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.

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