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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Reasons

If you have been following this scrawl from it's inception you would be able to deduce that I started this when I decided to really dedicated myself back to the ocean. There was a distance which had developed in both body and spirit and being a writer and knowing where my motivation comes from, I created this avenue so I could create a world where when the night came, and I couldn't surf, I could continue my growth with the ocean. Other, relatively obvious, reasons were: so that I could have a somewhat tangible account of my growth and when I faced myself, my doubts, and my temptation I could look back and see the progress I'd made and furthermore I wanted a way for my friends to be privy to what I do on a daily basis. For a while, before I created The Swell, my friends and I had been corresponding via group e-mails. One person would send out a question or update on surfing and it's lifestyle and all in the group would reply. And the responses were never uniformed to one opinion or perspective. Our group ranges in age from mid 20's to late 30's and we are peppered from Boston to New York, California to Hawaii and Central/South America (where ever Dan can find a computer not covered in monkey poop). I wanted to create a single place for all of us to interact but that's not what ended up happening. This never turned into an open forum and I couldn't be more grateful. We still converse via group e-mails and this has taken off into my own endeavor.

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

Black Beard

This is my truck, that's my fish on top, that's PCH behind the truck and that's a relatively empty parking lot on a Southern California afternoon. Gate up, sun roof open, not a bad day.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Respect

I have to show some respect here for a fellow writer, his blog, some brave world class surfers, and most importantly a natural phenomenon. The following link is about surfing the longest wave in the world which happens to be in the Amazon. Check it out, and scroll down to the video about half way down the page.


Saturday, March 24, 2007


It was the kind of day where it was tough to get out. No real break in the waves on the inside and a current from the north which swept your legs out from under you. A day where you kind of pick and choose your waves because you don't want to get caught back inside. But at the same time, every time I said: "OK, this is my last wave." And would then find myself on the inside, looking back and forth between the the shore and he breakers, I'd dip under another wave and decide: "OK, one more."

and then one more.

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 lulls between my wave choices I sat on the shoulder watching the the two guys I had suited up with in the parking lot and was presently trading waves with on this sun broke afternoon. There's something about watching the people you surf with, it's appreciation and awe and inspiration. My favorite is to sit on my board, just far enough down the line as not to break the lip and get in the way, and right there in the sight line of the wave they pop and you have a front row seat. They go out of sight for a moment as you, yourself crest over the wave and then you wait. This is a delicate time for you're in the middle of a set and another few waves loom in the distance and chances are that you're not in position and furthermore it seems like forever that you're waiting and watching to see if they make the section but in reality it's seconds and then: bam! The spray comes from no where and you see the flash of the white board and then the black wetsuit. You smile and let out a hoot because you know that when it's you on the lip, they're there on that shoulder nodding, smiling and letting out yell.

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

The Distraction

I wasn't quite whole out in the water today. For the first time in some time I was distracted to the extent of not being happy with myself or my performance. It wasn't quite unwarranted for there were several factors eating away at me; a night lacking of sleep, my old bird's sudden contact with me, my surfing buddy's contentment to stay in bed all afternoon (be it with a pretty bedmate, but still), and being surrounded in the water by 5 guys, ranging in age, but all older than I and far better in ability. I exercised poor wave choice, and just couldn't connect the dots from cut backs to floaters or vice-versa. I did pig dog some back side lines right under the lip, and stuck some fast drops, and had an all around decent (come to think of it) day out in the water.

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.

This is Lando's rigged pickup on the way to the sunset session
(Dannimal peaking out)

(Copyright Chris Lang, 2006)

Post Session tom-foolery
(Kaveman, Lando, Dannimal, Me, Daddy Warbucks)

(Copyright Landon Merrill, 2006)

(T-Rocker, Dannimal, Your Editor-in-Board-Shorts)

(Copyright Landon Merrill, 2006)

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Thank You

I'd just like to say thank you to all of you out there who are reading this on a consistent basis. I've had over a hundred hits on this since I installed a counter a week or two after the first post. I thank those of you who are spread out across the world at the moment and take time to check this humble log of surfing pleasure. At present we have readers in Sri Lanka, Korea, Costa Rica and Dan is somewhere in South America yelling at a computer because it won't give him coffee. And for all of you who have taken time to check this at work or at school, well I'm glad you're getting paid to read this or glad that you're not paying attention to class and am reading about my aquatic adventures. So thank you again, and let's spread the word and try to add another zero to the end of that hundred.

The Week of a Hundred Waves

I don't know what to write here. I surfed Monday through Thursday. Wednesday was the pinnacle for size, (6 to 8 feet) and Thursday was my personal apex. After each session I returned back to this forum and typed out something but never posted what I had to say. I called Taylor and Cole after each session for there was plenty to talk about but when I came here, sat down and typed, it wasn't about surf. I talked more of sobriety and how that is what let me excel like I had but I don't want to speak of that any more. Pages were written but it just wasn't enough to propel you, my reader, to come back tomorrow and see what I had to say another 24 hours later. So here I sit, Sunday afternoon, overcast, a chill in the air, coffee in the cup, and fighting to forge out what I want to say.

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

The Result

In the peculiar way that winter tides work, yesterday found high winds, maybe a stronger current, and only one place in all of North Orange County breaking: South Huntington Pier. There were quite a number of people out there when I arrived around 2 in the afternoon when the tide was on it's way back out. With my toe tapped up and now my wrist I paused while suiting up and questioned my conditioning and ability to surf the shifting chest high peaks.

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

Jonathan and Megan

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 Perception

Yesterday while out at Cliffs, a large object bobbed in the near horizon between us surfers and the silhouette of that distant lover Catalina. The object was of large enough size that it could be seen from the cliff, the shore and the line up itself. Myself and two other surfers, also enjoying the knee high play waves, speculated as to what the large mass could have been and settled on a baby whale after I explained that the channel between Catalina and the Western Coast is a main migration route for whales heading toward the Gulf of Mexico to mate during the winter months. We talked of the size of the object and the speed and direction it was moving in and made tense jokes about sharks and larger fish feeding off of the suspected carcass.

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

Excuse my excuse

Yea so my family has been in and out of tow for the last two weeks or so, so inbetween work and visiting with them and seeing them off in Vegas, I haven't had much time to surf. I broke the streak yesterday and surfed like crap. Cliffs again, cold water, windy (10-15 knots), and I just wasn't in the mind frame to surf. Still worn form a planned break in soberity in Vegas (i mean come on now, you think i'm going to go to vegas and not drink my weight in free booze???) I struggled against the current and just didn't have the pop up. I'll hit the gym the next few days and come Monday and Tuesday get back into the swing of things out there in the drink.