March 19, 1995
Somewhere in Northern California
Low Tide -0.1 at 6:41am
High Tide 4.9 at 1:27pm
Soupy, Lots of Runoff, Scary Monsters, Violence in the Streets

Relentless, it's the only way to describe this winter. Much to the chagrin of the people of California who have literally been left out in the cold because of the storms that have plagued and pestered us these past months, it is showing no sign of weakening. The wind gets colder each day and, as Stevie Ray Vaughn once said, "the sky is cryin'". It seems to be having an effect on the locals in San Francisco too. I stood on the corner the other day and watched two homeless men pound the living daylights out another homeless man with a baseball bat. The crowd on the corner by the store looked on at the gruesome scene as one kind soul dialed 911. I don't know for sure if it was due to the endless rain, but if the sun had been shining that day, I can't help but feel that he might have escaped the beating he received. Then again maybe not...

It was Sunday, one day away from the vernal equinox and, it seems, about two years away from summer. There is a lot of runoff spilling into the ocean now due to the rain and when your local spot is near a major metropolitan city, the runoff is not necessarily pleasant. Today however, by some twisted miracle, the runoff seemed genuinely organic; clay-earth brown with assorted small twigs and pieces of a kelp forest that had been set adrift. Our local spot is at the base of a mountain and the water had that sleeping bag smell that permeates camping equipment after a few trips to the hills. It's a mixture of dirt, pine needles and decomposing foliage that creates this olfactory menagerie that is a welcome replacement to the usual laundry detergent smell or worse, the ever abhorrent pissoir smell. The swell on the outside sets was about 5 to 7 feet on the face (again) and chaotic but not as bad as it has been lately. We actually ended up having a very good surf day.

The paddle out was not that bad but there were a lot of people out in the line-up. My tactic is to focus so hard on what I'm doing that I don't see the others out there and concentrate on my surfing. Most of the time, this has worked beautifully for me. Today however, it created quite a stir. I was waiting for my wave. The one that was destined for me, rising up into a beautiful crescent and taking me for the ride of my life. I always feel like I will catch the ride of my life on any given day of surfing irregardless of the crowds and pollution. Suddenly, it came. I was waiting outside, beyond everyone else, trying to get the big one if there was a chance of it not closing out in a hideous thunderous, growl. This is it! This wave had a peak and it was on the outside. I turned and started scratching for the beach when it lifted me up with that celestial push that only a wave can give you. Right as I was launching, focused and pumped, I noticed another surfer in front of me struggling to get my attention before he received the inevitable pounding the wave I was on was bringing to him. I slid quickly by him, cut a bottom turn and set up for a little ride. I worked the wave to the beach and turned to paddle back out.

I immediately felt his vibe. Throwing me that "I would kick your ass if I had the balls to say something to you" look. I've seen it before. I'll see it again. I did my best to ignore him and paddled right by on the way back out. He said something as I passed, but I continued my campaign to ignore him and went along my own way. The next couple of waves I didn't see the guy but after about 20 minutes, he returned. Sometimes when you're having a shitty day you tend to blame everybody else. He paddled right up next to me and we sat silently, not willing to even look at each other, waiting it out like at the OK Corral for the next wave. Sure enough it came, and we both turned and started scratching. He was on the peak but I waited it out to see if he would actually make the wave and when I saw him loose his nerve and go down, I was lifted again by that celestial hand of mother ocean and rode it all the way in. By the time I got back out he was furious, yelling and screaming about "kooks" and slapping the water with his fist. He paddled somewhat closer, but still kept a distance and yelled at me so everyone could hear how pissed he was. "I heard what you said about me!" he screamed. "You fucking milk fed titty sucking yuppie BMW drivin' motherfucker!". I looked over and said "What?". "You heard me punk. Stay the fuck out of my way or go surf somewhere else". Now that pissed me off. I am a local at this beach. I have surfed here for 8 years now and I've never seen this guy once. I told him I didn't say anything about him and that I drive an '85 Volkswagen. At this point, since I am a local, some of my homeboys started telling him to chill out and paddled over to support me if he decided to try a stunt like the homeless guys under the freeway. He blew off a little more steam and then gave up, occasionally throwing me a look and foaming at the mouth. I think he was rabid...he displayed all the symptoms.

When I went in, I had friends on the beach who I began talking to and I think rabid man got nervous. We decided to play with his mind, so we stood there like we were waiting for him. By the time we finally did leave, he looked as if he was ready to paddle around the point to the next beach to avoid getting the shit beat out of him. But that was the last thing on our minds. We wanted to shake his mushy, water logged brain around for a while and try to make him see that we are out here to have fun. We respect one another as friends and as surfers and if you are in the wave first, it's yours. We don't live in Hawaii, a place where truly, the greatest waves on earth have been overrun with surfers from all over the world and the locals have every right to be pissed. He wasn't local and he wasn't under the strong-arm of totalitarian tourism, he was just pissed. Not good enough my friend! I hope you're reading this now and wondering why you paddled around like an idiot, hoping that we wouldn't beat you up when you came in. The truth is, we were only laughing.

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