Monday, April 22, 2013

You Just Never Know

I got down to Blackies around 7:00 yesterday. Excited as usual to surf, I was a little disappointed when I saw crumbly 1-3 ft. slop and a pretty good size crowd. I got back in the car and drove towards the upper streets and checked out 56th. It was considerably bigger but a little walled and fast and steep, packed with shortboarders and not exactly ideal for my 9' 2". I considered just heading home but decided to drive back up to Blackies. Without even checking it again, I just parked over by Sharkey's, suited up and walked towards the beach. However the surf was, I was just going to accept it and try to have fun. It was overcast and there was a bit of a south wind. I paddled out by the pier where there was only one guy. Before too long, surprisingly, a nice medium size right came in and I caught it. I took it right to the pier. The other guy caught a nice right as well. As soon as I paddled back out, here comes a bigger left. I almost missed it but managed to swing around and get it, taking off very late. Luckily I made it and crouched down a bit, right in the pocket, sticking my hand in the face of it, as I could see the lip right above my head . I heard someone shout nice wave - that always feels good! Well, the crew that was sitting about 50 yards north must have seen this because all of a sudden, at least 10 guys come paddling over. Before too long, it was pretty congested.  A bigger right came in and a shortboarder had position on me but decided to back off and let me have it. It was the wave of the day for me. I thanked him as I paddled back out. I got him back later by letting him have a beautiful left which he proceeded to tear up. He thanked me and I joked, "now we're even!" With surfing, each day is different and it can go from crappy to fun and vice versa in a relatively short period of time. 

Speaking of not knowing what to expect, lately I've been wondering about the surf reports, more specifically Surfline, and whether their reports are very accurate. I understand the concept of the swell models - wind and swell direction and all that, but too many times they seem to be just wrong. More specifically, their spot forecasts. One example was last Wednesday. I checked the report, trying to decide where to go. I was pressed for time so I was thinking Doheny. Surfline said it was 1-3 ft. and poor. I decided I would shoot down there, catch a few small ones and head back. Not expecting much when drove over the bridge, I was surprised to see what looked like a nice right peeling with no one on it. The wind was blowing offshore and I started getting anxious to get out in the water. At the ranger station the sign said 1-2 ft. Interesting. No need for the leash if it's going to be small. I must have paddled out between sets because after sitting on my board for a few minutes, I see some lines on the horizon. Sure enough, here comes a head high set. I got the second wave and flew down the line. It closed out after a while on the inside and as I pulled out I went flying over the back of the wave, grabbing my board as we were both in mid air. Wow! A guy paddling out had the biggest smile on his face. The next set was even bigger and, not having a leash, I had to scratch pretty hard and just made it over. Several guys got pounded on the inside. It ended up being a day that I'll remember for quite some time. I heard the next day was actually 1-2 and poor! Like I said, you never know!

One last thing, surfing A LOT at Blackies the last several months, I've gotten to know more people. A couple of them happen to be homeless. Some, maybe most, are mentally ill. But some are not. Many have substance abuse problems. But all of them have a story. After speaking to a few of these people, my perception has changed. Many people just figure it's their own fault and try to avoid them at all costs. In a lot of cases, it is their fault that they are where they are due to bad decisions. But who am I to judge? I started speaking to a man named Eric a few weeks ago. I offered him a cup of coffee and a donut one morning, which he refused due to something to do about his teeth, which many are missing. Plus, he doesn't like coffee. Surprisingly, he didn't ask me for money, although I did offer him a couple bucks, which he took. He was sitting with a man named Charlie. They were both fully alert, intelligent and friendly. I had a nice conversation with them and have talked to them since. They were both in their early fifties but looked much older with weathered skin and scraggly beards. From what I could gather, the homeless in Newport stick together and at least these two guys seemed to have each other's backs. I saw Eric a couple days ago and he had fallen in the dark the night before, apparently breaking at least one rib. He was in a great deal of pain but said that he had a ride to Hoag Hospital. I brought him a couple Advil and a sleeping bag I brought from home as well as a blanket for his friend. He was so appreciative. Hopefully he got some care. I will see tomorrow or Wednesday. I must have a soft spot for people like this, maybe because my mentally ill brother has been homeless, on and off for many years. These people are considered the losers or dregs of society, ignored, shunned, and forgotten. But they are humans and deserve to be treated as such. As Eric told me, "When you get to this point, it's almost impossible to pull yourself back up. No one wants to hire you. You look different, you smell different. You're not trusted. So you just try to survive the best you can."

OK, lecture over… now go catch some waves.

Monday, April 8, 2013


Today I wanted to surf but it is so blown out it looks like "Victory at Sea". I did go surfing yesterday and had a blast. Blackies was a little unorganized but had some decent sized sets. I stayed fairly close to the pier and managed to get quite a few quality waves. It was very crowded as was to be expected on a Sunday. There was even some police activity this morning. As I was driving past the Russell surf shop, I saw a female officer with her gun drawn on someone in a red car. I have no idea what happened but there were cops everywhere.

The rest of this post is not about surfing. Maybe you're wondering why I titled this "Heroes". Let me first say that hero is not a word that I use lightly. When I think of heroes in my past, I think of my parents, and of course my wife. My dad, although he was too busy working as a physician when I was growing up to spend enough time with me, was honest to a fault, brilliant, and loved his family more than anything. Believe me, he was far from perfect - short tempered, yelled a lot, and suffered from moderate depression and anxiety. But he still was my hero. My mom was simply a saint. Toughest woman I've ever known - beat cancer twice and fought valiantly against it a third time. I was a momma's boy until we lost her in 2010. My wife is the ultimate multi-tasker and my kids' greatest advocate. Super opinionated but a heart of gold, and most importantly she puts up with me. I've had a couple more heroes over the years but no need to go into that or this will get too lengthy... and boring.

Don and Brent after doing the "Blazeman Roll" together across the finish line.

Well, I have two new heroes. I have mentioned in a previous post about my friend Don Young and his battle with ALS. The bravery, dignity, perseverance and even humor he has shown is just plain, for lack of better words, awesome. Don would not think of himself as a hero, just a guy trying to live out his remaining time with his wife, kids and friends the best he can. But his attitude of live each and every day to its fullest and don't take life for granted is something I have truly taken to heart and I thank him for that. Yes Don, if you are reading this, you are a hero my friend - at least to me.

My other hero fits into this story quite well. Brent Bieshaar is another high school football teammate and friend. Brent, an avid mountain biker living in Colorado, became involved in off-road triathlon races, (three-sport races which include swimming, mountain biking, and trail running). From there, things get interesting. He had followed the plight of triathlete Jon Blais and how he had competed in the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii - with ALS. He passed away in 2007. At a high school reunion, Brent found out about Don's diagnosis and decided that he was going to do every XTERRA event for the entire season to raise money for the study and hopeful cure of this horrible disease. On Saturday I drove out to San Dimas and along with Don and his family and Brent's wife Paula, had the privilege of watching Brent complete his third of 23, that's right, TWENTY THREE of these events, most of them of on consecutive weekends! He and his amazing wife are traveling around the country to the different events and spreading the word. This guy is 48-49 years old and is charging hard. He is a warrior and I'm proud to know him. You can read more about their adventure here:

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Nice Afternoon at San O

I checked the cameras in the morning yesterday and didn't see anything worth getting excited over so I passed. The kids are on spring break so I kept busy with their activities throughout the day. Then, after bringing my son home from his football workout, I got the itch. You know it, that feeling that no matter how crappy the surf, you just have to get wet - even it's it's just to paddle around.

So I packed up the board and wetsuit and as I was walking to the car I got the look from my wife. It's the look that I periodically get that translates to, "Really Mike, again? There's so much work to be done around the house and you're going surfing?" But then I informed her that I have two job interviews coming up  soon and the look faded into more of a reluctant, "OK, have fun and be careful. I know you're going anyway," kind of look.

When I got to the beach around 4:30, I was pleasantly surprised. Gorgeous day, very light crowd, and some fun looking little waves coming in. I paddled out just south of the point (4 Doors?) and ended up getting some pretty lengthy rides. I could only surf for an hour because I had to rush home to take my daughter to swim in MV.

Good day.