newport streak today by surfing 17th street in Huntington Beach, the spot which I wrote about yesterday. The swell was coming in harder and the tide was weening off high so the conditions were much more favorable and from the small cliff I could see lefts and rights in two or three of the six or seven wave sets. I enjoy surfing in this area, from Dog Beach south down to 14th street, for several reasons. First, it is an expansive area with many different sand bars so over crowding is rarely a problem, a few guys on each peak on a crowded day. And the peaks, they shift 15 yards one way and then back the other on what seems to be every other set, so you can find yourself surfing a backside wave one set and then a frontside wave the next set and never really have to anything more than paddle straight back out from where your last ride dumped you off. And finally and maybe most importantly, is the vibe. It's a vibe of innovation. The wave here is big and slow and unless you're surfing a bit more to the north at Cliffs, your 6'3" square tail just ain't gonna be enough foam for you to catch these waves, so what you have instead is an assortment of fish, thrusters, hybrids, eggs and longboards. Many days I have surfed here and watched surfers flip their boards over to show each other their new fin set ups, to compare the depth of insets between swallow tails or to show how they trimmed the rocker off their latest project design. In these sets lies creation and innovation and some damn good surfing without the attitude of the Pier or the lower jetties in Newport.
To me it's always pleasing to surf here and today was no exception. I traded front and back sides for a while and then mainly went backside looking to pull into a fast line but kept finding myself careening off the top and pointing my stub nose back down in what is one of my favorite things in surfing, the backside re-entry. I think I draw such favor from this because for the first part of the ride, you have your back to the wave, you see what is ahead of you but, and at least to me, it's like you kind of don't know what's right next to you. That is until you hit the lip and point that girl shore side. For that second that feels like an entire weekend you're poised at the top of the world and you're set for a drop-in completely unlike the one you executed to catch the wave in the first place. Though in your mind that moment is frozen, the reality is that there's a wall of white water rushing toward you and a now crumbling lip behind you and it's decision time: re-enter at an angled pitch and continue pumping down the line or drop straight down, gain as much speed as possible and see if you can't flick that piece of foam and fiberglass back up there to do it again. I'll let you decide...
Saturday, February 3, 2007
Neither of us ended up going out at 17th Street, I opted not to because I knew that the swell wasn't powerful enough, the tide was mid-way on the out and unless you had around 9 feet of fiberglass under your toes, you would have just floundered on these deceivingly slow rollers that don't break until they hit the sand bar shelf just off the shore line. I would hazard to guess that none of these factors were a part of his decision but rather the factors that his girlfriend was hanging on his arm and Jack's Surfshop down on Main Street was probably having a sale, drove him away from the water.
I ended up back at 56th Street just out of habit I guess at this point. I think I like surfing there because it reminds me of surfing Rockaway in Queens, NY. Rockaway, much like Newport, CA, consists of many jetties lined some 50 yards apart and when the surf is just right the lefts that come off the tip of the jetty are long and very wallish, not much close out on the right day, just nice rides, that is if you can win position with the locals, the die-hards of winter having their day in the summer sun. I look back fondly on my sessions at Rockaway and Long Island. Dan and myself away from the madness of the city and enjoying something similar to what we would have been doing if we were back in RI. Sitting right in the pocket next to the jetty, in better position than the locals, i would flick my 9 foot longboard on a leftward angle and stroke into a quick drop and a long shoulder. Wait a second and then cross over, cross over and though there's no lip to shoot, I'm in a cheater stance, crouched and trying to position my situation just a little higher so i can throw a few toes off the front. This was how I could assimilate with the New Yorkers, the Rockawayers, most of the hard core locals had a nice quiver of boards and always surfed the appropriate boards on the appropriate days so when it was a longboard day they were right next to me laughing and hooting at the cross overs and cut backs. If you show respect you gain respect. I'll leave it at that for the time being.
But today's session was not unlike the others of late, small surf, uncrowded line-up, sun darting in and out of the clouds, me singing and laughing to myself while no one notices. The only real highlight of the session was one right hander I slid into near the end of my session. It was kind of a fluke of a wave, bigger than the rest of the day, and i happened to be in the right spot at the right time (I'm talking like this was some 15 footer with a hollow 6 foot tube lined with hula dancers when in reality it was probably nothing more than chest high). I dropped back side and to my surprise i was not met with a fast forming wall of closeout white water as the case has been all week, but rather a slightly bending shoulder. For a second, I thought back to last Spring while surfing Trestles habitually and the long, rights just lending themselves to cutback after cutback. So I pump my fish, once and then again, very quickly down the line and let her find the lip on her own with her own speed. Cresting off the top, I dug my left arm into the water as a sort of pivot and whipped my board back toward the beach and then straight back into the direction from where I had come and in a fluid moment pushed the tail into the fast approaching white water and rode the rest of the close out toward the beach. It was the sort of wave that you finish with on a day like today but i was greedy and wanted another one. Nothing much more would come but I was left the reminder that yes, I could surf, and that damn it felt good to put together a line.
Friday, February 2, 2007
This is me: Garrett Seiple. San Celmente, CA: Winter 2005/2006
(Copyright Chloe Lee 2006)
Taylor Rock. Ala Moana Bowls, HI: Summer 2006
(Copyright Jamie Ballenger: Hawaiianwatershots.com, 2006)
Kevin Lang. Sachuest Beach, RI: Summer 2006
(Copyright Chris Lang 2006)
Landon "Lando" Merrill. Sachuest Beach, RI: Summer 2006
(Copyright Chris Lang 2006)
Chris "Daddy Warbucks" Lang. Sachuest Beach, RI: Summer 2006
(Copyright Chris Lang 2006)
Thursday, February 1, 2007
County Board of Health recommends avoiding ocean contact
up to 72hrs after significant rainfall.
This is nothing new to me but it still makes me hang my head. We've fucked up so much that we can't go into the water after it rains, something has to give. I'll post it as a reminder as to who is trying to help.
(Image and Water Safety report are copyrighted to Surfline.com 2007)