Locals Only

It’s leaving day. It was supposed to be my last surfing session of the summer.

But it’s foggy. And rainy. With wind. And chop. My dad and I went up to Indian Beach to check things out, arriving there about 6:00 am. We had coffee, looked at the waves, and talked a bit, but we didn’t go surfing. It was just not worth it. After five weeks of regular surfing, wearing myself out five or six times a week paddling and battling and riding, I didn’t feel like I needed this one last session. The part of me that “knows” said: don’t go today, while the part of me that “thinks” kept wondering whether I should brave the windy wet chop. So I went with the “knower,” and just came back to the beach house.

What happens when you realize later that, earlier you were doing something for the last time, but you didn’t realize it? Probably, your “end” was an anticlimax, almost by definition. For me, yesterday’s “penultimate” session turned out to be the “ultimate” session, but I sure wish I’d appreciated that while I was doing it. It’s kind of a disappointment… a whimpering end. I am more than just a wee bit blue about leaving and going back to my real life.

On Localism

One of the more depressing themes on my mind this morning is the thought of “localism.” I’m leaving, but “the locals” are staying. They get to keep on slogging through the seasons, and enjoying the best and worst that this area has to offer.

“Locals” get to pick and choose their surf days and times and spots. They don’t have to be disappointed when the conditions don’t line up with their availability. They just wait for the next opportunity. They also benefit from the sense of belonging, friendship, and community that comes from having a long familiarity with other locals, the region, and the available seascapes. On the other hand, they usually also have day jobs, and must work for a living. So they can sometimes resent competing for waves with all the surfing tourists who are on vacation in their territory.

Before leaving Indian Beach this morning, I spoke to one of the young woman who works at Cannon Beach Surf Shop, and who had showed up in the parking lot at Indian Beach and parked alongside our vehicle. She wasn’t sure whether she’d be riding or not, and then she almost told me that she was going “to the other side” (the Avenue U spot at Seaside), but then hesitated, saying, “it’s a local pride thing, I don’t know if you’re a local.” I’m not, I said, I’m a seasonal, and this is my last day after five weeks. She softened a bit at that, and told me about that possibility, but, frankly, I was a bit put off by the faint odor of localism. I just smiled and wished her well.

Locals are indeed blessed and cursed…

“Local pride” wants to keep a few things a secret, and wants everybody who knows to shut up about when to go and how to find the lesser known spots like Avenue U in Seaside, the Needles in Cannon Beach, the little Barview break, Arch Cape, etc. But especially those locals WHO WORK IN THE SURFING TOURISM BUSINESS ought to eschew any hint of this “localism.” After all, their very paycheck depends on them undermining “local pride” every single day. Every kook they help set up with a rented wetsuit and soft-top, or take out on a lesson, just adds one more potential addict to the exploding numbers of surfers who crowd the breaks. Localism can therefore be a kind of unpleasant hypocrisy.

Oh well. I’m not really a local… though I like to pretend that I am sometimes. I do spend significant time in the region every year, often 6 to 10 weeks, surfing regularly the whole time. My dad was raised here on the North Coast. My uncle and cousins live down here. And I’ve been coming down here seasonally for more than 30 years. I know the area pretty well. I look like a local, talk like a local, and know how to act like one. So, I really don’t think it is fair that this some young (college aged) woman, herself most likely only a seasonal resident in Cannon Beach, and quite possibly without the same Oregon roots that I have, gets to have any credibility when she throws around the slogan “local pride,” but I do not. I understand that she pays her own way, lives here full time, and pays her dues. I get it. But it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

I should shut up about it, though. I really am an outsider. Pretty much nobody local round here knows me (except maybe a few guys from Arch Cape, like our neighbor Tom Merrill, or former neighbor Nick, or near neighbor Bob Cerelli, and they don’t know me well). My car (borrowed from my dad) obviously doesn’t belong here. And while I keep hoping that the locals might get used to me, I’m not an idiot. I know that to all of them I’m just a tourist. And I know they’ll probably be glad to see me go.

Anyway, enough moping about it. What can you do? Nothing. Bring the stoke with you to the waves, bring it home again. Bring your sense of aloha to your fellow surfers. Smile, be courteous, have fun. Surfing is about fun.

Aloha, Arch Cape! Mahalo, North Coast of Oregon! I love this place. May you locals continue to keep taking good care of it. I’ll see you next summer!

Analysis and Training Plan for the Next Few Days

Today will be the first real “rest day” I will have had since Aug. 3rd. I do need a rest. That’s the bright side here.

In the past 8 days, I’ve gotten in 9 surf sessions, plus one Burpee & Pipoboarding WOD. That’s a lot of work, and I am feeling a bit of over-training. Today’s rest is overdue.

Tomorrow I will go up to the Multnomah Athletic Club early in the AM, do a warm-up, then work on handstand push-ups using my resistance bands, and then do some kind of WOD (probably the Mothership WOD from Monday: four rounds of 800 meter runs). After that, I may do “100 burpees, for time” (a penalty for yesterday’s calorie binge)… or I might put that off until Sunday.

Friday will be an active rest day, as we travel back to Asheville.

Saturday, back in Asheville, I will get a haircut and take a second consecutive rest day.

Sunday I will try to go skateboarding in Asheville, weather permitting, and may do those 100 burpees.

Monday AM at 6:00 I will be back at CrossFit Asheville! Is it silly that I am currently thinking that CrossFit is the best thing about returning to my real life.

Short Timers

I had an interesting (penultimate) surfing session today. I was joined by two fellow CrossFitters: Robert Novy-Marx — one of my oldest friends, an scholar of finance and an independent CrossFitter, living in Chicago — and his brother-in-law Will Novy-Hildesley — a newer friend, and a member of CrossFit H.E.L. in Portland, OR (and Will is so warm and unassuming, it makes me rethink my assumptions about that affiliate). It was fun to have my buddies with me. These are guys who understand when I say I made myself do 100 burpees to punish myself for eating sugar. Surfing with them reminded me why I love CrossFit so much.

For the record: Will is actually the first person who ever spoke to me about CrossFit. He planted the seed, last summer. We’d been surfing together, in Arch Cape, about a year ago actually, and I noticed how fit he was. I asked him how he stayed in shape, since I knew him to be about my age (at the time, 39 years old). He then told me about CrossFit. Robert, who was also with us then, only then told me that he too had been doing CrossFit for some time. Shaking my head in disbelief, I just filed away the information until later. When I was later invited to try CrossFit in Asheville, I knew damn well that I better do it!

Anyway, we met in the upper lot of Oswald at about 5:40, which was just the start of Civil Twilight. Before we went down to the beach, I had an unfortunate incident, the sort of thing that can just ruin your day. I had three boards with me. One for me, one for Robert, and one for my dad. Only thing is, my dad didn’t come. So I tried to lock his board, the used 10′ Soft-Top, in his car. Only thing is, it didn’t fit, and as I tried to close the hatchback, it broke the front windshield. Oops. That was… drumroll please… a $1000 mistake.

What to do? Shake it off. Learn from it. Get poorer or deeper in debt if you need to. And move on.

The waves were small, but the surface was clean and the shape was interesting, although not entirely regular and predictable. I got several beautiful shoulder rides, got closed out a number of times, got worked a few times, and generally had a great time. I paddled A LOT. Two of my rides were “all-summer” rides, meaning, they belonged on the top ten list of great rides… one of these was the cleanest, “prettiest” ride I’ve yet had, in terms of style, control, precision, position on the swell, etc. Too bad the wave was only a three footer. Still, all told it was a beautiful session. Robert and Will and I did all we could to make all fellow CrossFitters proud. In this, we proved a simple truth: CrossFit will get you in shape, and it will help you do your thing better than you ever did before… but it won’t instantly turn you into an expert at some specialized sport. We’re good, but not that good. :-) CrossFitters are working to maximize their power, fitness and health so that they can excel at their specialized sports, and/or also handle a wider variety of activities both practical and plain crazy (surfing falls in the latter category as far as I am concerned). I’m in the best shape of my life, and surfing better than ever before… thanks to CrossFit!… but I’m no Kelly Slater.

I got into the water just about 6:30 am and out of the water around 8:40 am. Robert and Will stayed in the waves for perhaps 40 more minutes after this. They couldn’t get enough… like me, their remaining time at the beach is short. Unlike me, they are just beginning their time at the beach (about a week), and were eager to get in as much surfing as they could. I, on the other hand, am nearly sated, even though I know I will have terrible cravings for the surf once I am gone. I am one thankful and well-motivated short-timer.

Tomorrow is going to be great. I can feel it.


I left for Indian Beach with my Dad at about 5:20 am, arriving a good 20 minutes before sunrise, we were pleasantly surprised by the wave shape and size. The surface was far from clean, but the swell was breaking pretty nicely in surfable sets, that were setting up nicely because the ocean stood at mid-tide (about four hours before low tide).

We were the first in the water, and I was proud to have caught the first good rides of the day. The swell was reported at four-plus feet, WNW, 9 seconds. The breaking faces of the waves were shoulder or head high, and sometimes higher. In spite of choppy conditions I managed to put together some really decent rides. Although I did get worked a few times, and spent a number of minutes battling out through the heavier parts of the break zone, mostly, I felt a sense of ease with my board, in both paddling out and in, in standing up, and in turning, following the swell, and staying ahead of the break. A few times I had the satisfying experience of riding the shoulder in front of the break, then getting closed out, but finding my way out in front of and around the breaking water, to a re-form swell. At other times I followed the long, southbound shoulders of a wave all the way from the north end to the shore in the middle, then easily paddled back out. What a rush!

Later we were joined by four other surfers, although my dad had already retired to the beach by the time the fourth guy showed up. Mark Mekenas was again there, with a friend; they found the sweet spot in the middle, and proceeded to out-surf me by about 4 to 1. I tried to squeeze in a bit on their particular spot but found quarters to be too close on that one particular break. I didn’t want to crowd the masters.

Suddenly, things really started to change, for the worse, as the tide receded and the winds picked up. By about 8:00 am I was out of the water, and by 8:15 everybody else was too. Dad and I were home by 9:00.

This surfing session was my antepenultimate of summer 2009. Because I have only two sessions left (both, I feel certain, will be at shorties in the early morning), even before we started out, I felt good about not taking today as rest day. I know, of course, that I can’t really “improve” as a surfer in these last three days, since my body is so shredded, ripped, and torn in a thousand tiny ways that only a couple of days of rest and a couple of days of cross training could let it rebuild strength… and ward off overtraining. But truly, although tiring, it was ultimately a priceless session. So much fun. I can’t believe these surfing days of 2009 are coming to an end. Unforgettable.

A Dietary and Self-Disciplinary Side-Note

So, a couple of days ago (on Aug. 6th) I realized that I had been repeatedly and frequently cheating on my diet, eating too far too many total calories, drinking too much alcohol, and eating too much sugar. I resolved to get a handle on the problem with a new plan: if two or more of the following conditions are met — [1] I ate any sugar (or, for that matter, processed starch based) foods, [2] I drank over my limit on alcohol, [3] I ate more than 3200 calories in the day — there would be a 100 burpee penalty.

I triggered this penalty almost immediately, on the third day of “the new plan.” So, on the fourth day (yesterday), I did my penalty WOD. Ouch.

Needless to say, I did not go on to violate my dietary terms for a second day in a row. But now I’d like to report something else that just happened. It shows how this system of “100 burpee penalties” might just work for me.

Today, on the fifth day of the plan, I am almost at the end of my eating day; I’ve drunk to my limit; I’ve eaten about 3000 calories. And then, a few minutes ago, I spotted this luscious, hand-crafted dark chocolate dipped nutter-butter cookie, from Bruce’s Candy Kitchen in Cannon Beach, OR. I examined it, there in its container on the counter, and I even almost took it up in my hands. But suddenly, I realized, that I wasn’t looking at a delicious cookie. I was looking at 100 burpees. For a minute, I considered paying for the cookie (and, probably, for the binge that would follow). I decided against it.


The Lovely Lady

Spalding! The sea’s a lovely lady when you play in her. But if you play with her, she’s a bitch! Play in the sea, yes, but never play with her. You’re lucky to be here! You’re lucky to be ALIVE! — Swimming to Cambodia

The ocean, though ever changing, is always lovely and awesome. In rough seas or pacific calm; in weather hostile or welcoming, the ocean never fails to impress. And whenever I see the it, I always want to get in and play. Because of this, I will always remember the raunchy words of Athol Furgard to his friend Spalding Gray, as reported by Gray in Swimming to Cambodia (incidentally, this was one of my favorite movies from my senior year in high school).

This morning, I could tell, reading the weather data from NOAA and the Columbia River Bar buoy, that our plans for a morning session at Indian Beach were doomed. Winds were above 14 knots, and the ocean proffered a meager 1.6 foot swell, at 13 seconds, from the SW, crossed by a 2.5 foot wind wave, at 5 seconds, from the WNW. In a few words: it would be short, messy, and choppy. Plus, it was raining.

Ben Walsh, my dad, and I talked about it, and then drove up to Indian Beach to take a look with our own eyes. Yep, the reports did not lie. It was wet, short, messy and choppy. Other surfers were also there, morosely checking out the early dawn scene from their cars. I spoke briefly to one of the young women who works at Cannon Beach Surf Shop and teaches lessons for them. I’m not sure if she or her friends went out. But we sure didn’t. We took ourselves home the long way, through Cannon Beach and Tolavana. It was a rather disappointing excursion to see the great lovely lady. Nevertheless, I think Furgard’s exclamation applies: “you’re lucky to be here! you’re lucky to be alive!” Ain’t it the truth?

I thought at first I would take a rest day. Then I remembered: I owed 100 burpees.

Pipoboarding and Burpees: An Arch Cape Penalty WOD

Yesterday I broke with the two day old “plan” for restoring my eating habits to “normal,” i.e. to eating like I’m in training. I broke the plan by (a) overshooting my calorie limit, eating around 3750 calories instead of limiting myself to 3200, (b) having too much alcohol, (c) eating a bite of a chocolate dipped Nutter Butter cookie, and thus breaking the “no sugar” ban for the first time in several days.

As a result of this failure of plan, I decided to make good on my promise to myself. In the near future, any breaking with the plan will result in a 100 burpee penalty.

So, yes, today I did my 100 burpees. I combined them with sprinting, jumping, skimming on the sand, balancing, etc. As follows:

Arch Cape Penalty WOD: Pipoboarding and Burpees
10 rounds of:
Sprint/Pipoboard 400 meters
10 burpees
Complete burpee sets at maximum speed. Use the pipoboarding as recovery time.

Skimboarding (or, really, pipoboarding) is a great workout. I actually did only 9 sets, since I did 20 burpees on the last round. Most of the burpees were totally solid. In the end I did more pipoboarding than Rx’d, because I kept riding after I’d completed my burpees. For the record I also took a couple of tumbles off my board, and afterward did several full immersion dips in the water. It’s really fun to play in the ocean. Even on the thin edge of the sea, the stoke is there.


It’s going to hurt to get back to CrossFit.

An Unexpected Kayak and Surfing Session

The day took a turn for the beautiful in the afternoon. And, during Lena’s nap, right about the moment when I was contemplating a little shut-eye myself (in part to sleep off the Hamm’s I drank at lunch), my dad and sister Elizabeth started talking about surfing in Arch Cape. I was talking to them about where and when I would try to get out, when I suddenly realized that I was going to be joining them. I rode the kayak, and tried to help my sister surf. And then I got on the surfboard (we had the Doyle) and I actually got a few rides in the crazy Arch Cape slop. To be sure: it was slop. But again, I was riding. It was a legit session, but it was also just fool’s play. There was no “surfing” to be had in Arch Cape today.

Two Days at Shorties

I surfed with my dad, James L. Baldwin, during the past two sessions, both at Short Sand Beach in Oswald West. I’ll spare you the details, except to say that each session topped one hour thirty minutes and that the first, on Friday, Aug. 7th (yesterday) was at Lena’s nap time and coincided with the high tide, and that the second, today, on Saturday, Aug. 8th, was early in the morning and coincided with a receding, pretty low tide.

Dad is a rank beginner and didn’t get much real riding in. But, even though I am catching waves and riding them now, we both struggled a bit with the choppy surfaces and sub 3 foot swell. The waves had a nice shape, but was a classic “beach break” style wave that, at least half the time, just closes out.

On Friday, I did do one of the coolest things I have ever done on my surfboard, and that is paddle along the rocks at the south end of Shorties during the high-tide session. The rocks have a deep trench along them, and seem to create a calm passage alongside the break, and they also apparently have a little rip current that helps take you out to the line up. Super fun!

Fractal Surfing

Today I waited for an opportunity to surf at high tide, so, just before Lena went down for a nap, I set out for Indian Beach, about 12:30 pm.

This morning, the buoys and NOAA were reporting a 3 foot SW swell, and low winds. Arch Cape was flat like a lake, confirming the winds, but not the swell. I knew it would be a small day, but at least, it appeared, it would be calm.

Unfortunately, by the time I had set out, the winds had kicked up. When I arrived at Indian Beach, the waves were small, but the waters were super turbulent. Even the peeling surface of the face on the breakers was faceted — everywhere the water was rippled like hammered copper. I thought to myself, these waves are like a toddler: two feet tall and messy.

Paddling out, I realized that the surface was completely choppy. The surface was beyond two dimensional. It was like a fractal design. I could tell that today, surfing on these fractured planes was either going to be completely accidental, or totally serendipitous.

As it happens, I did ride some waves. I would sit way back on my board, so that I could pivot instantly and get ready quickly when an opportunity presented itself. I would wait until the last minute to paddle into the steep but short swells, and then arch my back way up to try to keep my nose from pearling. The uneven surface presented real challenges. It made paddling out at least three times as hard. The take-off was dicey, although I only got worked a few times. I spent about an hour and a quarter in the water and did my best.

I’m a bit fatigued and wore out. If this wasn’t a vacation, if I didn’t have only six days of surfing left this summer, I’d take a few days off, get in a WOD or two, go for a run, and mix it up. Instead, I am going to keep plugging along, pushing myself until the end.

“Six feet of close choppy swell, with a side of mush, please.”

I managed to get out of the driveway by 5:40 am, was at Indian Beach just after sunrise, and in the water by 6:20 or so. I had an Elk sighting on the way in. Magnificent creatures.

I spent about an hour and three quarters battling baffling sets of unsettled waves… too close, too big, too mushy, too choppy, too steep, too flat… double peaks, multiple peaks, close outs, deep troughs, thick foam. Nothing like what I pictured when I read the Coastal Waters Forecast describing light winds, 1 foot wind wave, 5 foot NW swell. It was extremely low tide… which may have been the problem. The swells were setting up, for the most part, in waters that were not adequately sheltered by the cliffs on the north side of the beach. Lesson: avoid surfing Indian Beach at extreme low tides. That’s unfortunate, since that describes the next few mornings as well.

As far as actual surfing goes, I was out of balance and off form most of the time, and I took more tumbles than anything else. The take off was complicated by the choppy surface, and it was extremely difficult to predict where the “sweet spot” would be on a wave. My legs got stiff and sore while waiting for rideable waves… and I had trouble executing my pop-up in a way that left me in optimal position for turning.

Those waves I did ride, however, I rode as well or better than I have on almost every day this summer except for three days ago, during my epic last session with Sean.

During the session I was joined by about 4 other surfers who braved the questionable conditions and endured their own struggles with the waves. Only the most experienced of them got any rides of note. But most of them seemed to be more experienced than me, at least in that I didn’t see them get pummeled so much by falling after failed take offs.

As I got out of the water, I looked back at the terrible conditions, and all I felt was thankful. Thankful I’d been there for the session, thankful for the opportunity to surf again. I have only a few days left before I return to my normal life in the deep inland mountains of Western North Carolina. I am in mourning already.