It was the day after the election and I went down to Rincon. We were all a bunch of zombies stumbling around on Mars, but the surf was firing. In California we build freeways next to beaches, which is a weird sort of habit, but so are a lot of things. On the wall beneath the freeway, someone had voted with a spraycan. They wanted Tom Curren, local legend and three-time world champion to be president, instead of the guy who’d won the election. Pot smoke hung languid on the breeze, unthinkably beautiful waves rushed down the point, a luminous orange sun slid down the sky. And in that moment, it felt like nothing had changed at all.
I did a little road trip up the coast last week. I had a work thing to do in Napa, but I decided to take the round-about way to get there. I drove to Santa Cruz, then up highway 1 to Pacifica. If you need a place to stay within reach of San Francisco, but not in San Francisco, Pacifica is pretty great. It’s stupid scenic. Stupid.
Also, the Holiday Inn Express is super clean and overlooks the ocean. The lovely man at the front desk gave me a room upgrade which is pretty much the best thing ever. I got a sandwich at Dinosaur’s with tofu and other things on it and some spring rolls and it ruled the world. The only thing missing in Pacifica is solid espresso, but really, you can’t have everything in life.
So yeah, drive from Santa Cruz to Pacifica sometime. You can see the weird old bunker at Devil’s Slide and a whole bunch of ocean. Very cold, windy ocean. Which is alright, really. You’re not actually going to go in it, you’re just going to look at it. And it’s scenic as fuck.
After the scenic, windy, freezing ocean part, I drove through San Francisco, where I cruised the Great Highway and saw more freezing, windy ocean parts. Also, I guess some sharks live there, but I didn’t see any.
The winter storms scraped the sand off the beaches. I float on the water and watch the rocks speed beneath my feet. There’s round boulders and sharp pebbles and perfectly rounded river rock all sifted and spun. And in the sand, sea glass glimmers, buried treasure just waiting to be discovered. The colors soften and the shifting sands rub smooth the rough spots, an inexorable perfecting.
I usually don’t take anything from the beach, except whatever trash I happen to find. I like to leave the shells and the rocks to tumble in the sand and create more beach, or however that actually works. I’m a little uncertain of the mechanics of the thing. But it does seem like the rocks belong on the beach. Surely, they are there for a reason.
The dog walking ladies and the local hippies and the local zillionaires and I, well, we pick up the trash on our out-of-the-way beach, that’s almost hidden, but not quite. If we don’t, no one else will. So we do.
There’s an etiquette among surf photographers, at least in theory, to avoid naming a spot. You crop out the landmarks and pretend that no one could possibly find the secret spot you uncovered. Maybe you don’t even post a picture until days or weeks later. Of course, in practice, this rarely works especially when instagram needs feeding on the regular or it gets cranky. We all get cranky when we’re hungry amiright? Invariably fights break out online over this spot or that spot and why did you post that, bro. It’s futile, if amusing.
Last weekend was different. There was no real good reason to hide the landmarks, no need to pretend to have found some new secret wave, a long way off the grid. A combination of new sandbars formed by the rains and an unusual swell angle meant waves somewhere we just don’t see waves very often. You could check this place every day for a year, or five years even, and never see it look like this. Despite the forecasts and the models, the world is still full of surprises, sometimes. Which is nice.
I have to confess, though, I’m a little tired of looking at muddy waters. It’s so very brown. I like brown if it means chocolate and peanut butter, and ideally, both together. But brown oceans mean, well, nothing super good. Maybe it could be blue again soon.
I’d like to dive into the blue ocean.
If impressionists used cameras it might look something like this. But why would they bother when they had paint which looks way more fun, really.
I’ve been deep-in my research job this week. I’ve been reading through nearly 300 pages of notes to compile a set of main ideas and angles for the book project that isn’t mine, or is maybe tangentially mine. That is, I intersect with it at certain points, but we are not coincident.
My research notes are not alwys especially reverent and I have few qualms about telling off authors in the privacy of my own documents. It’s all fun and games until I have to read it back and try to make distill it down into something useful for a writer who isn’t me.